Posts Tagged ‘Triumph Bonneville’

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Amid a flurry of grass clippings and dust, I saw the USPS truck speeding around the bend in our street as though our few humble homes were the last deliveries standing between this mail carrier and the freedom of a holiday weekend off. I rumbled to the backyard on a mower that has likely seen better days, and when I came back, there was a box resting on the doorstep. As a self confessed Amazon Prime junkie, I knew I wasn’t expecting a delivery. I examined the return address and immediately knew what was inside.

ScooterBob had arrived.

When I first signed up to host ScooterBob I was the proud owner of a 2014 Triumph Bonneville. My third motorcycle, the Bonne turned out to be a perfect fit for me. In the two years that I had it, It took me on pretty amazing adventures. There was no ride too long, no adventure too daunting, simply nothing I could not do with that bike. The story of its passing is as dramatic as it is sad, and is a post for another time. I mention it now because given the untimely parting with my Bonne I was unsure if I was the right person to host ScooterBob. Would he still want to see New England if it wasn’t on two wheels? My correspondence with the current host (Toadmama )and moderators ensured me that Bob would still want a visit no matter how it happened. I was touched by their kindness.

So here he is. As I opened the box I was profoundly moved by the small wooden motor scooter I found inside so lovingly packed in bubble wrap and peanuts. I found the bag of souvenirs that chronicled his journey around the world. I carefully unfolded each piece, remembering where I had read about it before. There was no doubt in my mind that this little scooter, and the man who inspired it’s travels, meant a great deal to the people who are keeping his mission alive. Described as an imperfect human, I feel like maybe Bob and I would have gotten along.

So for this man I have never met, and the people who have taken such good care of the tiny scooter that embodies his traveling sprit, ScooterBob and I are going to kick some ass.

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Turn the key. Adjust the idle. Ignition.

The engine rumbled to life and I put on my helmet. Before I even climbed aboard the Bonne I knew this was going to be a long day. If I’m going to be honest, I probably planned this trip the day I bought my first bike. And now, three years later, I feel like I’m ready for it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to stand on the summit of Mount Washington. At 6288 feet, the peak of this geological behemoth stands as the highest point in the eastern United States. Up until three years ago, I assumed that would be the result of hours of laborious hiking. While this is still a goal of mine, that venture been put aside many times for a multitude of logistical reasons, namely the investment in time, which I have in limited supply. Fortunately, there’s another way to reach the top.

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In 1861 a team of engineers completed and opened to the public the Mt. Washington Carriage Road. Starting at an elevation 1527 feet, the now renamed Auto Road, climbs 4618 feet over the course of 8 twisty miles, which boasts and average grade of 11.6%, and no guard rails. Naturally, the The Auto Road makes standing on the summit a far more attainable goal, and thus attracts thousands of tourists every year. This year, that includes me. Driving up the mountain always seemed like cheating, but riding up the steep, winding, partially dirt road notably lacking guard rails on two wheels adds a level of adventure that was right up my alley.

While the engine was warming, I double checked my gear. With everything strapped securely in place, I raised the side stand, dropped into first and rolled out of the garage. If I followed Google Maps, it was going to take me three hours of freeway riding to reach the base of the mountain. But I wasn’t going to do that, was I? Nope, the route I was going to take was going to add an hour, but an hour well spent. My plan was to take Rte. 93 up to Lincoln and then ride the Kancamangus highway east to pick up Rte. 16 north to Gorham and the entrance to The Auto Road. Kind of killing two birds with one stone. The Kanc is one of the most highly recommended motorcycle roads in New England. Cutting through The White Mountains, it provides beautiful scenery and 32 miles of sweeping corners and one pretty exceptional hairpin turn. It’s not Stelvio, but for New Hampshire, it’s not bad. But first, I had to get there.

