This year my dad and I are headed down to Biketoberfest together. I was looking forward to a long weekend in Daytona Beach with Dad riding bikes and just hanging out. We will be overnighting Wednesday in Jacksonville the city of my birth during Dad's tour of duty at the Navy base there. I'll be arriving late, doing all my traveling after work, and we'll be leaving early to get to the speedway to sign up for bike rides so we won't see anything there. Thursday morning we'll continue on to Daytona beach where we'll stay at the Oceanside Inn.
Biketoberfest is all about the demo rides for me. This year there are a few bikes I want to demo ride, including:
BMW did not bother to bring demo bikes last year, so the adventure twins may be unavaiable. Not sure any of the 250's will be present either, although being fuel mileage champs maybe they will make it this year.
Wed: I was able to get out of the office around lunch time on Wednesday so I headed down to Jacksonville to have dinner with Dad. Jeff and I were palying phone tag in the morning, he was getting a tire installed before heading down to meet us. I left town thinking we would catch up with each other when we got down there but as it turns out he was ready to go when I left and wating for me!! It worked out OK because the first thing I saw as I pulled up in the parking lot at the hotel in Jacksonville was Jeff hanging out with Dad as they waited for me to arrive.
The second thing I saw was no headlights in my reflection in the hotel room window. :-(
After I stood around for few minutes greeting and shaking of the road we set about finding the problem with the headlights. Fuse, check. Wiring connections at the bulbs, check. Both bulbs out, so that's a bad sign. While Dad and I poured over the wiring looking for bad connections Jeff headed off to the auto parts store to grab me two new bulbs just in case, but no good. Still no headlights. Eventually we bagged a nice dinner and ordered pizza so we could keep looking for the problem, scouring the internet and studying a wiring diagram PDF Jeff found. Jeff scored a major hit when he found a post to a motorcycle blog detailing exactly the same symptoms on an identical DL650 Wee Strom. The culprit for that owner turned out to be a connection in the wiring harness under the air box -- only accessible by removing the gas tank, fairing shroulds and airbox.
Suddenly, it all began to make sense. Russell and I had been trapped by salty flood waters on Hatteras Island two years ago and had driven through foot deep sea water to seek shelter at a relatively high parking lot at a small strip mall. There's nothing like sea water to corrode a connection. Resigning myself to the fate of needing to nearly dissassemble the bike to resolve the problem I decided to just get to Daytona Beach and leave the long hours to the Suzuki guys and just pay to keep from ruining my weekend in Florida with Dad and Jeff.
Thu: We awoke, showered and packed up our bags to head out. We decided I would ride between Jeff and Dad for safety since I had no headlights and we'd drop the bike off at a dealership when we got to Daytona Beach. Lo and behold, when I started up the bike the headlights surprised us by shining like a star. Thomas Edison would have been proud.
We hauled ass down I-95 and made a beeline for the speedway. First order of business was to get Dad signed up for the Riders of Kawasaki (ROK) club. The association of mostly Kawasaki owners is a great deal. Not only do you get a quarterly magazine and road side assisstance and bike towing for a year, but you get to lounge around in the Owners club tent area and eat and drink free snacks and coffee all weekend at bike shows! All for the low, low price of just $39.95! My membership was about to expire so I took the opportunity to renew while we were standing there. Oh, and I forgot to mention, as a ROK member you also get to sign up a day early for Kawasaki demo rides, securing a cool bike without showing up extra early in the morning to wait in line. Sweet!
Dad was interested in checking out the latest crop of mid-sized cruisers so we signed up for a 10:00 ride on a couple of Vulcan 900's, me on the classic and Dad on the Classic LT. Having secured those rides we mosied over to the
Yamaha place (although they sell their cruizers under the "Star" brand name these days) to see what was cooking there. We managed to get on the list for a 1:00PM ride on the Star V-Star 650. It sounded kind of small for cruiser but what the heck it was worth a try. Yamaha allowed up to two rides per sign up, so our second pick was the TMax scooter at 1:30PM. Dad had not ridden a scooter since the 50's and it sounded like fun! I'd read the write-ups on the TMax when it was released in Europe several years ago, it's tripple digit speeds hailing a new era of sport scooters, and I was excited to finally get to sample it.
