As many of you know… I’m in the (slow) process of “bobbing” my Harley-Davidson Sportster and when I complete it, it won’t exactly be the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever owned. I’m not talking horrible, but I won’t be taking any weekend trips on it. So… I’ve been thinking. (A dangerous thing!) What would I really want for cruising or commuting to go along with the Sporty Bob? Certainly my interest in large touring H-D bikes is way-gone so they are out. I’d love to have a Sport Tourer such as the Kawasaki Concourse or Honda ST1300 but a daughter in college rules those awesome machines out on price alone. So what’s left? Of course, it would be the Sportbike family. But that’s a problem too. While I would love the performance and reliability of an R6 or CBR600, frankly… when I sold my Sportbike last year I vowed that I would never again own a bike that forced my body into a racing position. (Old age I guess.) But what if I could find that performance, reliability and wow factor in a more traditional riding position? Do those bikes exist? Yes they do… and they are commonly referred to as “Naked” bikes. These stripped down Spotbikes never quite caught on here in the US like they have abroad but there are some out there on the used market and they offer the ergos and performance I would be looking for at fairly affordable prices. Three in particular have caught my eye… The Ducati Monster, Honda 599 and the Suzuki SV. Here’s a look at all three in their 2004 versions.
2004 DUCATI MONSTER 620: Of the three, I like the looks of this one the best. Something about that tubular frame and racing red color seem to be screaming for my attention. Two things bother me about it though. I don’t know if I could ever get used to the clanky sound of a Ducati engine and my research indicates that maintenance on this bike is significantly more costly than on the other two. KBB Retail: $3570
2004 HONDA 599: Some people feel like this bike looks fat and bulky. I disagree. I like it’s looks and while I have never ridden one, just looking at it, the Honda seems like it would feel more substantial than the others. I also love Honda’s reputation for bullet-proof engines. Performance specs are good as well… the downside to this one? Hmmmm… I’m really not sure there is one. KBB Retail: $3120
2004 SUZUKI SV650: I owned the “S” version (lay-down with fairing) of this bike for a while, and while it performed well, it always felt a little squirrely to me. More than once I was not happy with how it handled when pushing through the curves. Still, I think the non “S” version here might be a good option for what I would want… and it is also the most affordable of the bunch. To bad it doesn’t look better KBB Retail: $2850
Of course, trying to compare these bikes without riding them is somewhat ridiculous but these are my initial impressions. Let me know what you think… and who knows… maybe one day soon I will be riding naked!
Finally! The weather actually broke here in Nashville and we’ve had two days of 60-plus degree temperatures. This morning I took advantage of what I’m sure will be a brief reprieve from the cold and clocked about 80 soul freeing miles on the SV. Can’t wait for Spring!
Yesterday I spent a large portion of the day doing things that had nothing to do with motorcycles. First I spent the morning completing the weekly yard work, then I changed the oil in my truck and in the afternoon I spent a couple hours working on the next issue of Grease Monkey (aka sitting in front of a computer). Well, by the time 4pm rolled around I was more than ready for a two-wheeled escape.
Since the SV is a lot easier to whip out of the garage quickly, I hopped on it and took off. In my haste to get going and given the 90 degree heat… I didn’t bother to put something on other than the sleeveless t-shirt I had been wearing all day… and about 5 miles into the ride it dawned on me that I was a “SQUID”.
squid (plural squids)
- (slang, motorcycling, pejorative) A motorcyclist characterized by lack of riding gear
It probably wasn’t too smart of me to ride like that but it sure felt great. But… since it is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month… I thought I would ask. How many of you “gear up” every time you ride? If you’re just going on a quick ride in the 90-degree heat, do you wear full gear? When do you not? Just wondering…
My Sunday afternoons are usually reserved for a quiet solo ride on the SV and today I kicked off the new season with an 80 mile loop through the backroads of Middle Tennessee. The weather was magnificent and the sky was as blue as can be. And speaking of color… I came across this abandoned building at one point that sported a cool red and yellow paint job. I thought it would make a nice backdrop for the SV so I stopped and grabbed a couple shots with the Canon point-and-shoot.
