Welcome to the latest installment of our Questions page. This is a page where people can write in with questions, which I will try to answer. By putting the question on this page, it allows other readers to offer their answers too. There's a lot of experience out there to draw on! How does this work? Well, what happens is you send an email by clicking the "email" button at the bottom of the page, (the address, if you want to just cut-and-paste it into your email program, is as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org). I then try to answer your question as best I can, but also publish it here for readers to look at and give their advice or opinions. So if you see a question you can offer some help with, or even just an opinion, then send me an email and I will publish your reply too.
FOR A CHAIR AND TRAILER
Lindsay is planning the big around- Australia trip, and wanting to do it in comfort. He intends buying a big-engined bike and attaching a sidecar. He will also be towing a camper-trailer. He wrote to ask my opnion. “I’d like your opinion on a plan I am hatching. I plan to buy a big bore bike and attach a chair to it (not as strong as I used to be ) to ride around Oz pulling a camper trailer as well. I have read your write up on the GSX 1400 and would like your opinion the suitability of the Suzuki to do the job.”
The Old Bloke’s Reply:
Wow, that sounds like quite a set-up you'll have! I'm not an expert on sidecars, Lindsay, and I know that some bikes are more suited to pulling a chair than others. But I think the GSX would be a good bike for it. It’s big and strong, and the engine characteristics – a big torquey motor that produces plenty of grunt from low down – would suit the duties of pulling the chair and trailer around. Any readers out there have any opinions or info on this?
Con thought a cruiser would make a good tow-vehicle. “I don’t know much about outfits either, but I’ve heard people using cruisers for this, more than the big nakeds. I guess it’s that long and low form as well as the low-down lugging capabilities of the typical cruiser power-plant. It’d probably depend on how strong the frame is too.” Yes, I think the strength of the frame is probably a big consideration. Maybe worth having an engineer take a look at the Suzuki and see if they think it’s strong enough to lug a chair and a trailer.
HOW MANY FINGERS?
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Ivor had an interesting question that he would like our views on. He writes, “I read somewhere recently that one of the most common ‘bad things’ that riders do is to use only 2 fingers to brake. I know this is a topic that different riders have different views on, but I didn’t think it was actually wrong to only use 2 fingers. I only use 2 fingers, so am I doing the wrong thing, or is it just a matter of preference?”
The Old Bloke’s Reply:
Interesting question, Ivor. I think I read that comment too. (Was it in Australian Road Rider?). Anyway, I’m with you – I use two fingers for the brakes too. I like having the other two still holding the handlebar: I feel it gives me more control, plus the ability to come on and off the throttle and on and off the brake without having to rearrange fingers. Is it wrong? I’d hardly think so, because a lot of riders use only two fingers! Casey Stoner is one who uses two fingers – although I’ve seen him use all four in a full-on panic stop. A lot would depend on the bike and how efficient the brakes are. For example, my bike has quite strong brakes, and they don’t require a lot of pressure to work well. (When I've just wanted a very light application of brakes, I've even used one finger). I think the theory of it being “wrong” comes from the view that, if you only use two fingers, the fingers you use (index and middle) are naturally closer to the pivot of the lever, rather than the end of the lever. That means that the pressure you apply is far less than if you were pulling on the end of the lever. Plus, of course, you’re only pulling with two fingers rather than four. (I compromise a little, by angling my fingers a bit more outward on the lever). While this might be fine for normal braking, in an emergency you may not be able to apply sufficient pressure to brake as hard as you need to. That’s the theory, and as I said, it depends a bit on the bike and how much pressure the brakes require. The answer, if you use two fingers, is probably to try it out – see how hard you can stop using just two fingers and judge whether it would be what you’d require in an emergency. I must admit that, after getting your question, I didn’t do that, but I did try using four fingers while out on a ride. To me, it just felt more clumsy. Okay, over to our readers – what do you think?
A reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote in with this reply. “When it comes to how many fingers to use, there is no set rule. You use the amount of fingers required to apply necessary force to the lever. That varies depending on the bike, the hand size / strength of the rider and the particular scenario at hand. I own four bikes and all have different braking capabilities, which means I need to behave differently on each when riding them. This includes how many fingers I use in any given braking situation (anything from one to four fingers). Also, riders are just as variable as bikes. Compare my hand size and strength with my wife’s as an example.” A good comment, thank you. He went on to say, “I hope your readers ride in a manner where they rarely require hard braking, unless they visit racetracks, and I also hope that they regularly find deserted straight roads to practice hard braking so that, if it is ever required of them, they can correctly and instinctively react. I’d hazard a guess most road riders don’t know how hard their bike really can brake and also that they rarely, if ever, practice their skills in applying maximum braking.” I think you’re right with those comments too! Dave has some good experience – and training – with this. He wrote: “When I joined the Police hwy patrol in the late 70's, the bike instructors made us use all fingers on the front brake. However, one of the instructors told me that this was an old technique which had been taught for many years and related to the poor brake performance of early bikes. It had never been revised to suit later bikes. He suggested that using one or two fingers enabled adequate braking and allowed better control of the throttle at the same time. This argument would apply even more so to the bikes we have today. Perhaps some proponents of full-finger braking today would argue that a rider can get better feedback from the lever with all fingers? Personally, I think do whatever is comfortable and safe for you.” Thanks Dave. I agree with the instructor about using two fingers giving you better control of the throttle. And your point of using whatever is comfortable and safe for the individual rider fits in with what our reader above said. I think it’s good advice! Joe writes that he uses four fingers to brake. He says, “It just comes naturally to me from my early days of motorcycling. Most of my bikes back in the day had quite weak front drum or disc brakes and you needed to use all fingers to stop the things. I just continued to do so on my more modern bikes. My XJR like yours has excellent brakes, very powerful fronts and I still use 4 fingers. A couple of times in emergency braking I was glad I used all fingers as I have much more control on lever pressure.” Keith had a variation on the two-verses-four argument – he uses three. He wrote: “I have used three fingers all my bike life (54yrs a rider). I went to a Stay Upright Course once and the girl instructor (all of 19) chastised me and told me I was doing it all wrong because I could jam my remaining finger against the brake lever and render the brake ineffective. I told her to try it and show me. No matter how hard she squeezed with both hands she could not get the lever anywhere near my fingers. With correctly set up levers two or three fingers is all that is needed with modern brakes. Like anything on a motorcycle, correct set up is very important.” Yes, jamming your finger between the lever and the bar is another argument against using only two (or three!) fingers. I’d forgotten about that one. Although that wouldn't happen anyway, if the brakes were properly adjusted. Another reader said that he had been told at a Stay-Upright course to use four too. I think your comment is a good one – on today's bikes two or three is all that is needed, and adjusting the brakes properly is also important to make sure that they work as well as they should. Aussie wrote, “If ever there was hype over a total non issue well this has gotta take the cake.” He reckons the author of the article must’ve been desperate for material. I’d agree, except that apparently the four-fingers method is apparently being taught by riding instructors. Aussie, who has many years riding experience to draw from, went on to say, “Way back when twin discs became standard on big sickles, many a magazine road tester raved on how well brakes performed on a particular test-motorcycle with a mere two fingered application. I actually sat on my bike in the garage to note how I used the brakes, such a sub-conscious action it has become over the years. However, having said this I must confess to grabbing a fist full when I push it off the centre stand to prevent it cannoning into a tool cupboard which stands directly in front of it. If I had to execute an emergency stop I’d probably give it a full grab, but it would be a natural involuntary reaction.”
Robert wrote in to ask my (and your!) opinion on how to do hill-starts. A trivial matter perhaps? Well, no, because hill-starts are something you really want to get right. Mess it up and you're likely to be run over by following traffic. "SMIDSY" would become "SMYRBAITO" ("Sorry mate, you rolled back as I took off"). A how-to instruction has left Robert a bit baffled. "Did you know that the Q-ride (Queensland) instructions for hill-starting are to put your foot brake on, and balance the bike on your left foot!" His method is different to this. He writes, "As a general principle, always keep the bike vertical with two feet on the ground, use your right hand for a coordinated brake and throttle take off." He lists several problems with the recommended foot-on-the-rear brake method, including everything from having your foot slip, to strong gusts of wind (presumably from the left) and not having the bike in neutral. So, what is the best method?
