Rider magazine is a motorcycle publication written by, and for, passionate motorcycle riders. It is dedicated to delivering comprehensive road tests, touring stories, product evaluations, technical features and award-winning editorial to enthusiasts who use their motorcycles for travel, recreation and commuting, who enjoy motorcycle rallies and clubs, who repair and restore motorcycles, and who..
The towering Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah will be home base for Ducati this June, as the Italian brand brings its world-renowned Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) Enduro program to North America for the first time. Having previously generated rave reviews in Europe, this is the first time Ducati will bring DRE Enduro to North America, where the Flying Iron Horse Ranch is set to become a breathtaking locale in which to enhance one’s motorcycle skills.
This is a hands-on training through diverse and adventurous terrain, and riders of all levels are encouraged to join the Ducati family in this exclusive program. DRE Enduro Academy activities in Utah will have participants developing off-road riding techniques in a private family facility featuring an off-road course. Attendees will then put their newly developed skills to the test in the Utah mountains for an adventure ride discovering Utah’s back country. With the help of tailored coaching led by Paris-Dakar veteran Beppe Gualini and a host of American and Italian instructors, the academy provides invaluable experience for those who use their motorcycle to discover the roads less traveled.
Pricing for the two-day program begins at $1,900 and includes luxury accommodations at Sundance Resort, meals, instruction and the use of Ducati’s groundbreaking new Multistrada 1260 Enduro motorcycle – a bike built for any weather and any terrain. The Multistrada 1260 Enduro is the new generation of the off-road member of the Multistrada family, with increased displacement courtesy of a 1262 cc Testastretta DVT engine delivering consistent torque through the RPM range along with a lower center of gravity allowing for easier maneuverability.
With a student to instructor ratio of 4:1, this high-touch experience is limited to 16 students per session and over 50% of the spaces for June’s DRE Enduro have been pre-sold. Those wishing to participate are encouraged to sign-up to secure a reservation for this life-changing experience.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana is a modern interpretation of the Hans Muth-designed 1981 GSX1100S Katana, an icon of late 20th century motorcycle aesthetics. The new version has edgier lines and is built on the GSX-S1000 naked sportbike platform. We traveled to Japan to ride the new Katana on Kyoto’s Arashiyama-Takao Parkway, and you can watch our video review below. Or click the link at the bottom to read our complete First Ride Review report.
Americade takes place every June in beautiful Lake George, New York, surrounded by great roads through the lush Green Mountains.
Americade 2019, which bills itself as the “world’s largest multi-brand motorcycle touring rally,” is part of the 2019 AMA Gypsy Tour, a national series of 15 premier road-riding events.
Per the AMA website: “One of the original experiences in motorcycling, gypsy tours are gatherings of riders from all over the country, converging upon a single destination. AMA National Gypsy Tours brings like-minded riders together to enjoy the camaraderie of motorcycling, often in a location of particular beauty, historic significance and/or importance to the sport.”
Americade occurs June 3 – 8, in beautiful Lake George, New York, and features many new events, including one of the largest expos in the country, a free 2-day block party concert, more rides than any event in the country and the most factory demos than any U.S. event.
“Americade has been an AMA-sanctioned event for many years and has always provided a fun atmosphere and scenic backdrop for motorcyclists to enjoy,” said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. “Whether it’s organized rides, the expo, seminars or dinner boat cruises, there’s a multitude of activities for road riders at Americade — one of my personal favorite riding events.”
Indian Motorcycle has announced its first-ever rental program, Indian Motorcycle Rentals. Available now at select dealers around the country, Indian Motorcycle Rentals provides local residents and travelers alike the opportunity to rent a new Indian motorcycle for as little as four hours or as long as several weeks.
Indian Motorcycle Rentals is currently available through nine dealers around the country, with plans to continue to expand throughout the year. Participating dealers will have a rental fleet with various models available. Each dealer’s rental fleet will be updated out every 12 to 18 months to ensure riders have the opportunity to ride Indian Motorcycle’s current model year lineup. Riders must have a valid motorcycle license, and can book their Indian Motorcycle experience online in advance to ensure bike availability.
Image courtesy Indian Motorcycle.
Each motorcycle rental will include insurance as part of the rental fee. Riders will also have access to helmets, if they do not have their own. In addition to helmets, riders are required to have additional safety gear including long pants and close-toed shoes. Additional protective gear, such as gloves, a riding jacket and high-visibility or reflective clothing, is also recommended.
Northern Utah is an enticing mix of high country views, rugged mountains, intriguing history and fantastic roads. Photos by the author.
I unfold a Utah map on my outdoor table at the Main Street Deli in Park City’s bustling downtown. After placing my gyro sandwich plate over the state’s southern half, I study the upper portion of the map. With my yellow highlighter, I carefully trace out my two enticingly twisty, yet distinctly different loop rides. One emanates southeast of Park City and the other extends to the northeast.
