lunes, 1 de julio de 2013

RideApart Review: 2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure

Take one of the most popular middleweight adventure bikes on the market and maximize its long distance comfort, dirt safety and crashability. Voila, you have the 2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure. We just rode it through the Colorado and Utah backcountry.

Photos: Jonathan Beck and Kevin Wing

What’s New

To the current BMW F 800 GS, BMW has added a host of accessories and upgrades, but hasn’t altered the basic package. The 85bhp, 61lb-ft, 798cc parallel-twin is unaltered, as are the unadjustable, 43mm, upside down forks and the fully-adjustable monoshock. Suspension travel remains 9.1 inches (front) and 8.5 (rear).

The biggest upgrade is probably the new fuel tank, which increases capacity from 4.2 to 6.3 gallons, thereby improving the range from around 248 to 347 miles. Riders who like covering big miles in as little time as possible, or who simply enjoy exploring a long way from the nearest gas station will find that 40 percent improvement incredibly useful.

Complimenting that increased distance between fuel stops is a new, much larger windscreen that totally shields the rider’s upper body from wind and a taller, more comfortable seat that increases in height to 35 inches.

Off-road comfort is boosted by wider, Enduro-style foot pegs with removable rubber inserts and a clever little fold-down “pad” that increases rear brake lever height to suit stand-up ergonomics.

Larger plastic bodywork around the radiator serves double duty, shielding the rider’s legs from weather while also protecting the radiator from damage in off-road tumbles.

There’s also beefy engine protection bars at the front and a standard luggage rack at the rear which is also designed to protect the fuel tank. The subframe is made stronger to accommodate the additional weight of the larger fuel tank and to better resist crash damage. A standard luggage rack is mounted to the rear.

Hand guards round out the package. They’re strong and provide excellent protection from weather, but are made from plastic without aluminum or steel reinforcement.

ABS is included as standard and can be switched off, but upgrade to the optional “Enduro” package and you gain an “Enduro” mode which is designed to work in the dirt as well as traction control with the same setting.

You can also add heated grips, a trip computer, a center stand, LED fog lights and electronic suspension adjustment designed to make adding a pillion or luggage simply a case of hitting a couple buttons.

The bike we rode was equipped with all the above, with the exception of ESA.

The Ride

Departing Moab, Utah, we embarked on a 175-mile loop through the desert and mountains, crossing into Colorado where we exceeded 10,000 feet in elevation.

Roughly two-thirds of that was on dirt fire roads and trails which varied from hard-pack to sections of deep, loose sand with large rocks thrown in for some added fun.

On road, we cruised down deserted desert highways, dragged peg up smooth mountain switchbacks and spent a fair amount of time on crumbled, poorly maintained roads of the kind you’d expect to find in the middle of nowhere.

The first half of the day was the most challenging as we climbed out of the Colorado River valley and up into the mountains through all that deep sand. I’d put myself into “Enduro” mode for both the ABS and Traction Control (which BMW calls “ESC”), which is simply a case of hitting a “mode” button on the handlebars. That backs off intervention levels for both systems, allowing a little bit of slide under power or when hitting the brakes.

The bikes were fitted with Continental TKC80 tires, our choice when taking big, heavy bikes like these off-road, and a tire we have a ton of experience with.

The first problem with ABS occurred while entering a tight, 1st gear, downhill hairpin. I approached it with a fair amount of speed, figuring I’d lean on the brakes to shed speed at the last minute. When I did, the steepness of the descent combined with the loose surface to leave the ABS cutting brake power rather than delivering the controlled slide I’d been hoping for. No big deal, there was run off area which I was able to use.

The first problem with ESC occurred while tackling a steep, uphill, 1st gear corner covered in the aforementioned deep sand strewn with large rocks. I’d had to come to a stop on the uphill approach while another journalist struggled with a downed bike, then tackle the climb from a standing start. With TC in Enduro mode, the engine was cutting power and stalling as the bike and I tried to plug through the difficult terrain at a walking pace. Turning it off allowed wheel spin, but this is precisely the kind of situation in which ESC could have been a big help, delivering drive rather than just showering those behind me in sand and rocks.

Both ESC and ABS can be switched off very easily, at the push of a button.

That stalling was compounded by a too-tall 1st gear and an absence of torque in the parallel-twin’s very low rev range. Plenty of clutch slip was necessary anytime you dipped below 15mph. Combined with the F800GS’s high center of gravity and 505lbs (wet) weight, this made negotiating low-speed obstacles very challenging. Most of the journalists, BMW staff and even the experienced guides along for the ride dumped the bike at some point; many through low speed stuff like the corner described above.

