Rider Magazine, April 2019

Cover of the April 2019 issue of Rider magazine.
Cover of the April 2019 issue of Rider magazine.

The Honda NC750X seems like a good buy, but I don’t want the silly DCT. I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1976. I know how and like to shift. But also, I won’t buy a new bike without ABS! An NC750X with ABS and a standard transmission would be a great bike to add to my stable. If I wanted DCT I’d buy a scooter.

Steve R., via email

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First off I was honored to be chosen as the February Letter of the Month person. Secondly, A. C. Reeves’ correction to my letter (Response, April 2019) is absolutely correct. I appreciate that he read my letter and appreciate his accuracy. I quoted the number of provinces as 11 in the interest of efficiency to get to the main point of my letter. A.C., I would love to ship my VTX to Hawaii for a ride with you. I did check into it and haven’t written it off yet. I’d even considered riding all the major islands once the bike is there. So, in correction, I have ridden my Honda VTX 1300 to all the U.S. states except Hawaii and to all of the Canadian provinces and territories except the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territory of Nunavut. Actually a person can ride to Labrador via the Trans-Labrador Highway, but at my age of 70 and without buying a different motorcycle, I probably won’t ride that one. I’ll take the ferry. And I understand Nunavut is very difficult to get to except by air or maybe in a few places by logging road. I plan to attack my Newfoundland and Labrador adventure again in the summer of 2020. I’ll probably ride my Yamaha Venture S. The VTX is a bit long in the tooth (137,000 miles). But you never know.

Jerry Stevens, Flower Mound, Texas

My first motorcycle ride was on a 1968 Honda CB 125, borrowed from a coworker in 1969. I was working after school at a gas station within walking distance of home. Anytime my co-worker would ride that gorgeous blue and white Honda to work, he’d let me take it for a ride. I rode it whenever I could until I graduated from high school in 1971, then enlisting in the Air Force. I bought my first motorcycle in 1972, a brand new Honda CB 350 twin, followed a year later by a new 1973 Honda CB 350F four-cylinder. What followed to the present day was a string of Hondas, Kawasakis, Triumphs, Nortons and, finally, Harleys. And not one of them equipped with a windshield, fairing or radio. One thing they all had in common, though, was they were all appealing to both the eye and the ear. All were individually recognizable. Personally, I’ve always been a minimalist regarding my motorcycles. Today, I cringe when I hear a motorcycle at a stoplight blaring music from its speakers. My opinion until the late 1980s was that anyone paying more than $2,500 for a new motorcycle should be examined for sanity. I have raised that amount today to about $8,000 for a new bike, but I digress.

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Fast forward to the present. Over decades of riding, I’ve witnessed motorcycles evolve from basic, unrefined mechanical works of art to today’s refined technological marvels. I’ve quietly tolerated the changes, some good, until now. Today I read an article in Rider for a new motorcycle built by Harley-Davidson that ridiculously infringes on the pure core of the motorcycle. Initially, upon reading the ad I thought it was a joke. This ad belongs in “Mad Magazine,” I thought! My first question to the powers-that-be at H-D is: OMG. Why? I’m talking about its new electric model motorcycle, embarrassingly named LiveWire. Seriously? Really? Have H-D’s sales numbers plummeted to the point that such desperate measures as creating a carnival novelty like an electric-powered motorcycle will actually save its sales numbers? Is H-D’s stock really pegged at 180 degrees?

As an old guy with a Millennial-perceived antiquated vision towards the future of motorcycle building, I say this not only to Harley but to all modern motorcycle manufacturers: STOP THIS MADNESS. PLEASE! JUST STOP IT!!! There are some things that are just plain wrong. It’s too late for Harley, the damage to the image is possibly already done, regardless of how positively it spins the LiveWire. I would not have purchased my current motorcycle, a 2006 Dyna Wide Glide, 13 years ago if it were a Dyna WideWire. How embarrassing. Twenty years from now I don’t see a used LiveWire being advertised as a Classic. As for the other manufacturers, please, don’t look to the future propulsion of motorcycles as being battery-powered; there is no future there. It’s another horrible tree-hugging idea. It’s not even a fair idea. It’s an idea that H-D management should have given its due, then shelved it somewhere in a disguised back room under lock and key never to be discovered. A battery is for starting a motorcycle engine, not powering it. It’s time for motorcycle manufacturers to get back to the majority segment of the market that appreciates motorcycle sight and sound, the way a motorcycle is meant to be seen and heard. A motorcycle with plenty of honest aesthetics, lots of real chrome, real iron under the seat and familiar individual exhaust notes that follow them down the road. Enough of the carbon fiber, black chrome, amateur-looking plastics and alloy girder frames. Enough millennial consumer dart throwing. Get back to pure motorcycle building basics. It works. It’s OK, really.

