I’ve been working from home going about two months now. In that time I’ve been keeping up with friends on Instagram, messenger, and whatnot, and the same question keeps coming up, “what two-stroke are you looking at buying?” Since I love the sound of my own voice, or typographical monologue as it were, and I love playing this game (as you may recall), along with answering that question, I decided to put a new twist on a common theme: how many motorcycles do you need?
Peter Egan, a far superior author compared to yours truly, once penned an article on this very subject. Peter’s preface was that while most of us mortals insist that N+1 is the correct formula for the number of bikes a given person needs; however, taking into account the necessary maintenance, the minimum amount of miles a given machine needs to move to stay in good running order, and so on, it’s much more practical to have a manageable number of bikes. With that, he also suggested that you should have a bike for a specific purpose or type of riding. If memory serves, Peter suggested that 4 was the magic number; something sporty, a travel bike, something vintage, and something for off-roading. Far be it for me to argue with Mr. Egan… but I’m going to suggest that the magic number is actually 5.
When starting a collection of motorcycles, this is probably the first member of the team. If your goal is five, but you only own one, the only motorcycle you have is obviously the workhorse. This bike is your commuter, your Sunday cruiser, and regardless of model, it’s your do-it-all machine because you have no alternative.
Even after stuffing multiple bikes in the garage, I still think it’s wise to keep a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none machine in the stable. A machine capable of doing many tasks in all weather conditions. Something you’re not afraid to scratch, leave out in the rain or drop in the parking lot. I will also suggest that over time, the emotional connection between man and machine tends to make it hard to part with a given bike. As miles pile on, this bike becomes the go-to machine for various errands when “better” bikes are preserved for specific tasks (or trophy status); reminds me of a Scrambler I know, but more on that in a moment.
Peter Egan and I agree on this one for sure. While not everyone’s cup of tea, for those that are interested in traveling by way of motorcycle, there are creature comforts most of us want for spending long days in the saddle. Most folks would assume a touring bike is something akin to a Gold Wing, Yamaha FJR, or Harley bagger of some variety. Those would certainly fit the bill, but for someone like myself, a larger displacement adventure bike might align more with my taste in riding (rumor is R1200GSAs are starting to dominate the Iron Butt Rally… so I hear anyway). Ultimately I want a machine that makes it easy to ride from sun up to sundown, just to turn around and do it again the next day. Heated grips, luggage, and wind protection are likely high on the list for many riders. With that, I personally want accommodations for navigation, while others will insist on a 200-mile fuel range before setting out on a long trip.
Per my previous comments, I imagine that the average Joe envisions some sort of luggage shod land yacht when they hear “touring”. On the flip side, some folks pack light, don summerwear under a riding suit, and spend most of their travels off-road. That being the case, I see bikes like the Versys 650, the venerable KLR, or even the Triumph Bonneville in this category for the right riders. Grant Johnson from Horizons Unlimited has said on multiple occasions that the bike you own right now is usually the best bike to ride around the world. There are always better bikes for long trips, but any bike can assume that role when needed (which may require small sacrifices elsewhere). This is obviously a common theme for me, using one tool for many jobs, but as far as touring is concerned, I’m most concerned about all-day comfort, reliability, and ease of maintenance considering this machine is likely to rack up miles a lot faster than the rest of the fleet.
A few years back, my buddy, Andy said he needed a new “scratcher”. A born and raised Midwesterner, still new to the motorcycle scene, I had no idea what he meant. Turns out, he was saying that he was itching to get another sporty machine for the paved twisty bits; a bike that might (unfortunately) end up “scratched” by pavement, hence the British slang.
At any rate, wrestling the pig down the likes of The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway each fall, it became apparent that my “Modern Classic” doesn’t exactly have the most impressive lean angle. It will certainly “do the thing”, mounted with the correct pilot, but for me, “maximum lean angle” is most likely a byproduct of the crash. As such, at some point in this life, I want to have lightweight, sportier steed fitted with dual 17-inch hoops and some aggressive rubber. For street fairing riders, especially here on the east coast, I suspect that most would benefit from skipping the full-faired, clip-on fitted bikes and perusing the growing “sport naked” class of bikes that are available today. Different strokes for different folks obviously (especially if you want to do track days with frequency), but I like the versatility (there’s that word again) of the wide handlebar and upright seating on bikes like the 790 Duke, Yamaha MT-07, or even the Ducati Hypermotard. Certainly “sport” riding may be of no interest to some, but in my case, I’d still like to hustle a motorcycle through a long stretch of bendy tarmac with more precision and a little less effort than my daily rider. Considering the popularization of the before mentioned naked bikes, the sea of 90’s era sportbikes, and the lifespan of supermotos like the DR-Z400, the bike of choice for this job is pretty endless. I personally like really tight, technical roads versus high speeds and long sweepers, so a Supermoto or small-displacement naked would likely be my choice. I suspect the answers to this question will be nearly as diverse as the next battle scared category.
