Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's Getting on the Chilly Side to be Riding...

Yesterday, I took Burgertime down to my mom's for a piano lesson. It was 38° when I left, about 54° when I arrived. It is a 150 mile round trip ride, mostly on interstates.

Those in the Chicago area will be familiar with I-294; it is the saddest excuse for a tollway ever. It costs four $0.40 tolls each way to use it, yet it is still very bumpy and poorly paved in some areas. Every other state I've ridden toll roads in (Indiana, for example) at least has the decency to make sure the roads are good if they're going to charge you extra to ride on them. This road is under construction every single year. They never finish. I think the people in charge of maintaining it have kickbacks from certain road crews. The road crews then use crappy materials to ensure that they have constant work.

The FJR hasn't been ridden for weeks now. It's got the new rear tire mounted and the wheel's back on and everything. The front wheel is still an old one with only probably about 10% of its tread left. I haven't decided if I'm going to ride on that one some more, just to get some more riding in this season or go ahead & change it.

Kate says snow is forecast for this coming week. We will have to insure the old Civic again, as I may not have the option of riding. Bummer. How will I keep from getting depressed when there is nothing to do outside? I hope the piano lessons will do it.

Fuel economy on BurgerTime is dropping. Partly because this last tank was nearly all interstate at 70+ mph and partly because of the temperature drop, with most of that last tank being in the 40° range. Fuel economy on my last tank was the worst yet - 57 mpg. My running average is still 64 mpg. BurgerTime now has about 2000 miles on him.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

172 mile ride to get coffee

Sounds fun, eh? Believe it or not, this kind of thing is pretty commonplace among my Region 4 Buddies from STn.

The meeting place was Cedarburg, WI, 10 AM. It was 33°F when I left home, so I had to bundle up pretty seriously. I decided to take the back roads there, thinking that not only would it be more scenice, but perhaps less cold because I'd be going 25-65 mph instead of 60-80 mph.

I was wearing: long johns, a T-shirt, a thick fleece sweatshirt, a ski jacket, (it has a full collar and my motorcycle jacket doesn't) ski gloves, riding pants with liner, Gore-Tex Oxtar Matrix boots, and SmartWool socks. It was almost exactly 80 miles there. By the time I got there, it had warmed up to about 46°.

I stopped in the meeting place, Cedarburg Coffee Roastery, but it was packed, and they didn't have any food aside from bagels & pastries. So I went next door and got a sandwich and a tea.
Here's the roastery:

A half hour later, my buds started showing up, right as I was finishing breakfast.

We hung around for about 2 hours before I got bored of not riding and headed for home. Also, the wife wanted some quality time together, so I thought this was a good way to oblige her. Going home, I took the interstate, and was pleased to note that BurgerTime had no objections to maintaining 80 mph for about 70 miles straight. Heading home, I managed 61.6 mpg, in the 60° temperatures.

Here is the thread about this trip. On Page 3 of that thread, I posted some photos of my STn buddies.

On the way home, I realized that I needed a half inch torque wrench to torque the rear axle nut onto the FJR when I put the rear wheel back on. So I stopped in Home Depot, and they relieved me of $167. I did get a few other things; the torque wrench was only $70. It came in a blow-molded case. One surprise was that it also ratchets! The other surprise was how long it is; the case is 28" long, the wrench itself is only a couple inches shorter. It is one of the preset-type torque wrenches. To use it, one sets the torque, in either foot-pounds or Newton-meters, send the direction of the ratchet, and tighten until it clicks. Very nice.

Aside from the torque wrench, I got a Master combination key box, for when Kate or I locks ourself out of the condo or garage. I'll screw this to some piece of wood trim outside. Alos, I picked up I got a bunch of the high efficiency fluorescent bulbs that are a direct replacement for the incandescent bulbs that are so inefficient. They only draw 13 W, yet the put out the same amount of light as the 60 W bulbs they replace. Home Depot finally is carrying some that don't have mercury in them, so I bought two six packs of them. We replaced the vanity bulbs in our bathroom with these, and Kate says these are way too bright for 5 AM. They have some 9 W ones that supposedly put out the same amount of light as a 40 W incandescent bulb, but that's going to have to wait a while. I don't dare venture into the Depot again soon.

I also got a sweet pair of Fiskars utility shears that are titanium-nitride coated. They advertise that they can cut small wires and such. They should come in handy around the house for cutting open those god-forsaken plastic clamshell packages.

I just love this patch. I want to join the police too!

Not a bad turnout, at the coffee meet; I'd guess 20-25 bikes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's raining and I'm happy anyhow...

"How can this be?!" one might ask.

Well, today is the day I decided to remove the rear wheel from the FJR. I was in the (relative) comfort of my garage instead of shaking my fist at the heavens. The tire is worn out, after 7,500 blissful miles, mostly two-up. The tire was an Avon Azaro AV46. It was a dual compound tire, meaning it's softer rubber on the edges and harder in the middle. (good mileage AND handling)

On with the story.

