Ted’s essays

weight just a darn minnut

Older motorcycle riders begin questioning their hobby as it gets harder to handle their bikes at low or no speeds. Some sell their bikes and quit open air touring, others get side-car rigs, traditional trikes, the newer 2-wheels in front trikes, topless sports cars or give up on the whole concept of the trip being more important than the destination.

Many of those are giving up riding the 1,000-pound cruisers and big touring bikes they view as integral to biking joys, not imagining motorcycling pleasure being possible on light, more easily managed two-wheelers.

Lamentably, I sense that day approaching. Strength, balance and agility all matter when you pull up to a stop on a motorcycle. As you can see from the listing of my bike weights on chart below, the first one to leave my stable on that account will be my 2009 BMW R1200RT-P, the patrol bike, aka: Leo.

Motorcycle manufacturers do their best to keep the weight down. It is difficult and/or expensive to take much off from there. My January fast helped, taking 17 pounds off the weight of man and machine. I intend to add some muscle tone over the next few months.

Leo is an absolute joy when there are curves involved, moving easily, smoothly and confidently fast/slow/left/right coupled with impressive acceleration and dazzling braking under all conditions. It still stands tall in that rarefied air blending sport bikes with touring bikes into the category they made called “sports-touring”. I most certainly do not want to give that up anytime soon.

The vintage bike, last August’s find, a 1976 BMW R90/6 pictured on the platform lift for a light going-over, is the newest addition to my motorcycle stable. As is common in the biker dude community, the wife wants to know
“which bike is this one replacing”.

That is a discussion best left for long after the bike has established residency. “I dunno” or “I haven’t figured that out yet” are the only good answers in the early days.

As winter wears on and anticipation builds for The Riding Season, I have some little bits of maintenance to get completed before those glorious days return. Dr Zee is the only one fully ready-to-roll… and, in fact, he got an outing yesterday as the roads were clear of ice and temperatures were warm enough for a low-speed errand run on my lightweight putt-around.

Zipping around on the light, agile Doctor is a lot of fun all by itself and certainly makes the trip the best part of running errands. Climbing into a steel cage and plodding a ponderous beast to the hardware store offers NO JOY at all in the experience of getting there or back home. This is something non-bikers can never understand. You either know or you don’t.

I have only driven The R90 one time: From The Motorcycle Garage in Hamilton where it lost the heavy, bulky, ugly 70’s-era fairing that was weighing on it physically as well as esthetically when I picked up this “great deal” in Missoula. The 17-mile ride home in a light drizzle was not a lot of fun, but did give me an enticing taste of the potential.

The R90 is much more comfortable at highway speeds than Dr Zee will ever be. “There ain’t no substitute for cubic inches” is an old racing phrase that says much about the differences between the 400cc Suzuki and the 900cc BMW. Twice as many cylinders, the weight and ride smoothness also favor ‘styling around’ on the vintage bike. While the sophisticated wind management, heated grips and awesome handling of Leo are unassailable, old-school open-air touring is in its own special place.

The bullet-proof reliability of the DRZ400s is a big reason Suzuki has sold A BUNCH of the exact same model since 2000 and continues today. THAT is a strong argument for keeping it around and the relatively light weight pretty-much clinches its slot in the garage.

At the extreme end of the weight chart above lies Missy’s Piglet – the 1979 Honda XL75 her ‘Hogs-Forever’ brother gave her last summer. While it is almost as easy as a bicycle to roll around, maneuver and handle, it is way-too-small for my frame; perfectly suited for hers.

Somewhere about half-way between Dr Zee and Piglet is around the low end possible for me … but I think, hope and believe that is quite a ways out from where I am today. I am going to guess that when Dr Zee is no longer fun, I am done.