Laconia Bike Week 2016

Part 2. Boston and MOMS motorcycles

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 bikeharley1 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.

Review of the new 2016 FJR1300AE

Taking a test drive on a 2016 FJR

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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.

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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.

Laconia Bike Week 2016

Meeting up with my friend Matt in Massachusetts for a trip to Laconia 2016

Part 1. Boston, Blackstone and Patriot Place.

My friend Matt from Blackstone, Massachusetts, invited me to go over to his home so we could ride up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire this year. This year, 2016, is theDSC04774 93rd year of this iconic festival of biking. The oldest national motorcycle rally in the U.S.that owes its origins  to  a group of less than 200 motorcycling enthusiasts that toured the lake and mountain region in New Hampshire in 1916, has evolved over time into an institution of Motorcycling that attracts hundreds of thousands every year. You will wonder then why I hesitated to accept Matt’s offer to visit the Laconia and Weirs Beach area this year. Well, I knew that I couldn’t stay for the full week because of other commitments and thought it was probably better to postpone the visit until I could be there for the full week. I started planning a trip to Northern France and the D-Day celebrations instead. I have motor-cycled through Northern France before, and will do it again, but some buddies regularly attend the annual D-Day celebrations and it has always been an ambition of mine to be there some year. Various forces were at work to scupper this planned visit and when it seemed that it wasn’t going to work out, thoughts of a shortened spin to Laconia Bike Week re-entered my head. I contacted Matt and yes, he was still on for a visit to Laconia. I booked the flight to Boston and I love it when there is only a couple of weeks between booking and travelling. When I landed in Logan airport, Matt and his two beautiful daughters, Marissa and Hannah, were there to pick me up.

On the way from the airport to Blackstone we stopped for a snack in a “Friendly’s” just across the road from Gillette stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. Friendly’s is a long established food and ice-cream chain. As we sat at the window in Friendly’s, Matt and I noticed a lot of vintage cars drive by. They are referred to as Old-timer cars in the States. Matt suddenly remembered that it was Thursday night and every second Thursday night there is a “cruise night”, organised by Mass Cruisers atPatriot Place Car Show Patriot Place, a shopping Mall just across from Friendly’s, and adjacent to the stadium. After our food, the four of us went across to take a look. Wow! Thousands of beautiful, and some not so beautiful examples of American metal. A guy we spoke to told us that on a good night there could be well in excess of two thousand cars there. Every era of car manufacturing in America, back to the 1930s was on display and we couldn’t get enough of it. Matt pointed out the line of deck-chairs, on the road into the parking area in the mall. Lots of people try and get there early to find a nice spot to get up their deck-chairs, and they just sit there with a soda and maybe some nibbles and get the best view of the cars, as they queue up to drive into the cruise area. It seems that retired people have the advantage, as they can get there a little earlier a get the best spots, and it saves having to walk around the huge parking lot. 

I didn’t mind walking around the lot. The cars were fantastic! The owners were only too happy to talk to us and tell us about their cars. Rows and rows of great cars. Some were absolutely pristine and the owners prided themselves in presenting them in the perfect state. Trucks, muscle cars and daily drivers, all parked in the spot decided upon by the organizers appropriate to the era, type or maker. Some fine European examples too. All the names that make you think of American cars: Chevrolet, Ford, Camaro, Corvair, T-Bird, Buick and Cadillac. Sedans, Saloons, Flat-bed trucks, Hot-Rods and even a 1932 school bus! Every make and model. All too soon we had to leave. Matt’s wife Cheryl was preparing dinner for us and we didn’t want to be late.

When we arrived at the family home, I met Cheryl who was a gracious host for a beautiful dinner. The family’s home is a fabulous house set in a lovely residential, wooded area on the outskirts of Blackstone. The house is very much in keeping with the setting, as it is stone and cedar wood. In the garage I spotted four motorbikes and a 1968 Camaro. One of Matt’s project cars. Two motorcross bikes and two Harleys’ of an older era. The absolute star of the show was Matt’s pride and joy, a 1977 Harley Davidson, customised to give it the appearance of being from an even older era. Matt’s priority was foDSC04737r sleek lines and perfect paintwork and he certainly has achieved that in this bike. It is a thing of beauty. Cheryl told me stories of the many long journeys they travelled on this bike when they were together first. It is possible to bolt on a seat over the back mudguard on the bike but it must have been hell to travel on for any distance. In recent years even Matt accepts that this bike is not for long distance hikes and both he and Cheryl agree, they need a modern tourer to get back into the bike adventures they used to have before house, mortgage, responsiDSC04746bility and their much loved girls entered the frame. I was glad to have met Matt again and to be introduced to his beautiful family. I was also glad to head upstairs and sleep. I was looking forward to the next few days. A trip to Boston to experience the city and a trip MOMs motorcycles in Foxboro also, to see the bike I would have for the road trip to Laconia.