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Showing posts from April, 2015

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…

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, …