Motorcycles


I’ve been riding the new Triumphs since 2004. Their sport touring 2001 Sprint, the naked streetfighters — 2006 Speed and the 2010 Street Triple; the wonderful 2010 Thruxton and the equally excellent 2018 Street Cup. They’ve all been great bikes but all have had electrical gremlins (with the exception of the Thruxton, which was flawless.) I’d kept the Thruxton for just shy of 7 years, and traded it for the Street Cup, which other than a lackluster top end, was better in every way.

So why the hell am I riding a Royal Enfield Interceptor now?

One of my riding acquaintances showed up with one a few months back — a lovely creature with chrome tank and classic styling that Triumph tries to evoke, but Enfield just does. He let me ride the thing and it was surprisingly fast and nimble…easily as good as my Triumph. Most importantly, it was fun. Fun in a way the Thruxton had been but the others never were — fun at slow speeds, fun doddling about, as much as ripping up mountain twisties. I went back to my bike and was perfectly happy…then my local Triumph shop, Motopia New Mexico, started carrying the Enfields at the start of the year. This coincided with some electrical issues the Street Cup had started having, usually the harbinger of a whopping big repair bill on the electrics in the near future: my heated handgrips wouldn’t work save sporadically, my four-way turn signals would keep my normal turn signals from working (a fault in the starter switch module.)

And there was the Interceptor. I’d looked at the Continentals when they first came out, but we didn’t have a dealer in Albuquerque at the time, and having ridden the Bullet 500…well, that was not a bike to blow your kilt up (but it would put your hands to sleep from vibration.) A friend of mine and I decided to test ride the new Conti and Interceptor, trading off halfway through the ride to get a feel for them. I liked the Continental riding position better, but that chrome tank with the classic badging was calling me. My buddy bought one.

One day on old Route 66 (yes, that one), we decided to see how they compared. The Triumph was kicking the Enfield’s ass for the first 30mph or so, then the Conti with its 650cc motor hit third gear and blew the Street Cup with its water-cooled 900cc away. While getting the electrics sorted on the Triumph, I noted the presence of a chrome Interceptor on the floor. I went home on her.

After that long way to get to the point, here we go. The Interceptor is a 650cc parallel twin motorcycle in the style of the old British bikes (including Royal Enfield). It looks the part, it doesn’t just crib some styling queues like Triumph’s Modern Classic line, or the BMW R9T; a new bike pretending to be a classic — like the Moto Guzzi V7, this is a legitimate “old school” bike with a few new tricks up its sleeve. Yes, it has ABS and it works okay on the ByBre brakes. (Apparently ByBre is Brembo made in India…) It’s got electronic fuel injection and the map is very good and adaptive to conditions. Other than that, well, that’s it.

The frame was designed by Harris Performance and the steering geometry and weight distribution is fantastic. The bike is very nimble — easily on par with the Street Cup — and fast enough for what it is. The suspension is pretty basic, although the rear shocks (no, the reservoir isn’t real) are adjustable to five points, and with a tick over the bottom setting, it’s done quite well on most terrain. The front definitely needs progressive springs; it’s soft in hard bumps. The stock tires are the same Pirelli Phantom Sportcomps the new Triumphs use. They’re also the ony ties I’ve had slip on me in damp. Not wet, damp. They’ll be coming off first opportunity, but they are serviceable and some folks really like ’em.

The motor is smooth, sounds good (especially with the addition of a pair of S&S silencers and a K&N air filter with DNA airbox removal), and on paper is anemic as hell, producing only 45ish horsepower at my mile up. (I probably made back the altitude changes with the pipes.) It’s not anemic. The gearing on this thing is superlative. Once you hit third, the Interceptor runs hard. Hard enough to smoke a 900cc Triumph. It’s getting about 60mpg for me with mixed highway/city riding and a few miles lower in town. I figured this out by calculating the mileage at gas stops; the gas gauge is, not to put too fine a point on it, execrable. It shows me as on reserve with a good 1.5 gallons left in the tank. Low end, you should get about 160 miles on the tank, high end 200ish. Fueling is smooth and gives no hiccups. You can use lower octane if you have to, but I’d stick with premium.

And the looks… That chrome tank (soon to be joined by a chrome fender instead of a plastic silver one.) That classic badging. That motor: sculpted, clean, shiny. Everything about this bike comes together beautifully.

The downsides: The foot pegs are in an awful position when you stop. They’re right under your feet. When just out of the crate, the handlebars are way too high and forward. I had the mechanics rotate them about 30 degrees toward me. It’s not a cafe position, but it’s much more comfortable. The saddle’s a bit hard, but I did a 230 mile day on her the other weekend with just a bit of butt and hip soreness. The instrument cluster is very basic and compared to the gorgeous brushed aluminum of the Triumph, it’s a letdown. But you also won’t crash while admiring your dashboard. Another unfavorable comparison with Triumph: the Enfield’s gearbox is so-so. It shifts well enough but you’ve got to give it a kick; it doesn’t like a leisurely throw. It’s nowhere near as smooth as the Triumphs, which are some of the best shifting motorbikes I’ve ridden.

