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Showing posts from March, 2016

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…

Electric motorcycles have arrived; Have we?

Not too long ago, I got a chance to spend a day tearing around on a Zero DSR. It was the first time I had ridden an electric motorcycle and I came away surprised at just how much fun an e-bike can be. 
When I returned home to the palatial Cope estate, I couldn't stop singing the bike's praises to my wife. My time with the DSR had convinced me that electric motorcycles are "there," I told her.
So often when motorcyclists discuss electric, we insist that the technology — specifically, the available range — hasn't arrived in terms of practical usability. But my own experience had shown that getting 120 miles from a full charge was entirely possible.In fact, that estimate may be a little conservative. Zero claims 147 miles of range, and I think that's realistic.
Either way, it really is "there" in terms of distance that the average American motorcyclist rides on any given day. Anecdotally, I'm thinking of the riders I grew up around in Texas and …

Please let this be true: Production version of Victory's Project 156 may still happen

There are fresh rumors that a road version of Victory's Project 156 bike is in the works and may arrive as soon as this year. And no, I don't mean another cruiser.
Project 156, of course, was the name for Victory's effort last year to conquer the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb. Powered by a rip-snorting prototype 1200cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine, the naked race bike was designed in part by Roland Sands and ridden by Cycle World editor Don Canet. Although the Project 156 attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, the bike Victory produced for the event drew a great deal of attention and raised many motorcyclists' hopes that a production version would soon become available.
Those hopes were raised even further in the weeks leading up to last month's unveiling of the Victory Octane, a 103 hp cruiser that some felt didn't quite live up to the Project 156 ethos. Many expressed disappointment that Victory had not delivered a model more faithful to the origina…

Ride Review: 2014 Triumph Tiger 800

I mentioned recently that my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 has been in the shop as a result of a recall issue. It is still in the shop. Apparently there is a backlog in getting parts out to dealerships and I won't see my bike again until the end of the month.
I would be a lot angrier about all this if it weren't for the fact Fowlers of Bristol gave me a Triumph Tiger 800 to use in the meantime. Different from the current XR/XC model, this is the Tiger 800 that served as something of an economy model from 2010-2015. That is to say, it was less expensive and a little lower spec than the Tiger 800 XC that existed during the same time period.
And certainly there are aspects of the Tiger 800 that give it the feeling of being built to a budget (e.g., suspension). But, overall, this 799cc motorcycle is a lot more fun and thrilling than I would have imagined. My experience with its successor, the Tiger 800 XRx, had been so negative it plummeted my opinion of the entire Triumph brand. This bike…

Proclaiming My Wrongness

A few months ago, I wrote an article in response to the acquisition of EBR by a company known as Liquid Asset Partners, which describes itself on its website as specializing in "turning your underperforming assets into cash."
In that article I stated quite assuredly that Erik Buell's eponymous sportbike company was finally, truly dead.
"Let's be honest with ourselves," I wrote. "It's over. The final chapter has been written. EBR is no more, and nevermore shall be."
I had a handful of people take issue with me on that claim, calling me a hater who something something America something something engineering genius something something. I would soon be eating my words, I was assured, and EBR would rise again.
So confident was I, however, that I chose to double down on my claim, stating for all the interwebs to see: "I will be the first to cheer if I am ever proven wrong. I will loudly and happily proclaim my wrongness. I'll write... abou…

Gravity always wins

The other day, I read an interesting article by a motorcyclist going only by the name of Lobo, who wrote: "Motorcycles should pass the 'kick test.' You give them a kick and make them hit the ground. If you have no remorse and the bike is not broken, this is a good bike to travel to Morocco on."
I find that endearing, and it occurs to me that the kick test is a valid measure of a bike's worthiness even if you have no plans on riding to Morocco. Particularly if you're a new rider trying to decide upon your first bike.
Unfortunately — perhaps cruelly — I feel that's a mindset most people won't develop until after they've built up a few years of experience. I include myself among "most people." It was only recently I finally crossed the threshold.
The first time I dropped a bike was also the first time I took my wife out on a ride. At that point I had held my UK license for less than a month and was still getting used to the unusually top-he…

The Octane PR fumble: What does Victory do now?

The initial backlash against the Victory Octane was so intense that most of the reviews I've read of the bike have felt the need to mention it: Motorcyclist: "Maybe Victory set expectations unreasonably high... enthusiasts like us were hoping for a high-performance machine more in the standard- or naked-bike realm than another midsized cruiser"Motorcycle.com: "(M)any... felt misled by Victory’s references to the Project 156 Pikes Peak racer... I can understand riders’ desire to see this powerplant in a more standard or sporting chassis"Common Tread: "There is a large incongruity between the motorcycle that Victory’s marketing department hinted we were going to get and the Octane that is actually going to hit the showroom floors." As I said in my own early comments, Victory's PR led a lot of people to hear things that weren't actually being said. I include myself in that group. I wasn't expecting a naked or standard –– the two "concept…

Ride review: Zero DSR

Here are some words strung together: interior permanent magnet, surface mount permanent magnet, graphene matrix. You'll hear words like these when someone tells you about a Zero motorcycle. But if you are like me, your eyes will glaze over because those words don't create pictures in my mind of what part they will or won't play in my sitting on a motorcycle and shouting: "Wheeeeeeee!"
After all, that's what really matters: The joy of being on a motorcycle. If you want technical words, go read someone else's review. If you want to know about the incredible "Wheeeeeeee!" that the Zero DSR delivers, read on.
The Past and Future of Motorcycling
My experience with the DSR starts in Birmingham, England, which is home to Zero's only UK dealership, Streetbike. Birmingham has strong ties to the glory days of motorcycling. Triumph, Norton, and BSA are among the brands that started in "Brum." They've moved on, but motorcycling still runs…

An Iron Butt a day: Meet world traveller Urs ‘Grizzly’ Pedraita

On a tram in Zürich – en route to see native son Urs “Grizzly” Pedraita unveil the modified Victory Cross Country Tour he will use to try to break the world record for traveling around the world – I spot a newspaper on the seat next to mine. I don’t speak German but flip through it and find a story about the Swiss-Moto show, where Grizzly will be greeting the public before heading to Daytona to begin his record attempt.
In the half-page story, I manage to pick out only two names: Grizzly, and burlesque sensation Zoe Scarlett. It’s at this moment I realize Grizzly’s kind of a big deal.
“Normally, I’m that guy who likes to sit at a restaurant and just observe. I prefer being alone,” Grizzly tells me later. “But I don’t mind the attention. I’m going to be spending 100 days alone, so it’s good to meet the public and express my appreciation to sponsors.”
Admittedly, we are on Grizzly’s home turf. Switzerland is a tiny country – you can ride from one end to the other between meals – so, i…

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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:
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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."
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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…