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Showing posts from May, 2013

2017 Triumph Bonneville T100 – Ride Review

Photos by Megan Harris

"I've had a look at this motorcycle of yours whilst you were having your supper," my wife's grandmother says upon my return from the pub.
Grandma, as she allows me to call her, is upper-middle class and English to the core. She is naturally wary of Americans and has been known to suddenly burst out laughing at the idea of my being able to make a living writing about motorcycles. Add to this the fact she is somewhat deaf, a condition not helped by my natural Texas mumble, and it's easy to see why she and I don't chat a lot. When my wife is around, Grandma prefers to deal with me in third-person terms: "Now then, Jenny, does Chris want tea?"

My wife isn't around this time, though. I've ridden the 2017 Triumph Bonneville T100 down to Devon on my own, staying the night, so I can get meet photographer Megan at the beach the next morning before tourists arrive. Without my wife as interpreter, Grandma and Grandad (who is also…

Pining for a Royal Enfield

I'm going a little crazy for Royal Enfields these days. If you're just joining the party, I've decided recently that I want a Royal Enfield Bullet Electra EFI. Or something. To be honest, I'm having trouble determining what the difference is between a Bullet Electra EFI and a Bullet 500 EFI, apart from paintwork. I am inclined to say I'd be happy with either. Or, indeed, most other Royal Enfield models (1). Since I'll be getting a secondhand bike, I don't think I'll really have the option of being too picky.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a secondhand Royal Enfield costs roughly the same as a secondhand Honda Varadero, with both the insurance costs being similar, as well. Beyond that, however, the bikes are not really comparable. With the Varadero one gets modern technology but a weak engine. With a Royal Enfield one gets decades-old technology (2) but a slightly less weak engine, plus the benefit of riding a machine that looks really cool.


Arai Helmets - Jay Leno's Garage

I really like the motorcycle stuff that Jay Leno does. I think because he's a little more calm about things; there's no thumping soundtrack; he doesn't dress like an astronaut; he doesn't try to make himself any cooler than he is (which, of course, is what actually cool people do).
I thought this video was a good follow-up to the post I had about wearing gear, but also it features some interesting facts about helmets that contradict what I've always been told by the ATGATT contingent. The first is that if you set your helmet on your bike and it falls off, it's not necessarily ruined. The second is that painting your helmet doesn't necessarily ruin it, either. 

What I want: Royal Enfield Bullet Electra

Many moons ago –– before I started this blog –- I created for myself a little ladder of motorcycle engine displacement that I intended to climb during my riding lifetime. The ladder went like this: – Yamaha YBR125 CustomHyosung GV250 – Royal Enfield Bullet Electra – Triumph America – Victory Judge
Or, in other words: 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, 900cc, and 1800cc. I knew that I didn't want to just jump on some monstrosity of a bike and hurl myself at death, and reckoned that the safe way to get to that ultimate goal of being a Victory rider (1) was to do so very slowly. But, of course, now actually having had an opportunity to ride bikes (specifically a Honda CBF600), my attitude has shifted.
For one thing, I sometimes wonder whether I'll ever really need a massive 1800cc engine. Also, I find I am not at all averse to modern technologies such as ABS, traction control or even automatic transmission –– which is not something seen in my original cruiser-laden ladder. But most importa…

Going clutchless

"Motorcyclists are so traditional. It's almost impossible to sell them something new." –– That's a comment made by Jay Leno in a recent episode of Jay Leno's Garage. He was talking about the Aprilia Mana 850.
The Mana is one of a slowly growing number of motorcycles with automatic transmissions. Apparently it has been around since 2008 but, not surprisingly, hasn't done well enough in the UK that Aprilia is selling them here anymore. The two things the British hate most are change, and spending money; so getting them to suffer the latter for the sake of the former is always going to be an uphill battle. 
And if their attitude toward cars with automatic transmissions is anything to go by, automatic bikes may never catch on over here. A few months ago, my wife and I rented a car to drive down to visit her grandparents in Devon. When I arrived at Avis to pick up the car I was upgraded to an Audi A4 because it had an automatic transmission. The fella at the coun…

The Fox family and their wall of death

An interesting little film, worth the 14 minutes I think. It speaks to a different time, a different sort of England that existed before the country turned itself into America Part II.

UPDATE: I've taken down the video embed because the damn thing was playing automatically and I couldn't figure out how to make it stop. So, here's the URL instead. Go watch the film. It's worth your time.

Boomer Sooner

How much is enough?

I've never really understood why a person would want to ride without a helmet. It's just one of those things that makes obvious sense to me; why wouldn't you wear a helmet? Specifically, why wouldn't you wear a full-face (or flip-front) helmet? I mean, even setting aside the totally useful safety aspect, a full-face helmet makes sense because it prevents you from taking small objects to the face, like insects or rock chips or litter.
Plus, high-speed wind makes your hair all poofy. It's not like you're going to come out looking any better than had you worn a helmet. And the latter ensures that you don't arrive at your destination with a bee embedded in your cheek. A bee to the face, y'all. No one wants that.
Well, actually, it seems that some do. All across the United States, there are organisations that work hard to protect motorcyclists' right to consume dragonflies at 80 mph. In the great state of Wisconsin -- home to McCarthyism and the highest…

What I want: Victory Judge

Yeah, I'm not really sure who they're trying to sell to, either. I imagine at least one member of the marketing team for Victory Motorcycles has a mullet, and that all of them can sing Bob Seger or Bachman Turner Overdrive tunes from memory. Victory's headquarters is in Iowa, after all. And its parent company is on the frontier of outstate Minnesota (1).
Victory's advertising strategy is frequently outdated and sexist. And it's difficult to guess who, exactly, is being targeted with crap like this. Stereotypical Harley riders? Guys who live on 1980s action-adventure movie sets? Even Harley realises there's not much to that market and has (wisely) broadened its focus. Is Victory trying to garner those last few big-bellied weekend road pirates who have yet to have hip operations?
Rather than trying to garner Harley's sloppy seconds, Victory should be focusing on the fact that it has a superior product: a legitimately American motorcycle that is made of aweso…

What would I do if I could do?

