Moto Guzzi Hispania (circa 1953) as a wall display in a Café in Colunga, Asturias, Northern Spain.
Moto Guzzi Hispania (circa 1953) as a wall display in a Café in Colunga, Asturias, Northern Spain.
I was in the Laconia area of New Hampshire with my buddy Matt, driving a 2013 Harley Electra Glide that I had christened The Lincoln Town Car. We had just visited a property, owned by a friend of Matt’s, with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, in The White Mountain Range. The road up to the property was a challenge for the Town Car and our next stop was a continuation of similar road conditions. We visited Cathedral Ledge which is a 700 foot high granite ledge with breathtaking views over Conway Valley and Echo Lake. The view across the Saco River Valley to the White Mountains is spectacular. It is very popular with hikers and there are marked trails up to Cathedral Ledge and some of the other viewing points. It is also a favourite with rock climbers and when we walked out on to the ledge there was a climber about a hundred feet below, working his ropes and gear, slowly progressing upwards on the rock face. Cathedral ledge is very popular at this time of year when the steep auto road is passable and there were plenty of couples and families enjoying the view. It is a very popular picnic area and the path from the parking / auto road has been improved recently to make it more accessible and safer. The ledge itself is safely fenced and large enough to accommodate many visitors at once.
Our next stop was our accommodation for our stay in the area at Ossipee Lake which is a popular holiday area. The land surrounding the lake is home to many cottages, cabins, and lake houses, some of which can be rented for holidays. The cottage we were staying at was a beauty and owned by a friend of Matt’s family. The family have rented the same cottage for many years and the whole family spend weeks or months there every year. The cottage is about 150 yards from the lake front and there is a beautiful beach and launching area for their pontoon boat from which they swim and fish. The owner, Frank has become a close family friend, and he was more than happy to have us visit for a few days. We went for something to eat in Conway and as it was cooler, dark and raining lightly when we rode back up to the cottage, I was glad of the heated grips on the bike and while I had been critical of the amount of heat coming off the right side of the bike, I was glad of it now. The light rain was no match for the massive fairing and it was great to have the chance to give Matt a ribbing about my hands being too hot until I got the setting just right on the heated grips. After a good nights sleep it was great to sit out on the deck, the following morning, and look over lake Ossipee and plan the day ahead. A trip Weirs Beach was a must, but there is so much more to see in this area that it was hard to know what to prioritise. Matt said, quite correctly, that a trip to Rosie’s had to be our first priority.
In America, breakfast is an institution, but when you’re in New Hampshire for Bike Week, Rosie’s is the epitome of that institution. The restaurant is on White Mountain Highway and when we arrived there we parked beside the many other bikes and some trucks in the parking lot. The booths were full and mainly the occupants were Bikers, as well as some local regulars. Rosie’s is famous for pancakes and Matt ordered one. One? I had never witnessed him order just one before. I had bacon and eggs. How do you like your eggs? What kind of bread? The coffee cups were filled and re-filled with amazing regularity and soon I understood why a man, who is a multiple pancake consumer, would order only one pancake in a restaurant where he professes them to be amongst the best he has ever eaten. This offering was big. Really big. A size or two bigger than the dinner plate it was served on and probably an inch thick.
Syrup, cream and strawberries were applied in short shift and then it was time to tuck in. The staff were very busy but this didn’t hinder them from friendly chit-chat with the customers and had greetings for all new comers, calling the locals by name and a special word for a child here and an older customer there. I have always enjoyed the breakfast experience in the States, and Rosie’s is one restaurant that’s worth a visit if you are over for Bike Week, or passing through Tamworth for any other reason. While many breakfast places open in the morning only, Rosie’s is an all day restaurant and I reckoned the older woman I could see through the open kitchen door toiling over a stove was probably the woman herself, but I could be wrong. If you visit the States you will see early morning queues in the franchise outlets, such as McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. I much prefer to find an independent business, such as Rosie’s and experience the home made food and warm service from friendly staff that appear to have maintained their personalities, rather than the automaton you can sometimes meet in the franchise stores.