I managed the very slow stuff without a topple, largely thanks to my atypical 34-inch inseam. The 35-inch seat height was about as tall as I could still manage to dab a foot or even paddle the bike over some terrain. Shorter riders, or those in a lower state of physical fitness weren’t so lucky.

My crash came not while trying to nurse the GS up a steep hill or over a difficult obstacle, but while negotiating a section of deep, loose sand in first gear. With ESC switched off from the previous climb, the rear wheel stepped out through a rut and the subsequent bar turn caused me to twist the throttle unintentionally. I hit the ground at about 25mph with no damage to myself and only a bent shift lever on the bike.

If anything, the difficult conditions highlighted how crash-worthy the Adventure’s upgrades make the bike. With virtually every one of the machines hitting the ground at some point, including a 30mph-ish slide off a small cliff for one of them, the only damage to any of them amounted to not much more than scuffed plastics. The guy that went over the cliff did have to spend the rest of the day riding with bent handlebars though.

My biggest problem wasn’t with electronic intervention though. It was with the problem those rider aids were tasked to help with. Throughout the day I was unable to find much confidence — or grip — from the front end. I chalked that up to a couple reasons: Like most other ADV bikes, the GS is equipped with a road-style seat that doesn’t allow you to put your weight terribly far forward. Those 6.2 gallons of gas (and we rode with full tanks all day, even topping up at lunch) aren’t carried above the engine either, but under the seat, very far to the rear. That decision was made to lower the GS’s center of gravity, but while it does to that, it also puts 38lbs that could have been useful for planting the front wheel over the rear wheel instead. The 800’s fairly limited, unadjustable forks probably also have something to do with it, as does the engine’s position, which places the radiator between wheel and motor. The Yamaha SuperTenere, which uses side-mount radiators to bring the engine as close to the front wheel as possible, has a hugely confidence-inspiring front end, which is saying something on a bike that weighs 636lbs (wet).

Disappointed by this, I asked other journalists along on the launch if they were experiencing the same thing. Half of those I asked said “yes” and half “no.” Later, following the day’s riding, one of them thought to check the tire pressures. We’d been told the BMW-prepped bikes were aired down to suit the terrain, but he found his front pressure set at 36psi instead of the 17 or 18 range I’d have thought more appropriate. By then, I’d lost track of my bike and was unable to check the settings.

It’s possible some of the bikes we rode that day were improperly set up, including mine, so we’ll reserve criticism for when we’re able to spend more time on the bike.

Throughout the afternoon’s less challenging terrain and on the road, the GS did a much better job of living up to its reputation as one of the more capable adventure bikes. Compared to the slightly-heavier R 1200 GS, it remains easier and faster off-road and nearly as comfortable on it.

The new, taller screen does an excellent job of deflecting the wind; the airflow cleared my shoulders completely while leaving my helmet in a buffet-free zone of undisturbed air. The taller seat proved comfortable on our longest on-road section (35 miles or so) and the wider footpegs (with rubber inserts removed) do an excellent job of gripping your boots, but could be made wider still to make standing for hours at a time more comfortable.

At 6’ 2” tall, the stock ergonomics were just slightly too short for totally comfortable standing, but that could be fixed very easily, with moderately taller bars.

All in, the Adventure upgrades are very useful and expand the capability of the bike.

What’s Good

Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Nearly every one of the 25 or so bikes along for the ride took a spill, yet none experienced any significant damage.

Nearly 350 miles out of a tank (on the road), is hugely useful, particularly when riding in out of the way places, as ADV bikes are designed to do.

The new seat is all-day comfortable, if a little tall for some riders.

The clutch is light, linear and feelful. Good, because you’ll be using it a lot off-road.

The tall screen does an excellent job of redirecting the wind without buffeting the rider.

The little pad that folds down to effectively raise the brake pedal is extremely clever and useful, indicative of BMW’s rider-centric approach to designing these motorcycles.

Lighter and faster off-road than its R 1200 GS stablemate.

What’s Bad

Even in “Enduro” mode the ABS intervenes too soon.

Even in “Enduro” mode, ESC hampers more than it helps.

The front end could possibly lack feel and grip, something we’ll take a deeper look at soon.

Stock ergonomics are somewhat limited for the very tall.