To give my Triumph a good send-off, I named her Lakshmibai, the Rani of Enfield as a tip of the hat to the (in)famous queen of Jhansi who led her troops against the British in the India Mutiny of 1857. That’s three history jokes rolled into one.

My buddy bought the white and silver/blue striped Continental, and nearly all the comments about the Interceptor hold for it, as well. The Conti shares most of its bits and bobs with the Interceptor. The footpegs are further back (and those rear sets will eventually make it onto my bike.) It has low cafe-styled bars that are well positioned but might be uncomfortable for those with back issues. I found them more comfortable. The tank is GP styles, instead of the classic teardrop. Otherwise, same bike. They do a lovely chrome one for the Continental, as well, but you don’t get the badge.

Out the door, the bike was a hair over $7000US with a 3 year warranty and 1 year roadside assistance, and was almost a straight trade for me. I had them removed the awful plastic mudguard extensions on the fenders, drop the S&S cans on, and over 1300 miles, she’s been flawless. On a “spirited” trip through the Valles Caldera and the twisty Route 4 to Jemez Springs, we were pushing these bikes hard in the turns and they were on par with any modern bike I’ve ridden.

But sometimes…that’s not quite enough. S&S has partnered up with Royal Enfield to develop a line of mods to improve the bike. This weekend, the Interceptor went in to receive a new high-performance camshaft and a set of pistons that brought the compression up from 9.5:1 to 11:1 — and it is glorious! My butt dyno tells me this thing is much faster off the line, with power coming up pretty much immediately. Where she would just scratch 100mph maxed on the throttle at 6500rpm (so at least you won’t blow up your motor…), she’s hitting 75 at just under 7000rpm in second gear! Cruising at about the same throttle position and revs, I’m getting about 5mph faster on the freeway. I anticipate (but cannot yet confirm) that she will probably bury the needle at the advertised 120 on the speedometer. Parts are ridiculously cheap: about $600, but labor is pretty intensive, so the labor costs if you don’t do it yourself are going to be spendy.

So if you are looking for a machine that will happily doddle around at 40 while still entertaining you, but can still carve canyons with the other bikes, the price point is definitely right.

Not really gaming related, but a damned good life motto, you cam find our new tee shirt and mug designs on Zazzle.

When in doubt, turn up the wick!

Okay, I’ve loved my Thruxton since the first time I rode it on the Sandia Crest road here in New Mexico. (That’s a road about 10 miles long with a 120 turns, ranging from long sweepers, to good chicanes, to hard switchback, with an altitude climb of about a mile. It’s like PIke’s Peak, but less deadly.) I’ve ridden the hell out of Trixie — named for Speed Racer’s girlfriend — putting almost 30,000 miles on her in 4 years.

So, of course I’m interested in the new Thruxton, the green one which is now officially approved by my five-year old daughter:

13686660_10154376451392082_6440553930231374092_nSo at a birthday party for the 13th year of the local Triumph shop, I got to be the first to ride the white one behind her for about half an hour.

It’s powerful. It’s not Panigale or Aprilia sportbike powerful, but it’s easily pulling no punches. I popped the front tire up coming out of the parking lot into a right hand turn because I treated it like my old Thruxton.

Don’t do that.

The 1200cc water-cooled mill churns out 112 ft-lbs of torque at 4500rpm…which is right where it seems most comfortable. The 97hp hits about 6500. This thing moves. I was doing 60mph in second gear before i realized it. Getting it out onto old Route 66, I played with throttle response and it is sharp, brisk, and the bike wants to run. Normal secondary highway speeds are easily acquired in third or fourth gear. I only got into sixth on the interstate, where I got up to 115mph in a stretch with no traffic. At that point, the Thruxton got pretty light up front. I suspect the top end is somewhere close to the indicated 140. It does, however, get a bit finicky at 4500rpm, and feels like it can’t decide it it wants to go faster, or slower. It disappears if you back off a tad, or hit it just a bit harder. Fuel map, I suspect, and the fly-by-wire clutch.

Handling is very smooth, immediate, and the bike turns very well. The seating position is slightly forward, and my arms (I’m 5’9″, so averagey) drop straight to the bars, the pegs leave more legroom than my 2010, and I never got close to scraping anything. It’s about the same weight as my bike, but feels lighter; the weight must be lower.

The brakes are good. Not Ducati stop right now! great, but very quick and responsive, without the Ducati desire to have you do an Olympic-level sitting long jump.

So is it any good? No — it’s tremendous. It looks great, the clutch is very light, the bike does what you want when you want it, but no more — just like every Triumph, it’s polite. Is it worth $12k? Yes.