Donald Herod, via email

I’ve read in a couple cycle mags about how the new alcohol fuels will adversely affect motorcycles. Motorcycles, more than cars, get put away for long periods of time and alcohol fuels tends to gel over long periods of time. These modern fuels don’t gel overnight, do they? When stored for the winter, manufacturers should have a means to drain fuel without making it rocket science. It would be a simple matter to design this drain feature. We used to have valves for switching to reserve gas that could also serve as a drain valves. If we look for solutions instead of finger pointing, modern fuels can be dealt with. Also, we will need larger tanks to deal with the lower fuel mileage modern fuels are known to give us. I know we can overcome problems such as alcohol fuel if we just think about it. I’ve seen more complicated problems and solutions in my lifetime.

Marcel Thomas, Hobart, Indiana

I have been receiving Ridermagazine for many years and really enjoy it. I first started riding motorcycles 64 years ago. I was 17 years old in 1955 and purchased a 1949 Harley-Davidson 74. That summer I did quite a bit of riding. I and four other guys took a trip to Colorado and then up to South Dakota through the Black Hills. It just happened to be the first part of August and the Sturgis motorcycle rally was going on. That was quite an experience. We knew nothing about Sturgis at that time. The next year, 1956, I sold the motorcycle so I could purchase a new car, but I never forgot the fun I had riding. Then, in September of 1975, I purchased a new 1976 Harley-Davidson. The dealer had just gotten new models in. The next summer, my wife and I started long-distance touring. The next 30 years we took almost all of our vacations traveling on motorcycles. We had one accident in 1981 and my wife did get hurt pretty bad. She had one serious knee injury. She continued to ride until 2005 and stopped because her knee bothers her. I continued riding and, in 2001, I retired and now do much more riding. I have owned 16 motorcycles and I am now riding a Cam-Am Spyder. My last three motorcycles were 2008, 2012 and 2015 Gold Wings. I have owned a number of Harleys, several BMWs and four Yamaha Ventures. Last year I rode my Spyder to the Sturgis rally. I have only missed Sturgis four years out of the last 42. Last year I put 22,000 miles on the Spyder; in the last few years I have been averaging about 30,000 a year, and I live in Iowa, so we only have about a seven-to-eight-month riding season. 

Jerry Mathison, Woodbine, Iowa

Recently I have been planning a motorcycle trip westward. Starting at St. Ignace, Michigan, I will pick up U.S. Route 2 and ride all the way to Seattle. A few little side trips along the way will include some of the Canadian provinces and a couple of national parks. Traveling by motorcycle is so much different than driving an automobile. One seems to become part of the natural surroundings instead of just viewing it through a glass window. The mountains and valleys are higher and deeper, the edge of the road is closer, the hills are steeper, the curves sharper and the sky clearer.

The journey through life is much like this motorcycle trip. Metaphorically speaking, we will all drive through it in our own way at our own pace, each with a different route and preferred vehicle, carrying our “baggage” with us. Every mile will bring with it different conditions and changing scenery. Just like we do when we plan a motorcycle trip, we seem to expect, or at least hope, that in life’s journey everything will go just right for us on our trip. We’re sure the weather will cooperate perfectly, the machines will have no mechanical issues, the road surface will be smooth and traffic will be light. Of course, that is not usually the case.

As in life, there are no guarantees. We will surely encounter trials, tough choices, unexpected disappointments, detours, tragedy and sorrow as we travel the road of life. That, in part, is why I am planning this trip. Three days before Christmas 2015, I awoke to find my wife of 22-plus years had unexpectedly died in her sleep. As spring arrived, I was reluctant to start riding again as my partner would no longer be there. After the first few very short rides, however, I began to find some solace in the journey. Since then I have logged many thousands of miles, taken hundreds of pictures, seen untold new places, met numerous fresh faces and carried years of memories with me. Finding comfort, reminiscing and knowing that my wife would encourage me to discover this great big world make the riding experience even that much more enjoyable.