Last year, I reached the Kanc by way of back roads. Between the quaint New Hampshire towns and the long stretches of scenic deserted roads, staying off the freeway really was the best way to go. The downside was that it took twice the amount of time. Since I was going all the way to Washington, it made the most sense to take the freeway and save myself a little time. I settled in at comfortable 65-ish and maneuvered through the busy interchanges of Manchester and Concord. As I left the Capital I was pleased to notice the traffic melting away. While trying to stay engaged in the long ride, my scan of my immediate area often revealed that I was the only person on the road. Again away from distracted drivers inadvertently trying to kill me. Occasionally a car would pass, and I’d be alone again motoring north towards the mountains.

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With a quick stop for gas it took just under two hours to reach Exit 32 in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Being the creature of habit that I must admit I am, I pulled into the usual gas station to top off the tank and then rolled next door to the all too familiar Dunkin Donuts on Rte 112 for a quick bite to eat. After checking in with Beth I strolled back out the Bonneville to get set up for the next leg of my journey. I had a general idea of where I was going, but I didn’t really care that much because finding the way is part of the adventure, right?

So I went East. As it leaves Lincoln, The Kanc offers a series of tree lined sweeping curves for several miles, which were pleasantly devoid of other vehicles. There are few things I love more than having a road to myself. Without pushing the speed too much I finally arrived at the famed hairpin turn that starts your climb into the mountains. I’ve run this corner only a few times so I took it kinda easy, but not so much so that I couldn’t enjoy it.

Slow. Look. Press and Roll. What up MSF.

I climbed higher over the pass and on that beautiful afternoon I was rewarded by a clear view of the White Mountains. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view but time was tight and unfortunately I couldn’t stop to take it in. Disappointing perhaps, but I had a mission and I was pretty sure the view was going to be much better at my destination.

The Kancamangus Highway comes to something of an unceremonious end at the intersection with Rte 16. From here all I had to do is go north and I should run straight into the Auto Road leading up to the summit. While it turned out to be slightly more complicated than that, I managed to find the way with a minimal amount of u-turns. After another hour of empty roads and amazing views, I spotted the famed sign signaling the entrance to the Mt Washington Auto Road. From the time I left my garage, it took four hours to get there. It was already a hell of an adventure and I hadn’t even done the hard part.

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I rolled down the driveway and pulled off to the side. I was nervous. I knew that guys on Harleys ride this road and don’t go plummeting off the edge, even with a mile of dirt road, and not a guard rail in sight… At least not that I heard of anyway. I texted Beth to let her know I was heading up and if I could I’d sent her a text from the top.

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8 miles, 4600 feet, 22 minutes. Here goes nothing.

I’ll start by saying, this road is narrow. Like, a car and a half, narrow. When I crossed the bridge and paid the attendant, he reminded me that the speed limit was 15 mph. Yeah that not gonna be a problem, I laughed. There’s no rush to get to the top. I stayed mostly in first gear for the first half of the way up, and felt fairly comfortable winding through the blind corners, at one point pulling over for an adventure rider to pass.

With the increase in elevation, the trees began to shrink and eventually melted away. I was finally able to take a look around. Although the haze was thick that day, what I could see of the view was spectacular. The pavement abruptly stopped and the dirt began. I stole quick looks at the mountain ranges around me while simultaneously trying to maintain my focus on the road in front of me. I had a mile of climbing winding dirt road ahead, with the sun in my face, and vehicles passing from the opposite direction, so staying engaged was critical. I was soon reunited with my friend the pavement and the corners in the road loosened up. I could see the summit buildings in the distance and (finally) clicked into second gear. My pace quickened a bit as I closed distance to the top, and in short order the road ended at the parking lot. I rolled over the gravel to a spot with a nice view and killed the engine.

And for a moment, I just sat there, looking through my visor at the range ahead and listening to the quiet ticking of the engine as it cooled. I breathed in deep, removed my gloves, and took a picture.

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It was about 3:30 pm, so I had plenty of time to look around before making the descent. It took so long to get here, I wasn’t about to rush. First things first, I walked right to the summit marker. And there was a line… I had to laugh. I waited patiently while other people stood at the marker and took their photos. A group of Appalachian Trail hikers arrived, and I offered to take their picture for them. More than anyone else on the summit that day, those four kids earned that picture. I was happy for them and their accomplishment, and maybe just a little jealous. They kindly returned the favor, I wished them a safe journey and walked off the marker to let the next tourist take their picture.