This picturesque hamlet will be my home base for an exploration of Utah’s high country. Nestled in the mountains due east of Salt Lake City, Park City was the site of much of the competitive activity of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The town rests at the base of the ski run-lined mountains that are its winter lifeblood.
Downtown Park City is full of restaurants and shops housed in historic brick buildings.
Park City buzzes with activity in all seasons. In winter, ski boots and fur-lined parkas are the attire de rigueur. However, mid-summer is the perfect time to pull on the riding boots and armored jacket and hit the road. The upscale village offers (slightly) discounted lodging for summer activities, like my planned double-loop foray into some of the most varied and striking motorcycle riding the Southwest has to offer.
After wiping the Greek tzatziki sauce from my whiskers, I am ready to throw a leg over my BMW R 1200 GS for an afternoon ride.
The historic Miners Hospital in Park City is now a community center hosting a variety of meetings and activities.
The Southern Loop – Wide Open Spaces
Following a short ride east through the historic buildings, ski chalets and bustling activities of Park City, I start my ride on U.S. Route 40. The long, sweeping corners are lined with grasslands and a wide variety of summer wildflowers. In no time, I am riding with the blue waters of the Jordanelle Reservoir to my left. The substantial body of water is virtually treeless, offering up miles of views.
Just a few miles after the reservoir, I roll through clean and tidy Heber City. Like most of the Mormon-founded towns in Utah, Heber City features a mix of modern homes and buildings as well as historic pioneer-era structures.
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.
After Heber City, the human element fades, and the grasslands and low trees again define the landscape. Traffic is refreshingly light, and the undulating pavement is smooth and fun. The farther southeast I ride on U.S. 40, the curvier the tarmac becomes. This is a relaxing ride that requires little on the technical riding front, but offers much in terms of long-perspective visuals.
Strawberry Reservoir is the next notable water feature on the ride and it is substantially more expansive then the Jordanelle. I make the turn into the Strawberry Reservoir recreation area, and stop by the U.S. Forest Service depot that rests at the entrance to the area. The tidy Forest Service facility is a treasure-trove of information on the Dominguez–Escalante Expedition of 1776. The Spanish expedition was conducted to find and map a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Spanish missions in California.
The 1776 Dominguez–Escalante Expedition sites highlight the ride.
The paved roads that flank the reservoir are too much to resist, and I spend a fair amount of time exploring the lake’s shoreline. Having heard of the great views and interesting endgame offered after a ride south of Strawberry Reservoir on Forest Road 42, I decide to give the big BMW a little light dirt duty. The well-groomed 10-mile gravel and dirt road ultimately leads to the entertaining and paved Sheep Creek Road. The road turns out to be a wonderfully winding stretch that is virtually devoid of traffic, and yes, the views are spectacular.
Sheep Creek Road is a serpentine ribbon through the undulating high chaparral landscape.
So what about that interesting endgame? I visit the strange, semi-submerged ghost town of Thistle, which was completely flooded when a massive landslide dammed the Spanish Fork River in the 1980s. After exploring the wet ruins and imbibing the eerie ambiance, I retrace my ride back to Strawberry Reservoir. This out-and-back is something you can omit from the ride if you are not comfortable with a short foray off of the tarmac.
The partially submerged town of Thistle is a fascinating and surreal stop.
I rejoin U.S. 40 for several more miles of sweeping turns accented with outcroppings of rock formations and low cliffs before heading north on State Route 208. After that stretch, I head back toward Park City on State Route 35. This northwestern ride is a delightful climb back into the mountains. The terrain morphs from grasslands to chaparral to forestland in a span of about 40 often-curvy miles. That forested segment would be a foreshadowing of the next day’s ride.
Northern Utah’s roads offer up panoramic views punctuated with snow-laced mountains.
I roll back into Park City after 230 miles of moto entertainment. I settle into my room at the Shadow Ridge Resort Hotel and then shower up for a walk to the downtown district for dinner and to catch the Mark Cohn concert at the historic Egyptian Theater. The revived theater is an intimate 300-seat venue, which, in addition to concerts, serves as a site for the annual Sundance Film Festival. Both Cohn and the Egyptian prove to be completely enjoyable.
My day ends with a local microbrew and then a slow and satisfying walk, not “in Memphis” like Cohn had just crooned, but rather through the cool night air of Park City. The stroll back to my hotel is a fine culmination to a fantastic day.
The historic Egyptian Theater is an entertainment staple in Park City.
The Northern Loop – Mountain Lakes and Waterfalls
I intentionally leave a full day for the second of my loop rides. Map study and Internet searches have revealed a full slate of reasons to throw down a kickstand along the route. Mountain lakes, rivers, waterfalls and forest vistas are on tap.
I leave Park City in the same direction as the day before, but just a few miles free of the town, I start my northwestern sojourn into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Just miles into my ride on State Route 150, also known as the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, it becomes crystal clear just how different this ride will be than that of the prior day.
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest covers nearly 2.5 million acres.
