Rider Magazine, February 2019

From an adventure bike convert: beauty is much more than skin deep.

In my mid-teens, it was a dirt bike that gave me the freedom to explore the countryside, forests and mountains. Moving on to my late teens, I added a 650 Triumph to my garage. Fast-forward to my late twenties, and I began what would become a 20-year period of riding Harleys. Beautiful to look at when clean and comfortable when ridden on smooth roads, these bikes gave me many miles of pleasure, but something was missing. By happenstance one day, I stumbled upon a BMW dealership hosting demo rides.  There in front of me was this bike with a beak, square, industrial-looking bags, a humped faux gas tank, plastic fenders and not a bit of chrome in sight. I wasn’t sure what to make of the design, but my first impression of the bike was not favorable. The BMW representative suggested I take it for a ride (of course, that was the point of the demo set up). So I did. I told him I would be back in 10 minutes. He responded, take all day if you want. Three hours later I returned. I had my freedom back. Stable at 80 mph or two mph. Three hundred fewer pounds of bulk. No sparks from floorboards when cornering hard or scraping of exhaust pipes. No suspension bottoming out and follow-up jolt to the spine on bumpy road surfaces or from potholes. Neutral seating with plenty of legroom. And when the pavement ends, keep on going—mud, gravel, who cares—it is a new road to explore. Wash it with the hose, dry it with a ride around the block.

Is this adventure bike a visual beauty? Well, over several years of ownership, its profile has grown on me, but I wouldn’t say that it has reached beautiful. It is the case, though, that when I look at it, it generates the same sense of freedom I felt with those bikes from my teen years, and for me that definitely translates to beautiful.

Tim Richards, Rochester, Michigan


In regard to your question about form vs. function: “Have the motorcycle industry and consumers stopped caring about what looks good and are now focused solely on what works?” (One-Track Mind, February 2019). I’m in the camp that believes motorcycles are works of art, not just a means of conveyance. I currently own a 2007 Triumph Bonneville T100, which I think is one of the most beautiful bikes ever built and, with the tweaks I’ve made over the years, is a great all-around motorcycle. I do appreciate modern technology that improves safety and performance, but unless a bike also has a sense of style and beauty, count me out.

Wayne Carpenter, Belton, Texas


Not too long ago, the state of the industry was dead to me. For decades, I told all my riding buddies that there wasn’t a motorcycle out there you could give me, much less pry from my bank account! But the changes gracing the more recent pages of Rider really caught this old geezer’s eye! I’m seeing bars and footpegs in the right places, shaped properly, enabling riding comfort and, most importantly, efficient and safe handling of the machine. I actually see several models I might buy in the near future! I love this “new” direction of the industry. Whether it’s the result of sales or the manufacturers coming to their senses, I don’t care. Just keep it coming!

Stan Chiras, via email


I agree with you about the ‘80s and ‘90s, when I couldn’t find anything functional enough for me. I actually bought a cruiser (Honda Magna), which tended to wallow its way around corners, especially two-up. At some point my significant other became an important factor when buying a new bike. Nowadays I actually evaluate a bike by my partner’s comfort level; if she isn’t happy, there’s no way I will be either. We landed on a Honda ST1100 that I’ve had for 20 years, and then the VFR1200XD came into the picture. V-4 power and smoothness, shaft drive, adventure functionality and of course 3rd gen DCT…perfect. It might be an “oddball,” but it’s highly functional for both Melody and I.

O. George Gridley, Fayetteville, New York


As an owner of a 2004 Honda VTX1800 I really appreciated “Function vs. Form.” It wasn’t long ago that I wouldn’t have been caught dead on some of the bikes that you mentioned. Then, about eight or nine years ago, I got to looking at this “adventure riding” thing that was getting so popular. One bike that I considered the ugliest of them all was the Kawasaki KLR650. Yet the more I looked, the more the whole concept appealed to me, and being budget-minded, wouldn’t you know it, I bought a KLR! Let me tell you, that bike has been one of the most fun, most durable bikes I’ve ever owned. My friend and I pack our KLRs, travel mostly off-pavement camping off our bikes and have more fun than I ever imagined. Now, when I look at motorcycles, I see practicality and functionality. Thanks a bunch for a great article and perspective.

