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2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Convertible CVO - Review

Story and photos by Dustin A. Woods

Over the course of my time with the 2011 Softail Convertible CVO, I was approached many times by curious onlookers that would admire the bike and inquire as to what model it was. After responding, I was inevitably asked, “Isn’t every motorcycle a convertible?” To be fair, it’s a valid question. After all, how many motorcycles have you ever seen with a roof? In this case, the term convertible refers to the fact that this Softail CVO can easily be transformed from a custom tourer to a custom cruiser in mere minutes. For those who may be on the fence over which kind of model to purchase next and aren’t a fan of compromise, this split personality Softail was introduced in 2010 to be the best of both worlds.

The Convertible CVO has a unique fairing that can be attached or detached in two shakes of a lambs tail. Remove the side saddlebags and back rest and presto chango, you're ready to go cruising. Heading out on a long trip? Simply reattach the two pins that keep the fairing in place, click the saddlebags back on and hit the open road. Cruise control is also standard, which most owners will never bother with but can be a Godsend on a long journey. One of the benefits of Harley baggers is the fact that they include a kick-ass sound system that allows you to enjoy your favourite tunes if for some unknown reason you happen to grow weary of the V-Twin symphony booming from between your thighs. Being a removable unit, it would be too complicated to outfit the Convertible with a permanent stereo, but it does house a simpler two speaker system with 20 watts per channel along with an auxiliary input and pocket for an MP3 player. Volume can be adjusted by hitting the + and – buttons on the inside of the front fairing but if you want to change songs on your Harley iPod, it requires pulling over and shuffling through playlists on the MP3 player so you better make sure you choose your riding music carefully. You’ve been warned.

CVO, for those who may be unfamiliar, stands for Custom Vehicle Operations, a limited production program that adds acres of chrome, accessories that are unavailable on the standard lineup of bikes and flashy paint schemes like that of the Roman Gold  with Burnished Copper Graphics of my tester. This also included the Convertible’s leather seat, complete with alligator inserts. Sinking into this handsome saddle is an easy proposition for those who may be inseam impaired as it sits at a lowly 665mm (26.2-inches) – even shorter than the Fat Boy Lo.

Thumb the starter button and the twin cam Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin coughs and sputters before roaring to life and settling into that familiar idle with which Harley has become synonymous. Keyless ignition means never having to fumble for the keys. Leave the fob in your pocket and forget about it. Harley is also famous for torque, and the 110 cubic inch powerplant churns out 110 ft-lbs at 3,000 rpm. Certainly nothing to scoff at, however its running weight tips the scales at a portly 354.3kg (781 lbs) so don’t expect to pass too many gas stations on a long journey if your hand is enthusiastic on the throttle.

While the removable fairing isn’t nearly as heavy and cumbersome as that of a Street Glide, it does add weight to the front end and also does more to disrupt oncoming air rather than make friends with it once reaching highway speeds. The ape hanger handlebars are more comfortable than they look and definitely add to the custom look but aren’t ideal for carving corners, nor are the floorboards that I scuffed after about 10 minutes on the bike.

Thanks to the booming air-cooled, fuel-injected 45-degree V-Twin and six-speed transmission, the Convertible CVO is a blast to ride but definitely isn’t purpose-built for speed. But then again, that isn’t really the point, is it? Like most Hogs, it feels most at home when cruising boulevards or smooth two-lane blacktop. Visually similar to the "hardtail" choppers of years gone by, this Softail features a hidden shock under the chassis to soften the frost heaves and potholes of our sadly neglected roadways. Reeling in that power wasn’t a revelation but braking was actually better than expected, thanks to the four piston calipers grabbing up front, two piston calipers in the rear and ABS as standard equipment. Another set of discs could be added but it would be a shame to overshadow the 18-inch chrome StingerTM custom cast aluminum wheels.

Tipping the register at $32,739, the Convertible CVO certainly isn’t cheap but those who were previously considering the possibility of adding another steed to their stable can take solace in the fact that is it essentially two motorcycles in one.

Torquey Sceamin’ Eagle 110CI V-Twin
Custom tourer or custom cruiser? Buy one, get both.
Paint scheme worthy of a show bike

Prepare to scuff the floorboards
Not exactly a fuel miser

2011 Ducati Monster 796 Review

Beauty of a Beast

Story by Dustin A. Woods, Photos by Matt Ball and Dustin A. Woods

The tale of Goldilocks is the most immediate and obvious comparison to draw upon when considering Ducati’s Monster line-up. For some, the power and proportions of the entry-level Monster 696 may be just too diminutive, while the big-bore 1100 may be too intimidating in size, stature or insurance premiums. Thankfully the legendary Italian motorcycle manufacturer also makes the Monster 796. The fact that Ducati offers three versatile yet unique Monsters is likely why you can’t swing a premium leather man satchel in Toronto without hitting three of them. The Monster has become somewhat of an urban icon, but does it live up to the mystique and hype? Most definitely.

When searching out your next bike, you may question how much power you want and how much you actually need. Sure it may seem appealing to choose a supersport that can outrun a fighter jet as your next ride, but naked middleweights have many attractive attributes that make them an ideal addition to your garage. Most bikes are exceptional at one particular kind of riding, but can fall short when outside their niche. Enter the Monster 796, a well-balanced middleweight that allows for a comfortable upright riding position that does double duty as wholly gratifying transportation and an artistic masterpiece. When immobile, it could easily be welcomed as a permanent fixture of an art gallery. Thumb the starter button and the air-cooled L-twin engine barks to life before settling into an off-kilter idle emitting a sound from the massive twin pipes that is both menacing and exotic.

The 803cc mill has a torquey powerband that provides more than adequate acceleration under normal conditions but literally transforms as it approaches its maximum torque of 58 ft-lbs at 6,250 rpm. A peak of 87 hp at 8,250 rpmmay not seem like a revelation, but the fact that the 796 tips the scales at only 167 kg (169 kg with optional ABS) means that its power-to-weight ratio is certainly nothing to scoff at. Incorporated into the tubular trellis frame, the fuel-injected powerplantpairs to a six-speed gearbox through a hydraulic slipper clutch. Gear changes are smooth as butter and finding neutral was never an issue when coming to a halt at a long stoplight. One thing that did take some getting used to however, was just how much attention this bike gets around town. Mind you, the standard issue Ducati red paint certainly didn’t help.

Never twitchy or unmanageable, this Monster’s power delivery is complimented by impressive handling and an exceptional braking prowess. While the seating position is relatively neutral, the handlebars are situated slightly forward and the pegs slightly aft. This makes the versatile Monster comfortable enough for long hauls but happy to accommodate aggressive riding. Suspension duties are handled by non-adjustable 43-mm Showa forks up front and a progressive Sachs monoshock that is preload and rebound-adjustable in the rear that allows 148mm of rear suspension travel.

Perhaps the only manner in which one could slow down the Monster 796 faster would be to equip an anchor on board. The front wheel gets four-piston 320mm Brembo brakes, while the rear wheel gets a two-piston, 245 mm single disc setup. Equipped with optional ABS, the MSRP of my tester rang in at $11,995 before taxes and freight. The system can easily be disengaged but I opted to leave it on due to the single-digit temperatures and variable precipitation that week. The system did activate a couple times during spirited riding but never felt overly intrusive or jarring which let the 17-inch Pirelli Diablo Rossos to their job.

Everything about this medium-sized Monster seamlessly combines form and function. The single-sided swingarm is not only a fetching design, but it is also lighter than the traditional double setup found on the 696, for instance. The sculpted plastic covering the 15L fuel tank (13.5 for ABS version) is aerodynamic and comfortable for my six foot frame to straddle but also exhibits subtle styling elements that evoke a unique view from every angle.

Several tweaks have been made for 2011, mostly in the ergonomics department. The lightweight aluminum handlebar is almost an inch higher, while the seat is 9.9mm lower. Four-way-adjustable hand levers were added which were welcome additions and the seat was re-shaped for increased rider comfort.

Amateurs who don’t have much experience with riding who are looking to make their first big purchase are often worried about how soon they will out-grow the bike they may be financing for several years. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as an inaugural purchase, the 796 wouldn’t scare off beginners and I can’t imagine any of the experienced riders I know growing tired of such a bike anytime soon. For those finicky riders who can’t seem to find a balance of style, size and substance, the Monster 796 might be just right.

Intoxicating sound
Combination of form and function

Cranky at low rpm
Digital speedometer could be easier to read

First ride - 2010 Can-Am Sypder

My first ride - 2010 Can-Am Sypder

Written by: Dean Parsons

Photos by: Dean Parsons

With all of the recent snowfall and winter storms we've had lately, luckily, today started with a welcomed glimmer of hope. The forecast predicted a partly sunny sky with temperatures just above freezing. I also had a couple hours off in the afternoon.

