Founded in 1974, Rider Magazine has over four decades of publishing history, and the Rider editorial team has over 150 combined years of experience. That means excellent coverage of motorcycle culture, news, and information. Believe us, this is a top-notch resource.
It rained the first half of the day, but after lunch the sun came out, our suits dried out and spirits lifted as we tossed the littlest GS through corner after corner. Photos by Kevin Wing.
We’ve been waiting for more than a year to get our gloved hands on the 2018 BMW G 310 GS, so a little rain wasn’t going to dampen our mood. In fact, as the herd (Flock? Gaggle? Pod?) of journalists trooped out to the row of GSs, which were being toweled off in a thoughtful but futile gesture by the BMW staff, we all agreed that it seemed fitting that we’d be testing an ADV bike in less-than-ideal conditions. That is, after all, what they’re for.
We got our first in-person look at the G 310 GS at the press launch of the G 310 R way back in December 2016. The GS shares a lot of components with its roadster sibling, including its comprehensive LCD dash, tubular steel frame with bolt-on rear subframe, 313cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine, die-cast aluminum swingarm, brakes, seat and headlight.
On the sometimes slick Black Canyon Road, which is mostly graded dirt (er, mud), the G 310 GS handled confidently. Its light weight meant a few slips and slides weren’t all that scary.
Because it wears the “GS” badge, however, ADV-ability expectations run high, and so it received a number of appropriate alterations. The handlebars are wider and angled farther back, it’s fitted with a luggage rack, wind deflector, beak, larger front fender, narrower and taller front wheel (2.5-inch x 19-inch vs. 3.0 x 17 on the R), spiked footpegs with removable rubber inserts, extended suspension travel (7.1 inches front and rear vs. 5.5 front and 5.2 rear on the R), two-channel ABS that can be switched off for off-road use, and Metzeler Tourance dual-sport tires, plus its exhaust was redesigned with a new heat shield and more upswept silencer.
Large luggage rack has plenty of tie-down points and is wide enough to support a duffel.
Thanks to the longer-travel suspension, its rider is perched on a fairly lofty (for a small bike) 32.9-inch seat, although its soft dual-sport suspension sags considerably once aboard and EIC Tuttle, who has a 29-inch inseam, was able to get the balls of both feet solidly on terra firma. In fact, the “Lil’” GS doesn’t feel so little—apart from its feathery 377-pound curb weight—from behind the handlebar. Sitting next to its R 1200 GS big brother it’s clearly smaller, but not 75-percent smaller. More than one person has asked me if it’s a 700 or 800. Lil GS has a big personality.
A close look at the 310 GS’s engine might have you cocking your head: yes, the cylinder is tilted backwards like the leaning tower of Pisa, and yes the intake is in front, the exhaust at the rear. This design, the first used on a street bike, centralizes mass, lowers and brings forward the center of gravity, and creates more power.
At its heart is a somewhat radical engine, its single cylinder tilted backwards and rotated 180 degrees, so that the intake is at the front and the exhaust at the rear. Seems logical enough, right? Besides creating a bit more power, having the intake at the front also allowed BMW to use a shorter fuel tank, reducing weight shifts from back-and-forth fuel sloshing.
Thanks to a wider handlebar with more pull-back and taller suspension, the 310 GS is comfortable enough for all-day rides. Note: tester is 5-feet, 9-inches.
While rotating the cylinder isn’t as unusual as it seems (the technique has been used on motorcycles and even a helicopter since the 1920s), tilting it rearward was something the engineers at Yamaha came up with when they were designing the 2010 YZF450F dirt bike. They found that by doing so, they could shift weight toward the front wheel and centralize mass, creating a quicker-steering machine.
On beat-up, wet pavement the G 310 GS shines. It soaks up bumps and is small enough to throw around anything you don’t feel like riding over/through.
BMW is the first to make use of the design on a street bike and it promises similar benefits, plus it allows a short wheelbase/long swingarm combo—which translates into quickness and stability. The 4-valve, DOHC cylinder head design is based on the S 1000 RR, including finger follower-type rocker arms with a super hard DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating that minimizes friction and a low-friction Nikasil coating on the cylinder sleeve. Nice touches for such an inexpensive bike.
LCD screen is better than what you’ll find on most bikes in this price category. It displays fuel level, speed, engine speed, time and gear, plus has a switchable odometer, two trip meters, fuel consumption data, engine temperature, date and range to empty. My only complaint is how hard it is to see the indicator lights in direct sunlight.
It looks the business as an ADV bike, but the G 310 GS turned out to be a surprisingly capable street master—as long as there aren’t a lot of high-speed freeways involved. It likes to be revved, with a 10,500-rpm redline, and you’ll find yourself working through the 6-speed gearbox on a spirited ride. Keep the tach at 6,000 or above and twist away.
Power output is modest as expected for a 313cc single—on the Jett Tuning rear-wheel dyno it managed 30 peak horsepower at 9,600 rpm and almost 19 lb-ft of torque at 7,600. A rotating counterbalancer shaft tames the vibes; I did a 3-hour freeway stint riding home after the launch and while my wrist was sore from holding the throttle open for so long, my hands, butt and feet never went numb.
Brakes are by ByBre, Brembo’s Indian subsidiary. Stainless steel brake lines too; BMW may not be known for inexpensive bikes, but they also aren’t known for cutting corners.
