Clem’s “Wide Open Spaces” (Road Tales) in the December issue, where he mentions single-lane roads, reminds me of a ride this past summer in northern Idaho. We camped at the Wagonhammer RV Park just north of Salmon, and rode our faces off, including a loop to Challis, the Salmon River and Corn Creek. (At the end of the road river rafts launch for a 3- to 4-day float, entering civilization again in Riggins.) There are many single-lane roads (obtain a Forest Service map locally) in this area, but my wife’s favorite loop was from Gibbonsville, over the Big Hole Pass (crossing the Great Divide), returning to the highway and visiting Wisdom, Montana. We returned west on State Route 43 and Chief Joseph Pass, then south to North Fork and the campground. We rode the Africa Twin, two-up with the pup, one of our most fun trips ever…shh, don’t tell too many people!
Greg Snider, via email
Seriously?! I love your mag but the decision to include the Kawasaki W800 with two obviously sporty/naked models is just wrong (“Multiple Personalities,” December 2020). We all know the café fairing on the W is just there for looks. This comparison should have included the Z650 instead. The W800 was designed for the baby boomers (like me) looking to revive their nostalgic past. Also, although you are relegated to testing 100% stock bikes, the addition of new fork springs, super bike bars and rear shocks will transform the W into a decent handler.
Scott Poley, Elmira, New York
The amazing Phil Steiner has done the nearly impossible, riding his 2015 Honda Gold Wing 500,000 miles exactly five years from the day he bought it (December 17, 2014). This past year (2019) was especially tough, since he had to leave the warm weather of Lakeland, Florida, in January to be with his ill daughter back in Lima, Ohio. Sometimes he would ride 300-mile days in sub-freezing temperatures with his Gerbing heated jacket. The Wing is on its second driveshaft, rear hub and water pump. The alternator is still going strong, however. Phil is not an Iron Butt member; he just rides because he loves it and doesn’t seek recognition or accolades. On November 10, 2019, he was at 482,500 miles, and had to ride an average of 500 miles a day for five straight weeks to hit 500,000. What’s next for the Man of Steel? He is thinking about getting the newer 2018-2020 Wing. But hey, he still has two years left on his extended warranty!
Kenton Kloos, St. Louis
January’s Letter of the Month brought back a lot of memories. I was stationed in Key West in 1965-66, and needed secondary transportation as we only had a single Volkswagen car for my wife and I and our two children, and it was four miles from my house to work on the Naval base. So, at age 29 I got my first bike: a 1965 Honda 50, which was perfect for commuting in downtown Key West but, as many of you understand, it took less than a week to realize that I should have gotten something a bit larger (that T100 Triumph, perhaps). But a young sailor raising a family precluded that, and the Honda was perfect transportation for the time and place.
In ‘66 I got orders to a ship out of Norfolk, Virginia, so we shipped the family, furniture and Honda to Oregon, while I was on sea duty. The ship was severely damaged in 1967 and the entire crew was transferred—me to the Naval Station in Long Beach, California. On the way to Long Beach I stopped in Oregon on leave and traded the Honda 50 for a Honda CL160, spent a couple weeks breaking it in, adding a windscreen and BUCO saddlebags, and headed for California. After getting settled in San Pedro, I traded the 160 for a ‘57 BSA Shooting Star, one of my all-time favorite bikes, which I rode until getting orders to Midway Island, and sold the bike. After tours on Midway, Korea and Adak, I retired to Oregon in ‘76 and after going through a Triumph and several Kawasakis and Yamahas, I bought a ‘65 BMW R 65 S and fell in love again. In 2001 had to go to three wheels or give up riding, so bought a ‘97 Ural, followed by a succession of sidecars before finally picking up a 1988 R 100 RT/Ural with LL front end and GS gearbox, and this was, IMO, the best bike that I had ever owned.