(A quick stop along the roadside of First Pond (snow and ice covered) behind the Goulds)

Off my side street and onto the main road through the city, I rode on three wheels. The powerful and eager Rotax 998cc power plant in my Spyder hummed, and was more then willing to cruise with a twist of the wrist as I up-shifted.

The afternoon led me through the small towns along the east coat of the Avalon Peninsula, with breathtaking views of the vibrant blue Atlantic, frozen fresh water ponds, and along some nice twists and turns that I'm familiar with. However, this time I'm on three wheels instead of two… and I'm loving it!

Still getting used to the turns on my Spyder, I've been alternated techniques to find what works best for me. So far I like leaning over the seat slightly on the inside of the turn, while pushing my body to the inside by pressing the outside peg. A little more time in the saddle and I hope to be solid with proper body english.

(Nice turns through the hills going into Petty Harbour)

The smiles continued through the coastal towns and to the peak of the point at Cape Spear.

(A photo-op in nice sunlight on the way to Cape Spear)

(My Spyder at Cape Spear - New Lighthouse in the background)

(My Spyder at Cape Spear - St. John’s off in the distance)

From here I trekked into the city once again, through downtown to the top of Signal Hill for a view overlooking the city on one side, and the horizon where the ocean meets the sky on the other. I stopped into an empty parking lot to practice some of the Can-Am suggested Spyder Roadster training techniques; the swerve, engine kill switch, ABS braking and some more turning and hard cornering. VERY different then on two wheels. Then I headed for home, wanting to skip rush-hour before the traffic got too heavy.

(Looking back at Cape Spear from Signal Hill)

Home again, after a mostly sunny sky, the clouds loomed overhead as I pulled in the driveway and got out my garden hose. Shortly after, the clouds cleared again and beams of light cast a glow over my RS. It sat there gleaming in the driveway, wet from a wash-down to rid the salt and winter road dirt and my smile grew a couple more sizes.

The sunlight dropped below the far hills just as I was drying her off, when I noticed ice crystals had formed on the seat from the temperatures which just dropped below freezing. I powered her into the garage and closed the door behind me as I called it a day. A great day and 92 km (60miles) experiencing the "Y" factor, in the middle of Winter, February 10th, 2010; the first real ride on my Spyder.

(Washing off the salt and winter road dirt)

Can-Am Spyder Specs and Details:
- Rotax® 990 V-Twin engine 
- 3 Spoke aluminum wheels
- Multi-function guage display
- Storage
- Mechanical Reverse
- Cylinders - 2
- 106 hp @ 8500 RPM (79 kW @ 8500 RPM)
- Torque 77lb-fit. @ 6250 RPM (104.3 Nm @ 6250 RPM)

Transmission options:
1. Manual 5-speed gearbox, true mechanical reverse (SM5)
2. Semi-automatic finger-trigger shifting (SE5)

Wheels and Tires:
Front tire KR21 165/65R14 (13-17 psi) with aluminum 14x5 wheels
Rear tire KR21 225/50R15 (26-31 psi) with aluminum 15x7 wheel

Foot actuated, fully integrated hydraulic 3-wheel braking system

Front: 4 piston calipers with 10.2 in. x 0.25 in (260 mm x 6 mm) discs.
Rear: Single-piston caliper with 10.2 in. x 0.25 in (260 mm x 6 mm) disc.

Also features Electronic Brake Distribution, Anti-lock braking system, and a mechanical foot actuated parking brake that applies to the rear caliper.

Front: Double A-Arm with anti-roll bar, 5.67 in. (145 mm) of travel.
Rear: Swing-arm with mono-shock, 5.67 in. (145 mm) of travel.

Safety and Security:
VBS - Vehicle Stability System
ABS - Anti-lock Braking System
TCS - Traction Control System
SCS - Stability Control System with roll-over mitigation
DPS - Dynamic Power Steering
DESS Digitally Encoded Security System

Dry vehicle weight: 699 lb (317 Kg)
Front storage capacity: 11.62 US gal (44 l)
Max front load capacity: 30 lb (15.9 kg)
Fuel capacity: 7.13 US Gal (25 l)
Type of gas: Unleaded, 87 octane minimum

Seat (top) height: 29 in. (737 mm)

Spyder RS - $19,299
Spyder RS-S - $21,799

Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300S

Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300S
Putting the ‘Sport’ in Sport-Touring
By Dustin A. Woods, Photos courtesy of BMW Motorad

Dustin Woods is an automotive and motorcycle journalist and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Based in Toronto where residents experience two distinct and equally frustrating seasons; winter and construction, Woods is happiest when the city fades away from view in the mirrors of a two-wheeled machine.


While every motorcycle deserves to be treated with maturity and respect, certain motorcycles simply demand more than others. Even before you have a chance to swing a leg over the brand spankin’ new BMW K1300S, it commands your utmost attention. Much like its closest competitors Suzuki GSX-R 1300 Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX14, one’s mindset before straddling BMW’s new steed can mean the difference between overwhelming gratification and immediate incarceration. After getting a quick once-over of the updated features of the bike from BMW Motorad’s Robert Dexter, he assured me that the bike can be intimidating but doesn’t take long to warm up to. “It may seem like too much bike now, but after 30 minutes, you’ll want to buy one yourself.” He was right. He was also spot on when he warned me about Ontario’s new ‘Street Racing’ legislation stating, “It doesn’t take much more than a flick of the wrist to break the law on this one.”

Sure enough, not two hours after picking the bike up, I was standing on the side of Highway 10 north of Shelbourne with Ontario’s finest writing me up a ticket with more decimal places than I had deposited into my bank account last month. While the friendly officer was empathetic to my situation, citing that such a bike would be nearly impossible not to speed on, “The law is the law.” He then thanked me for being a law abiding citizen by pulling over as soon as the cherries started flashing. He put it best by saying, “If you had attempted to make a run for it, I wouldn’t have been able to catch you,” as he gave the bike an envious up and down.

With a ticket in my pocket and my tail between my legs, I continued up to Sauble Beach for the weekend - this time with my eyes dropping down to the speedometer much more often than before. Unlike many bikes where you feel as though you are riding faster than you actually are, the K1300S effortlessly sucks in asphalt in stride without any indication that you may be breaking the law.

The combination of excellent wind buffeting, Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), and a powerplant that feels as commanding, smooth and linear as an airliner means that the K1300S is better suited to the Autobahn than the strictly regulated roads of Ontario. Luckily the ESA system (available for $850) can be adjusted to ‘Comfort’ mode to accommodate our sorely neglected road surfaces. The available ‘Sport’ mode is a welcome addition, useful for more spirited riding or trackday shenanigans.

The optional Gear Shift Assistant (GSA) (a $350 option) only adds to the provocation of speed as rifling through all six gears can be made without letting off the throttle, or even engaging the clutch for that matter. I was initially apprehensive about trying out the system as the idea of a clutchless shift gone wrong made me cringe like a visit to the dentist, but the system immediately demonstrated itself to be smooth and competent. The system is particularly useful (and entertaining) when getting up to speed to merge onto the highway.

Shortly after my run in with smoky, dark ominous clouds began to approach and the sky opened up with a vengeance. It was then that I experienced the comfortable touring aspects of the bike. Even with the endless power and performance of the K1300S, it never felt erratic or out of control. In fact, I could easily spend a full day flogging it on the track or riding two up on a long weekend road trip because it is simply that versatile.

On several occasions over the course of my eventful cottage excursion where hard braking was needed, the ABS demonstrated itself to be shockingly good. While I likely wouldn’t have the cajones to test the Anti-Spin Control (ASC) on dry pavement, it actually came in handy while negotiating rain soaked streets. The K1300S comes with many great options as standard equipment such as the aforementioned ABS and dual mode grip warmers. It may be June but after a run in with Mother Nature and with the sun beginning to set, the warm grips made the closing minutes of my ride considerably more comfortable and safe by keeping my wet hands warm and dexterous.

After my week was up with the updated 2009 Hayabusa last summer, I drove straight to my masseuse to remove the knots in my shoulders and kink in my neck. As much as I enjoyed riding the bright orange ‘Busa, it wasn’t exactly comfortable for my six-foot-one frame for extended periods. Quite the opposite was true with the BMW as the first thing I wanted to do after getting off the bike at the end of a trip, was get right back on it and keep riding. Not only is the K1300S more versatile than the Hayabusa, but it is also lighter and more powerful. Tipping the scales at 254 kg, the big K is now both the lightest and most powerful heavyweight contenders in its class. The downside of that is that it isn’t exactly a fuel miser - not that anyone in the market to buy one would actually be dissuaded by this realization.

While there was no shortage of moxie in the previous K1200, there were a number of complaints regarding inconsistent throttle response which was later attributed to poor fuel mapping. No such power robbing gremlins reared their ugly heads during my experience over the course of nearly 1,000kms on the new 1300.

Displacement has also been upped from 1157cc to 1293cc, which was accomplished by adding a 1mm overbore and 5.3mm increase in stroke. Power has therefore increased seven horsepower, bringing output to 175 hp and 103 ft-lbs of torque. Throttle response has therefore been improved and with the glitches removed, the K1300S is a force to be reckoned with.