The long, lazy sweepers of the lower loop have been replaced with tighter, more technical corners on this northern ride. The evergreens that line the roadway increase in height with the rise in the elevation. Vibrant forest greens color my ride into the Uinta Mountains.
The blue-green waters of Beaver Creek skirt the early miles of the climb up Route 150. When the route turns northward, it is the Provo River that flows along the ride. At about the 40-mile point in the loop the rushing and tumbling Provo River Falls are a great first stop.
The cold waters of the Provo River Falls cascade below towering evergreens.
After the falls, the road becomes increasingly twisty and entertaining. There are even a fair number of hairpins to keep things lively. The traffic is a bit heavier than I had experienced on the southern loop, but it is far from frustratingly congested. Much of the traffic that I encounter is made up of other happy motorcyclists.
Deep blue mountain lakes begin to dot the alpine landscape, and each one offers its own unique visual appeal. My first shoreline stop is Teapot Lake, which sits cold and still with a great view of snow-laced Mount Watson over its far shore. Even in late June, the white stuff is in abundant supply on the mountains at this elevation.
The author looks over Teapot Lake to rugged Mount Watson.
After Teapot, I don’t even get out of second gear before I come upon the more expansive Lost Lake. For the next several miles, bodies of water with names like Moosehorn, Mirror and Butterfly sit just off of the pavement on both sides of the winding road. For me this high-mountain lake region is the highlight of my riding in northern Utah.
The next miles of Route 150 follow more rivers as the road carves through the national forest. The northern ride takes me by a smattering of cabins and lodges. It should be noted that most of this scenic byway is devoid of any services so plan your gas and sustenance needs accordingly.
The impressive Slate Gorge was cut by the Provo River.
Shortly after a cluster of cabins called the Bear River Lodge, the forest of pine and aspen trees transforms into a high-elevation grassland environment. The road is straighter and the riding landscape is rolling and wide-open. The snowcapped mountains diminish in my rearview mirrors.
At about the 75-mile mark of the ride, I pass into Wyoming. I am riding in what would still be Utah if the state were a true rectangle. It’s as if Wyoming, which became a state six years before Utah, laid claim to that geometric distinction by biting off the ear of Utah. The small handful of miles that I will spend in Wyoming is punctuated with a stop in the town of Evanston. After a quick fuel stop, I look for a place for some lunch. Jody’s Diner, a quaint retro eatery, fills the bill.
There are trout in those riffles, but the author didn’t pack his rod.
There is more entertaining riding to be had, so I head out of Evanston to the northwest on Wyoming Route 89, which becomes Utah Route 16 as I reenter the Beehive State. It’s when I turn onto State Route 39 (the Ogden River Scenic Byway) that the real entertainment begins. This 50-mile stretch of my ride serves up the longest sustained lineup of curves on the entire loop. The pavement conditions are variable, so I exercise caution on the new-to-me route. At Huntsville, I head south on State Route 167 and finish my return to Park City via Interstates 84 and 80.
In the end, this tour is really a tale of two distinctly different rides. The southern loop is defined by sparse traffic and wide-open spaces that equal a relaxing and view-infused experience. The northern route is an alpine route that ramps up the riding entertainment with winding mountain roads. Needless to say I will be back, map and highlighter in hand, to trace more of what this region has to offer.
Mirror Lake Scenic Corridor Recreation Area
If you are going to get off your bike and explore the lakes, streams and hiking opportunities in the Mirror Lake Scenic Corridor Recreation Area along Utah Route 150, you will need to stop at one of the self-serve recreation fee stations. A three-day pass carries a $6 fee and it is $12 for a seven-day pass. For more information contact the Heber-Kamas Ranger District at (435) 783-4338.
Inspired by the championship-winning FTR750 flat track racer, the Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica is powered by a 123-horsepower V-twin and has a high-performance chassis. (Photos by Barry Hathaway)
“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” has been an adage of the
motorcycle industry as long as there has been a motorcycle industry. By
investing in racing, manufacturers not only develop new technologies that
trickle down to their production models, they also elevate their brand in the
eyes of potential customers. After an absence of more than 60 years from flat
track racing, Indian created the FTR750 race bike, signed top-name racers to
recreate the legendary Wrecking Crew and won back-to-back American Flat Track
Twins titles in 2017 and 2018.
Top-spec Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica model has fully adjustable suspension, riding modes, lean angle-sensitive ABS and other rider aids, a Ride Command LCD display and an Akrapovic exhaust.
Not only do those wins help Indian sell cruisers, baggers and tourers, they give it credibility when it comes to building a high-performance motorcycle. That’s where the new-for-2019 FTR 1200 comes in–a light, fast, agile street tracker inspired by Indian’s championship-winning race bike that breaks free of the cruiser orthodoxy that has dominated American-made motorcycles for decades.
Lean it like you mean it, the Indian FTR 1200 S is ready. A wide handlebar, moderate weight, a firm chassis, ample cornering clearance and cannonball low-end torque give the FTR serious chops in the twisties.
