Thursday, December 4

Get Your own ride!: Triumph Sprint ST or BMW F800ST?

Re-entry rider, Dave has now, after only one season of riding the Suzuki SV650, turned his attention to dedicated tourers. I'm glad he's thinking of a ride he will select and that he doesn't feel obligated to hang on to the SV650. I can understand why he'd want to select his own ride. Riding styles and tastes and comfort levels are subjective. Still. I'm going to hate seeing the SV650, aka "Queenie," go and unless I can come up with a good reason to keep her in the family, I think she'll be putting a smile on a new owner's face come next riding season. It's a shame 'cause that little bullet-proof bike has it all. It's a naked, standard bike that thinks it's a sportbike. It's like owning a fun, frisky pony but without poop to clean up. 

Dave has found that the SV, while a "great" bike on which he has already put about 2000 miles, is not perfectly set up for him. He feels it vibrates too much, which contributes to prematurely tired and achy hands. I never felt any such vibration. He's tried to loosen his grip, wear different gloves, but his problem persists. I suggested those foamy grips that slip on the handlebars but so far he's not tried those.A new bike is in order because he's now figured out the kind of riding he wants to do. Used to be that a bike did whatever you asked of it; just point it in the direction you wanted to go and there you went! Specialization is ubiquitous--no area of our lives have escaped the joys--and curse--of specialization.  A month ago it seemed as if he were leaning more toward gravel and back roads riding. I suggested the V-Strom or the new BMW F650GS or 800GS. That changed with is his historical interest in roads like Rt. 66, Lincoln Highway (Rt. 30) Dixie Highway and Rt 1 and desire for long distances with an emphasis on comfort. He wants an out of the box ride-ready bike, not one he'll have to invest extra monies to get tour ready.  So, his move to the sport tourer has evolved rather naturally. 

The December issue of Road Runner has an article on the Triumph Sprint ST and one ride story taken on Moto Guzzi's Norge. While Dave likes both, each is heavier than ideal for him as are other sports tourers such as Yamaha's FJR, Kawasaki's Concours, and Honda's VFR.  Dave doesn't want a bike too much over 500lbs wet. This reduces his choices considerably. The Triumph is almost too heavy but doable. He likes the matching hard bags that are standard on the bike, the ABS, the gel seat, and its technical, performance features. If he could get the Sprint ST in red, or a nice blue one, he's be ready to sign his name. But dealer distance, resell value, insurance costs and maintenance issues need to be weighed first.

A serious contender must be the BMW F800ST, my bike--and I don't even like matching couple stuff! I'm recommending it nonetheless. I know he'd love the bike.  I offered him several opportunities to sit on it (not ride it) and he always said, "I'll try it later." Now he regrets that. When the new bike itch starts pestering you, one of your life's goals it seems is being able to sit on as many two wheel motorized vehicles as possible. Until the spring, I am bikeless. I'm rooting for him that he finds a bike he loves and one that he feels he HAS selected entirely on his own and not one that he's settled for because of inheritance. Honestly, I had ulterior motives about him taking over the SV.
I remember reading on a woman's oriented motorcycle forum about a woman who wanted to get into motorcycling, which initially thrilled her motorcycle riding spouse. He used this as an opportunity (she didn't say this directly, but it was there between the lines) to buy himself a new bike because he would kindly give her his bike. Well...his bike didn't fit her! It was some behemoth HD and not only did it not fit, she didn't like the dang thing!  She had her heart set on some cute small displacement bikes that she thought would suit her well.  To her, the HD  was too big, too intimidating, and too manly looking.  When she mounted it, it generated instant fear, which is no way to build confidence as a rider.  Her husband also didn't think she needed the MSF course, he said, "If I can't teach you, no one can." Well, it ended up being a disaster for the woman. She hated the bike and dropped it repeatedly, which did not sit well with her husband, who continued to push her and yell at her to adjust to the weight, even telling her she'd "grow" into the bike. His reasoning was that she could flatfoot the bike so it was a perfect fit. The woman deserves a purple heart for tolerating such utter nonsense!  

The woman decided to abandon her riding. She gave up, which her confused husband didn't seem to understand why. Some of us suggested she take her desire to ride into her own hands and not rely on her husband to teach her, pointing out that she would be best taught by someone who is certified to teach motorcycle safety skills, someone who would not yell at her, and would patiently help her build confidence. Where she lives, the price for MSF is rather hefty. We suggested she save the money and take the course. We encouraged her to start anew the following season.  I wanted to tell her to unload more than that heavy bike, but I kept this to myself.  She could pay for the MSF class and get a small displacement bike to build skills and confidence on rather than believe her husband about "growing" into a bike. Some encouraged her to talk to her husband and try to get him to agree with her plans. Although I didn't share this with anyone, that recommendation would have not been on my list of things to do--he sounded beyond help--but that's just me. I truly believe in the emancipation proclamation about freedom.  The point of this tale?The SV650 was my bike. Dave inherited it from me and has enjoyed it immensely for many miles. As much as I'd like to keep the bike, he needs and deserves to get his own ride, one that he researches, one that whispers his name when he sits on it. I almost hope he doesn't get the BMW F800ST. I'd always feel a tad goofy having identical bikes--but I'd get over it if he decides to join the BMW F800 family. The  '09 F800ST comes in new colors so we won't match there--and, as I remind him, I'm a solo rider. It's not like we'll be together all the time.

