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BMW Motorrad USA will return to Daytona Bike Week, March 10-17, with a full lineup of motorcycles for attendees to see and ride, including the new G 310 GS adventure bike and new K 1600 Grand America touring bike. BMW Motorrad representatives will be on hand to answer questions about all of the motorcycles and rider apparel on display at BMW Motorcycles of Daytona.

Date: Saturday, March 10 through Saturday, March 17, 2018
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
Location: BMW Motorcycles of Daytona, 118 E Fairview Ave, Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Phone: (386) 257-2269
For directions, visit: https://www.eurocyclesofdaytona.com/–BikeWeek

As its name implies, the 2018 BMW K 1600 Grand America is ready for the open roads of the good ole U.S. of A. Based on the K 1600 B bagger, it adds a trunk with passenger backrest, taller windscreen and a higher level of standard equipment.

Due to arrive in dealerships this spring, the 2018 K 1600 Grand America is designed for those seeking a combination of style and optimal long-distance touring comfort. It will come with the same standard features and options as the K 1600 B (Bagger), with the addition of a high windshield, top case with integrated brake light, audio system and K 1600 Grand America nameplate as standard. Optional extras include an extra high seat and style package with the color option of Austin Yellow Metallic and Black Storm Metallic. The BMW K 1600 Grand America has a MSRP of $23,195.

Read our 2018 BMW K 1600 B cross-country road test review

Powered by the same liquid-cooled, 313cc single-cylinder engine as the G 310 R roadster, the 2018 BMW G 310 GS is an adventure bike for newer and smaller riders.

The all-new 2018 BMW G 310 GS, also arriving to BMW Motorrad USA retailers this spring, is BMW’s second single-cylinder motorcycle (following the BMW G 310 R) and the brand’s second most affordable model, offered at a MSRP of $5,940. Weighing in at just 374 lbs. (claimed), the BMW G 310 GS has a 6-speed transmission, smooth responsive power delivery, and best-in-class fuel consumption (at 71 mpg, claimed). It comes standard with two-channel ABS, which can be disengaged.

Read our 2018 BMW G 310 R first ride review

Check out more bikes in Rider‘s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles

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Avon Storm 3D X-M Tires.

At first glance, a sportbike’s mission is pretty clear—hustle down a twisty road as quickly as possible—but out there in the real world practical matters muddy that clarity. For example, often you have to ride some distance to get to where the good roads are, and you’ll spend most of that time on the middle of tires, not the edges. Bald tread in the center of an expensive and super-sticky rear tire combined with barely-worn shoulders prompted tire manufacturers to develop dual-compound tires, with a harder compound in the middle for all that boring stuff between the exciting bits. Avon’s dual-compound Storm 3D X-M is billed as a high-mileage sport-touring tire, designed to give you the best of both highway droning and backroad fun.

Avon says the Storm 3D X-M will deliver 15-20 percent more mileage than the current Storm range. It has interlocking three-dimensional points hidden in the tread sipes to improve stability and grip, limit tread flex and warm up the tire quickly. A super-rich silica tread gives good grip in the wet. A road-hazard warranty and a 15,000-mile warranty against the tread wearing out (certain conditions apply, but you suspected that anyway) are included. That’s all fine, but how long will the Storm 3D X-M last?

It’s impossible to say without wearing out a set, but I’m trying. Although Avon says the typical fitments for the Storm 3D X-M include heavyweights like the Honda Blackbird, Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki Concours 14, I levered a set onto my Honda VFR800, a comparative middleweight in such hefty company.

My riding habits pencil out to just about 50/50 highway and twisties, giving the tire equal opportunity to prove itself in its two primary habitats. After more than 5,000 miles, the middle of the dual-compound rear is showing signs of squaring off, but you have to look closely to see them. There’s still a lot of tread left before wear gets anywhere near the tread-wear indicator; I’m pretty sure I can get at least 10,000 on the rear, maybe more, before I start thinking about replacing it. The single-compound front tire is wearing evenly from shoulder to shoulder, and will probably match the rear for wear.

The Storm 3D X-M’s cornering performance on the street is more than a match for my skills, rewarding me with the narrowest chicken strips I’ve had on a bike in decades. Riding in the wet isn’t something most sportbike riders worry about, but here in Oregon the skies can open up any time. I’ve been caught out twice now, and the Storm 3D X-Ms handled wet pavement pretty well, and even cornered confidently—again, more confidently than me.

Unless you ride exclusively on the track, there’s no reason not to make the move to dual-compound tires for your sportbike or sport tourer. The 120/70-ZR17 front and 180/55-ZR17 rear for my 2000 Honda VFR800 have an MSRP of $181 and $232 respectively. I don’t yet know what the cost per mile will turn out to be, but whatever it is so far, it beats every other sport-only tire I’ve ever used.

For more information, see your dealer or visit avonmoto.com.

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Just east of the confluence of the Missouri and Chariton rivers in Glasgow. The original all-steel railroad bridge was a triumph of engineering at the time. Photos by the author.

If the title of “Great River Road National Scenic Byway Along the Mississippi River” evokes images of riding next to one of the mightiest waterways in America, well, it should. But at least in Missouri, it’s a bit of a misnomer. Great River Valley Road might be more accurate, and the highways there rank among the best I’ve ridden.

This levee protecting New Madrid was as close as I got to riding next to the Mississippi. Thankfully for the town’s sake, it held.