I visited FJRTech and printed up the instructions. After making sure I had all the tools, I printed up the pages on rear wheel removal from the Yamaha service manual. Next, I brought the boombox down to the garage and stoked it up with Mozart's early piano sonatas. The job took two CDs, and I managed to get through the job without beer, and without bleeding. Yikes! I have cursed myself. No mechanical job in the garage is complete until blood is drawn.

I really had fun. I didn't realize how much I've missed getting my hands dirty, and getting intimate with my electro-mechanical fun machines. The key is to have the right tools, and to have plenty of time for the job. By taking one's time, one noticed little things about one's bike that need attention. These things are mostly hazed over by mechanics other than the one who rides the bike. The hardest part was getting the bike on the centerstand on those blocks; I needed Kate's help.

After I get the rear wheel with new tire back on, I'll do the front. Also on the maintenance schedule for this winter is new sparkplugs, change of coolant, check front brake pad wear, and change of oil. (Amsoil 10W-40)
I've found that the shifting action immediately became slicker after I changed to Amsoil synthetic. Also, Amsoil seems to be the only oil company with the guts to admit that you can double your oil change interval by using their oil compared to petroleum-based oils. The other companies are so anxious to sell us more oil that they don't admit it. Their loss. I prefer to support the little businesses whenever possible anyhow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Earplug Usage

Well, it's just about all been said on this thread at BurgmanUSA

You know the difference in the wind noise between wearing a helmet and not when riding? Well, when you wear earplugs, it is like making it that much quieter again.

The Ear Plug Superstore has some great deals. Try the Howard Leight -33 dB models. After about 10 minutes of riding with plugs, you'll not want to go back. Wind noise is attenuated, but after your ears adjust to the newfound quiet, you can still hear everything else just as clearly. As one poster pointed out in the thread linked above, I want to be able to hear my grandchildren.

If this is too much of a commitment, buy a smaller package of them from the local drugstore.

Sorry to seem bossy, but I have this odd vision that maybe one non earplug user will listen, be open-minded, give them a try, and not be deaf, all thanks to me.

It's my weird little way of trying to be a hero. ^_^

Latest Moto-Lust: talk me out of it!

A couple weeks ago, the new Cycle World magazine arrived, with a review of the new Kawasaki KLR650. I am drooling. I have always been kind of fascinated by dual sport bikes. It seems like they do so many things so well:

  1. Tall suspension soaks up potholes without rattling the rider's teeth
  2. Modest torquey engine output makes lots of useful torque, but without so much horsepower that it's hard to stay out of trouble.
  3. Ever been on a nice ride, then have the road suddenly change to dirt or gravel and have to either turn around or continue on scared? No more!
  4. Tall seating position gives the rider a birds-eye view of traffic. Also, if you get hammered by a car, it is more likely to be at knee level instead of chest level. Better to have a wrecked leg than a wrecked ribcage, in my opinion.

The problem is that I just bought a new maxi-scooter, a Suzuki Burgman 400. (see previous posts) There aren't many dirty roads around here, but for some reason, I still lust after a new KLR. I love the scooter, and I also love the FJR. My wife also loves both of them, and we're still paying for both of them. What's a guy to do?

In the back of my mind, I'm considering selling the FJR in favor of the KLR. I'll be much less likely to get speeding tickets, for one thing. Much less likely to go 130 mph for another. (it is soooo tempting on the FJR, since it is so able to do it. Oddly, they seem to get about the same fuel economy. around 45 mpg. How is this possible, when the KLR's engine is half the size and less than half the power of the FJR's? I thought they did quite a bit better than that...

I'm having fantasies of riding on a pohole-stricken stretch of road and smiling the whole way. Of riding through the turn that would be perfect if not for the bumpiness, but not having the bumpiness ruin it for a change.

Sadly, I'm the kind of person who will sit here and stew about it all winter. Ready to jump and do something rash next spring. Talk me out of it fellas. That, or talk me into it such that I won't regret selling the FJR to make it happen. ;)

Well, Burgertime has over 1500 miles on him now. I am still digging it quite a bit. The bike is just so relaxing to ride.

I figure a lot of people may read this blog having other riding experience, and they may wonder what it is like to ride a Burgman 400 compared to their current ride. Luckily, I have had riding experience on a lot of different bikes, so I can give you a good frame of reference here.

Compared to smaller scooters:
My first scooter was a 2006 Honda Metropolitan. It was a great little scooter for around town transportation and even grocery shopping. It handles as easily as a bicycle. Easier in some ways, since the seat is so low and it is a step through.

Compared to the Met, the Burgman is big & bulky. U-turns require much more skill & balance. Swerving the Burgman cannot be accomplished as quickly, so you're more apt to hit potholes on the Burgman. The Burgman's ride is much smoother, due to the larger diameter wheels and longer wheelbase. Comfort wise, the Burgman offers a bit of back support where the smaller scooters do not. Also, the Burgman gives real wind protection. It isn't such a big deal at speeds less than 30 mph, but above that, it is a godsend.

