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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.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why Motorcycles Are Better Than Women

I'm almost certain this has been done before but here goes. Like women, motorcycles are expensive and sometimes difficult to figure out but unlike women:

*Your motorcycle won't divorce you for some dude on a newer motorcycle.
*Motorcycles don't care if you smell like gasoline.
*Your motorcycle doesn't care that you've been riding another motorcycle.
*You can swap motorcycles with your friends. Or with complete strangers if that's what twists your throttle.
*Your motorcycle will let you ride as long as you like until the day it dies. Then you can get another without having to spend $10,000 Dollars to bury it.
*You won't do time If you kill your motorcycle.
*Motorcycles don't care if you strip them down-- even if you do it in public.
*Motorcycles don't care if it rains on a camping trip.
*You won't have to become a Mormon Extremest to have more than one motorcycle.
*Your motorcycle will never demand you take her home just as the party is getting started.
*Motorcycles like your friends.
*Your motorcycle doesn't care what you're tracking-in on your shoes.
*You motorcycle will never complain when you bring friend over for dinner-- even if you didn't tell her in advance.
*Your motorcycle won't bitch if you don't help around the house.
*Motorcycles don't care what neighborhood you live in.
*Motorcycles never interrupt you when you're watching the big game or your favorite bad-assed biker flic.
*Your motorcycle will never accuse you of neglecting her-- even if you do.
*Your motorcycle will never complain to your mother-in-law or go home because you're running around on her.
*Your motorcycle won't punch you in the back to complain that it's cold, hungry or tired.
*Your motorcycle will never get too drunk to ride.
*Your motorcycle might roll over on you but it will never turn state's evidence.
*Chrome is cheaper than diamonds!
*Your motorcycle only needs one pair of shoes at a time.
*Motorcycles never expect you to dress up. They don't even care if you wear clothes.

From Wooley via comments below.

*Your motorcycle will never ask if you will respect her in the morning.
*Your motorcycle will never ask where your going or when you'll be back.
*Your motorcycle will never get pissed because you called in sick so you can go ride.
*Your motorcycle could care less that you've been checking out all the new younger models.

Feel free to add your own reasons why motorcycles are better than women in the comments below.

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.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

When I Grow Up

Don't want to be a doctor
making lots of dough.
Don't want to be a lawyer
or a policeman on the go.
Don't want to be a scientist
or an astronaut, you know.
Don't want to be a preacher
or an actor in a show.
Don't want to be a farmer
with seeds always to sow.
Don't want to be a fireman
or a politician-- no...

When I grow up; find myself at last
I dream I'll just be scooter trash.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Run For The Border

Turn that screw and pass that wrench
or she'll not move another inch.
Fill the tank and lube the chain,
no one cares if you get stained.
The time has come, it's time to ride
so get 'er done, it's side by side
down the highway we'll soon go
all the way to Mexico.