Monday, May 26

Jesse's break-in is OVER!

We've exceeded the 600 miles break in! Jesse goes in Tuesday for its first check up. Glad the break-in is over! It was tough in that I had to stay cognizant of rpms. It wasn't difficult staying within the prescribed range--just annoying, just one more thing to keep track of while riding.Today's ride goal was to see how it felt to ride the bike long. I had no real destination in mind but ended up in Champaign, IL, approximately 140 miles from my start. I made one stop getting there, not because I needed to, but because I felt I should. While at a gas station a man pulled up next to me and said, "I saw you on the highway, so what is that you're riding." I stepped back from the bike so he could see. "Oh, a BMW?. How do you like it?" I told him. He asked a gazillion questions (thank goodness I had read the manual and had done a year's worth of research) all of which I could answer (e.g., "What is the drive on it?", "Is that a single swing arm?", the weight, the cc, etc.). He told me about his new bike, a Harley, that he should have been out riding. We chatted some and said our goodbyes. I must confess, when he pulled off, I waited some extra time as fears of him bumping me off the road from behind ran through my head. Ugh!

Arrived in Champaign. The town was dead! In fact, the roads all along the trip there were thinly populated. The town appeared as if it had been evacuated. It's the home of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and most of the college kids have left, which explained the vacant streets. Before leaving, I stopped for lunch at Nitaya, a Thai-Japanese restaurant that I just happen to pass and thought looked interesting. There were more people in the restaurant than I saw on the streets. I ordered crab fried rice after making sure real crab was used and not that imitation stuff. The elderly Asian server looked slightly hurt when I inquired about the crab. She assured me that they only use real crab. I ordered it spicy. It arrived. It was perhaps the best crab fried rice I've ever had! I thought the same dish I had in Seattle was exceptional--this was even better! I would return to Champaign for another meal there is a flash!

Feeling renewed, I gassed up and headed home. Was there a memo for all drivers that stated that turn signals are optional. I saw so many people switching lanes without signaling. This is another reason to stay away from people. When they make their inexplicable moves without alerting those around them, you'll be far enough away to not be effected. Geeze!

I did the return trip nonstop. The ride was exhilarating. Here's one huge difference between the SV and the ST. The SV's ready to ride position bends the leg fairly tightly. I've written before about my leg cramps after about 120 or so miles and how annoying this became. I went from thinking it was a potassium deficiency to the onset of rigor mortis! The ST's leg requirement is also bent ; however, it is slightly less flexed and that makes for a more relaxed leg and ride position. I experienced no leg fatigue or need to stretch--absolutely no muscle whining. It makes sense that a sport-tourer would have a more relaxed ready position.

The Speed Challenge

The return trip seemed quick and easy and the bike performed smoothly. Jesse is so easy to ride. One adjustment I'm still making pertains to speed. I am not a speed freak. I like doing about 5-10 over the limit. Even though people are zipping by me, I try to stay within that range. I'll admit to going a wee bit faster when the roads are clear and conditions are ideal. I've looked down at the speedometer many times and to my utter amazement, I see that I am going faster than I thought. The SV feels a particular way at 65 mph; the ST feels this same way but is 15 mph faster. I thought I was doing 65 the minimum on one long stretch of road. In reality, I was doing 80! On the return trip, I monitored my speed closer and on many occasions, I had to slow down. I guess that's the difference between the pull of a 650cc engine versus an 800cc?

Once in the city, I navigated some congested roads for about a 12 miles stretch. One silly (to me at least) incident occurred when a man tried to strike up a conversation with me at a stoplight. His greeting was way too familiar--as if he knew me well and it way too cheesy. He smiled way too much and asked me how I was. I glanced at him briefly and only nodded my head. But I got a good look at the woman sitting next to him. She looked annoyed, really ticked, which he didn't see as he was too busy hanging out of the window trying to engage me in conversation. But I bet she gave him an ear full later.

Chicago to Champaign 285 miles RT
Highlight: Lunch at Nitaya Thai-Japanese Restaurant

Sunday, May 25

A note to Sojourner's readers!