The motor lacks low-end torque and is geared too tall for off-road use. Fitting a smaller front sprocket would resolve that problem, but make the 800 buzzy at highway speeds. The change should really be made in the gearbox, by BMW.

Stock tires aren’t off-road capable.

Remains heavy, with an high center of gravity, despite BMW’s efforts to address this.

The Price

The F 800 GS Adventure isn’t cheap. Theoretically, you can buy a base model from dealers for $13,550. You’ll need to custom order that bike however, because all models destined for US dealers are fitted with the “Premium” package, taking MSRP up to $14,350. If you want the LED fog lights and Electronic Suspension Adjustment, the “Fully Loaded” packaged takes the price up to $14,995.

The Triumph Tiger 800 XC is smoother and faster on the road and costs just $11,999. The much more capable (and lighter) KTM 990 Adventure costs nearly the same as a fully-loaded F 800 GS at $14,999. BMW’s own R 1200 GS starts at $15,800.

The lighter and less powerful Honda NC700X is just $7,500, but has a better front end, much lower center of gravity and extremely useful low-end torque. It’d be our choice if we were looking to get into ADV riding for the first time and would have been easier to ride and more confidence inspiring than the F 800 GS in these conditions, when fitted with the same TKC80 tires.

The Verdict

The upgrades from “regular” F 800 GS to this Adventure model are genuinely useful, expanding the bike’s capability, comfort and crashability. Unfortunately for what’s supposed to be the most dirt-capable bike in BMW’s lineup, it’s limited off-road by its lack of low-down torque and, potentially, by a vague front end.

RideApart Rating: 7/10


Helmet: AGV AX-8 Dual Evo Tour ($450, Highly Recommended)

Jacket: Dainese Teren ($600, Highly Recommended)

Pants: Dainese Teren ($400, Highly Recommended)

Boots: Dainese Carroarmoto ($360, Highly Recommended)

Gloves: Racer Mickey ($116, Highly Recommended)

Armor Shorts: Dainese Norsorex ($100, Highly Recommended)

Armor Vest: Dainese Norsorex ($120, Highly Recommended)

Back Protector: Alpinestars Bionic Air ($140, Highly Recommended)

The bag that fit all the above, plus laptop and clothes in carry-on: Maxpedition Fliegerduffel Adventure Bag, Black ($170, Highly Recommended)

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The 5 Best Motorcycle Roads In America

The bikers at BikeBandit have assembled this list of the five best roads in America, complete with maps and weather data. What are you waiting for? Get out and ride them.

The post The 5 Best Motorcycle Roads In America appeared first on RideApart.

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viernes, 28 de junio de 2013

RideApart Review: Honda Pioneer 700-4

This new Honda Pioneer 700-4 Side-by-Side isn’t just a utility vehicle and isn’t just a sports model. Instead, it aims to combine work with play in a package that instantly transforms from a two-passenger with bed to a true four-passenger vehicle.

Photos: Kevin Wing

What’s New

The Pioneer replaces the Big Red in Honda’s line up, bringing more capability to a lower price point.

Big Red was a two-seat utility SxS, retailing for $11,699. The two-seat Pioneer starts at $9,999 and the four-passenger convertible model seen here retails for $11,699.

The Big Red to Pioneer 700-4 story is about much more than just some extra seats though. With it, Honda wanted to create a SxS that could handle both work and play. The bed, which can raise at the front to dump its load out the rear can carry the same 1,000lbs payload as Big Red and both vehicles use the same 675cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-cylinder motor and three-speed, torque-converter, automatic transmission. But, the similarities end there.

The Pioneer is equipped with independent suspension front and rear with 7.9 inches of travel at the front and 9.1 at the rear. In an effort to keep the price down, no power steering is fitted, with Honda saying that the combination of front suspension geometry with a new, 8-inch front tire should keep steering light.

The mid-mounted engine drives the rear wheels through a non-differential rear end in default, Two-Wheel Drive mode, directing power to the front in 4WD or locking the front differential when “4WD Diff Lock” is selected. There’s no low-range transfer case or hill descent control, but the low gearing and sensitive brakes are able to walk you down steep hills in complete confidence.

The automatic transmission is equipped with three forward speeds and a reverse, as well as programming that allows it to detect rider input and adjust itself automatically between “sport” and “cruise” modes, with the former kicking down noticeably sooner and holding onto gears longer and the latter delivering a much more relaxed ride.

