Thursday, October 23, 2014

Comparison: 2014 BMW F 800 GS vs. 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC: Variations on a Theme


This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution. RoadRUNNER is a bimonthly motorcycle touring magazine packed with exciting travel articles, splendid photography, maps and GPS files. Subscriptions are available online (www.roadrunner.travel), or by calling (866) 343-7623.

The spicy flavor of this British-born, massaged sportbike machine delivers tons of passion from each twist of the wrist, but the BMW’s practical and concise demeanor also delivers in predictable and repeatable ways. Many ask the same question, “Which one?” But only your own taste buds know what you like—fancy a cup of tea or a beer? Backed up with a little ride through some of Mother Nature’s deadliest terrain, aka Death Valley National Park, this is how they stack up on paper, as well as on the trail.


In our last issue, we showed you a collection of motorcycles you might consider the sport tourers of the fire road; each one capable of tackling border and stream crossings with aplomb. They are the big boys on the block, but in this issue we take a look at their more affordable (and possibly even more capable) siblings—the popular 2014 BMW F 800 GS and the newcomer 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC.
A pair instead of a trio this time, the parameters for this test are otherwise the same as the last. We compare two similar chain-driven machines with a comparable laundry list of crash protection and farkles, along with a set of knobbies for each bike. With larger (21-inch) front wheels than the big bikes, they instead received Continental Twinduro TKC80s on the front and the same Sava 150/70-17s we put on the bigger machines’ rear wheels.
Beyond that, they share a similar trellis-frame construction, laced wheels, inverted front forks, and tall windscreens. Easily confusing the casual onlooker, they’re extremely analogous machines, some say by design. BMW was first to the mid-sized adventure bike game; Triumph stepped to the plate a few years later with a comparable unit stuffed with its own inline-triple engine to steal a portion of BMW’s market share. BMW returned the volley with a lighter, more dirt-friendly machine, hoping to win back a few lost customers. With the addition of an Adventure model to boot, BMW leads the way.
Since Yamaha doesn’t offer a middleweight version of the Ténéré in the U.S., the testing narrowed to the two most popular middleweight adventure bikes. When comparing them to their model line mates, each has its own merits and demerits. Furthermore, the Triumph lineup includes three versions (800 ABS, 800 XC, and 800 XC Special Edition), but there is nothing quite like the battle-ready Adventure model available from BMW, so we chose to test the standard 800 GS against the 800 XC for a more direct comparison.
With both the XC and GS retailing for thousands less than their bigger brothers (nearly a small motorcycle’s cost in difference!) and at 50 to 100 pounds lighter, these models are often part of any buyer’s equation when considering the purchase of an adventure bike. Everyone wants the biggest and best, or to ride the bike that Charley and Ewan rode in that mini-series, but not everyone has the bank account or the inseam to do so. Long live the compromise—perhaps one you won’t even regret!
The classic Triple vs. Twin battle will sway your decision-making process along the way, but there’s so much more to consider, sort of. They make roughly the same horsepower and torque (85hp BMW and 61lb-ft vs. 95bhp Triumph and 58lb-ft), stand around the same height at the saddle (34 inches with variants), both have switchable ABS brakes as standard, and they retail within $ 100 of each other. So what’s the difference, and how do I decide which is for me? Read on.

2014 BMW F 800 GS

Historically speaking, BMW (MSRP $ 12,090 MY2014) has been making dual sports for far longer than Triumph and has learned a few things along the way, thus the flattering imitation in the Tiger’s design.
Primarily, the BMW masks its weight better than the Tiger. Stuffing the fuel tank beneath the seat (lowering the center of gravity) and having slightly longer and more adjustable (partially electronic vs. manual) suspension travel give the BMW superior handling off the pavement and up on the pegs.
A family rivalry check puts the F 800 GS about 50 pounds lighter than the R 1200 GS thanks to 1.1 gallons less fuel among other things. A $ 4,000 price differential also leaves room in the budget for that KLIM suit and a fresh new Shoei helmet—a nice compromise.
As the “baby” in the lot of 12 bikes on this Southern California ride, the 800 GS took on a lot of the week’s miles under the guidance of a relatively new rider and came away with a fair share of dings. Paint scrapes aside, the shift and brake hand levers both snapped (in half, not completely off) during tip-overs, the foot shift lever came home looking like a wet noodle, and the sidestand return spring mounting pin was also left on the trail. This had us tying the sidestand up to the frame with some cord for riding as well as parking on the centerstand at every dismount. Luckily, each part was easily replaceable and ready for an aftermarket upgrade from the usual suspects.

