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- June 2009
Happy Wife, Happy Life
Written By: Chad Gillen
I call myself a motorcycle enabler. When someone tells me that they want to buy a motorcycle, I inundate them with emails and texts. I send them reviews, videos and articles about various models that fit their riding style. I shop by proxy for them because it is fun for me without any of the financial commitment. But I also want them to be informed and get something they will enjoy and ride a lot. I like to share my joy of motorcycles and I love to see more motorcyclists especially in this time of overall motorcycle sales decline.
So when the boss said she wanted a motorcycle again, I was in a dilemma. Now shopping by proxy meant this is going to cost me money. Could I push this off until next spring? Should we wait? Will this expenditure fit our budget? Should we buy used or new? I stonewalled for quite a while because she didn’t ride her last bike much at all before we sold it. I didn’t want a bike that required loan payments and insurance but sat unused. But the Mrs. persisted and didn’t forget about it. So after the inevitable heated discussion, I crunched the numbers and figured we could make it work. Now what were we going to get for her to ride?
The first thing one has to think about is what the motorcycle is going to be used for: poker runs (bar and grill hopping), commuting, adventure riding, dirt track, motorcycle touring, track days, stunts and hooliganism? We do motorcycle touring and camping, weekend trips, day excursions, and commuting. So it’s got to have panniers, wind protection and endurance for long bouts at interstate speeds. Plus, if she is going to keep up with me it has to corner too.
The second concern is comfort. If the motorcycle wears you out or is not comfortable in some way, you will constantly come up with excuses not to ride. Then you just have a conversation piece in your garage that collects dust. With Mrs. Height Challenged, I’ve got to find a low seat height bike that is not a cruiser. Here is where www.cycle-ergo.com becomes a huge research tool that narrows down a lot of bikes without us leaving the house. This website lets you simulate a person’s riding posture on any motorcycle or scooter. Select a motorcycle, plug in the rider’s height and inseam, and it will show you the bike’s seat height, forward lean angle, hip angle and knee angle. You can also toggle between feet on the pegs or feet on the ground. And you can customize the motorcycle a little bit. For instance, some motorcycles have optional low seats. You can lower the seat height and see how that changes the ergonomics of the bike. Keep adding tabs of different motorcycles and you can click back and forth and compare the ergonomic animation and the angles.
The third concern is reliability. If the motorcycle is finicky, you again end up with a conversation piece in the garage. The Mrs. demands that it has fuel injection so there is no fuel petcock for her to mess with, (and no carburetor rebuilds for me). ABS is a must because any technology that can help you prevent a collision is a no-brainer, you must have it. Also, we have a preference for belt or shaft drive for the low-maintenance. Bonuses would be an adjustable windshield, heated hand grips, cruise control, backrest, top case or luggage rack.
So this whittled it down to a BMW F800GT, a BMW R1200ST, a Honda NT700V Deauville, a Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, a Kawasaki Versys 650 LT, and a Yamaha MT-07 or MT-09. Before we even stepped foot in any brick and mortar building we started checking cycletrader.com, craigslist, YouTube and individual store websites. YouTube reviews help us learn more about the bikes – used and new – and what to do (and not to do) when buying from a dealer.
Now that we had a list of models that we could find somewhat close to us, we go out to look for some real seat time and maybe a demo ride. The BMWs are eliminated first. We can’t find any near us at all. We find a V-Strom at Powerbrokers and at Empire Motorsports. The Suzuki is washed out as it is too big because it uses the same frame as the 1000cc V-Strom. She finds a 2002 BMW R1150R that fits her as it has a low seat. Heck no we ain’t getting that! I sold mine three years ago after I suggested we mod it for her to ride, which she promptly shot down at the time.
We ride up to Interlakes Sports Center in Madison, SD as they have the Kawasakis and Yamahas in stock. We are met by a lowkey, low-pressure salesman, Mike. We tell him what we are looking for and what we want to do with the motorcycle. Also, she just needs to sit on some bikes and see what fits. We are not buying today. Mike gladly wheels out bikes for her to sit on. She is drawn to a new burnt orange Kawasaki Ninja 650 which fits her perfectly. It has a great price but it doesn’t really have the features we want like ABS, hard bags, and adjustable windshield. And I know the forward lean angle will make it unrideable in the end for her. She sits on about eight bikes total, with one being a new metallic flat black 2017 Kawasaki 650 LT. A brand-new holdover advertised at $1,600 off sticker. This has everything we need, but with two drawbacks – a chain drive, and she’s on her tiptoes to balance it. The salesman begs us to do a demo ride. But I picture her tipping it over on the gravel driveway right before getting onto the highway. We get his business card, and head back to Sioux Falls.
We stop at Vern Eide Motoplex to make sure they don’t have anything that fits our bill. They don’t. The only thing close was a holdover 2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx. At home, and with more research, we find aftermarket companies that make lowering kits for the Versys 650. These kits will lower it to the Ninja’s seat height. Now we know we found the perfect bike. With 2019s due to be rolling in on the showrooms in a month and half, they are going to want this thing gone soon.
I usually use my credit union for vehicle financing. At minimum, I always check with them first to see what my loan rate is going to be with them before I talk financing with a dealer. Almost always my credit union will beat the dealer. Loan rate on their website is 4%, I do an online loan application and call the next day. Guess what, the loan rate is 3%. Being a member since I had my first paper route as a kid pays off. Heidi calls the dealer to find out the “Out The Door” cash price, which is now even lower than before. This motorcycle is too good to pass up.
Within a couple of days, we are at the dealer with a check in hand (along with proof of insurance). With my insurance company, the multi-cycle discount is so great that my insurance only goes up $40 a year. Mike rolls the bike outside, gets it ready with gas and checks tire pressures and we take our first test ride on it two-up. This thing is great. No wonder he was pushing for a demo ride the other day. It’s got to be the best midsize touring motorcycle out there. It is the perfect companion to my bike. The Yin to my Yang.
So far we’ve put on 720 miles/smiles in less than two months, and we have great plans for extra F.A.R.K.L.E.s and riding trips next year.
It’s true what they say … “happy wife, happy life!”
P.S. When you make a big purchase in life, don’t be surprised if your main mode of family transportation tries to bankrupt you twice with major breakdowns. I.E. all new tires, and water pump-timing belt pulley failures!