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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Feeling practical


I talk a lot about the bikes I want. It's one of the main facets of this blog; there are just so many amazing and cool motorcycles out there, and I wish I could own them all. My daydream is that I could be like Jay Leno and possess a seemingly infinite garage full of bikes. But I'm not a celebrity; I'm just a low-tiered public relations hack with the salary to match.

So, the fact is, almost every bike I swoon over and declare to be The One For Me is, in fact, totally beyond my reach. I don't have the money to buy it and in many cases I don't have the space to store it. Even reasonably priced machines like the Yamaha XV950 are a solid £3,000 beyond the realm of Maybe Possible With A Bit Of Luck as far as I'm concerned.

This is a truth that I find incredibly depressing to accept, so, by and large, I do my best to just ignore it whilst trying to convince myself that the bike I have is better than I give it credit for being. And, indeed, I've been teaching myself over the past few months or so that by revving it harder I can get my old Honda to perform much better than I had previously thought possible.

But, still, the Honda is a little long in the tooth (it will be 10 years old in a few months) and I can't help wishing for just a bit more horsepower to better serve me when loaded up with luggage and taking my wife places. And as such, I have told myself that I would very much like to find a way to replace my existing machine shortly before its next MOT and tax payments are due.

(For those of you playing along at home, vehicles in the United Kingdom are taxed on an annual basis. In order to be allowed the privilege of paying said tax you also have to pass and pay for a Ministry of Transport test to ensure your vehicle is road worthy.)

That means I'd be looking to buy sometime in early summer 2015. That's a pretty tight time schedule -- quite possibly unrealistic -- but hope springs eternal. If I want to have any chance at all of achieving that goal, however, I have to accept that Indian Scouts and Moto Guzzi Grisos are simply out of the picture. As is any other bike that's new. So, I've been spending a lot of time looking at used listings.

Slowly, slowly, slowly over the past few weeks I've been working on developing a fondness for the Suzuki GSX1250FA. Possessing as much sex appeal as a good pair of wool socks, the GSX1250FA is essentially a Suzuki Bandit with full fairing. Which means that if you were to buy a brand new one you'd be getting a motorcycle that was effectively designed 20 years ago.


Partially it is because of that old technology that you'll find a brand new GSX1250FA to be surprisingly affordable -- undercutting competition by thousands of pounds/euros/dollars/whatever. And on the used market, aided by the fact that Suzukis have terrible resale value, you'll find them to be flat out cheap.

For example, I recently spotted a 2011 GSX1250FA with just 3,000 miles on it that is equipped with hard luggage, a centre stand and heated grips for £4,500. The cheapest Triumph Sprint GT that I can find which compares in age, mileage and accoutrements costs £6,500. The cheapest equivalent Honda CBF1000SA costs £6,750. The cheapest Kawasaki Z1000SX (aka Ninja 1000) costs £7,000. And the cheapest BMW F800GT costs £9,000. In other words, the Suzuki is an incredibly good deal.

As long as you can get over how generally unsexy it is.

I think I could. Partially because of that 20-year-old Bandit engine. One of the reasons Suzuki hasn't updated it much over the years is that it is beloved by a large segment of the motorcycling world. Delivering whopping torque for an inline four (about 75 lb.-ft.), it will pull from a dead start in fourth gear and has a reputation of being pretty much bulletproof. The fact that you see so many dirty old Bandits growling through South Wales is certainly evidence of the engine's durability.

In the real world the engine puts out about 95 hp, which is a bit wheezy when compared with equivalent bikes in the awkward middleweight all-rounder sport-tourer category, but still a solid 20 hp more than my current machine claims, and enough to push the Suzuki to 150 mph without  much effort. 

Equipped with anti-lock brakes and a simple dashboard that offers gear and fuel indicators along with all the usual info, the bike has plenty of room for a rider and passenger whilst managing to not be huge. I made a point of checking one out in the showroom of Fowlers of Bristol recently and was intrigued by the fact the GSX1250FA is not a whole lot bigger than my Honda (a). Compare that with the Triumph Sprint GT which seems to have been made extra large just for the hell of it. 

Sitting on the bike, I was quite pleased with the ergonomics, which are just a little better suited to my 6-foot-1 frame than those on my Honda. The seat felt a tiny bit more comfortable, as well. The screen isn't adjustable, so inevitably I'd find myself having to splash out on an MRA touring screen, but those don't cost too much.

