Category Archives: Product Reviews

Electronic Transmissions On Motorcycles… Why?

I don’t know if I want to live in this country anymore. I wonder if Canada would take me? Hopefully, the Canadians aren’t still be pissed off aboot the South Park movie. Although, I don’t officially approve of movies that criticize other countries, I did see the movie twice at the show and own a DVD copy. If I were to destroy a copy of the movie at the border, they might let me in.

We are a bunch of lazy Americans. I don’t really know if lazy is the right word that defines us. Calling us lazy is like saying that the universe is big. We now have three motorcycles in this country with electronic transmissions. That’s right an “ Electronic Transmission. ” I guess an automatic transmission isn’t good enough, it needs to be an electronic transmission. This has to be a sign that the end of the world will happen in 2012. This was mentioned on the back of Mayan calendar, in the lower corner.

That’s right your friends at Honda, not mine, have created another motorcycle with an electronic transmission in their line up. The VFR1200F is brand new and the DN-01 is an older model. Yamaha started the ball rolling about three years ago with the FJR1300AE. Could someone please explain to me why we need motorcycles with electronic transmissions? Why? Why? The only reason I can think of is we’re really really lazy.

What are we going to do with our right foot? No clutch lever to pull in either, instead you have paddles. Paddles! Really, paddles with plus and minus on symbols them. Just like the paddles in some cars. Operating the clutch and going through the gears is the essence of the experience of riding motorcycles which creates that all important inner peace. I think the lyrics from the song “In the Year 2525” were more about motorcycle design then anything else. If you’re under 35, you’ll need to go to Wikipedia for an explanation of the last sentence.

I knew we were in trouble when the manufacturers removed the kick-starters from motorcycles. After that, I knew, without doubt, dark days were head of us. That’s right, “us” the motorcycling community. Oh, I so see power steering coming next, you can bet your last dollar on that one. Here’s list of other future standard equipment coming to motorcycles: power kickstand, power mirrors, power foot pegs, power handlebars and a power seat. Who knows, maybe voice command motorcycles will appear down the road. Oh, I can hear it now. “Turn left, gear change, speed up.”

The first time I saw Honda’s VFR1200F was at the Oshkosh air show a few weeks ago. That’s right, the air show! I think Honda would promote their products at the supermarkets if the could them through the doors. I’m surprised they don’t have pictures of their vehicles on the inside of McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes. Oh, here’s an even better idea, Google Ad-pictures.

Looking at the motorcycle I noticed the clutch lever was missing. Shoddy workmanship? Doubtful. That instant, I felt as though I fell through a rip in space-time fabric and landed in some bizarro world. In this world, electrons have a positive charge and motorcycles have electronic transmissions. Then I realized I couldn’t be in bizarro world because my friend Len was standing near me. Len and bizarro world wouldn’t mix. A really really really big explosion would happen.

If you would like to shift your motorcycles with paddles that have pluses and minuses on them, then go back to your TV and continue to watch CSI Mars. Otherwise, we need to fight this trend with every breath we have. This an epic battle that we, the motorcycling community, will need to fight. We need to fight the man-ufacturers.

Wear a helmet.

I never got a chance to ride a Buell

I’m a big fan of V-twin motorcycle engines. Owned a version of just about every configuration of motorcycle engine one time or another. The only exception is a BMW with the opposed two cylinders. My legs are too short to ride their motorcycles; always needed a step stool to just to get on one. Not that I’m really that short. It’s just my legs are not that long. I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m some type of mutant. The fact is I won’t make living playing basketball.

Currently three of the four motorcycles that I own are the V-twin engine configurations. The other motorcycle I own has an opposed 6-cylinder engine.

I like motorcycles that have a lot technology in them. I’m not interested in riding motorcycle with a lawnmower engine and gearbox. Been there done that (see my blog about that subject). Although, I’ve always been intrigued by Buell motorcycles. I think the idea of the complete disconnect from the other manufacturer trends appealed to me. Not the new ones with the Rotex engine, but older ones with the air-cooled V-twins.

The Rotex engine was a last ditch effort to inject technology into the Buell motorcycle company. Trying to make it something is wasn’t. Competing with the other manufacturers in very competitive market segment was truly insane. I wonder what they were smoking at the Buell motorcycle company to get that idea. I think it was the same stuff guys at Honda were smoking when they created the DN-01.