Another welcome update to the K series was the discontinuation of BMW’s traditional three switch turn signals in favour of the more user-friendly left-thumb-only configuration. While many Bimmer purists may cringe, I find the new switches to be a God send compared to the previous system.

Boasting standard features like ABS and optional innovations like Gear Shift Assist, Anti-Spin Control and Electronic Suspension Adjustment at an MSRP of only $16,650, the K1300S is competitive entry in a ferocious market. If you happen to be looking for a big bore sport-touring steed, this means you now have one more dealership worth visiting in your search.

Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob

5 days, 4 nights - that’s the amount of time I had with a black pearl Harley Davidson motorcycle going by the the name of “Fat Bob.” A member of the DYNA family of Harley’s, and introduced in 2008, it’s a stretched out and unapologetic motorcycle. You won't find any frilly leathers, unnecessary add-ons, seat heaters, ipod attachments and nor will you get any protection from the elements. It's just you and the road and that's obviously got some appeal judging from the abundance of Harley's on the roads.

The Fat-Bob might look strictly old-school but there are some modern touches under the skin whilst maintaining a minimalist and custom look. The cables run inside the V-shaped stainless drag-style handlebar (which are larger diameter than normal because of this). The bars are smaller diameter at the grip but the grip itself brings the diameter back out to the size of the bar everywhere else. It helps to have a large hand if you want to be able to wrap your fingers solidly around the bar.

Another example of the technology lying beneath the surface of the Fat-Bob is that if you buy the optional $440 security system you don’t even need to use a key to start this bike. Well, I should say you have to use the key to put the bike in the ignition position or as I say the 'at the ready' position but the key fob features a proximity sensor so once this is done you can put your keys in your pocket. Then, just put the dial switch in the ignition position with your hand (there's also an 'off' and 'accessories' position), wait for the electronic fuel injection whirring sound to complete its cycle, thumb the starter and the big 45 degree v-twin burbles to life. When you stop to get off, hit the kill switch, turn the ignition switch off and walk away with the key still in your pocket. The security system automatically arms. If you're leaving the bike for a while its probably a good idea to use the key to take the bike out of the 'at the ready' mode and lock the steering particularly if you're leaving it in unmonitored areas to make it tougher for unscrupulous folks to roll it onto a waiting truck. The security system includes an immobilizer in North America and and an immobilizer and siren outside that region.

Starting this big twin produces a very satisfying, deep and distinct, Harley-Davidson potato-potato rumble. That rumble resonates through a two-into-one-into-two exhaust. The exhaust is shiny chrome; there's carefully placed protective covers where your legs might easily touch featuring oval venting slots in the outer skin, purposely designed to resemble the cooling vents on a Tommy gun. It still gets a little warm though so watch yourself.

The Fat Bob comes from a line of bikes pegged between the big touring FL bikes and the XL Sportsters - the FX series. Mating the lighter front end of a XL to the FL frame produced a family of five FX bikes, renamed as Dyna's in 2006. The Fat Bob name comes from the fat 18.93 litre tank, with centre console, and bobbed rear fender.

The fenders cover up tires that HD commissioned Dunlop to produce specifically for this bike. The rear end has a beefy 180 profile tire on a 16" slotted disc cast aluminum wheel while the front is a 130/90-16 on a solid disc cast aluminum wheel. It's the front tire that really seems to stand out - it's a really fat front tire for a production motorcycle. I must say that it looks and feels right on this bike and contributes greatly to its handling and stability. I came across several stretches of highway and secondary roads with chewed up pavement. Bikes with narrower tires tend to wander on that type of surface as the contact patch tries to find the flat point on the road. Another infamous Canadian road hazard; tar snakes, are handled in stride. You can feel these imperfections but the Fat Bob just rolls right over them.

As one might expect, "Fat Bob" isn't a lightweight and checks in at 703 lbs fully fueled. But, it's pushed along by a big 96 cubic inch (that’s 1584 cc’s), air cooled engine - which does so with ease. It's good for a whopping 92 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm and mated to a 6-speed cruise drive transmission and belt final drive. Cracking open the throttle give you the sensation that you've just been launched from a sling-shot. A tough feeling to describe, but believe me - it WILL put a smile on your face!

So, you're probably wondering - how fast will it go? The answer is pretty fast, you can break the speed limit on any Canadian highway without breaking a sweat. I didn't feel the desire to try to ride fast on this bike though. The 60-100 km/hr range seemed to be a real sweet spot that the bike was more than happy to plod along at all day; I was happy to oblige, stick to the speed limits, and enjoy the ride.

It was a pleasant surprise just how nimble the bike was once under power. The big v-twin will nearly pull away from a stop with just a slow release of the clutch. The engine in this bike is larger than the one in my old Civic hatchback! So it needs to be treated with respect even though it's remarkably easy to ride. Despite its heft the bike is a breeze to maneuver at low speeds, amazingly so even. U-turns and parking lots are nothing to fear. The only time this bike is a handful is when you're trying to push it around a parking lot - so park wisely.

My loaner was equipped with forward foot controls but mid-mount controls are also available as a factory option. I've got a 32" inseam and the forward foot controls were a little bit of a stretch and during extended rides they did put my hip flexor muscles to the test. Despite the slight stretch it is a pretty comfortable position so definitely don't rule it out, especially if you've got a longer leg. The seat height of 663 mm (26.1 in) is very low and being able to touch the ground flat footed won't be an issue for just about anybody - reaching forward mounted controls would be an issue long before seat height.

From the riders perspective the seat is deeply sculpted and quite comfortable. There's support in the rear and I'd describe it as being almost tractor style in shape. With the forward mount controls, adjusting your position means you've got to pull yourself toward the front tire using the handlebars because you can't use your legs to do it. Behind the rider the seat tapers to a narrow point over the rear fender. Reports from my passenger indicate that it's not as comfortable as the rider's position. In stock trim, there's nothing for the passenger to hang on to except the rider and it's difficult to shift your weight. A sissy bar (basically a backrest) is an available option that you might consider if you regularly have a passenger, otherwise they'll have to hang on tight! A lower body massage does come standard courtesy of the v-twin rumble.

Instrumentation on the Fat Bob is excellent and packaged into a large, round, tank mounted gauge. The round gauge includes an odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light and countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, and 6-speed indicator light. A discreetly placed button on the left side of the gauge lets you toggle through the display features.

The only thing missing from the instrumentation is a tachometer. It's not really an essential bit of information given the torque this motor produces. You're never too far from being in the proper gear. The 6th gear light is an especially useful feature that illuminates a small indicator when in 6th gear. That's a helpful bit of information on the highway and puts an end to checking if you've got that one last gear left. The gas cap on the left hand side has a fuel indicator while the right hand side is the one you remove to gas up. By the way, there's even a Harley-Davidson logo stamped in the steel of the inside ring of the gas tank! Harley logo's are everywhere on this thing!

Stopping power is provided by dual disc, 4-piston fixed brakes in the front, and a 2-piston torque-free floating disc in the rear. Black stainless steel braided brake lines come standard. When you're on a bike this large you need to plan ahead a little when stopping so be sure to pay attention to traffic ahead of you. Combining liberal application of the rear brake with the front keeps things level and seemed to produce the most comfortable stops for me. Don't jam on the front brakes without using the rear as well as you'll quickly overburden the front suspension.

Suspension is by way of telescopic forks in the front while the rear consists of a twin sided swing arm with chromed shocks. The suspension on my loaner wasn't tuned for my weight so comments about it could vary from your personal experience. Over rough pavement and sharp bumps the suspension seemed quite firm. Have your dealership properly set up the suspension for your weight and type of riding.

In conclusion:

My daily rider is a Honda VFR 800 - a sport touring bike - so the HD Fat Bob is obviously a huge departure. After putting about 650 km's on this bike I must say that I was a little sad to have to give it back. One gets a feeling of invincibility riding this American made motorcycle. I felt pretty cool, like I was king of the road. One thing is certainly true - it draws the attention of other motorists and people of all ages. I don't get nearly as many "Cool bike" comments on my VFR. Plus that torque and v-twin exhaust note is highly addictive. 650 km's was enough to see some of the attraction of these big cruisers - enough to know that I'll jump at a chance to ride anything Harley makes in the future.


MSRP starting at $ 19,059 for Black and $19,499 for color
2329.94 mm

- Length or a little over 7.6 feet long.
- Dry weight 303.77 kg (~670 lbs)
- Wet weight 318.88 kg (703 lbs)
- Fuel economy (claimed) 4.44 hwy / 6.92 city per 100 km's
- Torque 124.75 Nm @ 3000 rpm
- 2-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Special thanks to Harley-Davidson Canada

Quick Hit and Slideshow - 2009 Yamaha TMAX Scooter

Quick Hit & Slideshow - 2009 Yamaha TMAX Scooter
Written by: Dan M

I'm sure you've all heard the jokes about scooters and perhaps you've ignored them because of the stereotypes often associated with them. Whatever the negative stereotype is that's keeping you from hopping on a scooter; GET OVER IT. Not only are scooters much cheaper to operate than automobiles, they're extremely practical, and they're an absolute blast to ride!

