Winners and Losers
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

So, another trip, another set of opinions.

1150GS

The big one is the new bike - I would say I'm positive, not bouncing off the ceilings. Having something breakdown always takes the shine off for a while, until eventually you forget and its perfect again. I can tell riding it that I'd have a lot more problems in some situations than the Dakar - sand or mud for instance. This doesn't come up a lot in my current riding though.

On the road, the 1150 feels great. The seat is fantastic. I seem to be able to sit in it indefinitely. The non-stock bars give me some problems, but I think this can be fixed one way or another. I think this will turn out to be an incredibly comfortable distance bike. On gravel roads it seemed adequate, and if I had bothered to let air out of the tires (the rear was at 42 cold to improve longevity) it would have been even better.

It is a big, big bike. I am used to the tall and top-heavy Dakar, and I think the 1150GS is similar. When you pull into a gas station, come to a stop, do anything at low speed where the physics don't keep the bike stable, you had better be paying attention. Without a passenger this is fine; with a passenger I have to say the bike is challenging. Once I nearly dropped it turning around. Cha Cha giving a kick probably made the difference. I thanked her and told her to just keep her feet up next time. It's not that dangerous, at 2 or 3 mph it would be like falling out of a chair. Your instinct is to just put your foot out as the bike slowly totters over. But it is possible to get an ankle caught under something, and you can scratch things.

And finally the time came where I did just let the thing fall over. I really haven't done this, without extenuating circumstances, since I was a new rider. In this case the bike was up on the centerstand. In order to get it off, I stood on the pegs and rocked forward. I had done this a dozen times, no biggy. The bike is a bit hard for me to rock forward if I stay seated. Well in this case I failed to account that the parking lot was actually a bit downhill. When the bike came down from the centerstand it immediately started leaning left. By the time I had planted my ass in the seat and got my legs down its angle was too steep, and it was bound by the laws of physics to lay down. Since you can slow it down a bit pushing with your legs this is a fairly gentle process. This bike doesn't have all kinds of plastic to scratch, and with no forward momentum it was just a simple flop over. Still, it was a point of pride that I hadn't done anything stupid like that in so many years.

Luckily two harley guys happened to be right there and saw what happened and helped me get the bike up. One mentioned how they get hard to keep up the older you get. Thanks!

Anyway the size and weight of it falls away once you are moving, and I'm sure with time I'll find a certain grace.

Probably time to sell the dakar. It's not clear cut but the 1150GS is better for what I want to do for a while, and the dakar is a waste sitting in the garage. I would like to take it out again, now that I got so used to something else.

Other Gear

Like last trip, I took my crappy rev'it pants (the short sailor ones) and overpants for rain. It's not practical to stop and put on a pants liner when it starts to rain, enough said. New Shoei helmet is good. I used hiking boots instead of motorcycle boots. They don't resist water as well but I can walk for miles in them comfortably and I'm sick of carrying extra shoes, and changing shoes if I want to get off the bike and hike a bit. The boots got really wet one day and a little wet another. They mainly dry overnight. I have fuzzy socks, its not uncomfortable.

The Best Rest luggage rack is great. Throwing an ortlieb bag on it, strapping it down with 2 roc straps, very simple, very out of the way. Honestly for riding alone, I might put my medium ortleib on the rack and the big one over the passenger seat and not bother with luggage. The Best Rest back rest was also much appreciated by Cha Cha, and is nice for bracing luggage.

My BMW Rallye 2 jacket is also great as expected. It cost a pretty penny but I'm finding I rarely regret putting money into bike related stuff once I'm sure what I want. It would be too hot for city summer riding but if you are moving it is as comfortable as anything could be in the heat. It stayed dry in the rain. All as intended.

The BMW luggage....I just don't know. Well designed in terms of fit to the bike and convenience carrying into a hotel. You can instantly have them on or off the bike. However, the clamshell style leaves me feeling like I'm always stuffing them, and when I close them I feel like some plastic hinge will burst. It didn't of course. I wish they were bigger I guess is all. In the end I wasn't tight for space, even with a passenger, so I might elect to not drop a ton of money on fancy aluminum luggage just yet.

The Economy

Riding around the country is a wonderful source for anecdotal observations which may have absolutely no basis in reality. I've put a lot of miles driving through little towns and past farms and cows. The empty main streets in the farm towns are still there, but the occasional healthy towns' main streets were sometimes underpopulated. These are places that found some way to get some tourist money in to compensate for the walmart sucking the local economy like a sponge. Many seemed shiny and ready to serve, but tables were emptier than they could be to sustain them. They aren't like the cheap roadside cafes that manage to work with small income and small overhead. It seems, anecdotally, that things have slowed down.

Hotels are cheap but the best deals are bed and breakfasts. Their margins are thin and when things slow they are willing to cut prices pretty quickly. I tried to stay in these when I could - its not only more interesting but supports smaller businesses.

The Plains

I think doing this trip over I'd maybe just rent a bike out of Vegas. Spending so much time on the plains is nice if you have it, but if you feel pinched its a painful thing. With a passenger, I think it would have been more enjoyable to just do 150 or 200 mile days out west and spend more time checking things out, relaxing, etc. Renting a motorcycle is pricey, but so is driving one across the country.

The Coming Winter

I'm ready to chill out for a while. I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be making soup and braising short ribs. I want to see if I can revive my two year old sourdough from the freezer, just to annoy Rick who has no luck in growing. I want to wear my flannels and get a lot of work done. And mainly I don't want to have all my weekends booked into the distant future. I want to wake up on a saturday, stare at the ceiling, and decide what I feel like doing right then. That's what saturdays are for. It was quite a summer in all respects. Let's slow this thing down a little.

[ tags: 1150GS 650GS dakar dmc-lx3 gear motorcycle reviews travel ]

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