Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: April 2011


Guest bikes serving in Eleanor's absence...

With Eleanor back in the lineup, here's a look at the several motorcycles that substituted for her in the near month she's been out. At the time this blog has been posted, all bikes except for the Piaggio BV250 and the Honda Sabre are still up for sale at my store. Visit to see more photos and more detailed descriptions about them.

2007 Yamaha V-Star 1300 Touring
Features: fuel injection, belt drive, water-cooled, windshield, lockable frame-mounted saddlebags, sissy bar

2003 Honda VTX1300S
Features: saddlebags, engine guard with highway pegs, Memphis Shades windshield, lower wind deflectors, sissy bar with cargo rack, custom teardrop shaped mirrors, custom license plate holder, and throaty Cobra slash-cut exhaust

2005 Honda VTX1300S
Features: custom purple/silver flame paint scheme, highway pegs, sissy bar, and Memphis Shades quick-release windshield

2005 Honda VTX1300S
Features: color matched hard saddlebags, whitewall tires, National Cycle Switchblade quick-release windshield, Mustang leather tank pad, flush-mounted analog clock, custom grips and mirrors, clear taillight and turn signals, and throttle lock

2008 Piaggio BV250 Tour
Features: Givi 46L topcase, fully automatic, 75 betcha!

2008 Yamaha V-Star 1100
Features: factory floorboards, passenger backrest, saddlebag supports, and auxiliary light bar. Custom accessories include highway bars and pegs, air intake upgrade, saddlebags, sissy bar, windshield with storage bag, and double straight pipe slip-ons.

2005 Yamaha Road Star Silverado XV1700
Features: factory windshield, studded rider seat and saddlebags, and passenger seat with a sissy bar, whitewall tires

1986 Honda V65 Sabre
Features: fastest quarter-mile bike of 1985-1986, 100% stock, CLEAN, a 25 year-old bike that refuses to act its age!

2007 Suzuki Boulevard M50
Features: Vance and Hines slash-cut pipes, faux carbon fiber accents, fully stock


Does mileage matter on a motorcycle? (a.k.a. Post #100!)

NOTE: This is post #100 on Two-Wheeled Tourist! Thank you to all of my readers for following along for the last year and a half, and to all my new readers, welcome to my blog!


"Isn't that a lot of miles for a motorcycle?"

I will hear this from many a customer when I'm showing them a used bike or two for sale. Some units have received this comment despite the fact that they only have 4-5000 miles on the odometer and are less than three years old. I don't know if it's just here in Ohio or in this part of the country, but it seems to me that there is a severe stigma on motorcycles that even have the perception of being "used," as if there is some sort of magic number or level of usage that renders a bike undesirable or unreliable. This is not only common with consumers; dealerships will often balk at taking some bikes in trades because of the numbers on the odometer, regardless of how well the bike has been cared for and/or maintained. Perhaps this could be because of the apparent "riding season" we have out here that only lasts from April-October, the only time of the year when fair-weather riding folks will come out to play.

As quite a few of my friends know, I have had several motorcycles that I have racked up the miles on, most notably my 2005 Suzuki SV650 that tore up 20,000 miles in 14 months before I upgraded and, of course, Eleanor, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A with just under 103,000 miles at the time of this blog post. And when I traded in that SV650 for the FJR1300A, it was scooped up the next day by another customer at the dealership. Then again, that was California, where mileage on a vehicle isn't an issue because it's been accepted as inevitable.

In response that initial question at the beginning of this piece, here are my responses and thoughts to the topic of putting miles on your motorcycles.


Piaggio BV250: The motorcycle that thinks it's a scooter.

I enjoyed riding my store's 2008 Piaggio "Beverly" BV250 scooter so much over the last 350 miles last week that I had to write a review on it. Here are my quick thoughts on this machine.

Local roads: Quick acceleration is this bike's biggest strength. It takes off immediately and reaches 40MPH with the speed of a mid-range motorcycle. If you don't watch the position of your right hand you might find yourself doing 55MPH and not even realize it. A butter-smooth automatic transmission can do that to you! Keeping up with traffic isn't even a question.

Highway use: At first I was doubtful that a 250cc scooter would be able to hold its own on the freeway, but I was quickly proven wrong as the machine screamed to 70MPH on I-270 and managed to hold 70-80MPH stably for my 25-mile commute back home. However, with a maximum speed of about 82-87MPH, I felt that a little bit more engine would be ideal for longer journeys and would be a lot less stress on the bike.

Rain: This scooter is equipped with 16" Pirelli Diablo tires that have awesome grip on wet pavement in both straightaways and in turns. Additionally, the bike remained rock solid in steady crosswinds at full highway speed. The majority of the scooter's weight is very low to the ground which also helps with its overall stability and nimbleness.