In 2013, at age 77, I finally had to give up riding due to health, but will always love my motorcycles. My loving wife Sharon has shared my love for riding since we got married in 1996, and for Christmas in 2000 I bought her a Honda Helix/Champion sidecar rig and she took to it like a duck to water. I had to be sure and not let her lead, or she would run off and leave me in the twisties. Then I bought her a Honda Silver Wing (a.k.a. an armchair), and after I had to quit riding, she sold that too. I greatly miss my riding, but I have been a musician since 1939, and I still have my music. I am a member of the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers, and usually play a couple gigs a week at assisted living, nursing and rest homes, plus a monthly jam for the public in my home district, and travel to other nearby districts to perform.
Hal Thompson, Glide, Oregon
I just received the January 2020 issue; great Retrospective on the Suzuki Laredo 305. After all these years Clem is still finding new and interesting candidates. No nitpick here, wonderful restoration. From my moderate knowledge of Suzuki, this one looks to be showroom perfect. I know perfection is not a prerequisite for Retrospective but it is nice to see such a well-done example. I see a lot of similarities to the several T500s that have passed through my hands. I overlooked the existence of the scrambler-styled 305 entirely. Well done.
Ralph Noble, via email
I bought a Laredo 305 from a fellow airman in 1970 after returning from the Far East. It was a peppy little bike that liked to drink fuel, and served as my daily transportation for about six months. It developed some electrical gremlins that we eventually found and sorted out. You were right on about the narrow power band. The most maddening thing about the gearing was the huge gap between fourth and fifth and very little gap between 5th and 6th. If they’d have just lowered 5th a bit it would have made it a much better bike on the highway, especially when hilly terrain was in play. Thanks for the article. Very little is available on this bike and it helped me reminisce.
Bob K., The Villages, Florida
I just read Eric Trow’s Riding Well (“The Road is My Conference Room”) in the January issue, and I remembered when my wife and I returned to riding in 2006 after an extended absence. Upon purchasing a new motorcycle we were eager to find some groups to ride with. Large or small, it made no difference to us. After participating in group rides for the last thirteen years, the use (or the lack thereof) of the points Mr. Trow made in his article have become evident. While some group rides were terrific, some were terrible. As I think back it becomes evident that the organizers of the enjoyable rides followed most or all of his pointers for a well-planned ride. The rest had little or no organization at all. Your article was spot-on Mr. Trow, as usual. I always look forward to what you have to say.
Ernie Owens, via email
Your Road Tale (“Clutter, and What to do About It,” January 2020) made me smile at a recent personal accomplishment regarding clutter. Somehow over the years, I became the custodian of my family’s heritage. I’ve carried around with me the ancient Singer sewing machine, the Great Aunt’s hope chest filled with mementos and tons of just…clutter. But when Hurricane Florence knocked hard on my door last year, it caused me much anxiety as to whether those “precious” things would survive the storm. Well, they did, and I realized it was time to unburden myself of their stewardship and pass them along to some other individuals who would cherish them as I had. I set about photographing hundreds of things from small trinkets, souvenirs and gadgets to larger things like tables, framed art and much, much more. I then posted these photos on Facebook’s Marketplace. I was shocked and amazed at the response I received. Within about two months, I had taken in about $7,000! I spent none of this. I kept every penny in a cash bag and then I had an epiphany. I would convert the clutter into a motorcycle!
Due to personal setbacks and health issues over the past seven years, I had gotten away from the one-time love of my life, motorcycling. But now I had renewed interest, good health and resources. I searched online and found a well-cared-for 2007 BMW K 1200 GT in Maryland. I drove nine hours to see it, test rode it in 35-degree weather with sleet falling, then bought her, loaded her up and back home I went. Since then, my wife bought herself a beautiful 2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 and we ride the heck out of ‘em! Our lives are more complete and so much more interesting now that the weight of that “clutter” has lifted from my shoulders.