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I walked to all the corners of the summit, making sure to stop and take in the view, hoping that I would be able to remember this day in the months and years to come. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I knew I had to go. I walked back to the Bonne, politely passing a family with two small kids walking down the stairs. The dad, who looked younger than me, caught up with me as I was organizing my pack for the return trip.

“That’s a beautiful bike,” he said. “I always thought the Bonneville was a much nicer looking bike than a Harley.”

Who was I to argue? I thanked him for his kind words and got ready for the ride down. The road less of an unknown now, I just had to make sure I managed my engine speed so I wouldn’t overheat the brakes. The views I couldn’t see on the way up I was fortunate to have again for the ride down. I ended up hung up behind a slow going Mercedes for most of the way, but honestly, I didn’t mind. The slow pace allowed more time to take in the view.

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Twenty-two minutes later, I arrived in the parking lot just as a new group of riders rode passed the entry gate and headed up the mountain. I stopped at the little convenience store to text Beth and have some water. It was nearly 5:00 pm, and I had three hours to go before I would be home. Initially my plan was to run The Kanc again in reverse, but I was going to lose daylight fast, so I opted for the fastest route home. Which, I should add, was totally worth it. I found more empty roads and as the sun set across the valley I opened the throttle, and rode for home.

The Ton. Yeah, so there’s that. I read somewhere that if you have a British bike, you have to “Do the Ton.” To the Brits, this means going 100 mph, and apparently it’s some kind of rite of passage. With the freeway empty of all traffic, I made my attempt. It took three tries and a full tuck, but I did it. Sorry, there’s no picture. I did, however send Johnny this text when I stopped for gas:

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Yup, never again, but check it off the list.

I rolled back into my garage just after 9:00pm. The Mt. Washington adventure was the longest of any moto adventure I had embarked on. I learned much about myself, and my bike and what it could do. It was one hell of a day, and even though I didn’t walk up that mountain, I felt the the adventure was worthy of the photo taken at the summit marker. Next time, I’m doing it on foot.

What I didn’t know that night as I lay in bed with the dog snoring beside me was that this epic journey would be the last great adventure with my Triumph Bonneville. What a way to go out though.

More on that to follow.

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It’s no secret that from time to time life can be something of an a-hole, and provide unique challenges and issues that simply can’t be avoided. That was the case this particular week in August. As a result, when I rolled out of bed, I was feeling pretty beat up. Not the best way to start the day

I spent the morning kinda lounging around. I slept late, played a little Tetris, and had no plan for the afternoon. Beth was leaving to go camping with her friends, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the house and stew. So I started packing. To date, I hadn’t really done a good long ride, and I had the feeling it was the very thing I needed to break through the funk. I grabbed my 5.11 Rush 12 pack, a couple layers of clothes, some extra gloves, tool kit, and I think, the worlds last remaining 120g iPod classic, and rolled out the driveway. It was 3pm. I had no plan, no direction, and no schedule.

I started north because, why not? I figured I’d take 93 north for a little while and maybe ride up to the mountains. After I got through the second toll, the not so crowded freeway almost instantly became a parking lot. Oh that’s right, it’s Friday in the summer. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, from Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire was heading north for a weekend of fun at pretty much the exact same moment. It quickly became apparent that this plan wasn’t going to work. Trapped in the right lane I knew the next big exit was for 89 north, so I bided my time until I could finally ease out of the ever maddening traffic and onto the the exit ramp. Since I couldn’t go any farther north I decided maybe I’d try going east. I got off at exit 2 and made my way towards Concord. I knew that if I made it through there I could pick up Route 9 and take it east into Portsmouth. Beth had been there a month or so ago and had fun, and since I hadn’t been in over twenty years, it seemed like a good choice.