With long-travel suspension, the Lil GS eats potholes, frost heaves, bumpy patchwork and any other manner of pavement realities for lunch. For those more interested in being king of the urban jungle than king of the mountain, the 310 GS would make an excellent choice. It sips fuel, even when ridden aggressively; it’s averaging 64 mpg so far. All that combined with a tall seat, wide handlebar and commanding upright riding position—plus the fact that what you’re commanding weighs a scant 377 pounds—make the GS a fantastic city bike.
The 310 GS is more about power than torque, which is just as important off-road as it is on. Chugging your way out of a sticky situation is tough.
That’s not to say it doesn’t shine off-road as well. The China-built Kayaba suspension works quite well, soaking up bumps without being overly soft or pogo stick-like from a lack of rebound damping. There are no adjustments apart from rear preload, but even larger testers didn’t complain; a more thorough report will have to wait until we’ve had a chance to attack more than our test ride’s graded dirt road, but it’s worth noting that BMW took care to point out that it’s intended for “light” off-road use, a clear sign of which is the 19-inch front wheel vs. a more dirt-worthy 21.
Using your motorcycle’s control levers (clutch, shifter and front and rear brakes) with smoothness and subtlety is an important aspect of adventure riding, and the right setup makes all the difference. This adjustable shift lever from Wunderlich can accommodate boots and feet of different sizes. (Photo by the author and Greg Drevenstedt)
Generally speaking, unless you really push things on pavement–probably beyond safety or legality–you’re a lot more likely to suffer an inadvertent get-off in the dirt. Much of the challenge of off-pavement riding resides in our ability to use the controls with smoothness and subtlety. For this reason, I recommend that adventure riders optimize control lever setup for off-road riding.
Some of these adjustments may feel weird on pavement at first. They may even feel awkward off-road. Give it time. As you gain more experience, your riding position and style will evolve, and as they evolve what feels good on the bike will also change.
Let’s start feet-first.
The main challenge with foot lever setup stems from the fact that we’re usually seated when riding on pavement and standing up on the pegs when riding off-road. In general, our toes rest a little higher when we are standing than when we are seated.
Big, bulky adventure-style or motocross boots provide excellent protection for feet and lower legs, but they offer limited feel on the shift lever and rear brake pedal.
New boots, and/or beefy adventure riding boots with a lot of protective plastic, can take a long time to break in and will never be as supple as a light pair of street riding boots. They may require more use of your upper leg joints rather than just your ankle to shift. You’re going to need to get used to shifting while standing, too.
Find yourself a section of smooth, simple unpaved road (R1 on my Trail Rating System) long enough to allow you to run up and down a few gears. Stand up and shift through the gearbox a few times. You may struggle a bit at first. If you have trouble getting your toe under the lever, you may need to raise it to a higher position. Or, if you have to lift your toe up excessively high to reach the lever, you may need to lower it. (Many shift levers are clamped onto a splined shaft. To adjust the lever’s height, loosen the clamp, slide the lever off the shaft and rotate the lever up or down before sliding it back onto the shaft and retightening the clamp. Make sure you have the proper tool(s) you need to make lever adjustments while you’re out on the trail.) Adjust your shift lever until shifting feels easy and natural while standing on the pegs. If your lever doesn’t allow you to make the height adjustments you’d like, consider shopping for an aftermarket one that will. Some aftermarket levers can even be extended or retracted to accommodate large or small feet (see photo at the beginning of this column).
Once you get your shifter adjusted, shift up and down through the gears while seated to make sure you can still operate the lever comfortably. There isn’t a right or wrong setup; you’re looking for what you can work with on pavement as well as off. My own experience has been that minor struggles shifting on pavement are insignificant relative to the consequences of struggling to shift when off-road. Furthermore, the initial weirdness of using your off-road shifter position on the street should decrease after a short time. My suggestion is to lean toward your off-road setting, and give it some time on-road before making more street-comfy changes.
A dual-height brake pedal is standard equipment on a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. The spring-loaded platform folds out of the way for seated, on-pavement riding.
Rear Brake Lever
I’ve met a brake lever or two lately that seemed to have no adjustment at all. Most–like shift levers–can be raised or lowered, and some can be extended or retracted. There are a host of aftermarket options for many adventure bikes, so don’t suffer with what you’ve got if it doesn’t work for you.
For stand-up, off-road riding, the BMW R 1200 GSA’s brake pedal platform folds down, raising the effective height of the pedal relative to the footpeg.
The best brake lever setup is a wide, low platform for use while seated, and a higher, narrow platform close to the body of the bike for use when standing. Some adventure bikes offer this dual setup out of the box (see photos above). Your motorcycle brand and model will dictate whether your stock lever is sufficient and/or what aftermarket choices you have. Whatever setup you choose, make sure that when seated you don’t drag the brake at rest, yet can apply full braking when needed. Make sure that when standing, you can apply full braking without lifting your foot off the peg, and that there is space for your toes to move below the brake lever without hitting it.
In its stock configuration, the Honda Africa Twin’s levers are best positioned for seated, on-pavement riding. Laine is shown here and in the photos below without a jacket and gloves so his wrist angle is easier to see.
Clutch and Front Brake Levers
As far as hand levers go, you’ll need to lower both the clutch lever (if you’ve got one) and the front brake lever for off-road riding. To minimize forearm fatigue, adjust the levers to allow your wrists to remain as straight as possible during stand-up riding. If you draw a line from your elbows to the hand levers, the grips should fall more or less on that line. We’ll talk more in the future about off-road riding position, but in a nutshell, your elbows are high when standing (which should be most of the time off-road) and low when seated.
