August 2014 — Bike Review — Triumph’s ‘Traditional’ Thunderbird LT


By Guido Ebert

Lets start by pointing out that there have been quite a few bikes that look like this on the market; most, apparently, squarely targeted at Harley-Davidson’s successful Heritage Softail Classic.

Building a LT is a familiar recipe for cruiser manufacturers. Step 1) Base it on a cruiser in your line.  Step 2) Raid the parts bin for items that’ll make that existing cruiser comfortable for light touring duties.

In this case, the 2014 Thunderbird LT shares its structure with the equally new Thunderbird Commander ($15,699) and some of the amenities – fore and aft lighting, for instance – appear to come from the Rocket III Touring.  

From a technical standpoint, the only real difference between the Commander and the Thunderbird LT is that the Commander runs on a 140/75 ZR17 front tire with 17 x 3.5 in. cast alloy five-spoke and a 200/50 ZR17 rear tire with a 17 x 6 in. cast alloy five-spoke.

August 2014 — Special Section — Cruiser Bikes

159_SS1Cruiser Sales Slide, Touring Sales Climb

Cruiser style motorcycles are everywhere. Whether blacked out, balloon tire Bobbers or bagged and bladed Touring Cruisers, it seems riders in the U.S. love their Cruisers.

In fact, according to Minneapolis-based research firm Power Products Marketing (PPM), Cruisers represent 26% of the market, Touring Cruiser models represent 27% of the market, and Harley-Davidson, with its Cruisers and Tourers, itself holds a 39% share of the overall U.S. motorcycle market.

However, despite their overall popularity, Cruiser sales in 2013 totaled approx. 107,465 units, down -5.5% compared to 2012, down an incredible -69% compared to a sales high point in 2005, and down -66% compared to 2003, according to figures compiled by PPM.

The top 10 best-selling cruisers in the U.S. in 2013 were the H-D Heritage Softail Classic, H-D Iron 883, Yamaha V Star 950 Tourer, H-D Softail Slim, H-D Dyna Street Bob, H-D Sportster 48, H-D Breakout, H-D Dyna Super Glide Custom, H-D Switchback and H-D Dyna Wide Glide.

August 2014 — Reader’s Story — Six Nine On a One Two Five

Photo by Jesse Walters

By Jesse Walters

“You’re not smart enough to not do the things you think of…” those were the concerned words of my good friend and former AMA superbike racer JJ Roetlin, when I told him I wanted to start touring on an 11 horsepower vintage Honda. His words echoed in my head as I kick started the 1974 Honda XL125 and left on a 120-mile trip to Ely, MN.

Let me backup and explain my motivation or at least attempt to justify my eccentric riding tendencies. With all the fancy two wheeled rocket ships on the market today, I’ve grown a little bored with just how perfect most street/dual sport

Photo by Jesse Walters

“Riding a ’74 Honda XL 125 any serious distance was going to be a real test of man and machine”.

bikes have become. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of selling my modern steeds, but once in a while it’s rewarding to ride something that slows you down and makes you appreciate where bike technology has come from. Much like travel abroad makes you appreciate home, riding an under sprung, under-powered relic; makes you appreciate fuel injection, and ABS.

August 2014 — Geezer With A Grudge — Following Distance & Me

By Thomas Day

A couple of years ago, there was a young person who took the Basic Rider Course and debated every safety point in the course: helmets and other protective gear, speed, skill development, and traffic management and awareness. Everything we had to say was pointless “safety geek crap.” One morning, I read about that person’s death on the highway; unprotected by any reasonable gear, tailgating, capped off by an inability to avoid an obstacle. I recognized the picture in the paper.

In April, on the road home from New Mexico, I got another reminder of how precarious life on a motorcycle can be – from the relative safety of our motorhome. 

Before we left our last campsite of the winter, after five months on the road, I did my usual equipment inspection, knocked off the items on the RV’s shutdown checklist, and we headed north toward Des Moines on I35. We stopped in Des Moines for fuel and breakfast and I checked the tires for heat (my lazy man’s tire pressure inspection) at the filling station and took a pressure measurement after breakfast. 

