Wednesday, September 26, 2007
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.
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?
From Killer List of Video Games:
Saturday, September 22, 2007
- 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
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? www.tiresunlimited.com 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
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.
Last, but not least, here's a video of me doing the gymkhana:
Monday, September 10, 2007
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
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.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Bored out of my mind, I was looking for a shot that would tell a story. Waiting for the light & trains in the photo above, I noticed the shadows were getting long. So here's the shot of me (not) enjoying the sunset from my vantage point within the huge traffic jam.
Finally, about another hour later, I got home. My wife snapped this shot of me to finish the story. Your favorite crossing guard is now off duty, complete with lumpy hair from his Shoei.
Although this is kind of an adventure when I do it, I am damn glad I take the train most days and avoid all the traffic. I feel sorry for the poor chumps who have to do this every day.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
A couple glamor shots.
Here's the mod bike, which won two awards.
Here's one of the fine beers I sampled today. Very good. (read the fine print on the label)
Roast pig, soon to be in my belly.
Check out the seat cover on THIS baby! Pretty cool.
<-- This photo is one of my favorites from the day. It shows the variety of bikes that can be seen at a scooter rally. Everything is represented: Clapped-out 80s Jap scooters, beautiful restored Italian bikes, ratty Italian bikes, Korean bikes, and even a modern motorcycle there for a visit. I started out this morning at about 7:30 AM heading for Chicago, to make sure I'd be at Motoworks by 10. Little did I know that city scooterists seem to be late. Probably, they were drinking until 3 AM last night, as the rally unofficially started Thursday night. When I got there, there were about 4 other scooters there, and a bunch of BMW motorcycles, mostly older ones. As more scooterists showed up, the bimmer guys started to disappear? Coincidence?
<-- Lined up in front of Motoworks. There were a ton of vintage Vespas, a few Lambrettas, a couple of old Honda Elites, and an old Yamaha. It's worth noting that although the Japanese bikes were neglected, they were tons more reliable than the old Italian bikes. However, they were only 20 years old, and not 40 or 50.
<-- Rear view of bikes at Motoworks.
<-- A couple of nice-looking old Italian bikes. A Lambretta on the left, a Vespa Rally on the right. Lambrettas had the engine mounted in front of the rear wheel, like today's scooters. Pop off a panel on either side and one can reach either side of the engine. With the Vespa, one can pop off the right panel and get to the outside of the engine only. Vespas are easier to find parts for, at least in the USA.
<-- Here are a few Genuine Stellas lined up. One of them is set to bump tunes. The Stellas proved to be reliable. All the bikes that crapped out during the rides were old Vespas.
<-- One of the mechanics at Motoworks built this mini-bike for his son. It has a 5 hp Honda engine. The kid was there and says it has too much power; it wheelies too easily! The mechanic is considering the addition of wheelie bars.
<-- Here's a well-restored Lambretta. The pipe has a bit of a leak, but it is cherry otherwise.
<-- A nice pair of Vespas, one with a sidecar! The husband/wife pair rode together on it for the group ride. There were also a lot of couples who rode together in more conventional fashion.
<-- check out the sticker I found on a Stella. Can't read it?
<-- Here's a detail shot. Excellent. Motoworks has an classy old industrial building. The hardwood floors look like they're about 100 years old, and in one spot, they even conform to the shape of the pipe underneath. Beautiful vintage bikes are all over the place, with about 70% of them being BMWs. There were some old British bikes, like left-shift Triumphs and a Douglas Dragonfly. Finally, to actually make money, they have scooters. Used ones and new Kymcos.
<-- Motoworks has this leaky (boiler?) coupling. Put a cooler underneath it to collect the drips, and problem solved. (kind of)
<-- Here's a Douglas Dragonfly. Don't ask me, I've never heard of the company either. Seems like either an old British or American marque.
<-- Some old Beemers, very nice & simple design. Too bad BMW has decided to complicate the hell out of everything in recent years...
<-- This was my favorite vintage Beemer. The saddle looks comfy. Can you see the kick-start lever?
<-- Here's a closer shot of the engine, with the sideways kick-starter. (since the engine is mounted front-rear instead of transverse) Very cool.
<-- After breakfast and ogling each others' bikes for a while, it was time for the gymkhana. This is a small obstacle course. One starts by riding one's scooter over the teeter-totter, doing a couple of tight turns, collecting a flag on a piece of conduit from one of the judges, trying to throw it through a hole in a rack, then a slalom around (full) 16 oz. beer cans, and finally a run through the gauntlet while people throw wet sponges at the contestant. The Kymco People series are much better looking in person than they are in internet photos. The big wheels don't look so goofy in person. The first thing that struck me about them was how little foot room they have. Don't get me wrong, there is enough room for normal size feet, but not a lot of room to move them around, like I can on my Buddy. There are two options: putting them in the cut-out areas on the floorboard, or putting them back on the passenger pegs. Another thing I noticed was that the seats are better shaped than 95% of all other scooter seats. Instead of having a convex curve, they are flat or a bit concave-shaped, to avoid pressure points on one's butt. In photos, I like the Bet & Win scooters the best; in person, the People series. My opinion is that if they fuel inject these, fit LED lighting, and make ABS an option, they will be the hot sellers they deserve to be. The fit & finish on the 50 and 150 Bet and Win doesn't seem to be up to the standard of their People series and the higher end bikes. The photo above is of the Kymco People 150 dash.
<--- After a continental breakfast at Motoworks, we went for the group ride of the day. We went all the way west out of the City into Berwyn. We stopped in this parking lot for a smoke break and to ogle this... sculpture. It reminds me of the old-style restaurants in which the cashier impales the paid receipts on a nail.
<-- After the group ride, we wound up at Scooterworks. This is a shot from inside their parking lot. Behind me was the barbecue tent. They had scooters on display. A TV cameraman was on scene as we arrived.
Later, at about 9 PM, the party started at a bar. I didn't go. Was too tired from getting up at 4:30. Don't ask me why I woke up that early & spoiled myself, I went to be late enough where I should have had to TRY to get up earlier than 7. It is over a 2 hour ride home by scooter from the city. As soon as I got home, I went to bed for a 3-1/2 hour nap, which is why I'm up at 3 AM blogging this now. ;)
Tomorrow is the last day of the rally. They'll be meeting at the Pick Me Up Cafe for a cup of joe, then riding up to the pig roast at Design Within Reach in Evanston. Then judging & awards, and recovery on Monday. I haven't decided if I'll do this yet. I may just scoot down to Evanston for the pig roast. I don't think I'll be up in time to catch any of the rest of it.