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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…

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 multi-brand dealership. I ended up talking to the Triumph guys and the wheels started turning in my mind over the possibility of getting a Triumph Sprint GT on finance.

You might not have read the post I wrote about the Sprint GT. I wrote it in early February, then kept it on ice for a while because I had applied to be the rider for Harley-Davidson's Discover More 2015 tour. I thought it might hurt my chances of winning if they read a blog post about my seriously considering getting something other than a Harley-Davidson.

More than 10,000 people applied to be part of Discover More 2015 and I ended up being in that rather large majority of people who will not be getting a free motorcycle and €25,000. Once I learned the bad news, I quietly went back and published the Sprint GT post. Quietly because by that time I had already changed my mind about the Sprint GT.

It's a hell of a lot of bike for comparatively little money, but a few things put me off. Specifically: the idea of financing one. Generally, when you finance something you're agreeing to ultimately pay more than what the bike is worth. It's like going into a clothing store and saying: "Guys, I really like this pair of pants, but I don't feel you're charging enough. Let me give you 9 percent more than what you're asking."

Like pants, motorcycles and cars don't go up in value. Whereas it might make sense to take out financing on a house, to do the same with a motorcycle, car, or the like is to throw away money.

The exception to this, of course, is when someone offers you 0-percent financing. OK, yeah, technically you are "losing" the amount that interest would deliver if you were to put the same amount of money into a savings account rather than a finance payment but interest rates of UK savings accounts are presently so poor as to be almost irrelevant.

Cha-ching

Long story made slightly less long, on Jenn's suggestion, I hunted down a dealership offering a 0-percent Personal Contract Purchase deal on a number of different bikes. On top of this, the dealership was offering the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure for £1,000 less than Suzuki's suggested OTR price. Plus, they threw in heated grips and a centre stand.

With my Honda as partial trade in, I was able to get monthly payments that are less than the amount I was putting into savings each month toward a new bike.

This, I'll admit, is what put the Suzuki on my radar: to quote James Carville, "The economy, stupid."

From that point, I started reading as many reviews as I could find and comparing it against similar machines, namely: Kawasaki Versys 1000, Triumph Tiger XR, Honda Crossrunner, BMW F800GS and Yamaha MT-09 Tracer (aka Yamaha FJ-09).

The Kawasaki is probably the most similar to the V-Strom 1000 in terms of its ergonomics and abundant passenger accommodation. Moto-journalists tend to give it the nod because it has a little more horsepower. But I don't like the new look of the Versys 1000, and there's suggestion its inline four can be buzzy at high speeds. Also, to get all the bells and whistles I've got on my Suzuki I'd have had to pay almost £2,000 more.

To get the Triumph similarly equipped would have cost about £500 more. It's even uglier than the V-Strom, its seat doesn't look quite as accommodating of a passenger, and it wasn't available with 0-percent financing. Also, the Tiger XR is an all-new model, released only a few months ago, and Triumph doesn't have a great track record of getting things right the very first time.

As for the rest, the Honda is insanely expensive, the BMW is insanely expensive to equip and not quite as road-focused, and the Yamaha looks cheap to me.

What about the Thruxton?

In the comments for my previous post I had a handful of folks say they wouldn't have expected this move.

"I must say I'm surprised," wrote Le Chofforobe. "I thought you would buy a cruiser or the Thruxton."

Well, that was sort of the plan, wasn't it? I'm a big fan of the Triumph Bonneville and the Triumph Thruxton but have temporarily written them off because they lack certain features I find essential, namely anti-lock brakes.

If Triumph were to offer a Bonneville with just a few more horses (at least 80 horsepower), anti-lock brakes and tubeless tires I'd be all over that. After all, I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of my V-Strom's adventure looks; but the features and overall riding experience more than compensate for aesthetics.

There have been spy shots in recent months of both a new Thruxton and a new Bonneville being tested. These, along with EU regulations that take effect in 2016, have most people anticipating a new Bonneville line being revealed at EICMA in the autumn.

But, you know, there's no guarantee that these new Triumphs will be what I want them to be. They'll have ABS, but what about other aspects? Power? Tires? Additionally, see what I said above about Triumph not always getting things right the first time. These bikes will be running new or dramatically changed engines. It's probably best to wait until at least 2017 to allow time for kinks to be ironed out.

Add to this the fact the Honda I used as partial trade-in was not getting any younger. It was 10 years old and right at the point where its value was certain to start plummeting. Especially once I had clocked up all the miles of my trip to Italy this summer.

The opportunity to get the V-Strom came at the right time, at the right price, and it seemed silly to me to wait and hope that Triumph would finally deliver something they've made no strong indication of delivering.

Plus, you know, motorcycle ownership is not marriage. If Triumph (or Moto Guzzi or Victory or anyone else) does produce my dream bike in a year or two, I can always trade in the Suzuki.

For the time being, though, I think I'm going to enjoy riding my lovely ugly machine. The weather has just turned nice here in the UK, the clocks have gone forward and delivered more daylight after work, and I can think of all kinds of places I want to go.


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(a) I am still targeting a return date of 4 July 2019

Comments

  1. Wait, you think the Tiger 800 "is even uglier than the V-Strom"?!

    Of course, you realize this means war... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Shoot, 0% financing? It'd be a false economy not to buy it. (OK, not really. But that's a killer deal.)