Bob Becker, Arvada, Colorado


To me a clean, air-cooled V-twin has that cool “bad boy” look, so yes, I choose form over function. Why? People who appreciate that big, heavy cruiser style always walk past with a smile. And the sound of a big cruiser or bagger is second to none. I love going to local bike shows and seeing all the different custom jobs, and I think a custom ADV bike just isn’t the same. I don’t care much for the way the new bikes are turning out form-wise, but I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned.

Logan Ryan, Van Buren, Arkansas


In response to Editor Tuttle’s “Function vs. Form” editorial, my preference for an adventure-style bike over the traditional cruiser came about from getting older. I am 59 now and have arthritis in one of my hips, which forced me to stop riding my Yamaha V-Star 1100. The weight of the bike and my legs being forced outward by its width made riding uncomfortable and not enjoyable. I was riding less and less, which further eroded the comfort level when I did get out there. Then late last summer I traded in the big cruiser for a smaller Honda CB500X. The lighter weight and slimmer width of the Honda has brought back the fun of riding. Now I look for excuses to ride and over the last six months have ridden more than I did in the last two years. So for me the choice is easy: function allows me to ride and that is true beauty.

Danny Sims, Boston, Virginia


I think one of the things that may be driving recent bike design is the aging of riders. Recently I traded for a 2014 Honda NC700X DCT ABS. It is light, which makes it very easy for me to handle and wrangle around the garage. I no longer have to shift, which is good because I’m developing arthritis in my left hand and I have Type 2 Diabetes so my left foot is numb, making shifting difficult. It gets great mileage, and I have no problem riding it on dirt roads. I added a National Cycle VStream Touring windscreen and highway pegs, so it’s comfortable enough to take on a trip if I so wish. I like the “frunk” too. In fact, I like the whole style of the bike: brawny in the front and narrow at the rear, like a bison. So I got lucky: I got comfort andstyle.

Chuck Miller, Loveland, Colorado


It has struck me over the past year as I read your many adventure bike reviews that function apparently rules. I agree that “motorcycles are first and foremost about appealing to one’s emotions,” as Tuttle penned. To me form rules in the emotions realm, but I also think function and form don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The first thing that attracted me to my 2007 FJR1300 was its drop-dead gorgeous looks. Yet functionally, it’s the best touring motorcycle I have ever ridden.

Tom Clement, Hazen, North Dakota


As usual your editorial hits a nail or two right on the Philips head! To your question of whether or not function is now outselling the form, I would say yes, to a certain extent. There is some truth to the saying, “What was old is new again,” but as you point out, today’s new riders are coming at the motorcycling exercise from a few different angles due to environmental, large-scale economic and even social and political aspects. Yet there still one very salient part of the motorcycle purchasing decision, which was was driven home to me back in 1984, when I was the parts manager at a multi-brand dealership and was starting to cross over into bike sales. If a person does not get a tug on their “heart strings” and can’t see themselves on that machine—looking good and feeling happy—there is nothing that can get them to buy it. Conversely, if it moves their soul, no amount of written reviews on its performance and ridicule of others about its looks or performance will stop them from riding away on that machine.

Ben Getz, Moses Lake, Washington


My ideal new bike is a machine that looks awesome, can keep up with sportbikes in the canyons and is all-day comfortable. Street-biased ADVs have been my compromise for more than a decade now (2007 V-Strom, then a 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure), even though I’ve never been fond of the look. I grew up when almost all bikes were standards. Comfortable, upright seating (usually for two), decent twisty road performance and touring capability came with the package. Then bikes began to specialize: sportbikes, naked sportbikes and cruisers. In the mid-to-late ‘90s we started to read reviews of the oilhead BMW GS machines, claiming they could stay on the tails of well-ridden sportbikes on real-world twisty roads, and even outrun them if road conditions deteriorated. These bikes had comfortable, upright seating for two, and enough wind protection for even longer days in the saddle. A bit odd-looking, but they possessed the performance/comfort combination of the best standards/nakeds with added capabilities for touring and dirt road riding. No surprise that ADV bikes ended up being so popular. Function off the charts, rugged form in mostly metal.

I’ve always pined for classic good looks though, and while early “retro” bikes looked great they were a few steps behind nakeds and ADVs in performance and technology. Only now are there some machines coming out that combine clean, classic looks with the latest in tech and performance, like Indian’s FTR1200 and Triumph’s 1200 Scramblers. My short list now contains retros, nakeds and ADVs. I’m still performance/comfort first, but I’ll sacrifice a small amount of either for a great looking bike!