The 2009 Yamaha TMAX is new to Canada but has been available in Europe since 2001 where scooter riders have been buying them up en masse. Revamped in 2008, the TMAX now has a sporty aluminum chassis and, dare I say it, sport bike like bodywork and upswept muffler. This size scoter falls into the maxi scooter category and unlike the little 49cc scooters or even some of their larger brethren you're not limited to city, or secondary roads. Maxi scooters have the stability and power to comfortably get you whereever you want to go and whatever road you want to get their on. 2-up cross Canada trip? - the TMAX will do it with ease!

The TMAX has a liquid cooled, DOHC 499cc parallel twin engine pumps out a claimed 43 horsepower and 34.2 ft-lb of torque @ 6,500 rpm. Not earth shattering by motorcycle standards, but more than capable of propelling you at and above the speed limit on any Canadian road or highway; even if you've got a friend along for the ride.

If safety and performance is a key consideration you'll be pleased to know that the TMAX has R6 sportsbike derived brakes, with twin, monoblock four-piston front calipers and single-piston rear caliper, and a trio of 267 mm discs. If you want to stop, you can do it in a hurry; a single finger is all it takes to bring the TMAX down from speed. It doesn't feature ABS.

A huge 43mm fork up front and a single shock swingarm in the rear ensure a sportbike like ride and that road imperfections are taken in stride. 15" cast aluminum wheels with 120/70R15 front, 160/60R15 rear tires further highlight the motorcycle like package offered by the TMAX. The larger rims help with stability at higher speeds too.

The 2-piece windshield provides excellent wind and weather protection. The upper portion of the windshield features a "hard coated" finish for scratch protection. Dual 60/55-watt halogen headlights provide a bright beam of light to guide your way through the night and give the TMAX a sporty, sleek, cat-eye image.

In terms of comfort there's lots of legroom and a spacious cockpit. A seat height of 800mm (31.5'') should suit a wide range of riders. The rider portion of the seat features a 3 position back support for even more comfort and allows the rider's position to be adjusted forward or backward to add or reduce leg room.

A few things you'll immediately notice when hopping aboard the TMAX is the step through design common to scooters. It feels a little unusual at first if you're coming from a motorcycle background but I found the adjustment quick - within mere minutes I was feeling comfortable and enjoying the sporty handling. Another feature that's not as common on motorcycles is the fully automatic, CVT (constantly variable transmission) V-belt transmission. There's no gear changes to worry or think about. You're always in the proper gear and the transmission ensures easy "twist-the-throttle-and-go operation". This is especially convenient if you're a commuter or riding within the city. Stop and go traffic, and low speed maneuvers are performed effortlessly.

What about economy? Well, the TMAX features a 15-litre fuel tank and as you might anticipate it gets great gas mileage; 56 mpg or 20kpl is claimed by Yamaha. That gives you a theoretical range of approximately 300 km on a single tank. Gas prices are all over the map at the moment but lets say you're getting $1 a litre gasoline to make the math easy. That's $15 bucks to travel 300 km! You should also factor in insurance costs and scooters are generally easily insurable and at affordable rates.

On the practicality side - one of the great features of the TMAX is its lockable underseat storage. It has a large, locking under seat storage compartment can easily hold a full-face helmet. A vanity light is provided in the rear section of the trunk which is a nice touch when unloading in low light.

A multi-function instrumentation panel gives the rider all sorts of useful information. It includes analog speedometer, temp and fuel gauges with illuminated needles. Tach, odometer, dual tripmeters, clock, fuel tripmeter are digital. There's even a V-belt wear indicator warning light and an oil change indicator light too.

If you're a motorcycle rider and want the storage you get straight out of the crate with the TMAX you'll at least have to invest in a top box which also changes the appearance of the motorcycle. It's integrated into the styling of the TMAX. That makes throwing your laptop, work files, groceries, rain gear, helmet; whatever so much easier on the TMAX. The sporty performance it offers is also within the realm of many motorcycles and handling capabilities that exceeds that of many motorcycles. Those traits should make the transition from motorcycle to scooter quite a bit easier for traditional motorcycle riders. If you're a newcomer to two-wheeled riding, well, you're in for a treat!

2009 Yamaha TMAX
MSRP of $10,499
Wet weight 222kg (488.4 lb)
Colors: Dark Metallic Blue,Reddish Yellow

An instant rebate of $500 is available until September 2009 - see Yamaha's website for details.

Buell 1125's and Ulysses XT - in pictures

My local Harley Davidson dealership (Privateer's Harley Davidson) was frequented today by a bunch of folks looking to get a ride on a Harley Davidson or Buell in what was the most recent stop of Harley Davidson's cross Canada demo tour. It was a fantastic day for it; the weather was beautiful; warm and sunny with not very much wind.

I was lucky enough to get to ride some Buell motorcycles. I've been wanting to test out any bikes with the new liquid cooled, Rotax built, 1125cc, v-twin engine based models. Especially since I've just finished reading 25 Years of Buell. Great book by the way! Definitely recommended reading.

As luck would have it I got to ride a 2009 Buell 1125R and the 2009 1125CR. For good measure, and to see what the differences were, I also tried an air-cooled, 1200cc thunderbolt based Buell; the 2009 Ulysses XT.

The difference is HUGE! I expect that you'll be seeing more 1125cc based bikes from Buell in the future. It's a fantastic mill that makes plenty of smooth linear power. It's easy to ride even at very low speeds. (In the fall of 2008 new engine spark and fuel calibrations were released for 2008 models - the calibrations can be downloaded at your local Buell dealer free of charge.) I barely had a need to get the bike into third at highway speed. The two 1125 based machines were particularly light feeling bikes that felt very nimble and flickable.

And now without further ado. Here's some pictures and some additional thoughts and comments about the bikes:

2009 Buell 1125CR (Cafe Racer) - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

2009 Buell 1125R - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

2009 Buell Ulysses XT - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

Special thanks to:

Privateers Harley Davidson - Halifax, NS for hosting the event. They've been named Canadian Harley-Davidson® Retailer of the Year for the third year in a row for 2008.

Harley Davidson Canada - for providing the bikes and all friendly folks helping everybody have a Harley/Buell experience.

Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT

Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT
Photo's - some taken during demo and others are BMW supplied

Special thanks to Atlantic Motoplex in Dieppe NB for the generous use of their Red Apple Metallic BMW K1300GT demo bike. These guys are great and their shop is full of bikes you'll
want in your garage. Go check them out. If you're in the market for a new BMW, Ducati, or Yamaha contact Troy Leblanc @ 506) 383-1022. Tell'em CanadianMotorcycleRider sent you!


BMW K1300GT; A bit of a dull name for something that sets the high performance touring bar so high. One would think it deserves a name more fitting of its greatness! I guess it's tough to distill all the things that make this bike what it is into just one simple word, so K1300GT it is. Let it be known though that behind that name lies a bike that you can pretty much 'do it all' on - a short cruise around town or a trip across Canada; the BMW K1300 GT is ready for it. To tell you about all the features and technology packed into this machine would take a large book - we're going to hit what we feel are the highlights.

If you want a simple bike without a lot of safety features or technology then this might not be the bike for you because this bike is packed with gee-whiz features. These gee-whiz features are not obtrusive; quite the opposite, they make this bike incredibly comfortable and safer to ride. Anything that keeps you comfortable and warm improves safety and control. As romantic as the thought of riding a hard-tail old-school bike with the barest of necessities is, the K1300GT is undeniably going to be a lot more comfortable and arguably a lot more fun if you plan on riding more than a couple hundred kilometers.


Not the least hyped and discussed of changes for this new model is the change from BMW switchgear with its left and right activation and right side cancellation buttons. That previous system is gone from this new model and in its place you've got the traditional left side control for signals. I've been told by many BMW riders that you do quickly get accustomed to it - and it does still remain on many BMW models, but I find the right thumb cancellation and signal activation challenging to get used to. I find myself being a little less than smooth because I'm trying to get my thumb on the switches as I'm rolling on or off the throttle. No such worries on this model, there's no acclimatization period - things are just where you're accustomed to if you're coming from another brand.

There are a quite a few controls on the left hand side now, but it still makes sense (to this rider at least) to place such frequently used switches on the side that's not already busy controlling the throttle. It's all well designed and labeled so riders should have no trouble with the switchgear despite all the options at their fingertips.

