Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Riding the BMW R 1200 RS

A practical and noteworthy return to sport touring

Words and photos by Jim Foreman

Upon its first glance, it was easy to be smitten with the new R 1200 RS.  The Blue and White colors seemed to accent the bike and carry one’s imagination with it.

The newly imagined RS seemed to be a perfect ‘Sport-Tourer.'  Nestled between the R 1200 R and the R 1200 RT, the RS combines the best of both of those bikes.  

Certainly sporty like the R 1200 R, the RS has plenty of power and thrills to keep all levels of riders satisfied.  With it’s simple yet effective half-fairing and windscreen, long distance rides at a clipper’s pace is easy and enjoyable.  Leaving the luxury and bulk of the RT behind, the RS is a perfect mix for a rider inclined to this style of riding.

This time out, Evan Bell, owner of Irv Seaver BMW in Orange, CA, handed me the keys to the new 2016 BMW R 1200 RS for the weekend.  This weekend is the same weekend I was to participate in a Streetmasters course at Willow Springs International Raceway’s Horse Theif Mile.

The RS Demo had 40 miles on the odometer when riding off the lot.  Once I got the geometry in my head, the R 1200 RS came alive.

Having experience with the amazing water-cooled boxer engines, I changed the riding mode and suspension, both, to ‘Dynamic’. 

To me, the bike has perfect ergonomics.  'A perfect fit' was also a similar conclusion for the half-dozen people I let ride the RS.  I'm 6-04 with a 34" inseam.  Riders of all different sizes commented on the comfortable and enjoyable fit.  The seating position is slightly leaning forward with the footpegs, comfortably beneath the rider’s mass.

Riding the new RS is so natural and effortless that it inspires confidence and appreciation.  Steering is light and easy.  Clutch and brakes respond with precision.  The throttle is always smooth and responsive. 

Riding with a group to Lancaster was both fun and interesting.  The group I was with preferred not to lane-share.  As Los Angeles traffic notoriously backed up, it was effortless to bring the bike to a quarter walking speed and see how long I could keep from touching the ground.  It wasn’t obvious that anyone riding in our group noticed until I finally had to put my foot down.  I saw pointing at me in my mirrors and gave a nice thumbs up in return.

Finally departing the motorway, the fuel level on the bike was reading a quarter tank.  Knowing there would be no fuel station until Palmdale, I motioned to the leader of the group and veered off to fuel up.

This fortuitous event allowed me to run up Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway on my own, without being slowed down by other’s more conservative pace.

Fueled up and personally hydrated, I ran up the notable Angeles Crest Highway.  Dropping into the corners felt awesome on that bike.  The Boxer Twin was running like a thoroughbred and making the ride delightful and spirited.  The powerband on the RS was meaty and full of grunt until the top revs got near.  Furthermore, the stability both leaned over and on straightaways was incredible.  There’s a stretch of Angeles Forest Road before it meets up with the 14 Freeway.  Running a rather high and autobahn-grade rate of speed showed how beautifully balanced the RS is. 

Before and during the Streetmasters course, several people were offered to try out the R 1200 RS.  It was a demo bike, after all.  The response was one of joy by the riders.  Curiously, the names “Evil One” and “Bad Man” came my way by their lovely partners.

Walt Fulton of Streetmasters takes the RS for a spin
Racer Walt Fulton completely loved it.  No stranger to the RS lineup, he boasts that he owns two R 1100 RS’ from the 1990’s.  Walt ran the RS through Horse Thief Mile at a wicked pace.  Most people in the class to looked toward the track and appreciated what a pro can do. 

Walt did seem to have a brighter smile for the rest of the day.

The following day, I met up with two great friends.  Yes, many of my friends also ride.  John Kenji Hawley and Emmanuel Paraskiv jumped on their R 1200 R and GSX-R 600s to ride Angeles Crest Highway again.  Splitting lanes on the RS was easy.  The bike’s seating position gives easy visibility to traffic around while maintaining maximum control and maneuverability of the bike. 

