Category Archives: Motorcycle Riding

Ride Report: Columbus to Portsmouth via SR 104


Introduction 

On June 30 I took a ride with a co-worker and his buddy to Portsmouth, Ohio, to attend the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. My co-worker Rob suggested taking Ohio State Route 104 to Portsmouth instead of U.S. Route 23. I had ridden/driven U.S. 23 several times for a previous job and was happy to give another route a try. Both routes follow the Scioto River and I was not expecting the alternate route to offer much more than U.S. 23 does. The route turned out to be very enjoyable and I am sure I will be riding it again sometime soon. 

DSCF7198

 

Route 

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 11.39.04 PM
Route Map: Port Side to Portsmouth

The ride began the same way many good motorcycle rides do: with a delicious, hearty American breakfast. I met up with Rob and his buddy at Port Side Café II and Catering on U.S. 23 near Lockbourne, Ohio. After a western omelet, home fries, and toast, the three of us started riding south on U.S. 23 and turned right onto SR 762 west. We rode for a couple miles until we reached SR 104 and turned left to head south toward Portsmouth. 

We stayed on SR 104 until we reached Chillicothe, Ohio, where we turned onto East Main Street (signed U.S. 50) and then got on the U.S. 23 expressway. We followed U.S. 23 (which SR 104 duplexes with just south of Chillicothe) to Waverly, Ohio, where we stopped for gas and water. SR 104 splits off from U.S. 23 in Waverly and we followed the SR 104 alignment from Waverly to where it duplexes with SR 73. From there we followed SR 73/SR 104 into Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s clubhouse is located on Front Street. It looks out on the Ohio River and is one block south from where the SR 73/SR 104 bridge over the Scioto River connects with Portsmouth’s downtown. 

For the return trip to Columbus I decided to take U.S. 23 to compare the routes back-to-back. 

 

Weather 

The ride featured sunny skies and hot conditions on the way to Portsmouth, as well as on the way back to Columbus. Temperatures were probably in the high 80s or low 90s with moderately high humidity in the afternoon. I was sweating pretty good when I was stuck at red light after red light in downtown Portsmouth on the way home.

 DSCF7211

Analysis/Summary 

I was not expecting SR 104 to be any better to ride than U.S. 23 considering both routes mostly follow the relatively flat Scioto River valley. I was pleasantly surprised by SR 104’s undulations, scenic views, and ties to Ohio transportation history. 

There was very little traffic on the rural sections of SR 104 during the ride. The section north of Chillicothe offers some scenic views of the agricultural fields and some foothills. It is a nice, low-stress, low-traffic volume alternative to the four-lane U.S. 23 highway.  

The southern portion of the route (south of Waverly) begins with a neat section of road atop a dam embankment on the southeast side of Lake White. The remainder of the route features some minor elevation changes but few scenic views due to both sides of the road being tree-lined. 

The most exciting part of the ride for me was the sighting of an old canal lock adjacent to the route. Further research has determined SR 104 by-and-large follows the routing of the Ohio and Erie Canal. I only saw the one preserved lock on the ride but will be researching the route further to determine if there are any other remnants of the abandoned canal to be visited. I am also really interested in going back to the preserved lock to see how its dimensions compare to those of the Genesee Valley Canal and Enlarged Erie Canal locks in Western New York. 

There was also a fancy-looking dirt speedway on the southwest side of SR 73/SR 104 just before the route enters Portsmouth proper. The facility is called Portsmouth Raceway Park and appears to be well-manicured for a short dirt oval. I may have to head back to Portsmouth sometime soon to see the track in action. 

 DSCF7251

 

FJR1300 Comparison: 2003 model vs. 2008 model


WP_20150502_11_36_55_Pro

20180609_095201

Introduction

For those in the market for a used sport touring motorcycle, I could not recommend the Yamaha FJR1300 enough. It is a great bike for long-distance riding that is still enjoyable on twisty roads and is generally bulletproof reliable.

I have owned both a first-generation FJR1300 (2003-2005), and currently own a second-generation model (2006-2012). I am writing this post to help sport touring shoppers who may be trying to choose between a first-generation and second-generation FJR1300.