Weirs Beach, Laconia is the place to be during Bike Week. When I say the place to be, read: the place to be seen. The Weirs is a large sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a boardwalk and a wide boulevard that is taken over every year by vendors and arcades for the summer visitors. During bike week the boulevard is host to thousands of bikers. A one way system is in place to allow parking on both sides, and the centre, for the huge number of bikes. The biggest difficulty is just finding a spot to park your bike. We cruised down to the Weirs and started our search for parking. A few hundred feet down I spotted a gap, and Matt found one a little further down, and we carefully backed our bikes in. The space for the Lincoln Town Car was just about big enough and after a few moments I successfully navigated the back wheel to the footpath. No tug boats or barges were required in this manoeuvre. Jackets, helmets gloves and the kitchen sink disappeared into the cavernous top box and we were ready to wander around. The vendor stalls and larger stores are mainly stocked with clothing and biker stuff. Tee-shirts, leathers, luggage and general bike equipment are the staples. The best part of the visit was the chance to view the fantastic customised bikes and I was delighted with the quality and variety of what was on view on the boulevard. Of course we checked out all the merchandise that the vendors had on display and I got a few Laconia Bike Week 2016 Tee-shirts and Matt got a really nice shirt for himself, and Tee-shirts as presents for some of his biker buddies back home. The hours rolled by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the cottage. We stopped at the Harte’s Turkey Farm Restaurant. Harte’s started as a small family farm business in the 1940s, delivering chickens, eggs and turkeys in a small truck. In 1954 they opened a family restaurant that grew into a successful business even after they stopped raising their own turkeys. It is now a 500 seat restaurant, and a catering business, about five miles from Weirs Beach. It is well worth a visit and the food we were served was very tasty and there was plenty of it.
It had started raining hard just as we reached Harte’s restaurant and it was dark and blustery. When we set off back to the cottage the rain had lightened but it was still very windy. I really appreciated the protection I had on Electra Glide. I had put on my rain jacket for this trip but I need not have bothered. The rain didn’t seem to come in contact with the jacket and my boots and trousers were not affected at all. Visibility had remained relatively good because the screen on the fairing mostly prevents the rain from obscuring the view through your helmet visor or glasses.
I collected the Electra Glide from MOMS motorbikes in Foxboro and Matt and I set off on our road-trip to Laconia. Its a couple of hours trip on I-95 or I-495 up to The White Mountain Range where I-93 becomes the most important highway. I have to admit that I was a little worried about how I would get on riding the Harley. I had tried Harleys a couple of years ago and while friends had told me about how comfortable these big cruisers are, I had had a different experience. When I had tried Harleys I had found it hard to get comfortable riding cruiser-style bikes, and Lenny in Waterford Harley, had noted my disappointment when I returned, having tried some of the finest in the shop. In an effort to console me he had said the riding style “is not for everybody”, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that I was going to have no problem on this trip. Matt stopped after a short time in a gas station and I was grateful that I wasn’t the first one to start bemoaning the onset of old age, joint pain, arthritis, and old injuries. Furthermore, I discovered that the older Harley, that Matt was riding, a Heritage Softail, didn’t have a sixth gear and didn’t have electronic ignition so we were going to have very regular refuelling stops. Matt’s bike only had soft bags and the Electra Glide I was riding had the full tour pack with hard cases and a massive top box. Plenty of space to accommodate luggage, helmets and everything else that might be needed for a long touring holiday.