August 2014 — Road Rash


August 2014 — From The Hip


After being nearly killed twice in the past week, I figured it was time for a rant. My recent near-death experiences were a direct result of distracted driving. In both instances, the drivers were using their mobile phones. In one the guy was talking, in the other the gal was texting. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the total number of near misses I’ve had in the past year.

I have about a 30 mile round-trip commute Monday through Friday. It’s mostly highway and that has been where the majority of these incidents have occurred. It’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve been trying to pay attention to what is distracting these drivers. Once I started looking it was really obvious. There are way too many people on their mobile devices when they should be concentrating on driving their vehicles.

August 2014 — Book Review — Motorcyclist’s Legal Handbook: How to Handle Legal Situations from the Mundane to the Insane

159_Book_ReviewAuthor: Pat Hahn

Publisher: Motorbooks; First edition (January 14, 2012)

Paperback: 240 pages

Language: English

By Thomas Day

This was a particularly fun book for me to read and review because Pat is a good friend and someone who’s opinion and research I trust, almost without question. The book arrived on a Monday and I came home about 9PM to discover it in my mailbox. On the way from the mailbox to the kitchen, I learned something from skimming through its pages. Did you know that the speed “limit” below yellow curve warnings are “advisory” and don’t carry the weight of law? Yeah? Well I didn’t and either did at least one cop who gave me a warning for blowing off those idiotic, overly paranoid “suggestions’ on an Idaho mountain road.

Pat takes us through the laws and rules states and individual police apply to riders, most of which are actual laws and some of which are made up on the scene (the “one or both feet down” for a full stop rule, for instance). I’d recommend this as a reference manual for all you Iron Butt’ers.

August 2014 — Gear Review — Arai Helmets

159_ARAIBy Bruce Mike

I’m not much of an expert on helmets. I know they need to be replaced every 3-5 years and that when you throw them away you should cut the straps off them. I know if you drop one you can directly effect its structural integrity and you should probably replace it. I’m also aware that the way a helmet fits is what’s most important to me.

In the past year and a half I’ve gone from wearing a helmet 5% of the time to wearing one 99% of the time. This change came about for two reasons, first, the purchase of a different motorcycle that I drive a bit more aggressively than it’s predecessor and second, my wife was hit by someone who never saw her till he made contact, and her gear saved her life. I’m pretty much ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) now. I do have my rare rebel moments where I want the wind in my face and bugs in my teeth. I guess every once in awhile I just want to be cool.

August 2014 — Movie Review — Once A Jolly Swagman

159_Movie_ReviewDirected by Jack Lee

Wessex Film Productions, 1949

100 minutes, NR

By Tammy Wanchena

Definitely worth checking out for vintage movie and racing fans, Once a Jolly Swagman, also released as Maniacs On Wheels, takes us back to the original days of Speedway at the height of its popularity in Great Britain, and the distraction it provided to fans after World War II.

Speedway racing is a form of dirt track racing ridden on a short course with a bike having a single speed transmission and no brakes. The riders slide through the corners similar to American style flat track. The origins of are not very clear, but it was likely developed in the 1910’s in either America or possibly Australia. It eventually came to Britain and became a huge hit. 

August 2014 — Random Scootering — SYM’s ‘Utilitarian’ Cabo 150 Scoot

Photo by David HarringtonBy David Harrington

I recently picked up the new Cabo 150 scooter from Marty Mataya at Go Moto in Minneapolis. Marty is one of the most straight-forward dealers I know, and it’s always fun to stop by and visit his shop.

The Lance Cabo 150 is manufactured in Taiwan by SYM (San Yang Motors). The Cabo 150 is intended to be a utilitarian scooter with a sporty bias – the components and features are true to this intent. Walking around the Cabo 150 we see (fairly) knobby 12-inch tires, a large seat, wide and flat floorboard, matte finished panels and an exposed (naked) handlebar. We also see, or rather don’t see, my only complaint with this scooter. The digital instrument cluster is too dim to be easily read in direct sunlight. 

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