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Top 10 Stories of 2011

Top 10 Motorcycles and motorcycle stories of 2011

Here's my Top 10 stories for 2011.  I hope all the readers of this blog had a great Christmas and that 2012 will be a great year on the two wheels.  

Lets Ride

Gerald Trees

 

10.  “Backstreet” Customs

Building unique and personal motorcycles on the cheep is nothing new and has been a continuous process since the first motorcycles were introduced.  The economy being what it was (is) has brought this form of art back to the forefront.  For me, this is the truest form of customization and was a fun part of 2011 for me.

9.  Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawasaki has been the leader in the small displacement street bike category for years and the introduction of the Ninja 400 should keep them in forefront in usable, around town motorcycles.  With a peppy 399cci parallel twin engine, this motorcycle fills a needed gap between the 125 / 250 motorcycles and the “full sized” 650 street bikes.  The price is right too.

8.  Custom Motorcycles

Ok, Custom Motorcycles aren’t new, but 2011 took a whole new twist on what was a booming business in the early part of the century.  With the help of the Discovery Channel and Custom Motorcycles became mainstream in the early 2000’s and some builders took advantage of the good economic times and built bikes costing many thousands of dollars and drawing criticism of the “true” bikers.  The collapse of the economy in 2008 brought all of this to a screeching halt, with many of the big names in custom building going out of business.  This the economy slowly coming back online in 2011, companies like Harley Davidson and Honda were offering a “custom” motorcycle program where a customer could choose what they wanted on their motorcycle and then have the factory build it.  While these are “unique” motorcycles and built to the customers taste, the customer was not part of the build, which is a big part of the fun.

I Want It All, But Not Too Big

BMW F650GS

Triumph Tiger 800XC

Triumph Tiger 800

Bigger is better, right?  For the past few years that’s been the mantra of the motorcycle industry, bigger engines and more power.  Bigger also came with a hefty price tag.  Building a bigger engine isn’t as simple as increasing the bore and stroke of an existing engine.  With increases in power come increased stresses on the engine parts so making sure the engine doesn’t fail is important.  The rider also needs to be able to use the power increase effectively so advanced electronics had to be developed.  The cost of all this is passed on in the price of the motorcycle.  Oh, and don’t forget that this wonderful increase in power scares the insurance underwriters to death and the result is a big increase in insurance premiums.

Bring on the Mid-Weights!

Mid-Weight motorcycles, use to be the big bikes but were some how forgotten in the push to get bigger.  Not any more.

BMW F800GS

In the Adventure bike world, Mid-Weight motorcycle is relatively new and until 2011 BMW was the only player.  BMW introduced the F800GS in 2008 and it was an instant hit.  It didn’t have the hefty bulk and price tag of it’s the 1200GS and it proved to be an excellent daily commuter that could be packed up for weekend adventures.  A 798cc parallel twin engine powers the F 800 GS and while the performance may not be “sexy” it is very user friendly and all riding conditions.

You Need To Ride It!

Go to your local dealer, I don’t care which one.  Now walk inside.  Breath in the smells and gaze at the bright, beautiful and exciting machines.  Now go sit on the one you like the best and imagine cruising down a car-less highway or carving up a mountain road. 

How do you feel? 

Are you ready to buy that motorcycle? 

What would it take to help you make that decision? 

You can imagine all you want how it would feel, but that’s not enough.  Feeling how the bike moves under power, hearing how the engine sounds under acceleration and smelling the scents of the road is what you need.  

You Need To Ride It!

Last weekend I took my Star Roadliner out for it’s first ride of the season and one of the stops was the region’s only Triumph dealer.  I wanted to see the new Tiger 800 as I’m looking to replace my Kawasaki KLR 650 with something that’s got more “zing”.  I didn’t see the bike in the showroom so asked the salesman, who turned out to be the owner, if they had one to look at.  He had me follow him outside to where they had the Tiger parked.  I looked the bike over and then sat on the motorcycle.  I immediately liked the feel of the bike, especially the seat height.  I asked him if Triumph was going to have any demo days to experience the bike.  His response was a pleasant shock.  “I need to take a copy of your license and have you sign a release and you can take it for a ride, OK”.  Perfect!

I Want It All, Including Performance

If you’re the type of rider who wants adventure, or at least the thought of adventure, and wants a motorcycle that’s loaded with technology that you can have fun in the twisties with, this is the category for you.  The great thing is in 2011 you have choices that were not there before.


BMW R 1200 GS / R 1200 GS Adventure

The “big” GS has been the leader in the High Performance Adventure Touring category for years, mainly because it was the only game in town.  This motorcycle does just about everything well.  It’s reliable and has a near endless list of add-ons that will hall all your important stuff on your adventure.  Both options powered by the near bullet proof Boxer engine, which produces a wide, strong and usable torque curve, which means that all you have to do is twist the throttle and the GS will go.  Shifting optional. 

