You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Suzuki V-Strom 650’ tag.
One of my motorcycling new years resolutions was to get additional training this year. I fulfilled this resolution a few weeks ago when my friend Pete and I took a one-day class at California Superbike School at New Jersey Motorsports Park. It wasn’t a small investment – about $500 for the day including rental of a track suit – but it was well worth it. The class changed my riding style and made me 100% more confident in the corners.
The format of the class was solid: 15 minutes or so of classroom instruction; followed by track time to practice on the techniques learned during the class; followed by a brief meeting with a rider coach who spends some time watching your technique on the track. Over the course of the day, we repeated this cycle five times for five different instructions.
Right from the start, I learned something new. And I’m embarrassed to say that this was a new concept for me: cut the throttle heading into a corner, and when you hit the apex of the corner, smoothly accelerate out. (NOTE: See this post for a correction. I got this point wrong.) I either missed it when they talked about it in the Motorcycle Safety Course or just never learned it. Once I started practicing this technique, everything changed. My most common cornering mistake is coming into a corner too fast. Then I need to use the brakes, then I need to change direction. If the turn is a right-hand turn and there’s oncoming traffic, margin of error is decreased and it’s all that more difficult to get through the corner – and all that more dicey. Make it a hairpin turn on a mountain pass with a sheer drop off, and uh oh…
By controlling the throttle actively, I’m now able to modulate my speed, and rolling on the throttle as I exit the corner helps me maintain my line and get through the curve quickly. You can really see Pikes Peak Hill Climbing champion Greg Tracy using this technique in his video.
Another important learning for me was the notion of countersteering – pressing on the right side of the motorcycle handlebar and pulling on the left side of the motorcycle handlebar to turn right. This was taught in a one-on-one sidebar session and it was really, umm…counterintuitive for me. As the instructor explained the concept (which I’d heard of, but never really understood), I was still incredulous that pressing on the right side of the bars will initiate a right turn. When I’m standing still on the bike, straight up and down, and I press right, it looks like I will turn left.
But here’s the thing – I’m on a rounded tire, and riding at a good clip, and I’m also leaning the bike over. In this case, counter steering works. Nobody really does a good job explaining counter steering:
Example 1 (Love how he waves at some other bikers at the 40 second mark and says, “Nobody waves. Assholes.”)
Example 2 (This one’s a little bit better.)
Example 3 (ummmmm……..)
It’s one of those things that I just had to accept on faith. And once I tried it, I was amazed by the results. Now when I really focus on and exaggerate countersteering in my turns, pushing harder on the left handlebar to make a left hand turn and on the right to go right, my turns get a whole lot snappier.
I paid an extra $20 to have my lap times recorded, and I’m glad I did because I could really see my progress:
Average lap times:
Session 1: 3.03
Session 2: 3.04
Session 3: 2.38
Session 4: 2.39
Session 5: 2.32
My fastest lap was 2:30.6, which was the second lap of the final session:
I did NOT pay extra to rent one of the school’s BMW S1000RR‘s, and I’m sorry I didn’t. This was an extra $250 and both Pete and I decided to bank the savings and ride our own bikes, which was an option. Pete rides a Triumph America and I was riding my V-Strom. We both felt silly. Not everyone rode the beemers, but everyone else on the track had a sport bike of some ilk. And the tech inspector had a visible smirk on his face when we checked in our bikes.
I got some bad information when I asked someone at the BMW booth at the NYC Motorcycle Show about this. I had asked if we would be out of place on non-sportbikes, and the rep replied “Not at all. We had a guy riding an ElectraGlide last year, and we had to tell him to turn his radio off during the sessions.”
If I had it to do over again, I’d suck it up and pay the $250 to rent the beemer.
Given the quantum leaps the class made in my riding confidence, I’m planning to go back for the Level 2 class next year. I’m also planning to take the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program‘s RiderCourse 2 in October. You can never have enough training or instruction with motorcycle riding, and the fact that I didn’t know some very basic riding and cornering techniques even after four seasons of riding really emphasize this. I spend thousands every year on farkles and gear, now I’m going to make sure I set aside a bit of that cash for training on an annual basis.
