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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thank you, Soichiro!

Yesterday I dropped off my 2001 ST1100A for a new timing belt. It's well overdue at 98,000 mi and the recommended interval was 60K. I'd been putting it off because I was thinking of replacing the bike with something newer and more modern. After considerable looking around and shopping, I've come to the conclusion that keeping the old ST seems the best option. I have several reasons: for starters, it's paid for. It's also my favorite bike I've owned after about 15 others. Modern comparable bikes include the Yamaha FJR1300 and Kawasaki Concours 1400. Both of these are easy enough to find locally but still kind of expensive (as is my old ST, I've found), and the Honda ST1300. Unfortunately all of these are heavier bikes, have less fuel range, worse fuel consumption, and smaller luggage space. Furthermore, the hard bags on the other bikes stick out further into the traffic stream, complicating lane sharing. My ST scavenges space under the rear bodywork and close to the rear wheel, allowing larger volume with less width. The mirrors are integrated into the turn signals, unlike the FJR's. I like this because it's a cleaner look and puts the mirrors lower where I'm looking alongside my waist instead of at my shoulders in the mirrors. The lower mount also interferes less with the typical height of car mirrors while splitting. The mirror configuration plus narrow bags means if I can get the front end through traffic, the back will fit. My old K75 and Concours 1000 didn't share this trait.
It would take a while as well to equip a new bike the way I like it. This bike had a Givi tail trunk when I bought it, and aftermarket hot grips making it an ideal replacement for the BMW R1100RT I'd had before. It took a few months before I realized it also has a ThrottleMeister. Since then, I've added a headlight modulator, ScotchLite reflectors on the bags, aftermarket horns, and electrical outlet.
Gas prices keep going up, and this trend will almost certainly continue, so paying for a new bike that uses more of the stuff just doesn't make sense to me. On that note, in the newest CityBike magazine there's a nice story about recent electrics Brammo and Zero. I think these would be great replacements as commute vehicles for me- there's the purchase cost of course, but maintenance and power costs on these are so cheap that it's still very appealing as a commuter. I'd keep the ST for longer range trips too, but with charging at home and work wouldn't need it very often. Something to think about...

For reference, my list of bikes in my life to date: 1977 RD400 Yamaha (cheap but adventurous 1st bike, kick-start only, tall 1st gear 2 stroke), 1984 VF700S Sabre Honda (sold when I got spooked by the Honda V-four top-end failure stories, but a good bike), 1982 XJ650LJ Seca Turbo Yamaha (runs like a doggy 650 below boost, and like a normal 650 with it: compression 8.5:1 so it wouldn't blow apart under boost), 1980 GS750tz Suzuki (a great and classy looking standard air-cooled UJM four. This bike and I went up and down the CA coast quite a bit when I was in Monterey in the Army, and it was my college bike too in Minneapolis), 1986 ZG1000 Concours Kawasaki (bought in Monterey and drove to next duty station in Texas, great in MN after I got out of the service, kept for a while back in CA as a civilian but it was kind of top-heavy in the Bay Area hills with that big old tank up high. Open freeway though, it'd do the whole 240 mile tank in one sitting easy for me, and cruise at 90mph all day long  if I wanted to), 1982 XZ550 Vision Yamaha (a first used bike back in the Bay Area after the military...my brother Paul had one of these new out-of-crate in 1984 or so when the market was glutted. Great little bike in city traffic, thumpy, sexy sound, very flickable, but with fatal flaws such as a tendency to drown its starter motor brushes in motor oil, sticky sidestand safety switch etc. Fortunately, very light to push home), 1982 XJ750 Maxim Yamaha (paid $100, bought from behind a fraternity house in Berkeley where it had been abandoned; lots of carb and tank work but eventually reliable), 1987 K75t BMW (my first BMW! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nice hard bags & wind protection, fuel injected. Learned to blip the throttle on downshift as required on Beemers, rear wheel almost fell off in swingarm failure late in my ownership), 198? Honda CX500 (Shaleah's actually- bought it from a fellow RiderCoach for $100 when said RC was leaving country for Australia to follow love of her life, and returned a couple years later), 1985 XT350 Yamaha (1st dirt bike! Bought for ~$300 via CityBike, great deal from lifer AMA member who shuttled it to my house from SJ in his van for free. Lots of fun on this one in Metcalf and Holister), 2000 R1100RTs BMW (last BMW! Beautiful bike bought via BMWMOA and drove it back from Breckenridge, CO Thanksgiving weekend. Froze my a** off, forgot about winter and snow while living in CA. Had to stop at Ft. Courage Trading Post in West Gallup NM to wait out a blizzard.... later back in CA had to 'blackmail' a BMW dealer to honor the warranty when the valves coked up on one side at only 16K mi.), 1986 CB450SC Honda Nighthawk ($100 backyard special and fun project, 63 mph WFO on freeway, but no problem for UC Davis student who bought it), 2001 Honda ST1100A (current mainstay, in 2008 drove to TN and back for a weekend Smoky Mtns ride, invented some moto-yoga poses on the way and earned my IBA number on this one. Just like Israeli Air Force, a fighter-bomber good for all missions: sport, commute and tour), 1991 Vmax (another project bike, negotiated for a year to get for $700 after it had sat for 7 years in a parking garage. Fun experiment), 1984 Magna (bought for $900 cash in North Bay so a visiting colleague in Germany could ride with me, sold it later for $1300), 1989 Honda NX125 (most recent project- a busy mosquito 2-up in Alameda!),

Other bikes I've rented (in TN) Goldwing 1800 for the Smokies, torquey but kind of a pig on the Dragon, at least w/o body english. (in Singapore) CB400- sporty, but wary of speed limits there, (in Maui) Harley Dyna Low- paint was worth more than the bike. Pretty though. With only a shorty helmet and no wind protection, lid was trying to tear my head off. Fun. (Darmstadt) VStrom 650- see most recent story about Bavaria/Czech/Austria tour. A bit small, but very capable of autobahn and twisties.
Borrowed bikes (with many thanks!) Rob's CBR600 in TN (ride starts at 7K), Rainer's 1985 GPz900 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland- demon from hell, still great fun after all the repairs; and Seca2 XJ600 (electrical problems- stalls momentarily with each blink of turn signal)
Other bikes I've put notable work into, yes there are stories here: Jack's pair of 1990 VTR250's, Jory's 96RF600 Suzuki (straightening out the brake lever etc), Patrick's "Pavement Magnet" 82XJ400 Yamaha Maxim, and lastly a certain 1990 CB250 Nighthawk veteran of CMSP range duty, but still capable for commuting. I hope this list continues (any more loveless backyard bikes out there?) and eventually includes electrics as well. There's always time to learn something new.

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