After riding the absolute snot out of my trusty Speedmaster, I fear we may have reached an impasse: Saddlebags and windshields are ugly on cruisers (sorry, someone had to say it), and worse yet, I hate cleaning chrome.
Lola, yes she has a name, is the epitome of what a sexy american cruiser should look like: Black, because that’s what color cruisers are supposed to be, long chrome pipes, bad boy drag bars, and beefy rear tire. All the things that keep me looking back when I head into the pub, but also everything I’ve begun to leave behind as a rider.
What happened you ask; an evolution of motorcycle taste. I love her every bit today that I did when I forked over the down payment, but I’ve discovered limitations I never imagined (new rider… who knew?). First, my wife joined me for way more miles than I expected; which is not a bad thing, it’s just obvious that expectations weighed heavily on the initial purchase decision. Next, I rode a lot more than I thought I would, like two valve clearance checks in a year “a lot” (which is expensive). I foolishly figured that once the honeymoon phase wore off, I would contentedly take the car to work from time to time; I was wrong. Two years later, I’m looking for ways to eliminate excuses NOT to ride like rain, storage space, and perhaps lack of paved roads. There’s a saying: “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride”; while this expression is a dig on bikers who are trying to be macho, there’s truth there. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve left the bike in the stable (my porch, more on that later) for fear of getting soaked on the way home. This problem is two-fold: one, the rain still spooks me a bit, especially sitting feet forward, when the rear end gets loose, it’s unnerving; two, I hate washing the bike. The are workarounds to the former, but the latter tends to get the crowd going, “that’s more time to get intimate with your bike” or simply “then don’t”. Sorry, if I’m washing the bike, then I’m not riding it; I’m also an engineer and a former Army Staff Sergeant, shiny stuff is supposed to be shiny… that’s why it’s shiny. Buying a new $8,500 toy and not washing it seems well… stupid. Look, rat bikes are awesome (dead serious), but the re-sale value, probably… not so awesome. I don’t expect the voice of military heritage is going to shut up any time soon, so the search for a more “rugged” motorcycle has begun.
Lastly, I found the limits of my rake and suspension late this season. While the motorcycle crowd may say “if you’re not scraping the pegs, you’re doing it wrong”, I diametrically disagree. At some point, you surpass the engineered lean angle of a cruiser, hard parts hit pavement, and your arse soon follows; no thanks.
What do I need? Comfort for two, additional storage, high output alternator, rugged exterior, and a sportier chassis; or so I think. Obstacle to riding number one: rain; enter the adventure bike. Adventure bikes are the new rage in the US, and I won’t begin to argue the “adventure” merits of adventure bikes, I’ll leave that to mainstream outlets. That said, adventure bikes tend to have more suspension, minimal “shiny stuff”, and generally sportier chassis than cruisers. Adventure bikes tend to meet virtually every criteria I’ve laid out for “my next bike”, save one: comfort for two? That has yet to be determined, hopefully a few test rides this year will provide answers.
So… which adventure bike? I would be lying to you if I said I don’t have some harebrained round the world trip in my dreams; While I’m not Ewan McGregor, that doesn’t mean I don’t want a bike that could accomplish that mission. KTM, BMW, and Triumph are all on the list, as is the rumored Honda “True Adventure”. BMW stands for Bring More Wallet, and KTM is essentially a race bike with a license plate, maintenance requirements included. Don’t get all butt-hurt on me, both bikes are more than accomplished, and for many people my stance on “too much money” or “too much maintenance” is more than compensated for in other areas: i.e. BMW’s run forever, and nothing beats a KTM in the dirt. While I agree on those terms, the Triumph Tiger models and the soon to be released Honda “True Adventure” are more realistic choices. In the end, all other brands lack one thing that Triumph has: a third cylinder. Stats aside, dollars aside, the bike that stirs the soul is the bike you take home. That triple engine rocks my world… and that’s just how it is. If you haven’t heard one, get over to your local dealer, and they’ll be certain to start one up in the showroom, just for that reason. As of today, the Tiger is on the top of the want list, the question now is merely, which one?