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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Work on the FAR Video

Last week I was summonded to the mount. The pinnicale of motorcycle publishing in Canada. I was one of the few lucky ones to get a behind the scenes look at the offices of the mighty CMG. Editor 'Arris asked me to come up and go thru the piles of video from the FAR rally and see if we could put together a half decent promo video.

So on Thursday, I loaded up the Vstrom and headed to CMG headquarters in the bustling metropolis of Sackville, New Brunswick. It was a beautiful Thursday morning, sun was shining and the two hour ride passed by quickly.

I met Rob at his house, and being a polite Englishman he offered a tea, I took a coffee, and we had a quick chat before heading over to the "office". I thought the office was going to be a spare room in the house with a computer and decorated with various two-wheeled posters. Oh no, we actually headed to downtown Sackville to a real office situated on the third floor of an old house converted to an office building. Very cool.

We finally set to work on weeding through all the video, and there was a lot. One rally team had video of the whole day. 500km of helmet cam footage. So that took quite awhile to go through. Helmet cam footage is cool, but too much is boring. 

Rob had to bail around 2pm to look after the kiddies after school, and left me at the helm of the CMG steamship. Before he left he made sure I was well fed, and put together a nice tuna salad for me for lunch. I am not used to being treated so well. I better pull out all the editing stops for this video.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much the same as the morning, finding good video clips and copying them to my flash drives to bring home with me. I was hoping to spend the night, and work away again with Rob in the morning. But as usual, anytime I make plans, work comes a calling. Seven AM departure the next morning. There goes my evening of drinking Rob's selection of fine IPA's and solving the problems of the motorcycling and political world, while I suck up to the world's greatest motorcycle magazine editor so I can do what I love most, writie articles so I can score free kit, and ride a bunch of different motorcycles. 

Rob if your reading this and need someone to take a new Ducati Scrambler as a long term test bike.......pick me, pick me!!!!

So after bribing Rob's daughters with loose pocket change in hopes of becoming their favourite freelance writer/video editor I raced the setting sun back home.

The next morning at 9am. It's not Sackville and there is no editing going on.

The good news is, I have most of next week off, so I'll get a good chunk of editing done on the FAR promo.

New VStrom 650 in the Works

Hey folks,

Looks like Suzuki is about to launch another version of it's wildly popular Vstrom 650 to the masses. This one however looks to be more suited to offroad riding. Wire spoked wheels have been spotted on a prototype. It also looks like the new Weestrom will get the beak like it's big brother as well.

Everyone is guessing that the new Wee will be unveiled at the upcoming bike shows about to start very soon. Lets hope Suzuki also beefed up the suspension and added switchable ABS too.

I just discovered this on the Vstrom Facebook post, someone has a nice pic of the new Weestrom.

I have to say, I am not a fan of the beak on this, and why don't they put a proper, or any skid plate on the damn thing. One big rock and it's game over. Looking forward to seeing it in person, and what, if anything else is changed.

Spy Photos Reveal 2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom Going Full ADV

 Photos and leaks paint picture of new dirt capable middle-weight V-Strom.

Published on 09.29.2014
Suzuki DL650 V-STROM 650 spy photo
Spy photos reveal a more off-road oriented 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 with beak styling, wire spoked rims and skid plate. (Photo Courtesy MCN)
Spy photos have surfaced of a new 2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. The long-distance photographs were captured by MCN while the bike was being prepared for transport from a Suzuki facility in Europe. Suzuki reps tried to cover the front of the bike in an effort to hide what looks like a beak. Also visible in the photos are a skid plate and wire spoked rims. As to be expected, the bike in the photos exhibits a resemblance in styling to the V-Strom 1000 released last year.
These spy photos appear to confirm reports last month from Australian Motorcycle News revealing a new, more off-road oriented, 2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. An unnamed source at Suzuki Japan gave AMCN details about a front beak, wire spoked rims, a 21″ front wheel and improved off-road suspension. The source reported the new off-road-oriented V-Strom 650 would be released alongside the standard V-Strom, and the engine and frame would remain unchanged for 2015.
2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom spy photo loading into van
Spy photo of the new V-Strom 650 getting loaded into a trailer for transport at a Suzuki facility in Europe. (Photo Courtesy MCN)
Last week, Dutch motorcycling website Oliepeil also provided evidence of the 2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom with off-road intentions. The publication discovered leaked images of a motorcycle labeled the DL650X in Suzuki’s parts catalog. The parts catalog images are consistent with the beak and wire spoked wheels reported by other sources. A dual headlight design, similar to the current V-Strom 650 model, are also visible, along with dual sport tires.
2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom Parts Catalog photo DL650X
Leaked parts catalog photos of the 2015 DL650X show wire spoked rims, dual sport tires and beak styling. (Photo Courtesy Oliepeil)
The V-Strom 650 has always been more of an upright sport-tourer than a true Adventure Bike, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining a large following with ADV enthusiasts. A powerful 645cc V-Twin provides smooth highway cruising while the bike’s weight makes it easier to manage off-road than many of the oversized liter-class Adventure Bikes on the market. 
This new adventure outfitted 2015 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom could become strong competition for another off-road capable twin-cylinder middle-weight Adventure Bike, the BMW F800GS. A large dealer network, excellent reliability, low cost of maintenance and good fuel range are strong selling points that would make it a great option for both experienced and New Adventure Riders alike. 
We won’t have to wait long to find out all the details. Suzuki is expected to officially unveil the new model at the Intermot show in Cologne, Germany this week.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