Route 9 eventually became Rte 4 which did in fact take me all the way into Portsmouth. This stretch of road wasn’t terribly interesting but did afford some nice views as it passed a number of small lakes. I followed signs for downtown and made my way into the heart of Portsmouth. Small shops, cafes and restaurants line the narrow streets which, at 5pm, were bustling with people. I made a couple passes of the downtown area until I settled on a decent spot to park. I backed in, dropped the kickstand and swung my leg over the bike

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Downtown Portsmouth has the feeling you’d expect from a old seaside New England town.

I had been riding for over two hours and was ready to find a bite to eat. Walking around a bit I settled on, what I found out later, is a pretty popular cafe. I ordered a small flatbread pizza and sat outside watching passers by, while enjoying the afternoon sun. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I didn’t want to rush either. So after lingering for a little while, I packed up my gear and walked back to the Bonne.

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A late lunch and people watching.

Once I got my kit strapped down I took a look at the map. From downtown Portsmouth I could ride over to Rte 1A and follow that south all the way down into Massachusetts. The road runs along the New Hampshire Seacoast through Hampton Beach, then Seabrook, and eventually into Salisbury Beach, Newburyport, and points south. I’ve never seen this stretch of road before and the map looked promising.

Rand Macnally did not disappoint. Just a few miles outside the city, the road joins up with the coastline, and the views were nothing short of spectacular. Each turn provided a endless view of the Atlantic and the coastline ahead. I have ridden through some of the coastal towns in on the North Shore before, which has some nice ocean views, but pale in comparison to the uninterrupted vista I had before me. The road itself was in great shape and afforded some pretty incredible corners. My only complaint here was that it was pretty busy and the traffic ahead of me slowed to near stops at each hairpin. However, it’s a small complaint, and the slower traffic allowed me to take in the view and breathe deep of the sea air.

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Route 1A Southbound

Sunset turned to twilight as I made my way down the coast. As the busy streets of Hampton Beach soon gave way to Seabrook, and then Salisbury Beach, the road turned west for a bit and then resumed its southerly track down towards Newburyport. Initially taking a wrong turn when I entered the city, it looked like I was going to miss the downtown area altogether, but after a series of u turns, I managed to find the city center. With the light fading fast, I got off just long enough to take a couple pictures and check my map.

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The sun setting on Newburyport and miles to go.

I was committed to taking 1A as far as I could before surrendering to the hour long ride on the freeway to get back home. I found the way out of town, and the city streets soon melted away and transformed into rolling farm land that had a palpable air of tranquility in the last remaining light of the day. I rode by so many perfect pictures, but by the time I passed, I knew that the moment I saw was gone and turning around wouldn’t have been the same. The parks and farmland intermingled with small town centers, and with the temperature dropping, I thought it might be a good time to pull over, get something to drink and layer up for the ride home.

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It was completely dark when I set out for the last leg of this impromptu journey. Reminding myself to only ride as fast as I could see, I slowed my pace until finally linking up with 128 South for the long ride home. One hour and nine minutes later, I rolled back into my garage and was met by a very patient dog, who seriously needed to be let out.

Ive said it before: Good for the soul. Whatever was bothering me this morning faded away with the sweeping corners, ocean views and rumble of an air cooled 865cc engine. I dare you to find a better way to clear the head and heal the soul.

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I double dog dare you.

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Riding motorcycles is dangerous. I spent my childhood listening to my mom tell me that you buy your son a motorcycle for his LAST birthday, the last few years enduring stories from well intentioned people about the kid they knew in college who died riding a bike, or, my personal favorite, the facepalm inducing tale of my wife’s hairdresser who was dragged twenty feet through a field, on his face, while off roading a CBR600, wearing shorts and flip flops…. No shirt. He looks great now, but you know, less so back then.

There’s no arguing the point. Every time I throw a leg over my bike and start the engine, I’m assuming some level of risk. How much risk, I think, is up to me. There are several safety factors I can mitigate before I have to accept that the cosmos can punch my ticket anytime it likes. Things like appropriate gear, i.e. Helmets, gloves, and protective clothing. No, not just 501’s, something with Kevlar, and padding if you can fit it in. The technology exists to enhance your riding safety, so why not use it? It’s expensive, you say? This is true. It’s ninety degrees out and too hot for an armored jacket? Also true. But I would argue that leaving ones face in a puddle on the side of the road is probably worth a little sweat and spending a few hundred bucks on a decent helmet. Even this face.