Throw in some extra cash and you can have BMW’s Electronic Suspension Adjustment system and Anti-Lock Breaks.  Hey, this is High Performance so you might as well have it all.

I Want It All!

Picture yourself packing your bags for an adventure on the road.  You don’t know where you will end up, how long you’ll be gone or what roads you’ll explore.  You’re escaping!  Of course you’ll need to pack enough for your escape and want to enjoy the trip in comfort.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be reviewing the options for your ultimate escape and there are plenty of options available.  It’s not easy designing an all purpose, adventure touring motorcycle, however a few manufacturers have risen to the challenge.

So until the next post, start planning your adventure. 

Lets Ride!

Gerald Trees

So Junior Want's To Ride!

I grew up riding motorcycles by my three children had no interest in riding at all, until now.

Last week my 18 year-old son made the declaration that we wants to get his motorcycle license.  His mother’s response was “HELL NO”!  Well, at least that’s what she meant after 15 minutes (really) of telling him and me why this was a bad idea.  After the dreaded “well what do you think?” question, I sucked it up and outlined what he needed to do to get on a bike. 

  1. He needed to go to the motor vehicle department and get the study guide and pass the written test.  For my son this will be a true test of how serious he really is.  He hates reading and studying.
  2. If he passes step #1, I told him I would get him the right gear and sign him up for the MSF RiderCourse.
  3. Once step #2 is complete, he’ll have to pass his skills test, which is a requirement for the next phase of the graduated licensing program where we live.
  4. After step #3 is completed we will go shopping for his first motorcycle.

Now step #4 will be fun for me, even though I’m going to be having some “interesting” discussions with his mother over which motorcycle he’ll be riding.  You see, she looks on the outside and if it looks fast, she wants no part of it.  But that’s another story all together.   Now, he’s 18 and wants some style, but has never ridden a motorcycle so to get him onto something with too much power isn’t a good idea.  So far here’s the bikes we’re looking out.

Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Honda CBR 250R

Honda CRF230M

Hyosung GT250R

There may be a few more that make the list and I’ll be updating the blog as this process evolves, including the concerns of a worried mother.

Why?

Why did I start this website “Which Motorcycle For Me”? 

At first it was simply to help you choose a motorcycle that you’ll be happy with and enjoy riding.  This isn’t easy as there are so many nice motorcycles out there and people want different things from their motorcycle.  To make things even more confusing, many of you probably think you know what you want, but once you bring home that “perfect” ride find that it’s really not you at all.  Because of this challenge I’ve been spending way too much time on the enjoying part of riding and not enough on the choosing part because the enjoying part is easy.  Starting now, I’ll spend more time on the choosing part.

So, why do I want to help you choose the right motorcycle?  It’s simple, I love riding and want other riders, or possible riders, to love riding as much as I do and the right motorcycle is a big part of the experience.  If you don’t enjoy your motorcycle, you really won’t enjoy riding and that’s not what I want to see.  Here are a couple of first hand stories to prove my point.

Wide Open Spaces

OK, first a little geography lesson.  What do The Netherlands and France have in common?  The answer is they share a small, 37 square mile island in the Caribbean.  The island is St. Maarten (Dutch) – St. Martin (French) and it’s about 186 miles east of Puerto Rico. 

Although the island is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean, it has the Official Harley Davidson distributor for the Caribbean, which also has a 10-motorcycle rental fleet, which three friends and myself took advantage of in January.

Now I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and then moved to Vancouver Island in British Columbia 20 years ago and have been exploring the back roads throughout both regions for years.  The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia has some of the best roads for motorcycling anywhere on the planet, with wide, smooth and curvy back roads that have few cars and interesting small town that just beg to be rediscovered.  While I knew that I lived in one of the great riding areas of the world, but didn’t really appreciate it until my friends and I went riding for a day on St. Martin.

Thank You Harley Davidson

I received a pleasant little surprise in the mail today.  It was a gift card from Harley Davidson for $100.00 toward a rental of a Harley Davidson motorcycle from an authorized dealer. 

Now I’ve been at this long enough to understand this little gesture is marketing.  I also know that it’s brilliant and something no one else, to my knowledge at least, is doing.  This little gesture cost the Motor Company very little to produce and send out compared to other forms of advertising and I also believe it will work.

