Thursday, May 1

Bikes that talk to me!

Lately, a few bikes have be talking to me. Some I can ignore. The venerable dualsport Suzuki V-Strom, the KTM Enduro and the Kawasaki KLR650 are attractive but not designed for the vertically challenged. I've read about lowering kits and to that I say, there are too many fish in the sea...To varying degrees, these bikes sport that naked, minimalist look I love. Still, I don't do the kind of riding that warrants these type of motorcycles. Hmmm...I could be wrong but it seems a little like owning a fancy sports car that is never taken on the highway.

By far, the motorcycle that has spoken to me the longest and loudest is unequivocally the BMW F800ST. I'm not the only one smitten. Rider magazine named the F800 ST "the best tourer in 2007"! That's huge! Since its inception this middle weight tourer has won a slew of accolades for its performance and comfort excellence.



Since that one memorable ride last summer, I hear the F800ST calling me by a childhood nickname--we've become that close! The ride was exhilarating--pure joy. Lightweight, flickable, and amazingly responsive. The F800ST is heavier than my SV yet feels lighter and sleeker even with the ST's fairing. Compared to Queenie, frisky pony that she is, the ST feels tame and more behaved. By the end of the ride, I discovered that the ST masks it playfulness--it's there--it just doesn't show it all at the gate. Although I don't fancy fairing--the more naked the bike, the better--I think a little lower leg protection might be a good shield against head winds. I love the F800ST's on board info that monitors tire pressure, displays the fuel gauge (which the SV lacks), is fuel injection (although I appreciate a well-carbbed bike like mine), gear indicator and heated grips. ABS? Well, I could live without it, I think. I've read ABS pros and cons and it seems one of those personal preferences that some 'cyclists like to debate. I've learned solid braking skills without ABS. I still practice braking, including emergency braking--as much as one can simulate an emergency. Is ABS an added security or a false sense of security? Will non-ABS be the reminder to keep those braking skills sharp and not rely on technology? Is ABS an industry driven option that we only think we need? Does riding today's faster, more tech savvy bikes make ABS essential? I'm hoping my pal Crusty will lend his expertise/opinion here. I see it this way: It's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it. Maybe that philosophy doesn't apply to ABS brakes?

Then there's the F800S, the sportier, more naked sibling of the F800ST. It's a jazzy looking bike and can be made easily into a tourer with some luggage and a taller windscreen. Leaning over the tank, however--even slightly--on a 300 miles day trip would be havoc on my aging sacroiliac. Sitting on the F800ST can't feel more comfortable. My test ride, probably around 10 miles, was sweet, smooth and still the memory of it is sharp. What attracts me --besides the ride--is the handling ease. It feels a lot like Queenie. In fact, I heard someone compare the BMW F800ST to the SV and claims that the F800ST is "like an upgrade to the SV650." Someone else said it's like the SV with the fun factor removed. Hmmm? I'm not sure about that. IMHO, the fun factor on the F800ST is not in your face like the SV650. It's true too that the ST's throttle seems more tame initially. By third gear, the fun factor had kicked in and there three gears still left!

Shortly after the appearance of the two 800 models, rumors filled motorcycle forums with talk of a F 800 GS model. Long before the GS became reality (it's now available in Europe and soon to be available in the USA), drawings of what it might look like could be found all over the Internet and I toyed with the idea of possibly falling in love again. For those who want more than the BMW's F 650GS but less than the behemoth R 1200GS, the F800 GS fits the bill. Early reports are that it too is a winner. I like the looks of the F800GS and appreciate that it can go just about anywhere it's pointed. But didn't motorcycles once go anywhere a long time ago, before all the specialization? What's the difference today? It's not like I actually will do any off road riding. Then again, perhaps I would if I had the right kind of bike. Okay, who am I kidding? I'm leery of backwoods in this country and especially alone.


I just know that the F800ST eats streets for breakfast! I'm listening to it talk to me. Given my passion for long distance touring and my plans to do some major cross country riding, the F800ST meets my demands for high performance, excellent build, light weight, nimble/flickable- fun, comfortability and cuteness. I want a great little sport-tourer that can pile on the miles with as little wear on me as possible. What's that I hear...sounds like a German accent?

13 comments:

Jeffry said...

I have the same drools for the same bikes. While I love my Concours, I plan on downsizing my next bike purchase. The price points and cost of service would make me lean toward the KLR, VStrom (650), or Versys. While I lust for the BMW's, the prepaid maintenance programs at CSC means I will alway own a Japanese bike. For example I paid $1000 for 3 years of prepaid maintenance and within 2 riding seasons I have had 7 services.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

Sit back... Take a deep breath... And drink the Kool Aid. I did. There is that fizzy feeling in your throat at first. Then a kind of numbness. In the morning, you will discover that having weiner schnitzel for breakfast is the most natural thing in the world!

My riding partner -- Dick Bregstein -- rides a F800ST. I would be delighted to arrange for you to chat with him. Dick's bike is equally comfortable on the rural back roads, or pulling the ton on the slab, which I am embarrassed to tell you happens a lot. Our average day of riding is about 200-250 miles per day, with bursts up to 325 sometimes. Dick has put over 12,000 miles on his bike in the last year.

