Friday, February 24, 2017

Buying a motorcycle - Riding in Style

I have been itching to buy a motorcycle for about 5 years and finally pulled the trigger. I had really wanted to get a vintage late '60's early 70's Triumph Bonneville or a same era BSA, but after looking for a number of months, I jumped on a Moto Guzzi California EV 1100. WOW!!! What a bike. There are a lot of things to consider when buying a bike.

1) How much experience do I have
2) What kind of riding do I plan to do
3) What looks like me
and of course the "less important" stuff:
4) How tall is the seat vs how tall am I
5) How much does the bike weigh

6) How much HP does the bike have vs my level of experience
7) Am I prepared to maintain a bike or do I want it to be new technology and "maintenance free"

The Cali is a big assed bike and I need to brush up on my skills so I enrolled in a motorcycle safety class which is the easiest way to get a license here in Arizona with little or no experience. Now this isn't a walk in the park and it is informative if not taxing. When they say rain or shine ... they mean rain or shine! I mean, it always shines in Arizona. Nope. Last weekend it was 40 degrees at 6:30 am when I showed up for class. It pretty much rained for 48 hours straight. Your requirements are a moderate fee and proper equipment including over the ankle boots, at least denims, a long sleeve shirt or coat, full gloves and a DOT approved helmet with eye protection. It's up to you from there. The school provides bikes (I had a Honda Rebel) which are manageable for beginners with plenty of zip for school and beyond and a low seat so you can quickly get your feet to the ground if you get into trouble. It has 234cc engine with 40 HP and can zip along around 70MPH. It only weight 320 lbs. with a seat height of just over 26" compared to the Guzzi at 1064cc, 74HP, 550 lbs., 119mph and a seat height over 31". Thirty one inches may not seem high but consider that this bike may feel like you're sitting on a bison!

The class consisted of 5 hours of "road work" each day (x2) starting at around 6:30a. It was raining and the first day I was wearing a pair of heavy Lee jeans, a pair of Doc Martin boots,  a long sleeve t shirt under a Speed and Strength armored flannel , a weather proof shirt and  Scorpion helmet . There are two really important factors to the protection that you wear. How well they protect you, and how they reflect your personal image. I mean, do you want to look like "Road Warrior", Johnny Strabler, Steve McQueen or you? The Road Warrior is perfect (if you want to look like a clown)! Brando is definitely bad ass but that hat has got to go!
Steve McQueen has the ultimate cool going on, but you need to find the perfect combination of cool and protection to suit your needs.  The flannel is casual for cool riding and provide full elbow, shoulder and back, Kevlar pads. The helmet has air vents that help to keep you cool and fresh air as well as a good fit, removable padding for washing, and an easily adjustable mask for when you may want it partially open (which I prefer most of the time). When I am wearing a jacket at all during my personal time, it's usually a flannel, denim or hoodie. Any of these works for me. A leather if I want to look a little more dressy. A good rule of thumb for accessories is, a little of anything is cool. A lot of anything is usually way too much. (ie, cowboy boots are cool. Boots and a hat are fine. Add a western shirt and you can probably get away with it. The three together may be pushing it.  Add the chaps or spurs... that's over the top (unless you're a stand in for a Western ... or a real cowboy). The same goes for your motorcycle gear... you get the picture.  Oh yeah. I never wore any of this protective gear years ago...but it's a different world out there. Unless you are riding in a perfectly insulated environment, you should definitely pad up in some way. Even leather jackets are now protected with Kevlar if you are going in that direction and less protective with double and triple leather and insulation in the critical areas if you prefer.

When shopping for a motorcycle, think about what kind of riding you're going to be doing and your experience level. If you are just going to buzz around the neighborhood and short jaunts back and forth to school, a Rebel (shown left), Shadow or Ninja (below in green) may be perfect. They will definitely get you where you're going. Sure there are other options. If you're looking at doing some off roading as well as highway I am liking the BMW F 650 GS. Enough zip and torque but again, it's a compromise bike. Not the best at either but works fine.

Just be aware that a bike with 600cc called a superbike may be a lot more bike than a 850cc bike just made for travel. The 10 year old "superbike" can be a bit less expensive, thus tempting because an old "superbike" may have been thrashed and it also isn't as "super" as it once was because there is always something more super therefore less desirable to the real speed jockeys. Another thing you may want to be aware of is getting sucked into the allure of the radical raking of some fine race bikes.
They look absolutely beautiful, but if you don't have the experience, they may speed you to a quick trip to the emergency room. Do I want one... you bet. It may be a while before I allow myself the opportunity to check one out. It may look like a toy... but it is a dangerous one! The aerodynamic styling is terrific for going fast but is more difficult to control under basic driving conditions and put you in a compromised riding position to get better aerodynamics. Don't fall!

So what decided me not to buy the British bike that I had wanted. I really started to think about how often I would be riding (mostly weekends) and how much I really want to work on my bike (I don't). Do I want electric ignition or kick start (electric). I can still get a Triumph, but I am in love with my Guzzi. Here's my best tip on gear. Check out Bilt's Iron Worker's line.
I picked up this denim and hoodie set. Price wasn't too bad. It looks great. It is absolutely my style, and the jacket is not only bad ass but Kevlar padded and the hoodie zips out as it warms up a bit.

Ride safe and have fun!

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