We scooted on back to Kawasaki to have a snack and get ready for our 10:00 demo ride, the spectre of illuminary difficulties a fading memory in the warm Daytona sunshine. We stopped at the Can Am Spyder lot and snapped a photo of Dad on the funky three wheeler but the line was too long for sign-up and we had to keep moving.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 is a treat. It feels like a full sized cruiser (as in "why would they make bikes bigger than this?") and has plenty of torque to ooze down the road, probably two-up. The seat is low and the bike is not too heavy to steer easily around town. I liked it a lot. I had the naked Classic model while Dad tode the Classic LT with the leather bags and the fork mounted windscreen. You can see his silver and blue bike in the "Thu" pictures below. Kawasaki lead us on a good twenty minute ride that covered boulevard, two lane and interstate roads. The bikes were great. Dad had not ridden a modern era metric cruiser and was surprised at how authentic the Japanese bike felt compared the the Harley he had owned.
After our demo ride on the Kawasaki 900's we sat around and chatted about the bikes before heading over to the Yamaha/Star tent to sample their wares. The "Star V-Star 650" (I'm not kidding) 650 is a very nice cruiser. They added enough flywheel to the package to make the 650 v-twin feel torquey, and I was surprised at how the engine felt in the smallish cruiser. I enjoyed riding it and would consider the 650 if I planned to always ride alone. I just don't think it has the oomph I would want for carrying a passenger, nor really the torque to just ooze down the road without working it a little bit. I don't want to work it on a laid back cruiser. Upon our return we rolled right into the ride on the Yamaha T-Max. This scooter is a blast. Take twist-and-go simplicty and add 100mph oomph. What you get is a huge grin. This thing just goes, it even has a snarling exhaust when you get on it. Granted it does not have the capacious storage of Suzuki's Burgman 650 but it feels much lighter and sportier. We couldn't stop grinning after the ride.
We headed to the American/British side of the track to sample some Harleys and maybe catch a Boss Hoss ride. We spent the entire time waiting in the line for a sportster. Dad wanted to compare the 1200 with the mid-sized metric hardware but Harley was having a major problem with the Sportster line. Harley had commited to a bike event in California on the same weekend and California had recieved the lion's share of the bikes, getting the demo fleet that usually came to Biketoberfest. Biketoberfest received a "dealer demo pack" we were told that usually serves as demo bikes at a more run-of-the-mill open house. To make matters worse, the sportster line kept being invaded by a Harley employee who kept taking one of the TWO sportsters people were waiting ten deep to ride to lead a V-Rod rider around the well marked demo course that everyone else seemed to be able to follow without difficulty. We had managed to snag 4:00 rides on the Kawasaki Versys so we bailed out of the sportster line and headed back over
Back at the Kawasaki tent we lined up to ride the Versys. The bike is named for being a "versatile system". Once again, I'm not kidding. What is it with these goofy bike names? Have these motorcycle guys heard of focus groups? Funny name aside, the Versys is a very fun bike. The mildly elevated seat height of 33 inches puts some folks off, and Dad wasn't all that wild about it. The rest of the bike impresses, though. The tourquey and fast revving 649CC twin is a great engine and the small, light bike really uses it well. Kawasaki makes two other bikes based on this engine, the Ninja 650 and the new to U.S. ER6-n. The two variants lower the seat height by two inches relieving those not enamored of adventure touring bikes of tippy-toes starts and stops. Having become comfortable with the 35 inch seat height of the KLR 650 the Versys doesn't bother me. I really like the Versys a lot. It is much smaller, lighter and quicker revving than my DL-650 wee Strom. I'm not sure I would want to tour on one but the Versys is great fun around town.
more to come ...