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"Well, as through the world I've rambled, I've seen lots of funny men. Some rob you with a sixgun, some with a fountain pen. As through this world you ramble, as through this world you roam You'll never see an outlaw drive a family from its home..." -Woody Guthrie
When everything else goes wrong, I've still got my motorcycles thanks to

Monday, January 30, 2012

Billy's List Of Practical Motorcycles

For most Americans, motorcycles are considered expensive toys. But in much of the world, motorcycles have become practical everyday transportation. And with gasoline prices on the rise, some motorcycles stand a chance of finally being considered practical here in the USA.

For a motorcycle to be considered practical in 2012, it needs to meet certain criteria. We'll steer clear of racing bikes and factory customs and stick with bikes that are easy to ride, require the least maintenance, good in town and on the highway, cheaper to maintain, get good gas mileage, simple to work on, reasonably priced, still in production or only recently out of production, easy to find parts for, etc... Good, inexpensive, reliable transportation. And with the help of the gang at I've decided to put together a list.

I would love to add my XS650 Yamaha to the list but 30 year old anythings simply aren't practical. Were the XS650 still in production today it would certainly make the list.

Now granted, there are a number of not quite practical motorcycles that could be made practical with some modifications. Take the Yamaha XT660 for example. While the XT was designed as a dual-purpose on/off road motorcycle that is a little too tall for most riders to manage in city traffic, it could be lowered and tires changed to make it perform better on pavement and thus more practical. Several of the various dual-sport motorcycles could be made practical if you know enough about motorcycle mechanics or happen to be tall. Of course, if by chance you live 50 miles from the nearest paved road, then the XT660 is probably as practical a motorcycle as you can own. We'll call the dual sports as provisional and mark them as **.

The old Honda CB 350 and CB 450s were mentioned as being practical but that was then and this is now. Both bikes would be practical today were it not for the fact that both have been out of production for many years and parts are hard to come by locally. Fact is, there are probably more once practical motorcycles out of production than currently in production.

We avoided several popular 4 cylinder motorcycles because they are difficult to work on but some of the most dependable motorcycles ever built were and remain inline 4s.

The only current Harley-Davidson motorcycle that comes anywhere near being practical is the 883. And even it is pushing the edge between practical and too much motorcycle to be practical. I love Sportsters and Hogs but like so many popular motorcycles, they are both too big and too thirsty to be considered practical. A lot of bikes failed to make the list because they were simply too big or too powerful. We're talking motorcycles, not trucks.

I also steered away from what is commonly called, starter bikes as many are in the 250cc range and while great for short distance commuting, can be difficult and stressful on America's Interstate Highways. That said, several of the starter bikes are capable of more than 80 miles per hour and would have no problem with short highway runs. Just don't expect them to cruise 70 plus for hours on end.

The List of Practical Motorcycles

Suzuki Boulevard S40 and LS650 Savage.
**Kawasaki KLR650
Ninja 650R
Yamaha FZ6
Hyosung GT650
GS500 Suzuki
**Yamaha XT660
Kawasaki Versy
BMW F650 single
**BMW G650GS
**Suzuki V-Strom 650
Newer Triumph Bonnevilles
Yamaha XVS650
Suzuki SV650
Suzuki Bandit 600S
Suzuki Bandit 650

To be continued...

I was hesitant to add any electric motorcycles to this list for 1 reason. None that I know of will travel 100 miles at highway speeds (55-75 MPH.) without stopping to recharge the batteries. That said, if you're talking commuter bike and would rather drive the car on out of town trips you should certainly give electrics some thought.

If you have suggestions for this list you can add them below and I'll consider adding them to the list.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Modding The Rifle Superbike Fairing, Part 4

I've got to give it to the folks at Rifle Fairings: When it comes to motorcycles fairings, the team formerly known as Windjammer know fairings as well as anyone. Their fairings are everything I expected and more. That said, Rifle, like every other manufacturer of aftermarket universal motorcycle parts, is forced to design parts that work on lots of different kinds and styles of motorcycles ridden by lots of different kinds and styles of riders. Could Rifle have made me exactly the fairing I want? Sure. Could I afford it? No way. That's why I decided to start with their fairing and modify it to fit myself, my motorcycle and my style of riding.

When I first began Modding The Rifle Superbike Fairing I knew some of my modifications simply wouldn't work. When that happened I reverted back to stock. Others worked but not as well as I'd hoped. When that happened I tried again and again and...

Like the filling of the turn signal notches on either side of my fairing from Part 2. Gluing in pieces of ABS plastic and filling with ABS glue (a solution made from ABS solids soaked in solvents) worked quite well. But top coating and filling with a thin coat of Bondo body filler was a mistake. Apparently Bondo (Polyester) does not bond well with ABS. So it's back to filling with ABS glue. I think one last rough sanding is in order before I can switch to finer papers and start priming and painting. Did you know that some tattoo inks are made from ABS plastics?