There are some crazy people in the world and some of them (although it could be one person?) have found their way to this blog. This afternoon I deleted an extremely lengthy, offensive, and highly disturbing post (this is not the first one either). Consequently, I've moved to having visitors sign-in after leaving a comment. I know that many of my fellow bloggers already have implemented this feature. I don't know if it was just wisdom on their part or if they too had received their share of intrusive and insane posts. I don't even know if this will keep the crazies at bay, but I think it is worth a try.

Well, I just wanted you to know what's behind the sign-in and hope that it doesn't deter you from leaving a message.

Have a safe holiday!

Please be careful out. Clearly, there are people out there who are even scarier than bad drivers.

Friday, May 23

Gadget Review: Oregon Scientific Action Cam

Among the new toys acquired as a result of the new bike, one that I was hoping to love, I'm only liking a little. I picked up the Oregon Scientific "Waterproof Hands Free Action Cam(era)" The literature sounds straightforward, bright, direct and just what I wanted--not expensive but not too cheap. I liked that it has multiple ways of mounting the camera and that it appears well-made. It has received mixed-reviews but enough glowing reports that I was willing to fork over the $100+. It arrived. I'm not happy. The little window used for viewing your camera selections is small--really small and my eyes are getting old(er). I had a magnifying glass in one hand, the camera in the other while hovering near a bright light. Still, I could only guess that I'd selected the features I wanted. The "On/Off" button and "Menu" buttons often take major effort to turn on and off. (Not shown in that picture of goodies is a new Garmin Zumo that arrived today--yippee!).

Far more frustrating is the inability to use the multiple mounts to find the best fit. That they send multiple ways is a good, consumer-thoughtful thing. The wide rubber band, while long enough to wrap around a bicycle helmet, isn't of sufficient length to fit the average motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle helmets also lack the open vents that would allow for threading through the straps or can one use the flat mounting clip. Neither are the Velcro straps (also included) in the package useful for a motorcyclist. So, I was left to mount it on the handle bars with a clip that slips (not easily enough) around the handlebars. It took me nearly forty-five minutes to mount it and this was accomplished with a bunch of large rubber bands that I supplied. It looked tacky to say the least--although the rubber bands were blue and nicely matched the bike! That this arduous setup would have to be replicated with each camera use made me want to chuck it. Because there is no way to instantly view what the camera is capturing, (e.g., all sky, all ground, or just the instrument panel), you have to guess where to aim the lens. Thus, you will not know if your precious memories have been preserved until you get back to the computer and upload. My early video attempts inside the house were fine. On the bike, however, it was a failure--for the most part. However, on my first motorcycle try, capture a red car darting from behind a bus and coming extremely close to me. Extremely. I recall reading about a woman who routinely wear a tiny helmet cam and captured an accident she was involved in with a distracted driver. Not knowing that he was caught on tape, the driver stretched the truth to bystanders as the woman lay unconscious on the ground. Her evidence against the surprised driver held up in court.

My second attempt was better at capturing the environment and only occasionally the sky. However, this time, the camera shake was ultimately unacceptable. It shook like Jello because I had to mount sans the screw that is supposed to affix it "securely" in place. The clip that goes over the handle bar is way too big. Oregon Scientific nicely includes rubber padding that can be used to fill in the space inside the large clip to make a tighter fit on the bar. If you do build up the clip, however, the screw used to lock the clip to the handle bar isn't long enough! It leaves a large gap. So I left the screw out and the clip was on the bar as tight as it could be without a screw. The man at Home Depot, where I went to find a longer screw didn't have one long enough and suggested an Auto parts store where they have a better supply of "metric" items. Ugh!

Most frustrating of all are the places in the video where the image looks like a still imae, but the engine is revving. It sounds as if I'm "gunning" the engine like a mad woman! In one of my helmet cam attempts, the audio cuts out--just ends after about 18 minutes? In another section of the video, a black circle is present in one corner--even the tech support couldn't explain that. Fortunately, it's disappeared on its owe--at least the last time I checked.