Here’s the deal.  The best way to sell a motorcycle is to get people to ride it.  Experiencing the sound, smell and feel of a motorcycle first hand will get someone whipping out their credit card to put a down payment faster then any other method and the only way to get someone who isn’t in the market, into the market.  You can imagine all you want how it will make you feel cruising down the road or carving the corners but it’s never as good as the real thing.  The sound of the engine after you’ve thumbed the starter, feeling and hearing first gear being engaged and the sensation of accelerating, slowly at first, out of the parking lot and onto the road.

Important Motorcycles for 2011

Yesterday was the end of the year and the end of the decade and it’s now 1/1/11.  In motorcycle land 2011 brings the hope of better times then 2010, at least for some.

In 2011, here are the ten (10) motorcycles I feel will boost the interest and sales for their brand.

My Top Ten for 2010

Another year is quickly coming to an end and 2011 looks like it's going to be an interesting year for new motorcycles.  So with 2010 coming to a close, here are my Top Ten motorcycles for 2010.  There are no set categories and the main criteria includes fun, style and adrenaline rush.

The True Posers

I’m not a big fan of Posers but I’m afraid that some people that I’ve considered to be Posers really aren’t.  Let me explain.

Every year our little local community hosts a Toy Run in mid September.  We’ve been very fortunate that for the past few years the weather has been great and the event drew over 1,200 bikes in 2008 and 2009.  Every year I see people I know decked out in the leathers and bandannas, looking very much the part of a “biker” when in their “normal” live they wear suites.  Until this year I’ve considered many of these people to be Posers. 

What changed my definition was the 2010 Toy Run.  The forecast was for rain and it was spot on.  The ride to the marshaling area was wet and it drizzled most of the morning.  The bike count was down as a result of the weather, with just over 650 riders showing up.  Included in those numbers was many of the leather-clad crew that I’ve considered to be Posers.  As the 20 mile run began, the rain became more intense and for those who didn’t bring wet weather riding gear it couldn’t have been much fun.  As we neared our destination the rain stopped and there were breaks in the clouds, letting the sun shine through.  A great finish to a wet riding day. 

The Motorcycle Gene

Why do some people crave riding motorcycles when most either fear or loathe them?  I’m not talking about the poser who owns a motorcycle that spends more time in the garage or trailer, but about the person who thinks nothing of logging 300 or more miles in a day and becomes grouchy if they can’t ride.

Think about it, even on a perfect riding day there may be 100 or more cages for every motorcycle on the road.  Why will these few risk life and limb to ride a motorcycle and think very little of it?  In fact if you ask, these people will even tell you they feel alive and relaxed even when dodging crazy cage pilots.  Again, why?

In my travels, I’ve found that true motorcycle riders don’t fit any mold, other then their attraction to riding.  While the average person believes that a motorcycle rider has a screw loose, wears leathers and has outlaw tendencies, they couldn’t be more wrong.  At a recent reunion of childhood friends and their parents, who were also childhood friends, it hit me that the need to ride might just be genetic.  I’m not saying that it’s passed down from generation to generation, only that there might be a unique genetic trait; some may say mutation that predisposes one to ride.

Does Not Ride Well With Others or Choose Your Riding Friends Wisely

Earlier this summer I was tempted to join a motorcycle riders club.  You know the type of club where riders get together in a parking lot somewhere and take a ride to a planned destination, have coffee and then ride home.  Kind of like Wild Hogs, but with more people.

After last weekend, the temptation has passed and to be blunt there’s no way in hell I’ll join a riders club.

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and I’d fired up my Roadliner for a 120-mile afternoon cruise.  The road that leads out of town is filled with corners, elevation changes and scenery that tourists plan months to come and see.  It’s a riders dream!  Anyway, I’m having a fun time powering up the hill when I caught up with a local riders club.  They were all on cruisers of various makes and all dressed the part of the leather-clad biker.  They were riding in staggered formation and I couldn’t believe how slow they were riding, especially around the corners.  In fact when they hit the corners the lead rider would put up his arm to indicate that the formation should go single file. 

Summer Time!

Ah Summer!  Sunny, warm and dry.  The perfect riding conditions, right?  Of course it is, well sort of.

Moron Alert!

The weather is warm and dry but the roads are more clogged then someone needing a bypass.  Worse yet, they’re clogged with morons who must have bribed the driving examiner to get their license.  Most of they are easy to spot.  They drive mini vans and SUV’s that are so loaded they can’t see out the back.  They’ve got all their essential “stuff” from home, which is just about every thing they own, and they spend more time watching movies while checking the GPS and talking on the phone then looking out the window.  They’re on vacations damn it, so stay far, far away!

Watch out for that surfboard! 