Tony Phillips, Carolina Beach, North Carolina
After reading Clement’s article on clutter I quickly reflected on similar friends and family members that love to clutter. I personally have a method that keeps things organized and not so cluttered as to cause me to spend all my time digging through junk to locate the one item I need or having to create tons of storage to contain it. My rule of thumb is that if I haven’t used it in five years or it has no real monetary value or significant sentimental value, it goes in the trash or to Goodwill. This way the things I need often are organized and quickly accessible. I was having trouble convincing my wife to share my method until a motorcycle buddy shared a story with us. His mom and dad had passed so the three sons traveled to Missouri to clean out the family home to sell. They had all planned for one week to have this accomplished. When they arrived they found tons of boxes with memorabilia so they started going through each box to make sure things of value were kept. At the end of two days they hadn’t even dented the surface. The third day they had a dumpster delivered and started tossing all the boxes without even opening them. I suggested to my wife if there was something she really wanted our kids to have she needed to make sure the amount was limited to just those items. After acknowledging this reality we pared her clutter by about 90%. This ended up taking four long weekends, given we have an unfinished basement where it was easy for her to keep adding to the clutter. We now have items that are special and things we hope our kids will keep when it comes time to pass them along.
Michael Donald, Braselton, Georgia
I have two comments regarding your January 2020 issue. First, Eric Trow’s article on group rides had some great points. I usually avoid any group rides with more than three or four of my closest friends. The only exception is the annual Christmas toy run. Keeping 1,500 to 3,000 riders organized is a challenge, and the ride encourages me to use all the skills I have learned in my 40-plus years of motorcycling (i.e. situational awareness and spacing). The number of participants who lack such skills is, well, eye-opening. Let’s just say their skills are surpassed by their generosity.
Second, I’m sure you will get letters from folks stating this bike or that wasn’t covered in the “New for 2020” section. That’s to be expected. I only regret you had to use pictures supplied from some of the manufacturers that literally don’t show their products in the best light. (I’m looking at you, Harley, with dimly-lit bikes on dark backgrounds.)
J. Sheets, via email
Skidding into the so-called Golden Years, the maxim of “live to ride, ride to live” has become a very personal reality. For decades, I’ve joked that my bikes have been cheaper than therapy. While out on the road in midsummer 2019, my wife sent a message that upon my return we would be touring a senior living complex. Oh, hell no! I’m not creeping gently into that good night. Give up my custom motorcycle garage, with orange and black tile floor, diamond plate trim and tool cabinets, black and gray walls, and a display of poker chips from visits to 342 dealerships all across the nation? But my wife had followed me through four decades of a hard career and a few moves, and I love her beyond words. She still encourages (and sometimes commands) me to hit the road for long adventures. What do you do?
The place looked nice, the people smiled a lot and there are EMTs on site 24/7. I don’t have to mow the lawn or shovel the walks or fix anything. The food is pretty good. The crisis moment came when I asked about motorcycle parking in the underground garage. The salesperson gazed with a confused face. “Uh, we don’t really have a place for motorcycles here. Sorry.” That nearly killed the deal, but they got creative and cleared a nice space. I made friends with the maintenance guy and he ran power to the wall for a battery tender. My bagger now rests comfortably in the underground garage.
I was still feeling pretty glum about leaving the home where we raised our kids and about selling my house to a guy who didn’t cherish the unique motorcycle garage. Then I made a great discovery: Rider magazine! There were several back issues of Rider in the lobby, amid the piles of old issues of Readers’ Digest (large print, of course), Healthy Aging, Senior Living, etc. I’d never encountered Rider in all my years of riding. My former go-to cycle mag had recently folded. I scooped up all of the used Rider issues and snuck them to our apartment, and spent the whole afternoon with six months’ worth of great ride suggestions, learning about new gear that I “need,” drooling over bikes, adding some route plans to the bucket list, digesting safety tips and finally understanding why I do actually need to save some pennies for an Arai helmet. I read Mark Tuttle’s article on Arai at least ten times. And, of course, I quickly signed up for several years of Rider.