With a liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin that makes 123 horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque (claimed), a lightweight tubular-steel trellis frame, Brembo brakes, Sachs suspension, an aggressive riding position and a wet weight said to be 518 pounds, the FTR 1200 has more in common with European and Japanese naked sportbikes than it does with anything else in Indian’s or Harley’s lineups. The higher-spec FTR 1200 S further raises the bar, with fully adjustable suspension, a 4.3-inch Ride Command LCD touchscreen display with Bluetooth, a six-axis IMU and an electronics package that includes three riding modes and lean angle-sensitive ABS, traction control, stability control and wheelie mitigation control.
The Indian FTR 1200 S has an aggressive, hunched-forward riding position without being extreme or uncomfortable. Reach to the high, wide handlebar is just right, and the footpegs are well positioned. The 33.1-inch seat will be a challenge for some.
The FTR 1200 has been a long time coming. Teased with the high-piped FTR1200 Custom at the Milan show in 2017, the FTR 1200 and FTR 1200 S were finally shown to the public at the Cologne show last October. Perhaps, like us, you had a chance to throw a leg over an FTR at a motorcycle show and had visions of sugar-plum hooligans dancing in your head. Especially on the FTR 1200 S Race Replica, with its red-painted frame and swingarm, there’s no doubt that Indian nailed the styling.
The Indian FTR 1200 S Race Replica looks the business with its red trellis frame, compact V-twin, FTR750-inspired “tank” (fuel is carried under the seat), laydown shock and Akrapovic exhaust.
Like the FTR750 it’s based on, the FTR 1200 has a bulldog stance with a tank that flows smoothly into the seat (on the 1200, fuel is carried below the seat so the “tank” is primarily an airbox cover with a fuel filler and removable side panels), a sharply pointed tail section, cast wheels with dirt track-style tires and chain final drive. When the FTR 1200 was unveiled, some complained that it didn’t have the high pipes of the FTR750 or the FTR1200 Custom, but, according to Indian, for a street-legal motorcycle high pipes aren’t practical due to heat and the added width up high where the bike should be narrow. As it is the FTR 1200 has a 33.1-inch seat height, so a set of double pipes just below the rider’s right thigh would make it even harder to get both feet on the ground.
A hot bike in a cool location–Indian hosted its press launch in Baja California Sur, Mexico, where there is plenty of sand, sun and surf.
After months of anticipation, Indian hosted a press launch
for the FTR 1200 on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, where we got
two full days of riding not-quite-production-ready FTR 1200 S Race Replicas.
For those accustomed to the low-seat, feet-forward riding position on cruisers
like the Indian Scout, the FTR is very different. With its high seat located
close to the center of the bike and midmount footpegs, the rider sits on top of
the bike rather than down in it, leaned forward in an aggressive stance. The
seating position reminds me of a scrambler, where moving forward on the seat to
weight the front wheel makes it easier to hang the tail out in a slide. Since
the FTR 1200 is based on a race bike whose primary purpose is to slide around
corners, the seating position makes sense.
Doing our best Jared Mees impression on a sandy, rocky coast road near San José del Cabo. With the FTR 1200 S in softer-throttle-response/low-power Rain mode and ABS/TC turned off, it was easy to initiate a controllable power slide.
Early in our test ride, we rode 40 miles on a sandy, rocky road that wound its way along the coast, providing countless opportunities to power slide around corners. Although the folks at Indian strongly insist that the FTR is a street bike and not designed to be scrambled off-road, the low-traction conditions gave us a chance to evaluate the bike’s balance, maneuverability and power delivery. With the FTR in Rain mode (less horsepower with softer throttle response) and ABS and TC turned off, it proved to be imminently capable and easy to ride. I slid forward on the seat, kept a light grip on the wide ProTaper handlebar and used the throttle to help steer around corners, right-now torque breaking the rear tire loose with a flick of the wrist. The Dunlop DT3-R tires, which are modeled after flat track race tires and were developed for the FTR 1200, hooked up well and their 19-inch front, 18-inch rear diameters rolled over bumps and washboard with ease. Even though the Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers are superbike-strong, they offer precise modulation and even if I overcooked a corner I was able to rein in the FTR with control.
Don’t try this at home. Even though we had fun sliding and scrambling the FTR 1200 S for 40 miles on a sandy road, Indian strongly emphasized that the FTR is designed for the street, not off-road. When in Cabo….
Although the FTR shares a 60-degree Vee angle and 73.6mm
stroke with the Scout, its engine is all new. With a larger 102mm bore (the
Scout’s is 99mm), the FTR displaces 1,203cc (73ci) and it has a 12.5:1
compression ratio, high flow cylinder heads and dual throttle bodies. A
low-inertia crankshaft helps the FTR rev up fast to its 8,000-rpm redline, and
the Race Replica’s Akrapovic exhaust is assertive without being too loud.