The Pioneer is also equipped with a car-style parking brake that makes deactivating it while parked on a hill simple and easy. Some other Side-by-Sides require rocking the vehicle to remove pressure from the mechanism before it will release. Honda is targeting user friendliness in nearly every aspect of this vehicle.

The company is also serious about safety. Unclip the standard safety net, reach inside to unlatch the standard door, climb through the heavy-duty roll cage and clip yourself into the three-point safety belt and you’ll find the Pioneer’s cabin spacious and comfortable, if extremely utilitarian. The only potential problem with ergonomics comes from the unadjustable steering wheel, which may get in the way of very large riders’ beer bellies.

Believe it or not, but the rear seats are even more comfy. Fold the backrest up and the cushion down — which takes about 15 seconds — and the tilt bed locks in place. Rear seat passengers also get doors, safety nets and three-point belts, but also more leg room than is available in the front seat. Even at 6’ 2” tall, with a 34-inch inseam, I was able to ride back there in complete comfort, with inches between my knee and the front seats. Rear seat passengers are also treated to a plusher ride thanks to the rear suspension’s longer travel.

The Ride

We flew out to South Carolina to visit Honda’s Timmonsville production facility for the Pioneer’s line-off ceremony, then spent the afternoon honing the Pioneer around Honda’s own test trails.

The Pioneer is assembled at that plant, with the only major part coming from Japan being the 675cc motor. The new production line for this model represents an additional $27 million investment and 65 new jobs at the 535,000 square foot facility which already employs 650 people. The plant produces up to 100,000 ATVs and Side-by-Sides annually, for both domestic consumption and export.

The Pioneer and other models are designed and developed in America with validation testing taking place in the swampy woods behind the factory. There, trails snake tightly between trees, through mud and water, over rocks and downed trees and up and down steep hills.

I don’t have a ton of experience piloting these types of vehicles, but the Honda provided an easy learning curve, delivering power slides and jumps after just a few minutes inside that black-plastic cockpit.

The least experienced journalist there, I also put the Honda through tougher tests, discovering obstacles that challenged the Pioneer’s full ability to deal with idiot operators. Because of that lack of experience, I didn’t know when simply pointing the vehicle at an obstacle and flooring the throttle would be a bad idea, so made that my default approach. Everything I could throw at the Pioneer — from hitting logs at 25mph, to dragging the frame over berms, to clipping a tree at speed with the front wheel, to achieving full suspension articulation through an obstacle course to landing a jump on the front nerf bar — was handled by the Pioneer with total assurance. At no point did it ever feel as if it was about to tip or roll and at no point did it experience any lasting effects from the abuse, at least none that couldn’t be resolved with a pressure washer.

That included tackling a swampy water crossing of unknown depth. Turned out it was deep enough to flood the front floorboards with an inch or so of water, but with that front differential locked, it just crawled through the sticky mud and deep water and out the other side. The Pioneers airbox is located in the cabin, to the rear of the mid-mounted engine, meaning you’d have to really sink this thing to flood the engine. Another clever trick when getting muddy comes from the rear seats which, when closed, seal out mud and water to keep themselves clean.

On a straight stretch of gravel road, I reached the Pioneer’s indicated top speed of 43mph and, once the transmission detected that I’d backed off the throttle, was able to cruise comfortably at 40mph, with the suspension just soaking up any bumps and the vehicle tracking true with good straight line stability.

Hooning the Pioneer actually turned out to be much more fun that I’d expected, this is an extremely capable, fun vehicle.

Photo: Guido Ebert

What’s Good

Even loaded down with three big dudes and the fourth seat full of camera gear, performance and handling remained unaffected.

The transmission delivers aggressive downshifts and holds upshifts to the rev limiter while hustling the Pioneer, but quickly and seamlessly transitions to relaxed, easy-going cruise mode once you back off.

Stability both in a straight line and while tackling significant obstacles is impressively secure.

Handling is light and fun; the Pioneer is an easy vehicle to throw around tight trails, belying its four-passenger capability.

The convertible seats delivery impressive versatility. In two passenger configuration, you can haul 1,000lbs of dirt like a dump truck; with three passengers aboard there’s still room for a full-size cooler in the bed, next to the rear seat; with four passengers aboard everyone is seated in spacious comfort without impacting performance or handling.

Those seats couldn’t be quicker or simpler to put up or down either and lock out dirt and water when closed.

A mechanical lock prevents bed tipping when the rear seats are raised.

Safety is high thanks to that beefy roll cage, three-point belts and the standard safety nets.

