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Posted: August 15th, 2012

Last week we talked about certain upgrades I made to my Fat Bob, specifically air intakes, Dynojet’s Power Vision and a touched a little bit on my exhaust of choice.  The exhaust that I chose for my bike was actually one that you, the reader, chose for me earlier this year in a poll – the Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 1.  

This exhaust combines really sharp looks with the significant performance boost brought on by most 2 into 1′s.  I looked initially at getting a 2 into 2 but the anticipated power gain of about 5 HP and 4 TQ over stock left me a little dry.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see the 2-1 Big Radius pulls in about 10-12 more HP and 10-12 more Torque over stock – just what I needed at the time, lol.  Retailing for $719.95 it’s actually a pretty fair price, considering that it is a full exhaust system and gives you access to V&H’s incredible Tech Support.

If you really need to go with a traditional 2-2 exhaust you can always choose Vance and HinesBig Shots Staggered“.  They look terrific as an old-school 2-2 but have this power chamber that gives them almost as much power as a 2-1.  My buddy actually report an 8HP gain and about 7 lbs of torque over stock.  I’m not sure what air cleaner he went with or the dyno he used but by the seat of the pants it felt about as good as my Fat Bob, with much more traditional sound.  At $624.95 these are even less expensive than the Big Radius 2-1, and a really strong alternative given the combo of looks and power.

I’m a big fan of Vance and Hines, primarily because of the fit,  finish and performance but also because of their pricing and availability.  Just about anyone in town can hook you up with their products, although I know for a fact that you can get them at Precision Bikeworks where you can also have the whole set-up dyno-tuned too.

Vance and Hines also make pipes for more than just Harleys, I would definitely check them out.

Ride safe,

Rob

Posted: August 7th, 2012

What I loved about my Fat Bob is that being a Harley the world is my oyster when it comes to customization.  I mean seriously, there are like a million different manufacturers, even small one-off places.  For example there’s Horsepower, Inc – where they make their own custom performance upgrades including a terrific air cleaner system.  I compared this against the stock air cleaner, a Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle Air Cleaner and the Vance and Hines VO2 NakedAir Intake, with a decorative cover that just reeked of quality.

They all had a significant improvement in power and responsiveness over stock, but I was happy to see that the Home Team did really well – it tied with the Vance and Hines for best horsepower improvement, and totally crushed the competition when it came to torque where the Horsepower V2 came in at a whopping 96 lbs compared to 93 for the Vance and Hines and 90 for the Harley.  Just to be fair, the Harley unit tested here was the entry level one and the Horsepower unit the priciest by quite a bit.  If you’re on a little bit of a budget, but want to get great bang for your buck the Vance and Hines comes in at $139.95 for the intake and you can re-use your cover.  Their rather splendid looking cover  comes in at just $50 and really does a good job of making the bike stand out.  If you’re like me and are itching to squeeze every ounce of performance you can out of your bike without having to shell out the really big bucks that an engine upgrade costs then I really do recommend the Horsepower unit.  They actually have two versions, so you can save a little if you go with their more basic one.

Did I go with the Horespower unit?

Well no I didn’t actually – but that’s because I’m in love with those forward facing bad-a$$ air intakes, like the Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather.  It’s a little pricey at $299 but the good thing is that it performs very well.  On a different Dyno than the other intakes, it came in second with 95 lbs of torque and first in horsepower.  I kept it on there for looks though – I just think it’s awesome looking.  But the fact that it’s near the top in terms of power certainly doesn’t hurt.

Forgetting about dyno sheets for a minute and talking about real world feedback all three intakes really make a heck of a difference.  I didn’t get to ride the Fat Bob with the Horsepower Intake but I rode a friend’s Street Bob and it felt really strong – as did the Heavy Breather that I did ride on my own bike.  The basic Harley air cleaner kit and the Vance and Hines kit both felt good, and again the Vance and Hines gets my cote for bang for the buck.  There were quite a few more upgrades done – we’ll talk about those in the next few weeks, but what really brought everything together was adding in a Power Vision by Dynojet and having Eric at Horsepower custom Dyno-Tune it.  I’ve used Eric and the team before on several bikes but this time he really outdid himself.  The difference was amazing and the bike ran cooler, smoother and more efficiently than before.