I crossed the Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa, and turned south onto U.S. Route 61, designated a Great River Road on signs and maps by lines radiating from a green circle. Soon, I was rumbling along gently rolling pavement among farm fields and pastureland that bore evidence of recent flooding. And while I mostly avoided rain, high water was a constant companion on this ride.

Humans aren’t the only fishermen on Truman Reservoir. Birds continuously circle overhead, searching for prey. Once spotted, they dive-bomb their way to a tasty meal.

At Hannibal, Missouri Route 79 was my choice. And what a great run: twisty and tight with brief glimpses of the river all the way to the town of Louisiana. The route swings west at Clarksville while retaining the River Road label, but I wouldn’t see the Mississippi again until I rode into Saint Louis. Turning east on Interstate 70, I was soon downtown. Wanting an unobstructed view of the Gateway Arch, I crossed the river on the Eads Bridge onto Illinois Route 3 and turned down a rough side road to the Mississippi River Overlook Park. The park has a 40-foot observation deck and is touted as the best spot to see the arch and city skyline.

A skilled hand at the wheel is a must. Towboat pilots on the Mississippi make moving thousands of tons of freight look easy. It’s not.

When it was time to chase the river roads again, I took Interstate 55 south and exited on U.S. 61 at Pevely. From there the two routes play tag all the way to the Arkansas border, occasionally sharing the same tarmac. At one point the superslab was the only option due to flooding. Ste. Genevieve offered the promise of seeing a genuine Mississippi River ferry crossing. But not on that day, as its dock was underwater. I did pick up one souvenir: a drywall screw in my Suzuki V-Strom’s rear tire. My repair kit saved the day and after lunch at the Anvil Restaurant & Saloon I was on my way.

A skilled hand at the wheel is a must. Towboat pilots on the Mississippi make moving thousands of tons of freight look easy. It’s not.

New Madrid is the home of the famous fault that seismologists say will one day spur the Midwest’s very own Big One. By this point all the dams are upstream and the Mississippi widens to massive proportions. After watching towboats organize barges, I headed south and didn’t detour until I exited onto U.S. Route 412. The map indicated the lowest point in Missouri was a few miles off the highway. While I have no doubt this was accurate, I didn’t bother checking for a marker, as much of the area was also underwater.

Looking south from the Eads Bridge, it is apparent how swollen the Mississippi was from heavy spring rains. The Poplar Street Bridge is in the background.

After a few days in Arkansas, I took U.S. Route 67 back into Missouri. Rumored road closures inspired me to alter my route west from U.S. Route 160 to U.S. Route 60. Not a bad swap, as the lightly-traveled rolling four-lane cuts through the heart of the Ozarks and offers spectacular scenery.

At Mountain Grove, I turned north on Missouri Route 95 and cut across some excellent county roads to Missouri Route 5. Like many secondary routes, these were posted 55 mph. It may sound weird, but I often felt this was too fast. I like brisk riding as much as the next guy, but when steep climbs and descents often include blind 90-degree turns it’s easy to get in over your head. Still, at one point, enthusiasm overruled caution as I tried to hang with a local Ducati rider. Yeah, right. Armed with a lighter bike, superior ability and road familiarity, he left me in the dust.

Fort Belle Fontaine County Park, just upstream of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi. Stonework courtesy of Works Progress Administration labor in the 1930s.

Missouri Route 5 intersects with Missouri Route 7 at Camdenton. Just outside of Warsaw I checked out the Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir, which is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The visitor’s center is perched high on Kaysinger Bluff and is a sight to behold. An historical society leases property on the grounds and hosts Warsaw Pioneer Heritage Days each October in a replica 1850s village, a good excuse for a fall ride through the Ozarks.

Thousands of miles of beautiful roads await in Missouri. The green and white Great River Road emblem can be seen just below the route number.

West of Warsaw, the road levels and straightens. Kansas City is a favorite of mine, but on this ride, I bypassed it and headed east on U.S. Route 24 to follow the state’s other big waterway, the Missouri River. More so than the Mississippi, it fulfilled my vision of what river road riding should be.

Cuts like this one on U.S. 61 show how hilly the going used to be. Thankfully, Missouri still has tons of rollercoaster roads.

A voluntary detour at Napoleon put me on Missouri Route 224, which runs very close to the water; silt from recent flooding was evident in many places. I watched the Big Muddy roll by for a while at a riverside park maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers and then headed for Lexington, which hosted a major Civil War battle in 1861. The Lafayette County Courthouse retains a memento: a cannonball lodged in one of its columns.

Along Missouri Route 79. The steep grade sign in the background may signify trouble to truckers, but to riders, it means fun up ahead.

East of Lexington, U.S. 24 reappeared. I took it as far as Waverly, hometown of Confederate General J.O. Shelby. From there, U.S. Route 65 was my choice to Marshall. Then I stumbled onto the Steve McQueen Memorial Highway, a stretch of Missouri Route 240. It passes through the farming town of Slater, where the megastar spent much of his childhood. The..

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New for 2018, Harley-Davidson’s Forty-Eight Special (left) and Iron 1200 (right) are factory-custom Sportsters powered by the 1,200cc Evolution V-twin.

Joining the all-new Softail family, the Road Glide Special, Street Glide Special and a fresh crop of Custom Vehicle Operations models in Harley-Davidson’s new-for-2018 lineup are two special Sportsters.