The Pioneer is capable of tackling anything even an idiot operator can throw at it while remaining easy to use and fun.

Despite the two extra seats, the Pioneer weighs 37lbs less than Big Red.

Photo: Guido Ebert

What’s Bad

On-board storage areas are limited to four cupholders and a very small, non-lockable glove box.

While performing very tight, three-point turns, the lack of power steering does require some significant effort.

The Price

The Pioneer is actually fairly unique in the market given its ability to serve as a four-passenger recreational vehicle or two-passenger utility vehicle. The new Yamaha Viking can only seat three, only haul 600lbs in its bed, but starting at $12,499 costs more. The Polaris Ranger 800 is a little more powerful and can tow and haul a little more weight, but doesn’t have the ability to carry four passengers while, at $11,399, coming in significantly more expensive than the 2P Pioneer. The John Deere Gator RSX850i is much more expensive at $12,999 and is more powerful than the Pioneer, but again lacks the ability to carry four and haul less weight in its bed.

$9,999 for the 2P Pioneer and $11,699 for the 4P makes the Pioneer something of a bargain.

The Verdict

Delivering two extra seats in a package that’s lighter and more fun than Big Red, without sacrificing any of that model’s work capability, all at the same price, is a master stroke for Honda. The Pioneer isn’t a focused sports model, instead it’s a fun, versatile, useful vehicle that should expand the Side-by-Side appeal to the largest possible audience. One vehicle that can work and play while carrying up to four people.

RideApart Rating: 9/10


Helmet: Bell Moto-9 ($324, Highly Recommended)

Goggles: Oakley Crowbar ($80, Worth Considering)

Glove: Racer Mickey ($116, Highly Recommended)

The post RideApart Review: Honda Pioneer 700-4 appeared first on RideApart.

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martes, 25 de junio de 2013

23 Things You Never Knew About Motorcycles

There is it seems some debate as to what was the first ever motorcycle made. Some think it was the coal-powered SH Roper from 1869, while others say the first proper motorcycle was Gottlieb Daimler’s wooden-framed gasoline engine version of 1885.

I’m a sucker for trivia and useless information so I attempted to do some research with books and the internet about this but instead found myself lost in a myriad of weird facts and stories about motorcycles that took on a life all of it own.

Here’s a little of some of the more diverse things that I discovered and whilst some of you may already be aware of these I was genuinely surprised about some of the thing I learned.

The name Hayabusa, as used by Suzuki, is actually a Peregrine falcon as well as a World War 2 Japanese Kamikaze fighter plane – the Nakajima Ki-43 known more widely as the Zero

Did you know that modern sports bike tires do not contain any actual rubber? The tread of a tire is composed of synthetic rubber, which has been compounded to give a compromise between durability and traction.

The longest distance riding a motorcycle in 24 hours is 2,019.4 miles and was set by American L. Russell “Rusty” Vaughn at the Continental Tire Test Track, Uvalde, Texas, USA, on 10 August 2011.

Vaughn used his own 2010 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Electra-Glide Limited for the attempt and completed 238 laps of the test track and earned himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

I didn’t realize in the world of cinema Steve McQueen’s infamous 65 ft motorcycle jump in the film The Great Escape was actually done by American Triumph dealer Bud Ekins who did it in just one take.

Nor was I aware that in the 1970s TV cop series CHiPS, actors Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada rode Kawasaki Z1000s with BMW fairings and that prior to the show Estrada underwent an intensive eight-week course, to learn how to ride. In 2007 it was revealed that Estrada didn’t actually have a motorcycle license during the time CHiPs was in production, and he only qualified after three attempts, while preparing for an appearance with a motorcycle on a later reality television show.

I tried to find out what happened to the motorcycles used in the 1970s cult film Easy Rider and opinions on web sites range from both bikes being destroyed during filming to actor and Grizzly Adams TV star Dan Hegarty apparently owning one. But there appears to be more Easy Rider motorcycles out there for sale than were ever actually made for the film. So I got no further with this.

Nobody it seems knows either what exactly happened to Marlon Brando’s Triumph 650 Thunderbird motorcycle from the film ‘The Wild One’. Some people claimed that it was Brando’s own motorcycle that he agreed to ride on the set. Thereafter the trail goes cold. Surprisingly Johnson Motors, which imported Triumph to the USA, was at the time very unhappy about the Triumph logos being seen on Brando’s bike and asked unsuccessfully for them to be taken off the gas tank when filming started.