Economy is much worse on the Burgman. On my Metropolitan, I got about 105 mpg. On the Burgman, I get around 63 mpg.

Aside from handling, the main difference is in range. I have access to all roads on the Burgman. I can go out of town, on the expressway. Surprisingly, acceleration from 0-15 mph is similar between the Burgman and the Metro. You see, the Burgman's clutch is spinning up to 15 mph. After 15 mph, the variable pulley system engages on the Burgman and it becomes a LOT quicker.

Lean angle is better on the Burgman, but since the Met had such a short wheelbase, it turned quicker anyway.

Compared to Midsize Scooters:
After I got wanderlust and sold the Metropolitan, I bought a Genuine Scooter Co. Buddy 125. This bike was actually quicker than the Burgman 400 from 0-30 mph. The handling is much more nimble than the Burgman's, but not quite as nimble as the Metro's.

To be honest, I kind of miss this bike. It was a very good mix of around-town useful and fast enough to hit most roads. (all local roads) I still had the occasional car on my tail on the 45-55 mph local roads with this bike, and it was quite tiring to ride more than about 40 minutes on it. The wind just wears you out. Many midsize scooterists will alleviate this problem with a windshield.

The ride on the Burgman is much smoother, and the wind protection is better. In high speed turns, the Burgman is much more stable. When I was leaned over say 45° on the Buddy or Metro and hit a bump in the road, it got pretty scary. I started pogoing around. The Burgman's suspension just sucks it up.

Compared to Midsize Motorcycles
The Burgman is much more stable than midsize sporting motorcycles. The bulk of my experience on these bikes was from my 2000 Suzuki SV650, which I put 35,000 miles on. The wheelbase is shorter on the motorcycle, so it is more nimble in corners. This is mostly due to the longer wheelbase of the Burgman. However, even though the Burgman has a longer wheelbase and less aggressive steering geometry than the sporty midsize bikes, it transitions from side-to-side just as quickly. You see, the Burgman has a much lower center of gravity. The engine is just above the ground and is at about shin/knee level instead of thigh/hip level. On motorcycles, one has to balance stability against nimbleness. If you gain some of one, you lose some of the other. With the Burgman, you keep them both and just lose some power instead. BurgerTime weighs about as much as my SV650 did; right around 400 lbs. The SV was blisteringly quick in comparison. Once I got a windshield on it, it got about 55 mpg, so fuel economy is about the same, even though the bike is 250cc bigger. The brakes on the SV were a little better too. Fun-wise, they are about the same, but it takes a more mature rider to appreciate the Burgman fully. Nothing compares to throwing a light, quick motorcycle around in the twisties. Leaning my torso to bias the weight, going to the edges of the tires. Coming out of a turn and applying the throttle and accelerating past the speed limit...What fun! However, it is hard to stay out of trouble, I've found. On BurgerTime, I've found that it isn't so hard to stay out of trouble. I can lean almost as far on the Burgman as I could on the SV, but since acceleration is good instead of great, I didn't get up to "go to jail" speeds before I realized it. Also, on the Burgman, I don't feel the need to lean so far over in every corner. I'm satisfied with a moderate lean most of the time instead of a deep lean.

In the long run, the Burgman is more comfortable than midsize motorcycles, because of the variety of seating and foot positions that are available to the Burgman rider. I can stretch my legs out and keep them there with the Burgman. I can sit up straight or slouch. I can scoot back and forth on the seat to vary my arm positions.

Compared to Small Motorcycles
I had a Ninja 250 and a Nighthawk 250 in the past. Fun little bikes. The Ninja was more fun than the Burgman. It is so light, and I could use all the engine all the time. Shifting up through the gears, leaning way over, and not even speeding! (much) it got about 65-70 mpg. I plan to have another one of these some day. The Nighthawk was more upright, and more fuel efficient, but not as much fun. Plus, the damn thing took forEVER to warm up, so for cross-town type trips, it wasn't even worth the trouble. It was hesitating all the time when I gave it gas.

For cross town trips, the Burgman excels vs. the small motorcycles. The motorcycles seemed to take longer to warm up. Maybe it was just that the Burgman is fuel-injected, so the warm-up is computer-managed. Also, the Burgman has a huge, locking, inherent storage space, where the small motorcycles need to be adapted. When I arrive somewhere on BurgerTime, I put my helmet, jacket, and gloves in the trunk under the seat. I arrive as if I came by car. No dirty or wrinkled pant legs, and no drama. There is no need to wear a backpack, which is good. You see, if you carry a backpack, you need to be careful what you put in it, because there is an outside chance that you'll be landing on that, and right against your spine. Wouldn't it suck to break your back because you landed on a can of Coke when that old lady left-turned into you? I actually use a backpack quite a lot, but it goes in the trunk when I'm riding.