I do a lot of pissing and moaning about the winter weather here in Middle Tennessee but I guess if I really think about it… we don’t have it too awful bad. After all, today was Christmas Eve (as in December 24th) and I was able to get all of my summer toys out and take them for a spin. There was no snow like a friend in Oklahoma is facing and no bone chilling temperatures like another friend in Wyoming is experiencing so I guess I should just smile and shut up about it. But… I am just greedy enough with my riding to wish I had it as good as my brother-in-law in Florida and my nephew in Texas have it. Ahh… one day maybe I will join one of them!
Last weekend I went to the local car cruise-in to check out the hotrods and while I was there I spotted this way-cool Suzuki GS1100 in the parking lot. I didn’t catch the owner but looking at it I’d say it is an ’80 or ’81 model. It’s nice to see one of these older bikes in great condition… and still being ridden!
And since I was at the car show… I thought I’d show you one of my favorite 4-wheel sightings from the night.
Sunday afternoons are usually when I break out the SV and take off for the hills… and today was no exception. After church and a good meal with the family I was off for one of my favorite highways in Middle Tennessee. Highway 53 connects Liberty, Tennessee to Woodbury, Tennessee and it is an 11 mile, 55mph, curve-fest! It takes a while to get to it from where I live but several times a year I make the well-worth-it ride just to taste the fruits of the 53… haha!
Here are a few random pics… plus a video that proves you need to keep on your toes at all times. This moron pulled out in front of me and almost stopped he was going so slow. I had to break from about 65mph to 5mph in a distance of only about 50 feet.
A little Frosty-Mug taste to cool down before hopping on 53.
The top of the “curve-fest”.
The one-room post office in Readyville, TN.
Another break… for me and someone else out riding.
Stopped off at the local water hole on the way back home.
Back home in the driveway after another great Sunday afternoon ride!
It’s true, I actually got to ride to the office today! It was my first commute since the Fall and man did I enjoy it… and take full advantage of it. The ride in was a bit chilli but really refreshing and just long enough to make me want to ride all that much more.
I did get a lot done but the KBC was definitely taunting me throughout the morning. So at lunch time I skipped the food part (I need to do that more often) and spent an hour cruising around. At one point I passed a Nashville music landmark, Cats Music, so I thought I would grab a quick pic.
But the real fun started when my afternoon of work was complete. The reason I love riding to the office is without a doubt the ride home! And today was perfect. I avoided every Interstate and took my time, enjoying a long detour. By the time I rolled into the driveway, my 18 mile commute had been stretched into 86.6 miles. Ahhhh… I love it!
This weekend was not a total bust. I received a nice presentation at a local Harley Dealership and of course today was special since I got to spend time with all of the mothers in my life… including mine, my children’s and my grandchildren’s… but as far as riding goes… there was not a lot happening, thanks to our ongoing rainy season.
Yep, we’re still waiting for April showers to turn into May flowers here in Middle Tennessee but so far, nobody has told mother natrue that April was supposed to be over 10 days ago… which is about how many days in a row it has rained!
I did defy the odds this afternoon and rode the SV to my grandson’s Little League baseball game. It was cold and the sky looked like it was going to spew it’s wetness on us at any time (see picture above) but I made it there, through the game, and back home without even a drop.
There is a term used among the sportbike crowd that you rarely hear in other riding circles. The term is “Chicken Strip” and it doesn’t refer to processed, fast food or pole dancing poultry! No, a Chicken Strip is the area on the outer edge of the rear tire that remains un-marred by asphalt. The further you lean your bike through the curves, the smaller your chicken strip becomes… and conversely, the less you hit the corners, the larger your chicken strip stays. You can see that my chicken strip on the SV is rather large… I guess I am pretty much a chicken!
In an effort to latch onto the recent street-fighter craze, Suzuki is now making a stripped version of the Hyabusa that they call the B-King. I’ve seen them in the stores, in the magazines and on-line but had never seen one on the road until tonight.
BTW… I still wonder how these girls can ride on the back of these sportbikes like they do. My wife rode on my CBR with me one time and swore she would never get on a sportbike again. The Electra Glide has her spoiled.
