A Conversation with Myself

When I was 30 or even 40, I never asked myself how long I thought I would continue to ride motorcycles. My friends, about the same age, never considered such a question either. But as I “matured” into my 60s, the question popped into my head. And now that I am only months away from 70, it is a question I have been asking myself and others. “How long do you plan to keep riding?”

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I have been riding since age 15. Unofficially, of course on that Lambretta motor scooter that dad brought home. When I turned 16 with a new driver’s license, that Lambretta was mine to ride. Riding has always been my passion. It’s the freedom of the road, wind in your face experience. Even though I have had three accidents (one seriously) I never felt like I would quit riding.

My first owned motorcycle was a 1963 Harley Davidson Sprint Scrambler 250cc made by Aermacchi. It needed a lot of work. When I returned from Vietnam in 1971, I bought a brand new Honda Scrambler CL350. Then another Honda, and another Honda, and so on, including a 1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing that I partially restored to its original standard configuration in the early 1990s.

In the “old days,” all motorcycles were standards. You bought them and then modified them to do what you wanted with it. Today, there are so many different types of bikes, niche bikes. There are dirt bikes, motocross bikes, dual sports, adventure bikes, touring bikes, cruisers, and many variations thereof.

Technology has entered the scene with ABS brakes, traction control, and even cruise control, making motorcycles safer and more expensive. My 2017 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 has ABS and traction control, and is much more capable than my riding skills. It, and my previous DL650s, has taken me anywhere and everywhere I’ve wanted to go, including all 48 states of the USA.

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So, I’ve been through a few motorcycles in the past decade, looking for that perfect vehicle, and more recently asking about ability to keep riding. I concluded that tall, heavy adventure bikes may not be the right bike for me as I get older. I am not the fit young man of my earlier years. A little arthritis and reduced flexibility remind me often of that, even if 70 is the new 50. It has become a little more difficult to throw a leg over a motorcycle and prepare for launch.

I needed to make some changes. I started by selling my V-Strom 1000. It was a great bike with plenty of power. Lots of power and torque. But, it was tall and top heavy. It will be a great bike for its new owner, who seems to be happy. I plan to keep the V-Strom 650 for a while. It is lighter, more economical, and frankly the better bike.

2014 DL1000 with Givi Trekkers

I also renewed my interest in a smaller bike, one easier to mount, and I returned to my previous research and interest. I found a great deal on an inventory clearance sale on a 2019 Moto Guzzi V7iii Special. Old school bike with modern technology.

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The bike and I are just getting to know each other, and I am quite happy. I have also learned a couple of things. The Guzzi draws a little attention. Both of my brothers said they wanted to ride it even before I offered them a ride. They never did that with my previous bikes. One of them invoked the hallowed name of Steve McQueen. There is something to an old school, standard bike.

Another thing I learned, or should I say re-learned, is the true joy of motorcycling. The V-Stroms and the KLRs are great bikes, as are many other adventure bikes, but when I started riding the Guzzi, I noticed something. The Guzzi is wide open. Naked. More exposed to the elements, the environment, the road. All of that which we identify with the joy of motorcycling. And, it dawned on me that when riding the adventure bikes, I feel like I’m in a cockpit on two wheels. Fairing and wind screen with a seat that dips quite lower than the fuel tank. Yes. A cockpit.

This is what I want riding into the future as long and as far as I can. Something easy to ride that brings the joy of motorcycling. Downsizing is good as long as it works toward the goal. Who knows? Maybe the last scoot will be a Vespa. I hope I’m still riding through my 70s and into 80. That is only ten more years.

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Fill ‘er up. I’ve got some riding to do.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Ready to Ride

We have been self quarantined since March 13. That’s 8+ weeks. We are managing nicely and getting along just fine. But, I am ready to ride. Not just a short one, but a long, overnight travel on the motorcycle.

2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 packed for travel
My previous motorcycle, a 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650, loaded and ready to attend the Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting in Virginia-a four day get-together with friends old and new.

I have managed short rides just to get out of the house. An hour or so. Around the block. The big block. And those rides have me dreaming about the bigger ones.

Several overnight trips were on my calendar. That is, until this coronavirus came along and tossed my calendar into the garbage. Perhaps one or two can still be salvaged. It all depends upon travel conditions. What will be open? What closed? Facilities and accommodations.

Every time I take one of the bikes out for one of those get-out-of-the-house, short rides, I think just a few more miles before I turn towards home. And then, I return home refreshed.

Are you getting in any riding?

See you on the highway.

Brent

One Thing I Dislike about the V-Strom 650

I like to visit motorcycle dealerships and kick tires. What is out there that catches my eye? Is there a possible new and/or different bike in my future?

Not many bikes really catch my eye. I guess I am looking for something that fits my personality and riding style. That’s why I happened upon the Suzuki V-Strom 650 back in 2007. With it, I learned that “less is more.” It is a very capable bike, and I should know, I have owned three V-Strom 650s. A 2008, 2015 and my current ride, a 2017.