The FJR1300 first arrived in the United States for the 2003 model year. The first generation ran from 2003 (2001 in other parts of the world) to 2005. In 2006, the bike was given some significant updates, though many parts of the bike remained unchanged.

WP_20160720_10_29_48_Pro

The first FJR1300 I owned was a 2003 that I bought in January 2015. The FJR was only available in silver that year. It is easy to tell the 2003 models apart from all other FJRs, as it was the only model year to feature the “stalk” turn signals.

I logged over 30,000 miles of experience with the 2003 model from the start of riding season in 2015 to April 2017. I took the bike on two multi-day tours in the time I had it. The first was in April 2016 when I rode from Columbus, Ohio, to Austin, Texas for the MotoGP race. In July 2016 I took the bike on a six-day tour that included stops at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tenn., the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, the former Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga., and the Tail of the Dragon/Cherohala Skyway. Sadly, the bike was totaled when I was rear-ended at a stoplight in April 2017.

20180514_141745

My bought my current FJR1300, and black 2008 model, in December 2017. I had purchased a 2009 Ninja 500 to get me through the remainder of the 2017 riding season but knew I wanted to back to a true sport touring machine.

I was strongly considering giving a BMW a try but I got a deal on the 2008 FJR1300 that I could not refuse. I only have a few thousand miles on it so far, but now have enough experience with it to make an informed comparison between the two bikes.

6tag_130516-125640

With regard to accessories and modifications, both of the FJRs I owned came equipped with the factory top case (not standard equipment on an FJR). The 2003 model had been outfitted by a previous owner with aftermarket heated grips (which I later replaced).

20180609_095009

The 2008 model was not equipped with heated grips at the time of purchase. I changed out the heated grips on the 2003 model for BikeMaster heated grips (big improvement) and added a voltmeter. I plan on making the same modifications to the 2008 model in the near future.

Similarities

Engine 

The most noticeable unchanged characteristic between the two models is the engine. The liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, 1298cc mill churns out excellent power and torque on both models.

Tire size 

The 2003 and 2008 models are equipped with a 120/70ZR17 front tire and a 180/55ZR17 rear tire. The standard sport bike/sport touring tire sizes make it easier to shop for replacement tires.

One thing that did change with the 2008 model is the recommended tire pressure. On the 2003 model, 33 psi is recommended in the front tire, and 36 psi in the rear tire. For the 2008 model, 39 psi is recommended in the front tire and 42 psi in the rear tire. This was probably in response to the cupping issue that plagues the big sport touring motorcycles like the FJR, Honda ST1300 and Kawasaki Concours 14.

Drivetrain

Both models are equipped with low-maintenance shaft drive. I have not experienced any shaft-jacking with either model. The final drive assembly on both models is relatively easy to remove for U-joint maintenance and spline lubrication.

Luggage

The luggage remains unchanged in terms of construction and dimensions between the two models. The orientation of the top case’s handle and latch are annoying, as is the fact that half of the storage capacity of the top case is in the top of the case. It makes it very easy for things to fall out if the top case is tightly packed.

The saddlebag interiors are somewhat oddly shaped but provide ample room for storing clothes, tools, and the like. The saddlebags are not large enough to fit a full face helmet, though the locking mechanism and ease of mounting/dismounting make up for it.

All three of the cases have excellent water tightness. I have never experienced a problem with rain or condensation getting into any of the cases in nearly 35,000 miles of riding.

WP_20160719_13_28_43_Pro

Differences

Transmission gearing 

The first distinction I noticed while riding the 2008 model was when I got on the freeway. The gearing on the 2008 model is a lot taller. On my 2003 model, I was at 4,000 rpm when riding at 70 mph in fifth gear. On the 2008 model, 70 mph is around 3,500 rpm.

While the lower RPM sacrifices some throttle response when trying to quickly accelerate to pass freeway traffic, it helps a bit with fuel economy. The 2008 model’s main tank is slightly smaller than the 2003 (an extra 0.2 gallons was reassigned to the reserve tank), yet the 2008 model gets the same fuel range as the 2003 model.