Compared to Large Motorcycles
In the past, I have ridden an 1800cc Honda Goldwing and a 1200cc Harley Sportster. My current big bike is a Yamaha FJR 1300 ABS. The Burgman seems about as stable as any of them, with two exceptions: A) With a passenger, the big motorcycles are more stable. B) in a high speed turn, the big motorcycles are slightly more stable. Since the Burgman has a low center of gravity and a stepped saddle, adding a passenger drastically changes the center of gravity, and a lot of the stability is lost. Big motorcycles already have a higher center of gravity and are already over 600 lbs, so adding another 200 lbs. does not make as big of a change to the handling characteristics.

Economy: The Burgman is more efficient. I get 63 mpg on the Burgman in all around riding. I get 47 mpg on the FJR.

Carrying Capacity: About the same, for tour-oriented bikes. On my FJR, I believe the included saddlebags carry about the same amount of luggage as the Burgman's trunk. But the luggage is better integrated into the Burgman, as it doesn't have all that useful room taken up by the mechanics of the bigger engine. Touring bikes have saddlebags sticking out into the wind, whereas the Burgman retains is smooth profile. The idea of ruining aerodynamics for luggage is a compromise I was never really comfortable with, so I wound up buying a Givi topcase for the FJR, which I use 90% of the time instead of the saddlebags. I can put this same topcase on the Burgman and have double the luggage capacity without ruining the aerodynamics of the bike.

Wind Protection: The bigger touring bikes tend to have better wind protection than the Burgman, but a big cruiser's will be far inferior. The FJRs wind protection is probably 20% better than the Burgman's.

Hot Weather Riding: The Burgman winds against all comers. The engine is under your butt and behind you, not between your legs and in front of you. Whatever heat the engine makes never gets to the rider. On the FJR, on an 80°+ day, it is sweaty and uncomfortable, as that 1300cc engine makes a lot of heat that comes right back to the rider. The new FJRs have addressed this to a large extent, but I bet they are still much hotter than BurgerTime. For summertime riding, nothing beats a scooter.

I'll take one each of the big touring bike and touring scooter. They compliment each other so well! The scooter's better in the summer, for shopping, and for commuting. For outright cornering fun and long distance touring, even two-up, the big touring motorcycle wins. If I could also have a small scooter, it would be ideal. But that is always the case, isn't it? It always seems like more is better. For all-around "grab and go" riding, nothing beats a scooter's convenience & versatility.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Last Saturday's ride (Oct. 6th)

Last Saturday, I went on a group ride with some of my homies from STn. It was a good time. (click the link for pix, towards the end of the thread)

Kate and I did 361 miles Saturday on that ride. Kyle really knows how to pick the roads.

Sunday, I did the Slimey Crud Run on BurgerTime. It was also a good time, and it was 367 miles. The saddle pad from Wal*Mart is brilliant.

Tomorrow is a "Pizza Meat".

This Sunday is the Reina Scooter Rally in Milwaukee. Should be a good time!

Keep the shiny side up!


Monday, October 8, 2007

Honda has developed a new automatic transmission; it is hydraulic. Of course, Honda has given it a buzz name instead of just calling it a hydraulic automatic. HFT --> Human Friendly Transmission. Because apparently, previous transmissions were human-hostile...

Anyway, here's the article:

This could change the face of motorcycling & scootering, but it could also fail, if Honda charges too much initially. (as they are prone to do)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Airy accessory seat cushion

... this should completely cure Monkey Butt. What's Monkey Butt? That's when you're riding for more than about half an hour, and your butt starts to go numb. It isn't caused because your seat is too hard. It is caused because the skin on your butt isn't getting any air. You're sweating and it has nowhere to go, so somehow, it just makes your ass numb. It's caused mostly by the fact that factory saddles are covered with vinyl, which doesn't breathe at all, but is waterproof.

So, I saw
this post over at BurgmanUSA and my hopes were up. After all, a simple sheepskin saddle pad at aerostich costs $67. The AirHawk saddle cushions that everyone raves about cost $167!!! So $19 sounded like it was worth a risk. It seems very good so far.
Here's a shot from the thread over at Burgman USA, so you know what to look for, if you're so inclined to try one out for those longer trips:
I'm sure I'll report more on it later. I wouldn't want my readers to go and waste $19, hehehe.

A Foggy Ride to Work Today

Normally, I take the train to work. Today, I wanted to bring a Spektrum DX7 RC transmitter to a coworker who is buying it off of me. Also, I was up at 3 AM for some reason, and I figured I may as well get to work, so I can get out early and maybe take a nap.

Anyhow, the forecast was for dense fog. Boy, they weren't kidding! It was so thick that I actually was wet in some areas by the time I got to work. (30 miles)

At first, I was worried; if an animal was in the road, there's no way I would see it in time to avoid it if I was going 45-55 mph. I figured the smartest thing to do was to catch up to the guy in front of me and just go however fast he's going, keeping relatively close behind. This way, if an animal was there, the car or SUV would plow through it and it wouldn't be so bad for me. Unless the animal was a deer, and it went flying over the car and landed on me. But let's not think of that grim possibility. Hopefully, I've met my deer quota for this year already.