The Old Bloke's Reply:
Well, it might seem strange that they insist on this method, but I can see a reason for it. I generally use the method you describe – using the hand-brake; well mostly anyway. Although I have also used the foot-on-the-brake method too. I suppose they are working on the principle that people can't operate the brake-lever and the throttle at the same time. With the method you describe you have to be able to do that – operate the front brake and the throttle at the same time. This actually comes back to the previous question of how many fingers you use when you brake. Obviously if you use 4 fingers for the brake lever you won't be able to turn the throttle while holding the brake on. So there is reason behind this. However, I must say that when I have used the foot-on-the-brake method, I have sometimes felt a bit unstable: I like the feeling of having both feet on the ground too. Gusts of wind (which you mention) from the left add to the feeling of instability while using just one foot on the ground. But I can understand why they suggest this method. My recommendation would be to use what works best for you. But what do readers think? What method do you use for hill-starts?
Jorge writes, “I tend to use the foot on the pedal method. And this derives because I use, a lot of times, three fingers for braking or shifting. Yes, not four or two, but three. Don’t ask me why. Since the last question (about how many fingers you use for braking) came out, I have been noticing how I do it and I knew I didn’t use four fingers on the levers. Sometimes I also use two. I always use the same principle as you, do what works better for you.” Jorge further commented that we’ve had, “Some interesting questions put by your readers.” Indeed we have! Uwe replied that hill-starts were easy for him. “My method is probably different to many riders, and hill starts are ‘a piece of cake’ for me, because I ride
a Honda NC700D, which has 3 brakes. I don't even use the 3rd brake, which comes in handy when parking on a slope, because it locks on. I can have both feet on the ground and use one or both handelbar brakes. I never roll back or stall the engine.” Ah yes, riding a scooter does indeed make hill-starts easy!
Con says he uses both. “Generally the foot-brake because it allows me to sit up straight and stretch back in the seat etc. Although I also usually have it in neutral, so you’ve got to do a bit of a swapsy to get it in gear and going again. If there’s a side-wind though I keep both feet on the ground, use the hand-brake and just swap to throttle, which is kind of easier really. Michael had this to say: “When I changed to my HD Sportster I found it difficult balancing the bike while using the foot brake on hills. With the comparatively good front brake I've found it easy to just use the middle finger of my right hand, for the brake, leaving the rest to operate the throttle. I've found this to work even with two-up.”
DO YOU WASH THEM?
Well, here’s something new – a question from me! (I wonder what my reply will be?). How do you clean your textile riding jackets? Do you throw them in the washing-machine? Okay, I’ll fill in some background on this. When I got more seriously into road-riding and bought a “proper” riding jacket, a textile thing without armour, it said it could be washed in warm water. Jackets I’ve had since then (textile ones with all the armour etc), have all said not to wash them. My current summer jacket says to dry-clean only (but have you checked how much they charge for that!?), while my winter one says not to wash it or dry-clean it. Until a few years ago I used to sponge them down with a damp cloth. (I did then, and still do, sponge the bugs and any other grime off with a damp cloth after each ride). Then a friend of mine told me that he had washed his without any ill-effects. So I thought I’d give it a try. I removed the armour (of course!) and was going to hand-wash it, but my wife (who tends not to bother too much about washing instructions!) said to just put it in the washing-machine. Since then that is what I have done; although I don’t wash them very often – at most, at the start of each season (winter and summer). I remove any liners and wash the lot on short-cycle (“Delicates”) and then line-dry them – usually for a couple of days until the pockets are all dry. I recently performed this task again on my winter jacket. But reading the symbols for “Do Not Wash, Do Not Dry-Clean, Do Not Bleach, Do Not Iron”, I was wondering if it should come with another tag that said, “Do Not Wear!” I mean, these are riding jackets – by the very nature of their use they are going to get dirty! And probably sweaty inside. So what are you supposed to do? My wife’s theory is that these instructions are just the manufacturer’s way of covering themselves, in case you wash it and it happens to go out of shape, or you find the inside pockets are still damp three days later, or whatever. This seems to have been born out in practice, because I’ve washed my current jackets probably three times now and they are fine. And I have to say I like the fresh feel and look of the jackets just after washing them! So, my question is, what do you do? Do you follow the instructions and dry-clean only (if that is allowed) or just sponge down? Or do you abandon caution and chuck it in the washing-machine? I’d be interested to know.