I believe I appreciate life a little more these days and maybe I realize that each day we are given is a chance to begin another journey on the road we call living. It might have already been said by someone else, but for me I will attempt to live like today will be my last, tomorrow will be my greatest and yesterday will have no regrets. We motorcyclists often say that “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Perhaps that is because when you reach your destination, the journey is over.

When you are on your next journey, if you see me on the road, give me a friendly wave and I will wave back.

Rex Goyer, Sycamore, Ohio

Just received the April issue and a couple of questions come to mind. First, on page 14, in an otherwise excellent article about the increase in women’s ownership of motorcycles, you state that, “Nearly one in five motorcycle owners is now female….” This got me to wondering what this woman was before she became a female. Additionally, on page 65, you misquote the lyrics of the John Denver song “Country Roads,” which is a virtual anthem here in West Virginia, inserting the word “Pennsylvania” where “West Virginia” belongs. What Left Coast rock have you been living under to avoid knowing this? Did you intentionally want to insult your readers here in the Mountain State by confusing us with our neighbors to the east? Take me home, Mountain Momma, take me home!

Robert Cissel, somewhere in West Virginia

Longtime subscriber, first time writer. To Mark: after reading your April issue editorial, I became somewhat uneasy because I felt like your time at the helm might be drawing to a close, as I’m sure there are many roads you need to ride. The only thing I have to say is please make sure the magazine doesn’t change! It’s the only moto mag I currently subscribe to because all the others have changed their format and are of no interest to me. I look forward to your magazine every month and I read every article. Thank you and keep up the good work!

Mark Lipsius, Iowa City, Iowa

I have been enjoying your magazine on and off for decades, thank you. The articles have inspired me to continue riding, which I started on a Honda 50 in 1965 and now at 68 years old I’m still going at it. I’ve owned many bikes over the years, all serving different purposes, from a 1973 BMW /5 “toaster” to owning three bikes now: an ‘81 BMW GS, a 1997 Honda VFR and, what I’m writing about now, a 1975 Honda XL350. I keep telling myself that I need to pare down but it hasn’t happened as yet! Anyway, I noticed with great interest the August 2018 Retrospectivearticle about the Yamaha Enduro 500. Question, did the Honda XL 350 have the same compression release feature?  I am having a nearly impossible time getting the 350 kicked over as it only has a kick starter. I mostly jumpstart it on inclines, though sometimes I’m on flat terrain so that doesn’t work. Thanks for any input and keep up the great magazine!

Charlie, Baughman, Arlington, Virginia

As a Rider magazine reader and long time biker, your April Retrospective article really hit home. I have ridden on two wheels for almost all of my 71 years on this earth. Mind you it has only been the last 55 with a motor between my legs. In that time I have owned a variety of motorized machines. I told my then girlfriend and now my wife of 50 years, that I would always have a motorcycle, period. She said she understood, but I am not so sure she knew what was in store. My first adventure was a Travis bike motor mounted to the front of my Schwinn. I went through at least four tires in one summer. After moving up to a real motorcycle and going through a number of “fix up specials,” I fell in love with a Honda. In my case, Honda number one was a 1964 Benly or, as some referred to it, a baby Dream. My next was a 1969 CB350. This is where your article brought back some great memories. That 350 was a huge step up from my 150cc Benly and the previous owner had put 12-inch apes on it, so finally I was cool. All of the ribbing I took with the Benly was behind me. I rode that 350 proudly for nearly a decade and then, as the last sentence of your article suggests, I bought a 1978 CB750. Mine was a K model in shiny black. And believe it or not, when I bought my 750, it was considered a “big” bike. And in many ways it was…tall, heavy and four cylinders stuck between your legs. I rode the K for nearly 20 years until I did the unthinkable. A shiny red Yamaha V-Star 1300 sits in my garage now. Forgive me.

Bill Peery, Arlington Heights, Illinois

I love your article April 2019 page 40 on the “Class-Bending Commuter.” I am 78 years old and have four motorcycles, and my newest one is a Honda NC750X DCT that I got last September. I love this bike; the two best things about it are the automatic transmission and the front brake, which is the best one that I have ever had. I now have 3,700 miles on it. But it’s not perfect. The suspension is too firm, but with the Air Hawk seat cushion it feels better. I do not think that the 270-degree firing order is a good idea, I think 180 degrees is much smother and better. You have to lift the back seat to put gas in the small 3.7-gallon gas tank, not a good idea when touring with things tied over it. Small, round foot pegs. Very little engine braking. No oil sight window, an old style dip stick only, and this is 2019. No highway pegs or crash bar available, either Honda or aftermarket. Your article states, “With the DCT you get HSTC and ABS, which applies front brake when the rear is applied.” I am not sure that this is a good idea. I have always known when you are leaning and turning on dirt, sand, rocks or mud you do not want to put any pressure on the front brake, because you will go down. But I love this motorcycle.

