My first ride on a touring bike

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Last month when I hopped on my buddy’s Ohlins-suspended, Arrow-piped Multistrada 1100S, I actually thought it was a touring rig. Ha. Even with me and the lady parked on top of it, I think it weighed less than the Yamaha FJR with a full tank and empty bags. So what’s it like riding a real touring bike for the first time? Well, I still managed to get my knee down.

You don’t have to give up going fast.
I like to think of the FJR as the Millennium Falcon of motorcycles. Huge, gray, dated and lacking in the looks department. But, stealthy and brutally fast. Really. A 700 pound bike with saddle bags can be brutally fast. Just ask Adey (on his R1 that would be illegal in most superbike classes) and Wes (on a Moto Guzzi that’s way faster than it has any right to be) how hard of a time they had keeping up with me on Highway 39. 142bhp is still 142bhp. The bars and geometry make for a package that steers remarkably quickly, with very little effort and just a hint of understeer. The steering is actually lighter on the FJR than it is on my XR100. It was unnerving at first because I knew that the tires aren’t anything special and they’re carrying a lot of weight, but once I got used to making small, controlled inputs, I was doing U-turns like a motorcop with ease. Also, I’ll never be impressed anymore when I see those guys do that. Turns out it’s incredibly easy to make full-lock, full-lean U-turns on a bike that’s designed and setup for it. I’m getting sidetracked here. What I was going to tell you about was how easy it was hustle the bike in complete comfort. Hang off with proper GP-racer form and you can drag your knees with the best of em. Or just sit bolt upright and look slow. Your friends can catch up to you at the stop sign.

Touring bikes are big and heavy.
Seems obvious, right? With the quick steering and silent yet brutal acceleration, it’s easy to forget that this is a heavy bike. Think of a fat girl in a corset and heels: tiny waist, shapely boobs and butt, hustles on the dance floor. Get her home and naked and you’re in for a surprise. Just like I was when I tried to do a little stoppie.

My thinking went something like this: Squeeze the lever progressively harder and the back tire will leave the ground just like it always does. If it doesn’t and I run out of traction, the ABS should take care of that and no one will ever know. Well, the ABS kinda worked and I didn’t really crash, but I ended up stopped with my feet on the ground and the bike leaned over just a bit. No worries, just yank the bars and straighten things out. This is about the time when the corset comes off and you realize just how much heft you’re dealing with. I tried as hard as a could to hold that bike up, but it was no use. The best I could do was assist it in its decent to the ground. Yeah, I was the guy who dropped his touring bike at 0 mph. Luckily, it seems that Yamaha have designed garage-dropability right into the FJR and the only damage was a scratch on the mirror. Cool. Also big and heavy is the 1300cc motor that guzzles fuel like a frat boy doing a keg stand. Ouch.

Touring bikes are kinda lame.
But that’s not really a bad thing. Nobody will try to race you, motorcops smile and wave (this actually happened) and no one really pays any extra attention to you. Not even when you’re splitting lanes at a million miles per hour. Old guys walk up to compliment you on your sensible motorcycle. It’s comfy enough that the thought of riding 25 miles to home via the freeway, half-awake at 6:00am with my girlfriend on the back isn’t that bad. A big screen blocks the cold wind, heated grips keep your hands nice and toasty and the ergos make it so that absolutely zero effort is required from your end.

Cruisers are forever dead to me.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that with the bags off, a touring bike makes the perfect cruiser. Easy to ride in traffic, light handling and with plenty of power, a bike like this is perfect for cruising around town. I don’t understand why anyone would buy a slower, less capable, uncomfortable bike that makes a lot of noise and lacks both a fairing and adequate suspension travel.

A newfound respect.
I’ve ridden a lot of motorcycles. GSX-Rs, R6s, CBRs, ZX-10Rs, Ducati superbikes, and at least a few fast naked bikes. Despite the diversity, these are all machines designed for speed: they are meant to be as fast as possible while carrying a single rider dressed in a racing suit. A touring bike is designed to comfortably carry a rider, passenger and copious belongings, while still maintaining the go fast. The emphasis is still on performance; the rules have just been changed. Cruising around on the FJR provided creature comforts (I really kind of dig the auto-locking cubby hole) but still let me get my knee down. I’m not going to go out and buy myself a tourer tomorrow, but the idea of a ‘busa with hardbags and a tall screen is looking more and more appealing.