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I have put nearly 100,000 miles on these three bikes and have ridden to all 48 states on the 2008 and 2015. Why did I buy the second and then the third? I really like this bike. It is smooth, economical, can do it all, easy on the maintenance, and great MPG. I cannot imagine the next generation being any better than the one I have now, but that has been the case for each.

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Two Kawasaki KLRs caught my eye. They are great dual sport bikes, but not like the V-Strom. I owned a Suzuki SV 650 for a while. It was a great little roadster, but it was not a V-Strom. Even the V-Strom 1000 … a V-Strom itself … is not like the little 650.

I have swapped bikes with friends for short rides. I always want my V-Strom back. I have test rode several Moto Guzzis. I think the Guzzi is pure Italian sexy. But, I did not like the Guzzis enough to buy one. The V9 Roamer has come the closest, and may still be that one bike. I have come to believe that I am more in love with the idea of a Moto Guzzi than actually owning one.

V-9 Roamer

I’ve tested Triumphs, but not interested. The new Kawasaki W-800 now coming to the USA really caught my interest, but … it’s not a V-Strom. Nope to Harley-Davidson and BMW. No Honda has caught my eye. The little Italian bike manufacturer, SWM, looks very interesting with that 600cc dual sport. KTMs are too tall, but the new 390 Adventure looks very interesting. But ….

And so it goes. Nothing can compare to the V-Strom 650, which is probably why it is so popular, and why former owners of the 650 say that is the one bike they wish they still had.

And that, my friends, is the one thing I dislike about the V-Strom 650. It is such a great bike, nothing compares to it. Owning one keeps you from finding another bike that is as good or better. Nothing compares. Perhaps I should buy a second 650 so that I can have a spare.

See you on the highway.

Brent

A Short Review: Suzuki V-Strom 650 vs. 1000

This is probably the most asked question by anyone looking at the Suzuki V-Stroms. “Should I get the 650 or the 1000?”

For starters, you will not be disappointed by either one in their current configurations. Let me start at the beginning of my search.

There are plenty of scenic pullouts on the Great River Road in Illinois--right next to the river.

In 2007, I had been writing for a motorcycle travel magazine as a freelancer, and every time I went out on their suggested route, I would end up on a gravel road. That’s not an issue … unless you’re riding a cruiser. I decided what I needed was an adventure bike or a dual sport. To keep this short, you can read two reviews I wrote about the V-Strom 650. The First 1,000 Miles is about how I and why I chose the 650, and The Next 5,000 Miles is about how I used the bike in all scenarios.

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So, I bought a 2008 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and put 67,000 miles on it before trading it on a 2015 V-Strom 650. I put about 12,500 miles on the 2015 after I finished riding all 48 states, and before trading it on the 2017 650. Then, in June of this year, I stumbled upon a fantastic deal for a used 2014 V-Strom 1000, and snapped it up. For the past four months, I have been riding both the 2017 650 and the 2014 1000. In all, I am probably approaching 100,000 miles on V-Stroms.

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Are you still with me? Actually, I love both the 650 and 1000, and if I had to choose just one, it would be a tough choice, but there are some differences. As my motorcycling trends change, so may my choice.

The changes Suzuki made to the 1000 beginning in 2014 were significant, and in 2018, more improvements. Here are my assessments based upon what I own.

The 2017 Suzuki V-Strom DL650

Cycle World called this the most capable bike, and the best bang for the buck. I couldn’t agree more. It will do solo or two-up rides around the country. I have ridden to all 48 states on a combination of my 2008 and 2015 650s. It will go down the Interstate at 75 mph all day long and not give one hiccup. It is lighter than the 1000 and smooth. Very economical to operate. The newer 2017 has a more powerful engine, and gets about 60 mpg. I was getting 60+ in the 2008 and 65+ on the 2015. Put gas in it and go. Change the oil and filter, tires, chain and sprockets when maintenance is due. It is a fantastic commuter bike, or one to explore on.

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In a nutshell, it is a great bike to commute or explore on. The 650 will do it all, including a ride across the Continental Divide in Wyoming at South Pass City.

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The 2014 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000

Suzuki made some great advances with the 2014. It has plenty of power, and ridden with a reasonable throttle twist, I am getting 54 mpg on average. It has a stock touring windscreen and provides better wind protection than the 650, but windscreens are one of those personal things that can be changed easily. It is about 30-pounds heavier than the 650, but very maneuverable. Suzuki says it requires premium fuel, but it will run on 87 octane, should you have no choice of fuel when needed. It seems to run better on the premium. It will go down those gravel roads, too. Where it shines is on the highway. Maintenance is just like the 650, do it regularly, and this bike will last a long time.

In a nutshell, it is a great touring bike, but it will also do it all from commuting to grocery shopping, camping, fly fishing adventures, and some gravel roads.

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DL650 or DL1000? What are you primarily going to do with the bike? Go with that one. Explore or commute: 650. Tour: 1000. Either way, you will not be disappointed, whether you are riding solo or two-up. Either one will do it all.

Now … just what does Suzuki have in mind for the 2020 DL1000?

See you on the highway.

Brent