Matt and I were born the same year, long before 6th gears, electronic ignition, World Wide Web or mobile/cell phones were known to the world. So to apportion all the responsibility for sore hips and backs on the bikes would be unfair. At least we could laugh about our age and injury related issues, which we did quite regularly on the trip. When we got back on the Interstate I concentrated on getting comfortable and getting used to this big girl. At 854lbs (398kgs) it takes a bit of getting used to and even when you are getting it upright from the side-stand you really feel the weight. The front of the bike seemed to carry a lot of the weight and that’s no surprise when you take into consideration what’s going on up there. There is a very large fairing which shelters the rider and a massive amount of equipment. There is a radio and large speakers housed in the fairing and lots of clocks and a considerable amount of chrome. The handlebars also have lots of stuff going on, including buttons for lights, cruise control and an indicator switch on both bars, as opposed to just one switch that controls indicators for both sides on most other make of bike. It wasn’t long before I started referring to it as the Lincoln Town Car because of it’s size and weight. A Lincoln Town Car is a full sized luxury sedan or saloon car, made by Lincoln up to about five years ago, and it was the longest, and one of the biggest even in terms of American cars, often used as the basis for stretch limousines.
When you get on the Interstate on this bike the weight becomes irrelevant and I began to relax and try to find a comfortable seating position. I set the cruise control and with Matt taking the lead, I began to become accustomed to the vibrations from this big machine and enjoyed the journey. I was glad of the regular stops even though the Lincoln Town Car didn’t need to refuel anywhere nearly as often as Matt’s Heritage Softail. In fact it was positively frugal, taking only tiny little sips of gas. Gas or petrol costs a little more than two dollars for a gallon. Although an American gallon is a little smaller than the imperial one we used before the change to litres, it is still so much cheaper than what we pay in Europe. A few more stops for fuel and coffee and to stretch the limbs, and we were close to our destination. Or so I thought.
Matt had other ideas and on one of our stops he announced that he would like to visit a property belonging to a friend of his. His friend had a building firm at his property that were undertaking a big expansion to his house and Matt wanted to see how the project was turning out. The property is close to a town called Bartlett and we started looking for it. We turned off up mountain roads and started searching for some familiar landmarks so Matt could navigate to the house. The Lincoln Town Car was not built for these steep roads. The road surface must have been put there back in President Eisenhower time in the 1950s’, and built in his honour, so nobody wanted to interfere with the monument to the great man since. Straight up steep inclines with high trees on both sides with the finest switchbacks, hairpins, loose surface and subsidence known to man. Matt is an avid Motocross man and if we had the motocross bikes I had seen in his garage this would be a great place to motorcycle. The Lincoln Town car on the other hand was far from its preferred stomping ground. After a number of attempts to find what we were looking for, we came across a work crew and they set us straight. Back to the highway and a few miles further on, we again turned off up a mountain road and did some more practically vertical motocross manoeuvres until we found the property. Let me tell you it was worth it. Matt’s friend’s property was on a high crest with a view to die for. In the middle of the White Mountain Range, there was a mountain peak in every direction you looked. The extension on the house was three stories, with picture windows facing in every direction, and a mountain to look at from each one. Over the next few days I heard about so many mountains that I can’t remember for sure which mountains I was looking at from the house. Mount Washington for sure, but there were many more. This whole area is known for it’s views and famous worldwide for fabulous scenery and the mountains and mountain highways and lakes. These are what make New England synonymous with Autumn beauty and winter holidays as well as summer visitors. It’s a backpacker, snowboarder and skier’s paradise in the winter and the summer visitors include mountaineers, hikers, water sports enthusiasts as well as a huge influx of motorcyclists for Laconia Bike Week.
During my recent trip to the States I was anxiously looking forward to our motorcycle trip to Laconia Bike Week, but I was happy to do a day trip to Boston to see a few of the sights and attractions. We visited Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market area which is a busy down-town historic indoor market that is particularly well known for food, and a good friend of mine had said I needed to try a lobster roll from the vendor stalls in the market. I was recommended to go right to the back of the market and go to a particular stall, but when we got there it was lunchtime and the whole market, which is huge, was full with people queuing for food. It was hardly possible to move with tourists but also office workers, I am guessing, from the more formal clothes they wore, from companies located nearby. I contended myself with a lobster roll from Ned Devine’s Irish pub which is at the back entrance to the market, and never having had one before, I didn’t have any complaints. The area around the market hosts huge numbers of visitors and is well worth a visit, for souvenirs, food and clothes and is also well known for street theatre and performers. On the day we were there the number of performers was not what it usually is, but there was a guy there that attracted a big audience, mainly because his act started with chainsaw juggling which seemed to pique the interest of the students on school tours especially.