    I had an experience with an idiot salesman when I went to look at the new Indians here on the Middle Coast as well. Hopefully they're doing a better job somewhere...

    Enjoy the new bike! It's not ugly, it's Mad-Maxian - which is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Plus, you know, motorcycle ownership is not marriage. If Triumph (or Moto Guzzi or Victory or anyone else) does produce my dream bike in a year or two, I can always trade in the Suzuki."

    This is precisely the problem with Japanese brands.
    They produce no real differentiation, brand-message, whatever life-experience that makes customers identify profoundly with the brand. The kind of association that makes you look at the stuff they make longingly and finally makes you shell out the bucks to buy stuff.
    It's sad, because the Japanese makes the best machines out there... as I stated before, when those machines get old, unreliable by modern standards, they will be discovered by yet a new generation of what we call today "Hipsters" whatever.
    In the mean time they are just utilitarian utensils and that's sad.

    ... and yes, I like BMWs, I like everything they make. Ducatis and KTMs look pretty slick too, but BMW wins hands down (in my mind, obviously).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I often feel that Honda is almost there. Almost. Almost. But they can't quite grasp the essential element of the thing. It's like Christian rock; it's not bad but the focused adherence to message results in a failure to grasp the intangible appeal of the medium.

      Delete
    2. Chris, good analogy.
      Rock is there for those who feel it. Those who fail to grasp what's about, produce good music, but no appeal.
      Guess that's what happens to the Japanese.
      they have by far the best machines. by far.
      But the Europeans continue to have that aura and appeal that's hard to describe but it's there.
      maybe, it's the whole thing about anthropologizing the machines to the peoples they come from... (ergo, Asians all look the same, therefore they make boring machines?)
      Hahaha! ( i look quite Asian myself, but I'm not).

      Anyways, good purchase, enjoy!

      Delete
    3. I have always felt that there are a few exceptions from this rather sad truth. Most important for my palate: The Kawasaki W800.
      I believe that there is one thing above all others that makes japanese motor cycles so good: They grab the core principles of what they want to make and don't let them go. They don't change with the seasons, they don't get fooled into adding more BHP, more bells, more whistles and the latest this and that, but just stoicly stick to what the machine was always supposed to be. That makes for a painfully slow evolution, but one with durable, excellent results. Lets hope they put their mind to making more exciting, charistmatic bikes in the future. They can do it. The W800 is as much proof as the Mazda MX-5 or the Toyota GT-86, if a short glance to cars is allowed, which had very much the same problems.

      Delete
  4. Chris, I'm trying to figure out why Indian should take the blame for the incompetence of a salesman in a multi-brand dealership. Is the place owned by Indian? I can imagine swearing an oath to never let that salesman have a penny of commission on any purchase you might make there in the future (I know I would, not to mention putting a hex on him as well!)

    Just my two cents!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a fair point. I guess my feeling is that if Indian expects me to spend more than my annual salary on a motorcycle it should be particularly attentive to who is selling that motorcycle and the sort of experience they are providing.

      Delete
    2. That's also a fair point! How do we let Indian (or Polaris) know that they are in the hands of people alienating possible customers. I'm sure that they would like to know! I try to let people know when they are doing a good job for me, but the flip side is just as important. Again...just my 2 cents. Ride safe!!

      Delete
    3. I agree with both of you in a number of ways. I was certainly a little hurt on a personal level that you were treated poorly, just because of my love for the Indian brand. I've developed such wonderful relationships with many at Indian and Polaris and it's gut wrenching to hear that there are some salesman who are shitcanning their hard work. Everyone I know at Indian works very, very hard, long days and with great enthusiasm to get this brand where it belongs; under the butts of serious riders.
      Since I've aligned myself with the brand a bit, I hear a few of these stories and as I said, it's heartbreaking. The problem is that all of the dealerships are independently owned. It is the responsibility of the dealership owner to hire their staff. Your issue would be with the dealership, not the brand. The brand makes a deal with the dealership owner and Indian can't micromanage each dealership, nor do they want to.
      Such a shame. Have you ridden a Scout yet? You would love it, but you may be a wee bit tall for it. I know it fits guys up to 6' tall pretty well, but I know you're a bit taller.
      I could go on and on about how wrong you are about the marketing of Japanese bikes, but that's a discussion for another time. Let me just say, there's an enormous crowd of people younger than us who would vehemently disagree about their marketing strategy.
      Smooches,
      Sash
      Sash - The Rude Biker Chick
      See Sash Videos!

      Delete
  5. Y'know, if I had a shiny new adventure bike and lived in Wales, I'd be awfully tempted to enroll in off road training, e.g.: http://www.offroadskills.com. It would probably make me better on the roads, too.

    There are dirt schools here in the States of course, but for now I can't afford to cover my shiny adventure bike in plate armor to keep rocks out of her vitals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there are a few of those about in Wales. I'd definitely like to do one but they are pricey. At the moment I'm also more focused on taking road-specific courses. I took a BikeSafe course not too long ago and am keen to take another once I am more familiar with the new bike. Ultimately, I'd like to get RoSPA and IAM certification, which delivers the same high-end training given to police riders.

      Delete
  6. RoSPA and IAM? You're neck will be stiff with all those lifesavers!

    ReplyDelete

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