Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Fish with a Motorcycle

Every spring for the last several years, the BF goes through a period of "motorcycle fever."

It's not that I don't want a motorcycle. It's just that, much in the same way it took us years to agree on what canoe to purchase, we haven't traditionally agreed on what motorcycles to get.

I am all about cruisers. Yes, I like me a Harley Davidson, despite many many boys over time making many a sarcastic comment about their mechanical reliability-- or lack thereof.

Not to mention the exorbitant cost of a Harley, and the aknowledgement that I am likely to lay my first bike down. Possibly several times, and with potential damage to both myself and the bike. which is why I had it in my head that I would love a Honda Rebel from about the time I was 15.

But boys will be boys and girls often grow up understanding very little about things like engines and power bands. And so it was, back when I still weighed 115 lbs and most of it was AquaNet-- that I got talked out of my beloved starter-bike because-- all the guys insisted-- a 250cc bike was not suitable for maintaining highway speeds of 70+ mph.

So I ended up never buying a motorcycle and I was in my early 30's before I learned to ride a motorcycle of any sort.

The fellow I was keeping company with at the time went out and bought himself a shiny new blue Kawasaki something-with-letters-and-numbers, 650cc "naked street bike." Which was pretty fun to ride on the back of.

He and I spent an afternoon in the parking lot of my old high school with me learning how to ride the bike.

Well... I mean, it's a bike; riding a motorcycle is a lot like riding a bicycle (except for that "you never forget" part, but I'll get to that later.) The part that you really have to learn is the shifting and braking part. Pretty much, there's a lever and/or pedal for every hand and foot and they all have to be manipulated at just the right time in just the right sequence.

Nevertheless, I spent that afternoon in the high school parking lot doing pretty good at riding that bike. It was a heavy sonuvabitch-- I mean, not really when you compared it to other bikes so much as compared to then 145 lb me. But I didn't drop it! I didn't fall off of it, and I got pretty good at making turns and shifting gears.

So that was the next time I seriously considered owning a motorcycle, in my early 30's. That boyfriend was all about his street bike. I am notsomuch a fan. The naked streetbike thing wasn't so bad, but crotch-rockets and street bikes are not my idea of what's sexy in motorcycles.

So I started doing some serious bike browsing. I still wanted a cruiser, I still liked those Honda Rebels, and "all the boys" in my life at that time still insisted that 250cc's wasn't going to truck my happy butt down the I-5 at the speed of traffic.

But here's the "problem" with buying a motorcycle-- there aren't many options between 250cc's and 650cc's. And a lot of people feel pretty strongly that 650cc's is too much power to start off with.

Well... before I made any personal motorcycle purchses back in my early 30's, the fellow  with the blue Kawasaki wrecked it good. He actually walked away relatively unscathed for a guy who told me that he "came to" about 25 feet from the bike. But he didn't rush out and get a new bike, and he and I eventually went our seperate ways... bikelessly.

Life went on for me and I was pretty busy having adventures of other sorts, so I just never got around to owning a motorcycle.

And then the (current)  BF started coming down with "motorcycle fever" every spring.

The BF wanted dual-sport bikes. In fact, he insisted that dual sports were the only option. *sigh*

In case you are unfamiliar, a dual-sport bike is intended to be some sort of hybrid, Franken-bike cross-breed between a dirtbike and a street bike: part motorcross, part Ninja.

So not what I wanted. But the BF says he knows himself well enough to know that he will only destroy a low-riding cruiser, trying to explore "back" roads... by "back" he really means "dirt."

I have never had so much as an inkling to get on a dirt bike. I'm not greatly attracted to quads, I might like a buggy... but if I'm going off road, I want my Jeep.

I think it took 2 springs for the BF to convince me that dual sports would be cool. Maybe he convinced me, maybe I experienced a slight paradigm shift, either way, I started seeing his point about broadening our adventure possibilities-- oh! I know what did it:

That. That's a sexy bike. Something about a BMW touring bike. It's like those Land Rover commercials-- I want to go where it's going,  just want to scream "take me with you!"

So once I stopped hearing "dual sport" and started translating it to "adventure touring bikes," I was way more on board with the plan.

Then this spring (2012) came and went and the BF didn't say "motorcycles" once. This year we bought a Jumping Jack trailer-- which still hasn't earned its rightful blog post, but all in good time-- so I thought maybe that had him distracted from the seasonal bout of bike fever for the year.

And then it was September. And suddenly all I heard was "motorcycle."


Really. I heard it way more than that, but if I typed it out as many times as I heard it, you'd get as sick of it as I was.

This time it was bad. Before I knew it, he had 17 windows open on the computer and he kept spewing out specifications and telling me I was supposed to look at all those windows and tell him what I "thought."

He was very interested in the Suzuki DR-Z400S.

It made perfect  sense. They're reasonably priced and very capable for 400cc's. Plus, it represents that near-mythical engine size between the 250cc  and the 650cc range. Enough power to reasonably travel at highway speeds, not so much power for the beginning rider to get into trouble right out the door.

I saw one immediate problem in the specs page for the bike: a stock seat height of 36.8 inches.

I am smart enough to know that I should not try to ride a motorcycle if I can't even touch the ground.

But my ever-optimistic BF was quick to consider that this style of bike offers some squishy suspension, which, he figured, could lower it by a couple of inches just by sitting on it. So he dragged me to our local dealer to do just that.

Uh uh. No way. My feet did not reach the ground. Research into lowering options, seat shaving, etc, produced a disappointed BF who had to reluctantly admit that the 400 was not likely to be the right bike for me.

The Kawasaki KLR is just big and heavy. Yamaha does not even have a dog in the fight (The BF is too OCD and pays too close attention to the minutae to fall for the notion that putting turn signals on a dirt bike makes it street legal) and Honda's line up is even taller than the 400... the only reasonable options came down to the Suzuki DR650 or a BMW G 650 GS.

Mind you... the Beemer comes with a 31.5 inch seat height right out of box and an MSRP that's still under $10K. And sexy as hell.

But the Suzuki was not only less expensive, but the dealership is next door to the BF's place of work. He could see those bikes everyday.

Next thing I knew, I had a message from the BF one afternoon announcing that financing was secured and bikes had been ordered.

It was official, we would soon be adventure/touring motorcycle enthusiasts.