A few more pics from the day…
One of my goals for this year was to get some experience offroading. I haven’t had a two-wheeled motorized vehicle offroad since my Rupp Scrambler circa 1975. At Saturday’s Kawasaki demo day I asked one of the guides who had offroad experience about how to get training, to which he replied, “I dunno. I’m one of those crazy guys who will just go and do it.” Mind you, this is a guy who claims he rode his KLR-650 to the Arctic circle last year. So I was inspired.
Yesterday I found some dirt roads to demo my V-strom on. Here’s some video of my first offroad experiences.
Somewhere on the mountain near Bear Creek Ski Resort:
Then when I got back to my hometown I had a realization. Lansdale is an old town with old-school back alleys behind the homes. These back alleys are all gravel. So I decided to take a few laps around town. “Urban Offroading” I called it. The trip ends with a lap around my yard. And you’ve gotta love the drunk stumbling down the back alley with a big jug of wine in his hand at the 34 second mark of the video. It was about 3:40 in the afternoon too, and he was weaving back and forth pretty good. Lansdale is also one of those towns where drunks stumble down the back alleys:
On a completely unrelated note, riding motorcycles on strange roads lets you see some strange things. Here’s a house I saw in my travels that is made to look like Noah’s arc. As a friend mentioned, Noah didn’t need a dove…he had a satellite dish.
Kawasaki had a fantastic demo day at the Granite Run Mall in Media, PA today. I got a chance to ride three bikes I really wanted to experience: the Ninja 650, the KLR 650, and the Concours. Some observations:
Kawi makes a lot of great bikes. Those were just the three I wanted to ride most – and they are all great in their own way. If I had unlimited time and the ability to take as many demo rides as I wanted, I would have also liked to try out the Vulcan Nomad, the Ninja 1000, the Z1000, and the ridiculous (in a good way) ZX-14. I honestly don’t think there is a bad bike in the Kawasaki lineup – every one is a quality machine.
It was the fastest demo day I’ve ever experienced. Kawasaki makes fast bikes – the ZX-14 is the fastest production bike on the planet today- and the guides at the demo day wanted to show that off. I was at the very edge of my comfort zone riding with the sportbike crew on the Ninja 650.
Ninja 650 is fun. I really enjoyed the engine on the Ninja 650. High revving and torquey, whatever gear I was in just required a twist of the throttle to accelerate. I didn’t have to downshift once. It handled like a dream too. My only complaint was that it was a tad small for my 6’2″ frame. I stand by my belief that it’s one of the sexiest bikes for first time riders.
Concours is like an extension of my body. I swear – I would think about turning left and the bike would start to go left. It was like the bike was anticipating my next move. It was the fastest bike I’ve ever experienced, and comfortable as a living room loveseat. Heated grips are a nice luxury – never experienced ’em before and on a cold day like today they were great to have. The wind screen that adjusts on the fly with a press of a button was pretty cool technology, too. A dream machine.
The KLR-650 rocks. As nice as it was to ride a dream machine like the Concours, I’m a meat and potatoes guy. I like basic, hard working, functional bikes. So the KLR-650 was in my wheelhouse. It’s a great bike for taller first time riders (I think shorter riders might have trouble with it) It was my second favorite ride of the day. Which brings me to…
The best bike I rode today is the one I own. I just love the V-Strom 650. It fits me perfectly, it’s quick and twitchy, it handles like a dream, it’s versatile, it’s economical…it’s everything I want in a bike. As nice as it is to fantasize about a work of art like the Concours, I’ll never pay $16,000+ for a motorcycle. I’d buy three good used bikes before buying a new bike for that much money. So the fact that I paid only $4,000 for my used V-Strom makes it all that much more fun.
Here are some other pictures from the demo day.