Below is a snapshot of my cubicle at work. Can you spot the evidence that I rode to work in a super-dense fog? ^_^

Monday, October 1, 2007

BurgerTime is Mysteriously quicker after first oil change...

I changed the oil on BurgerTime Sunday. (701 miles) I noticed that there was much more oil in it than is prescribed by The Powers That Be at Suzuki. It was well above the 'F' line on the sight glass.

That got me to thinking:

Did Suzuki do that at the factory to somehow help with break-in routine, or did some ham-fisted mechanic at the dealer do it?

Anyway, after the oil change, I noticed that BurgerTime didn't have to spin so much before (finally) taking off. I used Castrol GTX 10W-40.

Anyone Burgomeisters experience this phenomenon?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

450 Miles on BurgerTime - My thoughts so far

This is an average of over 100 miles per day, and 3 of the 4 days have been work days. I think I have put BurgerTime through his paces. I have not observed the recommended 4000 RPM limit that is supposed to be in effect through the 600 mile mark. It is ridiculous, and I could only ever go about 35 mph if I observed it. I believe that varying engine speed and changing the oil & filter at 600 miles are much more important.

On the way home from the dealer, being used to the sound of Bud, I found myself going over 85 mph on the expressway. Its funny how one gets used to the sound of one vehicle and associates that sound with a certain speed. We don't even realize we're doing it, but we sure do. I can tell you, because on the second day I owned the FJR, I got ticketed because of it. Ditto in the first week of ownership of our Toyota Matrix. For the Burgman, I was just lucky there were no cops that day.

The way BurgerTime handles is something new to me. I have had several different types of motorcycles, and two scooters prior to getting this Suzuki. I thought I pretty much knew what to expect. I expected it to be not quite as smooth of a ride as our FJR, and not quite as stable, but much more stable than the Buddy 125. The thing I didn't take into account was the effect of the huge wheelbase of the Burgman. Even though its wheels are smaller than the FJRs (15" front, 14" rear vs. 17" front & rear on the FJR), the Burgman gives a smoother ride due to the longer wheelbase. It is also partly due to the relatively soft stock seat on the Burgman compared to the hard Corbin saddle on the FJR. The Burgman doesn't flick back & forth as easily as the Buddy 125, but it is surprisingly close, and much quicker than the FJR. With the Buddy, it is light weight and has a short wheelbase and aggressive steering geometry, although it has a high center of gravity for a scooter. So although BurgerTime is a couple hundred pounds heavier, it does very well in transitions because its center of gravity is so low. To flick the FJR back & forth as quick as either of these two smaller bikes, one really has to work at it. One has to throw one's body back and forth. It has more aggressive steering geometry than the Burgman, but it is also another 200 lbs. heavier and has a higher center of gravity.

With the rear shock preload on the Burgman, it is perfect for a person of my weight. (175 lbs.) Add a passenger and go faster than 40 mph, and the ride pogoes around a bit. We did an expressway run yesterday. I went to Chicago (55 miles) to pick up my wife on BurgerTime. We came back the same way, via Interstate 94. To be fair, I should firm up the rear shock before making a judgement, but my first impression is that the Burgman is plenty stable with a passenger up to about 60 mph. After that, the passenger becomes a sail and starts pushing the bike around in the lane twice as much as usual. This is at speeds of 70-80 mph with the stock, suspension setting. At high speed, the FJR is much more stable, and the wind protection is also better. For those thinking of a Burgman for two, that will be used frequently over 55 mph, I would suggest the 650. The 400 is perfect for one, the 650 is perfect for two and overkill for one.

Ground clearance on the Burgman also surprised me. I expected it to drag things like a cruiser, but it doesn't. It leans far enough over that I haven't dragged anything on it yet. It leans further than Bud and at least as far as the FJR.

One nice thing I noticed about the Burgman's handling that I can't explain is how well it holds a line. When I lean into a corner on it, it stays leaned right where I put it with no wandering. Even the FJR wanders a bit, so this was quite a shock. It translates into extra cornering confidence.

The Burgman has dual front disc brakes and a single rear disc brake. Braking is adequate under all situations, even two up. Furthermore, it tends not to dive as much as the smaller, taller scooters and motorcycles. I attribute this to the low center of gravity and the fact that when braking, the rider's weight shifts forward behind the front wheel, instead of down on the front wheel. This was a welcome surprise. I have a feeling stopping distances are similar between the Burgman 2-up vs. the Buddy 1-up, but the Burgman stops with much less drama and it feels more in control when stopping from speeds over 45 mph. The FJR easily out brakes both of them and would probably out-brake the Burgman even if two were on the FJR. The FJR also has ABS, which I wish Suzuki would have offered on the Burgman for the '07 model year. This bike will go 90 mph, why wouldn't it be a good idea?