Just a couple of days ago I RANTed about the Suzuki Gladius (along with 4 other bikes) and today when I got home from the office, the latest edition of Cycle World was waiting for me (yes I still read magazines) and what should appear in one of their features? The Suzuki Gladius of course. The article, by David Edwards, answers more of my questions about this cool little bike.
As it turns out, the Gladius is indeed replacing the ever popular SV650 but seems to improve upon it by: replacing the old aluminum frame with a tubular-steel trellis (think Ducati Monster), offering a 1.7″ lower seat, adding an impressive 6 more foot-pounds of torque… and a lot more.
It remains to be seen if Suzuki has taken too much of a gamble in replacing the lineup staple SV650 but one thing is sure… they are banking a lot on the Gladius. They are even taking a non-traditional approach to marketing the bike in an effort to reach beyond the walls of the dealership. One of my Twitter buddies turned me on to the new Gladius website and if you check it out, you will see what I mean. If you buy into their pitch… The Gladius is not just a motorcycle… it’s a Lifestyle! You can even download songs tailored to the color of your bike. (No… really!)
For a long time we were hoping for rain in Middle Tennessee… now we can’t seem to turn it off. Things have been so bad this weekend that down in Aetna (about 80 miles southwest of Nashville) people are being evacuated in flat-bottom rescue boats. The National Weather Service even issued a statement, warning about “life-threatening” flooding. Crazy!
It’s not that bad where I live but still we are getting a ton of the wet stuff and my riding plans for the weekend have been completely trashed. (Sounds trivial compared to what the people in Aetna are facing… I know.) So… here I sit again on a Sunday morning at the local coffee shop, eating a little breakfast and writing about motorcycles instead of riding them.
To feed my 2-wheeled addiction I thought I would take a gander at the 2009 offerings from five top manufacturers and see which one bike in particular from each is the no-brainer pick for Swag’s garage. You might be surprised at my choices but here are the bikes that excite me the most.
HONDA: Yeah, I know… everyone is buzzing about the new Fury but honestly; it doesn’t do much for me. And of course there is the awesome Gold Wing but if I can’t seem to get past the ST1300. The combination of sportbike looks and performance with touring comfort seems like a winning combination to me. This bike makes me want to take a month off and ride to the West Coast and back.
YAMAHA: I’ve been a distant fan of the mighty V-Max for several years now and the 2009 version is as bad as ever! I mean what’s not to like? Muscle car looks meets better than muscle car performance.
SUZUKI: Check out the new Gladius. An aggressive looking 650 with street fighter looks… this bike seems like it would be right at home… both in the canyons and on the morning commute to work.
KAWASAKI: Hands down… my choice from Big Green is the Ninja 250R. It’s been a long time since I got excited about a 250cc motorcycle that didn’t have knobby tires on it but this thing has all the “cool” of it’s big brother Ninja’s but is entry rider friendly with its 333lb dry weight and easy to digest MSRP of $3499. My guess is that Kawasaki is going to own the 2009 entry-level market… but may also gain a lot of “bike #2” business from the experienced rider looking for a commuter .
HARLEY-DAVIDSON: As I did with Kawasaki… again, I am foregoing the eye candy and all the bells-and-whistles to go with the entry level Iron 883. Are you telling me that a rider can get into a H-D bike that is dripping with Harley attitude for under 8 grand? Uh… yeah. H-D has a real winner here.
Lazy, Sunday afternoons were made for one thing right? No… not naps! For me, they are the perfect time for random rides through the backroads of Middle Tennessee. Nothing is much better in my book than to hit church, grab a bite with loved ones and then hop on two wheels to meander aimlessly for a couple hours of introspective riding. I solve a lot of the worlds problems on these rides… (ha!) and I also rediscover why I love to ride motorcycles!
You know, it’s kind of funny… I keep thinking I may want to sell the SV but then I go ride it and change my mind. What a fun little bike! Above are a couple pics of the SV during a rest stop I made today (ain’t it cool?) and there’s also a pic below of one of the scenic views I got on my ride. Plus… I’ve included a time-lapse of one of my favorite roads to ride. It is 6 miles of Couchville Pike in about 14 seconds.