The first company that advertised its motorcycle’s top speed of over 100mph was Brough Superior that made the claim for its SS100 in 1924. Considered even today to be innovative and beautifully designed machines, Brough motorcycles were the first to have prop stands, twin headlights, crash bars, interconnected silencers and 1000cc v-twin engines. Every SS100 was road tested (yes on public roads) to check that it could reach 100mph. If it didn’t it was returned to the factory for further work.

Engineering genius and owner of Brough Superior, George Brough, also wrote all of his company’s advertising copy describing his motorcycles as “atmosphere disturbers”.

Some of today’s motorcycle companies are more diverse than you would ever believe. Many started from humble beginnings such as Ducati which was a family-owned firm that opened in Bologna, Italy, in 1935 making parts for radios before building motorized bicycles fitted with a 48cc SIATA engine. By 1950, more than 200,000 of these Ducati ‘Cucciolos’ (Italian for puppy) had been sold and two years later the company started making its own motorcycles and engines.

Aside from making bikes today Kawasaki also manufacturers personal watercraft, ships, electronics, construction equipment tractors, trains, helicopters, jet engines, missiles and space rockets.

While rival Yamaha began life in 1887 as a piano manufacturer but today is a multi-national conglomerate which still produces musical instruments, but also boats, car engines, swimming pools, industrial robots, wheelchairs, RVs, electronics, and golf carts amongst other things and motorcycles.

Suzuki began life at the turn of the 20th Century making weaving looms for Japan’s then burgeoning silk industry. However, company founder Michio Suzuki wanted to diversify his company and began an engineering firm that started making small cars and its own engines during the 1930’s. The first Suzuki motorcycle appeared in 1952 and was really a motorized bicycle called a Power Free. It was fitted with a two-stroke 36cc engine and was unique at the time as it featured a double-sprocket gear system that allowed the rider to either pedal with engine assistance, pedal without the engine or simply disconnect the pedals and use the engine. Today, aside from the production of motorcycles, Suzuki makes cars, marine engines, wheelchairs and is Japan’s second largest manufacturer of small cars and trucks.

In 1946 Honda began selling pushbikes fitted with two-stroke 50cc generator engines originally designed for use with army field telephones. And 46 years later on it launched arguably the most technically complex production motorcycle ever made with the 1992 Honda NR750. The NR boasted oval pistons with two con rods and eight valves per cylinder. Designed initially as a race bike, Honda made 300 road-going versions of the NR available to the public and at the time it was considered one of the most expensive motorcycles you could buy.

There is so much technical information about motorcycles out there that it’s hard to choose one interesting fact over another. But here are a few points that leapt out at me.

The gearshift lever on a motorcycles was invented by Harold Willis, of Velocette Motorcycles, in 1927 prior to that motorcyclists relied on a system of a foot clutch and hand shifter.

In 10,000 miles the average four-cylinder motorcycle engine will have completed 100,000,000 revolutions and it’s estimated that a con-rod of a modern sports bike engine at full revs withstands 10 tons of compression and tensile forces 500 times a second.

BMW was the first manufacturer to patent and use telescopic forks on its R12 in 1932, yet ironically does not use the system on its big bikes today.

And although BMW claims it has been making Boxer twin engines for its bikes since 1923, production actually stopped for a few months in 1986 when the company thought all of its bikes in the future should have triples and four-cylinder engines. Customer demand persuaded BMW to continue with the Boxer and the production line was re-started again.

Recognized around the world as a leader in crash helmets manufacture for both on the race track and road, ARAI was actually a hat making company founded in Japan in 1926 making headgear for the construction industry. Company founder Hirotake Arai was once a motorcycle stunt rider and the company is still privately owned today and run by the third generation of the Arai family.

When I started out on my research to find out precisely the first production motorcycle ever made (which incidentally is purported to be a 1488cc 2.5 hp Hilberand & Wolfmuller built in Germany from 1894–1897) I never envisioned I would get so distracted by the huge amount of facts and figures out there about motorcycles. But I did learn a thing or two.

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Aether Chasing Winter

We’ve been a big fan of Aether’s jackets ever since they came onto our radar. We love any company seeking to push function and aesthetics (no shocker here) and these guys are one of the best. We also love a good riding video as much as anyone else, and they really did this one right.

Aether Chasing Winter from Aether Apparel on Vimeo.