And another thing is that I don't really like the look of sport bikes.
Oh, I should probably back up that train of thought a little since you're not privy to the conversation that's been running in my head the past few days.
In my previous post, I talked about the dead-end feeling of not having a bike, nor the money for a bike. I ended the post, though, with the observation that –– with a bit of effort –– I can probably dig enough from my very tight budget to have £500 by the end of the summer. I name that figure because it seems to be the watermark on eBay and BikeTrader for bikes that (allegedly) run. And, indeed, it is an optimistically low figure, with a more decent choice of bikes found at the £900 mark.
"Well, you know, if the bike actually runs, why not?" I've been asking myself. "The point is to be on a bike, and if it's a POS, well, that's just storytelling fodder."
Afterall, my first car was a rusted-out 1969 Ford F250 that I boug…

OK, now what?

Let's go back several months to when I first started this blog, where I identified the three things that were standing between me and taking to the road on a motorcycle. Namely: lack of a UK motorcycle license; lack of money; and lack of support for the idea from my wife.
Much to my surprise, the last of those issues was the first to be resolved. Jenn came on board very quickly once she saw that it was something that meant a lot to me. When I had first started talking about motorcycles one could have described her attitude as "vehemently opposed." Without being willing to admit she was doing it, she seemed keen to draw a line in the sand on the issue and declare that ownership of a motorcycle was infinitely selfish and should fall into the same priority list as ownership of a private island.
Jump forward from that point several months, however, and her attitude had changed. On the day I finally passed the Module 2 exam, one of the first things she said was: "Now we…

Shooting your own foot

It doesn't really make me feel much better, but I suppose it's worth pointing out that I'm not the only one. The United Kingdom's ridiculously expensive and arduous licensing process creates problems for thousands upon thousands of other people. To the extent some have clearly decided it's not worth it, which at best is a shame and at worst is an incentive for illegal behaviour.
The other day I happened to be looking at statistics from the Motorcycle Industry Association and was struck by the numbers given on test pass rates. In the 2008/2009 financial year, some 70,000 people earned a motorcycle license in the UK. That was before the current style of testing was introduced. 
In October 2009, the two-tier practical test was brought in; a single exam was broken into the Module 1 and Module 2 nonsense I've been going through lately. The new system had an immediate impact. The number of motorcycle licenses earned in the 2009/2010 financial year plummeted to just …


I passed. Finally, I passed that damned Mod 2 exam and I am now fully licensed to ride a motorcycle in her majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as anywhere else in the European Union (1). I cannot tell you how relieved I am.
To some extent it doesn't quite seem real. I had started to feel that I was just forever going to be trapped in a loop of taking and failing the Mod 2 exam –– a kind of crappy, two-wheeled Groundhog Day that doesn't end with my getting to shag Andie MacDowell. When the examiner told me I'd passed I found myself just sort of looking at him, half thinking: "Well, that doesn't sound right."
But that said, I had a feeling this morning that things would go well. Right before bed last night I was watching "Fast N' Loud" and when I woke up in the morning I decided I would try to channel the cool of Aaron Kaufman.
"That's who I'll be on the bike today," I told myself. "I…


I like to do things by repetition. That is the way I learn, the way I perfect things. I do them over and over and over in my own time, at my own pace. That's how I taught myself to speak Welsh, for example. I downloaded a single lesson and I spent the whole week running through it, breaking it down, saying things to myself over and over and over -- as I ran, as I drove to and from work, as I showered, as I lie in bed at night.
My pace has not always matched those of others. This is one of the reasons I struggled in school. I'd miss an assignment, or not complete one in time, then another would pop up. And another and another. I'd slip further and further behind, get frustrated and think: "Forget it. I'll talk to girls instead."
But when I get the handle of things, I do them well. That is why I have a masters degree in Welsh. But it is something I accomplished more at my own pace. In the British university system one has just a single exam or essay that det…

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Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
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Imitation, Charles Caleb Colton famously noted, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, the flattery the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 receives from Yamaha's XV950 is enough to make one blush. Put the two bikes side by side, and the inspiration for the latter is undeniable. Yamaha claims its bike has a "new neo retro Japanese look," but that's clearly just nonsense –– lorem ipsom that was used instead of "totally looks like a Harley-Davidson Iron 883."
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Ride review: Triumph Bonneville

"OK," I said. "I want one." "Well, you know, maybe you should ask your wife first." "She loves Triumphs," I said. "Still, Chris. You should give it a think. Go home, discuss it with your wife, give yourself a chance to think clearly. After all, this is one of Triumph's most popular models; there's plenty of stock available."
The voice of reason in that conversation was Drew, the salesman at Bevan Motorcycles. He was doing his best to talk some sense into me after my test ride of the 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I was wild-eyed and yammering like a teenage boy who has touched boobies for the first time. This, my friends, is what the Bonneville does to you. It is an instantly rideable, instantly enjoyable, instantly lovable motorcycle that surprises you in just how good a simple motorcycle can be.

The Bonneville, of course, is a storied machine that's been around in one form or another for 55 years. It is a classic. Partially b…