My local Triumph shop was having an open house for their Ducati lines, but it gave me the chance to jump on the new Bonneville T120 and the Street Twin, back-to-back, and run the same course. In this case, it was a short 15 minute ride with some in-city, some long highway runs with a few good places for high-speed turns.

Both bikes look great and the attention to detail — in styling, fit and finish — are excellent. The Street Twin is lower, with a shorter wheelbase, and the weight is less by about 50 lbs and is carried much lower. Otherwise, they have a similar look to them.

The Bonneville uses their new 1200cc liquid-cooled “high torque” parallel twin, and it is fast. Off the line, I was at 60mph in maybe four seconds, in first gear. I never got over fourth gear during the entire test, including a short run at 100mph. The torque is always there. The bike jumps to it, with a bit of snap to the initial fueling, and passing is absolutely effortless. The seat is comfortable, the seating position neutral and will be good for long rides, and the suspension was set a bit soft, but it didn’t effect the handling. It was a far cry better than the usual stock Triumph suspension, and it is the same as what the new, base Thruxton will have.

It turns well, and stops great — it’s a vast improvement over the older Bonnies and Thruxtons. One place I found a nit to pick was on the grooved concrete that they love to make highways from  out here: like my 2010 Thruxton, the Bonnie gets a bit of head shake from the grroves as the tires try to track. I suspect this is a function of the wire wheels, as the Street Twin has the same tires, but cast wheels.

Having zipped around on the T120, I swapped to the Street Twin, as the salespeople wanted my opinion on the two bikes, side-by-side. The Street Twin is noticeably less powerful, but it’s still very fast — faster than my Thruxton. Instead of hitting 60 in first gear, I had to shift at about 45mph. I did get into 5th gear for the highway. However, the bike is much more maneuverable. It’s lighter, much more nimble, and other than missing a few bits like the dual clocks (there’s not tachometer on the Street Twin) and the heated handgrips (standard on the T120), I found I prefer the smaller bike.

Both of these are going to be great bikes for nearly very use — from popping around town to canyon carving to long touring — but I suspect the Street Twin will be better at the first, and the Bonnie will be better at touring. I’m expecting the Thruxton to be superlative.

I’ll admit, I was among the skeptical about the new Street Twin: How the hell could a larger displacement motor only make 54hp? Is the torque really going to be there across the band. Triumph shit the bed.

I was spectacularly wrong.

I got a chance to demo the Street Twin 900 this morning, and while I didn’t have it long enough to get an idea if the gas mileage estimates are true, or if the seat will be comfortable over long rides (I suspect it will be on par with the standard older Bonneville saddles), I have a really good idea of the handling and power. The torque comes on immediately and doesn’t let go until about the ton. Yes, I got it over 100mph and it still had plenty of power. It’s a squirty bike, blasting through traffic effortlessly.

I found I was cruising at 35mph in town in second gear. I didn’t go into fifth until I had gotten over 80mph. Passing a tree-filled truck on Old Route 66 outside of town, I popped the throttle in fourth gear and jumped from 75 to 85 in a blink. Similarly, passing traffic on the highway was easy. My guess — top end is between my 2010 Thruxton’s 122 and 130mph.

Handling — the bike is smaller than the old Bonneville, it’s lighter, the center of gravity is very low. It turns as easily as the Ducati Scrambler, is well mannered and stable, and the slipper clutch is effortless. I can’t stress how easy this bike is to ride, and ride hard.

If you don’t want to pay the $11k or more Triumph will be asking for the Bonnevilles and Thruxtons, you are not going to be disappointed with the “small” Street Twin — it’s brilliant!

One of the things that made the DGR so successful last year was the sense of fun and inclusion that it brought to the motorcycle community not just in Albuquerque, but around the world. This was the “little idea that could.” A few guys got together to dress in retro fahion on their old British iron to raise money for prostate cancer. The idea got picked up by riders everywhere and hundreds of rides sprung up.

This year, watching the interaction between Mark Hawwa and the organizers of various rides has been disheartening. While the idea of keeping the ride period appropriate, with only certain kinds of bikes and certain attire was understandable, the response to questions about including folks that didn’t have a bobber or a cafe was always a snarky “If you don’t like it, start your own ride!” Hardly the epitome of gentlemanly conversation. Petulant, you might say.

Strike one, as baseball fans might say.

This morning, I woke to an email from our tireless local organizer, Chris Beggio, who announced he was done with the ride after this year. His reasons were encapsulated in a missive from Hawwa that was, to not put too fine a point on it, rude. The DGR organizers out of Australia have made a point of stomping on any dissent or individuality in the local rides. In this case it was to complain about a ride tee-shirt that had been designed to give the New Mexico event an appropriate flair.On the chest was the DGR logo in a Zia — the symbol of the state of New Mexico and a religious symbol that inspires a lot of affection from the residents here.

