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Showing posts from May, 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…

Europe 2015 pt. IV: It suddenly gets interesting

"Planning is the enemy of adventure" ––– Jamie Duncan
My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, which was devastating for any number of reasons. First and foremost, of course, is the simple fact she's gone. My grandmother was a superwoman and I had genuinely expected her to live, and thrive, at least to the age of 120. She was a sprightly 88 years old when we found out in late March she had leukemia and I had anticipated it as being nothing more than an inconvenience for her. It was more than that. She died on 9 May.
I am blessed to have been so heavily influenced by her, so I know that I have the intestinal fortitude to move forward, even though it doesn't feel like it right now.
Anyway, in practical terms, attending her funeral in Texas blew a massive hole in my finances. International flights on less than a week's notice do not come cheap. I maxed out my credit card and used almost all the money I had been setting aside for July's trip to Tuscany.

When I …

Owning a Suzuki V-Strom 1000: The first 1,000 miles

The odometer on my V-Strom just clicked over 1,000 miles this weekend, so I thought I'd offer my first long-term review of the bike (I plan to write more as I hit other milestones), just in case there's anyone out there considering getting a Strom of their own.
By and large, I would say that if you are considering buying a V-Strom 1000, it won't be a purchase you'll regret. Indeed, my appreciation of the bike has only grown over the past few months. I find I am much happier with the purchase now than I was initially. Each time I take the bike out, it manages to put a smile on my face because of how well or simply it does this or that thing. 
Pretty much everything I said in my initial ride review remains true. The V-Strom is torquey, intuitive, and fun to ride. It is amazingly well-balanced, and offers a real sense of presence on the road without being KTM-like ridiculous.
Building on what I've already said, here are some other things that have stood out for me as…

I am going to win this bike, so don't even bother entering the competition

Did you see David Beckham: Into the Unknown last summer? It was a one-off TV show that incongruously linked to the soccer World Cup, featuring David Beckham riding around Brazil in ridiculously fashionable gear astride a custom Triumph Scrambler.
A few people were critical of the show because it did very much feel like a long advert for Triumph motorcycles, Belstaff clothing and whatever skin and haircare products Beckham uses to keep himself so handsome. But I didn't really care.
Firstly, because I like Beckham. He is about as "normal" as you could possibly expect anyone with so abnormal a background to be. I mean, the man was effectively raised by a soccer team, for Pete's sake. He was shipped up to Manchester at the age of 14 and indoctrinated into the professional footballing machine. He was raised by a multinational corporation, for whom winning served as the moral backbone. 
This is the culture that produces rapists, drink-and-drive killers and wife beaters. T…

Europe 2015 pt. III: Stuff for my stuff

The last time I wrote about my preparations for my European adventure (back in February), perhaps the biggest development was that I had bought panniers for the Honda. Each holding 33 litres of stuff, the panniers were a quality piece of kit and dramatically improved the look and utility of the bike. 
I put them to good use on a trip to York in late winter and they performed brilliantly. But the bike upon which I had placed them had been giving me cause for concern for a while. Little things had me worrying. A certain squeak in the front brake that never went away –– even after replacing the front pads. A tendency to get stuck in gear or out of gear when the engine had been running particularly hot. Oh-so-slightly loose handlebar switchgear that couldn't be tightened any further. Dentist-drill vibrations at 80 mph that left my hands tingling for days afterward. A seat that got uncomfortable after 45 miles. The fact it was 10 years old.
As I say: little things. No one of those thi…

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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…