Instrument changes 

Other than the revised bodywork, the next most obvious visual change to the bike is the instrument cluster. Like the 2003 model, the 2008 model sports an analog speedometer and tachometer. The analog gauges appear to have been enlarged, through the numerals on the gauges appear to be smaller and somewhat harder to read.

The 2008 model’s digital display contains the same gauges as the 2003, plus a gear indicator and ambient air temperature. The appearance of the fuel and water temperature gauge was changed for the 2008 model but remains easy to read.

20180609_095102.jpg

Windscreen

My 2003 model was equipped with a stock windscreen. In the fully raised position, the 2003 model’s screen would push the air to the crown of my helmet. The 2008 model is equipped with a much taller windscreen than the 2003. Despite the larger dimensions, the air is not pushed much further over the crown of my helmet.

One of my biggest disappointments in the 2008 model is the flimsy construction of the windscreen. On the 2003 model the screen did not wobble or move with the wind. The 2008 model’s taller windscreen moves and shakes a fair amount. The movement is more pronounced near the top of the screen. The movement is annoying and distracting and may have had a hand is causing my E-Z Pass to fall off the windscreen during a ride.

Handlebars

The 2003 and 2008 models both feature adjustable handlebars. On the 2003 model, the handlebar “towers” (for lack of a better descriptor) could be mounted in one of two positions and made for a very upright riding position. On the 2008 model, the bar adjustment system is very different and allows the bar towers to be mounted in three different position. The bars on the 2008 seem lower, flatter and more wide-set than the 2003 model. I have not tried adjusting the bars on either model, so I cannot comment on that aspect of the bars.

Fairing pocket 

One of the most convenient new features on the 2008 model is the fairing pocket. The 2003 model had room for a fairing pocket, but instead left a void beneath the work within the upper left fairing. The pocket on the 2008 model is not huge, but large enough to fit a small smartphone or some charging attachments.

The pocket is also equipped with a 12-volt accessory outlet for charging electronics. The outlet only works when the key is turned to the “ON” position, so there’s no leaving a phone or power bank to charge off of the battery while away from the bike.

20180608_165220

ABS 

The 2008 model is equipped with ABS whereas my 2003 model was not. I have not had the ABS kick in yet, so I cannot comment on its functionality.

I had replaced the stock lines on my 2003 with stainless steel lines, which made a huge difference in terms of braking performance. I am planning on replacing the 2008 model’s brakes lines with stainless steel lines as well and will write a follow-up post about it.

OEM Seat 

The first generation FJRs had a different seat design to the 2006-present models. The shape of the stock seat on the 2003 model was wider than the OEM seat on any of my previous motorcycles but still became uncomfortable after an hour or two. The way the top of the 2003 stock seat tapered in toward the bike would cut off circulation to my rear end and legs. I replaced the 2003’s seat with a Sargent seat in 2016, which was a big improvement.

The 2008 model’s stock seat is much more comfortable that the 2003 models and appears to be a little wider. It feels like I have plenty of room to move around the seat and can ride almost three hours before it becomes uncomfortable. I may replace the OEM seat with another Sargent model next year but am happy to keep the OEM seat for the 2018 riding season.

WP_20160513_20_05_22_Pro

Heat management/radiator 

One of the biggest problems with the 2003 model was engine heat management. The bike would generate a lot of heat inside the lower fairing, which would could easily be felt by a rider’s legs in hotter conditions. Without purpose-built riding pants the heat would become unbearable.

The 2008 model seems to have largely solved the problem. I have ridden the 2008 model in 90-degree heat and did not experience any problems with feeling excessive heat escaping from the lower fairing.

20180514_102104

2009 Kawasaki Ninja 500 Review


Introduction

My short time with my Ninja 500 began with near tragedy. I was rear-ended on my previous street motorcycle in April 2017. I was very fortunate to have walked away from such a severe impact, though I did break my collarbone in the crash. While I was waiting for my collarbone to heal (and was down to one, track only motorcycle) I had time to consider which motorcycle I wanted to buy next.

I knew in the long-term I wanted to go back to a dedicated sport-touring bike. My deceased 2003 Yamaha FJR1300 had given me a taste of the comforts of touring on a true touring bike. I had found that I greatly enjoyed its touring-oriented features like shaft drive, hard saddlebags, and wind protection.