When standing on the pegs with hands on the grips, the high position of the Honda Africa Twin’s levers puts the wrists at an awkward angle, limiting the ability to easily and comfortably operate the levers.
Adventure bikes do a lot of stuff really well, but rarely do they do any one thing perfectly. Here again, we need to decide where we want to maximize performance—on-road or off-road—and lean toward that in our setup choices. In my training classes, I have students start off by adjusting their levers as low as they can. Then, after enough seated riding for the novelty to wear off, if they continue to have difficulty or discomfort using their levers in the low position, to raise them in small increments until they find a position that strikes a good compromise between their ability to control the bike off-road (while standing) and on-pavement (while seated).
On his BMW F 650 GS Dakar, Laine has his brake and clutch levers positioned as low as they will go, which means he has to reach his fingers lower to use them while seated on the bike.
“As low as they can” is almost never as low as desired. On adventure bikes, there is almost always something in the way of lowering your levers to the ideal position for stand-up riding. On some bikes, adjusting the lever position requires moving the mirrors and hand guards as well. If you want the levers low but still want the hand guards to be in front of your hands, you may need aftermarket guards that allow more adjustability. If you don’t want the mirrors to hit the windscreen with your new setup, you may need aftermarket mirrors or a different windscreen. In other cases, a good setup is easier to achieve with aftermarket handlebars.
Even with its 21-inch front wheel the Himalayan is quite nimble on the road, but its footpegs touch down easily in corners. Photos courtesy of Royal Enfield.
To understand the Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle, you need a little appreciation for the motorcycle market in India, where RE is based in Chennai. First, it’s ridiculously huge. More than a third of the country’s 1.3 billion inhabitants own a motorized two-wheeler, and the top-10 Indian motorcycle manufacturers bang out more than 1 million motorcycles per month. No horsepower wars there, though—of those million-plus, three-quarters are 150cc or smaller. Utility reigns supreme, and low cost, fuel efficiency and maneuverability sell far more bikes than power or luxury.
Everything you need, nothing you don’t, with rugged styling and a low price tag as well.
Outside of the hirsute commute in Indian cities, literally hundreds of tour groups—including Royal Enfield’s own Rides program—make adventurous treks by motorcycle up into the Himalayas in the far north and Nepal next door, braving treacherous dirt roads, extreme temperatures and passes at more than 18,000 feet because…well, because it’s there. In the U.S., Royal Enfield’s Bullet and Classic 500s are considered quirky retro machines and would never be used as dual-sports. In India though, perhaps because the brand has been around longest, or perhaps because its two-valve, air-cooled singles and stone-simple chassis and running gear are easily repaired roadside, Royal Enfield 350 and 500 singles are by far the most popular bike for slowly but surely clawing and scratching up into the mountains. They don’t go fast…they just go.
Tailsection easily accommodates hard bags like RE’s $729.95 aluminum pannier kit, which includes the mounts shown.
Once in danger of being sold off by its parent company Eicher Motors in the late ’90s, Royal Enfield is now on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of middleweight motorcycles, growing 50 percent every year for the last six and opening new factories and technical development centers in India and the UK. In 2010 RE built and sold about 40,000 motorcycles; in 2018 that number will grow to at least 850,000. A pair of new 650 twins—the Interceptor and Continental GT—are coming to the U.S. lineup early next year, and RE says that more new engines and platforms will follow.
Developed before the new twins, the 411cc single is Indian’s first new engine since the 1950s.
In that expansive environment, when some of the RE team noticed Bullet and Classic single owners modifying their bikes to better suit the rugged environment of the Himalayas, it was decided RE should build its own adventure bike, and the Himalayan was born. Originally designed just for India—with no pretense of competing with the likes of big, expensive ADV machines overseas—Royal Enfield North America (RENA) President Rod Copes nevertheless recognized the bike’s potential in our growing ADV bike market and convinced RE India to homologate the Himalayan for the U.S. Making the bike acceptable to our EPA and DOT with Keihin electronic fuel injection, different lighting and instruments, reflectors, etc., added a few pounds, but otherwise the compact bike is the same one taking riders over insane passes in the Himalayas like Rohtang and Thorong La.
Instrumentation includes a tach and LCD display with tripmeters, temp, time and gear position, and there’s an analog fuel gauge and compass.
Even with these upgrades, the Himalayan is simple, fun and approachable, and its $4,499 price tag undercuts competition like the BMW G 310 GS (also made in India) and Kawasaki Versys-X 300 by as much as $1,200. With a claimed 24.5 horsepower at its redline of 6,500 rpm, the Himalayan’s SOHC, 2-valve 411cc single makes fewer ponies than those rev-happy bikes, but it was designed with a long stroke to crank out 26 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than the BMW or Kawi. This low-end grunt makes the 421-pound, fully gassed bike adept at climbing hills, churning up a rocky riverbed in a higher gear at low speed or squirting though traffic. Accessible screw-and-locknut valve adjusters simplify maintenance, and a gear-driven counterbalancer in the 5-speed LS 410 engine reduces vibes to just a mild pulse feel in the grips. Royal Enfield says its quality control issues of the past are under better control thanks to its new facilities in India, and because RENA makes a pre-delivery inspection of every bike at its PDI center in Texas before shipping them to dealers.
Harris Performance in the UK developed the Himalayan’s half-duplex split-cradle frame.