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails first ride review

Built around the venerable, punchy 1,200cc Evolution V-twin, the new Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special are perfect examples of what the Motor Company does best—stylish, custom-looking models straight from the factory. Both have apehanger handlebars, blacked-out wheels and retro graphics on their compact gas tanks.

“Since its inception, the Sportster has offered the perfect combination of size, power and character that makes it appealing to so many different riders,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson V.P. of Styling & Design. “A Sportster is a relatively easy bike to strip down and reinvent. What we’ve done to create the new Iron 1200 and Forty-Eight Special is what Sportster owners have been doing with their own bikes for generations.”

New fuel tank graphics distinguish both the Iron 1200 and the Forty-Eight Special, and combine bold color stripes with graphic elements straight out of the swingin’ ’70s.

“The art on these two fuel tanks reflect contemporary trends we are seeing on custom bikes and in design in general, a move away from more complex and intricate art to a look that’s very simple and clean,” said Richards. “It’s also important to note that these graphics respect the shape of the fuel tank and in the case of the Sportster, that tank shape is a classic design element in its own right.”

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic road test review

The 2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 features high bars, blacked-out components and retro graphics on its tank.

2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200
Compared to the 883cc Evo that powers the Iron 883, the 1,202cc Evolution V-twin in the Iron 1200 belts out 36 percent more torque (73.0 lb-ft vs. 53.8 lb-ft, claimed). More power, more punch, more street cred.

Like garage-built choppers, the Iron 1200 sports a satin-black, 1-inch-diameter Mini Ape handlebar with an 8.75-inch rise, 32-inch spread and 6.5-inch pullback for a fists-in-the-air riding posture. Other custom touches include a gloss black speed screen for attitude and a bit of wind deflection and a fast-back Café Solo Seat that holds the rider in position and flows to the rear fender.

When it comes to Harley-Davidsons, black never goes out of style.

A classic 3.3-gallon Sportster fuel tank features multi-colored striped graphics that wrap around the tank profile, which contrasts with the dark engine finish. Fuel tank paint color options include Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry and Billiard White. Nearly everything is painted black, with the pushrod tubes and tappet covers providing the only brightwork. The Iron 1200 is finished with all-black nine-spoke wheels (19-inch front and 16-inch rear diameter) and a solid black belt guard and rear sprocket.

MSRP for the Iron 1200 starts at $9,999, and Harley-Davidson’s Smart Security System and ABS are available as factory-installed options.

Read our 2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited road test review

The 2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special features a muscular front end topped by a high bar, a mix of black and chrome components and retro graphics on its tank.

2018 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special
Named after the year its small peanut tank was introduced, the Forty-Eight Special’s calling card is its beefy front end—a 130mm front tire framed by 49mm fork tubes gripped by massive forged aluminum triple clamps—and it is accentuated by a gloss-black, 7.25-inch high Tallboy handlebar.

“We specifically selected the Tallboy bar for its shape,” said Richards. “It offers less pullback than the Mini Ape, a look that really works with the steamroller front end and the smaller fuel tank on the Forty-Eight Special model.”

The Special’s 2.2-gallon “peanut” Sportster fuel tank features rows of bold, horizontal stripes framing a simple Harley-Davidson text logo, and the tank is available in three color options: Vivid Black, Wicked Red and Billiard White.

Light and dark, old and new on the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Special.

The Evolution 1200 V-twin features a black top end and an expanse of brilliant chrome below, including chrome primary, inspection and derby covers, and solid chrome muffler and exhaust shields. Chrome lower rocker boxes, pushrod tubes and tappet covers contrast with the black cylinders to highlight the V-twin’s shape. Michelin Scorcher 31 tires are mounted on Black Split 9-Spoke Cast Aluminum wheels (16-inch diameter front and rear).

MSRP for the Forty-Eight Special starts at $11,299, and the Smart Security System and ABS are available factory-installed options.

Check out more new bikes in Rider’s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles

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Tour Master Blacktop Leather Jacket (front).

You complete your ride for the day, check into the motel and then decide to walk downtown for dinner. Only now it’s dark and cold, and you wish you’d brought a hat. In recognition of this scenario, Tour Master has introduced a new leather jacket called the Blacktop that gets its name partly from its unique feature: an integrated black jersey knit hood that can be utilized when needed, or it can be zipped off and stowed away.

But of course, beyond this feature the Blacktop is a fully functional riding jacket. Constructed from top-grain 0.9-1.0mm thick cowhide leather, its classic style is accentuated by its antique silver hardware. Protective elements include removable CE-approved shoulder and elbow armor, with a high-density foam back protector. The waist belt is three-position adjustable for a custom fit.

Secure the main zipper and snap closed the two-position upper neck flap, and the Blacktop will keep out a good deal of wind. Inside is a zip-out polyester-fill vest-style insulated liner, but it is quite thin. Because the liner doesn’t meet or overlap, it leaves an uninsulated 7-inch-wide strip down the front. In terms of temperature range, the Blacktop should be considered for moderate to warm weather. When things heat up, zip out the liner and open the pair of functional upper-arm vents that will allow some welcome coolness. And of course, leather should not be exposed to rain.