Granted, these issues could be the result of me and not fully having figured out the camera features--I've read the manual. I just can't see the little window well. Still, this getting on my last nerve. I'll work with it more and report back. I will say, the downloads are easy, the camera appears well made and sturdy. I haven't tried playing back the videos via TV using the cables included in the box.

The packaging says "Ages 8 and up." It ought to say also that if your eyes are over age 45, find an 8 year old neighbor kid to read the on camera menu!

The video is pretty funky, but they are bound to improve--can't get much worse, that for sure!

Saturday, May 17

Jesse and I break 100 miles!

It is nearly 5 a.m. when I flipped on the TV for some news. Instead, the movie, "The World's Fastest Indian" is just beginning. What a treat!

The ST had 18 miles on it Thursday when I drove off the lot. It now proudly displays 118 miles! The goal is getting the 600 miles break in period and check up out of the way before any super long trips.

Observation: Although the ST is a heavier bike, it feel weightless compared to the SV, which is a relatively light bike. One reason the SV feels female to me has to do with it being a bit top heavy. The ST, which is narrow, slight and sleek lacks the weighty feel in the tank area. I straddled the ST with both feet planted and moved it from side to side as far as I could to see how it felt to support its weight. The point at which this feels uncomfortable occurs sooner with the SV. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss, because I never felt this to been an issue with the SV. It handles superbly, effortlessly and I have no complaints. It's all relative, isn't it?

Now, I know that the ST while factually heavier feels lighter and I think it has something to do not only with it not being top heavy but more importantly, that the fuel tank is located behind the rider, which does something to lowering the center of gravity (I think). On the SV, the weight of all the fuel is up front, so every time I turn or lean or paddle walk the bike, I'm feeling that weight. This isn't a complaint, just a difference I've noticed.

No engine kills Friday. No surging as I reach for the turn signal cancellation button. And, after reading the manual, I discovered that the turn signals cancel automatically. That, I like! Felt confident on all leans but still taking it easy due to the new tires. It's fun varying the speed and the rpm limitations don't detract one iota from the fun.

One of my favorite scenes in "The World's Fastest Indian," is when the motorcycle gang, previously unkind to Burt, shows up on the day of his departure to American and they escort him to the airport. The gang leader gives Burt "beer money" and says, "Show 'em Kiwis can fly to, eh?"

The movie is replete with pearls from the wise old Burt. His young admiring neighbor asks Burt, "Aren't you scared you'll kill yourself if you crash?"

Burt responds, " live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime."

It's the weekend. Go riding. Stay safe--lots of distracted drivers out there...

Thursday, May 15

The F800ST is home!

Picked the bike up today. Strange. I felt nervous. It's not like I've never ridden it before. I think it had to do with letting go of Queenie. Dave went with me to complete paperwork that demanded both of our signatures. He is now the proud owner of Queenie. Mike Abt, at Chicago BMW, is the kindest, gentlest, most patient and most informative salesperson you'll ever meet. I started talking to him last spring about bikes and went through a number of choices before the season ended. Then I started it all up again this spring. Never once did I feel rushed or pushed to close the deal, which weighed heavily in my decision to buy from Chicago BMW.

I took Lake Shore Drive South home. Construction had backed up traffic in spots, which provided ample time to adjust to feeling the gears and getting a comfortable sense of the 'cycle's friction zone. Still, by the time I arrived home, I had managed to kill the engine three times, I'm embarrassed to say. Fortunately, each time I was stopped at a light and the bike started up and I was off well before anyone honked at me. Downtown traffic really was insane but I didn't mind it at all. In fact, I enjoyed myself, even while keeping in mind that the rpms needed to stay below 5.

I'll write a full review of the bike after I get to know it. For now, I can say that it is quiet, smooth, and has a low husky sound compared to the higher pitch vocals of the SV. The seating position on the ST is excellent. Like on the SV, my knees are bent and relaxed--in fact, they are not as sharply bent as on the SV. This subtle difference in extension will be welcomed on long trips. It just felt good. The instrument panel is fabulous. Bells and whistles galore compared to my more minimalist SV.