The Trip

The Aether co-founders Jonah Smith and Palmer West set out this past April to chase winter and the last of the snow up into the Rockies. They rode from Telluride, Colorado, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and stopped at every major ski resort along the way. Their motorcycles, BMW GS’s, were specially modified to carry their ski and snowboard gear, including one which was rigged for a side car setup.

They were joined by Raphael Bertolus of Rawhyde Adventures and Davide Berruto of Shelter Half. The whole gang completed the trip wearing Aether gear (in case you were wondering how the gear holds up), specifically the Canyon Motorcycle Jacket, Skyline Motorcycle Jacket, Altitude ski jacket, Apex snow pant, and more from the line.

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lunes, 24 de junio de 2013

The Best Motorcycles For New Riders

Just got your motorcycle license and want to buy your first real bike? Here’s 12 of the best new motorcycles for you. They’ll help you develop skill, save money and have fun.

How To Learn To Ride

Visit your local DMV to obtain a learner’s permit, then sign up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or equivalent class. Depending on which state you live in, that two-day course may serve as your practical exam, but even if it doesn’t, it’s the best possible way to learn.

After that, you’re still going to be extremely…green. It’s probably best to borrow or buy a small, cheap, likely crappy bike and toodle about on that for a few weeks while you get over your new rider nervousness. You’re going to drop a bike a few times during that time, doing so on something crappy is relatively consequence free. Not until you feel you’re riding with confidence, skill and safety is it time to buy something nicer.

Motorcycling isn’t something you just buy into either. Even riders with decades of experience are still trying to improve their skills. Start small and work your way up and you’ll be a better, faster, safer rider who gets much more enjoyment out of doing this than someone who insists on riding a bike that’s too big or too fast and who likely just ends up being terrified the entire time. Riding with skill is cooler than just buying something flashy.

How To Stay Alive

Wear full safety gear; refer to our Beginner’s Guide To Motorcycle Gear for how and why.

Always ride within your skill level, don’t try to keep up with more experienced riders or bite off tougher conditions than you can chew. Go out when there’s little to no traffic, practice in quiet parking lots or on dead-end streets. Allow yourself time to practice.

Buy a copy of Nick Ienatsch’s Sport Riding Techniques, read it through, then go through and pick individual skills to work on one step at a time. Then, go out and practice that individual skill until you’ve mastered it and move on to the next. Seriously, practice, practice, practice. Devote a day a week to just that and, before you know it, you’ll get good at this bike thing.

Chose a bike with ABS brakes. They really will help you stop faster and safer and with more confidence. Especially useful in bad weather or on rough urban streets.

Which Bike Is Right For You?

In America, the bike market is polarized into extremes — extremely large cruisers, extremely fast sport bikes — but there’s actually a happy middle ground of bikes that just sort of do everything well. By starting on on of the bikes listed here in place of something more ridiculous, you’ll be able to gain riding experience on something suitable for learning while developing an informed position from which to decide what style of motorcycling is right for you. With a few miles under your belt, you’ll be in a better position to make that decision in a way that’s good for you rather than simply the product of misinformed mainstream media or bad advice from friends.

Honda CBR250R

A stunningly complete motorcycle, this little Honda will give a new rider everything they want and more. Heck, even experienced riders will enjoy the care-free nature of the thing. Whether you’re commuting through dense urban traffic, learning the skills necessary to go fast, just getting around or looking for fun ride, the CBR250R is easy to ride, faster than you’d think and extremely economical to run. As long as you don’t want to go off-road, you can just skip the rest of the list and get one of these.

CCW Misfit

Chinese production leads to an extremely low price, while Cleveland, Ohio based design and quality control ensure a stylish, reliable ride. Basic in the best possible way, this is a bike you can both learn to ride on and learn to work on at once. A great platform for customization too.

Honda CB500F

This do-it-all naked is upright and comfy and has more than enough power to blast past highway traffic or head for mountain roads to have some fun. Much higher quality than the $5,500 price tag would suggest, the CB500 is everything you want from a motorcycle in one, extremely affordable, economical package.

Honda CBR500R

The fully-faired version of the CB500F is a better choice for those planning lots of highway models or who prefer the sporty styling. Ergonomics remain all-day comfortable and the performance remains accessible. A great tool for learning the skills necessary to become a fast rider.

Honda NC700X

This jack of all trades is one of the most easy-to-ride bikes there is. With an engine based on that of the Honda Fit hatchback, power delivery is torque and the redline low. The payoff is easygoing performance and, at 64mpg, excellent fuel economy. Equally at home loaded down for a cross-country ride as it is on a twisty road, the NC700X is surprisingly good off-road too, where that low center of gravity and ease-of-use make more expensive bikes look positively silly.