The hood, which is made of a jersey material, is rather large and loose fitting. Without any elastic or a drawstring it does not hug the head and thus may not be as warm as it could be; it is also susceptible to being caught by a breeze. I tried donning my helmet over the hood, but found it too thick…the hood, not my head. The hood is also bulky when zipped off; when stowed in a pocket it creates quite a lump.

Tour Master Blacktop jacket (rear).

In addition to the usual handwarmer pockets the Blacktop also has an external breast pocket seven inches deep; all zippers are of the ubiquitous YKK brand. Inside there’s also a wallet pocket, a second breast pocket and a mobile media storage pocket, the latter properly sized for today’s iPhones and similar devices.

Tour Master’s Blacktop is a classically styled, high-quality leather jacket with all the usual necessary features in regard to pockets, venting, armor and its removable liner. As for its unique hood I liked the concept, but felt that it would have been better realized had it offered a method of cinching the hood a bit tighter around the face.

The Blacktop is available in men’s sizes only, from XS to 3XL, and MSRP is $324.99.

For more information, see your dealer or visit tourmaster.com.

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The new Yamaha FJR1300P: speeders, beware!

Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. will be making the FJR1300P, a new police version of its FJR1300 sport tourer, available for use by law enforcement and municipal organizations in the U.S.

The FJR1300P blends the performance, handling and reliability of the standard FJR1300A with the capability of adding an arsenal of equipment designed exclusively for police use. Yamaha says that “thanks to development feedback obtained directly from police departments and municipal organizations in various European countries, the FJR1300P sets a new benchmark for performance and reliability, critical for the demands of police departments across the United States.”

The standard FJR1300A should make a decent base for a police bike (read our full Tour Test Review of the 2016 FJR1300ES here), with its 1,298cc, DOHC, 16 valve inline-four good for 128 rear-wheel horsepower, ride-by-wire throttle, 6-speed tranny and 6.6-gallon fuel tank.

Special features exclusive to the FJR1300P include:

  • Pre-wired connectors for front and rear flashing lights, a siren and speakers
  • Pre-wired handlebar control switch
  • An auxiliary battery compartment
  • Taller windscreen
  • Knuckle visors integrated into the mirrors
  • Wind deflectors for the rider’s feet
  • Engine guards
  • Rear-mounted radio box

You can learn more about the new FJR1300P here.

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Kawasaki has upped the ante with the 2018 Ninja 400. Not only does it outdo its Japanese competition displacement-wise, it’s also a true sport bike at home on both the track or street. Photo by Kevin Wing.

A funny thing (well, two things actually) happened as I rounded turn 7, a 180-degree hairpin that catapults you down the backstretch of the hilly Sonoma Raceway, on the new 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400. It was late afternoon, the last session of the day, and the mild early February sun was backlighting the massive green hill guarding the west side of the track.

Thing One was that I was even noticed said sunlight or the hill at all. In fact, I noticed all kinds of things that wouldn’t normally show up on my radar when I’m riding about as hard as I can around a racetrack. Oh, look at that bird up there! Is that a hawk? Gosh, the sunlight looks pretty on those hills. And…are those sheep? Yep, those are sheep.

Thing Two was that I realized I’d spent all day flogging a 399cc motorcycle around a track, and not once had I thought, “I wish this thing had more power.”

In a nutshell, I was having an absolute blast.

As much as we like the KRT lime green color scheme, this Pearl Solar Yellow/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony variation is our favorite. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Walk through the paddock at your local track day and ask the riders (many of whom likely also race at the club level) about their first sportbike. Many will tell you that it was a Ninja 250R. The trouble with a 250, though, is that it can be easy to outgrow, and for many riders it’s just not powerful enough to cope with freeway traffic. Plus bigger’s always better, right? Not quite—500 or even 650cc “entry level” sportbikes have existed in all four Japanese OEM lineups at some point, but they are often perceived (correctly or not) as dumbed-down versions of the “real” sportbikes. Three of the Big Four have already bumped up their quarter-liter machines to 300cc, including Kawasaki, but with the 2018 Ninja 400, Team Green is throwing down the gauntlet.

A 103cc bump in displacement over its Ninja 300 predecessor is only the beginning. The Ninja 400 is all-new, with upgraded suspension, a new chassis and better brakes. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

The Ninja 400 is all-new, from its larger 399cc, DOHC parallel twin, to its assist-and-slipper clutch, to its steel trellis frame that uses the engine as a stressed member, and a swingarm that bolts directly to the back of the engine a la the Ninja H2 hypersport models.

In addition to the extra 103cc, Kawasaki says that the new engine’s improved performance is due in large part to its downdraft intake and large, 5.8-liter airbox. It spins up quickly, with most of the fun happening above 6,000 rpm. It’s not as dependent on high rpm as its 250 or 300cc brethren—executing a quick pass at highway speed still requires dropping a gear and grabbing a handful, but if you’ve got more room a downshift is no longer a requirement.

This graphic illustrates how minor the difference in size between the old 300 and the new 400.

On paper, the Ninja 400 is a rock star in its class. Kawasaki claims an output of 44.8 horsepower and 28 lb-ft of torque, which is on par with the racy KTM RC 390 and should handily best any of the Japanese 300s. Verification will have to wait until we can pull together a comparison test, but Kawi brags that the Ninja 400 will out-accelerate Yamaha’s R3 to the tune of seven bike lengths from zero to 200 meters, and in a 6th-gear roll-on from 75 mph, it will be 4.5 bike lengths ahead after 200 meters.