However, my budget and healing collarbone made buying another heavy, dedicated touring bike not feasible before peak riding season was over. Determined to not miss any more riding time than I needed to, I started looking for smaller, budget-conscious motorcycles I could afford that would also work for long-distance riding.

I decided to view my misfortune as an opportunity to try something different. I had been riding 1200cc or larger motorcycles since 2009. I decided it was worth taking a step down in displacement for the first time in my riding career.

20170607_185626.jpg

The Ninja 500 was one of the bikes on my list from the start, along with a Suzuki GS500, Kawasaki Ninja 250, Suzuki SV650, or Kawasaki 650. After 10 years of riding four-cylinder motorcycles, I definitely wanted to give a twin a try. I wasn’t interested in finding something that had lots of creature comforts. All I was looking for was something that could be used for long-distance riding by adding soft luggage.

After a couple weeks, I found the all-black 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 500 that I would settle on. The old owner had bought it new off the showroom floor and said she hadn’t had time to ride it much. Other than a crack on the right side of the upper fairing from a tip-over, the bike was in cosmetically good shape.

20170808_143012.jpg

The bike’s motor was also relatively fresh with just under 10,000 miles on the odometer. Because the bike hadn’t been run much, it had some trouble idling smoothly but seemed to run okay when the throttle was applied. After getting the bike home, I pulled the carbs out and gave them a thorough cleaning. I also did a valve adjustment that was overdue and re-synched the carbs when I re-installed them. I also changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, brake pads, and coolant, and installed stainless steel brake lines on the front and rear. I also adjusted the choke and throttle cables and changed the brake fluid for both braking systems.

After doing the above preventative maintenance, I rode the Ninja for about 4,000 miles from July (when I was medically cleared to ride again) to the end of September. I traded the bike for another FJR in December 2017.

20170726_122013

Engine/transmission

The engine power and performance were my biggest concerns when I bought my Ninja 500. While I was buying the bike in part to try a smaller displacement motorcycle, the Ninja 500’s engine was a lot smaller than what I was used to. At 498cc, the Ninja 500 is the second-smallest displacement motorcycle I have owned, and the smallest since 2007. My first motorcycle was a 1982 Honda CB450T, and that bike’s mill did not churn out a lot of power. Since May 2009, I had not ridden a motorcycle smaller than 1157cc.

I have to say the engine power and performance were one of the bike’s strong points. The motor was certainly not an FJR mill where I could pass interstate traffic with a slight twist of the wrist. However, I found the power just fine for all types of riding. My Ninja 500 would show 6,000 rpm in sixth gear at 75 mph, which was less than 2,000 rpm more than my 2003 FJR would do in top gear. Engine vibration was minimal and throttle response was excellent. I did have to get used to shifting a lot more with the smaller motor, as the engine did not put out the kind of torque I was used to. The additional shifting actually made riding a more involved experience did not detract from the bike’s fun factor at all.

received_10209953148164566.jpeg

Suspension/steering

The Ninja 500 comes with non-adjustable front forks and a single rear shock with pre-load adjustability. The front and rear suspension settings were a tad on the plush side. The bike absorbed bumps in the road smoothly with little headshake

The bike’s biggest drawback was its handling. I couldn’t determine whether the problem was the front suspension, bike geometry, or the ancient Bridgestone Exedra tires that came with the bike.

One of the things I was really looking forward to with a smaller bike was quicker turn-in and better flickability. Instead, I had little-to-no confidence on the front tire and found myself taking corners I was familiar with even slower than I did on my old 600-pound FJR1300. I wish I had had more time on the bike and had been able to change the tires out for Bridgestone BT45s or Pirelli Sport Demons. However, without more seat time and different shoes, I have to report the handling was sub-par and disappointing.

Another problem with the bike was is susceptibility to crosswinds. The bike would become noticeably unstable when passing tractor-trailers or when there was a strong crosswind. I could not tell whether this was due to the bike’s weight (relative to my previous motorcycles) or a geometry issue. Either way, I found myself having to fight to keep the bike in line in heavy wind conditons.

