Thursday, September 13, 2012
Well, it's that time again, motorcycle time.
I've spent the last six years riding a couple nearly-identical Buell bikes, and realized last year that it was quite time for something new. Six years is the longest I've ever owned a single machine (the two models were mechanically almost identical, so I count them as a single bike). As with cars, I tend to get a bit restless with a bike after a couple years and pine for something new. But it's worse with motorcycles than with cars, as bikes are not essentially utilitarian in nature; almost none of the miles I put on a bike would be put on a car if I had no bike. The bike is its own activity, its own raison d'etre.
But what to buy next? My history with the Buell was an emotional one (covered in some detail in these pages; posts can be found under the "motorcycles" label on the right), and it took me much longer to be "over" that machine than any previous bike I'd owned. Something about the outsized personality coupled with really stellar functioning won me over again and again with every ride. But Buell is gone (for now) and life moves on.
Actually, its replacement really wasn't ever really in doubt. For the last three bike purchases I've had my eye on BMW's newest K-Bike, the K-1200 / K-1300 S or R model. But I always found the cost excessive when I'm able to ride it so little. When I learned last year of BMW's "3asy Ride" purchase plan, all obstacles were removed. (This plan affords a lease-like low payment with a balloon at the end, the balloon being approximately the residual value of the bike at the end of the term, which makes trading the bike in quick and painless.) Though the bike is nearly 50% more money than the Buell it's replacing, my payments actually go down a chunk. Nice.
So the specifics:
2012 K-1300S with Dymanic Package, which includes:
--Electronic Shift Assist (ESA)
--electronically adjustable suspension
--antilock brakes with partial integration--only the right hand lever need be used in normal ops.
--tire pressure monitoring
And there are a few other little goodies, like much more complete instrumentation than I'm used to, including an outside air temp indicator and trip / range meters and mileage calculator.
The bike also has a really unique suspension system, the only example of its kind on a production motorcycle (that I'm aware of). The front suspension, called a Hossack fork, is not actually a telescoping fork at all. Rather, a rigid fork attaches to the front tire and then connects to the bike's frame via a couple A-arms with a shock and spring between them (much like the front wheel of a car). The benefits of this arrangement are extreme rigidity and a complete separation of braking forces and suspension forces--that is, braking hard neither causes the bike to dive nor binds the suspension as happens in a telescoping fork. Very innovative. And also a little odd: this is the first bike I've owned where the handlebars do not connect to the forks directly. Rather, the bars connect to the forks via a scissor linkage. Odd. The rear suspension is not quite as innovative, but it has its technical wizardry as well: shaft drive bikes have a tendency for their drive wheels to pogo up and down with power changes, as the pinion gear of the shaft drive tries to "climb" up and down the ring gear at the back (one of the reasons that no race bike uses shaft drive, as under deceleration the bike loses precious cornering clearance). BMW solves this by putting an extra joint and stabilizing arm along the drive shaft. That all this is put into a single-sided swing arm is quite an engineering feat (and of course it's a beautiful piece of kit).
Oh yeah, and it makes 175 horsepower, so it goes like a cheetah with its tail on fire.
All of this adds up to something considerably more than the sum of its parts; there's just something exquisite about the whole. Though I've been very impressed with Erik Buell's craftsmanship, there is simply something singular about how BMW puts their machinery together--a concern for the very small details. It's almost like a piece of jewelry. Things like the Hassock fork would be found on very few machines, and it's typical of BMW to flex its engineering muscle in this way.
I think in addition to all this, I'm aware of having never owned a bike with an inline-four-cylinder motor and it's something I've specifically wanted. I've had two different Honda V-4s over the years, which have been finely-balanced, high-revving motors; but these have had riding and sonic characters much more similar to all the big twins I've owned than to the high-pitched whine of a race-bred, oversquare, inline-four. I realize that for many people--maybe most people--the configuration of the motor is of no interest whatsoever. But motorcycles exude so much more personality than cars do, and the sound and driving characteristics of the motor have a profound effect on the riding experience.
Much as I've loved my Buells (and I have well-informed rumors that we'll be hearing much more from Erik Buell in the near future!), his machinery could not be much further from this BMW. And I'm quite excited for the change. I pick it up this next week!