The analog/backlit LCD display is borrowed from the Ninja 650. It’s easy to read at a glance and contains tons of useful information. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Despite the increased engine displacement, the Ninja 400 weighs in at a svelte 362 pounds (claimed, wet; the ABS model adds 4 pounds). That’s more than 17 pounds lighter than the Ninja 300, 9 pounds less than the Yamaha R3, and about the same as the single-cylinder CBR300R. Only the KTM RC 390 (also a single) tips the scales with less weight.

On the street, the Ninja 400 is smooth and easy to ride. Handling is confidence-inspiring, perfect for both new riders and those looking to progress their skills. Photo by Kevin Wing.

A largest-in-class 310mm brake disc, the same size as that used on the Ninja ZX-14R, provides stopping power up front, and a 2-piston caliper squeezes the 220mm rear disc rather than the single piston used on its Japanese competition.

The bike’s suspension was upgraded as well, with a 41mm Showa fork and a new bottom-link rear shock with 5-position preload adjustment (requires the toolkit, which is included). I found it to be stiffer but more compliant than the previous model—ideal for the track and much better on gnarly roads than before, although larger testers still managed to bottom out over the worst bumps.

The 310mm front brake disc is the largest in its class. While I experienced some chatter when really clamping down, the brakes worked well. Photo by Kevin Wing.

So why start a leap-frogging displacement war? When does a small bike stop being small and start being a middleweight? Kawasaki’s reps didn’t answer those questions directly; instead they referred us to their Ninja 250 and 300 owner data, while also pointing out that these models represent half of Kawi’s total sportbike sales in the U.S. Predominately male (80 percent) and mostly new riders (55 percent have been riding for a year or less), their wish list was simple: give us more speed, a larger engine and supersport looks. No real surprises there.

Thank you, Kawasaki, for putting luggage hooks on the tail section! Photo by the author.

After spending two days on the Ninja 400, one on the street and one on the track, it’s clear that Kawasaki has not only delivered on its owners’ requests, it really knocked this one out of the park. There’s a new line drawn in the small bike sand that the other Japanese OEMs likely won’t ignore.

Kawasaki says the clutch has a 20-percent lighter pull than the Ninja 300; combined with the assist-and-slipper clutch, the Ninja 400 is supremely easy to ride even in stop and go traffic. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Jenny’s Street Gear
Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
Jacket: Alpinestars Stella Vika
Pants: Spidi J&Racing Denim Jeans
Boots: Sidi Gavia Gore-Tex

This being a sensible, beginner-friendly bike, Kawasaki paid some attention to everyday comfort and ergonomics. The rider triangle is fairly neutral for a sportbike, with clip-ons mounted to the top of the fork tubes, and handlebars that sit 15mm closer to the rider than the Ninja 300 for a shorter reach and easier handling when riding aggressively. Supersport-style aluminum footpegs are 9mm farther forward and 9mm farther down than the 300’s, contributing to a riding position that should be more welcoming to..

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1976 Bultaco Alpina 250. Photos by the author.

Señor Bulto had a simple plan when he started up the Bultaco brand in 1958: build great competition motorcycles. And he did. In the 1960s his two-stroke singles took the checkered flag in everything from motocross to trials to roadracing. The bikes were strong, light and dependable, and this was when most of the racing was done by individuals, rather than factory-supported riders.

He also liked evocative names. The first Bultaco was the Tralla, or Whip. Then there was the Metralla, or Shrapnel, and the Pursang—Pure Blood. The Matador was self-explanatory, denoting bull-fighting glory. The Sherpa celebrated the conquering of Mount Everest. And then the Alpina, honoring Europe’s largest mountain range, and the model we will talk about here.

Over the 25 years of Bultaco’s existence, 1958 to 1983, probably a hundred models appeared, ranging in size from the 50cc Chispa (Spark) to the 370cc Frontera (Frontier). Bulto loved racing, having been a successful competitor in his younger years, and what he liked to do was build a bike that could win races, and then turn out detuned versions for civilian use.

His engineers were also skillful at having one part fit several models, decreasing the costs of production. Bultacos were not inexpensive, and while they had a great racing background, they were competing with other European manufacturers and the coming onslaught of the Japanese.

Reliable production numbers are hard to come by, but one of the more successful models was the Alpina 250—which appeared in 1971, to be followed by 125, 175 and 350 versions. The first 250 Bultaco was a Sherpa, appearing in 1964, a trials and enduro motorcycle intended to win races rather than coddle the rider. It did take the European Trials Championship in 1968, and world titles after that.

Bulto was constantly upgrading his machines, making them even more competitive. The new Sherpa received a major do-over around 1970, and the projected Alpina was intended as the successor to the old Sherpa, being made a bit more manageable and rider friendly. The Alpina was advertised as a trials bike, but in truth was more of a trail-riding machine, great for plunking along dirt tracks. It was reliable, and capable of giving even a novice a pleasurable day of bashing the boonies. To make the Alpina more useful and friendly, the gas tank was enlarged to 2.6 gallons, with a longer saddle and rear footpegs so that a passenger could be carried along. And basic lights, of course.

The new model was essentially using the same frame as the Sherpa, with slightly different geometry. This was a steel affair, pretty unbreakable, with a single downtube (in an effort to keep the frame as light as possible) splitting into a full cradle going under the engine.