So get some decent gear. That’s easy, but what else? I think I’d call it mindset. Mindset on a motorcycle is twofold. Once you leave the relative safety of your driveway, you have to assume that everyone on the road is actively trying to kill you. As much as I’d like to sit back and zone out while riding down what looks like a quiet road, I scan. I watch intersections, look through corners and every few minutes I check my six. I don’t just watch the car in front of me, but the car in front of him, and I keep a minimum of three seconds separation. If I stay ahead of the traffic, I can increase my survivability. Let’s be honest for a moment about who is on the road in America: Stressed out, distracted, Facebook posting, Wazers who, after they hit you, simply won’t understand why they never saw you before they pulled out in to traffic. They’re out there people, and they are trying to end your life. So I scan.

Who are “they?” In my few years of motorcycling, I think I’ve successfully identified the demographics of folks, who may be terrific people, but are most likely to kill me on the road:

The elderly. That’s right kids, Grandpa has glaucoma and neuropathy, and even if he could see you he damned sure isn’t going to slow that Lincoln land yacht down in time. The only upside is, he’s probably going pretty slow, and it’s not personal, he’s a threat to everyone.

Soccer moms. That’s going to offend people. Sorry bros, it’s the truth. Every minivan I come across in traffic seems to have a big sunglassed mom in the front seat, on a cell phone looking vaguely annoyed. This lady, while doing the admittedly admirable and thankless job of raising children, is simply not paying attention to anything happening outside that sharp mint green Toyota Sienna. When she hits you, she’s probably more pissed about getting little Jimmy to practice late.

The Prius. Sorry mom, more truth. Socially liberal folks in their gas sipping (I hate that phrase) hybrid, even WITH hands free Bluetooth technology, pose a real threat to the motorcyclist. Why? To be honest, I’m not sure. Looking in the window you can see them shouting into whatever microphone is hidden in the dash so as to not hold their phones. I think that’s great, by the way. No, I can’t hear you, but thanks for not distracting your driving by holding your phone. Now please call me back when you get home. I don’t get it, but I’ve had enough encounters with the Pri-i to consider this fact.

Teenagers. I’ve been there man. Just ask my driving record. Speeding tickets, accidents, you name it. As a younger man, I did plenty of dumb ass things in cars, and on a couple occasions, was surprised I survived. Only, I couldn’t blame a cell phone. That dumbassery was all my own. In the 21st century however, lack of experience paired with social media are the weapons of choice for this predator. Yeah they’re the future of our country and all that, but let’s not accelerate the attrition rate by weeding out the motorcycle riders.

Just today, while on my way home, in the span of about ninety seconds I witnessed two acts of unspeakable stupidity, so appalling that if I hadn’t been paying attention, should have killed me. I was coming up a hill behind three cars, all of whom were taking the exit going north onto the freeway. As I’m watching them stack up for the ramp, a green minivan, appears going the wrong way, up the on ramp. The driver had a cell phone in one hand and while nearly hitting all three of the merging cars never saw me as she entered my lane. I had plenty of time to adjust, so I came to a stop and leaned on my horn, while she passed in front of me without so much as tapping her brakes. Not forty five seconds later, from the left another driver in a corvette convertible started rolling into my lane looking the opposite way. I hit the horn again, they looked surprised and stopped. “Where did he come from?” I could see them saying. A minute and a half, and if I hadn’t been looking, I’d likely be in the hospital. Yeah, I get it. It’s dangerous.

So what’s the other part of motorcycling mindset? Call it, moto-zen. When you survive something that makes you wonder if your affairs are in order, youve got to let it go. Yeah I know, that’s a tough one. I struggle with it from time to time and on a couple occasions have opted to stop, get off the bike and collect my composure… All while looking for a new pair of shorts. Road rage is a real and dangerous thing these days and on two wheels, you are destined to lose any kind of ill conceived confrontation. So man up, and don’t be provoked by the lunatic good ol’ boy who just swerved into your lane while his Stars and Bars flag dislodges from it’s loosely attached truck bed flag pole. As one of my instructors once told me: Suck it up, walk it off. I’m not great at this yet, but I’m trying harder not to take attempted vehicular homicide so personally.