Larry Wall, Conifer, Colorado


Mark Tuttle hit the nail on the head with his editorial on Form vs. Function. I have been riding for almost 60 years and have owned almost all the brands of bikes. At my age I try to keep an open mind about things. However I am from the age of form over function. I think ABS is a great feature but the rest of the gadgets are not desirable to me. I would rather do wide sweeping curves so I can enjoy the sights rather than drag my knees in S curves. I do read about the new bikes and I bet they have more power and function than I could safely handle. I know beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but except for the some of Triumph retro models the rest of the bikes in the 2019 lineup look like bugs or robots with beaks. Yes I know I am from the age when a rain suit was a garbage bag with holes for you arms and head. By the way what the heck is a slipper clutch?

Paul Mancine, Alpena, Michigan


Greetings. I am a long-time subscriber, and there’s something that I’ve needed to say for a while now regarding Jenny Smith.

Let me begin by saying I’m kind of old, and a product of my generation. When Ms. Smith was introduced to us readers, I remember thinking, “Oh, good. I like it when motorcyclists take into account the feminine perspective.” I am now somewhat ashamed to admit that what I expected was reviews on gear and apparel for women and pillion reports.

Boy was I wrong! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she is the real deal.

To Jenny I have to say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. You are truly one of us.” I look forward to your reviews and articles and hold your opinions in as high regard as I do any of the fine staff at Rider, my favorite magazine. It makes my heart soar to know that women like you exist. To whoever made the decision to hire her I say, “Well done! And thank you.”

Steve & Alice, via email


What’s this? Heated grip install article from Ari Henning?! Which magazine is this? Yep, its Rider, and my life just got a little better. Absolutely fabulous to have you here, Ari. Bring on a feature article ASAP please. If the Ridereditors work in a couple features from Jack Lewis, I’ll take up smoking again ‘cause I’ll be ready to die a happy man. Also thanks to Jenny for starting to break out of “how the bike

feels to the body” and into “how the ride feels to the heart” in the Triumph Street bikes article.

Dave G., Bailey, Colorado


I just wanted to share my excitement! After having an accident working at my friend’s house, I didn’t think I’d ever get to ride again. I amputated three of my middle fingers on my right hand. I was so distraught I sold my beloved Concours 14 a week after the accident. I tried sitting on my wife’s CTX700 a few times…. Each time I would get off without any inkling that my hand would be good enough to run a brake lever ever again. After three months I finally turned a corner and thoughts started creeping back into my head. Maybe the thoughts were irrational, but I was just so happy to be in the position that the use of my right hand was not only coming back, but coming back fast after months of pain and agony. I would say I started shopping for a new bike but, honestly, there were only a few bikes I deemed an upgrade over what I had. Of those only one fit what I was really looking for and spoke to me when I sat on it: a brand-new KTM Super Adventure 1290 R! I was so excited to be getting another bike but unfortunately my hand wasn’t the only thing throwing my life into a tailspin during this time. My dad (and best friend) was slowly dying from brain cancer. By the time I got the bike home he was already in hospice and unable to communicate. In fact he passed away shortly after I got it. I never got to tell him about my new toy, or to share my excitement. But I know that first ride he will be there with me in spirit. So to all my fellow riders, have a great spring and enjoy the ride!

Andrew Kramer, Saint Michael, Minnesota


I enjoyed reading your review of the Triumph Street Twin and Scrambler. Jenny Smith helpfully included her height, weight and inseam in the article. Having a test riders stats are very helpful when considering the suitability of a potential motorcycle. If these stats were consistently posted in your format, as you post the

helmet, jacket, pants and boots, it would put an accurate ergonomic context to your reviews. Keep up the good work.