Throttle-by-wire enables cruise control as well as riding modes that adjust horsepower,
throttle response and traction control (full 123 horsepower in Sport and
Standard; 97 horsepower in Rain). Being able to change displays or riding modes,
turn off ABS/TC and adjust settings using the LCD touchscreen was so intuitive
that I wonder why more motorcycles don’t offer such a familiar, smartphone-like
interface (there are also buttons on the switchgear so changes can be made
without taking a hand off the handlebar).
Among the things the $2,000 upgrade for the S model over the standard FTR 1200 pays for is the fantastic 4.3-inch Ride Command LCD touchscreen display, which can be operated like a smartphone.
Since most FTR 1200 owners will never take their bikes off-road, the 260 miles of pavement on our two-day route were ideal for testing the FTR in its intended environment, including mountain roads, straight-line highways and potholed city streets. Attacking curves at a fast pace, the FTR was in its element. Plenty of torque throughout the rev range launches the FTR like a cannonball off the line and out of corners, and its chassis is robust and responsive. Stock suspension settings are on the stiff side, good for spirited cornering but a tad firm for cruising around town; adjust as you see fit. An assist-and-slipper clutch makes it easy to change gears even when riding aggressively, but the lever has a very narrow friction zone. A quickshifter would be a great addition to Indian’s extensive list of accessories, which offers a wide range of customization options with Tracker, Rally, Sport and Tour collections.
Although the FTR 1200’s Dunlop DT3-R flat track-style radials squirm a bit when pushed because the tread blocks are small, they grip well and transition easily from side to side.
The Indian FTR 1200 S is the make-no-excuses, American-made
performance bike we’ve been waiting for. It’s not perfect—there’s too much
vibration in the grips, which repeatedly left my throttle hand numb and
tingling (cruise control to the rescue!), and the engine radiates a fair amount
of heat, which roasted my thighs during the hottest part of the day and when
riding at a slow pace. But a few rough edges hardly diminish what the FTR 1200
S represents—a cool-looking, hard-charging, corner-carving street tracker with
state-of-the-art technology that’s made right here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.
We could do with less heat and vibration, but the Indian FTR 1200 S is a sexy, rowdy bike that’s a total blast to ride.
2019 Indian FTR 1200 S Specs Base Price: $13,499 (FTR 1200) Price As Tested: $16,999 (FTR 1200 S Race Replica) Website:indianmotorcycle.com Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl. Displacement: 1,203cc Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 73.6mm Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch Final Drive: O-ring chain Wheelbase: 60.0 in. Rake/Trail: 26.3 degrees/5.1 in. Seat Height: 33.1 in. Claimed Wet Weight: 518 lbs. Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gals. MPG: NA
Sleek headlight cowl on the Indian FTR 1200 houses a distinctive looking LED headlight. Flat track-style aluminum handlebar is made by ProTaper.
Cast aluminum wheels on the Indian FTR 1200 are in 19-inch front, 18-inch rear diameters. Superbike-spec Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers are strong and precise. ABS is standard, upgraded to cornering ABS on the S models.
A map of the route taken by the author, covering all 47 U.S. national parks.
Forty-seven national parks, 17,335 miles, 67 days, three flat tires, two forest fires, three boat rides, temps ranging from 31degrees and sleet to 106-degree blinding heat–and no speeding tickets–equals one extraordinary and unforgettable motorcycle trip of a lifetime!
When I told my friends and family of my planned motorcycle trip, a visit to each of the 47 national parks last summer, there were plenty of questions from everyone. “Are you crazy?” “How many other riders are joining you?” “Is your life insurance paid up?” “What type of gun are you taking?” And finally, “Why?” But I had heard it all before on my previous trips to the four corners of the U.S. in 2013 and to all of the lower 48 states in 2014.
Next gas: 145 miles on Route 62 just west of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Next stop, El Paso, Texas.
It all began last winter when my wife surprised me by sending me a link to a website that mapped out an efficient way to visit each of the 47 national parks in the lower 48 states, riding the least amount of miles. When I began to plan the trip, I realized that picking a date to leave Chicago in order to avoid all the tricky weather conditions in the various parts of the country was harder than I expected. The Midwest has the tornado season in the late spring, Florida has hurricanes beginning in June, Death Valley has 120-degree heat in the summer, and the cold and snow could still be around in the mountains out west in early summer. I made the decision to leave on May 1 and hoped that I would be able to avoid most of the weather issues.
Planning the route for the trip was easy. I used the map that my wife had shown me and, although I didn’t have any time constraints, I still plotted the estimated distances and traveling times between the parks to help me plan for places to stay while on the road. I found that Google Maps, set to “avoid highways,” gave me the best routes with the most interesting scenery.
Multi-colored rock formation in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.