I chose the Power Vision over their Power Commander V for a couple of reasons.  First off the new Power Vision seems to be a lot more powerful than the PCV.  If I were to do the tune myself, which the PCV certainly makes easy, I’d probably go with that one.  Since I had the bike dyno tuned though I figured I’d go all out and get the Power Vision, which competes very well with Harley Davidson’s Super Tuner.  Whether you have a simple pipe, fuel manager and intake deal or you crack the motor open and get really busy a good dyno tune really gets things going.  The other key component I added in was Dynojet’s Autotune module.  This incredible product let’s me basically take Eric on the road with me wherever I go.  What I mean is that it learns from my riding style, environmental changes, etc, and auto-corrects the program.  Even better, if I add (or remove) any equipment it will learn from that too and get my map just right.  Dynojet states that you don’t even need to have a professional tuner work on your bike, but as far as I’m concerned the best starting point is working with a pro like Eric and letting the Autotune go from there.

Horsepower, Inc. is one of two (that I know about) Dynos in the area, with the other being at Precision Bikeworks.  I haven’t given them a chance yet as far as Dyno work goes, but I’ve heard good things. Either way dialing your bike in properly is a smart move and you’ll thank me for it if you do.

Next time we’ll talk about the exhaust upgrade and what an amazing improvement over stock it was in terms of both power and sound.  You guys voted for it – the Vance and Hines Big Radius 2 into 1.

The great things about all of the products I mention here today is that they are super easy to find locally.  Our sponsor, Precision Bikeworks/Triumph of Erie can get them, as well as many other places around town.

In the meantime be well and ride safe,

Rob

 

Posted: November 23rd, 2011

I haven’t mentioned this in the euphoria of getting a second bike, or maybe I’m just too depressed to bring it out in the open, but I dropped my Moto Guzzi.

Yep, I dumped it right in my driveway. In fact it came within a few inches of hitting my Yamaha and sending that into my car. That would have really sucked. Anyway it was the day after I picked up the Strat. I was cleaning them both up in the drive way and was sitting on the Griso, polishing up the handlebars — then I got off.

I thought I had the kickstand all the way down, but the bike obviously disagreed and wham, there it went.

I tried to hold on and save it, but there was very little room to operate between the two bikes and all I could do was keep the tank off the ground. Luckily my kid was breaking rocks in the back yard and came to help me up.  Picking a bike up by yourself isn’t easy, but there are ways to do it. There’s a bunch of places you can look but I like this article on how to get back up solo.

The damage was pretty light, but happened on quite a few parts of the bike so I knew I was going to be in trouble.

The exhaust was scratched up, pegs, levers, mirror, engine guard and more. I rode it over to Crolli on Edinboro Road and let Jeff take a look. There’s lot’s of great independent bike shops in Erie by the way, great dealers too, but I really love Crolli’s . He’s patient with my motor-mouth, knows his stuff and goes the extra mile. If I couldn’t pick the bike up he would have come and picked it up on his way to the shop – and probably not charged me.

It took a little work and I was able to get a quote from a Guzzi dealer in Seattle – the ones in Williamsville, NY and in Toledo, OH actually refused to give me repair quotes telling me I probably wouldn’t order from them anyway. Crazy huh? These guys in Seattle – Moto International – have a tremendous reputation and when I called up the Parts guy Tony was more than happy to help with my quote, getting parts numbers and prices very quickly.

Thank heaven for insurance – $4,200 was the total! I thought for sure the insurance adjuster from GEICO would total the bike but he looked it over and approved everything. I’m upgrading some of the parts with after-market, but everything else I’m getting right from Tony.