Hard on the nerves is right. So why do we do it? With the ever looming threat of multiple assailants, skin graphs and a grizzly end, what makes riding a motorcycle so appealing?

How much time do you have?

It’s for all the rides away from traffic. For the rides on long deserted roads with amazing scenery. It’s exploring a place you’ve never been because, in a car, you wouldn’t think of it. It’s being a part of the environment you’re riding through, not just staring at it out a window. Things like, smelling the pine trees up in the mountains, or just some dude’s grill when you’re hungry. It’s catching an apex just right and throttling out of a corner. It’s the rumble of your engine. Hell, it’s even the bike wave. It’s a million little things that do so much to fill the soul. I usually snicker with derision at the “thrill of the open road” cliche. I mean really, it sounds ridiculous, right? Sure, but after a few years of riding I have to admit, it’s a thing, and it freakin rocks.

So yeah motorcycling is dangerous, and does have its nerve wracking moments but those pale in comparison to how much good it can do for ones soul. Get some good training, some solid gear and a bike, and go forth and have an adventure. Even if it’s just meeting your buddy for lunch.

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It wasn’t my fault. Really. I had no intentions whatsoever. I swear. I had just bought the Ninja last year, but there I was, taking pictures and posting it for sale on Craigslist… You know, just too see if someone would want it. Sure, because no one is going to want an immaculate white 2013 Ninja 300, which has been said time and again to be one of the best entry level motorcycles ever made. Nah, It’ll probably just sit there in the list for weeks, and I’ll feel better.

Not so much. I posted my much loved Ninja on a Monday, and by Tuesday night, it was gone. Wow.. What? It sold, for my craigslist negotiated price in about 24 hours. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, I kept it clean, you seriously could have eaten off the chain (but you know, don’t), had kept it up with fresh oil, and new tires and some other little cosmetic mods; why wouldn’t it have sold? So what the hell was I thinking?

Enabler, thy name is Johnny.

Ugh. F’ing Johnny. One of my oldest and closest friends, and of course the chief enabler of my motorcycling addiction. To be fair, when I’ve gone to him with crackpot ideas on spending stupid money on mods or gear I don’t really need, he has kept me on the straight and narrow. Keeping that in mind, I try not to blame him too much, but it’s not always easy when I get an email titled: Your Next Bike. And with that, the seed was planted.

A little history:

A few years ago, my wife and I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s beginner riding class. They stressed in the class that if you didn’t have a bike yet, you should get one sooner rather than later so you don’t forget the skills you learned in class. It seemed like good advice, but since we were kinda homeless, spending huge money on a motorcycle didn’t really seem like a great idea. We did a little number crunching and decided that we could free up a couple grand for an older used bike for me, and a month later a scooter for my wife. So I found a low mileage 2004 Hyosung GT250, and a Honda Elite 110 for Beth and we were on the road. The Hyo was the very picture of a perfect starter bike. It was old, a little ugly, but in good working order. The Elite was a little more banged up but for our purposes, perfect. The rest of that year we rode as much as the temporary plates would allow (and maybe a little more). We finally moved into our new house in December and the bikes were put to bed for winter.

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2004 Hyosung GT250

As 2012 turned to 2013, we started looking towards spring and a new full season of riding. New protective gear was acquired, and we waited not so patiently for spring. During that period, I spent a great deal of time reading and watching reviews for the Ninja 300. I write more about that here:

Stormtrooper?
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2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300

I quickly traded the GT250 and took a small step up to a newer slightly more powerful entry level bike. I rode every chance I got during that season and this year, when the winter finally released its ever persistent, polar-vortexed grip on New England, I parked the truck in the driveway and got the Ninja ready for the new riding season. I had new tires put on, shorty levers, and a fresh oil change, and it was ready to go. I was a solid 600 miles into the riding season when the wandering eye of the gear nerd started looking around. Just a little. I had somewhere around 3000 miles of riding time between my two entry level bikes, and I was starting to get that nagging feeling that maybe I was ready to step up to a larger displacement bike, with a little more of… Well everything: torque, power, weight, comfort etc. Yes, I did say comfort. After an hour on the 300 my butt would start complaining, and my fingers would numb from the handlebar buzz. Sure, they were fixable problems, but at some expense.