The Alpina weighed in at a very modest 217 curbside pounds (claimed), as opposed to an equivalent English 250 four-stroke single, which could run almost 300 pounds. The slow-turning engine of the British thumper was very useful in putting trials-type power to the rear wheel, until Bulto and his engineers figured out how to do roughly the same with a two-stroke, using heavier flywheels. They made sure the engine was properly balanced internally so as not to break the motor mounts, a not-unknown problem in those days. Also, a bracket ran from the cylinder head, secured by two head-bolts, up to the backbone tube of the frame just to ensure appropriate rigidity.

The Alpina’s 244cc piston-port engine had a wide bore of 72mm, a stroke of 60mm, and at 5,500 rpm was said to put out almost 25 useful horses. A chokeless 26mm Amal carburetor fed fuel mixture to the combustion chamber, where it was compressed 9:1, and the bike ran well on 87-octane gasoline. One complaint was the need to pre-mix the fuel, at a 50-to-1 ratio. The Japanese had done away with that little botheration on their two-strokes, while the British thumpers ran straight gas. Older two-stroke owners were quite content dealing with this minor fiddle, but the younger types found it rather irksome.

Ignition was by a Femsa magneto on the flywheel, which was used by many European two strokes, including the Spanish compatriots Ossa and Montesa and companies like Maico and Sachs. Kickstarter was on the left side, so those right-footers often stood beside the bike to start it. A primary chain ran back to a wet clutch and 5-speed transmission which had been borrowed from the Matador, a model intended for the International Six Days Trial, the tranny of which was a bit beefier than that on the Sherpa. The Matador’s gearing was more suitable for a trail bike, blipping along for miles at a reasonable speed, rather than climbing up a mountainside in first gear.

A steep Bultaco-built front fork gave 7 inches of travel, with Betor shock absorbers at the rear. Wheels were Akront aluminum, wearing a 2.75 x 20 tire at the front, 4.00 x 18 at the back. Drum brakes were adequate for the purpose of the Alpina. All this fit into a short wheelbase of 52.3 inches, with 11 inches of ground clearance—and the ability to dance around or over any obstacle.

A minor change to the engine was made in 1974, decreasing the displacement from 244cc to 237. This was done not for any technical reason, but to keep the model in line with other engines. Slightly heavier flywheels were added at the same time, increasing flexibility. Other small changes were made over the nine years of production, with the Alpina becoming a favored play bike for Americans as well as many Europeans.

Unfortunately the factory fell on hard times in 1979, and was briefly closed. When restarted in 1980, the Alpina was not in the lineup.

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Dave and Mary, a couple from Australia, enjoy a smooth, winding descent on Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park, with views of the jagged Monashee Mountains in the distance. Photos by the author.

When considering a motorcycle tour in another country, you may want to visit some place exotic, like Peru or Thailand, or ride legendary, bucket-list roads and passes in the Alps. The payoff is worth it, but those trips are bookended with long flights that go halfway around the globe and cross many time zones, adding expense, time and jet lag to an already demanding vacation. And then there are the unfamiliar languages, customs and foods, which may be a fascinating part of the experience for some but can be downright nerve-racking for others.

Our crew, after riding a gondola to the top of 7,700-foot Eagle’s Eye, a popular jumping off point for downhill mountain bikers and skiers at Kicking Horse Resort in Golden.

Sometimes you just want things to be easy, which is what makes Edelweiss Bike Travel’s Canada West Tour an attractive option. Since it starts and ends in Vancouver, booking direct flights from major U.S. cities is simple and affordable, and the route goes through the English-speaking Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. As fellow North Americans, we share a lot in common with our neighbors to the north, such as a love of beer, hamburgers and French fries (the latter are often smothered in gravy and cheese curds, an artery-clogging delight known as poutine).

Poutine is Canada’s gift to the world.

Last August, my wife Carrie and I joined 10 others from Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Switzerland and the U.S., along with two guides—Ramon from Germany and Milan from Colorado—on a version of the Canada West Tour that is no longer offered…and that’s a good thing. Our tour began and ended in Seattle, which made flights a little shorter but added two border crossings and three days of riding in Washington state that were not quite “tour worthy.” Moving the tour’s starting point to Vancouver for 2018 and beyond requires participants to go through customs at the airport (don’t forget your passport!), but eliminates the on-bike border crossings and keeps the route entirely in western Canada. Canadian dollars are different from ours, so you need to swap greenbacks for some of the brightly colored polymer banknotes, or, for the best exchange rate, just withdraw some from an ATM.

Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Most of us rented motorcycles from EagleRider, and although the arrangements were made in advance by Edelweiss, we spent a couple of hours on the morning of the first riding day getting everyone processed and packed, and then a couple of hours at the end of the final day checking the bikes back in. There’s a wide selection of bikes to choose from, but most of us were on BMW R 1200 GS or Triumph Tiger 800 models, plus one Harley-Davidson Street Glide with a fancy metal-flake paintjob (which we nicknamed the Golden Comet). Or, if you’ve got the time and inclination, you can ride your own bike. One member of our group, a fellow named Jim who lives in California, rode his Honda Gold Wing up to Seattle, during the tour and then back home again, saving himself the cost of motorcycle rental that’s usually part of the tour price.