I’m not sure what his margins are but for an hour or two of checking his shop is going to make a few hundred I’m sure in profit of the parts I’m buying – and they deserve it. Anyway it’s going to take like – forever – to get all the parts so I am extremly grateful I have a bike for my favortie riding time of the year, along with Spring and Summer, but I’m incredibly inpatient and already am stressing out about getting my Griso back.

A YouTube video on picking up a bike solo:

Posted in: Motorcycles, My bikes
Posted: November 21st, 2011

For those of you that might not remember, I purchased a Stratoliner S from a dealership in Philadelphia a few weeks back.  This is the story of how I got the bike home.

The day started with a 9:30 AM flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Pittsburgh has a pretty nice airport – some cool shops, better than usual airport food and, best of all, no line at security. With a helmet bag in one hand and what seemed like a week’s worth of gear in the other I was sure that I would get a bit of a hard time, but as I walked up the agent asked me what kind of bike I was picking up and where – cool.

We talked for a minute then I made my way through the scanners and onto the little train that takes you to the gates. I felt a little self-conscious standing there in my River Road Taos jacket and mis-matched touring boots, but it was kinda fun getting all that attention. Oh yeah, mis-matched boots…why? Well, I originally I wanted to bring along a pair of Rev’it Rival H2O boots and a pair of Sidi Stivali Way Rain boots for a comparison but my carry-on was getting so big that I just put on one of each. Frankly it was the best of both worlds, as I could really test them out at the exact same time in the same situation. Both boots were exceptionally comfortable and full of terrific features but I will actually talk about that in an upcoming post.

Anyway, I almost missed my plane window-shopping and had to run through the airport as they paged my name. I was that guy! As I got on the plane and made it to my seat I could feel all eyes upon me, as if I was to blame for anything that could go wrong in the next forty-eight hours. Even the flight attendants were giving me the fish-eye – one made a big deal about my bag despite the fact that there was no one in front of, next to or behind me.  But that all passed pretty quickly and I arrived in Philly a little bit later.

It was easy for the driver from Hannum’s Harley Davidson to find me – the ten year old SUV with Harley Logos all over would have been easy to spot too. The drive gave me a chance to learn more about the kid – he confessed he actually preferred Metrics to Harleys – and about a half-hour later it looked like we were going back to the airport.

“Umm, I was accidentally going to my house” the kid said.

Maybe I should of kept my mouth shut and not distracted him.  Not a big deal because a few minutes later we pulled into the really cool dealership. There was a sea of Harley out front, along with a really cool Ducati Multistrada that they were selling for a song. I was ushered in to see “JR” – the general manager – and he worked up my deal and pointed me to a good Cheese Steak place on the way home. (It wasn’t bad but I should have gone into town for one of the big-boys).

The guys at the dealership gave me a little good-natured ribbing at the bags of gear I was carrying, assuring me that the absolutely gorgeous weather would make my chaps, River Road Taos pants and jacket, First Gear Electric jacket liner and gloves, neck-gator, and emergency long-johns barely even an afterthought.

There were some really beautiful Harleys at the dealership, but when they rolled out that Black Cherry Stratoliner S I knew I had made the right decision. Chrome was everywhere, and it was also decked out for touring with leather-covered hard bags, a quick release windshield and a passenger back-rest with luggage rack.

I actually listened to the guys at the dealership and put all my gear except for my trusty Rev’it Summit H2O water-proof gloves, River Road Taos ¾ length touring jacket (replete with armor and warmth liner), and Bell Star Carbon helmet (with incredible transition lens of course!) into the saddle-bags, which were far more spacious than they looked. I didn’t linger once I was loaded up as I was eager for the road – and that cheese steak.

I’ve had a couple of cruisers – a 2007 Harley Davidson Road King Custom that I loved, a 2009 Super Glide Custom that I liked, and a BMW R1200C that wasn’t really mine but I liked to pretend it was for all the time it was in my garage. After those three bikes I was ready for some pretty understated performance out of the Strat, despite all I had read to that point.