A city tour of the streets and the Charles River by Duck Boat, which are derived from World War 2 amphibious landing vehicles, is very popular, mainly because the “conDUCKtors” that drive and pilot these vehicles, or vessels, give a comic running commentary while they point out the interesting attractions in the city. Our guy was Canadian, known as Tim Burr (as in when somebody shouts: TIIMMBEER, when felling a tree), and his gag is that he fell into the Charles River and floated down from Canada to Boston where someone on a DUCK boat pulled him out of the water, and he has been working the DUCK boats ever since, to try earn the cab fare back to his Mom in Canada. As you can guess, the normal demographic for DUCK boats is Middle School students, but the tour was very good and you see a lot on the road trip around the city and even more when the tour takes to the water. It is a great additional perspective from which to see the city.
Matt’s Dad came over to visit when he heard that an Irish guy was over to stay for a while. “Bo” is a Korean War Vet, from a Irish / Italian background, married to an all Italian girl, both of whom have had long and interesting lives, and plenty more to do. “Bo” is well into his eighties but still drives, and when he visited Matt’s to meet me he came over in his Model A Ford. When he had been talking about buying it a few years ago, nobody took him seriously. He did. He bought it and came home in it and enjoys nothing more than taking it out for a jaunt. It is a beautiful example of a 1931 Ford Model A.
It was time to take a look at the bike I was taking up to Laconia. I was highly impressed when I got to MOMS, in Foxboro. This is a Polaris dealer through and through, and the the first thing that impresses you is that there is a lot going on here. The parking lot is full of motorcycles, cars and people. There is a lot to the side of the business, where there was an instructor, and some riders learning their craft on a variety of bikes. This is a busy place. As you walk into the shop you see new Indian motorcycles. A new Roadmaster with what I think is the most impressive paint job on the market was right next to the door. There were many other Indian models and its impossible not to be impressed with the paint, the leather and the detail on these bikes. A little further into the shop the Victory bikes are displayed, and over to one side, I notice Polaris Slingshots, and near the back was plenty of clothing, helmets and accessories. I discovered very soon that my bike was the last bike available. Whether they had held it for me or I was just lucky, was not clear and I didn’t question it. I had a bike. I had a bike during Laconia Bike Week, and that was not to be sniffed at. The bike was a full dress Electra Glide (FLHTK) from 2013 with a 103 cubic inch engine (1670cc), in an attractive black and silver livery. Weighing in at 857 lbs (398 kgs) which is massive compared to what I am used to. This model has abs, cruise control, a smart security system, an attractive two-tone paint scheme, the tour-pack and a luggage rack, and heated hand grips. An interesting feature of the security system is that you can keep the key in your jacket pocket and if you walk away from the bike the system activates remotely and the bike won’t start. When you walk back into range with the key in your pocket the security turns off and the bike will start. I was looking forward to getting out on the road and seeing how I and this big girl were going to get along.
Taking a test drive on a 2016 FJR
The 2016 Yamaha FJR1300AE or as its known in the States FJR1300ES
I recently had the good fortune to try out the new Yamaha FJR1300AE at AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) in Gorey. I called in and Gary had no problem handing over the keys to the beautiful silver specimen that was sitting outside, glistening in the sun. The new version has six gears that fit into the old gearbox as a result of some magic by the Yamaha Engineers and the gearing has revised ratios for more even spacing. The bike has electronically adjustable suspension which adjusts at the push of a button. It gives you the option of soft, standard or hard and the choice of one or two up, with or without luggage. The windscreen is easily adjustable through a range of over five inches, also at the push of a button.