Rodger Terry, Bethel Island, California

As I read Clement Salvadori’s article, “Adventure? What’s That,” in the April 2019 issue, I could not help but think of an adventure I had several years ago. Three riding buddies and I were following my pre-printed directions that I obtained off a popular website, allowing us to travel a “different” route to our destination. We were all on street-oriented motorcycles, including two that were quite pricey with chrome aplenty. We only traveled about 100 yards before we realized this new route did not meet our normal expectations. The road turned to dirt, then became littered with fist-sized rocks on the surface, lined with abandoned houses with broken windows and no sign of civilization. We thought of turning back, but decided we would press forward despite me swearing I heard banjo music. After taking more than an hour to travel several miles on this single-lane, muddy road, we ended up on the main road about 300 yards from where we started. To this day, I still laugh at our mud-splattered street bike “adventure.” Despite our failed journey, it was quite entertaining and memorable.

Spencer Lewis, via email

To the Editor:

My buddy John first handed me an issue of Riderin the early 1990s. I’m a writer by profession and a rider by passion, and right away I liked the magazine’s editorial style. Clearly, the people who put the publication together were riders themselves. Over the years I’ve subscribed to several moto mags, but Riderhas always been the one that speaks to me.

Nearly two decades ago, I had an epiphany: “I’m a writer and a rider, I should write for Rider.” So I looked up the guidelines for contributors and made my story pitch to the editor, one Mark Tuttle, Jr. His reply included this key sentence: “We would be interested in examining the article in question on speculation.” I submitted my story, it was accepted (!!) and in the years since my work has appeared in Riderdozens of times. (It’s hard to convey how cool that is.)

Ridercontinues to be my favorite magazine, in large measure because Mark Tuttle’s stamp is on every issue. Recently, I met Mark for the first time and it was like meeting an old friend. He’s a motorcycle guy, just like the rest of us. Mark, on behalf of riders and readers everywhere, thanks for putting out the best motorcycle magazine out there, month after month, for 30 years.

Scott ‘Bones’ Williams, Wilbraham, Massachusetts

I always read Ridermagazine cover to cover, and look forward to the Retrospectivearticle. The April issue featured the Honda 350 lineup from the late 1960s on. My first bike was a 1970 CL 350, bought used in 1972. It was used as a commuter vehicle for years, as well as a “dating” vehicle for a few months. Even had a serious accident (involving 15 cars, 2 semis and one motorcyclist) once. About a year after buying it, I got married and the wife and I used it for nearly everything, as 1973 brought about the first Arab oil embargo and higher gas prices. We look back on it fondly now, and I wish I still had it. My wife would ask the grocery store clerks to make sure everything fit in two sacks so she could hold it all while leaning against the sissy bar on the way home. Good memories.

Loren Stephenson, Sand Springs, Oklahoma

Mark Tuttle’s “Winter Riding Motivation” (One-Track Mind, March 2019) was a fantastic overview of winter gear. One line, though, gave me a good laugh: “With the right setup you can be comfortable in temperatures down into the 30s.” “Winter” definitely doesn’t mean the same thing across this continent. Temperatures in the 30s is a nice spring day in some locales. A quality base layer is a must. Electric gear won’t get you in the saddle, it’ll just keep you there longer. Temps in the teens with no wind and a sunny sky make for a fantastic winter ride! Throw on a snowmobile suit when it really gets cold. Call me crazy (or just call me an Illinoisan) but with the right setup you can be comfortable regardless of temperature.

Rob Kirbach, Glen Carbon, Illinois

I started riding motorcycles in 2006, when I was 54 years old. Now I’m 67, and I always say to myself, “Why did I start so late?” I’m on my third bike; I’ve owned two Sportsters and now, since I’m older, I bought a Honda CTX700. The bike is perfect for me: it’s comfortable and takes the bumps easy. I know I’m in complete control. The reason I’m writing is to tell you that your magazine is by far the best read. As a lover of our American history, I thoroughly enjoy your articles. They get me planning all of the wonderful places I can visit this summer. My plans are in full swing! 