One of the back issues still had the name of the subscriber on it. I sought him out and gained a friend. We shared riding stories. He doesn’t ride anymore, but we share the passion. The back issues of Rider lead to new friendship and a deeper gratitude that I can still ride. (And I’m trying to be nice to the women in their 80s and 90s who want to touch the orange and black iron horse in the basement garage.) What a great magazine! Keep up the great writing.
Ken Wallentine, Salt Lake City, Utah
May of 1991 was the Spring Kick-Off at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, and my first Rider Rally. I met several new friends abd enjoyed a nice ride to the Cedar Village Restaurant in Irvine, Kentucky, along with all the other activities. The Spring Kick-Off in May 1992 was at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. One of the highlights was a breakfast ride lead by Clement Salvadori. The Dutch Country Adventure in July 1992 was at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There was an interesting and enjoyable guided tour through the Amish countryside. The Spring Kick-Off in May 1993 was at the Chilhowee Park in Knoxville, Tennessee. A highlight was the guided tour to the Cumberland Gap and riding up to the Pentical. The light parade around the lake was great and included a uniquely customized Gold Wing GL1200 by Phillip Sanford. I also met a new friend, David Boyden (a.k.a. Huggie Bear), from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The Dutch Country Adventure III in July 1993 was back in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I enjoyed a guided tour to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland, and the Conawengo Dam area. The Spring Kick-Off in May 1994 was once again at Eastern Kentucky University. One highlight was riding to Shaker Village and crossing the Kentucky River on an old-time rickety ferry. Changing things up a bit, the Spring Kick-Off in May 1996 was at the West Virginia Air National Guard Base in Martinsburg, West Virginia. It rained the first day, however the second day allowed for a Skyline Drive Tour (180 miles—8.5 hours); I rode tail gunner on this one. The next day I led an Ice Cream Tour ride to Boonesboro, Maryland. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival in May 1997 was at the Camelback Ski Resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Biker Billy was there, providing his famous “Cooking With Fire” demonstration. Comical and controversial, Senior Contributing Editor and On Touringcolumnist Clement Salvadori and Nick Nichols, a professional motorcycle product tester, were there and conducted some very interesting seminars. Cruising the Bluegrass was in May 1998 at Eastern Kentucky University. I opted for the guided tour ride to the Red River Gorge through the beautiful Slade Mountains of eastern Kentucky. This was my last Rider Rally and I was saddened to see them discontinued.
David S. Bohrer, Silver Spring, Maryland
In regards to your quote in January’s One Track Mind (“We know that you don’t want to read an entire magazine’s worth of motorcycle reviews each month…”), I have to disagree. I enjoy all the departments in Rider but I could read good road tests all day long. It’s very hard to demo all the new motorcycles so the best way to find out what they’re like is to read quality magazines. Yours is at the top.
William “Buz” Conlin, Monson, Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Mississippi, and visited the Deals Gap/Tail of the Dragon area three times over the years before moving to the Asheville, North Carolina, area nine years ago. Since that move I haven’t been to the Dragon once! There are so many exciting and beautiful roads to explore here without having to struggle with the crowds, speed demons and sports cars that plague the Deals Gap area. If anyone feels they must ride the Dragon I suggest going mid-week since weekends and holidays are very crowded. Once you’ve tested your riding skills there try the Cherehola Skyway or almost any road in the Smoky Mountain/Blue Ridge Parkway area. You’ll be amazed and pleased at the amount and variety of great riding experiences available here.
Robert May, Weaverville, North Carolina
The midsize ADV bike segment is hot and riders’ choices have certainly expanded from the popular and capable 650s, including the Suzuki V-Strom, Kawasaki Versys and BMW F models. Mission statements vary between those who primarily want road use to more off-road-capable varieties, but increases in displacement and tech advancements seem to be a positive step forward. I would love to see a comparison between the new wave of “mid-size” Euro ADV bikes from Ducati, BMW and KTM.
I imagine consumers will also look at Yamaha’s Tracer 900’s when considering bikes in this category. I rode the 2019 Yamaha Tracer GT at a factory-sponsored demo day last summer and was impressed.
John Aronson, Erie, Colorado