Many may scoff at an electronically adjustable windscreen initially, that is, until you discover how incredibly useful it is on a touring bike, or any bike that you're going to hit the highway on for that matter. It was windy and gusty the day I rode the K1300GT and I was experiencing some buffeting - my head was shaking noticeably from side to side. Buffeting affects your ability to see properly, causes fatigue, and makes the experience of motorcycling, well, just a little less enjoyable. A quick flick of the thumb and I dialed in the perfect windscreen height to deflect wind blast so it just rolled over the top edge of my helmet and 5'10" frame. Buffeting gone!

I tried adjusting the windscreen up and down slightly at various points of the highway stretch of my ride just to be sure it wasn't just a change in wind that was making the difference - no - the windscreen adjustment was definitely the source of the increased comfort. You have 100 millimeters (or near 4" of adjustment) at the push of a button. Brilliant! It adds some complexity and expense but you'll be spoiled after having this feature.

Protection and Ergonomics

The fairing on the K1300GT serves its purpose well doing an admirable job of protecting your body and legs from the elements. Knees tuck in nicely behind its angular shape. I didn't realize just how much wind was being directed out around my legs until I stuck my knees out to determine just how effective they were. I could barely feel the wind at all with my legs tucked in behind the fairing. Very nice!

The frontal protection offered on this machine is substantial and would certainly make riding in unpleasant weather (ie: rain, wind, cold, or some combination of those) a little more enjoyable though. I did find that the pegs were back a little bit further than I was used to and on a couple of occasions I was hunting for the clutch with my toe - bumping the lower portion of the fairing. A minor issue that would no doubt disappear with a little more seat time.

Speaking of the seat, this one is wide, comfy, and flat. It doesn't push you onto the tank at all. Seat height is easily adjustable by a mechanism under the seat and offers three settings. I was using it on it's highest setting. With my 32" inseam that height suited me just fine. The seat steps up for the passenger so they've got some space to move around without impacting the comfort of the rider. They passenger has some solid, integrated hand grips to hang on to as well.

The grab handles have some adjustability front to back should you so desire. Behind the passenger is a plate that can be used to mount gear on when touring, or perhaps a top box. The K1300GT I rode also had heated seats - another very nice feature that helps boost comfort and extend the riding season a little. The rider and passenger have their own independent control over what temperature they want. The drivers control is on the right switchgear which the passenger control is a small switch located on the right hand side of the bike between the back of the seat and the gear mounting plate.

The handlebars are adjustable for height and coming towards the riders body covering a range of 40 millimeters (almost 1.6") allowing you to easily customize the height of the bars to your exact preferences. The height of the handlebar is adjusted via a mechanical thread-and-bolt setting making it pretty simple and convenient.

Engine & Drivetrain

The K1300GT features a new 1,293 cc engine and a host of improvements over last years 1,157 cc model. The K 1300 GT boasts 160 hp at 9,000 rpm with 99 ft-lbs at 8,000 rpm. In addition, BMW claims that 80% of max torque is available as early as 3,500 rpm. Last years K1200GT produced a claimed 152 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 96 ft-lbs at 7,750 rpm. I haven't ridden a K1200GT but I can tell you that this inline 4 is deceptively fast. It's not a feather light bike and it feels substantial when you sit on it or if you have to back it up in a parking lot but as soon as you're under power the weight disappears and the bike feels as nimble as a ballet dancer. It doesn't feel big at all.

As one might imagine from BMW, the engine and drivetrain are delightfully smooth. One thing you'd better do is keep an eye on that speedometer or you might find yourself in trouble with the law. Highway legal speeds come and go very quickly, and comfortably, on this bike. 110 km/hr feels like a slow walk and there's plenty in reserve at that speed. The clutch shifts with ease and no big clunks as you notch it into place. It oozes quality and precision.

A maintenance-free shaft drive ensures you won't have to worry about chain adjustments or dealing with lubricating a chain. Shaft driven pretty standard in this class of motorcycles. The BMW unit is anything but standard though. This is about the smoothest shifting and running motorcycle I've had the pleasure of riding. No doubt the hydraulically operated multi-disc wet clutch, and six speed synchromesh gearbox contribute greatly to this remarkable smoothness.


The bike produces practically no dive under braking because of its optimized Duolever front-wheel suspension. The Duolever has a newly designed lower longitudinal arm - made of aluminum instead of steel which brings down the weight by 2lbs. That may not seem overly relevant in a bike weighing 635 pounds full of fuel but every pound counts. Consider that it's unsprung weight too and if you drop pounds on a bike that's the best place to do it. In the rear you've got the Paralever single-sided swingarm that incorporates final shaft drive.

BMW’s new ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment II) suspension is also available on the K 1300 GT as an extra cost option. This allows the rider to adjust the suspension at the touch of a button to optimize the suspension based on the load you're carrying; whether it's just you riding solo, solo with luggage, or you've got a passenger and luggage. These settings that are represented visually on the LCD situated between the conventional speedometer and tachometer by a single helmet, a single helmet with a suitcase, or two helmets with a suitcase symbol. Damping is user-selectable on-the-fly and at the push of a button you can ride in Sport, Normal, or Comfort mode to suit your riding style. Very useful features on a bike that will tempt you to seek adventure like the K1300GT will.

Speaking of adventure, the 32-litre side cases offer generous amounts of storage and easily swallow up full-face helmet. The latching mechanism is easy to use and so long as you don't lock them you don't require the key to open the cases. The key releases the bags easily from the bike and the integral handle makes them easy to carry into your hotel room. The GT also comes standard with a locking glove box on the right hand side of the fairing to keep necessities close at hand. If you need more enclosed storage you can get an optional top box in 49 or 28-litre capacity.


BMW's proven EVO brake system and BMW Motorrad ABS provide maximum safety, and the optional ASC (Automatic Stability Control) - which works together with the standard ABS to prevent rear wheelspin, and TPC (tire pressure control) give you extra peace of mind and control. The BMW Motorrad Integral ABS controls the front- and rear-wheels brakes through the handbrake lever, while the foot brake lever controls just the rear-wheel brake.

Brake discs measuring 320 millimeters (12.6") in diameter up front and 294 millimeters (11.6") in the rear pull this bike down from speed in a hurry.

Final Details

A 24-litre fuel tank and BMW's claimed 5 L/100 km @ 90 km/hr OR 5.9 L/100 km @ 120 km/hr give this Gran Turismo a very respectable theoretical range of over 400 km's before needing to stop for refueling.

Available in three colours: Red Apple Metallic, Royal Blue Metallic and Magnesium Beige Metallic.


Here's some Canadian pricing information on the factory options:

Standard Equipment:
Closed-loop 3-way Catalytic Converter
- Colour Matched Luggage Cases
- Electrically Adjustable Windshield
- Heated Grips
- ABS Brakes

- High Windshield = $150
- Anti-Theft Alarm System = $250.00
- Lowered Seat 800/820mm = $ 0
- Safety Package: Tire Pressure Control, Automatic Stability Control = $ 600.00
- Equipment Package 1: On Board Computer = $ 215.00
- Equipment Package 2: Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, On Board Computer = $1,300.00
- Equipment Package 3: Xenon Light, Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, Cruise Control, On Board Computer = $2,000

Base price is $21,825.00 but you can easily option that up by several thousand dollars. The fit, finish, build quality, and overall feel of this motorcycle help you to come to terms with that sticker price. This is a high quality motorcycle.

Closing Remarks

If you're in the market for a sporty, comfortable, touring machine in a surprisingly nimble 1300cc package then you should most certainly check out the BMW K1300GT. I've had the opportunity to ride many bikes and this is one that I can honestly say ranks very highly on my list of bikes I'd like to own. It's practical, comfortable, and safe - but not at the expense of losing excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed this bike.

Test Ride - 2009 Suzuki Gladius

The Suzuki Gladius, or SFV 650 if you like, is a naked style bike with a Canadian price tag of $9,199. Before you begin to think that Suzuki tried to name this thing Gladiator but got the spelling wrong - that's not the case, Gladius is apparently a Latin word for sword. Despite the fact that the Gladius is a new bike, with an engine borrowed from the SV 650 you know you're getting a proven performer of an engine. That price tag and 650 cc engine size mean that it's competing with several other bikes, even Suzuki's own SV650.

An obvious top contender of another manufacturer that comes to mind is the Ducati 696 which can be had for $9,995 - slightly more expensive but that engine is a few cc's larger. The Suzuki is liquid cooled, the Monster - air cooled. The Gladius seems to have some taken some styling cues from the Italians with the exposed trellis frame and headlight bearing a distinct resemblance.

The first thing I couldn't help but noticing about the bike was the color. Suzuki Canada's website calls this color red and white. In Europe it's got a much fancier name; metallic triton blue/glass splash white and candy ruby magenta/pearl mirage white. I do like the white - it's just the ruby magenta I'm not crazy about. I'll be keen to see if Canada eventually gets the all black version of the Gladius that Europe has.