Over the weekend I was in Cape May with a bunch of friends for an annual gathering. On the way back I rode up the coast from Cape May to Somers Point, NJ; trying to stay as close to the beach as possible the whole way up. I was trying to find New Jersey’s version of the Pacific Coast Highway (hint: it doesn’t exist.)
In each town I visited, I tried to get a pic of my bike with water in the background – either the beach or the bay. I missed a few but here are the high points.
My original plan was to continue up the coast to Atlantic City and head back from there, but by the time I got to Somers Point I was tired and ready to head home. Even after stopping in Ocean City for a pork roll and cheese sammich on the boardwalk…
This is a question that comes up time and time again on the internet: what’s the best bike for a first time rider. And any time someone writes on the subject, it’s like whack-a-mole: you’re gonna get hit in the head by someone who disagrees with your list.
I’m doing it a little different and taking a page out of People Magazine’s formula with my list of the sexiest bikes for first time riders. Let’s face it. Part of the appeal of riding a motorcycle is the massive incremental sex appeal that it gives the rider. Someone who knows how to throw a leg over a two-wheeled beast and launch it is by definition sexier than someone who doesn’t.
I had a few criteria for this list. (1) the bike had to be less than 1000 cc’s, which I think is the upper limit for a first time rider. (2) the bike had to be available in the 2012 model year. And (3) the bike had to cost less than $10,000 out the showroom door (not hard to do considering criteria #1, but I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend anyone – let alone a first time rider – buy a brand-new bike. You end up paying dealer setup fees and shipping which can add another grand to your purchase price. There are so many bikes available used that if you don’t have your heart set on a bike that was just introduced, you can find low mileage late model year options on Craigslist or Ebay or the motorcycle forums and save thousands. But for the sake of setting a line in the sand, these are all 2012 models.
Here’s my list:
10. Honda NC700X. This bike is set to hit showrooms later this spring. I saw it’s debut at the New York Motorcycle Show and it’s very cool. Just please please please – if you buy one – don’t get automatic transmission, OK? It automatically eliminates the sexy quotient.
9. Triumph America. Cruisers are sexy, and the Triumph marque adds a little something-something. I rode this bike for three years and if you’re a new rider in the market for a cruiser, I can’t say enough about it. In a sea of homogeneous middleweight cruisers (take the badges off a Vulcan, Shadow, Boulevard, or Star and you’d have a hard time telling them apart), the America stands out.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 250. Many fellow riders think that a first time rider should consider only 250 cc and below motorcycles. I think this approach really limits choices. Nevertheless, the Ninja 250 is just a great looking bike that owners love. On the motorcycles subreddit (fantastic motorcycle forum – go there if you haven’t already) a Ninja 250 owner crossed the 30,000 mile mark this week, so it’s NOT a bike you’ll outgrow.
7. Suzuki V-Strom 650. The 2007 edition of the V-Strom is my current ride and I’m thrilled with it. It’s comfortable, versatile, nimble, easy to ride and easy to love. The 2012 version is less versatile (it’s off-road capabilities have been stripped away) but it’s still a great-looking machine and in fact is sexier than the 04-11 Weestroms.
6. Honda CBR250R. I saw this bike sitting on the floor at the NYC moto show and it definitely qualifies as sexy. It also tends to win all of the 250 cc shootouts that the motorcycle pubs do every year.
5. Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So many people who get a M class license want to ride Harleys, and this is the only one that really qualifies as a bike for first-time riders. And my brother-in-law recently let me take his Dyna for a spin and I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.
4. BMW F650GS. Nice bike, looks great, goes off road, has that BMW logo on the tank that just gives it that extra boost of sex appeal. Plus riding a BMW Adventure-Sport bike automatically links you to Ewan and Charley, even if the tires never see dirt and you never eat The Stew of 100 Testicles. I tried out a 650GS last year and found it a bit small for my 6’2″ frame but still…gotta be on this list.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 650. Drop-dead gorgeous. Looks fast standing still. Getting great reviews from the motorcycling press. Comfortable to straddle with a neutral upright riding position. A flat-out winner.