Lyn wrote, “Instead of doing the full wash (either by hand or machine) you could simply wipe it down on the outside with a mild detergent spray and damp cloth. Most motorcycle jackets have an inner lining which can be removed and washed separately to keep it fresh on the inside. That's what I do anyway.” Ivor replied, “I was like you, I always wiped the bugs and dirt off with a wet rag, but now I just chuck it in the wash. After removing the armour of course. I haven't noticed any problems.” Con thought there might be a problem with the water-proffing by washing them. “Many years ago when I used to do a bit of camping, I made the mistake of washing some grime off my tent, using some form of detergent. From that day on, the tent always leaked where I had washed it. So washing with a washing detergent might spoil the water-proffing properties. That's one reason I wouldn't recommend it.” You might have a point there, Con. Many years ago (before we had kids), my wife and I had a pop-top type camper-trailer, and I remember doing the same thing. I washed off some bird-poo using washing-up liquid (from memory that's what it was), and after that it leaked at that particular spot.
HOW FAR CAN YOU RIDE?
Another interesting question: this time from Russ, who recently returned from a bike trip to visit an old mate. (No, that’s not him on the left, that’s just a suitable picture from another reader, Terry, used in the story of trips he has done). The trip, from his home near Wollongong to Dubbo, was totalled 545km, (and the same distance back of course), and by the time he got back (having had a few days off the bike in between) he was feeling the discomfort of the ride. It made him wonder how far other riders could ride without feeling pain. It should be mentioned that Russ is in his late 60s and rides a Suzuki V-Strom. He writes, “I arrived home with a sore butt (expected) and a pain across the shoulders (unexpected). I had a good break at Booroowa and another shorter one at Goulburn. I was wondering if you could publish a question to your followers: How far can you ride in a day and arrive feeling good? What bike is used? And what age group you are in? The Vstrom has been comfortable enough and I want to do a distance when I ride, but not arrive in pain. Perhaps I am now too old to entertain long distance?”
The Old Bloke's Reply:
Well, Russ, for me, I reckon that 545km is a long way to ride, so I'm not surprised that you came back with a few aches and pains. (If it was me, I'd be looking for a motel along the way!). Putting this question to our readers will bring a lot of varied responses I’d reckon. But I, like you, will be very interested in the replies! A couple of points to make first though. There are a lot of variables in determining how far we can ride – especially for us older folk. Factors such as road and traffic conditions, and how frequently we are riding at the time we do the long ride, are all factors. The more regularly we ride, the more our bodies get used to riding and the further we can comfortably go. Other factors include weather conditions: if the weather is less than ideal that will affect how far we can ride in comfort. How we are feeling is another factor: if we are feeling relaxed we will ride further than if we are feeling a bit up-tight. Tense muscles get sore before relaxed muscles! That is why one day we can go 100km and begin to feel niggly aches, while another day we’ll go twice as far and jump off feeling good. As an example, a friend of mine did a ride a while ago that was over 500km, and he said he felt pretty good when he got back. But on other occasions he has mentioned feeling a bit “saddle-sore” after 200km or so. It all depends on teh sort of factors I mentioned above. So it’s a difficult one for any of us to really put a figure on. Age, of course, is another factor. As we age, our bodies become less resilient and we are more prone to aches and pains. That, of course, affects everyone to a different degree. I know people who are older than me who can easily ride a lot further in comfort than I can. Some of us age better (in terms of this susceptibility to aches and pains) than others. We have to accept what limitations age imposes upon us: accept and adapt. It doesn’t mean we have to hang up the helmet, it just means that we have to ride differently: perhaps ride for shorter distances, perhaps choose routes that suit our bikes and bodies, perhaps ride slower, perhaps – as I know you have done – changed to a more suitable bike. And bikes – what an issue that is! I remember a former riding friend who was older than me (he used to refer to me as “a young bloke”!), being quite capable of knocking up 500+km days. He rode a BMW R1150RT. I sat on it one day – ah, the superbly-designed comfortable seat and the great weather / wind protection of the fairing: I could see how he rode those distances! Commenting on this, he said that on his previous bike, which was a naked, he could only manage around 250km. On the Beemer, 500km wasn’t really a problem. Seat comfort, suspension