I wish him well as he continues his quest. I'm preparing myself for truly letting go of the SV650, which shouldn't be terribly difficult...I've been surprising myself a lot lately on what I can get through...


David E.B. Smith said...

You might want to rethink crossing the V-Strom off your list. There are a whole bunch of people in the long-distance riding world using V-Stroms as serious sport-tourers. The 650 version (aka WeeStrom) is light, has usable power, and can be had with ABS, which is a huge benefit for all-weather touring. It's not a real off-road bike, but it's enough of a dual sport that it can handle gravel roads he might find or Chicago potholes (which sometimes approximate unpaved roads).

My current bike is an R1100RT with 166K miles on it. I'm riding it 'til it drops, but when it does, I would love to move to something lighter and nimbler. I would have to say that right now, the WeeStrom would be high on my list, along with the F800ST, the F800GS, maybe the FJR1300. In that group, the WeeStrom is a huge value. You can customize the crap out of it and still spend less than you would on a BMW (sadly). A custom seat, some nice metal bags, a big windshield, crash bars and highway pegs, you have quite a capable sport-tourer.

Unknown said...

I second the opinion of reconsidering the V-strom DL650. The dealer can install hard side/top cases for you. This would expand your horizons by including those gravel roads. It is truly an adventure bike at a much lower cost than a 650GS, but if vibration is a problem then you would have to ride one first, as they share the same engine with the SV. I also have an SV650n which has the 'standard' height handle bars and I don't really feel any vibration. Lots of low end torque and smooth (to me anyway), but I find that the riding position is just too confining. I think the rear pegs are just a little too close.

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

DavidEBSmith, Thanks for your insights on this. I too like the "WeeStrom" but Dave has more of the problem that I had a little height. I know that he can get a lowering kit for the bike but he's not open (at this point) to doing this if another bike is out there that will fit better. He is inseam challenged so out of the box, the bike is too tall for him. I'm shorting than he is but I have a longer inseam and the bike is too tall for me. I'm hoping that at the Feb CycleWorld show he'll get to sit on one and ask a lot of questions of the dealer. In the meantime, I'm sending him adventure stories of others who have embraced this bike. Thanks again!

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Thanks bobskoot, I'm going to continue to make a case for the DL650--I think that if Dave has to do too much modifying to get the bike to fit him, it will not be among this choices--unfortunatly. As I stated to DavidEBSmith, my Dave has a short inseam and would need to have the bike lowered. He hasn't yet looked into seat options to see if that will take care of this concern. It's sounding more and more to me that he's leaning or wanting a more "ready-to-ride" bike--at least at this early stage of his research.

It's hard here to get test rides on bikes other than BMWs? I'm not sure what that is the case...

BTW, what do you mean that your pegs on the SV are "too close"? I noticed that one major difference between my F800ST and the SV pegs is that the ST has a more relaxed bent to my leg, whereas the tuck of the leg on the SV is tighter. That begins to take a toll on me (leg fatigue) after 300 miles or so. I don't experience this on the ST because the leg to peg is more relaxed. What do you mean?

David E.B. Smith said...

How short is his inseam? I have a friend who's a pretty small guy - maybe 5'6" - and he rides a WeeStrom very well - he's done the Iron Butt Rally twice on it.

Another trick for the inseam-challenged is a custom seat. My RT seat is by Rick Mayer and I had him trim the front part of the seat so it's a little narrower which makes it easier to reach the ground.

He should definitely check on the bike show in February and sit on everything. Remember that the bikes that they have up on the center stand are a little bit taller than they would be in real life - the BMW people at the show seem to like to put their already-tall bikes up on the center stands.

Not much point in bike shopping now, anyway. It would just get him all excited to have a brand new bike sitting in the dealers warehouse while he's waiting for the ice and snow and salt to disappear from the roads.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

You know how I like DUA bikes.

Deutschland uber alles.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...


His inseam is about 29 inches. He has, in the last few days, become increasingly interested in the DL after reading D.Brent Miller's fabulous 5000 miles review of it. We're looking forward to the CycleWorld show so that he can check it out. Between a lower kit and/or lowered seat, he should be able to transform the bike into something that fits him. Bottomline: it's his decision. He doesn't like the fact that the ABS version of the bike has the dullest colors! Thanks, I will pass along your suggestions.

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Jack, I definitely know your bent...thanks!