BMW Sertao, a reasonable replacement for the Vstrom?????

Yes folks, I have a problem. My wife will tell you all the details. It's kind of like an ADD with motorcycles. How does a guy who loves all bikes live with just one. I think it's darn near impossible. If I was a wealthy man, I'd have a garage full, but alas I am not. My children see to that. Just kidding kids, Daddy loves you.

A few years ago when I got back into motorcycling after a short hiatus, changing jobs, moving around, having kids, not having any money, I jumped back into it. I wanted to get a BMW Dakar, which was no longer being produced by BMW. Atlantic Motoplex in Moncton however had a nice 2006 preowned model for sale. Of course I waited a week too long in getting an offer in, and it went to another loving home. I was then planning on getting a G650 X-Challenge. Loved that bike. 

Ok lets get an X-Challenge. Sorry BMW is not making them in the new year, the new 800GS is coming out. Well the 800GS was out of my price range, so I ended up settling with a X-Country. Mistake number one. 

It was a good bike, but it was physically too small for me, the gas tank was puny, and the aftermarket accessories were hard to find, compared to a Dakar. I did love the single-cylinder fuel injected engine. Lots of torque and good power.

Some of you are saying, why didn't you get a KLR, it's cheaper and a bigger bike. Well, I know that, it's a great machine, but it just doesn't speak to me for some reason.

Enter the BMW Sertao, or a new name for the old Dakar, with some cosmetic changes, a slightly smaller fuel tank, but basically the same bike that was so ever popular. 

At just over $10K Canadian it's not cheap, you can almost buy two KLR's for the price. Is it worth it. Depends on who you ask. If you think fuel-injection, more power, better fuel economy, switchable ABS, heated grips, etc is worth it, then yes. Like I said the KLR is a great motorcycle at a great price, it has basically remained unchanged for years, like the Sertao/Dakar. It comes down to the individual and what they see as value for the money and personal taste.

I like the Sertao, like it a lot, ever since it was reintroduced. I was a little disappointed that BMW never had one to demo at the Fundy Adventure Rally.

The bike gets mostly good reviews, and I think it all depends on what you want to do with it. Adventure touring, logging/fire roads, easy ATV trails is where I think this bike is in it's element. Definitely not tight, rough singe track, or long runs down a 75mph freeway. It can be done, just not comfortably I think. My old X-Country wasn't a great highway cruiser. 

Right now I have to decide on where the majority of my riding is going to be. The Strom is great on the highway, super comfortable and fast. Gravel roads, it's good, but I just feel like the old girl is getting pounded when the road gets rough. Seriously how much highway riding do I do......not much right now. I would ride more logging and ATV trails if I had the right bike. Plus the strom is so big and heavy that I am now missing something lighter and easier to manage. 

So....question is, two bikes, or one do it all? Space in my garage is getting limited. Two bikes....double the insurance, registration, and maintenance. However I can keep the Strom and get a new CRF250L for the same price as a Sertao.

So what would I do to a Sertao if I bought one? Let's face it, one has to farkle ones bike, we can't leave it stock, thats a no no. 

Touring windshield that is adjustable is a must, then luggage. I think I'd just move my Wolfman tankbag over, then get a Giant Loop softbag by Great Basin. Wider footpegs and maybe a seat upgrade, if the Sertao seat is like the other torture devices designed by BMW.