Near Kamloops wildfire smoke stung our eyes and obscured scenic views.

Although Canada is known as the Great White North, in late summer it’s mostly green, with wildflowers adding splashes of red, yellow, purple and blue. When we crossed the border in the northeastern corner of Washington, we left behind the parched Columbia River valley and entered the western foothills of the Canadian Rockies—a land of steep mountains that plunge into flooded river valleys, with dams creating long, fingerlike reservoirs reminiscent of the fjords in Norway. Most of the mountains are densely covered by evergreens, with occasional jagged peaks jutting skyward above the tree line, often with cornices of snow or small glaciers hiding in the shadows. This tour is at its best when it follows small, two-lane provincial routes, such as Highway 31 that’s carved into the cliffs along the shore of Kootenay Lake, Highway 31A that parallels a trout-rich stream as it winds through a picturesque valley and Highway 6 that wiggles its way down the narrow edge of Upper Arrow Lake, crosses it on a cable ferry and then climbs over isolated, rugged mountains on its way to Vernon. On two riding days, because there are no alternatives, the route follows the Trans-Canada Highway from Sicamous to Lake Louise, which passes through beautiful scenery in Glacier and Yoho national parks but is heavily trafficked by cars, RVs and semi-trucks, has few places to stop and, during the short summer season, is under construction in many places. The entire tour route is paved, with daily distances averaging 220 miles on roads that are usually more scenic than challenging.

One of the First Nations totem poles in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

Our tour included nine riding days and two rest days—one in Jasper and one in Vancouver—but starting in 2018 the tour will skip the Vancouver rest day since that will be the new start/end city, and the three riding days in Washington state will be replaced with two days of riding west-to-east through southern British Columbia, shortening the tour from 11 days to nine. Based on its 36 years of experience, Edelweiss runs this tour as it does others in Europe and around the world—like clockwork. Riding days start off with breakfast at the hotel, a rider meeting at 8:30 a.m. to review the route and kickstands up by 9:00. There’s usually a midmorning coffee break, a lunch stop, an afternoon coffee break, arrival at the hotel around 5:00 p.m. and dinner at the hotel or a nearby restaurant. Breakfast everyday and dinner on riding days are included in the cost of the tour, with lunches, alcohol with dinner, tips, gas and other incidentals paid out-of-pocket. We stayed in comfortable, mid-level hotels, the nicest of which was the Georgian Court in downtown Vancouver, where we spent two nights and a rest day. That will be the base hotel at the beginning and end of the tour in 2018, so plan to stay a couple extra days before or after the tour to explore and enjoy Vancouver, a lovely, cosmopolitan city similar to San Francisco.

Fabio and Fatima, a couple from Brazil, lead the group across a wood-planked bridge over the Columbia River, near Golden.

On most organized tours people tend to stick with the group, but Edelweiss strongly encourages participants to go off on their own, preferably with a buddy for safety. Carrie and I opt to do so at least one day on most tours to enjoy some one-on-one time. We rode on our own during the most scenic riding day of the tour—the 170 miles from Lake Louise to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, which parallels the Continental Divide through Banff and Jasper national parks. We notified one of the tour guides and left early, skipping breakfast so we could get on the road before the tourists showed up.

You’ve got to get up pretty early to catch sunrise—and beat the crowds—at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Highlights of the Canada West Tour are many, with the ride up the Icefields Parkway being at the top of the list. It was a bluebird day, and, with the freedom to stop when and where we wanted, we dropped the kickstand often to admire and photograph lakes, waterfalls, glaciers (hiking up to the edge of Athabasca Glacier is a must-do) and the jagged mountains that rise steeply on both sides of the long valley. Other highlights include riding up and down the stunning Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park, which climbs 4,500 feet in just 16 miles. Riding over Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Pass and Yellowhead Pass. Standing at the foot of mist-shrouded, 12,972-foot Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Having 60 beautiful, twisting miles of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, from Lillooet to Pemberton, all to ourselves after a half-hour construction delay. Our boat ride on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island on our Jasper rest day (others went whitewater rafting, took a scenic ride or walked around town) and wandering around the historic areas of Gastown and Stanley Park on our Vancouver rest day.

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The 2018 Burgman 400’s new, larger 15-inch front wheel increases stability on the highway and gives the all-new maxi scooter nice neutral steering. (Photography by Julia LaPalme)

Scooters are often thought of as less-than real motorcycles, but in fact they are superior in many ways and deserve a wave from the rest of us. Cost of ownership (fuel, insurance, maintenance) is low, the underseat storage and step-through seating are convenient and the typical twist-and-go, continuously variable transmission (CVT) in a scooter make it easy to ride in stop-and-go urban traffic. And larger “maxi” scooters like Suzuki’s Burgman 650 Executive twin offer nearly as much performance as the typical middleweight motorcycle, and equal or even superior highway capability, wind protection and comfort.