The bike needs a name. I admit to anthropomorphizing, that is, naming my things as if they either already possessed human qualities or would come to represent the attributes of the given name. The SV had a strong woman's feel and I named her Queen-Esther Sojourner Stringfield accordingly. Perhaps it's premature to decide what the ST shall be called. This is the third time I've ridden a F800ST and the second time I've ridden the one I now own. It feels male-ish. I can't explain it, I just know how it feels. I'll see if that changes in a few days. My friend, Lucas, suggested the name Marlene for Marlene Dietrich. Marlene is out if the bike proves to be male. But Dietrich might work. I'm thinking more, however, of "Jesse" for
Jessie Owens.

If you've ever seen some of the footage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, you'll likely remember Jesse Owens' dramatic finishes resulting in four gold metals and establishing 11 Olympic records. One documentary film on the event has some scenes of Hitler after each of Owens' wins and in them, Hitler looks really ticked! Right before his eyes and country, his whole Aryan "Master Race" beliefs were destroyed by a member of a most "inferior" race. In spite of Hitler's views, Lutz Lang, Germany's most gifted and popular athlete, befriended Owens and they remained lifelong friends. Nonetheless, Hitler refused to put the gold metals around Owens' neck.

Not too long ago, I visited Jesse Owens' grave. He is buried at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, where he spend the bulk of his adult life. In celebration of friendship, like that between Lutz and Jesse, the F800ST might be named Jesse, a merging of machine and human speed. To help me figure this out, I'll need to do more fieldwork. Gotta get those 600 break in miles out of the way.

2008 BMW Blue F800ST with comfort package, safety package, low seat, standard suspension, center stand, anti-theft system. (Helmet was up only for the picture, not for the ride)

Sunday, May 11

The two-wheeled historian heads to Ohio

I will be donning a new hat soon as the finishing touches are coming to a close on a trip I've been thinking about a long time. I have wanted to follow routes along the underground railroad since I took a similar trip many years ago. A major spot on that first trip included a visit to Amherstburg, Ontario, home of the National American Black Historical Museum, where one can feel the history of the Underground Railroad, American slavery and Canada's humanitarian outreach. It is a town proud of its active role in providing shelter for runaway slaves. I've always wondered about the underground stations in the United States. As the proud holder of an undergraduate history degree, I knew there were many underground railroad sites. So, I came up with the idea of riding my 'cycle to some of those very places and like usual, the list I created is too long to complete in one ride season--given that I must work for a living! Oh, if only time and funds were unlimited, I could do this for sure. Okay, back to reality...

Instead, I've come up with an idea that could still create a historically rich and dynamic adventure. I cab restrict my trip(s) to locales where there was a concentration of underground railroad stations and cover as many of those as I can. Living in the Midwest is perfect for exploring this history. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, played important roles in American history during slavery's reign. In each of those states, individuals and groups defied inane laws, stepped up the plate, and did the humane thing. They all provided safe havens for their darker brothers and sisters. These stations were cloaked in secrecy to protect abolitionists and others vehemently against slavery. Thus, these locations have not all be recorded. The numbers and sites are best estimates of the most well-known stations. Some of these places have been maintained, others have been destroyed or have fallen in disrepair and are not threatened for destruction. I believe this history, this American history, ought to remain and stand as a reminder of what should never have happened and what will never happen again. Yet still today, human trafficing and people being held in bondage exists....but I digress...

Of the Midwest states that provided shelter from human bondage, Ohio has a lot to be proud of. In fact, of all the states in the entire USA, Ohio has the most recorded underground railroad locations, at thirteen. This shouldn't come as a complete surprise given the major role of the Society of Friends, better known as "The Quakers," settlement in Ohio. According to one source, by 1800 approximately 800 Quaker families lived in Ohio. Fourteen years later, that number had doubled. The first anti-slavery newspaper in the United States, The Philanthropist, was published in Ohio by Charles Osborn of Mt. Pleasant. Soon after, Benjamin Lundy, known as the "father of abolitionism," published his, Genius of Universal Emancipation, also from the town of Mt. Pleasant. Quaker Meeting Houses, colleges (Oberlin, to mention one) and a host of reform efforts engendered by the Ohio Quakers, make Ohio a "must-visit" destination for my eventual return to Amherstburg, Ontario and appreciation for the collaboration of good people in much of North America.