I had to run in to Nashville today to take care of a computer issue and on the way I spotted this Hyabusa… one of the fastest production bikes you can buy. That’s the Nashville sky-line in the background… approaching from the East.
While I was downtown I decided to stop off at Arnold’s for a bite to eat. Arnold’s is a Nashville landmark and serves the best home-style country food you will find anywhere. (Check out Arnold’s here.) After stuffing my face I walked out to find the 2 bikes below parked outside.
The Honda is an old GL650. I haven’t seen one in years and it was cool to check out the sideways V-Twin poking out from the frame. The other bike is a 2001 Suzuki SV non “S” version. Mine is an “S” version and the difference is that mine has a fairing and lower bars for a sportier look and feel. Other than that… same bike as mine.
I had been waiting for this weekend all Winter long! After enduring week after week of less-than-desirable riding conditions… the torture ended this Saturday and Sunday as beautiful riding weather prevailed and sunshine and temperatures in the low 70’s were the fashion in Middle Tennessee.
I took full advantage! On Saturday I hopped on the Electra Glide and lead my first group ride of the year. It was a beautiful backroads route and I completely enjoyed riding with 13 of my friends… some that I hadn’t seen in several weeks.
That afternoon I test rode the 2009 Buell SB12XSs (see RANT from 03/21/09) and on Sunday afternoon I escaped for a ride on the SV, enjoying some of my favorite curveys. Below is a short video from Sunday’s excursion. It was a great weekend of riding!
Is my motorcycle life pathetic or what? My saddle time has been limited lately so alternatively I have been finding pleasure in snapping pics of random bikes I happen to see while I roll around caged like an animal. That’s messed up man!
The problem is that at the moment I am unable to commute on the bike so my riding time is limited to the weekends… which have not been very cooperative as of late. So here you go again… a couple more shots from today.
The first one (above) was shot in the morning while it was still very overcast. The guy had a nice little Honda Shadow… and I had to get the “Gun Show” billboard in the background so everyone would immediately know this was shot in Tennessee… Haha! The second shot (below) was taken after the sun made his appearance… a nice GSXR in the parking lot of the local Road House.
For the past few days we have had near perfect riding weather here in Middle Tennessee and bikers (other than me) all over the area have been taking full advantage of it. In fact, I counted 14 bikes yesterday afternoon just on my 18 mile trek home from the office.
As you can imagine, I was about to have a breakdown so I contacted my buddy from the next town over and we made plans to meet at the local Honda/Suzuki Dealer this morning for their monthly breakfast… and from there we planned to head to the not-so-mythical-land of “Idon’tknowwherewearebutIlikeit”-ville!
I got up early and made sure the SV’s tire pressure was good, checked the oil level and was on my way by 7:30am. About 3 blocks from the house I stopped and topped off with 93 octane and just as I put the nozzle back in the pump… I felt it. A fine mist on my cheek. In a fit of denial I headed on towards the meet-up location and before I hit 5 miles on the trip-odometer the heavens opened up and flooded me and the SV. I was bummed for sure (this was not forecasted) but reluctantly turned around and headed back to the house. Regardless of how bad I wanted to ride, spending the morning fighting wet roads and wet clothes trumped it all.
On a positive not though, I did grab a couple of pics of the SV before I left so getting it out wasn’t a total waste. And I did go on to the breakfast (caged) to meet my friend. We had a good time slamming a few pancakes and looking around the shop at all the bikes. BTW, he did make it there on his Kitana. I grabbed the shot of him below as he headed home.
A second B E A U T I F U L day in a row here in Middle Tennessee (see thermometer below) dictated that I must ride again… and since the Electra Glide got the nod yesterday, I decided to hop on the SV for today’s jaunt. I like this little bike but I am thinking more and more that I would really like to sell it. I’ve got the Sportster bug pretty bad… but I don’t know… we will see.
BONUS! Here’s a a little Stupid Video Trick I shot during a brief break from riding today. What can I say… I’m easily amused!