Chuck Gardner, via email


Regarding “Bigger Isn’t Better,” I agree with Chris Shockey that smaller bikes deserve a higher place in the motorcycle pantheon. I turned 65 this past year and love my 2005 BMW R 1200 RT, but dang, it is getting too heavy to move around the garage. Also, we have a gravel driveway. Twice, my foot has slipped, and down we went. My 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS and I have no such problems. Yes, Chris, I ride the same bike. A five-day trip through beautiful British Columbia on my Versys proved fabulous. With hand guards and a touring windscreen the elements were

Well-managed. I never wanted for more horsepower; brief blasts to 90-plus mph felt stable and provided miles of smiles. Passing on inclines, enjoying the twisties and the Trans-Continental Highway stints were all handled with aplomb. Plus, I feel safer, I’m enjoying riding as much or more than ever, and smaller bikes don’t have nose bleed MSRPs. A final thought: in the day, a 650cc bike was BIG!

Stan Howard, Goodyear, Arizona


First off, kudos to you all for Rider. You are one of my top two. (Hint: the other one accepts no advertising.) Obviously, you have noticed the recent format change of a couple other popular m/c magazines. Just thought I’d pass along the opinion of one old reader: I like/prefer the current Rider format. Perhaps it’s because I’m just an old geezer set in my ways?! Dunno. Just know that’s what I like. Thought I’d mention it to you if you might be interested in what one reader thought of the different approaches to a magazine. Keep the good work going. Thanks.

Larry Zimmer, Brighton, Michigan


Your retrospective article on the Yamaha 250cc two-stroke twins, which were sold in the U.S in the 1960s brought back some fond memories. I purchased a new 1964 Yamaha YDS-Z 250cc two-stroke twin while in college in Providence, Rhode Island, the only one of its kind around then. All my riding friends had British four-stroke bikes from Triumph, Norton and BSA of about 600cc, but the Yamaha two-stroke could out-pace the larger bikes up and down the college hills in Providence. It had a distinctive bumblebee sound that you could hear a block away. It wasn’t loud, just distinctive.

One problem was that it did not yet have Yamaha’s auto lube oil injection system so you had to pour and mix two-stroke oil yourself into the fuel tank. I once forgot to pour in enough oil during gas fill up and on a long trip the engine seized on me. I did get the bike repaired, but I traded it in for a Honda 305 four-stroke Hawk. The Honda was super reliable, but for pure fun the Yamaha two-stroke still had all of them beat.

Ronald D. Russo, Naples, Florida


Eleven years ago I met my future husband; he captured my heart and swept me away on his Yamaha Raider. Ten years ago we got married. Nine years ago he taught me to ride a dirt bike (he and his daughter were having so much fun that I wanted to join in!). Eight years ago I bought my first dirt bike. Seven years ago I got my motorcycle endorsement (so I could finally be street legal on my 125cc scooter). Six years ago, we started collecting vintage motorcycles, both dirt and street. Throughout the years, my husband has been receiving Rider, yet he didn’t subscribe to it, so we are not sure who has been paying for it. When I would beat him to the mailbox and find your magazine had arrived, I would flaunt it in front of him, teasing him that “my” magazine had come in the mail and I would let him read it when I was finished. Last year, my husband passed away. While I’ve always preferred riding two-up, this summer I plan to buy a street bike of my own. Your magazine still arrives each month, and I read it from cover to cover. Now, more than ever, I pay attention to the motorcycle comparisons and test rides as well as the rider safety articles. Your magazine has been a constant, a familiar, a semblance of normalcy, when so much else has changed. Thanks for the read, keep up the good work.

Laura Hochnadel, Thornton, Colorado


Eric Trow’s “Flash Flood” (Riding Well, February 2019) was knee-deep in analogies, which is very much his writing strength. It is not unusual to have network commentators (i.e. Andy Rooney, RIP) or even comedians (Brian Regan comes to mind) take everyday situations or tasks and rephrase them in a manner that resonates with the audience, evoking either pondering or laughter. Trow accomplishes this in the realm of motorcycling with seemingly effortless grace, and his advice, packaged as metaphors that make us smile, is more likely to stick to the cerebrum of the modern rider than stuffy academics or the war stories of aged instructors such as myself. Kudos to not only his passion for safety, but to his writing style as well!

Kevin Greenwald, Sheboygan, Wisconsin


I enjoyed reading the Favorite Ride by Stephen Cantrill (“Gila County Loop,” February 2019). I certainly agree that this is one beautiful ride. However, I must object to his giving short shrift to State Route 88. The Apache Trail, as it is also known, is actually paved from its start near Apache Junction to seven miles past Tortilla Flats. That’s where the fun really begins. The road surface is rocky and a little loose; it includes some short stretches of washboard but no sand. While Stephen was right that a dual sport/adventure bike would be best, my FJR on Roadsmart 3s made it without a slip or a slide. If you like a challenge this could be your road.