performance, riding-position, general ergonomics, faired or naked, these are all factors that will determine how far we can ride on that particular bike. Personally, I came from a different background to probably most people reading this. Although my first bike was a road-bike, my early years of riding were spent on trail-bikes. So I didn’t do the long-distance touring thing. Instead of spending many hours a day riding the highways and by-ways, I spent many hours a day riding a trail-bike along rough fire-trails, through mud and rough dirt, up steep hills and through water-crossings. (Back then I would probably have thought doing 500km on good tarred roads would’ve been a doddle compared to what I and my mates were doing!). Even then, I had issues with my back, but they were largely overcome by wearing a kidney belt for support. I did do some road-riding on the trail-bikes too, but it wasn’t long-distance stuff, of course. Then when I first swapped to just road-riding it was on a small-capacity bike, so again, no long-distance riding was involved. Over the years, and a few successive bikes, the bikes evolved – being bigger and more comfortable – and in fact I can ride further now than I could on the post-traillie road-bike I bought. So my answer would probably be expressed in terms of time in the saddle rather than kilometres travelled. But I am limited by the ageing condition of my body, and the deterioration of certain problems it has always had – mainly with my back. Regular breaks help: I find that if I stop every hour or so – even for 10 or 15 minutes – it helps enormously. Although I also find that stopping for very brief periods – usually to adjust clothing, wipe my glasses, blow my nose or whatever – within that hour or so, ends up, unintentionally, allowing me to ride further before I have to have a longer break. My day-rides are generally between 200km and 300km: anything further than that and my body lets me know I’m putting it outside its “comfort zone”! Okay, well, it’s over to our readers. How far can you comfortably ride? And what comments do you have on this issue?
One reader, who wishes not to be named, reckoned that my reply was, “So good that it didn’t leave a lot left to say other than to agree with your comments.” However he did say that sore shoulders could be due to “Holding onto the bars too tightly and also not locking in his body with his legs as well as he should.” He also suggested that it could be an indication of not riding regularly. He went on to say that, “I think the biggest factor is what kind of roads you’re riding on. Long, straight roads are mentally boring / fatiguing and physically fatiguing as you are slumped in one spot. If you’re riding on a road which is windy enough to interest your mind, the time passes without mental fatigue (so long as the rider is riding within their comfort zone) and they should be moving their body about on the bike in the corners - which also makes a huge difference to feelings of pain or tiredness. The more stuff to interest your mind and to have you move your body, the further you can travel without evidence of fatigue.” That’s interesting, as I have taken the view that long straight roads (highways) will have you travelling at higher speed, thus covering greater distance in less time. But I think he has a point there. Another issue he mentioned was appropriate dress. “Being comfortable and unrestricted in your gear will have you riding a lot longer than if you’re not. Same goes for the environment and its impacts - riding in winter is different to a 35 degree summer’s day isn’t it!” Indeed! Great comments! Joe writes, “Long distance riding these days for me is not on. In my 20s and 30s I travelled return trips to Cairns, Adelaide and lots of trips to Melbourne, all from Sydney. On my 15-month old XJR1300 the furthest I have been is to Batemans Bay approx 600km round trip in one day, and I was tired and sore all over on return. I put it down to my age (60). Maybe a faired bike would have helped but honestly I can’t see myself doing long motorcycle rides any more.” Peter wrote in with a very detailed account of his experiences, with advice on how to overcome physical and mental factors that limit how far we can ride. He said that after returning to riding following a couple of decades with no bike other than a pushie, he found it, “Really important to check my stance on the bike and how I am distributing the G-forces of acceleration and braking on just short rides around town or I get some very arthritic pain in several joints in my arms and back.” He wrote that “The distance question was resolved for me when I set out for Brisbane, some 1600kms away. As a younger rider, I had done this trip without stopping a few times, but as an older and more fearful if not wiser rider I had no intention of making that sort of a sprint. Two hours south of home I was in real doubt. Everything hurt and I wasn't enjoying it a bit. I got off the bike at Bowen and spent twenty minutes doing some recovery exercises, and adding fuel