Gas mileage is reportedly less than with my Honda, but 41 mpg is still decent. The Suzuki is also a few pounds heavier, but I guess that's to be expected from a bike that carries an engine that is 650cc larger.

In short, it's a pretty damn good bike at a pretty damn good price. So my question is: Do you own one, or do you know anyone who does? 

I'd really like to hear about long-term experiences with this motorcycle. Obviously, I'll test ride one at some point in the future, and availability of finances will be the deciding factor but I find myself genuinely considering this machine and want to know if it's a good idea.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

An addendum to that by the way: if you're going to do that thing of saying: "Don't get that bike get XX instead," please be aware that XX needs to cost the same and have the same safety features (e.g. ABS). Muchas gracias.

____________________

(a) My initial impression was that the GSX1250FA is bigger than a CBF600SA, but it is actually 1.5 inches shorter in length. It is only 0.20 inch taller and just 1.2 inches wider. In other words, it is basically the same size as my existing machine but with a far larger and more powerful engine. Basically, this supports my feeling that the CBF600SA is unnecessarily bulky. 

Comments

  1. This is an interesting subject because I was in the same boat six months ago. I also looked at faired bandits and anything really in the sport-touring genre but budget was a hurdle. In the end I got exceptionally lucky on an ebay auction for a 2005 FZS1000 Fazer. I'd encourage you to at least look at these Yamahas because I was very pleasantly surprised to wind up the throttle on a bike that dynos at 125hp at the wheel and came in under £2k. It's comfortable, quick and will carry a full set of Givi Trekkers 2-up, while still being a fierce contender at the street lights. In response to your addendum though, there's no ABS.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I dunno... Is that bike fugly in person? Because it looks pretty sweet to me in the photos. Personally, I think there's something kind of cool about a bike that hasn't fundamentally changed in 20 years. It means they did something right the first time.

    I used to participate a lot in a particular motorcycle forum where the general consesus seemed to be Bandits = Can't Go Wrong.

    In the meantime, wind that Honda of yours right on up. The redline is there to be hit. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've known riders with Bandits, and they love them. I looked at them too before buying my ST. Honda VFR800 is pretty much the competitor bike.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hmm. £3000? Well, you could ride two up to Moscow next summer, visit Pushkin's home, double back via St Petersburg and check out some of the modest world class art there, campin the vast wilderness of Northern Finland checking out the midnight sun, eat astonishing Scandinavian food and ride the ferry home in a private cabin with an excited nd very grateful wife energized by your amazing adventures on the road with an inferior "under powered " Honda.
    Or if you are like me and crave the sun you could take a ferry to Santander with n excited and very grateful wife, eat astonishing tapas across Spain, kiss your wife in the astounding architecture of Granada and walk the banks of the Guadalquivir in Seville holding hands with a woman ashamed to be seen in the back of an uninspired Honda. Perhaps you could cheer her up with a tour of the souk in Fez where she could but some jewelry and end up watching the stars under the darkest sky you've ever seen in the sands of the Sahara in southern Morocco.
    Or
    You could take a holiday in Brighton on your new powerful sexy Bandit and tell your wife all about how lucky she is as you lounge in deck chairs tossing pebbles into the brown scummy channel waters.
    Why don't you show her this comment and ask her which option she prefers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's always one.

      Not sure where you're getting the £3,000 figure, but I get your point. And you're creating an unrealistic like-for-like situation that inherently assumes the Honda will never need to be replaced.

      You also seem to have missed the part about my not really feeling anything for the bike. Arre you suggesting that I should make the Honda CBF600 SA a lifelong partner, as if motorcycle ownership were a Catholic marriage that I must adhere no matter what, and as such I should be making the ownership and maintenance of said machine my life purpose? No thanks.

      Delete
    2. Also, I've never been to Brighton. Might be nice.

      Delete
  5. I was in a simmilar situation last summer... coming from a Dominator and looking for something torquey, safe, reliable and sexy., and with a similar amount of money to spend. I finally bought an R1150R with ABS and 24.000 km for 4400€, plus the panniers from ebay for 300€ more. I'm sure I could not have chosen better. I suggest you to take a look at that bike.

    Sorry for my english and good luck!

    ReplyDelete

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