I will admit, there was also a little peer pressure involved as well. It had been recently brought to my attention that while the Ninja was cool and everything, maybe I was ready to find something a little more.. Ahem.. My own age.

Ouch. Ok, I get it, I’m not 20 anymore. But what the hell does “my own age” mean? I was never interested in Harley Davidson land yacht type cruisers, and as much as I love looking at race bikes, the riding position was too agressive, and I knew that wasn’t going to be for me either. I wanted something that could get around in corners and tread that fine line between comfort, sport and utility. Ruling out things like the Electra/Dyna Couch and the Panagale 1099 I knew I had to find something in the middle. So I went to Johnny. He’s seen me ride, he’s been through his own journey of buying and selling bikes, I knew he’d have something to say. His answer was the 2015 Yamaha FZ07. His current ride is the FZ09, and it was his opinion that Yamaha’s new 689cc twin would be a perfect step up from the Ninja 300. Ok, let’s go have a look.

Right… They’re not out yet. Not only are they not out yet, but the only Yamaha dealer I found had only a few sport bikes, and while they could order one for me, it would probably be a while. Also, forget about any negotiation. Coming up empty there, I remembered that there was a Ducati dealer in the next town over. So my ever patient wife and I trekked over in the rain to look at the Monster. I have long drooled over the styling of Ducati’s naked sport bikes, and it was starting to look like I might be in a position to buy one. Awesome.

And then, again, not so much. I sat on the 696 and 796, and while they were pretty comfortable I was wondering about spending long rides in the seat. I was further disillusioned when I looked at the price tag. Just under and just over ten grand respectively. I just couldn’t. I knew even with selling my Ninja I couldn’t spend that much money on a bike I could only ride half the year, and also one that might still have been limited in the kind of riding I wanted to do.

I am disappoint.

Ooh adventure bikes. It worked for Ewan and Charley on the Road of Bones, right? Totally..

Nope. Forget the cost, I’m too short. Motherf…..

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“The more you tighten your grip, the more motorcycles will slip through your fingers.”

Wait a minute. Have I become the Grand Moff Tarkin of motorcycle shopping?? Let’s just take a step back here.

“What about Triumph?” She says in the car as I am dejectedly driving us home.

“What, like the Speed Triple?”

“No, the Bonneville. Those are cool looking bikes.”

Hmm. There’s an idea. I hadn’t thought of them before. We bought her Vespa at a Triumph/Ducati/Vespa dealer on the seacoast, and I remember thinking the retro look was pretty cool. Maybe a little reinvention is just the thing I’m looking for. Just as we were steeling ourselves for the drive out, Beth’s ever powerful google-fu found a Triumph dealer 15 minutes from our house. It was on the way home, so we decided it was worth doing a drive by. They were closed by the time we got there, but my curiousity piqued, we decided to come back the next day to take a look around.

It was the first sunny Saturday after a rainy week in June, and everyone was out. You could just sense that anyone with two wheels and an engine in their garage breathed out a sigh of relief as the clouds parted, and, as valves and cylinders rumbled to life, inhaled the smell of summer: motorcycle exhaust. On a sunny weekend afternoon there are few things in the world that smell better.

We returned that afternoon to take a look around. After looking over the bikes lined up outside, we made our way in to the room in back where the Triumphs were kept. Pretty much every model from the Tiger to the Rocket Roadster were neatly lined up in this room that seemed incapable of holding so many motorcycles. We zeroed in on the Bonnevilles and after a few minutes of poking around, a sales rep came in to check on us. He answered the basic questions, most of which we already knew the answers to, and then I asked him if they did test rides. It’s a pretty rare thing in our area, so I was shocked when he said they did. The demo ride was going to be a left over 2013 Bonne in the purple/white paint. He talked up the some of the features and promotions on that particular bike while he got the key and got me set up to take it out. As a leftover, it was going to be cheaper than a new 2014.