Traveling through 17,000 miles of back roads, I was able to discover roads that many motorcyclists can only dream of riding. Imagine riding the seven-mile bridge in the Florida Keys, just you, your bike and miles of ocean all around you until you reach the next island Key. Then there are the desolate, lonely roads, like U.S. Route 62 heading out of Carlsbad, New Mexico, where “Next Gas 145 Miles” signs warn you of the barren and isolated landscape. Utah State Route 12 through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument area delivers magnificent vistas as far as the eye can see and is a motorcyclists’ dream, with hundreds of sweepers and a few free range cattle to make things interesting.
An incredible sight from Dante’s View (5,476 feet) down to the floor of Death Valley at -282 feet.
Some of the best conversations on motorcycle trips begin with a simple question: “So, where are you headed?” Bonds develop quickly between riders, and this trip held no exceptions. There were the two riders I met in Alpine, Wyoming, from Portugal and Gibraltar. They invited me to plan a trip with them to ride in Morocco.
And then, while touring Sequoia National Park, I met another pair of riders from Los Angeles. We became fast friends and now we regularly keep in touch and I plan to connect with them on my next ride out west.
A little road impediment in Sequoia National Park–be sure to duck when riding through on a tall BMW R 1200 GSA!
I am frequently asked, “What is your favorite national park?” I don’t have a single favorite, but rather a Top Three. Dry Tortugas National Park covers an entire island and is located 70 miles west of Key West in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. The fort there was historically significant during the building of our country (Google it).
Zion National Park, one of our nation’s most majestic parks, is accessed via Utah State Route 9 and covers 146,596 acres of multi-colored canyons that take your breath away.
Red rock formations in southern Utah. It’s tough to take a bad photo with this as your backdrop.
Lastly, Kings Canyon National Park is set between Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park in central California. Although this park isn’t as well known as some of the others, it reminds me of riding in the Alps in Europe, withroads that are carved on top of mountains with unforgiving 1,000 foot drops. Riding the winding road alongside a raging, overflowing river trying to accommodate last winter’s massive snows was exhilarating.
The beauty of this canyon ride is that you get a bonus at the end: you get to turn around and do it all over again.
A typical road in Kings Canyon National Park. It reminded me of riding in the Alps!
Every national park has its own personality, beauty and history. From Acadia National Park in Maine with its rocky shores, high winds on Cadillac Mountain and seafaring history, to Big Bend National Park in Texas, running along the Rio Grande river, each park is special in its own way. At one vista point, I was able to walk across the Rio Grande into Mexico and then back again. For perspective, Big Bend is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Approaching Big Bend from Alpine, Texas, on State Route 118 presents a desolate intimidating roadway, especially as temps hit 106 degrees.
A classic Yosemite National Park picture: nothing but magnificent views wherever you look.
Entering Death Valley National Park, I was uneasy with the extreme desolation, especially knowing that I was only one flat tire away from a crisis. At 3.4 million acres and 1,000 miles of roads, this is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states.
Food is always an important component of any trip, from lobster reuben sandwiches at Keys Fisheries in Marathon, Florida, to BBQ at Lockhart’s in Dallas, Texas, which is always served on butcher paper. I prefer to search for the mom & pop places to eat and try the local delicacies.
This trip of a lifetime gave me valuable insights regarding the beauty of our national parks and how precious they are to us. My advice is to visit as many of these national treasures as possible, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
31 degrees and sleeting in Crater Lake National Park. Missed seeing the crater by 3 minutes…clouds rolled in.
One of the more magnificent roads through North Cascades National Park.
An iconic image of the Grand Tetons. A picture-perfect day for a ride in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Be still our beating hearts: the 2019 Triumph Rocket 3 TFC is a drastic departure from the previous Rocket 3. Images courtesy Triumph.
Since its launch in 2004, Triumph’s Rocket 3 has boasted a lot of “mosts”: most torque, most muscle, most…well…for lack of a better word, presence. With its signature three exhaust header pipes curving off the right side of the massive 2,294cc in-line triple, hulking 6.3-gallon gas tank and gaping twin megaphone silencers, nothing about the Rocket 3 has ever been subtle.
It was always essentially an overgrown cruiser, however, and the lone traditional cruiser in Triumph’s 2019 lineup. But now there’s a new Rocket 3 in town, badged as a limited edition Triumph Factory Custom, or TFC model, and rather than being just an accessorized version of the existing bike, the 2019 Rocket 3 TFC is an entirely new machine.
It boasts an all-new 2,458cc liquid-cooled in-line triple, the largest production motorcycle engine in the world, with the highest peak torque at a claimed 163 lb-ft and the most horsepower of any Triumph to date, a claimed 168. Details so far are scarce, but we do know that it features state-of-the-art components like titanium intake valves that allow for quicker, higher revving, and new Arrow silencers.
Lighting is all-LED, including the stubby tail. Single-sided swingarm and rear hugger license plate holder are new.
