Am I the only one who's thinking "DUH!" We absolutely are. Check out this article from a gentleman who has some very good points about marketing motorcycles to women and why some brands fail and some brands succeed.
I know, I know. I'm not that old. Mentally I feel 21. However, I definitely cannot lean over on a sporty bike anymore for more than 10 minutes. That's really the only reason why I call it the Perfect Bike for this Speedy Old Lady.
I'm not planning on upgrading or trading in Goldie anytime soon, however, it certainly made me think twice....
I was able to borrow this bike from a very, very generous person in the Bay Area so I was able to pick this up early Friday morning on the 22nd of July. I've never ridden The Baron (my nickname for him) before. And it's been at least 5? years since I threw a leg over a Beemer too. I didn't know what to expect. The first thing that sort of blew my mind was how comfortable it felt from the get go.
I don't think may non BMW riders realize that they are ergonomically quite comfortable and so well balanced that they feel a lot lighter than they are on paper. The plethora of seat and suspension options really do allow for a wide variety of men and women to ride these things (myself included at a whopping 28.5" inseam).
Unfortunately I don't have any good up close, action shots of me actually riding so you can see how well it fit me. There are a few of me riding behind my friends Sarah and Alisa (riding an F800GS in BMW jacket, wearing a Schuberth Modular helmet) here but you have to dig to find me.
The overall ergonomics were fantastic. The reach was perfect, I felt ridiculously comfortable slabbing all the way to Nevada (Hwy 80 East to 50 East to 395 North). I would say almost a 90 Degree seated position but the bars are tapered closer to the front forks. So a modest sport touring position. My shoulders/back never felt a thing and it was too easy to ride 100 miles before pulling over for a break.
The overall height and fit below my waist was quite perfect, and I didn't really feel any discomfort except for my right hip which I've had issues with since an accident I had back in 2009. It gets achey if my knees are bent at 90 degrees from my hip or higher. So I did have some minor discomfort due to this, but nothing that kept me from riding 250 miles in an afternoon to Carson City (11am to 4pm, with 60-75 minutes worth of breaks for lunch and gas).
Because of my hip, I would probably opt for a slightly different seat to increase the seat height. You're probably wondering, but how tall is it? If I had to guess, I'd say it had about a 29" seat height (before compression). It has a very narrow tankspace because the fuel is mainly below you, so the center of gravity is much lower overall. But with the combined seat shape and skinny tank, it makes for a very easy reach. Because a bike with the same seat height but with terrible ergonomics (wider, flatter seat or wider, fatter tank) can limit how your toes touch the ground. A good example of this is my husband's Speed Triple:
This bike has the same exact seat height as my STreet Triple R, but I can reach much much closer to the ground because of two very important details:
- customized rear shock, which compresses underneath my weight
- and skinnier tank shape, bringing my knees closer together
I would say the R1200R is perfect for a compact body type; assuming the rider has adequate experience on smaller, lighterweight sportbikes. Just because I'm smaller and I can ride this doesn't mean that everyone at my height/weight should be. It's still a 1200cc bike that weighs 500lbs. And managing the weight, getting used to how it handles (especially slow speeds), and feeling 100% comfortable in corners only comes with the 10+ years of experience I've had to practice my braking and cornering skills to ensure I don't drop any of my bikes).
If I were smart I would've played with the Dynamic Suspension, because changing the modes would've probably stiffened up the rear a bit and brought me up to a slightly higher point to ease this discomfort.
Let's look at the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (my favorite part of this ride).
"Dynamic ESA enables you to adjust your motorcycle's suspension to suit the load and the road conditions." - BMW Owners Manual
You can actually adjust the spring preload and the dampening all in the dashboard. But you cannot adjust preload while riding. There are two modes: Road and Dynamic. I had it set to Dynamic the whole time, and I didn't even realize I could adjust preload. But since this was a borrowed bike I really didn't want to touch the settings so I left them alone.
I could tell that it was definitely set too cushy in the corners, because it felt far too 'floaty' going through sweepers. Otherwise it felt smooth, stable and easy to push through the corners.
In addition to various suspension modes, the Baron also had additional features including but not limited to:
- tire pressure monitoring
- heated grips (multi level)
- cruise control (which I never used)
- electronic suspension adjustment (!!!! :D)
- keyless ignition (so strange not needing a key, but so damn handy)
- all you have to do is have the fancy keyfob in your pocket when you're ready to press the ignition button and voila! it starts right up.
- digital gear indicators
- automatic turn signal cancellation (above ~15mph)
- digital readouts of almost everything
- the only readout not digital was the Speedometer. Which seems silly at this point, with everything digital why not add the Speedo as well? Even Goldie has a digital readout.
