Feedback discussion: Test riding in the US

We got this show feedback a couple of weeks ago and we thought it would be a great bit of discussion. Welcome listener Paul Manson from Australia and take a few minutes to read his commentary on the differences between test riding motorcycles in Australia vs. here in the US.

Hi guys, I just wanted to let you know you have a very loyal listener down in Australia. My name is Paul Manson and I live on the east coast of Australia in a small rural town called Wauchope which just happens to be at the start of one of the best motorcycle roads in the country. A while back I became ill and spent a lot of time in bed so I did a seach of motorcycle podcasts and found yours. I really liked the way you made me feel I was a mate just sitting around discussing bikes while mine (1996 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic and 2009 Ducati Monster 1100S, yes it did make me laugh when at one stage you mentioned how you would liked to have ridden a new Monster, if you get down under it is here waiting for you) were down in the shed unable to be ridden.

I started at episode one and just listened one after the other. As I am now up to date I thought it timely to let you know that I am a huge fan and look forward to the show every week. It’s a great format and every time I finish listening it makes me want to get out and ride. Chris the tour you did with your friends some time back had me in tears of laughter.

Currently down here I think Triumph is definitely the best value for money on the market and they have a bike for nearly every genre. I have never been into Adventure bikes but am seriously looking at the new XC 800. I think it is a great looking bike and I managed to have a sit on one recently and it felt great. Not top heavy and the seat was not too high for me at 5’9″. I am also interested in the Sprint GT and I am keen to hear if Jim eventually buys one. I am also a fan of the Daytona 675R but haven’t ridden one yet. Have a look at the rear shot of the latest 675 R and tell me if you have seen a better looking rear end! As I am due to retire in 2 years I really want to add a couple more bikes to the fleet and it will be to the Triumph dealer I will be heading. I am hoping to line up test rides on all three soon. Our dealers here are very generous and allow you to take the bikes out for a half a day as long as you book in. Cool eh?.

I have visited the US twice since 2006. In 2006 I rode US 50 from coast to coast to celebrate my 50th birthday and last year went back over for a party to celebrate 10 years of the FLH Harley Davidson Forum which I run. I found the motorcycle scene over there to be very different to here and I get the impression that it is very hard to get a test ride on a motorcycle there.

In the last 12 months I have ridden the Ducati 1198 S, the Multistrada, Monster 696, Several different Harley Davidsons, BMW K1300R, K1300S and GT, VF1200 F hahaha yep your favourite bike, plus the Triumph Bonneville T100, the Speed Triple, Street Triple and Sprint, Suzuki Boulevarde and SV650, GSX1000, Honda Fireblade also.

Anyway guys please keep up the good work and as I said I just wanted you to know that you had a fan in Australia. Bye for now……..Paul Manson.

Paul, thanks for the kind words. Largely speaking, yes, it seems to be more difficult to get test rides on motorcycles here in the US than in many other areas; this seems to be doubly so for the Japanese manufacturers. Harley-Davidson and BMW seem to the exceptions with their rather liberal test ride policies, rather than the norm.

Oddly enough, you can walk into nearly any car dealership in nearly any state or city and drive anything from a $12,000 econo-box subcompact, to a $90,000+ top end luxury sedan, and no one seems to question it. I think the fact that motorcycles are largely seen as toys rather than viable transportation is a big part of that. Even in the luxo-sport sedans and sports-car segments, they’re still seen as “just cars”. Bikes are toys.

The reasons why the “bikes as toys” mindset is bad should be obvious; they are a separate class of vehicle for licensing and insurance, they are often scrutinized differently in terms of regulation and enforcement, they are often associated with subcultures and behaviors that are outside the mainstream, and they are a lower-volume alternative vehicle with higher costs (per pound, per cubic foot, per wheel, etc., just pick a metric) than most of the mainstream cars.