Storage space: This Piaggio is equipped with a Givi 46-liter topcase that complements the cavernous underseat storage that the bike already has. It's more than enough for a grocery trip or a long-distance journey. Additionally, the scooter also has a 12V power port under the seat to charge that cell phone or power your heated riding gear. To add to the fun, there are factory optional color-matched sidecases that bolt onto the sides of the scooter. With that much holding room, there's no reason to take the car to go to the store pick up the essentials (or a do lunch run to Chipotle for four of your co-workers and yourself)!

Fuel economy: How does 65-75 MPG sound? And that's even with highway travel! I will have to say, the BV250 is a bit of a connoisseur with gas; it likes the premium stuff. However, your wallet won't hurt much after giving it a little over two gallons for a full tank.

Conclusion: The Piaggio BV250 has been a worthy commuter that combines both the ease of twist-and-go automatic transmission and the stability of a full-sized motorcycle in a stylish package. When one thinks about the word "scooter," the first words that come to mind are "small," "slow," and "not a motorcycle." The BV250 trumps all of these views and easily proves that automatic bikes still have an essential place in the motorcycle market.

I wish more motorcyclists would go beyond that negative perception of scooters and give this bike a chance. It is a true automatic motorcycle and a spirited machine that is easy to learn and ride. I am curious, however, about its big brother, the BV500. That bike, like this one, has the potential of being a long-distance tourer, that is, if you have a lead wrist...

For more information about the 2011 model (same engine as the 2008), visit!s=overview/bv-tourer-250.


My day with Barney the Cruiser

I jumped into the world of cruisers today with an interesting companion.

Meet "Barney," a 2005 Honda VTX1300S that I borrowed from work for the weekend until Eleanor is ready to hit the road again. This bike earned this name because of its custom paint job of purple with silver flames. But it's no dinosaur by any means; Honda, along with the other Japanese and European bike makers, has been making cruisers that still possess the styling cues of a classic bike while using modern technology such as water cooling and shaft drive to allow for a smoother ride and extended reliability.

Since I started riding bikes seven years ago I have never spent this much time on large cruiser motorcycle until now. It's been a very interesting experience to say the least...for the first time in my riding career I'm on a bike that's "just like everyone else's."

Here in Ohio (and this part of the country for that matter) cruiser/classic style motorcycles make up the vast majority of the bikes on the road. With Ohio's proximity to Milwaukee, WI, the home of Harley-Davidson, and the demographics of the population out here it's not surprising that the classic American look and style is very popular. In contrast to CA where sportbikes and sport touring machines are far more common for the purpose of weaving in and out of traffic with precision, the Midwest is where the cruiser is king.

Being a sport touring motorcycle rider and an unusually young one at that, I've always found myself as an outsider among the throngs of machines at any given bike night or other related event. When I would ride with Eleanor down the street, the only riders that would wave to me would be touring bikes, sportbikes, and cruisers that felt no need to discriminate against my style of ride. I'm "just another random motorcycle" until I come to a complete stop, either at a gas station or some place on the open road, where curious eyes finally notice me and Eleanor in our strange getup and traveling equipment. (I did try to stand out a little bit from the normal cruiser bike crowd by being one of the very few riders that wore a fully padded jacket, long gauntlet gloves with titanium knuckles, a full face helmet, and riding pants.)

In contrast to my normal motorcycle situation, after being on that Honda VTX1300S and riding through the thoroughfares of Columbus I don't think that I've been waved at while I was on a motorcycle that many times in a single day in my entire life, as if being on this cruiser instantly made me look super cool or someone worth acknowledging. From a distance I was just one of the thousands of cruisers that were on the road on this unusually warm Sunday afternoon in April, and with that paint job I turned heads by what I rode, not where I rode from. The image of me on a cruiser and attracting that much attention by my appearance is one that I can't seem to adopt for myself, but it was fun to spend a day in another rider's shoes and be that "badass" that I can never be on my FJR1300.

This week I am hoping to get Eleanor back on the road again so we can go back to business as usual and throw some more miles on the odometer. I am fortunate to be able to delve into so many avenues of the motorcycle culture. We riders are social case studies in ourselves!


AMA's Roadside Assistance saves the day again!

Eleanor's been in sick bay this week at my shop thanks to a problem with the right front brakes. Here's a summary to the end of a very strange Wednesday.

While I was riding home on Wednesday evening to prepare for that night's hockey game, I started to notice that I wasn't able to accelerate while changing a lane on the freeway. I gave the bike more gas and it still refused to go any faster despite the extra revs I was giving her. At first I thought that I had punctured the front tire and I began to allow the bike to decelerate gradually. As it slowed down the whole front end started to shake a bit and feel a little unstable, so I pulled over to the side of the road right at the interchange of I-270 North and US-33 to see what was going on.

Visually, my front tire was just fine. However, my right brake rotor was extremely hot to the touch and had even started to blue due to the heat. Additionally, small amounts of brake fluid were leaking out of the top of the master cylinder. Yeah, that's a bit of a problem...

