Long-Term Bikes: 2010 Honda Stateline + 2011 Kawasaki Vaquero + 2011 Star Stryker

2010 Honda Stateline
MSRP: $11,499
Caretaker: Cherney
Measurements: 5 ft. 7 in./160 lbs./30-IN. inseam
Odometer: NA
Miles since last issue: NA

Building a Bagger, Part 2
We made surprisingly good progress on our conversion of a stock 2010 Honda Stateline to a bagger with the simple installation of mounting frames and hard bags. Next up was part two— the fairing and windshield (we opted for the radio upgrade as well), followed by a shakedown cruise to see how the bigger rig would handle.

So we wrangled the big Stateline back onto the lift. The Inner Fairing, meanwhile, was placed on a towel so we could install the Fusion RA-200 marine-grade stereo. It all went in easily through the mounting gasket and into the mounting hole, with the 5 inch speakers popped into position and tightened down. Now we could run the color-coded speaker wires to the appropriate terminal on each speaker, and plug the radio harness into the radio.

Next we connected the wires from the radio to the battery, but now came the tricky part—finding a wire on the bike that has power when the ignition is off. It’s usually the headlight or a front turn signal wire (though we used a tester to be sure). We linked the supplied jumper wire to this 12V hot wire and the ignition wire on the radio harness. With the USB connection hooked into the radio, we could attach the antenna onto the Inner Fairing, run its wire through the loom and into the aerial input on the radio. Now, to mount the Inner and Outer Fairing...

The Fairing Lower mounting bracket goes on first, but you have to move the headlight stay, squeezing the mounting bracket between it and the lower triple mount. Next, position the Fairing Upper Mounting Bracket under the upper triple clamp, but only after removing the bolts from the brake hose guide and clutch cable guide. Then slide the front turn signals out of the way. With the brackets in place, we could then position the Outer Fairing.

Now you can slide the Inner Fairing into place in front of the handlebars. The supplied 9-inch windshield slips between the Outer and Inner fairing, and you tighten the screws as you go. Once that’s solid, secure the Inner Fairing to the Outer Fairing by tightening the lower mounting nuts. Reposition the turn signals and do a final check, turning handlebars lock to lock to make sure there’s no interference .

With everything checking out, we were psyched to ride our newly transformed bagger. Pulling the now-heavier bike (Dowco says it adds 33 lbs) off the sidestand was the first clue that there’d be a learning curve. The first few slow-speed twisties felt unwieldy, but the more we rode the beefier Stateline bagger (we called it the Stagger) the more comfortable it got. By the end of the day, we were pulling parking lot turns like it was a stocker, cranking our tunes loud and proud.

The audio isn’t up to par with, say, Harley’s Harmon-Kardon units, but it’s surprisingly robust and it is iPhone compatible—so we had our playlist within easy reach. All in all—with its good looks, nice fit and finish and very nice price, we’d have to say we’re pretty pleased with our new kit bike. Dowco even threw in a seat upgrade, supplying us with one of its Black Label saddles. Though we didn’t opt for any gel inserts or slick tribal stitching, it’s a sight better than the stock rack the Stateline came with.

Modifications

Willie and Max Fairing with shield $700.
Willie and Max Fusion Radio Kit $420
www.willieandmax.com
Total $1120

2011 Kawasaki Vaquero
MSRP: $16,400
Caretaker: Zimmerman
Measurements: 6 Ft./170 lbs./33-in. inseam
Odometer: 868
Miles since last issue: 400

It’s raining, again, which is why I’m sitting here typing this on April Fool’s day, rather than pounding out the miles on my new Kawasaki Vaquero long-term test bike. Unfortunately, the crappy weather is also the major reason why in the six or so weeks that the Vaquero has been in my care it has only accumulated a measly 300 miles.

My original plan was to start putting some miles on by early February. Unfortunately, the worst winter in recent memory put the kibosh on that, and as soon as it stopped snowing, it began to rain. Plan B was sit tight while the rain washed the roads clean, but it’s been too miserable to ride for most of March, and consequently the mileage isn’t what it should be. Fortunately, there have been a few breaks in the weather, so I’ve at least been able to ride the Black Beauty around the neighborhood and form some impressions.

On the downside, you practically need a degree in electronics to figure out what all the buttons are for and how to use them. Of course, a thorough review of the owner’s manual might help in this regard. In the meantime, I have figured out how to access the Outlaw Country station on the X-M radio, and cycle the odometers, which is about all I really need to know, as far as electronics are concerned.

I’m still not crazy about the six-speed over-drive transmission. This thing pulls like Jack the bear, making that sixth gear superfluous. I say tighten up the first five gears, drop 6th, and let the thing wind up on the highway. Of course, I’ve been complaining about that since I first rode the 1700 Nomad, so maybe I’ll get use to it. I’ve also got a few niggles about the handling. For some peculiar reason, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable pushing the 1700s hard, which is odd because I had absolutely no qualms about railing the 2- Liter, and absolutely love the 900s. I’ve also ridden with guys that rode the wheels off the 1700 without reporting any problems, so I’m fairly certain it’s not the bikes fault. With a little more seat time I’m sure I can figure out what’s going on, even if it’s only in my head.

In the meantime, I love the 1700cc engine, it pulls with real authority, it’s smooth and it sounds great. The bike is also super comfortable, the ergos fit me to a T and suspension is plush enough to soak up all of our New England frost heaves with nary a whimper. I do plan to fit a taller windshield, but that has more to do with aesthetics and scientific curiosity than it does with any practical need. I’m also impressed with the brakes, and the bike’s overall performance, which is excellent for such a large bike.

In any event, I plan to have a lot more to report by the next issue, when it’ll be all about summer skies and open roads.

2011 Star Stryker
MSRP: $11,240
Caretaker: Bartels
Measurements: 6 ft./190 lbs./33 in. inseam
Odometer: 1349
Miles since last issue: 989

A couple of months ago, Cherney and I were hashing out long term bikes for this year, and he tossed off a, “You don’t want the Stryker, do you?” Did I ever! The Stryker is a fine bike for any price, much less the $11-ish grand it costs. You probably could tell from the intro story and the last shootout that we like the Stryker quite a bit. It would be fair to call it one of my favorite bikes right now.

When the Stryker came out, I thought it was super-cool that not only did it come in a blacked-out version straight from the factory, but that the blacked-out version was cheaper to boot. Now, if this were a certain company from Milwaukee, all the blacked-out parts would have been in the accessory catalog on the day of the launch, but since it wasn’t, I saw an opportunity to build a unique almost-stock custom bike.

So immediately after securing the blue, chromed-out machine I started making phone calls to see about making it a blue, blacked-out machine. The Star folks were caught off guard by my request for a black air cleaner, pulley, and fender support covers… so I’m still waiting on those. But the aftermarket sprang right into action.

The boys over at Vance and Hines already had a Twin Slash Staggered pipe that they’d developed for the bike, so they got first crack at it. We went with a quiet baffle to keep Johnny Law at bay and our eardrums intact, and naturally got a matching Vance and Hines FuelPak to balance out the fueling chi.

Four gallons of fuel would normally be somewhat limiting, but as it gets even better mileage than it did in our test (50+ mpg is not uncommon when ridden mellow), it turns out to be adequate. The seat is pretty good for a long haul, but I may swap it out for something new. For now, the next steps are to get the black-out stuff from Star, along with a pile of their official P&A (also cloaked in darkness). And once Star’s exhausted their supply of blackness we’ll go looking for more.

While the suspension is pretty Goldilocks (not too hard, not too soft), that’s one area that’s almost always better with a little aftermarket assistance, so we’re also going to get fork springs and shocks from Progressive for a little more control. On a practical level, I think a small shield is in order for longer rides, and probably some sort of (removable) luggage/sissy bar combo as well. I don’t want to go the full-on practical route, as the aesthetics would be harmed, but a bit more practicality can’t hurt. Mostly I need to ride it, because if I get beat for mileage by the cold-weather staffers again, my shame will have no bounds.

Modifications

Vance and Hines Fuelpak $279.95
Vance and Hines 48501 Twin Slash Staggered Pipe (Black) $519.95
www.vanceandhines.com
Total $799.90