UK-based Harris Performance, which designs and manufactures road and racing motorcycle chassis and components (and was recently acquired by Eicher Motors), developed the Himalayan’s half-duplex split-cradle steel frame, Royal Enfield’s first with linked single-shock rear suspension. In addition to carrying luggage in back and a generous 444-pound load capacity, major goals were to have both a low enough seat that the average Asian rider could plant both feet on the ground and plenty of suspension travel. Even with its relatively low 31.5-inch seat height—which feels much lower when you straddle the bike because of its narrow side panels—there’s still 7.9 inches of travel in front and 7.1 rear, and a generous 9 inches of ground clearance. Seating is upright and relaxed, with a high, wide handlebar and lowish footpegs that drag easily in turns but make standing up quick and easy. Larger riders will probably find the seat overly soft and seating a bit cramped on the smaller-scale ADV bike, but at 5-feet, 10-inches it fit me just fine.
Royal Enfield removed the lower of the bike’s two front fenders for our off-road foray.
Royal Enfield launched the Himalayan in Midlothian, Texas, at TexPlex, a 1,000-plus-acre facility with lots of adult toys like earthmovers, jet boats and MX tracks as well as a large off-road riding circuit that was a good test of the Himalayan’s dirt capabilities. First we made a 1-hour on-road ride on back roads, winding through bucolic countryside past horse farms and barns. For 411cc the Himalayan holds it own well, with enough power to accelerate quickly into top gear on the Interstate and merge with traffic up to about 75 mph, where it runs out of steam. At lower speeds there’s just enough power to make quick passes and out-gun traffic—the bike feels very similar power-wise to a mid-1970s Honda XL350, in fact, but far smoother, and the EFI gives it good throttle response and a claimed 70 mpg, for a range from its 4-gallon tank of more than 250 miles. It would be a stretch to tackle our 80-plus mph Interstates in the U.S. for very long, especially in high-volume areas like Southern California, but the bike is OK for jumping on and off them and cruising saner highways and backroads.
Single front disc brake is just strong enough on-road and works well off. Aggressive Pirelli dual-sport knobbies handle the bike’s lower pavements speeds just fine and grip well off-road.
Suspension front and rear is made in India and is quite capable on-road and off, soaking up small bumps and big potholes without any drama and helping me ride the bike pretty quickly on the off-road course. Big G-outs would bottom the rear shock, but I..
For blasting (silently) around town or on short sport rides, the Zero SR is a great choice, with capable suspension and a comfortably upright riding positon.
MSRP: $18,690 (as tested) Mileage: 2,190
Living with an electric bike at this relatively early stage in their development requires a willingness to accept certain limitations. Range and charging time are the most obvious, but also there’s the high initial cost (offset somewhat by state and federal tax credits—although the latter are set to be killed off in the tax bill that Congress passed earlier this year) and limited dealer network.
The LCD dash includes battery level (left) and real-time battery usage and regen levels (right).
The first question a Zero buyer needs to ask him-/herself is: longer range or faster charging? As we pointed out in our first installment (whichincludes a riding impression and specs), you can’t have both. Although we live and work in an area of California replete with Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, which the Zero Charge Tank option requires, we opted for the Power Tank instead, which expands the battery capacity for extended range. There are still a lot of areas in the country that don’t have many Level 2 stations yet, so we figured we’d go all-in with maximum range, charging the bike off a standard 110v wall outlet. Every Zero comes with a power cord that folds up and tucks away into a compartment in the swingarm, so all you need is an outlet close enough to your parking spot…or an extension cord. At lunch, plug it in and over the course of an hour you could expect about a 10-percent increase in charge. Ride to work, plug it in and even if it’s near zero when you get there, you’ll ride home at the end of an 8-hour day with at least an 80-percent charge in the 13.0 kWh main battery and 2.9 kWh Power Tank. Zero also offers an accessory quick charger for home or office use that can cut charging time.
The single front brake disc is best utilized in conjunction with dialed-up regen (engine braking).
So how far will a full “tank” get you? We put our Zero SR in battery-sipping Eco mode, which maximizes range by limiting torque output and top speed, to find out. With a 200-pound rider aboard, riding in the blood sport that is Southern California traffic—go fast or get out of the way—we maxed out at 114.4 miles of mixed city and highway riding. We also played with the Custom mode, dialing up the torque to 100 percent, top speed to 108 mph and “regen”—engine braking that charges the battery—to 76 percent. With a smaller rider aboard, we achieved about 130 miles in the city and barely 100 on the freeway.
Fully adjustable Showa suspension units include a rear shock with a generous 6.35-inch travel and a cartridge fork with 6.25 inches of travel.
Our verdict: if you live in a city or have a short commute, the Zero would be a great choice. If you rely heavily on highways or like to take long rides, it might be best to wait for battery/charging technology to catch up. Regardless, we’re happy to see this American company pushing the limits and supporting progress.
Mountain passes in southern Colorado are a sensory overload of crisp, clean air and forever views. Photos by the author.
You’d be hard pressed to find two more picturesque towns anywhere in the Southwest than Durango and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. These southern Colorado hamlets are only 60 miles apart, a distance that can be spanned in a little more than an hour. But what’s the fun in that? Motorcyclists are known for seeking routes that combine curves, views and intrigue, even if those paths take us well out of our way. Here is a look at an amazing, albeit indirect route between the two cities.
Our starting point, Durango, Colorado, is a magnetic mecca for tourists, active sports enthusiasts, history buffs and motorcyclists. Flanking the beautiful Animas River, the historic mining and railroad town harkens back to the Old West while embracing all that is new and vibrant. There is an impressive variety of lodging and dining options, but be forewarned, mountain chic does not come cheap in this popular destination. One hotel that is worth the splurge, in my opinion, is the historic Strater Hotel. The Main Avenue landmark offers rooms in comfortable classic style in a great location for exploring the town.