The first impressions of this bike are of a truly modern Sports Touring bike with bang up to date instrumentation that is clear and easily read. In Sports Mode this bike is sharp and swift. You are left in no doubt that there is plenty of power at the throttle. The clutch is as light as a feather and gear changes are very smooth. Yamaha’s unified braking system makes for a confident stop and there is the added security of ABS and traction control. There are plenty of gadgets and gizmos like new Angle Sensitive LED lights that light progressively at an angle as you corner, and the buttons and controls are easily accessible and feel like they are positioned in just the right place. It feels intuitive. My favourite gizmo is the Cruise Control. It is simple to use. I took the bike out on the Motorway immediately to give it a go and it is faultless with a little button low on the left handlebar with a recognisable icon in the shape of a speedometer to turn Cruise on. The Set / Resume buttons are equally well positioned and very easily reached and comfortably useable.
On the left handlebar, the button with up and down arrows on top is to adjust the wind-shield and you can see the set and resume for the cruise. The round button underneath switches Cruise Control on.
You may wonder why I consider the cruise control a favourite. Motorcycling is a hobby and there is nothing better than a challenging road with a series of bends and a good surface. Nice scenery and nice towns and villages to stop and enjoy a coffee in, are also a big plus. So why am I interested in cruise control? To get to the nice roads, nice towns and nice scenery you sometimes have to cover long distances on highways / motorways and cruise control takes a lot of pressure off the wrist and arm when you are in the saddle for extended periods. Hilton Hincks (HB Motorcycles, Waterford), well known in Biking circles in Ireland, once told me that one of his hints for touring in Europe was to watch the weather forecast and use the motorway network to relocate swiftly if the area you happen to be in is suffering from bad weather. It’s very good advice that I have put into practice and cruise control is a very useful tool where covering longer distances is concerned.
Ride this bike on the back roads in Sports mode and you will enjoy its great balance and power. You will look forward to the next corner or series of corners because it is a highly competent sports bike. Switch to Touring and while things tone down slightly it still has plenty of torque and power and will whisk you along for many miles thanks to its 25 litre fuel tank. At a claimed 6.2 litres to 100 kilometres or in old money, about 45mpg, it should be good for over 240 miles (386 km) between re-fuels.
I don’t know of a word in the English language that indicates something that is urgent and relaxed at the same time. If there is, it should be used to describe this bike. It is so relaxed and easy to ride with a comfortable riding position. It does everything you want with no fuss, and when you want to liven things up, it will instantaneously implement your desires. The shaft drive and ride by wire aspects of this bike are elements contributing to the instant crisp reaction to the throttle commands. Its multi-plate, assist-and-slipper wet clutch allow super smooth gear-changes. Power is available in abundance from the liquid cooled inline four cylinder 1298cc engine.
I found the seat to be both firm and comfortable at the same time, and was surprised how much leg room there was. I am about 5’10’’ or 11’’ and while I had plenty of room I could securely get a foot down. While it’s a big bike at 292kgs (644lbs) and you feel the weight until you are moving away from a stop. Then a nice feeling of balance is the most noticeable impression. The only thing that I was disappointed with was I had to bring it back! I could easily see myself being spirited across continental Europe, or any other continent on this bike. An autobahn in Germany? Maybe a set of twisties in the Alps. I think this bike could do it all and if you’re ‘Significant Other’ so chose, I think both would be happily accommodated on this bike. For one up touring, I fancy the hard side cases would be plenty. Depending on how many pairs of heels, outfits, make-up and combinations of shampoo and conditioner were required, you might have to consider a top box. My ‘Significant Other’ can cross Northern Spain on foot with just what will fit in a modest rucksack. I think the side cases would do us both perfectly well!
If you are in the market for a new bike, I would seriously suggest you take a good look at this new FJR. If you are looking for a sports bike and think you can manage without the extras that come with the electronic suspension, you can get the bike for about 18.5k. If you are looking for a Sport Tourer of a phenomenal class, gather your euros and get yourself the bike with electronic suspension, the FJR1300AE.It will set you back a little over 21k, a sizeable chunk of change, no doubt . If long distance touring is your intention, and your ambition to do it in comfort, this could be the investment of a lifetime, and one that I highly recommend.