Final drive is via shaft, housed in a new single-sided aluminum swingarm that, combined with the all-new aluminum frame, engine refinements, carbon fiber bodywork and other lightweight bits, make the new Rocket 3 TFC a whopping 88 pounds lighter than the standard 2019 Rocket 3. If Triumph’s figures are correct, that would put its dry weight in the neighborhood of just 648 pounds.
Helping to make such a beast a bit more rideable, the Rocket 3 TFC includes some modern tech like cornering ABS and traction control, four ride modes (Road, Rain, Sport and Rider-Configurable)–notably these all appear to be full-power and only adjust throttle mapping and traction control settings–Triumph Shift Assist (clutchless up- and downshifting) and Hill Hold Control to prevent the bike from rolling backwards when stopped on an incline.
Other features include full LED lighting, electronic cruise control, keyless ignition, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and a USB charging socket. The display is a new TFT instrument that is rider-configurable and can be optionally set up with Bluetooth connectivity for GoPro integration, turn-by-turn navigation and music/phone operation.
TFT instrument is new and looks to be lifted from the new Speed Triple. Display is rider-configurable and can be upgraded with Bluetooth connectivity.
Suspension is by Showa front and rear, with an adjustable 47mm cartridge-style USD fork and adjustable single shock with piggyback reservoir. Brakes are high-spec Brembo M4.30 Stylema 4-piston radial-mount calipers gripping 320mm discs up front and a Brembo M4.32 4-piston caliper in back squeezing a 300mm disc, and new wheels are twenty-spoke cast aluminum with a beefy 240mm rear tire.
As a TFC model, premium details abound, including plenty of carbon fiber, a leather interchangeable solo and twin seat, and TFC badging with gold accents.
Only 750 Rocket 3 TFCs will be produced worldwide, with 225 slated for North America. Each will be individually numbered and will include a letter signed by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor, a personalized custom build book, a leather TFC rucksack and a Rocket 3 TFC branded indoor bike cover.
The 2019 Rocket 3 TFC won’t be available until December, but orders are being taken now at your nearest Triumph dealer. One can be yours for an MSRP of $29,000 ($33,000 in Canada).
Keep scrolling for more images:
Twin LED headlights with DRL are new, as is the carbon fiber flyscreen.
The new Rocket 3 TFC is sleeker, meaner and sportier than before…and we like it!
Left side of the massive engine has premium badging details.
Every Rocket 3 TFC will come with a numbered plaque and gold detailing.
New aluminum single-sided swingarm houses the driveshaft.
Shinko’s 700 series dual-sport tires are suitable for light or heavier dual-sport and ADV machines.
When it comes to dual-sport tires, there’s a sliding ratio based on their intended on-road vs. off-road use. Most adventure touring bikes are fitted with 90/10 tires as original equipment, on the assumption (backed up by market research) that most owners do 90 percent or more of their riding on pavement and only about 10 percent off-road.
Such tires typically have large, closely-spaced tread blocks with a tread pattern that has more in common with a sport-touring tire than a knobby, and the tire compound(s) favor on-road grip and longevity. Most 90/10 tires work great on the street or well-graded dirt roads, but you’ll want to avoid sand or mud.
But in the case of an aggressive dual-sport bike like my 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R, its OE tires were 10/90 knobbies with small, widely spaced tread blocks. (Unable to bear parting with the 690-R at the end of our long-term test, I bought it from KTM.) They hummed and squirmed on the street, but were fantastic off-road. The biggest downside of 10/90 tires is that they don’t last long–the rear was shagged after 1,600 miles, and the front tread blocks had become wedge-shaped due to aggressive braking on pavement.
Needing fresh buns for the KTM, I opted for the middle ground. About two-thirds of my miles are devoted to commuting or just getting to/from off-road riding areas, so tires with a slight on-road bias should be quieter, provide more grip on the street and last longer than the 10/90 knobbies.
Shinko’s 700 Series tires have a 60/40 on-/off-road ratio and a heavy-duty four-ply carcass. The tread is made up of irregularly shaped blocks arranged in an interlocking pattern, with larger tread blocks in the center of the tire, smaller blocks on the shoulder and half-depth reinforcements connecting the blocks on the shoulder for cornering stability.
At freeway speeds, the Shinko 700s are quiet and smooth, and on dry and wet twisty roads they lay down a well-planted footprint with minimal squirm. Off-road they perform admirably, scrambling over rough, rocky terrain, dirt tracking around corners and slicing lines through muddy sections with confidence.
With nearly 600 miles on the Shinko 700s, they’re well scrubbed-in but show little wear. It’s too early to tell how many miles I’ll get out of them, but other Shinko dual-sport tires we’ve tested have lasted at least as long as major competing tires.
One of the most attractive features of Shinko tires is their price: 700s retail for $61.95 for the front (one size: 3.00-21) and $73.95-$85.95 for rears (four sizes: 4.60-17, 5.10-17, 4.60-18, 130/80-18). With a load index of 51 (430 pounds) for the front and 62-67 (584-677 pounds) for the rears, Shinko 700 Series tires are suitable for heavy adventure bikes as well as lighter dual-sports.