Overall, such a ridiculously fancy bike. So much technology. By far, the most advanced bike I've ever thrown a leg over.
One of the main features I used were the heated grips. Wheeee! I didn't anticipate chilly temperatures, but the morning of Saturday, July 23rd it was Mid to High 40s in Lake Tahoe on the north side. Luckily the heated grips saved me because I didn't expect that at all.
Oh and I can't forget to mention the Power. I forgot how easy it is to cruise at freeway speeds on a Liter Bike. It comes to easy to this one, if I'm going 60-65mph, with just a light flick on the throttle and it easily kicks up another 10-20mph without a hiccup. The tiny windscreen seems useless but it definitely made a difference. I think I have to revisit a small windscreen with Goldie, getting out of Philadelphia requires slab sometimes to I may have to add this to my farkle list soon.
The increase in power and comfort certainly made the long distance ride feel like a much shorter one. But cruising right now for me, is a low priority. I'd rather have a nimble, lightweight bike with the type of riding I'm doing. But who knows? A lot can happen in a year :D
Besides the pricepoint (which I'm just not ready for) the way the 2 cylinders stick out right by my legs are in my way when I'm trying to park. I had to get off the bike to park only because it was so heavy. I actually had two firm balls of my feet on the ground, so stability was fine but it weighs 508lbs (curb weight, fully filled with liquids). Another 100lbs over Goldie. But honestly, other than parking lots and 3 point turns, I really couldn't tell. Something that I really really appreciate with BMW. The distribution of weight is very well balanced. BMW offers variable seat heights between seats and suspension options (from 29" - 33").
The only other issue I had were the footpegs. Being of shorter stature, almost every bike I ride, the footpegs are right where my feet want to go when I come to a stop. So it just took a little more effort to be conscious of where my foot went down.
Luckily the owner of this steed had a Ram Mount set up already just to the left of the mirror. So all I needed was my Universal Cell Phone Holder for my trusty iPhone 6. And as you can see my Kriega US-20 Pack was all I needed for 2 days.
Besides price point, I really can't say anything truly negative about this bike. Things like the cylinders sticking out and the footpegs are minor, in my opinion.
And if you're still worried about seat height, please dont look at the numbers and think "Oh no, there's no way". Because sitting on the bike gives you a completely different feel and perception of what you think you might be able to ride. And of course, if you're considering a bike like this as a first and you're of shorter stature you sure as hell will need to flat foot it because you have NO experience riding. And I truly believe that riding taller bikes when you're shorter is only possible with substantial riding experience.
Overall I'm a huge fan of this bike and would recommend it heartily to anyone who wants a rock solid sport tourer, that offers sportbike like performance in a comfortable riding position, technology and more speed. :D
I could only do the first week of this amazing ride so I brought the man with me to the kickoff point, Brooklyn on Sunday, July 3rd. That night was a small, intimate event with members of the Van Buren Family that were joining the entire cross country journey. That night I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Van Buren, Great Grand Niece of the Van Buren Sisters, as well as her father, Robert Van Buren (Great Nephew of the Van Buren Sisters). Sarah was so inspired by what her ancestors accomplished and the momentous event of this ride that she herself obtained her motorcycle license just 9 months before the beginning of the ride! What an accomplishment, to ride across the country before you've even racked up a few thousand miles of riding experience under your belt. Sarah, you should be incredibly proud of what you've accomplished, as your Aunts would have been so proud of you as well.
The evening was marked by a very cool proclamation from the Borough of Brooklyn, New York declaring July 3rd 2016 "Sisters' Centennial Motorcycle Ride Day in the Borough of Brooklyn".
Since we were leaving super early the next morning for Springfield, it was a light evening for both of us.
Day 2: Brooklyn, New York to Springfield, Pennsylvania
Our route as we left Brooklyn took us North, up the Taconic State Parkway. It's a very scenic route (nothing twisty really) into Massachusetts. After awhile, Evan and I split off and decided to ride a backroads route into Springfield instead of with the larger group we were with. (There were 3 distinct groups based on riding experience and overall comfort. So no, it wasn't 100 people all riding together all the time <which freaks me out a bit>). We had a blast riding for a bit with Robert Pandya (External Relations Manager - Indian Motorcycles) and Robert Van Buren!
That night we rolled into Springfield without much fanfare. We did however, hit a huge milestone and rode through Connecticut! Another state knocked off my list. It was HOT too. Did I forgot to mention how HOT it was?
DAY 3: SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS
First day in Springfield, the morning kicked off with a great tour of the Springfield Museums and another proclamation. This time from the Mayor of Springfield.
The coolest part for me was seeing the Van Buren Sisters portion of the museum. If you haven't visited the Springfield Museums, they have a varied collection of exhibits including the history of Indian Motorcycles.
Something that truly struck me was how much these two take after their famous female ancestors. Their resemblance is striking, isn't it? Right next to this wall was a display case of the very headwear that Augusta Van Buren wore back then during their trip. I guess you could call this her "helmet".
Maybe it's because I've been working in this industry for awhile now, or maybe not. But it truly made me realize how lucky we are to have technology in the 21st century to allow us to be safer. We have so many options available to us now that weren't just ~20 years ago! Ask any woman rider you know that has been riding for at least that long, and she'll tell you that options were pitiful back then. I know it seems like we don't have much today, but WE DO.
After the museums it was time to head over to Westover Airforce Base to take a quick tour of a C-5 Cargo Plane. One of the best things about participating in the Sisters' Ride was seeing my West Coast Friends! And the cargo plane was pretty cool too. It was like a sauna inside though, I don't know how any of these brave men and women do it.
Day 4: Springfield to Sayre
Our last day with the Ride was to Sayre, Pennsylvania. We even got a police escort all the way out of town! Thank you Springfield Township Police Department for your service.
After leaving Springfield Township's city limits safely, our first stop was going to be along Jacob's Ladder Highway along Route 20. It was a place that the Sisters' stopped at 100 years ago. So we paid homage to them and snapped a photo right where they stood. Ok maybe I'm just being silly, but I really felt that awesome light were the Sisters saying hello :)
Sarah places another rock to add to the pile and add the Sisters' Ride to a place in history.
And a lovely shot of the entire rock cairn with everyone:
After that, it was an easy ride towards Sayre for the night.
Unfortunately the next morning (Thursday) meant going back to Philly, so I could take the time off I needed to meet everyone back in Carson City 2 weeks later!
Friday, July 22nd in Carson City
This was yet another opportunity to see my West Coast friends! I flew out the night before into San Francisco and the next morning, I borrowed this stunning, speedy BMW R1200R. It's practically brand new, and someone I hardly knew extended her kindness to let me borrow her for a couple days so I could ride with my fellow Sisters. THANK YOU AGNES!
I still need to write a review of this wonderful ride, so stay tuned to my social feeds and newsletter to find out when it's published. Needless to say, I had a blast on it! I rode out to Carson City (all slab, 80 to 50) to meet up with the rest of the group. As soon as I get off the bike to walk into the hotel lobby, who do I run into except racing legend Mary McGee! It was such a great moment, because that's where I saw Mary for the first time 4 years ago at the last AMA Women & Motorcycling Conference at the very same hotel.
That night, we had a nice dinner with everyone who was going to be riding with us to San Francisco the next day. Alisa presented the staff and cross country riders, special medals that showed how they participated in this historic motorcycle ride.
Saturday, July 23rd to San Francisco
Saturday was a quick, all slab route to San Francisco. We had a fairly quick lunch stop at A&S Cycles in Roseville, CA with a bunch of other riders who came to join the fun. Not everyone was coming with us to San Francisco but many of them stayed to say hello and grab a free burger courtesy of A&S.
After lunch, it was off to the staging point just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It felt SO good to be riding towards that bridge again. I was so tempted to turn off on the Lucas Valley exit and take the R1200R for a really good ride through Petaluma. *sigh*
I don't have the exact numbers so I'll keep using this number: 150-200 riders showed up just north of the bridge at Fort Baker. We had men and women on everything from classic Indians to Ducatis to Harleys to BMW's. It was one of the most thrilling motorcycle experiences of my riding life. I also got to see more old friends!
Oops, must post another photo of the bike!
We had the honor of having San Francisco Motorcycle Club escort us across the bridge into San Francisco down to their historic clubhouse. It was pretty crazy.
I'm lucky that I lived in the city long enough to have participated in several group rides with various friends/ clubs. Shutting down an intersection to let 20-30 bikes through is not big deal. But 150+??
After riding through the mad streets of San Francisco passing angry tourists and residents who were left to wait in their cars while all these damn motorcycles ride by.... we made it to SFMC's Headquarters. Did you know that their club is over a 100 years old, established in 1904? They were allowing women full voting rights within the club before our government decided we were equal.
If you've never had the privilege of entering SFMC's clubhouse, it's a very unique place. So much motorcycle history is here, all over the walls. (Photos: Christina Shook)
I also got a few photos with some long lost friends and family :)
I had an incredible time, even though I only made it for 1/3 of the ride. I felt like I had been there with everyone all the way from Day 1 to 20.
Now I have the cross country bug. I'm dying to do this trip next year somehow but I'll certainly have a different route. Not sure if I'll have enough time to go all the way across and back with my vacation time, but we'll see ;-)