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Showing posts from May, 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…

Ride review: Indian Scout Sixty

When I was 21 years old, I decided I no longer cared about political science and dropped-out of classes at my dreary college in Northern Minnesota on the promise of working in a tourist trap at Lake Tahoe. I packed a duffle bag, told my roommate he could keep, sell or trash everything else, and spent several days making my way to the Silver State.
My pickup truck had no air conditioner or radio; everything was barebones. I often look back on that trip, and my decision to make it, as being a pivot point in my life. In the Story of Chris, it's impossible to get here –– to the person I am now –– without first going there. So, I'd never undo the experience. But if I could be 21 now, in 2016, I'd make a change: I'd sell my truck and get to Nevada on an Indian Scout Sixty.
Because the Sixty is that kind of bike. It is a cross-the-country-and-figure-out-who-the-hell-you-are bike. A tell-your-grandkids-about-it-in-60-years bike. A motorcycle of the sort that inspires people…

Exploring the Scout Sixty's Irish Heritage

When several weeks of gentle pleading recently resulted in Indian Motorcycle handing me the keys to a Scout Sixty, I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Ireland.

That's probably not what you were thinking. After all, the Sixty is a motorcycle imbued with more than a century of American heritage, seemingly designed first and foremost for the American road. But, as with so many American things, if you trace its history back far enough you'll find an Irish beginning.

In this case, that beginning is Charles B. Franklin, an engineer and motorcycle racer born in Dublin in 1880. There's a plaque commemorating Franklin's achievements outside the house where he was born. And, because among those achievements are the designs of both the original Indian Scout and Scout 101, it makes sense to ride the Sixty there.

My adventure starts, though, in Cardiff, Wales –– separated from Dublin by about 300 miles, roughly 80 of which are across the Irish Sea. I schedule a night ferry and se…

My beef with Harley

It's an unfortunate truth of the internet that no matter what you say, somebody, somewhere will get upset about it. The persistence of that truth seems to increase roughly 1,000 percent when you say something about Harley-Davidson.

Doesn't matter what you say –– it can be good, it can be bad, it can be indifferent. You could make a seemingly innocuous statement like, "Harley-Davidson is a company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that is best known for selling motorcycles," and someone will lose their mind.

"OMGWTFBBQ! THIS GUY IS SUCH AN IDIOT," an anonymous commenter will opine. "HE'S OBVIOUSLY BEING PAID BY THE COMPETITION!"

I don't really like that this is a truth of the internet, but it is. So, when a few people took issue with some of the things I wrote in a recent review of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special, I didn't really pay much attention. Haters gonna hate, after all.

But then RideApart's creative director, Jim Dow…

Gear review: TomTom Rider

The first thing to get out of the way in reviewing the TomTom Rider is to determine exactly which device we're talking about, since it goes by different names. The Rider 40, Rider 400 and Rider 410 are all the same device in terms of hardware and functionality; the numerical differences identify the maps offered.

As far as I can tell, the only version sold in the United States is the Rider 400. It comes equipped with maps for the United States, Canada and Mexico. Buy the Rider 410 in Europe, though, and you'll end up with maps for the entire world, which strikes me as the better buy.

Either way, TomTom promises "lifetime" updates for the maps, which is a dubious claim because TomTom isn't very specific as to what it means by the word "lifetime." It's not your lifetime, nor even the lifetime of the physical device. Instead, "lifetime" roughly translates to: "as long as we feel like it." Or, in TomTom's words, "the perio…

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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…