The Dirt Bike
Speaking of scratches, buy a dirt bike… and an extra set of plastics while you’re at it. I presently have two multi-tools parked in the shed, neither of which is exceedingly competent at dirt riding. The CRF250L and I are making our best go at aggressive off-road riding, but there’s no question we’re both carrying too many el-bees around the waistline. Considering most plate-less thumpers tip the scale around 250, that means the Too Fatty is outclassed by the average dirt bike by about 70 pounds. Around a foot of suspension travel with matching ground clearance is pretty standard (the Little Red Pig might have ¾ of that), fitted with hardy spoked rims these machines are unquestionably meant to be crashed and keep riding (and racing) with significantly less drama. Like most things, dedicated dirt bikes come at a premium. That “race-ready” suspension and thoroughbred powerplant pedigree means a few dollars more; but at the same time, the premium bits make for an easier ride when you learn the techniques (much like those sportbikes).
Again, not for everyone, but now that I’ve been exposed to dedicated motorcycle singletrack, I’ve been bitten by the bug for a proper off-road machine. I’m sure I’ll miss the flexibility and street manners of a dual-sport, but if we’re stuffing the garage with two-wheeled toys, most folks would benefit from improving their skills in a low traction environment. Moreover, addiction aside, one of the best parts of riding singletrack in the woods is that you don’t have to be riding that fast to experience the same level of focus you might experience riding at speed on pavement. Which also makes for lesser consequences when you make mistake (but I digress).
As I’m learning every day, dirt bikes also come in infinite flavors, including engine architecture. Do you want a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine? You want a motocross bike, trials, or an enduro? Meanwhile, a lot of these machines can be purchased with DOT light packages and license plates. They still have a racing thoroughbred but have street-legal equipment to connect trails (a welcome addition for us peasants here on the east coast).
As I said, dirt isn’t for everyone, but I’ve published no less than two articles outlining the advantages of off-road riding. Ultimately I think it’s a safer way to teach new riders how to start riding a motorcycle, it’s a great way to keep your balance and low traction skills sharp; along with serious fitness advantages if you’re so inclined.. That and well, power-slides, wheelies, and hill climbs are just fun.
Motorcycles are different things for different people. For me, it’s a means of travel and adventure. “The road is the destination” is a very real thing for me; albeit, they’re often dirt roads. On the flip-side, I’ve met a few people who like to buy a bike, customize it, ride it for a short bit, then find a new project. They enjoy hours in the garage as much, if not more so than time in the saddle. For these folks or anyone else with an emotional attachment to a machine, they need a project bike.
The project bike is the “just because” addition to the garage. For some, it’s some vintage machine they’ve had some love affair with. They may have become the caretaker of a bike that once belonged to a family member who has since passed. For others, it’s the Ducati Panigale or Harley Fat Bob you just wanted to have, even if you had no justification for owning it based on your “normal” lifestyle.
Considering my own affinity for high-piped British twins, Rosie will likely take up residence in this category at some point. I assume no one would offer me a dime for that machine (considering its history), so I suspect I’ll be nursing that bike into old age where she’ll no longer be the daily rider. However, considering the infinite combinations Bonnevilles come in, she’s the perfect platform for a project, if she’s not that already.
What’s In Your Dream Garage?
A few days ago I caught an Instagram post from @OfficialTriumph asking people to fill out their top 5 Triumphs to put in their dream garage. I’ve been wanting to revisit this topic for some time, but there’s no doubt that post is what spurred inspiration to put words to paper for this article. I’m a nerd and like to have “tools” for certain jobs, so I have “classes” of bikes I want to fill, similar to Mr. Egan. That said, sometimes you just want toys, and those toys are kind of the flavor of the month. I obviously made a list like this one way back when, and at the time the Triumph Tiger 800 was on the top of that list. While it’s still a contender today, tastes change, and it’s probably not the breadwinner here (that new 900 is a solid contender though). If money were no object, and I could walk into dealerships tomorrow, I’ve listed the bikes I’d bring home to fill these categories below.
So, what’s in your dream garage?
My picks as of right this minute:
The Workhorse: Yamaha Tenere 700 (Runner Up: KTM 790 Adventure R)
The Tourer: Moto Guzzi V85TT (RU: Honda Africa Twin)
The Scratcher: KTM 500 EXC [2 sets of wheels #SumoIsLife] (RU: Yamaha MT-07)
Dirtbike: KTM 300 XC-w (TPI) (RU: KTM 500 EXC)
The Project: Triumph Scrambler “Rosie”
(post publishing edit: I stand corrected. Thanks to some homework from my buddy Tom, Peter Egan’s article suggested 5 bikes, A sport bike, a sport touring bike, a dirt bike, a hog of some kind, and an old crock)