to the human on top of the machine. By 3.30 that afternoon I was having lunch in Gladstone and by 2.30 the following afternoon I was in Brisbane without a care in the world. So why did things change? How can you switch from a feeble old bugger who aches after two short hours on the road to Iron Butt mode and slay a thousand kays without hesitation? Some of it is mental, and some of it is physical.” He explains some of the physical things he does: a lot of which revolves around exercise. “The physical starts long before you get on the bike. I do a pilates class once a week and have at least one session on the pushbike of an hour or more at 70% of the max heart rate for a body my age. It's not hard – I'm no athlete, but by letting myself enjoy exercise regularly I have the muscle memory to help make adjustments when the riding gets difficult. You won't believe the amount of exercises you can do inside your body while you are riding along to redistribute the load away from whatever aches, be it arms, bum or back. Learn a few yoga poses that involve stretching. Nothing looks funnier than a bloke with a middle age spread doing triangle pose next to his bike at a rest stop, but it gets you an intro to many other interesting travellers as well as easing the tension. “Fuel up with stuff that doesn't put you to sleep on the road. The energy gels you can buy from the sports section of the supermarket are as good as anything you can buy from a specialist sports store, and even though they taste like lemon-flavoured sponge, they will keep you alert on the road where a hamburger or a pie will put you to sleep while you body tries to digest them. Drink water not coffee. Wear a camel back on the bike and drink little and often so you don't have to stop and empty the bladder too often. You expel an enormous amount of water through the bits of skin that are exposed to wind and heat, and if you ride anywhere in Australia in summer the heat is gunna get you. “Mentally, the solutions are different for each individual. Some like to have music plugged into their ears, some like to sing to themselves, some like to set targets and plot outcomes, but you have to keep your mind on the progress you are making, not the weight of what has to be accomplished. If there's fuel in the bike to go past this town and make one more before you get off the bike, then you aren't ready to stop. If you really listen to your body, maybe it isn't hungry yet, it's probably your mind looking for a diversion from staring at the highway, so you don't need to pull in and have a chocolate bar and a soft drink. “We live in the wide brown land, and plenty of times on the road I've had the weird feeling of being a beetle crawling across the landscape, because the numbers on the speedo don’t come anywhere near the numbers on the map. Embrace your inner beetle and enjoy the timelessness of that space. You don't hear beetles hanging out at the Dung Bar complaining about how far they've just come do you? “So a thousand kilometres a day is a real number. You can do it legally, and without needing to risk yourself by riding through the danger periods of dawn and dusk when the road belongs to Skippy. Just let yourself be a part of the ride instead of trying to stay in the armchair mode we so enjoy while we read about this on the net and you'll become a real road warrior without even noticing it has happened. Don't tell me your body won't let you. I'm a few months short of 60 with a busted disc in my lower back and a bung knee. No one will stand up at my funeral and say, ‘He was very good at being gentle on himself.’” Wow, Peter, there’s a lot of great advice there! And I would like to know more about those exercises you mention that can be done while you're riding. (I know some, but you obviously know a lot more!). I have to say though that, in my opinion, a thousand kilometres a day would not be possible for many older riders, regardless of how much inner and outer training is done. A lot depends on previous history. Someone who has maintained a good level of fitness during their life up to that point will be in a far better place to do that training that will enable longer rides to be undertaken. But if someone has lived a life of not being so fit, tough and active, then no amount of training is going to make them into a Far-Riders champion. I note that you have a crook back and knee, and have overcome what limitations these may have had – that is a great achievement and a great argument for what you have said. But I think there are some people who could genuinely say that their body won’t let them do that sort of distance. So we might have to disagree on that one. But there is a certainly a challenge and a lot of great advice there! Thanks, Peter. Ivor thought it was a question that had no answer. “Every rider and every bike and every situation is different. You mentioned a lot of that in your reply. So how far one rider can go has no bearing on how far another bloke can go. The only thing I would add is that the more comfortable you are and