2014 Triumph Tiger 800 XC

Built upon a stroked out Daytona 675 engine, the Tiger’s (MSRP $ 11,999 MY2014) heart lies in ripping up the street. The XC excels the most in weight savings over its bigger brother (down 114 pounds), price point ($ 5,200 less!), and in ergonomic comfort on the trail.
This rev-happy ride takes a few miles to adjust to on the trail. In comparison to the GS’s “tractor-like” parallel twin, it takes a rider who is not afraid to twist the grip to find a groove with the smoother triple. Throttle modulation isn’t quite as forgiving as the BMW’s for this machine, but trail riding predominantly in third gear seemed to keep the engine in the meat of its powerband. With more claimed horsepower and a strong linear torque pull, the Triumph has an easy day off-road with the right wrist.
A non-adjustable fork helps keep the price in check, but a preload and rebound adjustable Showa monoshock in the rear manages the compromise between price and usability.
The lowest saddle in the test (32.3 inches) would be one of the three optional saddles from BMW. The Triumph has only one saddle to offer, but two riding positions are built into it. The lowest is still an inch taller than BMW’s lowest, however.
Après trail ride, this is what we call lucky! Not being able to find an aftermarket skid plate for the 800 XC at the time of the test, we ran with the stock one. While it’s a stout looking unit, it does flex when put to the test. As you can see in the photos, at some point in the ride it was pushed back against the oil filter and dimpled the outer shell. Fortunately it was not pierced, crushed, or cracked, so no oil was lost. A new filter was easily replaceable—that time!
As learned during the XC’s press launch, Triumph’s brand accessory luggage takes on damage with very little effort, so we were happy to have Al Jesse’s sturdy side cases mounted to the little Tiger, and they performed as expected.

In the Long Run

If you’re a street-heavy rider looking to get off the slab, and you have a dislike for vibrations in any and many forms, the Triumph is sure to please. Meanwhile, if the reason for riding all that way is to turn off the asphalt and into the wild outback, over rocks and streams as well as pavement, the BMW should have your greater attention. After all, price point, saddle height, horsepower, and torque numbers are nearly the same, which leaves you to choose between tea or beer with your crumpets.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Testing Out the TomTom Rider GPS

GPS systems are no longer just for those on four wheels!  The TomTom Rider is stepping in as a motorcyclist’s co-pilot.  Allowing riders to navigate the roads at their own pace (Quickest Route or Winding Route), the Rider features several specs that help you to get the most out of your two-wheeled trip down the street or across the country!


TomTom recently sent CycleTrader.com a Rider GPS to have one of our fans test out, and we selected fellow rider John Santoni to take this GPS out in the field.  His thoughts allowed us to get a feel for the capabilities and usability of this motorcycle-focused technology.  Check out what he had to say!

Before hitting the road, I tested the touchscreen with my gloves on and had no problem typing in my destination.  As soon as I was underway, I knew that the TomTom Rider was a sophisticated piece of moto tech.

This system has several features that I feel will catch any avid motorcyclist’s attention.  My favorite among them was the Winding Roads feature that takes you down roads with the most curves.  It took me to roads I never even knew existed!  As with any GPS, it has the ability to suggest places of interest, but it takes this a step further and gets you there in a way that you design.  I was even able to transfer my route to my computer for future use.

There were no flaws when taking it down bumpy roads, and I felt that it was rugged and ready for any type of riding I encountered.  Best of all, the screen’s visibility was good, rain or shine.  I got caught in a downpour and didn’t need to worry.  While I cursed the rain, this waterproof GPS continued to work without any glitches.


On the technical side, installation was quick and easy onto my Yamaha V-Star.

All in all, I feel that the Rider worked great!

If you're interested in learning more about the TomTom Rider, please visit http://www.tomtom.com/en_us/products/customised-navigation/motorbike-rider-series/tomtom-rider/.

Want to try out this GPS for yourself?  Simply comment on this blog and you will be entered into a drawing for a free TomTom Rider!



Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Summer Means Motorcycle Season is Here! Stay Safe with These Tips

Summer means its time to grab your motorcycle helmet, fine tune your bike, and hit the road. Just you and your bike---and about 9 million other registered motorcyclists. Summer inevitably means more motorcycles on the road, so in order to stay safe this motorcycle season, keep the following safety tips in mind.