  • Thom

    Touring Bike as a Fat Lady in Corset – Not sure I’d agree with that analogy as there’s no extra ” Fat ” on an M/C like the BMW or this Yamaha. I’d say more Female Weightlifter or Boxer in a well fitting dress .

    Touring Bikes are Lame – Depends on your definition of ” lame ” If anything thats not a MotoGP replica is Lame than I guess you’re right . But since I wouldn’t agree with that for an instant and find a well sorted Touring bike to be infinitely more usable and enjoyable I’d say – Not Lame

    Cruisers are Dead to You – So how old are you ? Seriously to say that I’d guess 20′s – 30′s . Again you may not want a Cruiser but they have a distinct purpose as well as market and done right can bring on more SPM’s ( Smiles Per Miles ) than 90% of the Rice Rockets on 99% of the roads today . Slow down and smell the roses mate !

    ‘Busa ‘ with bags . Kind of defeats the purpose of both . Like attaching a Thoroughbred Race Horse to a Plow . Sounds a lot hipper than in truth it would be .

    In closing we’re all not Adrenaline Junkies . As well as some of us having outgrown the need to be so .

    • Sean Smith

      Ha, the busa isn’t and will never be a sportsbike. It’s big and comfy like a tourer, and it’s even got rubber on the pegs. It’s pretty fast though, and with bags and a taller screen, it would make an ideal long-haul good-time machine. Still very very fast, but capable of a carrying enough stuff for a week of camping in the middle of nowhere.

      Sounds like maybe you read only the bold and missed the sarcasm and humor. ;)

      • Peter88

        I thought of the ‘busa fitted with Corbin hard luggage. The old man’s sportbike indeed!

      • Thom

        If thats the case ( missed the sarcasm ) my apologies .

        Still not sure I can get my head around a ‘Busa ‘ w/bags .

        But then again last week there was a Ducati 750SS with the sweetest pair of custom made bags ( as well as one sweet rider ) at the Quail that had my head turned . So much for preconceptions .

      • Kevin

        Tim from Pashnit ( is all about touring on the Busa.

    • a hipster

      i’ll give you your first point, it’s not unnecessarily fat.

      touring bikes ARE lame. the entire article was about how enjoyable and useful the bike was and that the user experience of this bike was both fun and practical. BUT, who honestly finds these attractive? you might find the things that it provides attractive, but is anyone really excited about how this bike looks? sport bikes are very stylish (if you’re into that sort of thing) and the same goes with cafe’s or bobbers, but with bikes like these big tourers or dirtbikes, you’re looking for the bike with the best features that is the least hideous.

      wanting a bike you can cruise on and “cruisers” are very different and you will have a hard time showing me the distinct purpose of a cruiser. go for it, and there’s almost guaranteed to be a bike that will do it better (like the tourer in the article above that will cruise better than a cruiser). people buy cruisers because they’ve had a few too many sips of the HD kool-aide and like the way they look (it’s ok to admit it, it’s the same reason i own a bonneville).

      A Busa with bags doesnt sound hip. it’s sounds kinda like an fjr.

      The point wasn’t that the bike was awesome because you could do track days on it. It was that the FJR is an all-around awesome bike that does multiple things (including going fast) well.

      But what do I know, this is all just some hipster-nonsense.

      • Kevin

        I think sport tourers can be really good looking bikes. It’s the tall-rounders (GS, Multistrada, etc.) that I think look like ass on two wheels. But what I do appreciate about those bikes is that form follows function, so they’re like a woman who you wouldn’t call pretty but you love anyway because she checks so many of the other boxes.

        • a hipster

          exactly, you love them for the other boxes, but they AREN”T PRETTY.

          • Wes Siler

            Yeah, it’s way easier just dating pretty girls.

            • Mark D

              That’s debatable.

              • Thom

                No , seriously , its not ( dating pretty girls )

                My score card in my youth included ;

                French Playboy Centerfold

                Ford Agency tier two model

                Prima Ballerina from major company …. etc.

                Great for maybe the first four months . Then ….. Well Dante’s Inferno comes to mind .

                All High maintenance . All self obsessed . All in the end a pain in the ass . Go for the decent looking gal , with something other than hairspray between her ears .

                Trust me .

                • Ben Incarnate

                  Once you’re ready for something with staying power, at least. Until then, trying to ignore looks a lesson in futility.

                • Dumptruckfoxtrot

                  I like the ones I can categorize like dog breeds and compare to objects.

            • sean

              don’t make me post pictures, wesley.

    • mugget

      Slow down…?

      This guy is trying to ruin all my fun!!