the more you’re enjoying the ride the further you can go. I’ve found that if I’m relaxed (you mentioned that) and enjoying the ride I don’t notice how far or how long I’ve ridden as much as I do when I’m feeling cold or bored with the ride or things like that. That can be overcome a bit by appropriate medication. I remember reading an article by that bloke who was from the Far Riders or something who got killed in America a few years back. He said he took a couple of Panadols at the start of every ride. When I’m riding with a group who I know won’t stop as regularly as I would, I take a couple of Panadols and that does help to keep the aches away. “I find if I stop and walk around the bike, pretend to be checking the oil or something, I can get back on and ride for a good distance more. But age has got a lot to do with it. We just have to accept that as we get older we aren’t as tough as we used to be. Older bones and muscles will ache and give us grief. Get used to it, and ride only as long as you are enjoying it. After all, you don’t have to do an interstate trip to enjoy riding the bike.” Some good advice there, Ivor; and some of it fitting in with what Peter wrote above; although some of it not. (I tend to be with you on those points). The point about riding further when you are enjoying the ride is something I can relate to as well, and supports what Peter said about riding highways etc not allowing you to ride as far as riding roads that are more interesting. Robert wrote: “In my younger days I have managed a few 8 hour trips in the saddle without much discomfort. Now at 59 I ride almost exclusively two up and by far the biggest factor to comfort is not being able to shift your position on the seat, and I start to get butt pain after an hour. A sheepskin and some foam to prevent my pillion sliding into my back (those stupid modern forward sloping seats) has helped enormously and I can go 2 hours before needing a leg stretch. Can’t say I have ever suffered from shoulder pain on any bike, weak arms from a sports bike riding position notwithstanding.” Yes, seats are big factor – including the ability to move around. Phil had a simple piece of advice to avoid the bite-in-the-bum syndrome. “Bicycle gel shorts. I’ve used them for years! Costs about $60 from bicycle shops.” I reckon that’d be worth a try. And I have previously thought that something like this could be the answer. I’ve tried a gel pad, as well as a layer of foam under my usual sheepskin cover, and both help, although in different ways. I found the foam cushioned small amplitude bumps a bit better, while the gel pad cushioned larger amplitude bumps. Put both on together? Yes, I did try a short ride with both on and I think that might work, although I haven’t tried it over a long distance. I suppose I’m thinking that two layers of stuff, plus a sheepskin is changing the actual seat a bit too much. But I’ve intended trying that, and if it works…! (I also have an AirHawk, which is a big help too. Again, it’s different to the other solutions: they all work, but in different ways). Anyway, the shorts might be a good idea. Phil – who’s motorcycling Blog I have linked to a few times – recently wrote a piece that relates directly to how far he could ride. It is, in his case anyway, he found to be an issue of mind over matter. Check it out. Malcolm found that the bike was a big factor. He bought a Yamaha V-Star 1100 a while ago and says that he finds it very comfortable to ride. He writes that, “Even with the lack of discs in my lower back I can comfortably ride five hundred ks, or more, in a day: except for one particular trip from Newcastle to Glenn Innes when the bits that contact the seat were numb or in pain a half hour down the road and didn't improve for the whole trip.” I’ve mentioned a few times that cruisers are not ergonomically good, but in my test of the V-Star 1100 I said that it was better than many others I’ve ridden. And if it works for you personally, then you’ve got the right bike! Thanks everyone for your great comments!
Here’s an intriguing question from Bryan, who owns a Yamaha XJR1300. He writes, “I bought an XJR1300 (2007) with 4,000ks on the clock. I am also an old mechanic, have owned and ridden all manner of two wheeled machines. I changed the oil and filter at 5,000km, then at 10,000, then again at 15,000 using genuine filter and oil, (10w40w Yamalube). She has now done a little over 18,000ks, and since the last change the clutch plates have been sticking after a moderate 80km trip, so I have to hold the lever in and give it a good snap of the throttle to free the plates. It is ok when cold, patience required, shifts ok but sticks when after half an hour on the highway. Hydraulics are fine. By the way, during the time I have owned it (over five years) I have fitted a Staintune muffler (without restrictor), also a K&N air filter & an Eagle screen.” He says that of all the bikes he has ridden, “This one is the most enjoyable bike to date.” But the clutch problem is frustrating. He would appreciate any info.