David Cornstuble, Sun City, Arizona


Jerry Stevens’ letter on his adventures later in life, viewing travel from the seat of his motorcycle, rang a note with me (Response, February 2019). I have been at it for 50 years and have ridden in several states more than once. When I started traveling on my new 2003 Yamaha Venture (still my current ride), I realized it might be nice to see how many states I could ride with the same bike, so I started planning routes to take me through as many as possible. One six-week, 10,600-mile trip took us from our Indiana home to Haines, Alaska, then to Bellingham, Washington, via the Inside Passage Ferry. We then traveled back east, being sure to ride through states I had not yet covered on this bike. The following year, we crossed the border at Detroit, and took a four-week trip east, covering the eastern Canadian provinces, including five days in Newfoundland. I’ve ridden this bike in D.C., 49 states, the ten provinces of Canada and Yukon Territory. That leaves two territories in Canada not ridden, due to their locations and lack of roads.

I think Jerry must have counted a territory as a province, since Canada has only ten provinces and three territories. Only a minor error, and still a lot of great riding! We did learn that Newfoundland is a beautiful island, called “The Rock”, but only has about a week of “summer.” Plan carefully if you want to ride there! Maybe one of these days he and I can meet in San Diego and ship our bikes to ride the 50th state!

A.C. Reeves, Columbus, Indiana


I very much enjoyed reading Mr. Stevens’ letter to the editor in the February issue and applaud him on the amount of riding and the number of states and provinces he has visited over the last 10 years. However, if Mr. Stevens was referring to Canadian provinces, it should be noted that Canada has 10 provinces, not eleven.

Norbert Greczmiel, Langley, British Columbia


I read with great interest Mr. Salvadori’s evaluation on the ContiGO! Tires (Gearlab, January 2019). I, too, have a Bonnie (2017 T100) that wore out the front Pirelli tire after just 4,000 miles. As the article states these are tubeless tires. I was always told never to use tubes with a tubeless tire. What gives, is it OK?

Tom Huhn, Lakeville, Pennsylvania

Hi Tom, when the tire is of an appropriate size for the spoked wheel and is not a radial, in most cases it’s OK to fit a tube in tubeless tire. In general it is said to reduce the tire’s speed and load rating by one level, e.g. from H to S, but on a light, low-top-speed bike like the Bonnie the load rating is more relevant. Bias-ply tires tend to generate a lot of heat, and there was a brief period as more and more became tubeless that it was not appropriate to run one with tubes. But as carcass, tread and liner designs have improved that limitation has mostly gone away. Still important to check with the manufacturer first. Conti says it’s OK with the ContiGO! in the sizes that fit the Bonnie. –EIC


I can’t agree with your thought that function takes priority over style. As an owner of numerous sport touring and café racer models over the past 30-plus years, I must say that the increasing dominance of “adventure” style bikes causes me no small degree of dismay. In two words, I find them ugly and graceless. Since when were motorcycles only supposed to be about utilitarian function? My garage currently houses a BMW R 1200 RT, a Ducati 848 and a new BMW R Nine T Racer. The RT provides all the practicality I need, while the 848 and Racer make my heart beat faster just looking at them. Call me crazy, but if “adventure” bikes were the only choice, I’d hang up my helmet.

Greg Mitchell, Columbia, Missouri


To me a clean, air-cooled V-twin has that cool “bad boy” look, so yes, I choose form over function. Why? People who appreciate that big, heavy cruiser style always walk past with a smile. And the sound of a big cruiser or bagger is second to none. I love going to local bike shows and seeing all the different custom jobs, and I think a custom ADV bike just isn’t the same. I don’t care much for the way the new bikes are turning out form-wise, but I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned.

Logan Ryan, Van Buren, Arkansas


Writing in response to Tuttle’s article about function versus form in the Feb 2019 issue.
Have to agree with Mark, what matters most to me at the end of the day is how I feel having spent 10 hours riding. Sexy-looking machines that put you in a wheelchair after spending the day on them are useless as far as I am concerned.
Ronnie Lyons, Meridian, Idaho

Source: RiderMagazine.com

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