      • Thom

        Slow down once and a while . Not always . Not on track .

  • motoguru

    And this is why I’ve always said we all need a Sprint ST in the garage…

    • HammSammich

      Been thinking about that for a while too…plus that triple sounds so sweet!

    • Mark D

      Older ones are surprisingly cheap. ~$4k for a 2002 on CL.

      • motoguru

        ’99-’04 are where it’s at for sure.

        • JaySD

          What year did they update the look? Is that the 995? You think that is superior to the 1050?

          • motoguru

            ’05 went to new look and bump to 1050. They’re all excellent bikes, I just like the 955′s better. More comfortable, better looking, and so on…

    • Mr.Paynter

      I did a Triumph Open day this last weekend and I must say the Sprint ST looked nimble and comfortable in motion but too big and bulky standing still, and my mate who did ride it confirmed my suspicions, but I feel that way about all of these tourers right now!

      I did see the guy in front of me drop it at 0mph in front of the shop which was awkward, the lean, to shaky legs to slow drop.
      I was on a Daytona and it tooke me just a few too many seconds to get the stand down to go help him keep it up!

      • HammSammich

        “looked nimble and comfortable in motion but too big and bulky standing still…”

        I think this can apply to a lot of Triumph’s bikes. The Daytona and Street/Speed Triples aside, they make some pretty heavy bikes, but their handling is generally really good. I had a chance to ride a friend’s ’05 ST, and it was a blast. A great mix of top end power and mid-range torque, and the handling was fantastic (notably, this is coming from a guy who rides a Bonnie, so maybe my perceptions of handling are not necessarily valid). As far as weight goes, the bike feels really well balanced, and handles great in the twisties. At a stop I didn’t notice the weight much either, but with the sizable fairing extending out in front of you, you do get the sense of it’s girth.

  • Archer

    ” I don’t understand why anyone would buy a slower, less capable, uncomfortable bike that makes a lot of noise and lacks both a fairing and adequate suspension travel.

    Because, silly man, those who would buy such bikes would look even sillier with the usual assless chaps and fringe.

    You see, all the chrome, sturm, und drang of a Piratical Special causes you to blink and look away, reducing the visual impact of assless chaps.

    On the FJR, the enhanced visibility of said chaps would mentally damage 7 year olds for life.

    Think of the children.

    • Thom

      So true so true .

      Can you just imagine picturing a 300 lb , Beer Gut , Butt crack in the wind Behemoth crunched up on a RepliRacer ?

      Never mind . Do yourself a favor and don’t imagine that picture . I’ll be having nightmares the rest of the week for coming up with that one .

      • Kirill

        I have seen this very thing on a Hayabusa.

      • Sean Smith

        I’m actually friends with that guy on facebook. He rides a white R6 with half a headlight in dickies and a hoodie. You can find him up on the snake on sunny weekends showing off his skills.

    • Gregory

      Hasn’t it already been determined that “ass-less chaps” is redundant? Doesn’t “chaps”, by definition, mean a cover for only the front part of your legs?

      • Ben Incarnate

        Nope, that’s still up for debate, Gregory.

      • Wes Siler

        I think “Assless Chaps” is the only appropriate terminology. I mean, if people are going to wear such a ridiculous, impractical and blatantly homoerotic item of clothing, we MUST do everything we can to mock them at all times, right?

      • Ax

        “Assless chaps” = wearing chaps with nothing beneath them.

  • Myles

    I hope Sean hates cars as much as I do, otherwise he’s “kind of lame”.

    This machine will dominate nearly every massed produced four-wheeled vehicle performance wise – and that’s before even considering all the intangibles that car dorks harp on all the time. “steering feel”, “connection with the road”, all that garbage. A cage never compares to a bike, even if the cage is “sporty” and “hard-edged” even a “touring” bike like the FJR dominates.

    HFL – you should do a big article calling out all the pussies who are “auto-enthusiasts” but won’t touch a bike. The nerds who spend mad dough tuning a GTI to race in a parking lot but won’t swing a leg over a real machine because they “aren’t bike guys”. Show them how easy it is to start riding, and explain that a literbike they can buy on craigslist for a few grand will walk on the M3 they’ve been lusting after. Or how a wr250 with superbike tires can dominate anything one a tight course. Cross-post with Jalopnik?

    • HammSammich

      It is possible to like bikes and cars…just saying…

      For me, it’s not possible to only ride a bike, and when I’m in a car, I much prefer to have one with good “steering feel” and good brake pedal feedback, etc.