After getting over the color the next thing I noticed was the very low seat height (30.9 inches according to Suzuki's specifications). So when you sit on it and compress the suspension a little you're even closer to the ground. This bike should be very comfortable for those with shorter legs. I had no trouble getting both feet firmly planted on the ground. I can't help but think Suzuki is hoping to attract a lot of female riders to the fold with this model.

Clutch feel is very light. You won't develop an abnormally large forearm with this one because it requires so little force to pull. The friction point - the point at which the clutch engages - is at about the half-way point of its range of motion. It's a natural feeling spot that most riders will be comfortable with immediately. In contrast, the friction point of the clutch on the Ducati 696 I rode last summer was almost at the 3/4 way out point and several riders were stalling them.

The clutch level offers a 4-position adjustment for reach so even those with the smallest of hands should be able to find a position that suits them. The switchgear is pretty standard but one nice touch at this price-point is the pass light trigger. It seems that there's some parts bin sharing because this switchgear appears to be identical to the bits used on the other Suzuki models. In the instrumentation department, the bike is well equipped; part digital with an analog sweep dial tachometer. I like this particular combination because it's a quick look to see exactly how fast I'm traveling - I don't need that level of information for a tach reading so the big analog sweeper gives me the level of detail I need with a quick glance. Another nice touch is a gear indicator too so you always know what gear you're in. The cluster sits atop the headlight, and is larger in the center than the sides. The signal indicators on the cluster are large enough to be clearly visible even in direct sunlight. No more riding for blocks with your signal on because the light isn't bright enough to remind you you've left it on.

The bike I rode was very new so it wasn't broken in yet but the engine still had enough power to keep me reasonably happy. It's not scary fast by any means but comfortable. If you're looking for a fun bike that's going to be comfortable riding around town, commuting, and maybe even some longer rides, this bike will no doubt be a capable bike to do it on. Steering is quick and requires very minimal input.

The 650 cc 2 cylinder engine in a v-twin configuration is a great engine offering very broad power delivery. You're never too far from being in the proper gear as it'll pull from very low in the rev range right up to near red-line in a very linear manner. There's no big power surges to have to think about. You twist the throttle and know what to expect.

The throttle doesn't require a lot of force to twist it (much less than my VFR daily rider) so I found that I was a little twitchy at lower speeds, particularly on bumpy, broken pavement where my hand was moving a little with the bumps. You'd likely get used to the throttle feel and get smoother with more time on the bike.

The brakes are 2-piston calipers, 290 mm disc, twin up front and a 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc in the rear. They're more than adequate for performing stopping duties here. They're not Brembo Monobloc's with 4 piston calipers but they're also a lot cheaper than those units, the brakes that come with this bike are what you'd expect at this price and they do the job just fine.


Already mentioned is the resemblance to the Monster 696; the trellis frame, low seat, and particularly the headlight. With the Italian maker being known to produce 'sexy' looking machines it's certainly no complaint that it bears some similarity. This is a modern styled bike that should appeal to a younger demographic. Looking at Suzuki's European site seems to suggest that Suzuki knows this and they've gone with some trendy marketing techniques - such as offering Gladius music mixes, fashion information, etc. Not a lot of stuff that I'm particularly interested in. I guess that means at 34 I'm over the hill in terms of who Suzuki Europe is marketing this bike to.

I found the seat quite comfortable. It was nice and flat and didn't push me forward onto the tank. I recall thinking it offered 'all-day' rideability. If anything would begin to bother you after a more extended ride it could be the footpeg height. I've got a 32 inch inseam and although not cramped during my ride I could see how those with longer legs might want to stretch out a little after some extended seat time.

Riding position is what you'd expect - upright and decidedly un-sportsbike like. The tank has a great cut in shape allowing you to really grip the tank with your legs. It offers a secure feeling and excellent control of the bike. Mirrors - slightly tear-drop shaped, are well placed, and offer a good view of road behind you.

The passenger pegs are high quality and all metal. Somewhat of an upgrade over those of the Suzuki GS500. I can't speak to the comfort of the passenger position but the seat does step up slightly and there are integrated grab handles in the back.

The headlight shape is, well, I'm not sure what to call that shape. Sort of a sharpened ancient spearhead or something. The front and rear signal ligths are are clear with amber bulbs inside. Clear indicators are a common option on motorcycles and huge aftermarket exists so that you can replace your amber signals for clear ones. Not necessary here. You've already got'em!

Who is this bike targeted to? It's always a tough question to answer with a bike like this because if you look past the cosmetics of the colors - it definitely has mass appeal. The colors we've got here in Canada seem to suggest that Suzuki is trying to attract female riders. With the low seat height, euro-naked styling, and smooth but not too over-the-top engine they've got a good machine to achieve that goal. Some guys might also not mind the colors, but if they bring in the black or some other more traditional colors I'd say they'd also be successful in getting some guys to take a closer look at this bike. Bring the all black model to Canada and I think you'll see some guys 'discover' this new Suzuki.

If you're a beginner considering this as a first bike, this would definitely be a bike that you could grow into. Lots of people suggest that beginners look at 250's, the Suzuki GS500, or Buell Blast. Those are all great beginner choices but you might want to upgrade in a year or two. A Suzuki GS 500 was my first bike in fact so I know how I personally felt. I was a little worried about getting a used bike and having to deal with unknown maintenance issues but didn't want anything too big. I would have liked to have traded up after a couple years but I ended up riding it for 4 years before trading up. It's not a huge leap from a 500 to this 650. You'll have to be careful initially but you'll be less likely to feel the need to trade this one in after a year or two. You'll just need to have the restraint to go a little easy on the throttle. This bike does have a lot more horsepower than a 250, Buell Blast, or GS 500.

Incidentally Suzuki doesn't publish official horsepower numbers, and when we asked them about it they said that the numbers are so variable that they don't like to publish that information. They prefer to let the aftermarket take care of it. When I said that MCN had published a figure of 75.9 horsepower to which they said "Well, they usually do a pretty good job, don't they." So, I'd guess that's a relatively accurate number. Seems about right to me.


I personally don't care for the colors we have for this bike in Canada this year. Other than that quible, this is a fun bike that should put a smile on the face of anybody riding it. Some will say it's a great beginner bike, some will say it's not a good beginner bike. Given the amount of power it would definitely be at the high end of what might be considered "beginner". The power delivery, seat height, and ergonomics of the Gladius make it a tempting option for beginners who won't want to trade up in a couple years. Lot's of intermediate riders or commuters looking for a reliable, fun, and not too expensive bike should also take a closer look at the Gladius.

If you need a lightweight nimble sword for cutting your way through urbanania the Suzuki Gladius might be just what you're looking for!

- To see more test ride reports - check out our "Test Ride" category.
- For Suzuki related articles - check out our "Suzuki" category.

Canadian Bike Review - Monster S4R S

My opportunity to ride and review the Monster S4RS comes by way of a good friend of mine... Obviously he's a good friend because he let me take his very shiny and nearly new Monster for a few days to put a few kilometers on it.

You see I was visiting Nova Scotia from Winnipeg, Manitoba to get married. I'm also moving to Halifax in a couple of weeks time (anybody looking for a IT guy who loves motorcycles?). This friend was the best man at my wedding. Best man indeed!

I took the bike from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Shelburne and a did a return trip as well. It's about 210 km's from Halifax to Shelburne if you go straight through. I had 3 glorious days with the S4RS and managed near a thousand kilometers of seat time. I would have liked more but, well - you know, there was a wedding I had to get ready for. My two hour ride from Halifax to Shelburne that I managed to turn into a 4 hour ride was somewhat of an indulgance. I took the direct route back to Halifax. Let me say this, I enjoyed every single minute of riding this bike! Even the several km's of ripped up road surface (it was being prepared for paving) that I rode on to get a picture of the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia sign and the Ducati!

As I was stopped and taking this picture a friendly local woman stopped to take a picture of me with the bike. Just a small sample of the friendliness of some folks in Atlantic Canada. Thanks! Maybe it wasn't that the locals are friendly... maybe they wanted a closer look at the Monster? Hmmmm....

Some Thoughts

Is it practical? Nope - not really. Gas mileage? Terrible - you're going to be very familiar with where all the gas stations are. Inexpensive? No - definitely not. Will you care? I can emphatically say - You won't care at all about these things. I had a fantastic time on this bike. It oozes quality, performance, and sexiness.

The color scheme for my test bike was white pearl with a red stripe down the middle. There's a removable passenger seat cover too. The S4R S is an attention getter. I know the bike looks good but I was a little surprised at just how much people are drawn to it. Just about everywhere I stoped people came over to talk to me abut the bike. There aren't too many of them around in NS and perhaps that added to the interest in the bike.

The Monster S4R S is the upscale Monster. It's an uncompromising naked superbike; it's covered in carbon fiber bits and features top spec equipment in abundance. When you sit on and ride you'll know where the money went. It feels like its price which is in the neighborhood of $18,000. Pictures don't really do it justice. You can't fully appreciate it until you get up close and examine it. Count on making some new friends!