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.
Honda motorcycles opened for business in the American market in 1959, when the four-stroke 50cc Super Cub came on the market. And over the next 10 years the company acquired a very positive reputation, well deserved, for having high revving, hard hitting, highly dependable products, especially with its 305 series, like the CB77 Super Hawk and CL77 Scrambler.
But, as we say about horses, the 305s were getting a bit long in the tooth. What to do? Shouldn’t cost too much because lots of money was going into the carefully kept secret–the four-cylinder CB750. Having a different number would be good, from 305 to 350. The bore was increased from 60 to 64mm, the stroke reduced from 54 to 50.6mm, the true size of the “new” engine being only 325cc. No matter, as minor exaggeration is considered to be quite acceptable in the advertising world.
Honda used it in three models, the 1968 CB Super Sport and CL Scrambler, and a year later the SL Motorsport. All told, more than 600,000 of these 350s were sold in the U.S. over the six years of production, which means a lot of them are probably still stashed in old barns or forgotten behind the junk in the back of the garage. Here we are dealing with the Scrambler version, better characterized as a street-scrambler, having only minor pretensions to being competent off the pavement. It was a styling thing, much like the “adventure” bikes of today, with the rider liking to think that he can dash across the Gobi Desert any time he wants. Or, more likely, he wants other people to think that.
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.
The essence of the scrambler style were those upswept pipes, curving individually around the left side of the cylinders and ending up in one large muffler that held a permanent spark arrester. Which was covered by a black heat shield for the first two years, and then the shield was chromed. Interestingly, the shiny header pipes were pipes within pipes, the ostensible reason being that the owner would not have to put up with the inevitable bluing that arrived with time. A secondary reason, which should really be the primary, was that the actual pipes carrying the exhaust were quite small in order to maintain a high exhaust-gas velocity that was essential to the tuning system.
This whole CL exhaust shebang weighed a substantial 24 pounds, and was responsible for a loss of several horsepower compared to its CB sibling, which had a longer, more efficient exhaust. Power was 33 horses at 9,500 rpm in the CL, compared to the CB’s 36 at 10,500, despite the engine internals being identical. CL owners usually ignored the redline on the tachometer dial.
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.
Another Scrambler notion was the larger front wheel, 19 inches as opposed to 18. This was more about looks than performance, with the more serious off-roader, the SL, having a 21-incher. Front fender was slightly abbreviated, and the gas tank held 2.4 gallons, almost a gallon less than the CB’s. There were also rubber gaiters on the CL’s fork legs, always good for the daredevil look.
Those were the differences, now for the similarities. Looking into the powertrain, the parallel twin used alloy cylinders with iron liners, and the oversquare engine had lots of possibilities for revs–10,500 of them! In 1968 street-going four-strokes were not known for spinning ten thousand times a minute, and the less knowledgeable thought that this would mean a brief lifespan. But ten grand! How did they achieve that? First, there was a single overhead camshaft, spun by an endless chain between the cylinders. And the camshaft itself was a solid piece of work, weighing some three pounds.
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.
But how does one get valves to seat properly at that speed? The valves all had dual coil springs, but the springs themselves were wound progressively, so that there was relatively less tension when the valve was seated, increasing greatly as the valve got pushed down. Carburetion was a pair of 26mm Keihin constant-velocity units using neoprene diaphragms.
The crankshaft, with four main bearings, spun using a 180-degree firing order as on the 305, but was a lot smoother due to excellent balancing. Primary drive was via straight-cut “paired” gears that were both efficient and quiet. Honda knew that the popular helical gears were quiet but not overly efficient, and came up with this mildly complicated system. A multi-disc wet clutch passed power through a five-speed transmission (up a gear from the 305) and out via a chain running along the left side of the rear wheel.
The chassis was not a notable construction, but suitable for delivering a good feeling to the rider. The backbone was a pressed-steel stamping, which was falling out of aesthetic favor at the time, though inexpensive to make. Fortunately it was hidden beneath the gas tank, and the viewable bits were mostly tubular, a single tube coming down from the steering head to spread into a double cradle.
1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Owner: Jack Wagner, Grover Beach, California.
Suspension was adequate, with a telescoping fork at the front and a pair of DeCarbon-type shocks at the back. A 3.00-19 tire was on the front wheel, 3.50-18 at the back. A double-leading shoe drum brake did yeoman’s service at the front, a single leading shoe at the back. It had 52 inches between the axles, and a wet weight of around 370 pounds.
The saddle, about 32 inches high, was long and flat, while the upswept handlebars had the mandatory cross-brace, part of the scrambler look. The rider saw separate speedo and tach above the headlight. Fenders were chromed, with excellent paint on the gas tank and side panels. And the essential electric leg for starting.
Price was $700, less than half that of the 750 four. Which is why these middling bikes outsold the big one…though we can only presume that quite a few 350 owners upgraded to the 750.