To ride the Rockies in the springtime is to be totally enveloped in every hue of green.
Let’s get to that circuitous route. Pagosa Springs is due east from Durango, but that’s not my path. One of the most amazing roads in the country is U.S. Route 550 north of Durango. The highway climbs into the Rocky Mountains almost immediately after leaving the Durango city limits. I settle into that wonderful rhythm of the road as the curves unfold before me. Then comes my first unplanned stop. A multi-hued gurgling mound of minerals catches my eye beside the road. It’s a spout of the Pinkerton Hot Springs. It looks like something from the overactive imagination of a Disneyland sculptor, but it’s all natural in its sunset palate of colors.
Back on U.S. 550, I continue my climb into the “American Alps.” Not only is the immediate road amazingly twisty, but the emerging peaks on the horizon deliver a promise that there are miles more of the same to come. Mountain passes, dense forests, viewpoints and historic mining structures abound on the ascent. After several stops to just look and breathe, I crest a mountain pass and head down toward another historic town. Silverton sits nestled in a nook in the Rockies and the highway affords a great bird’s-eye perspective of the quaint village. It is with anticipation that I carve the descent to the town.
The bubbling Pinkerton Hot Springs just north of Durango look like something otherworldly.
Silverton is a smaller and less commercialized version of Durango. Interestingly, the two towns are not only linked by the fantastic road that I just traveled, but also a scenic narrow-gauge railroad run. Silverton’s historic buildings and rugged mountain backdrop are well worth my stop.
The next leg on my elongated path to Pagosa Springs is on the section of U.S. 550 known as the Million Dollar Highway. This road from Silverton to Ouray is awe-inspiring, historically significant and more than a little dangerous. As I descend into the valley cradling Ouray, the danger for me is that the views are so astounding that remaining focused on the road is a challenge. My suggestion to all is to slow way down on this narrow stretch of mountainside hairpins and stop often to take in the scenery.
Climbs and descents through the Rocky Mountains are the perfect way to even out tire wear.
The town of Ouray is another must-stop location, as numerous dining, shopping and sightseeing opportunities are at hand. After the stop, I continue my ride north on U.S. 550. On this stretch, there is a junction with State Highway 62. This is where most motorcyclists take a turn to the left to complete that great ride back south through Telluride. However, that’s not my plan, so I continue north. There will be a great payoff later.
At Montrose, I turn to the east on U.S. Route 50. The road bisects a high plateau region that combines great open views with sweeping corners and open-the-throttle straights. On U.S. 50, I ride through high chaparral vistas and ultimately beside the Gunnison River and the Blue Mesa Reservoir.
The historic Strater Hotel in Durango was a favorite writing hideaway for western author Louis L’Amour.
Heading south over the Gunnison River onto State Highway 149, also known as Silver Thread Scenic Byway, I am aware that I am about to embark on the “road less traveled.” Unlike the Million Dollar Highway, this is not one of the famous rides in southern Colorado. I think it should be. My map indicates that Highway 149 follows the Continental Divide closely and is replete with copious curvature. The reality of the road does not disappoint.
Because this highway is devoid of intersections and cross highways and is off the beaten path, traffic is light. In fact, in my hours on Highway 149, I see maybe a dozen other vehicles. It’s not just the light traffic that makes this road a motorcyclist’s dream. There are two 11,000-foot mountain passes in the road’s span and seemingly hundreds of thrilling turns.
The road to the historic silver boom town of Creede is a lightly traveled delight.
An added bonus in seeking out this road less traveled is finding great little towns. One is Lake City, which flanks Highway 149 on both sides of the road. Its historic buildings and boardwalks are a delight. Another gem of a town, Creede, is a rough-around-the-edges, eclectic and fully enjoyable place. The town seems to be carved into a side canyon and is rich with unique and colorful structures and residents. It’s an isolated but vibrant historic setting. As soon as I pull out of Creede I know I will return for a longer visit. It’s that kind of place.
The last leg of this long and wonderful route to Pagosa Springs includes the rest of Highway 149, which follows the Rio Grande for several miles. At South Fork, I make the southwestern turn onto U.S. Route 160, which features the famous Wolf Creek Pass in the middle of the beautiful San Juan Mountains.
Pagosa Springs clings resolutely to the banks of the cold waters of the San Juan River.
The end game of this spectacularly indirect route is Pagosa Springs. The city clings to and seemingly derives its life from the cool waters of the San Juan River. What strikes me most is how the town teems with life. Bicyclists, hikers, kayakers and motorcyclists are everywhere.
So there you have it, the long road from Durango to Pagosa Springs. Due to elevation, this is clearly a late spring through early fall ride. Yes, it’s miles out of the way…and worth every one of them.
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.
The 30K comes with everything you need to install it in your helmet, including three microphone options.
Bluetooth communication systems combine audio from your phone, GPS and music player with bike-to-bike intercom. Sena developed Mesh Intercom, a new technology included with Sena’s 30K Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System with Mesh Intercom, to improve bike-to-bike connections for groups.
For public conversations, Sena’s 30K lets you instantly connect with nearby 30K users without pairing headsets. Simply raise the antenna, push the button and a practically unlimited number of 30K users can converse in an open network.