Paul, I’m actually glad the difference between the US and other countries is so obvious; I rather feel like the US is in the minority on how bikes are so segregated from the mainstream. From my limited exposure to people from Europe and other areas, this fairly unique attitude towards bikes is unwarranted and has no real basis in execution. While some countries have tiered licensing, or treat motorcycles differently in terms of regulation and laws, out on the roads it seems they’re just one more machine in a sea of people going to and fro’. I hope we reach that point some day here in the US.

So… what say you, readers and listeners? Do you see the US treating bikes more or less like “just transportation” going forward, and what are your opinions on the matter? Talk back!

Episode 76: Damn it’s Wednesday, need a new engine

The on-going saga of the SV’s self consuming engine comes to a favorable end and the Sprint gets a grip. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though, Chris has his own tale of motorcycling woe to impart this week.

It looks like Husqvarna has a promising new street bike in the pipe and Honda may have a new middleweight nudie bike (we hope!). Canada gets serious about noise, Aerostich wants to let use your smartphone with gloves on and we have lots of good stuff from listeners like you. There’s a gear review from Josh Davis, a video from Paul Jones, an audio sample from Jeff Gilbert and recommendations from Todd Lampone and Matt.

Episode 75 – That’s NEVER a good idea.

Episode 75 – That’s NEVER a good idea.
May 22, 2011

Technical note: this week we’ve encoded the MP3 with slightly higher compression in mono format to provide a smaller overall file size. Please be sure to let us know how the audio quality is on your player. Thanks!

James has habits an tics, and talks about some turn signal woes. He also loves his Sena headset , but needs to check out some hearing protection options. James will check back after he’s tried some of the choices in a sample pack. It beats buying a new helmet! Zero doesn’t have zero recalls, but if this is worst they need to deal with, then that’s Zero stress! Yamaha is building some machines in the US… is the market better? Is it a “build ‘em where you sell ‘em” thing? Time will tell. The guys talk about an editorial from Motorcycle USA where sport bike enthusiasts thrash a Zumo 50 and have fun doing it! Did Harley really mean to use Brando’s name without permission, or was it just an oversight? Who knows? Not the guys, but that doesn’t stop them from floating some ideas. Fortunately, there’s a new Kawasaki to talk about, and KTM and Bajaj continue to get closer and closer. They wrap up the show with some feedback and some discussion about possibilities of disabled and afflicted riders still enjoying the road and their machines.

And the guys promise to have the 2nd winner of the signed, updated edition of David Hough’s Proficient Riding picked for next week’s show.

Episode 74: Should I Drive the Ducati or Take the Fast Bike?

Chris and I both spent this week riding bikes that belong to other people. We’ll let you know what we thought along with Motorcycle Consumer News’ opinion on Yamaha’s new FZ8. Here’s a hint. They like it a lot. Except for the lack of wind protection on a naked bike. Go figure.

We’ll wrap it up with another haepin’ helpin’ of listener feedback.

Episode 73 – It’s Shrinking!

Episode 73 – It’s shrinking!
May 8th 2011

Chris promises he didn’t actually steal this FJR from anyone and James tells us about the incredible shrinking Triumph. The guys then go on to disagree with Autoblog and wonder if BMW can compete in the MaxiScooter space. Cluth in, shift into gear, clutch out, give ‘er some gas… er… electrons. That’s right, in Rube Goldberg fashion, it seems that Brammo gives us a transmission with an electric bike attached. Wild, right? And there’s feedback. Lots and lots of feedback. The guys read some, opine some, and read some more. Keep ‘em coming. We think that Chris & James secretly love the attention.

Hey, how about some links…?


Episode 72: Uh-oh

Well, let’s see here. My bike blew up, I’m fixing it but I got a new one anyway and Chris preps his SV for it’s first overnighter. We cover some news from Polaris and BMW, wrap up our conversation on that Erik Buell interview and then get in to lots of listener feedback. Thanks guys, keep it coming.