Summertime brings distractions to the motorcyclist.  You know what I mean, don’t you?  Girls in swim suits, slinky sundresses or Daisy Dukes.  They’re everywhere and believe me, I’m not complaining.  However the scene at the end of Wild Hogs comes to mind, you know the one where they run into the surfboard.  Just make sure you don’t run into the back of something while enjoying the scenery.

Educate Yourself!

There seems to be a concerted effort to educate the cage dwellers (car drivers) to watch out for those of us who choose to ride our motorcycles on the road.  There are bumper stickers, websites and facebook fan pages devoted to this “noble” cause. 

Personally I think this is a waste of time!  

For every driver who might change their habits and look out for motorcycles, there’s a thousand or more who won’t.  That’s not going to change anything.

Lets be real, the majority of cage dwellers don’t give a damn about anyone on the road but themselves.  Their cage is an extension of their home, complete with phones, entertainment systems and of course the GPS they use to show them how to get to the same place they drive every day.  Even if they do look through their mirrors and look over their shoulder, it’s not often.  Too many other important things need to be checked and adjusted first. 

In my opinion we should forget about educating those who drive cars and redirect the effort in education and training for the motorcycle rider.  It would be more practical and more lives would be saved.  Hear me out.

Choose Your Motorcycle Wisely

Not that long ago I was having a conversation with a colleague when our discussion turned to motorcycles.  He was excited because he was about ready to buy a motorcycle for the first time in 30 years.  After raising a family and building a successful career he was ready for some fun.  The first question I asked, of course, was “what are you going to get?”  He said that he had been looking at a 2009 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.  My second and third question was “when was the last time you rode?” and “what was the last motorcycle you owned?”  His reply was “30 years ago” and “a Yamaha 175”.  I guess the look on my face was telling enough that he asked, “What’s wrong?”  My reply went something like this.

“The Ultra Classic is a beautiful and comfortable motorcycle, however it’s significantly different from the little 175 you last rode.  It weighs over 800 lbs, has more power and is not as easy to maneuver.  If I could offer some advice it would be to buy a smaller, possibly used, motorcycle to re-learn how to ride and to sign up for a riding course. 

Seriously!

I think some people take riding motorcycles too seriously.  Don’t get me wrong now; I’m serious about riding my motorcycle.  Serious enough to want to ride in about any condition, except if snow is on the ground.  No, I’m talking about people who take what they ride and how they look while riding too seriously. 

I know people who won’t ride anything but a Harley and there are those who won’t ride anything but a Yamaha.  Forget about motorcycles of a different manufacturer sharing the same garage.  Oh, these same people can also be put out if their favorite motorcycle is discontinued, even if they’re one of the few who actually bought.  I also know people who won’t get out on the road unless everything is clean and they look “just right”. 

Seriously!

Here’s the deal, riding should be serious and should be fun.  Simply put, riding should be about riding and nothing else.  Now if you want different bikes to complement different riding conditions, go for it.  If you’re happy with one machine, that’s fine too.  Personally, I’ll ride just about anything placed in front of me.  I would rather ride then wait for that “perfect” bike.

Cruisin'

A few days ago, after a long day in the office, I fired up the Roadliner and went for an evening cruise.  Imagine the smell of fresh air and feel of the wind in your face.  The fatigue and stress of the day fled in a hurry.

As I was riding, my thoughts became focused on my father and how he would jump in his Thunderbird convertible at the end of a long day and just cruise.  He didn’t care where he was heading and didn’t head home until he felt like it.  It all depended, I believe, on when he felt rested.  It’s taken me a while, but I now know why he loved going for a drive at the end of the day.

I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted, but it must be said.  Cruisin’ is the best way to relax, think and simply enjoy life.  

Lets Ride!

Gerald Trees

Perception Revisited

In June of 2009 I wrote a blog that was titled Perception vs. Reality, with the post of the post being that perception and reality often aren’t the same.  Today, almost 12 months later, the happenings in the motorcycle world truly show that perception and reality are quite different.

For years Kawasaki was 3rd out of the four major Japanese motorcycle companies doing business in North America, behind Honda and Yamaha, in market share.  That all changed in the 1st quarter of 2010 when Kawasaki leaped into 1st among the Big Four.  The perception would be that Kawasaki is building better motorcycles then the other three.  The reality is that Kawasaki has been focusing over the past 3 to 4 years on building motorcycles that are functional, reliable, fun and affordable and are not available from the other manufactures.  Sure Kawasaki builds sport bikes, cruisers and dirt bikes like everyone else but their growth has not come from these markets.  Instead the growth has come by way of sales of the Ninja 250R, KLR 650 and Versys 650.  Now these motorcycles are by no means at the leading edge of technology, but they are functional, easy to ride by beginners and fun for even the most experienced riders.


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