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Showing posts from April, 2015

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: BMW R1200RS

One of the people I've always looked up to in life is James Moore. A friend of my father's since the two of them were reporters in Texas in the 1970s, he's always been a touchstone figure for me. He's a strong writer, quick-witted, intelligent, ambitious and generally a lot of other things that I aspire to be.
Back in the summer of 1972, one of Moore's good friends, Butch, returned home from Vietnam and the two of them set out from Michigan on a cross-country road trip. Butch rode a Triumph Bonneville, Moore was astride a Honda CB450.
That last fact is at the heart of why I will never dismiss a Honda. 
These days, though, Moore rides a BMW. He rides a few of them, actually, and rides them everywhere. His current main steed is a BMW K1200LT, of which he speaks very highly. Yes, he admitted to me once, repair costs are higher than with other brands, but to his mind they're worth it because the bikes are generally so wonderful and so reliable.
I tell you all of t…

This bike is a pain in the caboose

One of the things I didn't really mention in my review of the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 is that it is, in fact, a large piece of machinery. It is not so huge as a Triumph Tiger Explorer, nor a BMW R1200GS, but is still pretty damned big. Tall and wide, the thing has a lot of presence.
This is a truth that I didn't fully consider until I first got the bike home, discovering it didn't actually fit through the gate into the courtyard where I store the bike. Before even buying the thing I had done several guesstimating experiments to ensure I wouldn't encounter exactly this problem, but I had used my bicycle with a metre stick strapped to the handlebars. With this method, I had determined the V-Strom would definitely fit with some wiggling. I had failed to consider, however, that: a) a bicycle has no steering lock; b) a bicycle doesn't weigh 228 kg; c) a bicycle is not nearly as wide as a crash-bar-laden adventure-styled motorcycle. 
So, when it came time to bring said moto…

Gear review: Givi GPS and Smartphone Holder

I've lived in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland now for almost 9 years. And I still don't get the roads.
I mean, I get the basic stuff –– ride/drive on the left, don't turn on a red light, try not to run into any old ladies or children, etc. –– but the more intrinsic stuff still escapes me. The layout of British roads doesn't make sense in the way that American roads do.
Here's what I mean: a few years ago, I was visiting Seattle for the first time and drove into a part of town (Fremont) for which I didn't have a detailed map. However, with just a basic sense of where I was in the grand scheme of things (i.e., north of downtown, west of Interstate 5 and east of Puget Sound), I was able to navigate to a restaurant I had read about that morning in a local magazine. 
That's it. I had an address and an idea of where a square mile of space existed on the planet Earth. With that information I was able to find a single buildin…

EBR we hardly knew ye

By now you will have heard the news that EBR is no more. Out of the blue this week, the company announced it was shutting its doors, laying off all 126 employees and selling off assets to try to cover a $20 million debt.
That's a damned shame. And it's really surprising. OK, when I was at Motorcycle Live last November I did note a certain dearth of interest in the bikes (as I wrote at the time: "I probably could have wheeled one out of the hall without being noticed"), but overall I felt things were moving in a positive direction for the company. I really imagined that within 5 years or so, Erik Buell Racing could be a legitimate player and that it could be a source of pride for motorcyclists in the United States.

There were all sorts of reasons to believe such a thing. The 1190RX (introduced in 2013) and the 1190SX (introduced in 2014) had both received critical acclaim. Sure, there were some first-effort quibbles but no one really held that against EBR. A lot of m…

Why you (and everyone you know) should ride a motorcycle

"[M]otorcycles are awesome... they deserve a larger place in the world and... more people should ride them."
My apologies for the Buzzfeed-esque headline; I was inspired to write this post after reading the above quote by Wes Siler (a) and he's the sort of person who always uses Buzzfeedy headlines. Meanwhile, my reading the quote comes in conjunction with someone contacting me via Twitter recently to say The Motorcycle Obsession had helped inspire him to start riding.

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. There were a number of things that inspired me to finally get riding, 18 years after actually earning my motorcycle license, and every day I am thankful to have found them. Motorcycling has dramatically improved my life and my outlook upon said life. The idea that this blog might encourage someone else to be a part of this silly two-wheeled world is pretty kick-ass. It's also inspiring; I feel newly encouraged in blogging about bikes.

But beyond the ego boo…

A lovely ugly machine

The story of my new V-Strom starts back in February. Tuesday, 3 February, to be exact. That was the day I took off work and rode 80 miles in the freezing cold and snow for the sake of being one of the first people in the UK to test ride the new Indian Scout
When I got to the dealership, however, I learned the salesman with whom I had set up the test ride was not there. Nor had he told anyone I'd be coming. The bike was not prepped for a test ride and when I found someone to ask, it became clear they didn't really want to let me take the bike out on such a rough day.

I suspect I will be angry at Indian for a very long time as a result of this. I don't foresee my ever again entertaining the idea of buying an Indian whilst living in the UK. I have no doubt that things are different and better in the United States, but it would seem that in Britain, at least, Indian is not ready to compete against Harley-Davidson.
I dropped the issue and wandered to other parts of the large…

Ride Review: Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure

When I posted a picture of the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure on my Instagram account, I took some inspiration from Dylan Thomas (a) and described the bike as a "lovely ugly machine." On reflection, though, I feel that's just a tiny bit unfair.

Certainly, the V-Strom 1000 isn't as ugly as, say, the Triumph Tiger Explorer. Though, it's certainly not sexy, either. Perhaps it's more accurate to say the V-Strom 1000 Adventure looks dopey. It looks like a dumb animal. A big, dumb animal that is inexplicably, oddly ingratiating.

Let's start with the admission, though, that this is not an offroad animal. There's a caveat to that statement, which I'll get to, but by and large if you are looking for something with which to tackle the Trans-America Trail, this probably isn't it. Instead, it's part of the newish adventure-touring class of machines: bikes that look offroady but aren't really supposed to go off road. Think the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, …

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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:
TRACTORS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!
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…