Unlike my other motorcycle purchases that have been, shall we say, a little spontaneous and not too well thought out, I'm gonna wait til spring this time. Unless I happen to be going by Motoplex in a buying mood. 

"honey, I just bought a new bike.......it's smaller, cheaper on insurance, and has a three year warranty.....hello, hello." I might be spending the winter sleeping in the trailer. That new heated jacket may come in handy.

TypeWater-cooled, single-cylinder 4-stroke engine, four valves, two overhead camshafts, dry sump lubrication
Bore x stroke100 mm x 83 mm
Capacity652 cc
Rated output35 kW (48 hp) at 6,500 rpm (output reduction to 25 kW (34 hp) at 6,500 rpm possible)
Max. torque60 Nm at 5,000 rpm (with output reduction: 47 Nm at 4,500 rpm)
Compression ratio11.5 : 1
Mixture control / engine managementElectronic intake pipe injection / BMW engine management, twin-spark ignition
Emission controlClosed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3
Performance / fuel consumption 
Maximum speedapprox. 170 km/h (with output reduction: approx. 145 km/h)
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h3.2 l
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h4.3 l
Fuel typeUnleaded regular, minimum octane rating 91 (RON) 
Electrical system 
Alternatorthree-phase alternator 400 W 
Battery12 V / 12 Ah
Power transmission 
ClutchMultiple-disc clutch in oil bath, mechanically operated
GearboxConstant mesh 5-speed gearbox integrated into crankcase
DriveEndless O-ring chain with shock damping in rear wheel hub
Chassis / brakes 
FrameBridge-type steel section frame with bolted-on rear section
Front wheel location / suspensionTelescopic fork, Ø 41 mm, fork stabiliser
Rear wheel location / suspensionBox-section steel dual swing arm, central spring strut operated by lever system, spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
Suspension travel front / rear210 mm / 210 mm 
Wheelbase1,484 mm
Castor123 mm
Steering head angle61,9°
WheelsWire spoke wheels
Rim, front1,60 x 21"
Rim, rear3,00 x 17"
Tyres, front90/90 R21 54S
Tyres, rear130/80 R17 65S
Brake, frontFloating single disc, diameter 300 mm, double-piston floating caliper
Brake, rearSingle disc, diameter 240 mm, single-piston floating caliper
ABS 1)Standard
Dimensions / weights 
Length2.185 mm
Width (incl. mirrors)920 mm
Height (excl. mirrors)1,440 mm
Seat height, unladen weight860 mm (high seat: 900 mm (special accessory))
Inner leg curve, unladen weight1.770 mm (lowered suspension: 1.710 mm, high seat: 1.850 mm)
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled 2)193 kg
Dry weight 3)177 kg
Permitted total weight380 kg
Payload (with standard equipment)187 kg
Usable tank volume14,0 l
Reserveca. 4,0 l
  • Technical data relate to the unladen weight (DIN)

Friday, 19 September 2014

What's New This Week

Well, summer is basically over and the fall nip is in the air. Already they are forecasting early morning frost warnings. The leaves are starting to change to their fiery fall colours, and before you know it the bike will be tucked away in the garage for another hellish maritime winter. Time to double up on the Prozac, get out the happy light and begin the long wait for spring.

It was a very slow riding season this year compared to last. I am hoping to get in some good rides this fall before the snow flies. The real highlight of my year was the Fundy Adventure Ride as previously blogged. It was such a blast that I am currently searching for something a little more dirt worthy than the Strom for next year. I have decided to keep the might DL1000, because it is such a good bike, set up perfect, and great for touring. Everytime I ride it, I fall in love with it a little more. It has its quirks, the clutch chudder can be annoying at times, but that is a $500 fix, and there is a bit of FI stumble at 2500rpm. Not a range I normally ride in, but stuck behind a car at 45kph in 2nd gear always does it.

Hopefully I can get away for a couple of days in October on a ride. Not sure where I'll go, probably southward. Northern NB, and Quebec can be quite cold this time of year. Check the forecast and go. I'd like to go explore Vermont and New Hampshire.

So once again it's time to play.........What bike does Terry want now? Johnny who's our next contestant? Well Bob, it hails all the way from Japan, via Thailand, it's red, it thumps and it has EFI, Honda's CRF250L!!!!! come on down!

