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Showing posts from November, 2014

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…

What I Want: Victory Gunner

I can't believe I've thus far neglected to add the Victory Gunner to my What I Want list. I suppose I got a little wrapped up in being disappointed in Victory for appearing to rest on its laurels over the past year or so.
The 2015 model year line up that was announced this past summer was a real let down, full of rehashed versions of bikes that have been around for years. Before that was the let down of the Gunner itself. The first new model since the rebirth of Indian Motorcycles (both Victory and Indian are owned by Minnesota-based Polaris), it fell short of my hopes. Polaris had promised a new, performance-oriented Victory as a result of Indian, but the Gunner is not the all-singing, all-dancing wündermotorrad I had wished for.

Really, the Gunner is just a stripped down Victory Judge. Same engine, same rake angle, pretty much same everything but for paint and seats. And that is, as I say, disappointing when you're a Victory fan who was hoping for so much more.

(On a si…

Gear review: Knox Fastback Gilet

"Gilet," for those of you playing along at home, is a fancy word for vest. But Knox, being a British company, probably doesn't call this bit of kit the Knox Fastback Vest because in British lingo a vest is often a tank-top.
"So, wait," I can hear American voices saying. "Does that mean that when Brits wear a three-piece suit, the piece under the jacket is a gilet?"
No. that is a waistcoat. Presumably, calling it the Knox Fastback Waistcoat seemed a little too prim, considering the purpose and target audience of this article of clothing. The suggestion of wearing a waistcoat on a motorcycle brings up images of the Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride.
"OK. What about a sweater vest?" my countrymen may ask. "What do they call that? A 'sweater gilet?' A 'sweater waistcoat?'"
Nope. That is a "sleeveless jumper." Obviously, calling this thing a Knox Sleeveless Jumper That Is Not Actually A Jumper is too wordy an…

GWTTA: Caerleon (Caerllion)

This is the second stop on the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure. Remember that this whole thing is a work in progress, so if you happen to know anything about the towns, villages and cities I'm planning to visit, don't wait until after the fact to tell me what I should have done -- give me your suggestions on what to see, what to do, where to eat, when to visit, etc. Thanks! __________

Caerleon –– according to the tourism officials at Caerleon –– was once one of the most important places in Britain. It was home to a large Roman fortress and thereafter the setting for a number of Arthurian legends.
Yeah. Bet you didn't know King Arthur was Welsh, did you? He was. He gets mentioned a lot in the Mabinogi, a collection of folk tales that has somewhat biblical status in Wales. And even before then he was being linked with Caerleon. Some versions of his tale say he came from there and others claim simply that he held court there.
Somehow, however, Caerleon's prestigious begin…

Monsoon season

Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat...
It feels as if it has been raining nonstop for the past two months.

The relative dry of September had lulled me into a false sense of security and I had not put much effort into getting all my gear ready for the Long Dark: that unrelenting cold, wet greyness which envelops this island from October to May. So, I find myself now trying to play catch up.

There was that soaking ride to Bristol. My gear barely had a chance to dry out completely before I put it through hell again a week or so later on the way down to Exeter.

To my credit, I had spent the days beforehand washing my riding trousers and gloves in Nixwax Tech Wash and thereafter coating them in Fabsil. I had waxed my boots, as well. But that sort of stuff is just the starting point. There is a mental aspect to staying dry that I had somehow forgotten si…

GWTTA: Newport, South Wales (Casnewydd)

It seems appropriate for Newport to be the first place visited on the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure. It is here, after all, that I finally passed my Mod 2 exam, thereby earning my motorcycle license.
It is appropriate, too, because Newport exemplifies how utterly random is my tea towel map. I can think of very few scenarios in which I would suggest Newport as a place to visit. I doubt many Welsh people –– including and especially those from Newport –– would tell you to visit, either. Newport is not a place to go to of your own free will; it is a place to ridicule.
Literally translated, the town's Welsh name, Casnewydd, means "new hate," but, of course, this name is almost certainly a mishearing of whatever people were calling it centuries ago. That happens a lot in South Wales. Cardiff's Welsh name, for example, is Caerdydd, which literally translates to "Day Fortress" (a). The name of the town I live in, Penarth, translates to "Bear's Head"…

The Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure

My first year in Wales was awful. Ranked among my thus far 38.5 years on this planet, I would say it was the second worst of my life -- edged out of the top spot by my fourth year in Wales. I am willing to bet that the third worst year of my life also took place in Wales, which sort of begs the question as to why the hell I am still living here. But I'll get to that in a moment.
Despite it being so generally awful, there were in that first year some highlights. One of which being the day Mormons showed up at the door with a TV.
My ex-wife was (and presumably still is) a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, and had found a welcome in the nearby Rhiwbina ward soon after our arrival in Cardiff. I am thankful she did. I doubt very much that we would have survived that first year on our own.
For those of you playing along at home, if you are considering a move to the Old World, be prepared to suffer at least 8 months of unemployment. Jobs are a hell of a lot harder …

The new all-rounders

I'm not really sure what we call these bikes: adventure-sport? Adventure-tour? The bikes that look a bit like offroad-capable machines but that are never intended to be taken off road. The motorcycle equivalent of the Volkswagen Tiguan, I suppose. Though, I feel that's slightly insulting to this particular class of bike. 
But like a pseudo-SUV (a "pSeUdo-V," perhaps?) it is a class of vehicle that borrows offroad styling and features to deliver a positive on-road experience. But in the case of an adventure-touring motorcycle (let's just agree to use that term here), the vehicle is one that is applicable to almost all (paved) scenarios. 
It is an all-rounder. It may not be the perfect bike for any one situation, but it will perform admirably in all. Faster, lighter and better in corners than a cruiser; more comfortable and functional than a sport bike; better suited to long motorway hauls than a true offroad machine. And although very much geared to paved-road us…

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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:
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

Ride review: Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt

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."
Certainly the XV950 –– known as the Star Bolt in the United States –– isn't the first example of a Japanese OEM adhering faithfully to the styling cues of America's best-known motorcycle manufacturer. The orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson write these bikes off as "wannabes," and tend to be pretty dismissive of anyone who would dare consider purchasing one. But I'm going to commit blasphemy here and tell you that the XV950 is unquestionably the …

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…