Henry Siuda, via email

This is directed to Jenny Smith, who wrote the review in the April issue on the Honda NC750X. I just want to clarify something. She said the bike would be a good tourer at the end of her article. Does that mean it would be a good bike to take across the country on long tours? Or is that for short tours? I hope it is capable of longer tours, as I’ve been considering this bike for some time. I’m talking 400-mile days at times. Thank you so much and love your magazine. Best one out there and good luck to all the staff.

Carl Hoobler, Granbury, Texas

As a 25-year-plus reader of your magazine, I’m on the wrong side of 60, and my commuting days were in the ‘80s and ‘90s on various UJMs (Universal Japanese Motorcycles). Your review of the NC750X makes me feel old–and a little ill. My admiration for Asian engineering and production knows no bounds, but their frequent foray into cartoonish, pointy plastic design violates my American sense of the motorcycle archetype. Now an automatic transmission? I appreciate the emotional need for younger engineers to reinvent the wheel, but come on–stop hiding the engine and gas tank! Then maybe you’ll stop losing customers to Triumph and Harley. PS: The handlebars look a little wide for lane splitting.

Don Holmes, Nashville, Tennessee

Don’t know what kind of bike you were riding when you left the petcock on “Prime,” but on my two Suzukis from the 1980s, when I left the petcock on Prime (sometimes for days), they ran and started without apparent problems. However, the Prime setting taps fuel from the reserve tank, so if you run out of gas, you really are out of gas. I found this out the hard way. Al Einstein had a great expression to cover this situation: “Two things are infinite: the universe, and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe….” And this was before our current president took office!

Randy D., via email

Here are the bikes I’ve owned, in order (all purchased new except the last one): ’97 BMW R 850 R, ’00 Honda Valkyrie Interstate, ’07 Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec, ’12 Victory Cross Country Tour, ’08 Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec. My feet have been progressively moving forward (well, the last three are about the same). I can only afford, in terms of space and money, one bike at a time, and as much as I love twisties, I often do long highway slogs to get to them (or visit relatives, or ride to MotoGP races, etc.). My aging knees–I’m 71 years old, I started riding late–just can’t take being bent back for long periods. And I’m not a fan of highway pegs for assorted reasons. So that leaves cruiser, or cruiser-ish, bikes. The Big Burger is especially good in this respect, because with no controls for them to work your feet are always “free to move about the cabin.” And so my longest days have been aboard it. Oh, along with a couple of “non-sportbike” track days.

Bill Pollack, Niskayuna, New York

Was glad to see Rider picked up Ari Henning as a garage-problem guru and, hopefully, full-time writer and tester of new bikes. I tried duplicating his and Brian Catterson’s skills on the curves many miles ago, but no success. We shared some funny emails, including one project I think we were working on at the same time, thousands of miles apart. That was our electric ‘cycle, powered by a rider wearing a suit completely covered with solar cells, but alas, rainstorms proved to be a “shocking” failure. Great times reading “Motorcyclist,” even though I didn’t always agree with “Catman.” That dude, if cut, would bleed Ducati red. Always turned to the problem column first, then letters and finally what new crotch rocket Ari was airing out at the time. Glad you’re back, Ari. Always wondered how you and Zack Courts made out on the dual editor thing.  

Ari, if you see Catterson, tell him he is lodged in my memory banks forever. You guys rocked in those crazy, lazy days when bikes looked like bikes and not Star Wars, or those toys that, if twisted correctly, make seventeen different things. Yep, still have my beautiful Honda 700SC Nighthawk, 36k on the clock, new Pirellis on the wheels and looking to try it one more summer–at 83 years young. Will probably be a bit rusty, because I put it up on blocks and drained it to take care of my dear wife of 62 years before she left me in December.

Ah, the good old years, her on her brand-new Benelli Cobra 125 café racer that had been juiced up just enough and me astride my new Honda CB160. At 21 and 25, life was very, very good. Since she knew I had spent 15 months laid up from a left turn by a drunk in a Dodge, she’d said, “You buy a motorcycle and I am gone.” Hell, I bought two, the Honda and, as we walked out of the place, the owner said I could take the Benelli and pay him whenever for 200 bills. I remember her first comment after nailing how to manage the Benelli, “It is like my old bicycle, but I don’t have to pedal.” Again, glad to see your name in print, Ari, and I guess if you stay I’ll re-up Rider again.

Pete Payne, via email

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