Yes, if I was a little wealthier, well a lot wealthier, I'd be looking at exotic Austrian bikes like KTM's 350EXC, or a Husaberg. But alas, I am a broke guy with too much debt, who doesn't have a spare $11K for a street legal dirt bike. Plus, I'm really not that great of a dirt bike rider, pretty good in the technical low speed woods stuff, but not that competent in high speed riding. Plus I really don't want a bike that I have to change the oil every few rides and air filters after every ride. 

The new for 2014 CRF250L is a tame dualsport aimed at the everyday rider. The single cylinder fuel-injected 250cc engine is based off the one in the CBR250R, with some changes to make off road riding fun. A low maintenance reliable bike for trail riding, commuting and light adventure touring. Perfect. The best part is the price.......wait for it......yes only $4999, brand spanking new.

The weak points, well the suspension is pretty budget from what I've heard. But that can be easily fixed, plus I am not that heavy, 175lbs. Another mod some owners do is a new exhaust pipe and header, and a smaller front sprocket. Not too bad.

I think it would compliment the Vstrom very well, and more less be set for just about any riding I'd like to do. Fundy Adventure Rally, no prob, get out the CRF. Road trip to Kentucky, Vstrom. Railway Trail in Newfoundland, CRF. Get it. 

So now comes the next problem.....the missus. Do I do my usual beg and plead, wear her out over weeks of nagging, or do I just buy it, bring it home and face the wrath for a couple of days. If I time it right I can bring it home just before I head out on a week long trip.

Next update will be a couple of weeks, I have a new Gerbings heated jacket ordered and I'll report on well that works, or doesn't work. I suspect it will be good considering the good reviews Gerbings products get.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

BMW F800GS Review

I'm in my Marc Coma, Kurt Caselli (RIP) mode , standing on the pegs and hauling ass (100kph which is too fast for this old man) down a backwoods dirt road. The sweeping left hander is coming up way faster than it should, and soon the back brake is locked up as the ditch becomes eerily too close for comfort. Somehow I mange to keep the bike upright and out of the ditch. I'm pretty sure it has more to do with the Bimmer's handling characteristics than my skill. The vision of yours truly as the Dakar stage winner, quickly fades to a vision of me upside down in the ditch with a severely broken BMW that isn't mine.

If you remember from my last post, I recently had the opportunity to spend all day aboard BMW's F800GS at the Fundy Adventure Rally. It was actually the perfect testing ground for an adventure motorcycle. Basically in the 11hrs of riding I encountered almost every piece of terrain that an adventure rider would ever encounter. Fast dirt logging roads, loose gravel, ATV paths, steep rocky trails and mud holes. There was even some sandy sections along the way. I also was able to ride it on paved backroads and highway.

Let me also state, that I am far from being a motojournalist, or expert rider, as shown above, and have not ridden a whole lot of bikes, other than my own. I have spent some time on a BMW G650 X-Country and a 1200GS. 

Chris Duff from BMW went over all the controls with me before relinquishing the keys. He specifically showed me how to use the ASC (traction control) and ABS, or should I say how to turn it off for use in the dirt. Pretty straight forward, however this can only be done when the bike is stationary. Any time the bike is shut off, ie, turned off with the key switch, it has be selected off again. Both the ABS and ASC default to on. The suspension can be adjusted on the fly, enduro, road and sport. I left it in enduro for the whole day. So no, I have no idea how well the traction control or the ABS work. I know from the G650, that the ABS works quite well. I doubt it's much different than the 800.

I swung my leg over the bike for the first time, and noticed how small it felt compared to my big Vstrom. The lack of fairing and small windshield, gave it almost dirt bike feel. It did feel quite natural to me, pegs and bars in the right place, not awkward like sitting on a cruiser. The one thing I did notice right away was the handgrips, they felt very narrow, not a fan. Controls were straight forward, turn signals, high beam, hazards, ASC/ABS and Mode controller on the left, heated grip controller, suspension mode controller and the start/stop switch on the right.

Speedo and tach are nicely presented and easy to read, love a dial and not digital. I'm old school I guess. The info display screen to the right of the cluster shows gear selector, fuel quantity, trip, odo, temp and mode selections. plus some other things I didn't play with or really need to know. The fuel gauge only shows the last 1/2. So the display doesn't move until below 1/2 a tank.

If you are used to riding a true dirt bike, this is gonna feel like a tank when you get on it, however for me, it was perfect for the riding we were about to do.

I'll say this, for a bike I had never ridden before I felt comfortable on it right away, I did one small blast up a paved road before heading out on the adventure rally. The mini GS has a wonderful exhaust  note, something similar to it's big brother.