Tips for Motorcyclists this Summer

·       Bring Your Bike in for a Tune-Up: Check all gaskets and hoses to be sure they are working properly, and check the tread on your tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Fill all of your bike's fluids and inspect your brakes. If you don't have time for your bike's summer maintenance, consider taking it into your local mechanic for a tune-up.

·       Check Your Safety Gear: The gear you wear can make a real difference if you are involved in an accident. If you already own riding suits, motorcycle helmets, goggles, and gloves, inspect them carefully for holes, rips, tears, or anything that might make them unsafe. If you don't already own safety gear, consider splurging on a new helmet, a pair of riding boots, and a riding jacket.

·       Don't Ride in Vehicle Blind Spots: Now that you are ready to hit the road, it is important to remember to ride safely. Don't assume that other vehicle drivers are looking out for you; chances are that they aren't. As such, never ride in a vehicle's blind spot.

·       Use Your Horn and Your Lights: You have two very important safety features already installed on your bike—your horn and your lights. Don't be afraid to use them. Use your lights at intersections to be sure other drivers know you are there and keep them on even during the day. If another driver is swerving or entering your lane, use your horn to alert them of your presence.

·       Don't Speed: The faster you go, the less time you have to react in an emergency situation. Avoid going faster than the posted speed limit signs and reduce your speed in traffic and bad weather.

·       Don't Tailgate: Maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles to avoid deadly rear-end accidents. This will give you a chance to react quickly if the other driver slams on his or her brakes. It will also give you a chance to react to any debris that may be in the road.

Tips for Drivers to Avoid Motorcycling Accidents 

All motor vehicle drivers need to share the road. This is especially true in the summer, with many motorcyclists on the road. Be mindful of their presence on the road and give them extra space to maneuver. Here are some tips that car and truck drivers should follow to help avoid motorcycle accidents:

·       Be Mindful of Motorcyclists: Learn to notice when a motorcycle is sharing the road with you. Make a point to look around you and notice how many bikers are on the road.  Awareness is the key to sharing the road.

·       Give Motorcyclists Room: Don't crowd around a motorcyclist on the freeway. Give him or her adequate space to maneuver, avoid debris, and stop. Never tailgate behind a motorcyclist, and increase your driving distance when you are behind a biker.

·       Look Twice at Intersections: Before you turn at an intersection, look twice for motorcyclists. Sometimes car drivers don't recognize a biker in their path—they look right through them. Looking twice at intersections could save a life.

·       Check Your Blind Spots Often: It is easy for a biker to hide in your blind spot on a freeway or highway road. Before you change lanes, always check your blind spots and make a habit to do so regularly.

·       Avoid Texting and Driving: Texting and driving might be illegal in many states, but that doesn't stop drivers from doing it. Avoid texting or using your cellphone while driving. Using a cellphone is a form of distracted driving that can cause drivers to swerve into an oncoming biker, sideswipe one on a street, or fail to recognize a biker at an intersection.

                                             Ride Safe!




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Will New Motorcycle Be Required To Have Anti-Lock Brakes?

Can anti-lock brakes save the lives of more motorcycle riders?

According to the Washington Post, an insurance industry group is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make anti-lock brakes on motorcycles a federal mandate.

The story reports that The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says insurance companies accident reports back up the claim that new motorbikes with anti-lock brakes would save lives.

While the new mandate would make bikes safer, they would push the price of a motorcycle up by 1000 dollars.

Source: The Washington Post

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Get Your Bike Ready For Summer – Make sure your motorcycle is safe and reliable


 After sitting for months motorcycles need attention before returning to service, which can also help avoid breakdowns and ensure safety. Refer to the owner’s and service manuals for inspection lists before giving your bike a thorough going over.

Look for any signs of leakage, such as stains underneath that indicate problems. Check steering head bearings for looseness or binding. To get the best performance out of a hydraulic fork change the fluid every year or two.

Clean the battery terminals. Check the electrolyte level (if caps are removable) and add distilled water as needed. (Warning: Electrolyte contains acid so avoid contact and wear eye protection. Baking soda and water will neutralize the acid.) If the battery wasn’t on a maintenance charger it’ll probably be weak or dead. Turn on the ignition briefly and note how bright the lights are. If the lights are dim or don’t work, charge the battery. If the battery was fully discharged it’s likely sulfated and needs replacement.