Hope all is well! Have an awesome ride this Sunday! Can you please don’t create DGR merchandise, I don’t give you permission to its not accountable to the charities. Its a trademark infringement and we don’t want to set a precedence. Ontop of that it looks terrible and there is official merchandise available on the website…

Fair enough. You don’t want competing “merchandise” even though it was provided free by the vendor and people aren’t buying the shirts (unlike onthe website.) It was a bit of swag to encourage people to come back to the ride, not gouge for money. Rather than ask if that was the case, Hawwa tosses out the “trademark infringement” grenade. Strike two.

“Ontop of that it looks terrible…” One — before you send an email, check your spelling and grammar. Two — you could have stopped at the trademark infringement. But no, this was an attempt to be, plainly put, ungentlemanly. Strike three.

At risk of joining this less than gentile behavior, I might point out that having seen the DGR official merchandise, it’s hardly award-winning stuff.

So, this is my last time with this charity. I will ride gentlemanly and distinguished…but I’ll do it my own way.

Scott Rhymer

Last year, I rode the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride here in Albuquerque on my Triumph Thruxton, Trixie, in my kilt (Campbell of Argyll) to help raise money for prostate cancer, and took the prize for “most distinguished gentleman” last year.

Lamp dem gams, ladies!

Lamp dem gams, ladies!

The ride is n again this year, and once more I will be mounting my trusty steed from Hinckley, England to try and save a few poor buggers from cancer. So help out and throw a few samoleans their way, would you? My sponsor page is http://www.gentlemansride.com/rider/blackcampbell

Maybe this year, my kilt will fly up!

Let's not forgot Trixie!

Let’s not forgot Trixie!

Presenting the 1869 Roper Velocepede — a dual-cylinder steam-powered motorcycle with a 1-ish horsepower motor. A later version in the late 1870s/early 1880s was a single-cylinder that produced 3HP and could hit a face-peeling 40 mph!

Here’s an example…and it still runs!

Here’s some specs for Hollow Earth Expedition or its Victorian-period game, Leagues of Adventure or the new Space: 1889

Size: 0   Def: 6   Struct: 4   Speed: 20   Han: 0   Crew: 1   Pass: 0

 

My local dealer finally got one of the most anticipated bikes of the year in this week, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler Icon (or Scrambler Ducati, whatever…) I took it out for a bit this morning to get acquainted, as I’ve liked the look and the reviews have been positive.

2015-04-19 11.35.40First, the styling — it’s a small bike and a nice tip of the hat to the Scrambler of old, but this is a modern bike. It’s just a no-frills modern bike. I hate the over-the-tire bumper thing Ducati and other bike companies have been doing, the faux-aluuminum panels on the sides of the metal tank look a bit cheap, but the single, off-side instrument cluster is a nice touch, the seat is wide and comfortable, and in yellow, it’s not too obnoxious.

Comfort: I was only out for a half hour or so, but that’s about the length of time most folks are going to commute or hit the local coffeeshop with this thing. It’s sprung a little soft, but I don’t mind that. The stock bars are a bit high, but I found that once I got used to them, they didn’t bother me. You could probably have your dealer roll them down and back ten degrees or so and be happy. Leg position is comfortable, although I’m splayed out a bit more than on the Triumph Thruxton I have.

Function: It’s not fast like most Ducatis, and if I get one of these, almost guaranteed it’ll be near year’s end when some doofus who bought this is getting rid of it because it’s not Ducati enough for them. It’s still very quick. All this BS in the magazines about it not being able to “launch” is crap; she takes off nicely, and I redlined the thing in second handily in acceleration. It won’t rip you off the seat, but it’ll get you to speed faster than my Triumph. It’s light and very, very nimble, with copious lock to lock turn on the bars. I was able to U-turn without issues, several times, in residential streets. The brakes are good and come on more progressively than the usual Ducati. Mash down, though, and it STOPS. The shocks are a bit soft, but the bike is overall comfortalbe, very easy to ride, and quick enough to get the blood pumping.

No, it’s not a 1299 Panigale. You want that, go waste $20,000+ on a bike you’ll never use the whole power band on. I’ll take one of these in a heartbeat.

After riding this, I transitioned to my 2010 Thruxton, and I could feel the weight gain, immediately, and while it handes very well, it’s not nimble.. The Scrambler’s a great pop around town bike — nimble, light, quick. At $8,500-ish after tax to get on one, it’s a definite buy.

The 2014 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is rode, and yours truly took the prize for Most Dapper Gent, although Trixie lost out to a lovely ’70s Honda 500Four.

IMG_1242.JPG

IMG_1243.JPG

IMG_1240.JPG

IMG_1241.JPG

Thanks to Runeslinger for donating!

Next Page »