The ride of the Burgman was one of the best surprises. Over teeth-chattering railroad crossings and the usual frost heaves of the road, the Burgman's ride is smoother than the FJR by probably 10% and better than smaller scooters by probably 50%. It is amazing, what the long wheelbase does for the ride. To me, this is what cruising is all about. Not about heavy steel & chrome that weighs 900 lbs. No hassle with shifting. Not that I mind shifting, but having a bike that is always in the right gear is liberating. I find that my mind is more clear when riding the Burgman than it is when riding the FJR. The ride is just more relaxing.

One thing worth noting is that although the ride on the Burgman is smoother, I am more tired when dismounting after a long ride than I am from the FJR. Reason? Posture. On the Burgman or any other scooter or cruiser, you're either sitting straight up or in a slight slouch. Every bump that goes under the rear wheel goes right up your spine. With the FJR and many other motorcycles, one has a slightly forward posture. When one hits a bump on these bikes, the shock is split between your spine and your wrists & shoulders. I've found that a slightly forward-leaning position is the most comfortable. Next would be straight posture, and after that, a tie between slouching as one would on a cruiser and leaning way forward like one would do on a sportbike. The difference is that on a sportbike, the faster you go, the more weight the wind takes off of your wrists. With a cruiser, the wind forces you into more of a slouch and your back really takes a pounding. With a windshield on a cruiser, one maintains one's original crouch.

The Burgman loses out here. Having a CVT, it can't be expected to be in the same league as a motorcycle, especially not one with an engine three times as big, and equally high-tech. The Burgman 400, in my opinion, takes a bit too much time spinning up. The clutch slips until 25 mph. After this point, acceleration is VERY good. It is surprising, because it is so gentle, but when you look down at that speedo, you're gaining speed much faster than it feels like. From a stop, all the cars shoot away from you, as the centrifugal clutch is spinning and you're only very slowly gaining speed up to 15 mph. I would say from 0-40 mph, my Buddy 125 is quicker than the Burgman. The FJR is easily 10X quicker than either of them. Then again, the engine is 3X bigger, the price is 3X bigger, and the amount of skill needed to handle it is 3X higher.

BurgerTime trumps everything short of a full-dress tourer in this regard. Not only does it have a 62L trunk, which can hold two full face helmets and a jacket, but it also has a quite useful locking glove compartment, and two more non-locking compartment, each big enough for a wallet & set of keys. There are no toys to play with that one might find on a high-end Goldwing, such as a CB, CD changer or heated grips. The driver backrest is a mixed blessing. On smooth roads, it is quite nice to have that extra support. But when one hits more than a small bump in the road, that backrest hits you in the back. Lots of Burgman riders have removed this. One thing that maxi-scooters have in the way of comfort that motorcycles don't is different leg positions. With the Burgman, there are a staggering array of places to put one's feet. (for the driver) There is straight down, as on a conventional scooter. This is OK as a change of pace, but the most comfortable position for most is extended to the angled front floorboards. After an hour in the saddle, when your butt starts to go to sleep, one can just move foot position, and it changes the area of your backside that the weight goes on. When one's knees get stiff, one can put one's feet slightly behind to bend one's knees.

The Burgman does pretty well. Two up, at 75 mph, the economy readout indicates 58 mpg. One-up, at 80 mph, it gets 59 mpg. At 75 one- up, it gets to about 61 mpg. Others have reported getting over 70 mpg, which was probably obtained at 45-55 mph speeds. I believe this is in line with what one might find on a modern 400 cc motorcycle. Around town, the motorcycle would probably do much better, since there wouldn't be as much power wasted slipping the clutch. For reference, my Ninja 250 got about 73 mpg, and my Honda Nighthawk 250 motorcycle got about 82 mpg in the suburbs, and my FJR gets 47 mpg one-up and 42 mpg two up. Others have reported getting fuel economy as low as 50-55 mpg. With a fuel tank capacity of 3.6 gallons, this means the range is between 180 - 250 miles. 180 is pretty safe bet unless you're gridlocked the whole time. It helps a lot that the Burgman 400 only needs 87 octane gas to be happy. I found that my Buddy 125 ran better on premium fuel, which cuts into the benefit of the 90+ mpg economy.

There are several other little things that goe through my mind about BurgerTime when I'm riding him, but I can't remember them now. More later.

What's "BurgerTime?"

BurgerTime was an arcade game from the 1980s. It featured Peter Pepper, who was a chef. (Naturally. One HAS to be a chef to make burgers...) He ran around assembling burgers. As he walked across each burger component, it fell onto the component below it. Eventually, several whole hamburgers were made.

"Too simple!" you might claim. Oh no, it wasn't. You see, Peter had hot dogs and eggs chasing him. For some reason, they were lethal to Peter. All he could do was either avoid them, or throw out a blast of pepper to hold them off temporarily.

Aside from being a video game from the 1980s, it is the nickname I've given to my new Suzuki Burgman 400. I thought it was quite witty. Cheesy too, but also witty. No?
Rather than waste my energy explaning it here, I'll refer you to a couple of good Burgertime links I found through Google:

From Killer List of Video Games:
Here's a TV commercial on YouTube from the 80s for Burger time. Nice.