Unless you put in fuel-stabilizer additives before storage, after several months the gasoline may begin to form deposits in carburetor jets and passages, and may also clog injectors and electric fuel pumps. Remove the gas cap and peer into the tank with a small flashlight (switch it on first to avoid sparks), look for rust in steel tanks, and note if the fuel has sediment or other contamination. Give the gas a quick sniff. If it smells like old varnish the fuel system may need to be drained, flushed and the fuel filter replaced. Carburetor float bowls (if equipped) must also be drained before new gas is added. If a motorcycle won’t start because the fuel system is gummed up it may require disassembly and a thorough cleaning.

Check the oil level and note the color of the oil, as old, dirty oil leaves sludge and deposits in the engine. If it is dark or the level is low change the oil and filter before starting the engine. If the oil isn’t too bad it’s better to start the engine and allow it to warm up to allow contaminants to be suspended in the oil, and then drain it. If your motorcycle has a separate transmission or primary-chain case oil supply, service that, too. Always recycle used oil and dispose of filters properly.

Inspect tires for cracks, wear and damage. Tires more than about 5 or 6 years old should be replaced even if they aren’t worn out. After a thorough inspection inflate the tires to the recommended pressure in the owner’s manual.

Check your maintenance records and schedule to determine if the motorcycle is due for a major service, including a tune-up and valve adjustment. If not it’s still a good idea to check the sparkplugs for condition and measure the gap. Put a little anti-seize compound on the threads and torque properly – do not over-tighten them. Inspect the plug wires and boots (if equipped) and clean or replace them if they look worn or cracked. Also check the air filter and replace as needed.

Liquid-cooled engines should have the antifreeze/coolant checked and flushed and replaced every two years, as old coolant causes corrosion. Also replace the hoses, thermostat and radiator cap every five years. After starting the engine test the operation of the electric cooling fan. It should come on during extended idling.

Inspect the brake linings and rotors or drums for wear. Check the brake fluid, which should be changed every two years, and if it looks dark replace it. Refer to the shop manual for the bleeding procedure, especially on ABS systems.

Control cables should be serviced every year. Check the throttle cables and clutch cable (if equipped) for free travel and lube with special cable lubricant.

Inspect the sprockets and chain (if equipped) and make sure it’s properly lubed and adjusted. Belt drives and sprockets should be inspected and adjustment checked. Shaft-drive machines should have the gear lube level checked and changed if it has been several years since this was done.

Start the engine and allow it to warm up gently without revving. After the engine is up to normal operating temperature, check the idle speed and adjust if needed. Test all controls, lights and accessories to ensure they’re working properly. Addressing these items before you ride can save a lot trouble down the road.

This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.
RoadRUNNER is a bimonthly motorcycle touring magazine packed with exciting travel articles, splendid photography, maps and GPS files. Subscriptions are available online (www.roadrunner.travel), or by calling (866) 343-7623.

BMW’s K 1600 GTL – Adaptive Lighting


One of the most visually distinctive features of the big new BMWs are the headlights, with two rings of LEDs acting as daytime running lights (just like their cars), and a smart “third eye” in the center that is the cornerstone of the Adaptive Lighting system. Look closely and you’ll see a strong light pointing upward and then reflected by an articulating mirror. This mirror articulates both up and down (to adjust for load) and side to side (to adjust for lean angle). Does all this photon-trickery work? See for yourself…

http://vimeo.com/30547997


This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.

RoadRUNNER is a bimonthly motorcycle touring magazine packed with exciting travel articles, splendid photography, maps and GPS files. Subscriptions are available on our website, or by calling (866) 343-7623.

BMW’s Multi-Controller


There’s no doubt about it, computers are invading bikes, from determining how much throttle you really want (ride-by-wire) to lighting the sparkplug, and everywhere in between. BMW’s K1600 GTL is a veritable tech-de-force, but they’ve found a really simple way to let the rider control it all:

http://vimeo.com/29816352


This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.

RoadRUNNER is a bimonthly motorcycle touring magazine packed with exciting travel articles, splendid photography, maps and GPS files. Subscriptions are available on our website, or by calling (866) 343-7623.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

January Featured Destination - Key West, FL


If you’re the type of person who is looking for a complicated route or technical challenge to prove your advanced riding skills, this route is not for you. However, if you love warm breezes, lazy afternoons, gorgeous scenery, and unparalleled wildlife, get ready for the weekend escape of your life!

Start your journey at either the Monument Lake or Midway Campgrounds in Ochopee, FL. It’s easy to get to from Miami or Naples. Due to its perfect location in the middle of the Big Cypress National Preserve, combined with easy access via the Tamiami Trail, you will never be far from civilization… while finding it easy to forget it even exists!