20170924_145956.jpg

Brakes

The brakes were another weak point of the bike’s overall performance. Despite weighting in at nearly the same dry weight as the Suzuki SV650, the Ninja 500 only has one front brake. Before I even rode the bike, I sensed that the single brake may not provide enough power in emergency stopping situations. I replaced the front and rear brake lines with stainless lines from Galfer.

While the stainless steel lines had the positive, consistent feel that I was used to from the Spiegler Brake Lines-equipped FJR1300, the overall stopping power was not enough for me. In emergency situations the front brake did not stop me as quickly as I was used to. Nor did the combination of front and rear brake provide the stopping power I was looking for.

20170607_185800

Comfort

The bike’s ergonomics were good for a medium-sized sport bike. The clip-on handlebars were mounted to risers that produced a slight forward lean from my 6’2 frame. I did not experience an abnormal discomfort in my wrists. My legs were a bit cramped with the bike’s sport-oriented pegs. I eventually adjusted to them though and found the pegs to be acceptable in the end. Wind protection was acceptable from the small windscreen, and I did not experience any ill effects from wind buffeting.

One aspect of the bike I could not adjust to was the seat. It was awful. I could only ride the bike for about an hour and a half for the first fuel stint, and then only 45-minutes to an hour after that. Had I kept the bike as a back-up touring bike that would have been the first upgrade I would have made.

img_20170911_065133.jpg

Long-distance riding

Comfort issues aside, the bike performed much better as a touring bike than I had thought it would. The 4.2-gallon fuel tank and the 55-60 MPG fuel economy allowed the bike to tour 180-200 miles before hitting reserve.

I was able to mount soft luggage to the bike with ease, and the extra weight of the loaded luggage did not noticeably change the bike’s handling.

The chain drive requires regular chain maintenance. The little space between the bottom of the swingarm and the chain made chain lubrication somewhat difficult. The bike comes with a centerstand as standard equipment, making chain lubrication much easier on a long trip.

20170826_082749.jpg

Ease of maintenance

Overall the bike was relatively easy to maintain. The single front disc makes accessing the front wheel’s valve stem easy. The centerstand makes is also a big help to performing maintenance.

The bike’s turn-and-locknut valve adjusters are not real difficult to get to. The only annoyance is having to remove two coolant tubes in order to remove the valve cover. Removing the tank is relatively easy, as is removing the front fairing. The rear bodywork is moderately simple to remove as well.

The oil drain plug, oil filter, coolant drain screw, radiator cap and coolant reservoir are relatively easy to access. The air filter is an older foam design that needs to be coated with air filter oil before being installed.

20170911_153455.jpg

Conclusion

Overall, the mid-sized Ninja is a great budget-conscious bike. I would have liked to have kept it as a back-up bike and outfitted it with a better seat and better tires. Unfortunately, my budget and available garage space did not afford me the luxury of having more than two bikes at a time. Even with its several weaknesses, I was very impressed overall by the Ninja 500.

It is an ideal bike for new riders, re-entry riders, urban riders, or a rider who is looking to give long-distance riding a try on a budget. The bike’s bulletproof engine, strong engine performance, ease of maintenance, and ergonomics make it an ideal bike for a young person who wants to take up the motorcycling lifestyle.

While the Ninja 500 is an older design that was phased out of production in the late 2000s, many Ninja 500s are available in the used bike marketplace. New riders or budget-conscious motorcycling enthusiasts looking for an affordable, high-value bike would be well-served by the 500’s ease of maintenance, low maintenance costs, and adaptability.

img_20170907_150859_512.jpg

Ride Report: Rochester, NY to Allentown, PA: September 7, 2017


Introduction 

Yesterday I rode my Ninja 500 from Rochester, New York to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I lived in Allentown 2013-2014, and wanted to see it again on my way to this weekend’s MotoAmerica action at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey. It was the second ride on my little Ninja 500 loaded down with my full compliment of soft luggage (tank bag, tail bag, and saddlebags). Before the trip I had a new Kenda K-671 Cruiser tire installed on the rear. The previous rear was a Bridgestone Exedra that worn past the wear bars when I got home from Pittsburgh a couple weeks prior. I also had to play with the throttle cables as the throttle had too much play in it. They were still not perfect but I did not have enough time to perfect them before I left. While doing the throttle cable maintenance, I had the seat off and noticed that the Ziploc bags holding my sockets under my seat had been frayed and several of the sockets were missing. Off I went to Harbor Freight Tools to buy a new set of metric sockets before I shoved off. 