Read our Scooter Shootout: BMW C 650 GT vs Honda Silver Wing vs Suzuki Burgman 650

As much as we like the big Burgman 650, the current Executive model is so large and luxurious that for some it’s a bit too much scooter, like getting a foot-long at the sub shop when you really only needed the six-inch. To that end Suzuki offers two models that step-down in size, weight and cost in proportion to their smaller engines, the Burgman 400 and Burgman 200. For 2018 the Burgman 400 is all new, and to my mind is now the Goldilocks “just right” model in the lineup. It lost 15 pounds, makes impressive power from its refreshed liquid-cooled, 399cc DOHC single with four valves and has stable handling at freeway speeds thanks to a stiffer new frame and larger 15-inch front wheel. Wind protection, comfort and styling are all upgraded as well. At a $2,950 savings over the 650 it’s still plenty luxurious for a scooter, too, with a thicker, slimmer seat, refined fit and finish and nice touches like an adjustable rider lumbar support, all-LED lighting and a power outlet in one of the two front storage compartments.

All-new styling keeps the Burgman look but is more angular and up-to-date. Overall the scoot is narrower, more compact and a claimed 15 pounds lighter.

I haven’t ridden a Burgman 400 in many years, but was nevertheless surprised by how much power and smoothness the single offers, zooming it up to freeway speeds quickly and easily with a handful of throttle and picking off stoplight after stoplight at the San Diego, California, introduction with a bark from the airbox, which has been enlarged and redesigned to give the scoot some aural authority. The Burgman 400 went away for the entire 2017 model year for its revamp, and returns for 2018 Euro 4 compliant and a claimed 12-percent more fuel efficient. Torque is up down low and the CVT and clutch have been beefed-up for quicker takeoffs from a stop, too.

Tubular-steel underbone frame is lighter and stiffer this year for better handling and stability.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Burgman 400 is the stability it offers for its size. Although our group of moto-scribes was capably led to some pretty photo stops through and around the maze of San Diego’s downtown area, the route didn’t include any freeway, vital arteries in Southern California where the traffic can be fast and aggressive. Most commutes are going to include at least a little freeway, so in the name of research I went rogue on the way back and hit Interstate 5 for about 15 miles out and back. Although the Burgman’s overall size is slimmer and more compact, that larger 15-inch front wheel and stiffer underbone tubular frame have definitely elevated the 400 to freeway worthy—I held a steady 75 mph in the light afternoon traffic and never felt a twitch or shimmy from the midweight Burgman. In corners and intersections the scoot handles smoothly and easily, too, exhibiting none of the tendency to fall in or oversteer often found on scooters with smaller wheels.

Horizontal single rear shock has 7-way preload adjustment, and Suzuki says it’s the only progressively linked shock on a maxi scooter.

Suzuki says the Burgman 400 is also the only scooter with a linked single shock in back (could be, but there’s a lot of scooters out there!), which offers 7-way preload adjustability like a motorcycle and does a somewhat stiff but capable job of suspending the scoot along with the 41mm fork. Strong triple-disc brakes with ABS—which has a 1.6-pound lighter control unit now—haul the bike to a quick stop. Just remember that in the unlinked system the left lever is the rear brake and the right lever the front brake as normal.

Fairing and windscreen provide very good protection from the wind—add a top trunk and you could easily tour on this scooter.

Of course the whole point of scooter design is to make their operation simple and conceal all of the mechanicals, leaving an approachable and friendly interface that is confidence-inspiring, comfortable and convenient. While the Burgman 400 doesn’t offer quite as much legroom as the 650 for my 5 feet, 10 inches, with the seat lumbar support all the way back there’s just enough room to stretch my legs out to the forward footwell position for cruising and plenty of space for my feet flat on the boards as well. The new bodywork incorporates cutouts in the rear of the floorboards to make it easy to get your feet down at stops, too, and the while the 29.7-inch seat height is slightly higher this year, it’s still low enough that I could easily plant both feet on the ground.

Windscreen is smaller this year but still seems pretty effective—Suzuki says it’s more aerodynamic than before.

Suzuki says the shorter new windscreen is actually more aerodynamic than the former swoopy design, and on that cool day in San Diego I found that the fairing and screen route the wind around the rider’s legs and torso quite well, with the wind coming over the top of the screen just hitting my helmet. It seems like quite an effective compromise for cold days and warm, and if you need more coverage Suzuki offers a taller screen as well as a number of other accessories.

Forty-two liters of underseat storage will hold a large full-face helmet and gear or an additional three-quarter helmet.

Passengers have it really good on the Burgman 400, with a large contoured seat, foldout footpegs and long, smooth grabrails that are easy to reach. The seat opens from the ignition switch and reveals a 42-liter storage compartment that will hold a couple bags of groceries or roughly one full-face helmet and one three-quarter lid (and you can’t believe the convenience these compartments offer until you try a maxi scooter). Two front compartments also provide several liters’ worth of storage, and there’s a DC power outlet in one, but neither one locks. Security is enhanced with a key-operated security shutter over the ignition switch and a gate in the lower portion of the bodywork that allows a chain lock to be passed through and around a frame member.

Comprehensive central LCD display shows everything you need, nothing you don’t.

I particularly liked the instrument panel, which has a central LCD display flanked by an analog speedometer and tachometer that are easy to read. The display includes an odometer, twin tripmeters, a clock, ambient temperature, average fuel consumption, fuel level and coolant temperature readings, plus an Eco Drive indicator that lights up when you’re riding “green.” I wasn’t able to get a formal fuel efficiency reading (we’ll update this story after we get a test bike in a couple weeks), but the average fuel consumption indicator said 54 mpg over the course of the morning, and that just happens to be the average mpg Suzuki claims for the Burgman 400, giving it a theoretical range of just under 200 miles from its 3.6-gallon tank.

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