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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Get a Grip Miles: 564 – 663

Being new to sport bikes I noticed fairly early that the grips where thinner. This combined with the forward riding position on the Ninja took a little getting used to. I received some advice that really helped me be a lot more comfortable. Basically, never lock your arms, and grip the tank with your legs to help support your body on the bike. I know this is probably sport riding 101 for most. Having only owned crusers this was all new to me. The other thing that really helped me was some information I picked up from Sport-Touring.net. To help with the little bit of buzz that comes through the bars and the smaller grips they recommended trying Grip Puppies from California Sport Touring. These are slip on covers for your existing grips made of CE Foam. They really do just slip right on with a little water and dish soap. I rode to work today after installing them last night and they made a world of difference. The Ninjas grips are now more comfortable and thicker. Problem solved. Now … what to do about that seat ….

I also had a fuel up today on my ride home from work. You can check out my stats at Fuelly.com:
MPG: 40.1
Miles: 163.0
Gallons: 4.066

 

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Where have you been all my life ….

On Monday May 6th I traded in my H-D Electra Glide for a 2011 Kawasaki Concours 14. I had a pretty short list of bikes that I’ve been looking at for a while and finally settled on the Connie. In a previous blog entry I had made up my mind that I was going to get the BMW R1200RT, as is evident I didn’t go with that bike. Let me explain.

What I’m going to say would start a pretty good flame war in most of the forums that I visit but when it comes down to it the bikes I was looking at are pretty much the same. They are the Yamaha FJR, Honda ST1300, BMW R1200RT, and the Kawasaki Concours 14. They all have the following items standard: Hard Bags, Power (in HP – much more than my H-D), large gas tank, upright seating, electronically adjustable windshield, Sport style riding position, and informative instrumentation for touring. There are a lot of specific items that one bike has that the others don’t, but the core elements have all been checked off. So, I vacillated between these bikes for over a year. I’d get attached to one and then another all through the year. What finally convinced me to go with the Connie was pretty simple.

Knowing that these bikes are basically the same, at least as far as core touring elements where concerned, I needed to find a way to see their differences. It dawned on me that I could read reviews and spec sheets all day long and still not be able to choose which bike I liked best. I needed to test ride the bikes. This is one of the biggest challenges when looking at Japanese bikes (or most bikes for that matter), you cannot test ride them. Luckily there’s a BMW dealer close to me, and they do a good business in used bikes. A little known secret in the motorcycling world is that BMW dealers will let you test ride almost any bike on the floor. I kept and eye on their used bike site and when a bike on my list showed up I went in and test rode it.

The Honda ST 1300 was the first to be taken off the list. It’s styling isn’t too dated but the instruments are. It’s also a little sedate. While that’s not bad, it’s not what I wanted. I think if Honda wants to play in this space they really need to at least bring the ST1300 up to the relatively modern functionality and look of the Yamaha FJR. And while the FJR hasn’t had a face lift since about 2004 the ST1300 is getting a little dated in the technology department.

The FJR was next to get dropped off the list. It was a serious contender for a long time. This one came down to how the bike and I fit together, and in this case we just didn’t click. I was actually sad during the test ride (a first for me when riding a bike). I really wanted to like the FJR, but it just didn’t fit me. There have also been some pretty interesting and hard to fix mechanical and electrical issues that I just didn’t want to have to deal with.

The left the BMW. This one was easy, it’s too expensive. Simple as that. I paid almost $7,000 less for my Connie then I would have for the BMW and got pretty close to the same level of tech and features. The BMW is a fantastic bike, but it’s not $7,000 more fantastic than the Connie. If the BMW where priced even a few thousand more than the Connie I might have gone for it.

There where a few other bikes that caught my attention but where discarded pretty quickly: Moto Guzzi Norge (no dealer network and lots of issues with the Gen 1), BMW K1300 (too expensive, even used), BMW K1600 GT (WAY too expensive). One by one they all fell off the list and only the Connie was left.

So far this bike is more than I hoped for. I’ll write more once I get through the break-in period (should be this week).