Again, neither time nor funds will allow me to visit every Ohio site but I think I can make a dent in exploring its anti-slavery efforts. My first concentration of noteworthy underground railroad locations will center in and around the Cincinnati area, starting in Harveysburg, OH for a stop at Caesar State Park to check out the Bullskin Trace Trail, which was also track on the underground railroad. This area once belonged to the Shawnee Indians who gave it to a slave named Caesar whom they had captured in a raid and adopted. Caesar lived and hunted on this land. Springboro, OH is close by and then it's on to Pisgah, (and a side stop to Sharonville--how can my ego resist?). My pal, D. Brent Miller, has offered a stop at his place somewhere in this region and I hope to take him up on that and finally meet is better half. Perhaps, I can even talk him into riding to Ripley with me. Ripley is 50 miles from Cincinnati; it has the distinction of not one, but two major underground railroad locations, The John Rankin House, after a general in the War of 1812, and the Parker House, home of an African American abolitionist. The town currently has fewer than 2,000 citizens. Then it's northeast to Waverly and then to the Columbus area. While there, I hope to stop in on friends in Granville, OH. Three stops remain as I move east to Zanesville, up north a bit to Flushing, and then on to Mt. Pleasant. These were difficult choices but I'm happy with the towns that have made the cut.

I wish I could explore in depth this State's history in helping to end what historian, Kenneth Stampp called, "the peculiar institution." This is a fascinating part of American history about which far too many Americans don't know enough. Myself included.

While this trip is designed to enhance my own education, I hope to share it beyond this blog. Therefore, I shall be pursuing outlets for publishing an article on local history by me, the two-wheeled historian. While I have some publications in mind, if any of you have any ideas, send them my way. To be continued...

(The pictures--BMW F800ST--she will be home soon)

Thursday, May 8

Moraine Hills State Park 118 miles day trip

Only by being able to cross state lines could Sunday, May 4, 2008 have been more perfect. At this time of year, Chicago's weather is schizophrenic with daily fluctuations that can range from an eighty degrees F high to a thirty-eight degree F low. A twenty degree drop in temps can occur in a couple of hours. Regardless of the weather's showboating, however, my involuntary servitude (aka my job) restricts me to Saturday and Sunday as the only days I can enjoy long rides. Other than public transportation, the 'cycle is now my only vehicle. Although I enjoy the daily jaunts via motorcycle, such events rarely extend beyond a 25 miles radius.

Thirty-eight degrees awaited me early Sunday morn. By 10:30 it had warmed to the mid-forties. Not wanting to wait much longer, I left but not before adding the fleece lining to my Kilimanjaro jacket. The individual who gassed up before me put $75 in their tank, which made it a little easier to swallow the $11 I put in Queenie's belly. I remember when I could barely squeeze in $6.00! After gassing up, I aimed for the highway. Even with the chin curtain on my Nolan helmet in place, the cold hovering around my neck made me remember that I had a neckerchief purchased for such occasions nicely tucked inside a drawer at home.

My ride objective? Another state park. People laugh when I tell them that the Midwest is not entirely flat. Glaciers covered significant parts of this area and the ecological history of this is not difficult to find. Parks with names like Kettle Moraine, Buffalo Rock, Volo Bog result from melting glaciers. Evidence of glaciation is omnipresent. You can see it in the deep ground indentations, bluffs and cliffs, the undulating landscape and varied debris (e.g., boulders, stones,) left by glacier activity.
I experienced this glacial history firsthand along sections of the east - west Illinois Rt. 176. This route is long, winding and twisty in all the right places. Rt. 176 is a blast to ride except for a few spots where gravel edges the road and requires one to pay close attention to speed when entering corners, and where the speed limit drops to 30mph as one moves through small towns like Volo (where the Volo Auto Museum exists) and Ivanhoe, IL.