2. Triumph Bonneville. Just one of the coolest bikes on two wheels. 60’s retro sensibilities and all of the modern technology, fun to ride, turns heads everywhere it goes, moddable to your heart’s content. A fantastic, fantastic machine.
1. Ducati Monster 696. The Monster is a work of art. There is some debate as to whether it’s really for first time riders (in fact there was some discussion about this very point last night on Reddit) but I vote yes. And it simply defines sexy. At Fast by Ferracci here in the Philadelphia area, you can get a Monster for $9,947.70 out the door ($8,795 MSRP plus 6% sales tax, $525 dealer prep and freight, and $100 documentation fee) so it just qualifies for the list.
Honorable mention: Husqvarna Concept Baja. C’mon, Kris Odwarka. Pull some strings and make this beauty a reality! If it were available today, it would be #3 on my list. And there would be one in my garage.
What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!
Yesterday I picked up the Rocket’s replacement at Ferracci’s. I considered a lot of different bikes – too many – and ultimately decided on the bike I’ve wanted in my stable and pined after since last summer, the venerable Suzuki V-Strom 650.
This is a big departure for me in a lot of ways:
- My first non-Triumph. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license in 2008 were Triumphs, first the America then the Rocket III Touring. As a result, I’ve got dozens of items of Triumph garb and all my motorcycle helmets have Triumph stickers. My name on at least a dozen online motorcycle forums is PersonalTriumph (a reference to both my allegiance to the Triumph marque as well as some personal accomplishments.) When I decided on the ‘Strom it was hard to face the fact that I would not have a Triumph in my garage. I suspect at some point in the future I may have another though.
- My first non-cruiser. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license were cruisers. The ‘Strom is my first sport bike.
- My first dual sport. The ‘Strom is designed for light-duty off-roading. I’m going to do some research and find some fire roads up in the Poconos to give this a shot. I’ve already experimented with a lap around my yard. (Don’t tell my landlord though!)
My first impressions after about 24 hours of owning the ‘Strom are extremely favorable:
- Twitchy. This bike handles like a dream. I think about turning, and it seems to turn. I’m sure other sport bikes handle better, but coming as I do from the land of cruisers this is a really welcome change.
- Fast. I was worried that going from the 2300cc Rocket to the 650cc ‘Strom would leave me longing for the days of plentiful roll-on power. It’s a non-issue. In fact, the ‘Strom feels faster than the Rocket. I was on the highway this morning, cruising along at what seemed like a comfortable and reasonable pace. I looked down at my speedometer and I was going…well…way too fast. I need to be careful.
- Light. After ‘rassling with the 900+ pound Rocket for the better part of the past year, it’s such a nice change to have a lightweight machine that I can easily roll around.
- A bargain. I bought my V-Strom used. It’s a 2007 with around 10k miles on it that I got for less than $4,000. (Bonus: I was able to bank several grand after liquidating the Rocket.) But a brand new leftover 2011 with ABS and a warranty can be had at your local Suzuki dealer for around $7 grand. Even a brand new 2012 is just over $8 grand. It’s a fantastic machine for the money.
- Its good to be in love again. After spending the past year falling in and out of love with the Rocket (and even feeling vague trepidation about it during the good times) it’s wonderful to once again have a bike that gets my heart pounding and my pulse racing every time I look at it.
There are a lot of folks who love the Rocket III, so don’t let my bad experience color you if you’re considering the bike. In fact, I think my friend Art will ditch me when I tell him the swap-out that I made, because he is so enamored with the Rocket. One of my fellow Rideitors on the Reddit motorcycle forum stated it best: “although you did enjoy it for a while I think you have eliminated a lot of the things you don’t want in a bike because they don’t fit your riding style. Its a little like dating the hot girl who turns out to be a superficial, high maintenance pain in the ass. Well said, my friend. Well said.