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Concours 14

 

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… by the seat of my pants: Miles 474 – 564

I love riding. I ride every time I get a chance as far and as long as I can. That’s the key phrase here … “as long as I can”. My H-D was a great bike for putting long days and many miles in the saddle. It’s not hard to enjoy a long ride when you have a seat like this:

The seat on the Ninja 1000 was a bit of a change for me:


It is really hard to compare the H-D to the Ninja because they are such different bikes. However I do feel that it’s fair to make the comparison since they are both street bikes and touring oriented. The similarities pretty much end there, but the overall mission for these bikes has the same roots. With that in mind I expected the Ninja’s seat to be softer and able to at least allow me to stay on the bike through a tank of gas. Unfortunately, at this point I can’t. I can do about an hour and then I need to take a brake, stretch and then I’m good to go. I never had delusions that the Ninja’s seat would anything like the couch that the H-D’s seat is, I did expect it to be a little more pliant. To be fair my backend has been babied by the H-D, so maybe it’s a combination of breaking in the Ninja’s seat and getting my rear toughened up. It’s still early in our riding relationship. I do hope that it get’s better because I think this is a terrific bike and I want to be able to ride the pants off it … just not the other way around.    

  

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Ninja 1000 Experience

 

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Wind: Miles 379-474

Wind protection is important for a number of reasons. My first two motorcycles didn’t have any wind protection at all. I remember going on day rides with my friends and just feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Fighting the constant pressure of the wind on my chest made my arms and shoulders tired. The wind sucked all the moisture out of my body leaving me more tired than I would have been otherwise. So when I bought my next bike I made sure that I had protection from the wind. I think I went a little too far though. With the H-D very little wind gets to the rider, which is fantastic in rainy, cold weather but is not comfortable in the heat, especially in Virginia where the humidity makes summers pretty harsh.

I was instantly impressed with the windscreen on the Ninja the first time that I rode it. The wind management is great. Airflow over the front of the bike to the rider is very smooth, and that’s just with the screen in the lowest position, there are two higher positions the screen can be set at. I generally prefer the second position in warmer weather. It pushes the air right into my helmet vents and allows a good amount of air to get to me, but in a good way. In its highest position the screen works well for highway travel, and really that’s about it. It dramatically increases noise and stops air from reaching my chest. The noise isn’t a big deal when I’m on the highway, but not having to pull against the wind at higher speeds is ideal. I get a good range of protection from the three positions with excellent air flow management. I suspect that the highest position would also be great in colder weather, but I don’t think we’re getting any of that anytime soon.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Ninja 1000 Experience

 

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Tie Down: Miles 281 – 379

Most of the miles that I’ve put on bikes in the past few years have been from commuting.  It’s economical.  My fuel up this run put me at 40.1 mpg @ 165 miles since the last fill up.  It’s also a whole lot more fun than driving a car to work everyday.  I find that I arrive at work in a better mood and am better able to clear my head from the workday on the way home.  On my H-D I used to just slip my lap top bag into the side bag, latch it up, gear up and go.  Figuring out how to do the same thing, in a practical way, on the Ninja has been a fun challenge.

The easiest way, for me, to carry my bag to work has been to strap it onto the passenger seat on the N1K with tie downs.  I thought about trying to carry the bag like a messenger bag, but decided that was not safe with this bag.  Tie downs proved to be a really easy solution because Kawasaki have provided some great attachment points on the back of the bike.  There are two anchors/hooks located just behind the passenger foot pegs.  The passenger grab handles and expansive room under the back seat provide more opportunities for lashing items to the bike.  Here’s a look at my rig for commuting:

 

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Commuting: Miles 281 – 379

Commuting is the one of the primary uses of my H-D and so it will now be the primary use for the Ninja 1000. There are some challenges to commuting on a bike with no storage. The main one being that I have nowhere to put my lap top bag. Luckily I do have tie down straps and am able to lash the bag to the back seat without much trouble. This arrangement will work out fine as long as I don’t run into any rain. So far so good on that, but I am looking at alternatives that will be more weather proof/resistant and that look better than wrapping my lap top bag in a lawn trash bag. The Ninja is a very capable commuter. My commute is about an hour one way which, as I mentioned in my longer ride report, is about the limit for me before I need a break. The Ninja is very smooth and easy to manage in traffic. The power delivery is not abrupt when leaving from a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic. She certainly wants to go faster, but is content with a more sedate pace. I find that refreshing because one of my main concerns about using a sport type bike as a commuter was that I would get whiplash every time I twisted the right grip. I’m seeing better gas mileage now that the bike is breaking in. My previous fill up came in at 33.2 mpg and this last at 40.1 mpg. As I get better (more restrained?) at throttle control and shifting I expect the mpg to be much better. The fuel up information is available at http://www.fuelly.com/driver/redkamel/ninja-1000.

 
 

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