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After a quick walk around and briefing on the Bonne, I started the engine and set off. I immediately noticed the increase in torque. Not surprisingly, the 865cc air cooled twin delivered far more power than my Ninja, and in much smarter fashion. Downshifting was a little jerky at first and I did notice a little throttle snatch in the low gears, but attributed most of that to user error: different bike, different clutch, different feel etc. After a few minutes I got settled in, and those issues mostly worked themselves out. I didn’t have a route in mind when I left the parking lot, but as I made my way through the mid afternoon traffic I knew exactly where to go. There’s a really nice corner not far from the dealership, and I was pretty sure I’d have a good idea of what the Bonneville was about after putting it through a few turns.

I got off the main, multi lane road and onto the the winding back roads, and it clicked. I found my corner and with little effort tossed the Bonne into a good lean. As I throttled out of the turn, under my ill fitted loaner helmet, a smile crept across my face. Holy crap, I just found my next bike. On the straight aways, the engine pulls along effortlessly, and when I want power to pass or accelerate, there is more than enough in reserve. The riding position, is upright and comfortable, and even on long rides, I was sure there would be plenty of room.

After about 25 minutes I pulled back into the dealership. As I dropped the sidestand and killed the engine, Beth first told me that I was gone so long they thought I had stolen it, and then asked me what I thought of the test ride. I was sold. I knew there were other bikes that might have been sportier, or more comfortable for long distance riding, or that could carry more stuff, but my impression of the Bonne, was that for being a standard bike, it was pretty sporty, and had the capabilities to do almost anything. The important question was, which one?

I have this problem. I can be cheap. It’s a disorder whereby I try to get a better deal by not buying the thing that I want, and settle for something sub standard. This condition usually results in spending more money to fix the errors wrought from previous cheapness. It’s a drag. In this case, it would have meant buying the 2013 purple Bonneville. However, despite my propensity for cheapness, it occurred to me that saving a grand on a bike I intend to keep a long time, was probably short sighted. It also doesn’t help that you don’t get a lot of love from other bikers when you’re a dude riding a purple bike. Just sayin. So, after a whole bunch of research into the Triumph Bonneville, input from Beth, and of course, Johnny, I decided on the 2014 mag wheel Bonneville in black. My Ninja 300 sold a few days later, and we went back and made the deal.

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2014 Triumph Bonneville

After about a month and a half and almost 1500 miles, I can say with confidence that the Bonneville does everything the Ninja did, only far better. It took only a couple weeks to get through the first 500 miles, and once I got the oil changed out, I started setting out on longer rides. At the beginning of the season, I decided that I really wanted to ride up to the north shore. There are some nice seaside towns up there and the combination of twisty roads and the ocean view put it at the top of my list. The reason I hadn’t done it before was because the ride up is about 90 minutes and I wasn’t filled with confidence in the Ninja handling the freeway for over an hour. Not that it technically couldn’t do it, I just didn’t love the thought of being high in the revs for so long, not to mention the Ninja’s seat was less than optimal for extended periods of time. The Bonne, on the other hand, handled the freeway brilliantly. I got tossed around a little, mostly around large trucks, but for the long ride to the coast, I was plenty comfortable. Cruising at freeway speeds was effortless, and I found I had plenty of power for overtaking slower traffic. Once I got into town, I stopped at coffee shop for a few minutes to stretch, and then set out on route 127 through Gloucester and Rockport. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the perfect day for riding along the coast. The whole trip was about three and a half hours, and 150 miles aboard my new Bonneville. Something I couldn’t have done before.

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When I got home later that day, having checked something off my list, I simply could not have been happier. While I thoroughly enjoyed my Ninja, I was glad to have taken the leap and traded up to this outstanding all around motorcycle. The only real downside is that unless Beth wants to move on from her Vespa, we’re all done motorcycle shopping for a while. That’s ok, riding is more fun anyway.

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