For private conversations, Mesh Intercom lets you create a closed network of 30K headsets, enabling participants to join, leave and rejoin the private group without affecting the connection between each headset. Just hold that same button for five seconds to create a Mesh and invite up to 15 nearby 30K users to join. When they tap their button to join, they’re automatically switched to Private Mode and pulled into the Mesh.
Mesh Intercom beats Bluetooth Intercom by uniting the group head-to-tail in a self-healing network. Ever set up a multi-rider Bluetooth group connection and had to stop and reconnect because someone fell out of range? With Mesh Intercom, if a rider goes out of range, the rest of the group remains in communication. The system actively searches and reconnects the rider automatically when they come back within range.
Besides Mesh, the 30K has capabilities similar to Sena’s latest 20S Evo and uses the same headset. There’s Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity to pair with your phone, music player and GPS, plus universal Bluetooth Intercom to connect with riders who don’t have Mesh. Audio Multitasking lets you have an intercom conversation while simultaneously listening to music or GPS instructions; it’s always on and configurable with Mesh Intercom, though unavailable with Bluetooth Intercom. (A future firmware upgrade might address that.)
Our testing involved four 30K users and focused on Mesh Intercom capabilities. Setting up a Mesh was indeed simple, once everyone started from Public Mode (helps to read the manual). Underway, we stayed connected head-to-tail, even on winding roads, so long as each rider had clear line-of-sight to the next rider ahead. Often, we stayed connected even when the next rider was around a corner. Testers purposely rode out of range and back within range, and the Mesh reconnected them automatically. This worked seamlessly, and all four testers liked it.
Sena claims Mesh range of up to 1.2 miles between 30K users and up to 5 miles for a group head-to-tail. That must assume ideal conditions, like a flat landscape without trees, buildings or large vehicles. In New England’s hilly countryside, our range (confirmed via Google Maps) was approximately one-half mile between riders with clear line-of-sight, and more than a mile head-to-tail. Bike-to-bike range should improve in open terrain, and having more 30K users (up to 16 can join a Mesh) should extend range head-to-tail.
Sound quality was good for helmet speakers. As with other comm systems I’ve tested, installing a 30K required removing and replacing helmet padding to run wires for the speakers and microphone…tedious, perhaps, but not difficult. Each 30K we tested retained sufficient charge to operate as intended throughout the day. Sena’s new Quick Charge capability can provide three hours of Mesh talk time after 20 minutes of charging, and 30K’s can be charged, while in use, from a power bank.
Sena’s Utility App for the 30K helped manage the device’s many features and settings using my phone. Having the current User Guide downloaded to my phone proved a helpful reference.
Bottom line? It’s simple connecting a group of riders using Mesh Intercom, and the self-healing network helps the group stay connected.
For more information, see your dealer or visit sena.com.
When Yamaha unveiled its radical “LMW” (Leaning Multi-Wheel) three-wheeled Niken at EICMA in November 2017, moto journalists and enthusiasts alike expressed an immediate and keen interest—even if not everyone agrees on its viability or even whether or not it’s really a motorcycle.
Most of the questions and discussion since the unveiling have centered around the Niken’s front suspension, especially given it will have the ability to lean just like a normal two-wheeled motorcycle. To that end, Yamaha has released a new video that offers some explanations about the technology, including the suspension, frame and swingarm design, behind the Niken.
Granted, the video is high on production value and somewhat low on actual, detailed information, but we’re guessing they want to keep the nitty gritty to themselves until the bike is actually ready for its press introduction—presumably sometime later this year.
So for now, watch and let the discussions commence!
We were riding some of the best roads in Europe, but the heavy rain and wind put a damper on our fun–and work. This photo pass was the only one we got before the photographers called it off. (Photos and illustrations courtesy of Yamaha)
New model press launches are usually carefully curated affairs—perfectly curvy roads, impressive scenery, cool coffee stops and, of course, plenty of gastronomic delights. There’s one aspect, however, that’s completely out of even the most fastidious event planner’s control: the weather.
Yamaha thought it was playing it safe by booking the global launch of the refreshed 2018 MT-07 (formerly known Stateside as the FZ-07) in Marbella, on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol (“Sun Coast”). Situated on hills overlooking the Mediterranean and backed by picturesque mountains covered with squiggly pavement, it’s an ideal base for a day’s test ride with a gaggle of throttle-happy journalists. Well, usually.
Our day started out nice enough, as we cruised through several towns on our way to the mountains. (Photo by the author)
Instead of sunny skies and fast roads, our test ride day dawned cool and cloudy, and after a meager 40 km (about 25 miles) the skies opened up, slowing us down considerably but giving us a great opportunity to put our waterproof boots and rain gear to the test. On the one hand, this meant our ability to evaluate the MT-07 at an aggressive pace was limited—but on the other, it gave us an opportunity to ride it in “real world” conditions…not that any motorcyclist really enjoys riding in 50 mph wind gusts and cascading sheets of rain.
The MT-07’s tubular steel frame is unchanged from last year.
The MT-07 has enjoyed a light restyle for 2018, including revised suspension that is stiffer and employs more compression and rebound damping, a roomier rider and passenger seat (seat height remains the same at 31.7 inches), a redesigned tank cover, a new headlight, front turn signals that have been relocated to just above the redesigned radiator cover, a restyled tail with new LED tail light, and standard ABS (formerly a $500 option).
Its 689cc parallel twin is also unchanged. In this cutout view you can see how the cylinders are offset from the crankshaft, the same technique as that used on the YZR-M1 MotoGP racebike and the MT-09.