    • Sean Smith

      It’s not that I hate cars, it’s just that I can’t make myself care about them anymore. I sold my RX-7 for a pennies last week, and my Integra is up on CL right now. It’s got a hot-rod B16 in it with all sorts of trick go-fast parts, but it’s still absolutely lame compared to my XR100. All I want in a car these days is a nice stereo, good gas mileage, room to carry a serious amount of stuff, and a quiet pipe and boring gray paint job to keep the cops off my ass.

      There’s really not much point to owning a performance car once you’ve tasted morotcycling. I mean, sure, race cars are a ton of fun, but they’re strictly rich-guy toys.

      • vegetablecookie

        Totally agree. I’ve never been a car guy, but I can see how bikes would ruin that for ya.

        Your post reminds me, a few days ago I pulled up to a light and next to me sat a Porsche GT3 with a roll cage. Driver: Rich looking old guy. All I could think was, “Wow, you’re probably one of the few out here that could give me a run for my money”.

      • Ceolwulf

        Took the exact same path myself.

      • rohorn

        You don’t want a car – you want a van. At least they haul bikes (the right kind of bike – the ones without license plates). They do everything you listed except the mileage part.

        Oh yes – just for fun, I safety wired my old K100RT – it was always fun whenever someone pointed it out and started talking about that. No, it never touched the track, but it was fun making it look that part.

        Sport tourers don’t provide a whole lot of excitement, the rider provides the excitement. I can see why boring people wouldn’t like them.

        • Sean Smith

          Shhh. You’re gonna creep people out talking like that. I DO want a van. Maybe it’ll look like Mr. T’s van; black, bad-ass and sporting cool looking pipes. Maybe it’ll be like the Mystery Machine. Or maybe it’ll be whatever cheap and generic windowless white rape van I can find.

          For what they are, vans are pretty good. The enclosed back means better gas mileage and quieter than pickup trucks, and you can leave your flashy looking race bike locked up nice and safe in the back. And with a van no one is ever going to wonder if you secretly want to lift it, bolt on gigantic tires and paint flames on the side.

          • 80-wattHamster

            Full size vans don’t have any better fuel economy than pickups, and can be considerably worse since they don’t bother with fancy things like cylinder deactivation and six speed transmissions on vans. They’re not any quieter either; louder if anything because of more doors and windows to generate wind noise.

        • Mark D

          +1. Minivans are awesome. Pack them full of drums, sufr boards, camping gear, dead hookers, whatever. Cheap as hell, and if you commute on your bike, the so-so MPGs don’t really matter. Those Mazada minivans are baller for the secure-in-their-penis-size active set.

        • Ax

          “Sport tourers don’t provide a whole lot of excitement, the rider provides the excitement. I can see why boring people wouldn’t like them.”

          +1. All this “exciting looks”, “form over function”, “fat vs pretty” stuff is rather shallow. To each his own.

      • David

        You’ll find that people take up motorcycling for a wide variety of reasons.

        I like going fast in cars, taking corners quickly, going to the track, etc. I don’t like going very fast on bikes. I enjoy more the sounds, smells, sense of adventure of gearing up. I find it very zen in how I concentrate just on riding.

        Also, no disrespect but “B16″ and “hot-rod” I think are mutually exclusive. Don’t care how much boost it’s running.

      • mugget

        Right on. I just can’t justify buying a car.

        But I will buy a cheap van, for the sole purpose of taking my bike to the tracks that are further afield.

    • Wes Siler

      We’ve got something like that in the works :)

  • Anthony Wayne

    I get you, Sean! To hell with these old farts! Seriously though, I’ve been riding my dads BMW RT to work (130 mile round-trip) and damn! It’s a hell of a lot nicer than doing it on my other bikes.

  • Dumptruckfoxtrot

    I’ve ridden around a ST1100 for about a week before and while they’re fun, they lack a sense of visceral excitement. Of course maybe the extra 40 hp on that FJR changes things considerably.

    I’ve seen touring Busas before, I’d love to get one too.

    • Sean Smith

      The FJR is actually notable for it’s lack of excitement. I really like that nothing short of crashing the thing creates any real drama. Sure it’s blazing fast, but not in an exciting way that keeps you on your toes.

      While this isn’t a ton of fun for a rider that goes out on a Sunday to ride his dangerous motorcycle real fast and prove himself as a man, it’s great for people that have places to go and stuff to do. You don’t have to think about riding the bike anymore than is absolutely necessary. It’s awesome.