It includes standard Monster styling cues such as single sided swingarm, small upper fairing, vertically stacked twin exhausts, and longitudinal stripe (bigger and centrally positioned on the S4R S).

I stopped at several gas stations during my time with the Monster and most of the times people came up to me to to chat about the bike and where I was headed, what I was doing etc. Some were fellow motorcyclists and some were just admiring fans. I'd like to say that it's me that was attracting all the attention, but I know better!

L-Twin Lust

One of the countless things that make this bike special is the 130 hp, 998cc L-Twin engine. Now, 130 HP may not seem like a lot but this bike seems to be barely moving at 110 km/hr and it will pull strongly well above that. It's solid and planted as a tank at speed even in wind, except that it only weighs in at svelte Ducati listed weight of 390 lbs. The engine is very forgiving and delivers power so smoothly it's tough to drive it slowly, only because you'll feel like you're barely moving. In that regard it's much like the other Ducati's I've ridden lately - deceptively fast! You need to keep an eye on the speedometer to make sure you can keep your licence and get to ride another day.

The L-twin offers tons of power and produces gobs of torque (76.6 lb-ft to be exact) and forward momentum at anything over 3,000 RPM. The rumbling L-twin sounds fantastic, particularly with the twin termingioni's that were fitted to my tester. You can drive this bike in a reserved manner, but I challenge you to do it. A tiny twist of the wrist ensures you're exceeding posted limits rapidly with no feeling that the power will taper off any time soon.

The mirrors are decent and in a good position. Your body doesn't block your view. It's just tough to see things out of mirrors when you're not stationary because of the rumbling L-twin. You KNOW you're on a twin. You can feel the vibration in your seat, in the pegs, and in the bars. It gives you a distinct sense that you've got a lot of power on tap.

Twist the throttle hard and that sense of power is confirmed. You can lighten the front wheel pretty easily. The termi's begin to sound like booming cannons when you crack open the throttle. I imagine the cars you're passing can feel the percussion as you swiftly and effortlessly blast past them by. There will be no lazy passing on this machine!

Ducati Styling and Character

Of course, the S4R S has the famous dry clutch that some Ducatisti say is the only way to go. The adjustable clutch lever pull is smooth, light and the shifting is buttery smooth. Not quite as light as the 696 but that's the lightest clutch pull of any bike I've ridden. The clutch shifts almost effortlessly. There is absolutely no clunking when the gears engage. What you will hear is lots of clickety clack noises though; a characteristic of the dry clutch. Embrace it - you'll quickly learn to love it! I've read some reviews that say the clutch pull is tough. I don't know what those guys are talking about... They've obviously never spent any time on a Suzuki GS 500. The clutch pull is light! Either that or my left forearm is bulked up from the GS!

In the cockpit you'll see large white faced, side-by-side analog, tachometer and speedometer gauges that quickly provide the most important information. There's also digital instrumentation that adds quite a bit of information such as trip meter, odometer, time and many other features. I honestly didn't even spend too much time exploring what the digital gauges provided; I felt compelled to drive it as much as I could. A bit of research shows that it displays speedometer, rev counter, warning light for low oil pressure, indicators for high beam, fuel reserve, turn signals, LCD clock, immobilizer.

I found the seat is much more comfortable than the one on the new 696. It doesn't have the forward slope that tends to drive your sensitive bits into the tank. The large airbox and tank seems to indicate that you'll get a good distance down the road without having to stop to fill up - wrong! The tank is actually a plastic unit and only 14 L (of which 3 L reserve). The tank features nice cutouts for your knees that help you feel at one with the machine during spirited riding. They're a welcome feature because your knees/legs would be splayed out around the tank otherwise which would quickly become uncomfortable.

Suspension is by way of a huge pair of 43mm upside down Ohlins shocks in the front; the rear end is equipped with an Ohlins as well, both are fully adjustable of course. The front suspension has a titanium nitride coating on the stanchions making things nice and slippery so they can do their job more effectively.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention that being a naked bike you get to see all the beautiful and go-fast bits. That shiny red trellis frame, made of high strength ALS 450 steel tubing for example; very nice! And how about that triangular oil cooler and huge radiator.

The wheels are super lightweight Marchesini Y-shaped 5-spoke that ensure outstanding handling by reducing unsprung weight, while 320 mm Brembo twin discs on the front have radial-mounted calipers with four pistons and four pads per caliper. You can bring this bike down from speed in a real hurry. The brakes make a strangely pleasing audible whirring sound as you rapidly decelerate.

If you're looking for protection from the elements this isn't really the bike for you. It is a naked after all. The small front windscreen does do a decent job of deflecting some wind and I didn't feel uncomfortable or have much wind buffeting my head. I was riding in nice weather though. Lucky me!

The riding position was comfortable; course I did have to stop to gas up pretty regularly so I got to move around and stretch before any discomfort could set in. It is a long stretch to the bars. I have long arms and found it suited me well. The bars are wide and feature no steering damper. I didn't feel like it was essential but it might help smooth out the turns a little. I didn't experience any headshake like I did on the Hypermotard S though. Course it wasn't nearly as windy and the roads I was traveling on were a lot smoother than in Winnipeg.

Final Thoughts

I didn't like this bike. I LOVED it! The only fault I can say is that you can't get very far on a tank a fuel and perhaps that it's a tad on the pricey side. Having said that, the bike is built with very high quality parts and it shows. So it can be forgiven for being expensive. What it could use is a slightly larger tank. That's it really. Everything else on the bike is superb.

If the Monster S4R S suits the type of driving you do and you've got the bank roll to have a focused purpose bike then I'd say by all means take one for a test ride. If you want to do a lot of long range touring, this probably isn't the bike for you. The bike is comfortable so you could easily go for some shorter over night or weekend trips but you'd need to plan out your route to stay near gas stations.

For more information on the Ducati S4R S feel free to check out the Ducati North America website.

2009 Ducati 696 test ride for Canadians

When you think of things that are classically Italian chances are; pasta, wine, haute couture and fast cars are a few things that probably come to mind. Sounds pretty good right? - A country known for food, wine, fashion, and fast cars. While I’m not so keen on fashion but those other things sure make it sound like it’d be a good place to spend some time.

Turns out that the stereotype of Italians and their love of fast cars is true to some degree. In fact, one of Italy’s largest exports is motor vehicles. Ferrari is one unmistakably Italian brand but not all vehicles hailing from Italy are Ferrari’s though, or even cars for that matter. With some 20+ companies making motorcycles or scooters within its borders it’s clear that Italians love motorcycles too. Take a look at a few of the bikes that are produced in that region and it’s easy to see that they have a passion for making high quality machines, often hand crafted, and full of character.

I recently had a chance to test drive the newest model in the wildly successful ‘Monster’ series. Originally introduced in 1992 at the Cologne Motorshow and designed by Miguel Galuzzi the Monster has been hugely popular. Ducati claims the Monster brand was the original ‘naked’ bike.

How does one improve on a bike that’s already so popular? A few good ways would be to give it more power and make it lighter all while keeping the style that people love. This basic philosophy wasn’t lost on the folks at Ducati because that’s exactly what they did. The new 696 is a lot like the old 695 – just lighter and more powerful, while retaining the same emotional response from potential owners and its sexy looks.

The new 2009 model 696 is the “next generation naked and the final word in urban excitement” according to Ducati. I’m not sure about it being “the final word” - whatever that means… But there is no doubt it is a very stylish and sporty looking bike that’s sure to draw some looks.

The beauty is more than skin deep - it’s got a powerful air-cooled Desmo L-twin engine that pumps out 80 hp and 50.6 ft-lbs of torque at 7750 rpm. This new engine has the best horsepower per liter ratio of all Ducati’s air-cooled units. It ensures a smooth and powerful delivery for a relaxed or thrilling ride in all conditions. The increase in power was achieved by incorporating new cylinder heads. The pistons and combustion chamber of the new engine have also been revised to optimize the fluid dynamics of the new ports.

The Desmo engine not only sounds great but it actuates the valve closure mechanically, ensuring precise valve timing at all speeds. Typically four-stroke engines rely on simple springs to close the valve. As the engine speed increases the time taken to close the valve becomes more critical and if the valve doesn’t follow the exact profile of the camshaft you have a resulting loss of performance. A mechanical closure eliminates the spring from the system guaranteeing precise valve closure.

Time To Ride:

My ride was scheduled for 2 pm and the weather was a bit mixed. Earlier in the day it was overcast and in the early afternoon there were a few sprinkles of rain. On my way to the test ride a few drops fell and the sky looked like it might want to release a few more drops. Luckily, the rain held off though. There was still that matter of the wind! A consistent 50 km/hr wind with gusts of 70 plus km/hr kept things a little interesing. Dealing with the headwind or tailwind wasn't really an issue but in the wide open and unsheltered area surrounding Winnipeg the swirling cross-winds made for some serious side to side leaning of the bike to keep it on the road and upright.

The first thing I noticed when sitting on the bike was how low the seat was – the lowest seat height of any Ducati apparently at 30.3”. I’m 5’10” with a 32” inseam so I generally don’t have too much trouble with higher seats – low seats are fine as long as the seating position doesn’t have my legs cramped up awkwardly. An over 6 footer might find it a little tight. I personally found the position of my legs to be comfortable.

The seat itself sloped into the tank and I did have to adjust my seating position a few times on the ride, taking the opportunity at lights to stand up and get the blood flowing a little better to my lower body. For short rides the seat would be okay for me, but if I was going out for a few hours I’d definitely be looking for an aftermarket seat to try and keep from sliding up and towards the tank.

The low stance of the bike and the slightly tucked rider position helped keep the bike balanced in the strong crosswinds, a little more so than on the Hypermotard I was on earlier in the day. I had to lean the Hypermotard at steeper angles into the wind due to its height and the very upright seating position; the wind was stronger during my 696 ride too. This demonstrates the difference the low seat and center of gravity has between the two bikes. The 696 felt a little less susceptible to the cross winds.

The wide tank tapers to a comfortably narrow seat. You’re hunkered down into the bike more than sitting on it. It sounds cliche but the bike really does feel like it’s wrapped around you when you’re riding it; like it's an extension of your body. The reach to the bars has been shortened and the pegs moved slightly forward. I’ve got longish arms but the reach felt natural. You’re a more upright than on a sportbike; like say a CBR 600 RR. I felt a little more pressure on my wrists than on the Hypermotard; that’s to be expected with this type of bike. I'd say it's a happy medium between upright and sportbike.

Monster’s have often been touted as being a great bike for new riders. I don’t know that it would be on my list of best bikes for total beginners simply because of the performance potential of this bike. But, if you thought it was a good beginner bike before then I’d say it is even more so now with its reduced weight and lower seat height.

The power delivery is smooth and the clutch is about the lightest I’ve ever felt on a bike. It’s really almost effortless. One thing I did notice on the 696 I rode was that the friction point of the clutch was really a long way out. I had the clutch out almost a full 2/3 before the friction point. I didn’t stall mine but a few folks on the test ride seemed to have a little trouble pulling away from stop lights – likely due to the unusually high engagement point of the clutch and unfamiliarity with the bike.

Once underway, the desmo engine is deceiving – you can’t really tell how quickly you’re moving and accelerating. It’s less sensitive to throttle roll off than some other bikes I’ve ridden lately (BMW F650GS, and Ducati Hypermotard 1100), which should make it a little easier for beginners to feel comfortable with. If you crank your right wrist though you’re going to quickly get up to speeds where you can get yourself into some trouble; either the law enforcement kind or the ditch kind if you’re not riding within your abilities. I easily hit 165 km/hr during my run and the engine was still pulling.

I’d say if a beginner could ride this bike within their limits and responsibly then it may be a good beginner bike because of its smooth power delivery. You can have a relaxing rambling ride if you want or you can twist the throttle a little further to reveal more of the true potential of the Monster. This is a bike that you can really grow into - You won’t soon tire of its performance. I consider myself a pretty responsible rider but I don’t know that I would have had the willpower to resist seeing what the bike would do when I first started riding - maybe that’s just me though!

The 6-speed gearbox didn’t feel quite as smooth as it’s more expensive relative (the Hypermotard 1100S) that I rode the same weekend. Shifting requires a somewhat more purposeful amount of force than the HM1100S. I was a little too gentle with it at one point and got a false neutral. Shifts announce themselves with a little more of a clunk, particularly at slow speed. Nothing to be alarmed about; the bike I rode didn’t have a lot of kilometers on it and it would likely smooth out a little in time. It’s still a lot smoother shifting than my old Suzuki GS500 and I never had any mechanical troubles with that bike.

The clutch on the 696 is an Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) wet multiplate design. It’s a hydraulic control clutch, or 'slipper' clutch. It helps keep the clutch lever action light and easy, improves comfort while simultaneously reducing destabilizing rear wheel “lock-up” when you downshift a little too abruptly. It can be especially helpful in wet weather or other slippery conditions.

The instrument cluster is a small digital unit variety. This digital unit allows the display of a wealth of information such as speed, rev counter, clock, scheduled maintenance warning, oil temperature, trip fuel, air temperature, lap time, warning light for low oil pressure, fuel level, fuel reserve, neutral, turn signals, overrev, and immobilizer. The overrev light is a clearly visible reminder to upshift. It’s about the easiest light to notice on cluster when you're riding. Another nice feature is that it is Ducati Data Analyzer-ready if you really want to keep track of the bike and rider performance.

You may also be glad to hear that the scheduled maintenance warning light won’t come on quite so frequently as the past with Ducati’s new, less frequent, maintenance schedule. Ducati claims there is 50% less maintenance costs on new Ducati’s than on older machines.

The distinctly Ducati tank includes ingenious removable outer skins on the sides which makes it easy to change the personality of the Monster 696 with a new color. The skins also have couple mesh covered air intakes too that give it an athletic appearance. The air scoops allow more air to enter the airbox and even slightly increase the steering angle because of their positioning. The steering lock is up from the 695 to 64 degrees.

The tank is a 15l unit (3.5l of which is reserve). You can match the tank with a quickly removable rear seat cowl if you choose to. When removed, the rear seat cover reveals a place for you to bring along a friend.

At this price point you'd think that Ducati must have had to put some budget pieces on somewhere. Ducati didn’t burden this bike with good looks and budget parts though; it’s got some substance to go along with its style. The headlamp unit features a new triple arc main beam, while the rear light uses modern LED technology. The front brakes are the new benchmark for the category with two 320 mm discs and four-piston radial calipers while the rear gets a 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper riding on Marchesini 17" wheels. All this performance and they still managed to trim a significant 7kg of mass from the 695. The weight savings means that the 696 weighs in at 355lbs (161kg) dry.

The frame is classic Ducati but new; it's a Hybrid Trellis frame with larger diameter tubes directly inspired by the 2007 World MotoGP title-winning Desmosedici GP7 machine. To this is attached a rear aluminium sub-frame.

For suspension you get a showa 43 mm upside-down fork in front with 120 mm / 4.7 in of travel. In the rear you’ll see a progressive linkage with preload and rebound Sachs adjustable monoshock. That’s good for 148 mm / 5.8 in of travel.

The new 696 also has a new exhaust system with re-routed down pipes that cleans up the look of the underside of the Monster. The pipes end with twin high mounted aluminum mufflers.

Affordable naked style bikes usually attract the aftermarket who come out with lots of great ways to customize and personalize the machines. The 696 follows along with this tradition of earlier Monsters with the availability of tons of accessories from Ducati.

You can buy all your accessories separately or you can get yourself a 696+ factory-personalised model and start from there. The 696+ model includes the aerodynamic single seat cover and micro bikini fairing. Here’s just a few of the available accessories:

- An assortment of Termignoni exhausts which not only look great but they give the Monster a bit more of a throaty growl. Optional seat cowl is also visible in this picture.

- Headlight fairing. It's small but the 696 I rode was equipped with one and I must say that it looks sharp.

- Rear seat cowl (partly visible below).

- Touring seat (Designed to improve ergonomic features to make riding position for rider and passenger even more comfortable, this seat is made in high-density foam and is covered with anti-slip valuable fabrics that resist climate conditions). The sides of the seat are textured and you get some visible stitching - red, in this picture.

- Front mudguard

Available Colors

It comes in red, pearl white, matte black while the frame can be red or black. The wheels are black.

The MSRP is $9,495 CDN and it comes with a 2-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Final Thoughts:

This bike is a well thought out progression of the Monster 695. With a more powerful engine, lighter weight, and lower seat this new 696 deserves a spot in the top of mind awareness of anybody looking for a midsized naked. It can be driven tamely or, if you listen to that little devil on your shoulder, it can be driven hard and it’ll gladly deliver a high level of exciting performance.

I had a lot of fun riding this bike and would ride one again in a heartbeat if given the chance. If you’re looking for a bike to get around town, a fun weekend rider, or something to up your ‘coolness’ a few notches this bike should be on your short list, particularly if you like the naked style. The desmo L-twin engine is fantastic - it sounds and feels like you’d think a motorcycle engine should.

A few issues I see with the bike.

- I’d want to have a different seat than the stock one - then I could really enjoy this bike on more than just a short jaunt.

- The exhaust placement makes for a potentially hot ride for passengers.

- Unadjustable levers might be a challenge for riders with small hands.

- There's a manual fast idle switch. Seemingly a little out of place on a bike costing near $10,000.

This last point while not much of an issue with me I thought I’d mention it – I felt a little more of the vibration from the L-twin engine making it’s way through the foot pegs on the 696 than I did on the HM1100S. Of course, the HM1100S also costs about $8,000 more before taxes than the 696. It might not even be something you notice if you didn’t drive the two different Ducati’s near back-to-back.