Route 

Since I wanted to avoid some tolls and take a more scenic route, I left Greater Rochester by heading south on I-390. There usually is not much traffic on I-390 and I enjoy its course through the Southern Tier foothills and mountains. I stopped for lunch at the Subway inside the Pilot Travel Center in Kanona, New York before continuing onto I-86 East to Binghamton. When I reached the nearly completely reconstructed “Kamazaie Curve” interchange, I headed south on I-81 to Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania where I stopped at a Sheetz for lunch. I then took I-476 South (also known as the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to U.S. 22 on Allentown’s northwest side, where I got off the Northeast Extension and followed U.S. 22 to my accommodations off of Airport Road. 

Weather 

Overall the weather was relatively cooperative. I hit two patches of light rain. One patch was in and around Corning, New York. The other patch was on I-81 as I was approaching Scranton. Both rain showers were relatively light and short-lived. As I was riding I often saw dark clouds on either side of my route and was fortunate to not hit more of those rain pockets. The temperature remained constantly cool all day. I was glad I was wearing my extra layer, and wish I had not forgotten my second long-sleeve shirt was in my saddlebag’s outside pocket. The higher elevations were noticeably colder and windier than the valleys and plains.  

 Roads 

Road conditions were overall good for the entire ride. There is still a good bit on construction in Binghamton on the section east of Kamakazie Curve, as well as the southern portion of I-390. That construction appears to be coming to a close for the season, but also appears poised to resume next season on the oldest section of I-390 (Wayland to Dansville). The section of U.S. 22 that runs through Allentown could use some attention too. The very northern section of I-476/Northeast Extension had just been repaved and was a joy to ride through with some gusto.  

Analysis/Summary 

Overall it was a positive travel experience. It was great to see some roads that I used to ride a lot for work or to head back to Rochester through the Poconos, as well as ride through another former hometown in Binghamton. The progress on the Kamakazie Curve interchange is impressive and I am looking forward to the day when I-86 extends from north of Erie to Binghamton uninterrupted. The bike did well for what it is, but I still really miss the FJR’s heated grips, more spacious ergos, and better wind protection. They would have made the ride more enjoyable. What this trip and the trip to Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago have shown me is that the Ninja 500 is a very capable sport tourer, but only for shorter trips and with some add-ons. A new seat and heated grips or gloves would make the bike more user-friendly in colder conditions. I also really miss the FJR’s hard luggage. When traveling long distances alone, having to fit all of the heavy tools needed for potential roadside repairs in soft saddlebags is far less than ideal. It is very doable, but not very ideal.  

Ride Report: Final FJR1300 Ride, 4/22/17


Unfortunately, this is the last ride report I will be writing for a while. Usually writing ride reports is one of my favorite things to do. For me, it is basically a running journal of the places, roads, and people I get to learn about when I go out riding. Each journey, recorded on paper or not, becomes a small kernel of history that allows me to learn a little more about the world I live in. Unfortunately, like any other form of history, there are always dark kernels. April 22, 2017, was one of those dark kernels for me.

The plan was to head down to Circleville, Ohio and come back to Youngstown the same day to cover an Ohio Mini Roadracing League (OMRL) event being held at Circleville Raceway Park.  I headed out later than I had planned due to waking up late and the unseasonably cold temperatures. Once I was fueled up, I hit the road around 7am. Because I was running late I took the fastest route to Circleville, which is I-76 west through Akron to I-71 south to U.S. 23 on the south side of Columbus. I had already traveled all of those roads several times this year and found them to be in good condition. Since it was a weekend and early in the morning, the traffic going through downtown Akron on I-76 was very light. While the weather forecast has called for steady rain the entire ride, I did not encounter at all during the three hour ride.