Head east for about 50 miles until you get to the town of Tamiami itself. You might want to get gas around this area, if you didn’t already before leaving BigCypress National Preserve. Hang a right and take the ramp onto the South Florida Turnpike. Once you’re on the highway, you’ll go about two miles before you come through the tollbooth, which charges $1.00 for bikes.

Once through, it’s a straight shot -- or rather, a long and meandering ride -- until you reach South Dixie Highway, a.k.a. US-1 South. Take the left exit marked “Key West” and start working your way south. Nearby, you’ll also find the EvergladesNational Park, a must-see icon of American culture.

From there, it’s a leisurely half hour ride to Key Largo, where you bear right to stay on US-1 South as it turns into Overseas Highway. This is the halfway point of your one-way trip, 2 hours and 100 miles from your starting point and 2 hours and 100 miles from your destination.


After that, enjoy the different bridges and keys as you cruise at a leisurely pace over the waters until you reach Key West itself. Keep an eye out for seabirds, alligators, turtles, dolphins, and more.

Gift Ideas and Projects for Motorcyclists

You have no idea what to get your motorcycle buff for Valentine's Day (or their birthday). If you can't spring for a new bike, think more along the line of motorcycle accessories.
Easy Accessories
  • Street gloves cost around $30 and can provide moderate protection from extreme weather conditions and accidents.
  • A full-faced motorcycle helmet is reasonably priced and can help keep the rider warm and safe during the ride.
  • A jacket might be just what your biker-friend needs, or at least wants for those brisk weather months.
  • Saddlebags to hold the wallets, paperwork or anything the biker might need.
  • If you truly know your biker's taste, choose a decal that expresses their personality and let them decide where to apply it.
 DIY Gifts
If you are mechanically inclined, perhaps you're thinking of putting your skills to use as a gift instead of buying something that needs to be wrapped.
Clean the air filter. It doesn't sound glamorous, but how about cleaning your friend's air filter? Motorcycle air filters come in three types: oiled, fabric, and paper—and all are fairly easy to clean.
Install a Windshield. A proper windshield will add a layer of protection and block the wind from getting in the motorcyclist's face. Keep in mind that most windshields are more for function than style, and they might not want one attached all the time. There are removable windshields for use only when taking long trips or through high winds, and can be kept off of the bike during regular cruising.
Frame Repair. How about a little frame repair? Online you can find a few tips for this service, such as adjusting the jig and scanning for cracks.
Revive the Bike. If you really want to go whole hog (pun intended) on your friend's motorcycle, give it a try! At the high end of services is rebuilding the engine, which might involve tasks such as replacing the oil pump and head fasteners and resetting the ignition timing. The costs depend on the type, model, make and age of the bike. The benefit of helping the bike owner with labor is that it can be a fun learning experience. 
If you need further inspiration, a heartwarming YouTube video shows how two brothers secretly restore their dad's old motorcycle, and his reaction.

Monday, December 23, 2013

SoCal: Mountains to the Sea

Start off at Santa Rosa Plateau on Clinton Keith Road, just north of the junction between Interstates 5 and 15. Follow Clinton Keith until you reach a T-junction, turn right to stay on Tenaja Road which becomes Vía Volcan. Turn left onto Avocado Mesa Road which turns into Los Gatos Road after you bear right around the bend.  

Then you will descend very steep grade to Carancho Rd, where you will make a left and then a right onto Camaron Road. Hang a left when you get to De Anza Road, then turn right on Sandia Creek Drive, turn right again to stay on Sandia Creek and it will take you into Fallbrook where it joins De Luz Road. Enjoy the view of ranches and orchards along the way.

Turn right at Mission Rd and continue through the outskirts of Fallbrook until you reach Olive Hill Road which becomes Burma Road after a right bend. Turn left on Sleeping Indian Road and follow it to the T-stop at North River Rd. Turn right onto North River Road, left onto Vandegrift/River and then left again at College Boulevard. The ride may get windy in some spots around there.

Take College Blvd up through the low hills to Carlsbad Village Drive where you take a right to head down to the Pacific Coast Highway. When you get to Carlsbad Boulevard, take a left and simply cruise south along the coast down to Pacific Beach through La Jolla via South Coast Highway 101.


While the start of the ride takes you through forest, wilderness, and grassy hills, the latter half takes you past quirky cafés, beach shacks, restaurants, bike shops, and some of the top classic Southern Californian seaside towns.