Once again I was wrong; instead of making do with around 67 HP and 80 pounds of torque like my King (when it was stock!), the Strat was putting down just over 80HP and almost 110 pounds of torque. Don’t get all crazy now – at 800 pounds even those numbers don’t make the big Yamaha a drag specialist but it certainly was no slouch. Acceleration was brisk and smooth and available at just about any time. The bike had a stock exhaust but it was by far the best sounding stock exhaust I have EVER heard. It was menacing and deep and had just the right amount of bark when I hit the throttle, but when I rode past a State Trooper standing outside of her car, she just waved me by.

The weather at the start of the ride was beautiful. It was sunny, warm, clear – and 3 in the afternoon. Fast forward three hours on the turnpike and it was getting cold!

Sure my feet were toasty (Sidi a little warmer than Rev’it) and my head, hands and torso fine, but my legs were FREEZING, despite the long-johns. Remember one of the most important rules of riding – make sure your body is as well equipped for a trip as the bike.

It didn’t matter that the only things cold were my legs; that cold started to creep in everywhere else and really tried to lessen my enjoyment. I pulled over at a rest area threw on my chaps and long johns, and then promptly pulled over at the next rest area an hour later to do things the right way. This time I used the First Gear Heated Jacket Liner, First Gear Heated Gloves (the regular ones not the armored carbon ones), River Road Taos Pants, and my neck gator.

Wow! What a difference the right gear makes.

The Taos pants were extremely warm, with a removable full-length liner. These pants were comfortable too, with protective armor that, for me, was in exactly the right spots. I will say that you should probably buy a size larger than you normally would – same thing goes for the jacket. The jacket and pants together were really cool looking too, and did not give the appearance of costing $300 for both. They really were very well-made and it looked like a lot of attention was given to making sure that they had the right features, like CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows, foam armor pad in the back. The aforementioned liners, reflective piping, adjustable cuffs and pretty decent venting.

The best thing about this excellent combination is that you can get River Road locally, right at OffRoad Express East. The gator was a $5 special from last year’s Motorcycle show in Cleveland but really make a difference – extreme cold on your neck feels like an icy wire wrapped around your adam’s apple ready to slice your head right off.

McDLT

Click the image to see the commercial starting Jason Alexander

All this was great but the star of the show was the First Gear heated jacket liner and heated gloves. The Gloves plug into the liner, and the liner plugs into the bike (unless you have a stock power outlet your bike will need some minor modding). You use a wireless heat-roller – dual or single – to regulate the temperatures and then forget about it till you get home. I turned them both up all the way – the gloves actually felt very neutral but the jacket liner was HOT! I liked it—I kinda felt a little bit like a McDLT – that burger from the 80′s that kept the hot meat on one side and the lettuce and tomato on the other: my favorite burger (sniff). I wish they’d bring that back instead of the McRib, although I do like that one too! Anyway,

I digress; my apologies…

The marketing guru from First Gear actually chided me a bit – I should have set the jacket to a lower temperature. It’s not about sweating, it’s about neutralizing the elements, but that warmth felt really good. I attribute the extreme comfort provided by all this weather-appropriate gear as the reason I was able to do the 400 miles in one shot, instead of spending the night somewhere in the middle.

It got a little hairy around Pittsburgh – I was getting tired – but Five Hour Energy and Snickers make a good combo. I got home around 1:00 in the morning and stayed up till 4:30 watching the Military Channel.

This trip may have been a little shorter and a little less extreme than my planned trip to Wisconsin would have been, but I’m glad as my gear would not have been appropriate. Even the River Road Taos pants would have needed a little help in the way of maybe a heated pants liner and socks had the weather been ten or twenty degrees colder.

First Gear is available at OffRoad Express West, over on Peach – and since both First Gear and River Road are both distributed through Tucker-Rocky you should be able to get them in quite a few more places too.  I’ve gotten Tucker-Rocky at Harley Davidson of Erie and I’m pretty sure I did at Street Track and Trail down in Meadville too.