Because of the fact that I, as a goalie, couldn't miss a playoff game (or really any game for that matter), I had no logical choice but to leave Eleanor on the side of the road, get picked up with my car, and taken straight to the rink. After the game (which we lost and as a result were knocked out of the playoffs), Matt and I drove down I-270 to return to the bike. While we were en route I called my roadside assistance provided by AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) to have the tow truck meet us at the bike. The truck met us in about 25 minutes and took her back to my shop where it stayed until I returned the next morning.
Here's Eleanor getting a ride back to my work. I'm used to seeing her getting there under her own power.
I have to give props to AMA's Roadside Assistance Program. This is the second time in three years that I've had to use this service (the last time I had done so was in July 2007 when I received a flat tire in American Falls, ID and was towed to Sport Motors in nearby Pocatello). And once again I received the help I needed in a timely manner.

If you're not a Californian that has the option of getting AAA Southern California RV/Motorcycle coverage or don't want to pay AAA National's $30+ per month for basic coverage, I strongly recommend becoming a member of the AMA to take advantage of this valuable asset to your motorcycle traveling toolkit. This coverage comes free with an AMA membership if you sign up online for auto renewal or purchase a three-year membership and covers your (and your spouse's) car and RV as well!

For more information about AMA's Roadside Assistance Program and all its benefits, visit


Why Eleanor can't be considered a "recreational vehicle."

April 1 of every year is the beginning of the seven-month Women On Wheels® Annual Mileage Contest that goes until October 31. This is the first year that it's been posted on WOW's Facebook site, and after reading up on several responses, I decided to contribute to the list. I think Eleanor's a little bit out of place in this conversation, especially since she's earned awards from WOW for high mileage in 2009 and 2011 for our exploits together. That's what she gets for being my two-wheeled car. Here's to more miles this year!


Other uses for a car door (and why thinking about them is disturbing)

There are times when I would get into a conversation with someone about motorcycling that I would mention that I had learned to ride in California and spent tens of thousands of miles traveling through the Golden State on two wheels. Immediately I get a question that opens up a whole different discussion all together.

"Aren't bikes allowed to ride in between cars out there?"

I would reply, "yes," and then go into the benefits of being able to treat the space between two cars as an additional lane on the road especially during heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic in major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Orange County. (For more of my insight on that Californian privilege, check out my blog post, "Why I miss lane splitting...")

Disturbingly enough, especially here in Ohio, I will sometimes receive some of the following responses to my opinion on lane sharing as a safe/alternate travel route for motorcycles.

"If a motorcycle tried to pass me like that I'd take the car door and open it right in front of them. They should wait like everyone else."

"I'd move the car to block a bike if it tried to ride down the middle or through a small space. That's just crazy and dangerous."

"If motorcycles don't want to get hit they shouldn't even be on the road in the first place."

Okay, let's backtrack to the following statements. First off, regardless of what your opinion of motorcycles (and the concept of lane sharing) is, you as a four-wheeled vehicle operator have just declared that you will go out of your way to attempt to injure a two-wheeled vehicle operator. Isn't that borderline pre-meditated attempted murder? Second, if you're going to waste the energy to stop a forward-moving vehicle just because you can't move, there has to be some demented underlying reason behind your malicious intentions. I mean seriously? Even the thought of causing harm to another person is already cruel and to do so to a defenseless motorist is beyond reason.

I have found that there's a good handful of drivers here in the Buckeye State that risk themselves so unnecessarily. Some popular, unsafe practices include:
  • Tailgaiting behind an 18-wheeler's blind spot and coming within five feet of the truck trailer's bumper.
  • Weaving across multiple lanes in a zig-zag pattern without signaling until a car moves out of the way and then blasting down the road 20-30+ MPH faster than the speed limit.
  • Trying to pass me (the motorcyclist) regardless of how fast I am traveling, because 75 MPH in a 65 MPH zone is just too damn slow, and 80 MPH is just turtle status.
  • Passing me to my right and then crossing back into my lane and stopping, thus cutting me off, knowing full well that the lane to the left of me was completely empty and you could've just sped down that part of the road like the careless jerk you are.
  • Coming to a complete stop when entering the freeway when the sign clearly says "YIELD" and is even shaped like a triangle. (The only place I know where you have to start from a complete stop is the north end of the CA-110 Pasadena freeway where the on-ramps are so old that there's no way to extend them to get the moving start.)
  • And my biggest pet peeve of all...the inability for Ohio drivers to properly merge into oncoming traffic. CA and NY drivers have the "zipper" style method of merging down to a science. Alternate cars, one lane after the other, during the merge until everyone ends up in one straight line. It's not hard, really! (And by the way, it is okay to use the lane that's about to close up two miles down due the road to maintenance until it actually does taper off into one lane.)
Since there isn't any real way to encourage drivers to use their heads while going down the road, the only defense I have is to keep my wits about me, be completely aware of my surroundings, and master those learned skills such as swerving and emergency braking. And please, if you're one of those types of Ohio drivers mentioned above, before you get in that car and contemplate destroying one of us motorcyclists in your road rage fantasies, please remember that we're just people on a different form of transportation trying to get where we need to be and where we want to go.