The “MT,” by the way, stands for “Master of Torque,” a nomenclature ostensibly derived from the MT-01 muscle bike, but as EIC Tuttle discovered it also happens to be the title of an anime series produced by Yamaha in Japan. The first episode is called “Idle Roughness.” We kid you not.
Despite a few pops of blue sky, the clouds were building quickly. It wasn’t a question of if we’d get wet…it was when. (Photo by the author)
We’ve been smitten with the FZ-07 since it was first introduced in 2014 as a 2015 model: it’s fun, inexpensive and has a lot of character for what some would consider an entry- or intermediate-level bike. We’re not the only ones—Yamaha U.S. says the FZ-07 was its number one-selling bike in 2017, and more than 15,000 units were sold from June 2014 through December 2017. Naked sportbikes in general are becoming more popular, as casual riders abandon the ultra-aggressive posture, power and price of pure sportbikes in favor of naked versions that deliver 80 percent of the performance along with real-world comfort and a lower price tag. To that end, Yamaha says sales of its “Hyper Naked” segment, which includes the FZ/MT-07, FZ/MT-09 and FZ/MT-10, are up 260 percent since 2012.
In this comparison of the old (left) and new (right) MT-07 seats, you can really see how much flatter and longer the rider’s seat is.
While the MT-07 excels as a complete package, a large part of its appeal can be attributed to its feisty CP2 (Crossplane Concept) 689cc, DOHC, 8-valve parallel twin engine, with an uneven 270-degree firing interval for character enhancement and a boost in low-to-midrange power. Its two cylinders are offset 7mm toward the front of the engine, a design borrowed from the YZR-M1 MotoGP racebike and the MT-09, reducing cylinder-to-piston friction and horsepower loss, and increasing fuel efficiency.
The new seat doesn’t lock the rider in place like the old version. It’s a small change but a noticeable one.
From the rider’s seat, the bike feels rambunctious, light and fun—even more fun perhaps than its more powerful MT-09 brother. The snarling mill sounds great, power delivery is predictable and linear, and the smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission has ratios specifically chosen to eliminate the need for frequent shifting. The tubular steel frame, which uses the engine as a stressed member, has walls that vary in thickness—key to the bike’s claimed 403-pound wet weight.
Comprehensive LCD display is unchanged; it includes a tachometer, gear position indicator, speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, fuel gauge, fuel reserve trip meter, clock and fuel consumption data.
The MT-07 lacks techno-luxuries like traction control, throttle-by-wire or ride modes; the traction control is your right hand. On most test rides, I would lavish praise on the feistiness of the MT-07’s engine, but on this rainy day I was grateful for its linear torque curve. The parallel twin delivered enough grunt at low rpm to let me stay in a higher gear, reducing the chance of rear wheel slip as we negotiated the never-ending curves.
Wave rotors look the business; the 4-piston opposed calipers work well and..
The Training Tour crosses Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge (c. 1882) over the Deerfield River. At 198 feet, it’s the longest single span lenticular truss bridge in Massachusetts. Just before this bridge, we applied slow speed skills to make a tricky downhill hairpin turn with a bumpy railroad crossing in the middle. Photos by the author.
I’m zipping along serpentine State Route 23 near Otis, Massachusetts, and Ken Condon is in my head. As each corner approaches, I trail brake to scrub off speed, settle the chassis and load the front tire. I lean toward a delayed apex, feather off the brake in exchange for lean angle, ratchet on throttle…click, click, click…and exit the corner. My bike is pointed right where it needs to go.
I’ve been riding for more than 30 years, I know this road well and yet I’ve never felt so in control of my bike. Why? Because Condon was in my head all weekend: I just completed his Riding In The Zone Training Tour.
Ken Condon (center) goes over “brottle,” the simultaneous control of the brake and throttle to promote stability in corners. With him are John Jarnagin (right) of Key Largo, Florida, and Don McIntyre of Bristol, Connecticut.
Instead of sitting in a seminar or ripping up a track, this experience integrates training in chassis dynamics, cornering, braking, throttle control and slow speed maneuvers—and then puts students on scenic New England roads to apply new skills as Condon provides real-time coaching via in-helmet communicators. With a nice dinner and bed-and-breakfast accommodations included, it’s advanced rider training and a mini moto tour in one.
Each Training Tour is limited to three students who complete a survey in advance to outline their goals for the program. “Keeping classes small allows me to customize training to the abilities and interests of the students,” Condon explained. “The format lets students learn from me and from each other.”
We won’t be filling up at THAT gas pump, but it was worth a look.
Condon rides motorcycles on racetracks, rural byways, dirt trails, frozen lakes and probably other places. He’s been an MSF instructor for 25 years and writing about safe, proficient riding for nearly as long. I’ve read his books and blog (ridinginthezone.com), attended his seminars and gone to his track days for non-sport bikes (Rider, January 2015). No one has taught me more about smart, safe riding.
But this experience was different, both for the underlying concept and how the training was delivered. All weekend, Condon emphasized mindfulness—continual, intentional, 360-degree awareness of yourself, your bike, the road and the environment. “Riding on the street introduces a lot of variables,” he explained, “and you need to manage them all. You need your head in the game.”
Well-chosen rest stops and an instructor with local knowledge turn training into a tour. The Hoosac Tunnel (c. 1877) is a nearly 5-mile-long railroad tunnel blasted under the Hoosac Mountain Range between North Adams and Florida, Massachusetts. In its heyday, it was vital to New England’s industrial economy. It still sees a few trains daily.