Ride smart and ride safe…

Posted: October 25th, 2011

The new Valkyrie

I have to say I am really impressed with buying bikes from dealers in Erie.  For the most part the dealers are all exceptionally good – in fact all but one really went to the limit to help me find the right bike.I’ve been having the itch to get a cruiser since Roar on the Shore.  I’ve loved the Harley Fat Bob, with its sick twin headlights and chubby tires since it first came out in 2008. I also really like the Triumph Thunderbird Storm – also with twin headlights but maybe a little less chub.

Since these guys are both relatively new they are pretty pricey, so I figured I would sell my beloved Moto Guzzi Griso to soften the blow a little bit.
Harley of Erie didn’t have any used Fat Bobs, but I was able to find two really nice ones at Offroad Express – oddly enough one at each location.  They had an extremely nice red one at the Wattsburg store, with a windshield, aftermarket exhaust and some other little upgrades.  The Peach Street store had a black one with about 1500 miles that was stuck other than an aftermarket slip-on.  Since they were within a couple hundred dollars in price, I focused on the black one with the lower miles.  They encouraged me to ride it and it really was a great ride, although it could have been a little more spirited.Now I had to ride a Thunderbird Storm.  Problem number one:  no local dealer.  The nearest dealer was either in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, so I trekked over to the Cleveland one and took theirs for a spin.  They made me promise to keep the ride short, but otherwise were pretty friendly.  This thing was a beast.  It handled amazingly well, looked great and had a ton of power.  Problem number two:  even though the Storm did just about everything better than the Harley there was just something missing, some bit of soul that the Harley had in spades. But to get the Harley up to the Storm’s performance level it would cost me a mint.
Hmm…  What to do?
I was sitting on my porch watching my kid mow (he’s to the point where he won’t let me mow at all because he says I don’t do it as well as he does – I feel a little Tom Sawyer guilty but didn’t say anything) and I see one of my neighbors ride by on his Valkyrie.  Wow, it was crazy- the thing looked gigantic but he seemed to handle it extremely capably.  I’ve always known a little about the bike but was shocked to hear that it did, indeed, have a six cylinder motor.  It also had a huge, extremely loyal following and a string of incredible reviews.
I looked online and in the paper and found one for sale right in town, privately, and setup an appointment.  Got there just after dark, and just as I got it on the road it started to pour.  I’m not afraid of rain but I didn’t feel comfortable on someone else’s bike in those conditions so I brought it back after a few minutes.  From the little I got to ride it though, it was incredible.  I went over to my neighbor’s house a few days later to find out a little bit more about the Valk and not only did he fill me in but sent me off to ride it.  I was so impressed that I figured the Valkryie would satisfy my cruiser itch and hopefully be inexpensive enough so that I could keep my Griso to boot (especially since my Griso has been over at Horsepower, Inc. getting tuned for the past few weeks – it would suck to sell it before I got to appreciate everything that Eric did to make it shine).New problem:  while there’s plenty of dealer support for the big Honda in Erie there are only two for sale in the whole area.  One at Forest Park with like 85,000 miles and the one I rode in the rain.
Forest Park was great and offered to send me out for a ride but even though everything I’ve read about the Valk says it is bullet-proof and that it goes to well into the six figures in terms of mileage I felt a little uncomfortable.  The one being sold by the guy was great, but he was pretty firm on price.
I called every other dealer in town to see if they had one, but sadly, no one did.  One salesperson was prompt to tell me what a “piece of junk” a Valkyrie is and that I should buy their bike instead.  Mind boggling.  I expanded my search, expanded it a little bit more (and then a little more) and found one near Milwaukee.  Yes the one in Wisconsin.
It’s not that I didn’t find some great ones in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, it’s the fact that it is exactly the color I want (blue and white) and it has everything just about that I would want – five or six thousand miles, windshield, aftermarket pipes, a little extra chrome and a terrific price.
Best part – it’s about nine hours away and I get to stop in Chicago for some pizza and dogs and take an awesome road trip.  I’m going to fly up next weekend and ride it down – they are even picking me up at the airport, which is like an hour and a half away.
I am very excited that I will be able to keep my Griso and still fulfill my cruiser itch at the same time.
Posted in: My bikes

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