The OMRL event was great. They has 44 competitors turn out on a day when it was supposed to rain all day, compared to 51 competitors for the 2016 season-opener under near-perfect weather conditions. It was also great to visit with the Anthonys before Gavin Anthony made his debut as a professional motorcycle road racer at the MotoAmerica event at Road Atlanta the next weekend.

I left the event later than I wanted to (around 4pm) and was heading to Freddy’s Street Food in Delaware, Ohio for dinner when I was involved in a motorcycle accident. I do not want to go into details about what happened or my injuries at this time. However, my FJR1300 has been totaled and I will need to take some time to heal up before I can ride again.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the EMTs who responded to the accident from the Orange Township Fire Department. Several of them ride and did their best to keep me in good spirits. I would also like to thank the nurses and staff at the OhioHealth Lewis Center Emergency Department who tended to my injuries quickly and kindly.

 

Ride Report: I-76, I-71, and U.S. 30, Youngstown, OH to Beaverdam, OH


Ride Date: March 28, 2017

For the past two years when I lived in Delaware, Ohio, I would take my touring bike out on a test ride from Delaware to a Speedway gas station near the indirect interchanges between I-75 and U.S. Route 30. The ride was exactly 200 miles round trip, which was just under one tank of gas on my FJR1300. Even though I moved to Youngstown, Ohio last year, I decided I would keep the tradition going, even though the ride is twice as long. If clearing the old, Stabil-containing gas out of the tank with a one-tank trip is good, two tanks is twice as good, right?

In any event, I got a late start but headed out from Youngstown around 930am. The ride took me up I-680, to I-80 until it changes to I-76 at the Ohio Turnpike interchange. I continued on I-76 through Akron, where I-76 overlaps with I-77 for a short bit, onto I-76’s western terminus at I-71. I got on I-71 at Exit 209, and got off at Exit 176 onto the U.S. Route 30 highway. I stayed on U.S. 30 until its interchange with the Lincoln Highway (old Route 30), which provides indirect access to I-75. There is a Speedway gas station just west of U.S. 30’s trumpet-style interchange ramp, but east of the I-75 alignment. After getting gas, buying a snack, and chatting with a another rider, I got back on U.S. 30, this time eastbound. The very unusual ramp from old U.S. 30 to U.S. 30 eastbound, which loops in the median of the freeway, can be a lot of fun for the peg-scrappers out there. I essentially repeated my route on the way back to Youngstown, except I decided to use the I-277 bypass around downtown Akron to I-77 North, which took me back to I-76 East. I was feeling a bit tired early into the ride back, and stopped at an Arby’s in Bucyrus for a quick snack. Nothing like a corned beef slider detour. I got home around 515pm.

Overall, and despite the rough winter, all road surfaces were in good condition. During my previous rides on U.S. 30 between Upper Sandusky and the I-75 interchange, only portions of the eastbound lanes had been paved with an odd asphalt. Now both sides of the divided highway have received the asphalt treatment. The asphalt is very ridable, it just has an usual texture about it. It feels both slightly slick and abrasive at the same time.

The route is very rural and does not offer a lot of scenic viewing opportunities, unless empty farm fields are your thing. However, I enjoy this route because it is four-lane, divided highway (with intersections, however) and is not heavily traveled. It is very effective as a toll-free thoroughfare between Canton, Ohio and Chicago/Gary. The route is also very effective as a test route. It allows a rider to maintain a normal highway pace (65-75mph) with little traffic and ample shoulder space in case something does go wrong and roadside repairs are needed.

My FJR1300 performed very well with no mechanical issues on its first extended use of the 2017 riding season. This was despite a heavy crosswind that is typical of wide-open freeways that run through flat, un-forrested terrain. After a successful test ride I can now have confidence that, barring unforeseen problems, the motorcycle is prepared for what will be a very busy 2017 riding reason.

Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show 2017 Highlights


This past weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show at Cleveland’s I-X Center proved to be a little smaller than the previous year, but offered attendees a couple new vendors and a wide range of OEM displays. Here are some of my highlights from this past weekend’s exhibition:

 

(1) Dunlop: The most exciting story I was able to cover at the show is the upcoming release of Dunlop’s new Roadsmart III sport-touring tire. According to Dunlop’s representative at the show, the new Roadsmart III has been several years in the making. While the tire’s construction and rubber compounds are reported to have not changed dramatically, the Roadsmart III features an upgraded sidewall construction and a radically new tread design. The Roadsmart III will also feature the same dual-compound rear tire design introduced in the original Roadsmart tire.

Dunlop’s stated goal at the beginning of the Roadsmart III’s development was to design a tire that would outperform the Michelin Pilot Road 4s, which Dunlop considers its strongest sport-touring competition. Internal testing by Dunlop showed that the Roadsmart III is on par with the Pilot Road 4 for comfort and dry weather performance, and substantially stronger in wet weather grip and cornering. Inadvertently, Dunlop retained the same independent testing firm that Michelin uses to test the new Roadsmart III’s longevity. That testing demonstrated that the Roadsmart III front and rear tires outlasted the Michelin Pilot Road 4s by several thousand miles.

Oddly, Dunlop is one of the few companies that does not have a GT-spec sport-touring tire for heavier sport-touring motorcycles like my FJR1300. If I can get a hold of a set, it will be interesting to see how well the front tires perform. Every other tire I have run on the front of my FJR has cupped early on despite running 40-42 psi.

 

(2) Kawasaki Versys 300: I was really excited to see the newest addition to the Kawasaki Versys lineup. This new model features the same 296cc, liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder motor as the immensely popular Kawasaki Ninja 300, along with a slightly longer wheelbase than its sporty cousin. The Versys 300 also features a 19-inch front wheel and dual sport tire sizes, and a super light 385.9-lb. wet weight.

Sitting on the bike, I was impressed by its light weight and spacious ergonomics. While the engine size yells beginner bike, new riders under six feet tall may want to try sitting on one before pulling the trigger on buying one. Unlike its sporty cousin that has a new rider-friendly 30.9-inch seat height, the new Versys 300 features a taller 32.1-inch seat height. An inch or so may not sound like a lot. However, to put my point in perspective, I am 6’2, and I was barely able to get both feel flat on the ground. There was barely any room between the seat and my nether region when I tried standing above the bike. While I did not have a chance to test ride it, I wonder how the power delivery will be from a sporty, high-revving twin compared to a single-cylinder engine. A side-by-side comparison between the new Versys 300 and BMW’s upcoming G310GS model is likely coming to a fine motorcycle magazine in the near future.

Overall, I was impressed by the little dual sport ninjette. For the experienced off-road rider who is new to road riding, this may be the perfect bike for getting to the trails, riding the trails, and then riding home. Just be aware that it is a new rider’s bike in every department but the seat height.

 

(3) Indian: While I am not much of a cruiser guy, I have been truly impressed with the job Polaris has done since it re-introduced a mass-produced Indian lineup in 2014. The motorcycling community seems to agree. There was a constant crowd around the Indian display both Friday and Saturday. I tired sitting on a Scout, and I have to say it was very comfortable and commanding. I am not a fan of forward controls (just a personal preference), but if I were going to a cruiser, the Scout 60 would be near the top of my list.

 

(4) Condor Lift Products: Condor is a brand that the TWPH has had the pleasure of doing a product review for last year, and it was great to see them at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. The TWPH had a chance to talk with Teffy Chamoun, the owner of Condor Lift Products, about the garage motorcycle dolly that Condor was demonstrating at the event. Chamoun also indicated that Condor is developing a new product that will help lift a motorcycle. We will release more details on Condor’s new product as it becomes available. All of us at the TWPH are looking forward to working with Condor more in the future.

 

(5) Kawasaki Z125: While the Honda Grom has been the staple of the truly introductory motorcycle market the last couple of years, Kawasaki is making a bold statement with the introduction of its Z125. The Z125’s lines and styling are much sharper than the Grom’s, although its seat is almost two inches taller than the Grom’s. New riders tend to values a bike’s looks before any other feature. It will be interesting to see how much of the Grom’s previously unchallenged market share the Z125 can claim, and if any other OEMs enter the 125cc road bike war.