Making the Case for Two Motorcycles
(re-posted from the WSBMWR magazine for March)
One of the best parts of my job (the best part, actually), is that I get to ride a lot of motorcycles. In fact, I’ve enjoyed getting to know over 450 different motorcycles in the past dozen years.
When I first entered the industry, the owner of the dealership I worked for encouraged me to ride a different used motorcycle home every night. His thought was that it would be beneficial if I had actually ridden the same make and model that almost any customer owned. I agreed enthusiastically (who wouldn’t?) and set to “work.”
Over time I noticed something that seemed a little odd. My overall riding and control of the motorcycle, including the one I owned, improved appreciably by the cross-referencing of muscle memory with what I was used to. This makes perfect sense when you think about it.
Most of us own our motorcycle a considerable span of time. I purchased a brand new Yamaha 750 triple in 1977, and rode it for 22 years. During our ownership we get used to the performance and handling characteristics of our bike, of course, but we also may lose flexibility in our approach to motorcycles and what each one can and cannot do.
This accounts for almost all of the negative comments you hear (and admit it, we’ve all made them) about other brands or other models from the one you own. Most of the people making such comments have in fact never ridden an example of what they are putting down.
When you ride a different bike to your usual mount, you’ll notice differences in ergonomics, clutch take up point, acceleration, braking, and handling. Some of these differences will be positive, and some may be negative, but when you return to your own bike you’ll be more acutely aware of everything your bike is doing. You may also have new ideas of how to improve the function of your bike, or even of the rider.
The thesis here is that adding variety to your choice of ride will improve your skills, and thus safety, on the bike you ride most often. But how to do that?
Let’s assume you do not have my job or some other way to access a wide variety of bikes. Swapping bikes with a friend may be tempting, but there are so many thousands of stories of what may result, all of them unhappy, that I don’t recommend this at all. The number of people besides me who have ridden any bike I have owned in the past 40 years numbers far less than a dozen very special people.
You could choose to take part in one or more of the Ride West demo day rides we offer on selected Sundays in the spring and summer. For these events, you sign up in advance for a three hour ride that includes three stops to switch bikes, so you can experience three different new BMW models. You might have a pang of conscience here, as it seems a bit immoral to demo ride a bike you have no intention of purchasing. But maybe not.
Consider the amazing range of motorcycles BMW now offers – a radical change in company philosophy that has evolved with great speed. Compare each of these to the BMW you now ride and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.
G 650 GS. A single cylinder bike with light weight and the potential to take you on both street and mild off-road adventures. In the low frame model, this bike is low enough and light enough to be the first BMW ever accepted for use in some motorcycle safety training classes. If you’re coming from an R or K model BMW, you’ll be astonished by the light weight and “flickability” of the GS, and you may begin to imagine the fun to be had with a lightweight dual sport that also makes a great commuter bike.
F 650 GS. A lot of people may dismiss this bike as the poor cousin to the F 800 series, (I did at first) as it has the same displacement but a less aggressive combination of cams and fuel injection system. Until they ride it. Almost everyone comes back from a ride on this bike impressed and often totally in love. You feel you can do anything with it.
R 1200R. The “roadster.” If you’re used to a big bike with an adjustable windscreen, a “naked” may take some getting used to. Somewhere in the ride on a nice day you’ll remember what fun it is to ride with the wind in your face. The new engine and exhaust make a pleasant sound, and you can easily imagine a multi-day trip on winding back roads in the summer sun.
F 800GS. The F 800 GS has multiple personalities depending on what tires and other accoutrements are fitted. It can be a street bike of exceptional agility or an adventure bike, depending on how it is set up. And the engine! The F 800GS engine is a party all the time – it makes music and wants you to dance with it.
F 800R. Hooligan! Totally naked and ready for action. The first 5 people I saw road test this bike (including me) were laughing out loud when they removed their helmets at the end of the ride. It is hard to believe this bike is legal, and if not ridden carefully – it isn’t.
S 1000RR. The dominant sport bike of our day. The S 1000RR raised the bar so high immediately upon its release two years ago that the previously dominant Japanese offerings are now touting their lower price as a main selling point, as they cannot compete on features and performance. In most cases, ironically, the price is not that much lower. If you’ve never ridden a hyperbike, the S 1000RR will stun you – not so much with the brakes and power, which are mind boggling, but with the last thing you would expect – it is actually comfortable for what it is. The advanced traction control and ABS braking systems combined with multiple engine modes make it the safest sport bike ever. And then of course it is gorgeous to boot.
R 1200 GS. Too big for you? Try one with the low seat option, and snuggle down “into” the bike. A ride will show you why the R 1200 GS is often rated as a superior sport tourer, despite looking like the most capable off-road bike in the world. It is that, too. The Adventure version is tall and heavy, and we do not have a demo of that model, but if you are big enough for it, the Adv has all that the R 1200 GS has, and more. The R 1200 GS as astonishing handling on winding pavement roads, and also gives you a secure feeling that you could ride it for weeks on any surface with no issues at all – as thousands of people have.
R1200RT. The R 1200 RT brings you all the lashings of technology and comfort of the K 1600s with the lower weight, fine handling, and individual character of the R model. If you have never taken a two week (or longer) tour of the wonderful scenery of our country and want to, this bike is ready!
K series. The K 1600 GTL has a remarkably low seat height (tied for lowest with the low-frame G 650 GS) and is thus comfy for almost anyone. The luxury and technology on offer is pretty much unparalleled. The K 1600GT is now considered by most magazine road tests to be the best sport touring bike ever built.
What happens if you take the leap and add a second BMW to your garage? The best part. For a number of years I owned two motorcycles myself, and that was as close to a life of luxury as I have gotten. It is amazing to come down to the garage and gaze at your “collection” and let your mind and heart tell you what kind of bike you wish to ride today. Commute? Back road cruise? Cross country trip? Off-road adventure? A combination of two or more of these? If you choose your 2nd BMW to be something a bit different from what you now own, you’ll have this incredible spectrum of capability. It is wonderful.
As a bonus, switching back and forth between your two bikes will make you a safer rider on either.
Ride safe, and ride often