Monday, September 18, 2006
300 Miles On
I've had a weekend to spend with my new stablemate, and here's a progress report.
The chassis is brilliant. While it's too long a stretch to the ground at a stoplight (and I've remedied this problem this morning with a lower seat), the moment you start moving any awkwardness vanishes utterly. The bike is very neutral and maneuverable, and the long-travel suspension easily sucks up anything you throw at it. In riding position and ride comfort it is a clear improvement over my last BMW.
The brakes are awesome, as expected. What I had forgotten about is now much a standard motorcycle--especially one with a long-travel front fork--dives forward with the weight shift of heavy braking. My BMW had an innovative front end that virtually eliminated brake dive, and it now feels a bit odd to have the chassis move around so much under braking. There doesn't seem to be any negative consequence of this, and indeed it's like every other motorcycle I've owned except for this last BMW.
My biggest question mark--the engine--seems to be growing on me. As I stated below, it has (a bit) more power than my last bike, and should be otherwise similar in riding characteristics--torque curve, power band, etc. But my BMW had no region in its rpm operating range where it seemed unhappy. This bike vibrates quite a bit at idle and up to about 2,500 rpms, beyond which it smoothes out comparable to my Beemer. One doesn't spend much time in this lower rpm zone, but you revisit it at each stoplight and whenever there is reason to slow the engine to idle. I suppose it's a question of whether one attributes the vibration to crudeness / lack of refinement, or to a necessary characteristic of this 45° V angle.
Maybe unexpectedly, I'm beginning to see the light. For we motorheads, an engine informs the entire machine, be it car or airplane or motorcycle. There is a huge dollop of personality invested throughout a machine like this from its powerplant, and nowhere more than with a motorcycle. And this engine simply overflows with personality. My BMW was similar, but its fuel injection was spottier. The Buell will pull strongly out of its low-rpm depths, vibration and all, and it keep on pulling as the revs climb, emitting quite the growl as it goes. In most normal riding, the RPMs sit in the 2,500-4,000 range, and this is a satisfying experience. The bike doesn't much care what gear you're in, and there is only the rising vibration as you slow to tell you to shift down--if you want; it's happy to lug. Overall, I didn't expect to like the motor, and I'm starting to think it a most worthy soul to the machine.
Lastly, the whole implementation is much better than I expected. The harmony of the suspension, front & rear, and the drivetrain refinement make for a really first-rate riding experience. I had somehow expected the bike to be no better than the sum of its parts, and I think that expectation was incorrect: several times over the weekend I was surprised at how invisible the machine was from an operational standpoint, how little adjustment I needed to make to accommodate Erik Buell's handiwork.