The Old Bloke’s Reply:
This is a strange one, Bryan, as clutches generally are more prone to sticking when cold, rather than hot. In fact we have had a question – co-incidentally, from another XJR owner – who had experienced problems with the clutch dragging when the bike was first started, but then giving no trouble afterwards. So this is a bit back-to-front to the normal situation. As an XJR owner myself, I can say that I have no trouble once the bike is warmed up. Getting it into neutral when stopped can be a bit tricky sometimes (as with many bikes), but I don't think that is what you're referring to. I assume you've checked the adjustment of the lever – that it's not engaging too far out or too close to the bar? The oil could have something to do with it. You’d assume that the genuine oil would be okay, although I don't use it. I'm not sure how good the oil actually is. As I said, you’d assume it would be okay, as they supply it for their bikes, but I prefer a known oil brand. I use Motul. Changing to a different oil could be the answer - it would be worth a try anyway! I did some research, including posting a question on the XJR Owners forum. I got a couple of responses, but nothing that would explain why it works when cold and gives problems after you've ridden for some distance though. Replies to my question suggested hydraulics (which you say are okay), and someone mentioned the pushrod into the slave cylinder can get sticky. But none of that really fits the scenario of working when cold and not when thoroughly warm. I'd still suggest changing to a different oil and see if that helps.
Mark is about to buy a new bike. He’s narrowed the choice down to two: Kawasaki VN900 or Yamaha XVS1100. On the left are photos of what he is considering: at the top the Kawasaki VN900, and below the Yamaha XVS1100. (These are stock photos, not the actual bikes he is considering, so colours and exact style might be different). He writes, “Now I know the obvious differences: air-cooled / liquid-cooled, 900 /1100, but what I'm trying to find is someone who has ridden both bikes. “At the moment I'm coming down on the side of the XVS. I guess it just appeals to me more: air cooled, twin front disc, carbs and shaft drive. “I've had a quick spin on a VN900 but just can't find any XVS1100s close enough to me to test ride. “On paper the two bikes seem to be so close to each other, so I'm thinking it's just down to personal opinion. Do you have any thoughts or experience of the VN900? Oh, by the way, I've been riding bikes since about 1978 and I've had everything from a BSA Bantam up to a T140 Bonnie and a few Jap things in between I'm riding a Yam fazer 600 at present and I'm from the UK.”
The Old Bloke’s Reply:
Well, Mark, I might not be much help with your problem here as I haven't ridden the Kawasaki, and haven't had a lot to do with them. I have ridden the Yamaha XVS1100 though, as you probably saw. And I was impressed with that. I tried to find a comparison of the two online (you probably tried too!), but no luck. So, my thoughts? Well, I did look at specifications of the two, and from what I read, the weight of each is around the same (comparing dry weights), but with 200cc less in the engine department, the Kawasaki is not as powerful as the Yamaha. As cruisers generally aren't over-endowed with power anyway, that would make me lean towards the Yamaha. But of course there are a lot of other factors involved rather than just power-to-weight ratio. And that's where my impression of the Yamaha might help: there weren't any “faults” I could find that would stop me buying it if I was in the market for that sort of bike. Also, as you currently own a Yamaha, that might be another reason to go Yamaha – although you've owned a lot of different bikes in the past, so brand-loyalty might not be such a consideration. On the flip side I have read that the Kawasaki is comfortable, and its engine a free-revving unit. And being liquid-cooled, while not as traditional as the big air-cooled donk, makes the Kawasaki a more efficient and “modern” design than the Yammie's air-cooled unit. Another issue might be your size. I read that the Kawasaki can feel a bit cramped for taller riders. I'm a lanky old bloke and I was fine on the Yamaha, so if you’re tall then the Yamaha might fit you a bit better. Although having had a run on the Kawasaki you’ll already know if that suits you. So I'm afraid I can't help you a lot with this, although I can say that if you are after that type of bike, I don't think you'd be disappointed with the Yamaha. But would the Kawasaki be better? I don't know. So I’ll ask our readers if they can help.