      • Kevin

        I read about a guy who logged 40,000 miles touring on a Burgman 400. Wouldn’t be my choice, but would I take that over a car? Yeah, probably.

        • JaySD

          CBR1100XX Black Bird seems more popular for the super touring cruise missile set

          • Sean Smith

            Ray Fitzpatrick had a 173 mph, GPS confirmed top speed on his before he sold it. Bad ass bike.

  • T Diver

    Do saddle bags help balance your wheelies?

    • Sean Smith

      Yup. I didn’t learn that on the FJR though. I found that out on my first long-haul trip on the GSX-R. Loaded down with camera gear, clothes for 5 days, and a complete set of extra riding gear, I whacked it open in first gear at 50mph and the front end came up so fast I almost looped it out.

      • T Diver

        Nice. There is something magical about seeing people do crazy shit on a bike that looks otherwise. I had no idea people had such strong opinions about Busas.

  • damien

    The only thing uglier than a touring bike is a Busa.

  • jonoabq

    Leave the hard bags on all the time, flog it as often as possible…to the majority of the cops its just not a real target. That all by itself is a very large box to check. The other fun is sitting bolt upright like a cop and running up on knee draggers on the mountain roads, always good for a chuckle.

  • Jeromy

    My question is do you drag your foot pegs on the FJR? I ride an old ST 1100 as if it was a sport bike and the only problem I have ever had keeping up with my friends on their faster sport bikes is when at 95mph my foot peg makes contact with the ground. I have tried to use GP-racer form but metal touches long before I can take advantage of the additional lean. If you tell me the FJR has pegs high enough to avoid this problem I’ll be in the market to get myself one.

    • Wes Siler

      You do, but if you get off far enough you can touch a knee first. The FJR is considerably more sporting than the ST 1100 though. Also check out the K1600GT.

    • Sean Smith

      I dragged the pegs, the my knee touched down first. I was hanging WAY off though, and it was more to say I did it, and less for actual speed. If you bought this bike and flogged it hard, you’d need new pegs from time to time.

  • Courtney

    You guys sound like young uns. Ever heard about the Concours 14 ? Similar but more power than the FJR. Its a beast w 155 HP and in the hands of a capable rider, will give your average squid on a liter bike the fits. Although all day comfy, its too heavy for me, so I have a ZX 14 outfitted w hard bags. It will rip your arm off at speed,handles and purrs likes a pussycat, and I can load it up and go camping too. I love cars and have nothing against them except for the people that drive them. I will probably replace my car, since I need it for work, but nothing makes me feel alive like my bicycles and motorcycles.

  • Courtney

    Wes…that was a great piece…I think it was the first thing I read on this site. How come you guys no longer do those spreads? That layout was really refreshing. Still is.

    • Wes Siler

      We still do them, they’re just a shit ton of work and we’re producing an awful lot of content these days.

      • Courtney

        I hear ya man. I don’t know how you do it, but keep it coming. Love the site.

        • Wes Siler

          I’m writing a fun story for you guys as we speak.

  • mugget

    Haha – that’s cool stuff!

    So it looks like my turbo ‘Busa plan is not so crazy afterall? Travelling in comfort with crazy speed just one twist away. Let’s go!

    Edit to add: looking at the photos that go with this article I think there needs to be a followup to the “knee down” article about how to do stretches and get flexible enough so a guy can spread his legs that far!

    • Sean Smith

      When you’re 6 feet and 160, you’re just naturally this flexible.

  • Scott

    Any plans to post your thoughts on the griso se pictured above? As a griso owner I’d love to read your impression. Cheers.

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, tonight or tomorrow.

      • Cheese302

        looking forward to it. LOVE the griso.

  • Steven

    I want a Pacific Coast. Fuck panniers. Give me a trunk.

    • Ax

      My Yamaha Majesty gets snubbed bigtime since it’s “only a scooter”, but I can carry two full-faced helmets (or the equivalent) under the seat. Makes it feasible to not own a four-wheeler – which I don’t.

    • JaySD

      I see a dude on a sprint ST every couple days with the side bags off and just a givi trunk on the back. Lane split with ease and still have storage

  • Gregory

    Wouldn’t a Honda NT700v do all this… and not weigh a ton? Less is more, no?

    Portland, OR
    2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

    • Sean Smith

      All except for the 146 hp part. The suspension is pretty terrible on the NT700V too. They found that stuff in a shed of old parts that weren’t good enough to use back in the 80s.