Moto Guzzi V7

Why didn’t we include a Triumph Bonneville in this list? Because this Moto Guzzi is 100lbs lighter, has much more character and even a lower seat height. As its designer Miguel Galluzzi says, “The V7 is just a great bike for riding around on.”

Kawasaki Ninja 250

The archetypal learner motorcycle is available cheaply in the used market. Originating all the way back in 1984, it’s certainly not the nicest motorcycle you can buy, but it is cheap, easy and accessible.

Kawsaki Ninja 300

An update to the 250 uses the same basic platform, but the larger engine means more power and the aggressive styling will appeal to riders who eventually want to upgrade to a full-on sport bike.

Suzuki TU250X

This little retro is surprisingly small, making it a great option for riders of smaller stature. It’s not available in California due to emissions regulations, but elsewhere, new riders will find it utterly unintimidating.

Honda CRF250L

Thinking of taking in some fire roads, camping trips or just getting a little dirty? The CRF250L is fun and easy off-road and surprisingly capable on-road too, where it can tackle highways or blitz through traffic jams.

Suzuki DR-Z400SM

Plan mostly on short trips through the city? This supermoto makes traffic and bad roads a breeze while offering an extremely fun ride. The tall seat and commanding riding position offer great vision, too.

Star Bolt

Dead set on the cruiser thing? This is a friendly, stylish, reliable, safe and affordable option. The Bolt has better performance, a plusher ride and is just friendlier and easier to use than equivalent Harleys.

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Surfing In Baja Via Sidecar

Filmed by Scott Toepfer, the guys from Iron & Resin head for Baja, Mexico to surf and skate aboard a Ural sidecar.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Jamie Robinson Interviews Charley Boorman

While visiting the Isle of Man TT, Jamie ran into Long Way Round star Charley Boorman and shoved a camera in his face. Here’s the result.

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A 200bhp Lotus Motorcycle?

A collaboration between a designer of vehicles used in SciFi films and a German car racing team is announcing that it’s developing a new motorcycle to be sold under the “Lotus Motorcycles” brand. Claims of big power and exotic materials abound. Motorcycle fact or motorcycle fiction?

“Lotus Motorcycles was established to design and build the first motorcycle of the iconic car manufacturer,” reads the Facebook post from the new brand. “The bike will be named Lotus C-01 and will be the most impressive appearance on public roads on two wheels. It will reflect a combination of lifestyle, design and high end technology.”

Perhaps tellingly, Lotus Cars does not appear to be involved.

“Lotus Motorcycles is a joint project of Kodewa, car designer Daniel Simon and the Holzer Groups,” reads the Facebook post.

Lotus Cars, which does not appear to be involved in this project in any way beyond the apparently licensed use of its name and logo, is currently in a state of financial turmoil and, according to’s editor, Matt Hardigree, is simply “a great brand with a car company attached.”

Daniel Simon is the guy who designed the Tron Lightcycle. He also lists the Tom Cruise action flick Oblivion and the livery of the new Lotus LMP2 Le Mans racer on his resume. That Le Mans prototype is his connection to German race team Kodewa, which built the LMP2, which finished 49th and 52nd at this weekend’s race. Holzer Groups owns several large German car tuning brands like Rennsport. None of the above appear to have any experience producing or racing motorcycles and the Lotus brand appears to simply be a licensed use rather than a collaboration with the historic English sportscar brand.

“The Lotus C-01 will be a hyper bike with integrated racing technology,” continues the Facebook post. It will be manufactured of materials like carbon, titanium and aerospace quality steel, which are also used in Formula 1. Safety, ergonomics and design are the most important factors the design team has put emphasis on. It will be a state of the art motorbike powered by an approximately 200 horsepower engine.”

The most powerful motorcycle currently in serial production is the Ducati 1199 Panigale R which, when fitted with the included, but not street legal Termignoni exhaust system, produces 202bhp. Ducati has been producing motorcycles since 1926, races in both SBK and MotoGP and is owned by giant auto conglomerate Volkswagen Group, one of the largest companies in the world.

“In the next few weeks, images of Lotus Motorcycles will be released and will give a first insight into what to expect from the new Lotus C-01,” concludes the Facebook post. Until then, we have this rendering of a carbon fuel tank wearing traditional Lotus black-and-gold and that apparently licensed logo. Color us skeptical.

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