Grocery Shopping on Burgertime

The other day, I had to do some grocery shopping. To make the experience a little better, I took BurgerTime.

I'm still in shock how much I can get in the trunk of this baby: everything you see in the photo below, plus an armored motorcycle jacket.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I bought a new scooter today

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking hard about getting a Burgman 400. Kate vetoed that movement, but yesterday, had a moment of weakness and said I could get it. I also had to get rid of one of our present bikes, I was informed.

We both decided that it could NOT be the FJR, as we just like it too much. It is fast, smooth, comfortable, and sharp-looking. And fast.

Sadly, that left Bud. My Genuine Buddy 125 has been a great little scooter. Completely reliable, and starts right up every time. But since I have really taken a liking to scootering, and since I live in the far north suburbs where the speed limits are 45-55. I rode it like crazy for the past couple weeks, and the miles kept going on. But I would often get back-aches, as the small wheels make for a harsh ride if it is going to be a longer one. No biggie, it's just not tour-worthy. So it's going on the block. I'll really miss it.

This morning, we arranged financing at a local credit union (whose rates were 2.25% lower than Suzuki's, and the differenc adds up to about $500 over the life of the loan. While we were there, we also re-financed our Matrix though them, as they had 6.75% APR as opposed to the 8.3% that we had through Toyota. This will save us about $1200 over the life of the loan. Nice.

After getting a cashier's check, we headed up to Midwest Action Cycle, in Lake Geneva, WI to buy the bike. Retail on Burgman 400s is $5,900. Since this was the last of the '07s, they were offering it for $5,072; dealer cost, they told me.

Long story short, we bought it and put nearly 100 miles on it already. Kate said I was speeding like crazy on the way home. I had forgotten the license plate from Bud, so that would have been hard to explain to the cop, had I gotten caught.

Here are my first impressions of it, compared to the FJR and the Buddy 125:

  • It's much more stable than Bud at speed. Due to the long, raked out geometry, it holds a line like nothing I've experienced. For example, if I was riding through a long, sweeping turn on Bud at about 50 mph, then hit a decnet sized bump, the front wheel would start wobbling back and forth. Not so with the Burger.

  • The build quality is slightly better than Bud; on par with the FJR. In other words, more thought has been put into the little details. Comparing the controls and compartments in the showroom, the Burgman 400 seems even nicer than the Honda Silverwing.

  • I just love this storage. If you ride bikes long enough, storage space becomes your nicotine. The more you have, the better. The more you have, the more you want.

  • The Burgman 400 has much more passenger room than both the Buddy 125 and the FJR.

  • Much lower speed maneuverability is lost for that smooth stable ride. The Buddy 125 is clearly the better choice for city or more dense suburbs.

Without further ado, I'm just going to post my initial photos. I'm too tired to think any more, so I'll post more about it later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tire Shopping for the FJR

So, it is that time. Most years, I go through a rear tire for the FJR. We do about 85% of our miles on the bike two-up, and I've been getting about 8,000 to a rear tire. That is damned good on a 120 RWhp bike with 380 lbs on it! The front tires goes for about two rears.

But this is the thing that makes riding a nice motorcycle expensive. I get all excited when I'm at the pump and figure that I get 42 mpg two-up or 47 mpg one-up. That all goes right down the toilet when it's Tire Time. What's the bill going to be? $271.29, shipped, for a pair of nice Avon AV55/56 tires.

Here's a shot of the rear Avon AV56 tire:

My best local price for installing a pair of tires is $100. (assuming I just bring the bike in) If I take the wheels off and bring them in, installing the tires is only $50. However, I don't have the tools to remove the wheels, so that will take an investment. I haven't decided if I want to start getting tools together to do *everything* myself, removing the wheels myself, or just keep letting my local mechanic do it. I'm leaning toward removing the wheels myself, but letting the mechanic do the tire mounting & balancing. This way, I can save $50 every year and ensure that the final drive splines have fresh moly grease on them. This is also an outstanding time to check the brakes, which are probably getting a bit thin...

For the hell of it, I checked prices for a set of tires for my scooter: $79.30, shipped. I don't think I'll get 7500 miles out of a set of them, but who knows? That is for the continental Zippy 1 BW, size 3.5x10.

Here's a shot of the scooter tire I'll probably go with:

Where have I found to have the best prices for motorcycle/scooter tires? Most tire places charge about the same for shipping, or the jack up their prices and offer "free shipping."

The FJR is also going to be due for a serious lube at the end of this season, which I may also leave to the mechanic or dealer. It is the 16,000 mile lube of the linkages for the rear suspension. Seeing as how I don't ride much in the rain or dusty environments, I'm considering putting this off, as I'm sure they'll charge about $500 for it. I'm going to look into the service manual and see what's involved. It can't be that hard...