Since I was videoing the rally, I took off mid pack in hopes of having to not play catch up all day. I noticed right away the 800 had a lot of low and mid-range power, accelerating through the gears was delightful, with a light clutch pull and easy shifting, which is not normally a BMW trait.

Equipped with knobbie tires the bike inspired confidence at speed, and soon I was passing slower riders without too much effort. The back brake I did find a little sensitive and at times locked up the rear unintentionally. The suspension was set at endure, so it was soft, but still handled the bumps and rough terrain nicely, never once did I feel the back end bounce around, or bottom out.

I fuelled up once in the 500km I rode, BMW says you can expect about 350-400km on a tank. That's respectable.

Low speed handling is easy, the Bimmer is well balanced, I could creep along quite slow in first gear feathering the clutch. I followed a 1200GS through a mud hole and at times had to come to an almost complete stop. I could remained balance on the bike without putting a foot down.

You do notice the weight on steep rocky downhills, and you soon realize your riding an adventure bike and not a lightweight enduro. Momentum can be an enemy too.

Would I buy one.......not to replace my Vstrom. It's just too damn comfortable. I found the GS seat painful after a long day, and for me at 6'1", I'd really need bar risers. But that's not why, because you can change those things quite easily. No, I didn't like it on the highway. 100kph plus was uncomfortable for me, which is weird because I didn't mind doing a 100kph on the gravel standing up. I just couldn't see myself doing a long highway trip comfortably on it. It seemed to struggle to accelerate above 110kph. Maybe it was my big torso wind blocking frame that did it.

Although if I were to have one bike and one bike only, it would be in my top five, that's for sure. I took it places I would never think of taking the Strom. I think the Strom could do it, but not at the same speed or confidence level, or without sustaining damage.

Ideally I want my Vstrom and another 250 dual sport for the rough stuff. Which I can have for less than the price of new 800GS.

Here are the specs courtesy of the BMW Motorad Canada website

BMW F800GS Adventure
BMW F800GS Adventure
TypeWater-cooled 4-stroke in-line two-cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts, dry sump lubrication
Bore x stroke82 mm x 75.6 mm
Capacity798 cc
Rated output63 kW (85 hp) at 7,500 rpm 
possible reduction: 35 kW (48 hp) at 7,000 rpm
Max. torque83 Nm at 5,750 rpm 
possible reduction: 63 Nm at 4,000 rpm
Compression ratio12.0 : 1
Mixture control / engine managementElectronic intake pipe injection, digital engine management (BMS-K+)
Emission controlClosed-loop 3-way catalytic converter / emission standard EU-3
Performance / fuel consumption
Maximum speed193 km/h
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h4.3 l
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h5.7 l
Fuel typeUnleaded super, minimum octane rating 95 (RON); optional extra 91 (RON) available
Electrical system
Alternatorthree-phase alternator 400 W (rated power)
Battery12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free
Power transmission
ClutchMultiple-disc clutch in oil bath, mechanically operated
GearboxConstant mesh 6-speed gearbox integrated into crankcase
DriveEndless O-ring chain with shock damping in rear wheel hub
Chassis / brakes
FrameTubular steel space frame, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspensionUpside-down telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm
Rear wheel location / suspensionCast aluminium dual swing arm, WAD strut (travel related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable, rebound damping adjustable
Suspension travel front / rear230 mm / 215 mm
Wheelbase1,578 mm
Castor117 mm
Steering head angle64°
WheelsWire spoke wheels
Rim, front2.15 x 21"
Rim, rear4.25 x 17"
Tyres, front90/90 - 21 54V
Tyres, rear150/70 - 17 69V
Brake, frontDual disc, floating brake discs, diameter 300 mm, double-piston floating calipers, ABS
Brake, rearSingle disc, diameter 265 mm, single-piston floating caliper, ABS
Dimensions / weights
Length2.305 mm
Width (incl. mirrors)925 mm
Height (excl. mirrors)1.450 mm
Seat height, unladen weight890 mm (860 mm low seat)
Inner leg curve, unladen weight1.960 mm (1.920 mm low seat)
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled 1)229 kg
Dry weight
Permitted total weight454 kg
Payload (with standard equipment)225 kg
Usable tank volume24l
Reserveca. 4,0 l
  • Technical data relate to the unladen weight (DIN)
  • 1) According to Directive 93/93/EEC with all fluids, fuelled to at least 90% of usable fuel tank