At one point, somewhere near Libertyville, I spotted many motorcyclists, which didn't surprise me given the promises for a beautiful day. After seeing the umpteenth biker, however, I became curious about what might be transpiring in the area. A little later, I passed a throng of 'cyclists milling about a huge lot. I figured a rally was nearby. Later that night, while listening to the news, I learned that the swarm was a bunch of livid 'cyclists who had learned that a planned Bike Show at the fairgrounds, that had anticipated 40,000 bikers, had been canceled, which the bikers discovered when they showed up.

The temps steadily warmed and by the time I reached my destination, Moraine Hills State Park, I was more than ready to rid my gear, don the hiking clothes and hit the trails. The ride there was only about 60 miles; still, I need to remember that if I'm going to ride and hike, I need to plan better, like packing a decent lunch. The banana and bag of gorp I grabbed on my way out, ended up being rather insufficient. I hiked approximately 7 miles along beautiful trails. By the time I finished, I could feel my quads tingling and my stomach growling.

Moraine Hills is a magnificent park. It's well marked, offering both paved and unpaved trails. The landscape is gorgeous and the viewing platforms are welcomed rest spots even if you don't always see much wildlife. These are the kind of viewing areas that if time permits, one can sit and wait in the rustic open air cabin--for the wildlife will come eventually. At one point on the trail, and less than ten feet ahead of me, a deer sprinted across my path and darted to the security of a patch of dense woods. It stood and looked back at me as if checking out the animal world's equivalent of wildlife. We both stood still for the longest. I quietly readied the camera and waited, hoping to get a great picture but never did. (See third photo from the top--look closely)

Many animals call Moraine Hills home: the red fox, turtles, birds--birds galore--more than 100 species have been identified. I observed egrets, blue and green herons, red-winged black birds. I'm a novice when it comes to capturing good, clear images of birds, particularly birds in flight. I swear, this one bird, a giant egret, showed off for me. This is a vast, popular park but one can feel alone there (in a good way). I was alone when I first spotted this bird. I saw the shadow of something fly over head, it looked like a plane with a breath-taking expanse of wings! Yet, there was silence. I looked up and saw this giant white bird that I suspected was either a pelican or egret. I watched it fly and it soon became clear to me that this bird was performing, practicing magnificent aerial tricks. I aimed my camera at the bird, it flew high and low, dipping and diving and carving huge sweeping circles. It never strayed far from me and when I wasn't stunned to stillness and just staring at it, I actually tripped the shutter a few times. I now have an embarrassing number of egret pics--I just couldn't help myself.

Those lovely little red-winged Blackbirds fascinated me. True to their classification as perching birds, they love clinging on the tall grasses and swinging in the wind. They are funny little birds that seem to entertain themselves rather easily by singing up a storm. Moraine Hills is also home to many migratory waterfowl, including mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese. One area had a ton of turtles, sunning themselves on downed tree limbs.

My 7ish miles of hiking, didn't cover the whole park so I'll surely return to the area. I missed some of the marshy areas and I totally missed Leatherleaf Bog, which is said to be extraordinary evidence of kettle-moraine topography, which is a "depression" caused by a solitary block of glacial ice melting. According to the Moraine Hills State Park pamphlet, "The bog itself consists of a floating mat of sphagnum moss and leatherleaf surrounded by a moat of water." This bog is protected by law and this nature preserve cannot be disturbed by humans.

Following the park map, I was able to navigate myself back to the Kettle Woods where I began my hike. It is just beyond Pike Marsh, another great trail that connects with other trails. After reaching the bike, slipping on my overpants, changing shoes, checking the GPS, and firing up Queenie, I realized that the screaming in my gut was hunger. About fifteen miles later I stopped at a place I detest and rarely support but my bladder was then begging for its own nature call. While at McDonald's, I had a $1.79 fruit "salad," that was the only thing I dared try. It's hard to complain about something so cheap and not half bad. It hit the spot, let's say. I remounted the bike and zipped home in no time.

Ride total: 118 miles
Trip fun scale: 1 out of 10= 8

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?