Fast, Slow…and the POPO

Uh, yeah. I’ll get to that in a minute. Just got back from a 250 mile ride on the Vstrom. Call it a “test ride,” as its the first real ride I’ve taken on the bike since I purchased it several weeks ago. If you recall, I was looking for a “traveling” bike to go with my Street Triple. While the Triple is pretty comfortable to me, I was hoping for something that would handle serious miles without entering the realm of the 600lb sport tourers or ADV bikes.

After looking at all sorts of machines, I pulled the trigger on a nearly new, locally owned Vstrom 650. My father-in-law loved his (affectionately known as the “BumbleStrom”), although I never took it for a ride. Maybe because, unlike him, I didn’t have shoes that matched the black/yellow paint scheme!

I knew there was a pretty large cult following for them and figured everyone couldn’t be wrong, so I decided to give the bike a try. Aside from that reasoning, there was some hidden agenda as well. I tend to ride on the “aggressive” side of things. There are plenty of people who ride faster and harder than me, but I tend to lean toward the spirited side of riding most of the time. I also don’t like “stopping to smell the roses.” I just want to go. Those two habits need to be broken. I need to learn to slow down a little and I need to learn to stop. I was hoping a smaller, slower, more sedate machine would help me accomplish those things. And, I felt like I needed to find out if I”m too hung up on the brand of the machine, as opposed to the actual act of riding.

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Well, what did I learn today?

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1. It doesn’t matter what I ride, I ride it too fast! I was about 25 miles from home when I came to an intersection, turned right and headed toward Louisville. A cop pulled out from the other side of the road and passed me. As I usually do, I looked down to check my speed. I had just left the intersection so I wasn’t really concerned about speeding. Sure enough, I was doing about 45 in a 45 zone. No worries. In my mirror, I saw the cop turn behind me. Never gave it a thought…until I saw him come up behind me with a blue light special! Really? What the heck? I pulled over, shut off the bike and pulled off my helmet. As he walked my way, he said, “You were doing 73 in a 55.” What? “I just saw you in front of me and when you passed I was barely doing 45!” I thought, What kind of scam is he running here? I bit my lip and decided to wait and see what he said when he came back from his car. He gave me my license back and said, “I”m going to cut you a break today, just a warning.” So, I kept my mouth shut, and then realized they must have had a speed trap set up down the road and another cop had spotted me and radioed ahead. Geez.

2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I was stopped at a coffee shop in Danville, Ky, when guy pulled up on a custom trike. He got out, walked over to my bike and said, “That’s a good looking bike.” Huh? I looked for his dark glasses and red-tipped cane, but didn’t see either. Really? I never expected to hear anyone say that about a Vstrom.

3. The nicks: the front brake is too weak, not enough feedback. I knew that already and can probably help it some. The tires suck, which I also knew already and can easily remedy. I found a nice, twisty, Kentucky ridge road and, while traversing those corners could never decide what gear I wanted to be in. The redline is 10.5. Vibes creep in at about 7.5. The real power seems to be between 6-7k rpms. Hitting those 35-45 mph corners, it seemed I was either a gear too high or a gear too low to hit the meat of the motor. I eventually got used to it though and it became less of an issue. That’s pretty much it. No, its not particularly pretty. It won’t get the attention my Street Triple or Scrambler get. No, it doesn’t have the fit and finish of a Euro bike. No, it doesn’t have monster power or torque. No high tech gadgets either. None of that seemed to matter as I ticked off the miles today.

4. The good: I wanted a travel bike. One that could eat miles for breakfast and keep rolling through lunch and dinner. One that I could climb on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky and lay my head down Saturday night in a New England fishing village. I may have found it. It works. Watching the gas gauge, I kept thinking, “Is this thing ever going to move?” Over 200 miles on a tank no problem. The seat was absolutely perfect for the first 100 miles. It wasn’t bad for the next 150 either and I am notorious for hating seats. No ugly vibes unless you revved high, as mentioned above. The mirrors give a good view and are rock solid clear at all times. That doesn’t happen often. Plenty of power, plenty of comfort. The Mastad bracket took care of the buffeting: 80 mph, faceshield up, no problem. Handled well; in fact, put some good tires on this thing and I would have no worries tossing it into a corner. The suspension isn’t great, but it didnt’ bother me. Besides, I’ve got the Street Triple in the garage if I feel the need to abuse a corner.

As of right now, I’m happy with the purchase. For $5,000 I feel like I got a lot of bike. I believe it will do exactly what I bought it to do. For now, I’m going to put a Pelican case on the luggage rack and some engine and tank protectors up front. Heated grips and maybe stronger handlebars…and then I’m just going to ride the piss out of it. The big test for a guy like me will be, do I become bored with it? I will let you know as time goes on.

Those of you with Stroms that have 60, 70, 80 thousand miles on them did so for a reason. I think I’m starting to see why.

Parting question: I’m thinking of doing a “decalechtomy” on the tank. What do you think? Remove it, or leave it?

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Later,

Shep

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