If you’re a new rider, definitely put the V-Strom on your list of bikes to consider. I’ll keep you all updated as I get more experience with this bike.There is also a lot of help online at Stromtrooper, the V-Strom owners forum, which I have found to be one of the most comprehensive, active, and friendly motorcycle forums on the internet since I started lurking there last August.
Last year I wrote about my favorite motorcycle dealer in the region, Martin Motorsports, and outlined some of the motorcycle dealership best practices they deploy to make visiting their store a pleasure.
Now, the flip side of the coin. My least favorite dealership in the region, which – ironically – used to be a part of the Martin Motorsports family (they split up a few years ago and are now under separate ownership.) Its called Eurosports and it’s a Coopersburg, PA-based Triumph, Ducati, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, and Vespa dealer. Here are some of the reasons why I won’t ever visit this dealership again:
1. Let your customer stand around for almost an hour before saying hello. Eurosports has a couple of bikes in inventory right now that I’m interested in. I went there on Saturday morning, literally with the title to my Rocket III and my checkbook in hand – totally prepared to make a deal. Nobody said “hello”, “I’ll be right with you”, “Can I help you?”…nothing. I might as well have been invisible.
2. Treat your customer like a criminal for asking for a test ride. When the salesman finally did deign to speak with me, he reacted with horror when I told him I wanted to take a test ride. He said I could only take a ride if an employee rode with me, and that they were likely too busy to do it on Saturday. He asked me to come back on a weekday when it would be convenient for him (not for me though, as it would require taking a day off from work.)
Sorry, but I’m not making a several-thousand dollar purchase without taking the bike for a spin. And if Martin Motorsports, Montgomeryville Cycle Center, and other local dealers can let me take a ride on a bike without an employee in tow, then you can.
3. Don’t have your inventory current on your website. One of the bikes I was interested in test riding was a really nice 2005 Triumph Bonneville. It had a lot of extras and was barely used. In fact, one of my thoughts was to trade my Rocket and cash for the Bonneville AND a V-Strom they have in stock. When I got there, the Bonnie was parked in front, and it was beautiful. But when I asked the salesman about the bike, he informed me it was sold.
Frustrating. As of this moment, the Bonneville is still listed for sale on the dealership’s website. Nothing on the advertisement indicates it has been sold. The fact that the salesman – who witnessed my disappointment that it had been sold first hand – didn’t take the action of removing it from the website speaks volumes.
4. Don’t let your customer speak to your experts. My experience on Saturday morning wasn’t my first frustrating experience with Eurosports. Last year, I wanted to upgrade my Triumph America to get more power from it. I was thinking of a big bore kit, a hot cam, airbox removal…something. A friend told me to speak with one of the mechanics at Eurosports because this gentleman is known to be a magician with the Triumph 865cc engine.
I called the dealership several times. Explained that I wanted the legendary mechanic’s input as to what to do with my America. And I got the stiff-arm from the service desk employee who answered the phone (who is to this day the rudest person I’ve encountered at a motorcycle dealership.)
With 15 minutes on the phone with me, the mechanic could have made a $2,000 sale. Instead I ended up getting frustrated and giving up, and a few weeks later traded the America for the Rocket at a competing dealership.
5. Have a cramped, small, uncomfortable showroom with not a lot of stuff to buy. Unlike Martin’s expansive showroom, which I can’t walk through without finding a shirt or jacket to spend my money on, Eurosports showroom is about the size of a closet. On Saturday there were boxes of merchandise laying all over the floor in various states of disarray. If Saturday is the dealership’s busiest day, I suppose the messiness of the dealership tells me everything about how important the customer is to them.
So like I said to my friend Pete, I don’t ever have to visit Eurosports again. There are lots of places to spend my money. Eurosports isn’t one of them.
Ironically right up the road is the skeleton of Crossroads Harley-Davidson, once a thriving Harley dealer just south of Allentown. It’s shuttered now – a sad reminder of what can happen to a motorcycle dealership that doesn’t keep it’s eye on the ball. Perhaps a cautionary tale for the folks at Eurosports.