The BMW community extends a diaphanous hand to all, with local chapters and two national groups. The BMW Anonymous book is a pass to getting the most out of a secret society. Hell, you could join our chapter. You could even ride with me, Dick, and Pete -- which is exactly like riding alone.

But you could do that without an F800ST. You would just break up the set!

Fondest regards
Jack Riepe
http://jackriepe.blogspot.com/

Sojourner rides said...

Hey, Jeffry. I can certainly see why Japanese bikes will remain in your future. I wish I could find a Japanese bike that is lightweight and has a modest cc. I really love that V-Strom. Other than its height and that it feels a little top heave, that would be a perfect bike for me. I also tried the Versys--way too tall.

Sojourner rides said...

Jack--thanks for the invitation to ride with your buds! Thanks also for your willingness to hook me up with Dick Bregstein--that he's put 12,000 miles on his F800ST in one ride season tells me a lot. I'll let you know if I want to go further.

I've attended two bike rallies. One was a diaster (for the most part). The other was the BMW Rally in West Bend WI 2007. I didn't really know a soul there but felt welcomed and I had a really nice time. Met lots of fine people--some of whom live in the Chicago area. I really appreciated how all brands were welcomed. Who knows, I just might join soon whether I get a BMW or not.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

I indicated an interest in owning a BMW, and some very nice guys from the Mac-Pac came to my house. They gave me a glass of Kool Aid and I fell asleep. Then they put a huge pod next to me. It looked like a gigantic seed pod.

While I slept, the pod became a 1986 BMW K75. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. Touching it was almost sinful. And it spoke directly to my brain. Later, I only wanted to wear brown clothing. I set up a shortwave radio in the attic, and now get instructions from folks in Munich around midnight. They are nice folks, who want the names of people I know who ride, but don't ride Beemers.

Just drink the Kool Aid. Then you can read my stories in the MOA magazine.

Fondest regards,
Herr Jack

Sojourner rides said...

Jack,

I went to Chicago BMW yesterday to look at the bike. Look at it! I didn't see it on the floor and my heart sank! I asked Mike, who is a really sweet guy, whose voice has hynoptic qualities, if the blue F800ST had been sold. He told me he'd taken it off the floor and put it in "the back" for me. I entered the back room (is that where you go before the Kool-Aid?)Next thing I knew I was turning over information athat I shouldn't have. Looks like I'll be owning a blue 2008 F800ST sooner rather than later. I remain on "hold"...sipping the KA.

However, I am, I think, a goner!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

Just drink the Kool Aid and listen to the nice man's voice. Tomorrow, you will wake up humming, "Deutchland, Deutchland, Uber alles..." You will be amazed at the incredible feeling that bike will give you. But you really want to talk to Dick first.

Because, you will want to negotiate into the final price a plug that circumvents the Canbus electrical system for hooking a battery tender to the bike, or for hooking up your choice of heated gear to the machine. BMW has designed the existing plug to be 5 amps, which is nothing. The cost of this arrangement should be about $60. Get them to do it for free as a deal maker. Ask them to throw in the battery tender too.

What can they say, "No?"

My guess is you'll get the plug -- which is very important -- and 20 percent off on the battery tender. Joining a Beemer club gets you an additional discount on stuff. The best clubs have the fewest rules. Our club has no rules, other then general etiquette.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Countersteer said...

the fun kind of shopping!

Jeffry said...

If you can afford it (heck if it stretch the budget a little), go for it. It's excited to here about someone actually buying the BMW. There are a few BMW riders with the UIUC MRP, particularly, the director of the program. So how long until you take the new baby home? May as well get some hard bags added too for your adventures.

Sojourner rides said...

countersteer, it is the "fun" kind of shopping but this kind eye-buying tends to get me to reaching for my pocket. I complain about the prices of a dress (I hate them) but somehow the price of this new bike doesn't bother me--go figure?!

Sojourner rides said...

Jeffry, looks like a couple of weeks still before I give birth--that's what it's feeling like! Been looking at hard luggage because I don't like the BMW ones designed for that model. I do like Givi so I'm looking there. I'll probably start with a top case and decide later on what I want for the side bags. I've got some soft luggage I could use in the interim. Too bad my SV hardshell luggage won't fit--I love those sherman tank like givis.

Decided not to get the low suspension low seat version. I'd rather have a standard suspension so that I could have a center stand installed as I did on the SV. Took me forever to learn to get the bike on the center stand but it was worth the effort to be able to check the oil and get the tires off the ground. Still haven't decided on what I'm going to name the baby.
Thanks.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

Beemer's virtually dance getting up on the center stand. My older K75 takes almost no effort at all to get up on the center stand, and it weights 540 pounds.

Interestingly enough, I have a low model too.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Sojourner rides said...

Jack, I'm glad to hear that Beemers are easy to get on the center stand. I have a six inch titanium implant holding my right wrist and ulna together and getting the SV on its centerstand was always a bit challenging but doable.