The ideas Condon explained over morning coffee and his real-time, on-the-road coaching reinforced the drills he led us through at a high school parking lot. (He gives you all those comments on video you can review at home.) Sometimes he led so we could mimic his actions. Other times he put us ahead to demonstrate what we learned. At speed, he told us what we were doing well and what needed work, while keeping us mindful of potential hazards that abound on the winding roads of rural New England. He also kept us laughing. When we arrived at a T intersection with limited sight lines, Condon alerted us to a group of chickens startled by our motors. “OK, why did the chicken cross the road?” he inquired via Bluetooth. “Anyone want to stop and ask?” (I was tempted…)
If you’re in Wilmington, Vermont, check out Dot’s Restaurant. And keep your head in the game: mindfulness kept us from getting plowed over by a left-turning SUV at a nearby traffic light moments before this photo was taken.
The tour followed a well-researched route through the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts and southern Vermont. Along the way Condon shared his knowledge of the region’s history and culture, offered insights into the landscape and economy, pointed out the homes of noteworthy residents, and took us to restaurants and general stores that are local institutions. We applied our developing skills along undulating dips and blind rises, on hairpins, in tight spaces and on twisty roads that would be perfect if they were closed to all other traffic. But of course they weren’t, so mindfulness figured in.
“That truck by the side of the road is an eclipse,” Condon said. “You can’t see what’s behind it, and whatever may be behind it can’t see you. What’s your strategy?” Apply situational awareness to predict the future. That doesn’t mean knowing what will happen, but rather anticipating what could happen so you’re not surprised if it does.
The Monterey General Store is in Monterey, Massachusetts. With roots extending back to 1780, it carries on a hill town mercantile tradition. Left to right are Ken Condon, Don McIntyre and John Jarnagin.
I made a quick, purposeful scan. The truck didn’t seem to be running. No one was in the driver’s seat. I looked at the top of the front wheel to see if it was moving. I looked beneath for shadows, movement or other clues that people, animals or a vehicle could emerge from behind. These potential hazards were complicated by the truck’s location on a curve. I scrubbed off speed, covered my brake and adjusted my line for a deeper look into the corner. It turned out nothing was behind that truck, but being mindful, I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was.
“Part of the way I communicate to my students is so they think, ‘Oh, I never thought of it that way,’” said Condon. “Then they can put that mindfulness to work riding a motorcycle with greater control, safety and enjoyment. Practice the skills and be mindful, but don’t overthink it. Internalize it, and enjoy the ride.”
Riding In The Zone Training Tours are AMA-sanctioned and insured events. To learn more, visit ridinginthezone.com. In other regions of the country, Rider’s own Eric Trow offers on-street training tours through Stayin’ Safe. Learn more at stayinsafe.com.
The “ultra-premium” Indian Chieftain Elite bagger returns for 2018 with a hand-finished, high-flake Black Hills Silver paint job with marbled graphics.
Last year Indian rolled out two high-end, factory-custom versions of its hard faired bagger, the Chieftain Elite and Chieftain Limited. They featured custom paint, larger front wheels and block-rockin’ audio systems.
For 2018, the “ultra-premium” Chieftain Elite bagger returns with a one-of-a-kind, hand-finished paint job and a wish list of amenities. The focal point of the new Chieftain Elite is its high-flake Black Hills Silver paint and marbled graphics.
Indian says the labor-intensive, hand-finished paint job takes 25 hours and no two Chieftain Elite baggers will look the same.
As the name suggests, this paint was inspired by the silver mines in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which is near Indian Motorcycle’s custom paint facility in Spearfish. A team of Indian Motorcycle experts mask the bodywork, lay the graphics and hand-spray each Chieftain Elite. Each bike takes nearly 25 hours due to the time-intensive, painstaking processes that are completed by hand. No two bikes will look the same due to the level of human touch involved.
Indian Motorcycle® Chieftain® Elite, Black Hills Silver - Indian Motorcycle - YouTube
“Whether cruising around the city or touring the country back roads, the 2018 Chieftain Elite delivers on its promise of being the best bagger that money can buy,” said Reid Wilson, Senior Director–Marketing and Product Planning for Indian Motorcycle. “This bike was born to turn heads and provide an unmatched riding experience with all of the premium amenities included.”
Hiyo, Silver! From the high-flake silver paint to the many chromed surfaces, the new Chieftain Elite makes a bold, bright statement.
The 2018 Chieftain Elite rolls on a 19-inch, 10-spoke, contrast-cut front wheel and marbled graphics package and is equipped with a 200-watt premium audio system, Pathfinder LED headlight and driving lights, a push-button power flare windshield, billet aluminum rider and passenger floorboards and genuine leather seats. New for this year’s Chieftain Elite are pinnacle mirrors and updated, smaller hand controls for improved ergonomics. A host of other features come standard, including the Ride Command infotainment system, ABS, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, remote-locking saddlebags and keyless ignition.
The Ride Command infotainment system with full-color, 7-inch touchscreen comes standard on all Chieftain and Roadmaster models. The Chieftain Elite gets new pinnacle mirrors and smaller, more ergonomic hand controls.
Powering the Chieftain Elite is the Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin that belts out a claimed 119 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a 6-speed transmission. For those wanted more grunt, the accessory Thunder Stroke 116 ci Stage 3 Big Bore Kit adds 20 percent more horsepower and 15 percent more torque. Color-matched accessories are also available, including a quick-release trunk, hard lower fairings and a valanced front fender.
Available in limited quantities, the 2018 Indian Chieftain Elite starts at $31,499 and will be in dealerships starting in March.