There was never much cutting edge technology used to make these motorcycles more competitive in the market place. Compaired to what the other manufacturers were doing. But the creativity that went into these motorcycles is what made them stand out to me.

An air-cooled engine will not make the same HP as a water cooled one. So what did Buell do? He used the swing arm as an oil cooler. Trying to remove as much heat as possible from the air-cooled engine. Also, he had a small fan to blow air on the rear cylinder to help keep it cool. Putting the fuel in the frame allowed him to put the exhaust under the engine. This lowered the center mass point helping the motorcycle to corner better. He worked with what he had and tried to make things workout the best he could.

I see the Buell motorcycle as piece of artwork. A painting that has been intertwined in the American landscape by Eric Buell. A motorcycle “Mona Lisa” if you will let me make that comparison. Really, you don’t have a choice, I’m writing this. A part of motorcycling history that will be forgotten one day. When you have chance you should look up Eric Buell on the Internet and read about him. Not now, you need to finish this blog first.

I realize that Harley-Davidson is trying to survive in these tough economic times. Sadly, cutting Buell was one of the ways to help streamline their operation. But long term they’ve made a mistake by removing some creativity from their business model.

Wear your helmet, we don’t want you to damage the streets!

1,000 Miles on the Vmax

Well, I have just over 1,000 miles on my Yamaha 2010 Vmax. During the first 600 miles I treated it like a baby staying under 4,000 RPMs on all of my rides. The break-in period for a motorcycle engine is very important for the longevity of that engine. So even though it was tempting to light up the rear tire and see how fast I could leave a stop light, I didn’t. Motorcycles tires are not cheap to replace. Replacing the tires on my Honda VTX 1800 cost me about $550. So watching someone trying to burn up their tires is fascinating to me. I guess they see smoke flying off the tires, I see money.

Been thinking about buy a Yamaha Vmax for about 10 years. But the older generations Vmaxs had several problems that bothered me. First off, no fuel injection, it had carburetors just like on your lawnmower or gas-powered weed whacker. Why is Yamaha manufacturing a performance motorcycle without fuel injection? Brakes, I’m all about ABS brakes. They will save your life in the event you need to brake hard. Some people will tell you that it’s not worth the money to get them. Well, they’re wrong! Checkout motorcycle accident data. It will tell you something different. The frame would flex when you went into a turn giving you that carnival ride experience. You know the experience, the sliding from side to side of a rollercoaster on the track. Didn’t want any of that noise, that’s for sure. This motorcycle was completely redesigned, no parts from the older version, not a one. This was a big commitment from a manufacturer to completely redesign a motorcycle. A lot of motorcycle manufacturers don’t put this kind of effort into one of their products like Yamaha did. So I was very much looking forward to the outcome.

When I first saw the new Yamaha Vmax at the motorcycle show in Chicago in 2009, I thought to my self , “Damn, that thing is big.” Pretty weird because I’ve been riding Goldwings for last 24 years. Sat on the motorcycle at the show and thought, “Man is this thing going fit in our garage? Might have to punch out the back of the garage to get it to fit.” I was about ready to call my wife and have her measure the garage, to make sure it would fit. Somehow this motorcycle distorted spatial relations for me.

Didn’t buy one during its first year of production want to make sure all of the problems are worked out first. Also, I already have a black motorcycle and hoped they would come out with different color. They did come out with a different color, red. Okay red it is, I guess, no other choices anyhow. The last hurdle was the insurance rate. Well a big surprise here, it was cheaper than the insurance on my Goldwing. Okay time to write the check, 20,400 dollars with extended warranty and out the door. Ouch! The first condo I lived in cost me 34,000 dollars. But you can’t ride a condo or tune a fish.

I can’t think of anything negative to say about the motorcycle. The engine gets hot, but I saw that coming. It has a big engine that’s generating a lot of power, so it’s going to get hot. Handling of the motorcycle surpassed all of my expectations. Cornering this motorcycle is a dream. It sticks to line without floating around so you’re not correcting it during a turn. It stops on a dime and it has some big brakes. The engine is very manageable at low RPMs. It requires premium fuel. Saw that coming too. Goes through fuel like water goes through a screen door on a submarine. Didn’t see that coming.

Okay, there is only one problem and it’s me. That’s right it’s me. My behavior changes when I’m riding my Vmax. Going fast seems to be the overriding theme. Fear of damaging my body fades away with every gear change. I think it was best said by Hunter S. Thompson “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

Wear your helmet!