More tire babble
I've tried several different brands of tires for my sport-touring bikes: Metzeler, Michelin, Dunlop, and Avon. My favorite by a mile is Avon. They outlast the others, and also grip tighter too. The only penalty is in the price, which is slightly higher than the others. Let me tell you, when you're leaned over, scraping pegs, you are glad you spent the money. Ditto when you need to swerve or stop suddenly, and the tires are at the edge of adhesion. If you haven't tried Avons yet, give them a go, and I bet you'll thank me later. ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Had a brisk ride this morning

My buddy Mike and I went for a ride this morning. We went up north to Fox Lake, IL, and had breakfast at the Mega Pancake house, and warmed up a bit. It was already "up to" 50°F. My apologies, but I didn't bring my camera, so I can't show you this nice little place. It is one of those places that kind of blends in with all the rest of the strip mall stores, but once discovered, becomes a favorite greasy spoon.

After warming up a bit there, (neither of us has a fairing or windshield, and Mike doesn't even have a leg shield on his Honda Big Ruckus) we headed up north to hit some twisties in and around Twin Lakes, WI. It was a blast. Roads ranged from 20 mph in Chain O' Lakes State Park to 55 mph on country highways. The scenery isn't as nice as other folks have, but there are some decent twisties up this way, for those who are willing to explore a bit.

So as not to completely starve you of photos, I took one self-timer shot of Mike and I upon our triumphant return.

A few late shots from the Slaughterhouse XIII Rally

These are some shots I found at from the rally that I thought were worth saving.

Here's one of me riding the teeter-totter at the gymkhana:
The last part of the gymkhana was "The Gauntlet." In the gauntlet, one was supposed to ride between the boards on the ground without hitting them. "Not too hard." you might think, but you'd be wrong, because there is a line of people throwing wet sponges at you to make it more... interesting. Here are a couple shots of people getting pelted by wet sponges and being forced off-course:

Last, but not least, here's a video of me doing the gymkhana:

Monday, September 10, 2007

I had a short ride home in the rain today

A little history first:

Kate got an externship a couple weeks ago. This is where she follows around an anesthesiologist and watches, and asks questions. For a doctor trying to land her first job, it is quite important to get clinical experience for her resume. Externships are very hard to get, as no one wants to take the risk of having someone follow them that might screw something up. But Kate lucked out. Her gynecologist had a friend in the right field who was willing to help.

So Kate's taking the Matrix to "work" just about every day now, probably 25 miles round trip. I have been riding Bud just about everywhere, and our poor old '98 Honda Civic has been gathering rust, sitting in the driveway.

So I got the insurance bill, which I choose to pay monthly to spread it out a bit, and noticed that we're paying about $55 a month for the old Civic just to sit in the driveway. Unacceptable! So I took it off insurance, except for comprehensive. (on the odd chance that someone breaks into it or steals it)

Part of doing this was accepting that I would eventually have to ride Bud in less-than-ideal conditions. Such as today.

This morning, when I took Bud on the 1.7 mile ride to the train station, it was just starting to drizzle. A quick look up at the clouds told me that it was probably going to rain more seriously later in the day.

After dropping my mother-in-law off at the airport and driving the 30 miles home for 2.5 hours, I had to ride Bud back home at about 8:00 PM. But this time, it was seriously raining. I haven't quite adapted as fully as I should have by now. I don't have the rain suit under the seat, and I somehow forgot to put the clear face shield under there too. For weekday commuting, I should just leave the clear shield on and put a pair of cheap sunglasses under the seat. Back on topic: I rode home in the rain, in the dark, with my dark smoke face shield on. The temperature is about 56°F, so it wasn't very pleasant. Not the end of the world, but not pleasant either.

Tomorrow is my last visit to the physical therapist for my thumb. I have hardly done any exercising at all that I was supposed to be doing. I promised myself that I would, but it is damned hard for me to remember to do it. Without doing this, I will not regain my lost flexibility. I'm taking Bud tomorrow too, and the forecast is better. 10-20 mph winds, which is a lot, but no rain and a high of 70°F.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Scoot to Lake Genvea & Williams Bay

Today, before my mom came up for her birthday party, I decided to go for a nice long scoot; probably about 100 miles or so.

I went up to Lake Geneva, where I spent many summers visiting my grandparents, and Williams Bay, where Yerkes Observatory is located. When my brother and I were little kids, my grandpa took us to Yerkes. He was always trying to take us somewhere interesting, but we didn't appreciate it. All we wanted to do was shoot BB guns in the garage, and burn things in the burning barrel. Oh, and go to the beach.

Now that I'm a little older, I appreciate the things he was trying to show us. Without going into too much detail, here are some photos of Yerkes, and of the beach in Williams Bay.

At the start of the rustic road. Twisty, hilly, and heavily wooded, for about 2.4 miles.

Front entrance to Yerkes Observatory.

Check out how big this refractor telescope is! (you can see Bud by the doorway at its base)

Bud, happily wearing his new sticker.

Busting a pose at the beach.

Here's a video of the Rustic Road ride: