Long-Term Bikes with Modifications

MSRP: $12,799

Caretaker: Zimmerman

Measurements: 6'/190 lbs./33" Inseam

Odometer: 2162

Miles this cycle: 100

They say good things come to those that wait, and if nothing else, I've done a ton of waiting this year. Living on the East Coast means everyone involved has to jump through hoops when it's time to hook me up with long term test bike. Most of the test fleets are located on the West Coast, so just getting the bike usually turns into a cross-country juggling act between the OEM, their shipper, and one of their local dealers. Another factor is the weather. Most years it starts snowing out here around Christmas so the roads are coated with a corrosive mixture of snow, sand and salt until the spring rains wash everything clear. No one wants me riding a new bike in that sludge, especially me, so generally I don't expect anything to show up until February. This year I'd planned to have a bike by Valentine's Day, but the manufacturer put me off, then they put me off again, and then, well let's just say we went to plan B.

Plan B involved a Triumph Thunderbird, and it arrived just in time for a deluge that would have had Noah on the ropes. Fortunately, the skies cleared just before we went to press, so I got enough miles on the Bird to at least have some inkling of what it's about.

First, the Shelby Cobra replica paint job and the bike's fit and finish knocks me out. Someone went to a lot of trouble getting this bike to look good and it shows. Second, the thing pulls like a mule going up a ladder, and it rails the turns like a bike half its size, and stops with real authority. Yeah, I'm impressed. Third, it needs some decent bags and a windshield. I dunno if my age is showing, but after the first hundred miles I've decided naked cruising isn't as much fun as it used to be, and all you smart asses planning to send the boss Photo-Shopped pictures of a naked Z-man can just forget it, it was bad enough when they put me in drag and gave me a silly hair cut. I ain't getting nekkid for no one.

In the meantime, the gully washers have stopped, so I'm going to order up a few items from Triumph's copious accessory catalog, and hit the road. Now that the wait is over I aim to find out exactly how good the T-bird really is.

2010 V STAR 950
MSRP: $8290

Caretaker: Cherney

Measurements: 5'7"/155 lbs./30" Inseam

Odometer: 2162

Miles This Cycle: 412

It usually takes a few weeks to get acquainted with a new machine, but I thought I got that out of the way last issue with the 1000-mile burn from Los Angeles to Portland. I've since been expermenting with detachable windscreens.

But then, I don't plan to use the V Star just for long-haul touring-in fact, I'd like to lighten it up and make it friendlier for around town. Another fly in the ointment, as it were, is that there's nothing inherently glaring about the V Star-it's comfortable, powerful and good-looking enough in bone-stock form. But that would be settling, and I know that I'm going to have to pep up the pipes. I'm not a fan of big decibels, but butterflies are louder than this thing. I'm looking to Hard-Krome or new metric producer Rush pipes for some answers.

Too bad Masker got there first with his Suzuki, but i'm also thinking of going in the bobber direction with the V Star. I feel like the bike's lines just lend themselves to that. Ironically, after all the bitching I've done about the lowered Forty-Eight, I'm going to do just that to the Star. Luckily, Progressive Suspension is spec-ing a new shock for 950 and is sending a pre-production version.

I've also ordered a couple of solo seats. Stay tuned.

MSRP: $7799

Caretaker: Masker

Measurements: 5'5"/175 lbs./28" Inseam

Odometer: 1319

Miles This Cycle: 573

We'd originally planned an exhaust swap as the next phase in our weight loss plan but that didn't pan out. I had next to no time to come up with a mod to keep Cherney from killing me, so I removed the front fender, since I was planning on doing that anyway.

Taking it off sheds weight almost as fast as a drug habit, minus the appearance on Celebrity Re-hab. About ten minutes with a socket wrench and the fender squeezes out and comes right off. The C50's front skin is plastic so I wasn't expecting drastic weight loss.

Luckily, Suzuki helped me out when they designed the motorcycle. The Boulevard has this metal framework under both fenders, and getting rid of the front one actually took 3.5 lbs off right off the bat. That means we not only made up for last issue's 2 lb gain, we lost a little weight to boot. What's more, stripping the front tire really helps with the chopped look I'm trying to create from the bike.

Next issue, I'm hoping to swap or chop the rear counterpart. It, too, has a big metal skeleton under the plastic bodywork. There are also clunky lights mounted on it that could be changed over for cleaner ones. Getting the stock rear fender out of the mix should melt away some pounds and complement the look up front.

That's the good news. The bad news is, fenders keep dirt and rocks off your bike. That means more cleaning but if you love your bike you clean it a lot anyway, right?

Front Fender Removal

MSRP: $13,999

Caretaker: Bartels

Measurements: 6'/190 lbs./33" Inseam

Odometer: 1428

Miles This Cycle: 950

In case you're sick of our candy asses putting on 300 miles an update, I thought I'd throw some real miles on my new long-term Fury.

But I was quickly struck with reality. The Fury has a couple of issues that keep it from racking up distance. For one, the basic layout of a chopper with seriously raked-out forks and a long wheelbase is a challenge to suspend properly. It's difficult to make it not wiggly around corners, yet smooth on fast, straight pavement. In stock form, it straddles the line pretty well, as it's great on the open road...as long as that road is smooth. Otherwise-especially on LA's washboard freeways-it runs out of suspension and starts bouncing around, making for a very rough ride. The answer is to slow down, which I apparently don't do well (I already have a ticket on this bike).

Thankfully the rear shock is easy to adjust just by taking off the right side cover (no tools required) and cranking on a big knob to set up the spring for your load (passenger or no passenger, etc). But there's only so much it can handle.

The other comfort issue was much easier to take care of. The stock seat is low and lean, but it's also completely unsupportive. Browsing around for seats I came upon Corbin's King and Queen. A literal throwback to the 70s, this seat not only changes the look of the bike dramatically, it also makes for way more back support. Same goes for the previously forsaken passenger who has a generous integrated sissy bar to lean into. Back seat reviews so far are positive too.

I like the seat so much that the rest of the bike is going to follow in its retro footsteps: upswept trucker pipes, metalflake sunburst paintjob... it's gonna be rad.

Corbin King And Queen Saddle $493.00

MSRP: $7699

Caretaker: Trestick

Measurements: 5'5"/30" Inseam

Odometer: 5160

Miles This Cycle: 1630

It has been a quiet month for the Bonneville, I've just been enjoying riding it. I had a three-day trek up the California coast through Big Sur and some of my other favorite roads. One of the places that the Bonnie shines for me is that it's an easy bike to handle in unfamiliar territory and is equally happy on city streets as well as twisty roads. If my regular riding put me on freeways more often I would consider a windshield since this bike does get a lot of windblast, but I really prefer the look without it.

My single issue on that trip was a flat tire on the first day. I think I picked up a piece of glass when I stopped for coffee and it cut the tire. A plug wouldn't work for this particular cut so I gave Tire Slime a try. Luckily it worked for me and the tire never lost air for the rest of the trip.

Due to the Bonneville's tire problems, a new set of rubber just moved to the top of my modification list. I'll be looking for something other than the stockers. I'm planning on giving up a little bit of durability in exchange for something a bit grippier.

After tires, the next thing I'd like to get sorted is the suspension. Now, I'm a large woman and the Bonnie's shocks are a little challenged when the going gets twisty. It will squat when I push it because the damping gets overwhelmed. I'll be looking to make it a little more composed.

Long-Term Bikes