The windshield extension works like a charm and is still low enough I can look over the top. That's good because the whistling caused by the modifications in Part 3 were driving me insane.And the venting I did in Part 1 has eliminated fogging altogether. In case you're interested, the extension is made from the headlight cover that came with the fairing when new.

Should you ever decide to drill a hole in a motorcycle windshield be sure to do so on a warm day as to not risk cracking the windshield. Now I get to learn how to repair a crack in clear polycarbonate.

The lowers I made serve two purposes. The first is to keep my feet warm and the second is to keep the engine cooled without getting a blast of hot air in my face. I made several pairs before I got the angles right but alas I made it work and work well. They still need sanding and painting but here's the front view.

There's plenty of room between them for the huge oil cooler I'm building to change the primary engine cooling from air to oil. I'm thinking I might attach some sort of pouch to the back. Here's the view from the rear.

If you know these bikes then you'll also notice I also relocated the horn so that it would no longer block airflow to the head of the engine.

And finally, I like getting my tools out of the saddlebags and into this leather toolbag but as this was the only way I can mount it I'm not sure if it will remain. It could be I'll attach the toolbag to the trailer hitch when it is finished or perhaps I'll design flatter side-covers and attach bags to both sides.

In Part 5 we'll look at some ideas I have for warmer winter riding. After all, if you only ride in July then you're hardly a biker.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Modding The Rifle Superbike Fairing

Like most who ride, I've never seen anything motorcycle related I didn't think could be improved upon. And while the Rifle Superbike Fairing is a great motorcycle fairing there are a few mods you can do to make it an even better fairing. If you click on the pictures they will expand.

I've been using cardboard and duct tape to experiment with reshaping the airflow around my own fairing. I've since pulled the tape off as evidenced by the residue and hope to soon start making some permanent modifications to the fairing itself. Now on to my first Rifle Superbike Fairing mod.

Look at the fairings used by the most accomplished Iron Butt Riders and you'll notice a common thread when it comes to the fairings they choose-- venting. Venting reduces fogging and improves laminar airflow while reducing turbulence behind the fairing. Venting the Rifle Superbike fairing is as easy as loosing the bolts, replacing the front bolts with longer bolts and 1/2" nylon spacers. This tips the windshield back only slightly and allows an upward airflow along the back side of the glass.

From a little farther away only the white fasteners make it noticeable. Sadly, the only nylon bolts I could find at my local hardware store were all white in color.

I do wish the windshield on the Rifle Superbike Fairing measured 20" instead of 18" as I could stand a couple more inches and still manage to see over the windshield. To adjust for that I may have to lower my riding height with shorter rear shock absorbers though I am considering an attempt at making a taller windshield.

Continue reading, Modding The Rifle Superbike Fairing, Part 2.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Take Us There

On the edge of Fall
while wasting time
we cry out through the glass,
"Take us there, take us now,"
as all goes rushing past

The preceding motorcycle poem is a link poem-- an experiment in adding a 3rd dimension to the printed word. Each link is to a photograph that inspired the thoughts expressed in the words of each link. Link poems can only exist on the Internet and are therefore only archived online.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Motorcycle Camping At Walmart

Camping in a campground is great but when camping on the fly, finding a suitable campsite can sometimes be difficult and expensive. Most commercial campgrounds are geared towards RVs and some even refuse motorcyclists and others camping in tents. Guerrilla camping is cool and all but it can get you arrested for tresspassing. A Walmart parking lot doesn't have the ambiance of some secluded campsite by a mountain stream but when all you're looking for is a safe place to spend the night before going on the next morning, camping at Walmart where they have security guards, restrooms, restaurants, groceries, ice, camping supplies and bungee cords to replace the ones that broke while riding, just makes sense.

Now I've never heard of anyone motorcycle camping at Walmart but recreational vehicle owners do it all the time. For those with smart phones or other forms of portable internet access, finding a Walmart is as easy as clicking the link to their storefinder.

Fact is, you could leave home with nothing but your motorcycle and pick up everything you need at the Walmarts you find along the way.

From what I've read on the Internet, Walmart's company policy towards RV camping is as follows: "I called the corporate offices of Wal-Mart in Arkansas and asked what its overnight RV parking policy was. They were very friendly and said it was company policy to allow Rv'ers overnight parking. They also said it would be advisable to check in with the store manager when you arrive as a courtesy. However, they said if we ran into a store that refused us we were to report this to them."

I'm thinking I might try motorcycle camping at Walmart. My thinking is that as long as I'm not using alcohol or drugs, not littering, not damaging Walmart property, not causing problems for others and not breaking any other laws, that Walmart can't have any legal grounds to deny motorcyclists as long as they don't deny RVers. Fact is: After a full day in the saddle I'm too tired to cause any trouble for anyone. Does Walmart have a different policy concerning motorcycle camping? Want to find out? Anyone?