(L-R) John Kenji Hawley and Emannuel Paraskiv
At one of the scenic turnouts on Angeles Crest, John and I traded bikes.  John took up the RS and was instantly impressed.  John isn’t one to overact.  He asked several great questions and thought about it, quite a bit.  John summed up his riding experience by saying, "It's a really nice bike. Right off, I could tell it was very familiar to my R 1200 R, but far superior in handling, smoothness and power. I nearly got pulled off the bike when I took off the first time."

When it was Emmanuel’s turn,  he took to it like a bear to honey.  Even from behind, one could see the huge grin on his face.

Emmanuel’s previous riding experience is made up of a Honda Rebel and the GSX-R.  Needless to say, the GSX-R and I are NOT friends on Facebook or real life.

Emmanuel simply took off his helmet at the next meeting point, hugged me, and stated loudly, “I LOVE BMW!”  Emmanuel mentioned that he didn’t much care for the last-generation Oil/Air Cooled R 1200 R.   He said he wants to find a way to own the R 1200 RS.  Naturally, I casually dropped that Irv Seaver BMW offers to finance, with a huge grin.

Alf Assouad's 2016 BMW R 1200 RS
A good friend and international pilot, Alf Assouad, based in Australia, recently picked one up.  Here's what Alf has to say: "I love its power delivery and it's a real joy to ride. On the highway, I find it is much more solid and stable than my previous F 800 ST.  It's not effected, as much, by strong cross winds. Around corners it is as solid as a rock and on rails. This bike is exhilarating to ride.  Once the first service has been completed and the rev limiter removed, it will be interesting to explore the bike's full potential."

Previously, the S 1000 XR was given a long and enjoyable run.  Between the two, my riding style leans a little more toward the XR.  That said, as an owner of two K 1200 RS’ and one who appreciated simple sport-touring, I would not be disappointed if the amazing R 1200 RS wound up in my garage.
I do love the R 1200 RS.  It so happens that I simply love the S 1000 XR a little more.

… I do have room for two more…

If you are in Southern California and wish to try the R 1200 RS, S 1000 XR or any other BMW Motorcycle, please come to Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA.  There you'll find a fully stocked parts department, extensive apparel department and the best selection of new and pre-owned motorcycles.  There's some great people there, too!

Racer Walt Fulton ripping it on the Horse Thief Mile.

Jim Foreman getting aggressive.

The R 1200 RS makes for a great 2-up motorcycle

John Kenji Hawley astride the R 1200 RS

©2015 Jim Foreman - All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Riding the BMW S 1000 XR

As a child I wanted to fly like superman.  On the S 1000 XR, I did just that.

Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

Walking into Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA, the sight of the new 2016 BMW S 1000 XR Demo model took me aback.  I knew the demo bike was on the way, but the thought of getting to ride it had reached fever pitch.

Here it was, finally before me.  Boldly heading inside, I asked if the XR Demo was slated for anyone.  Looking on the reservation board, the answer was no.  Cool, I thought.  About this time, my good friend Devin Strange at Irv Seaver BMW, approached, nodded, and smiled.  Devin had taken the S 1000 XR out the weekend prior and was still grinning from the experience.  I knew from that expression alone that I was in for something very special.

Changing quickly into gear, a quick photo, before I left, was all that remained.  The GoPro was was mounted and running, and the smile on my face expanded to a broad 'Cheshire Cat' crescent.

Immediately upon putting my feet on the pegs, everything simply felt right.   Time was limited, so I decided to hit the freeway to get to Ortega Highway.  Getting to the on-ramp, I filtered to the front of the traffic line several times and the bike behaved beautifully.  The turning radius is much sharper than the S 1000 RR.  Engelbert Quechenberger and Sonny Singhanate of the Police Riding Technique Academy (PRTA) would be impressed with the bike and what I did with it. 

At high speed (not telling how high) the S 1000 XR loped as if that were it’s natural state.  The cruise control worked beautifully and disengaged cleanly when either the brake or clutch lever was tapped, or the throttle was rolled closed.  Those riders without cruise control may be quick to make childish remarks, but when it’s used and works intuitively well, all boorish comments dissipate instantly.  The value and usefulness are glaringly evident.  While riding on the interstate, I seemed to get more drivers looking over at me, and the bike, than is typical.  The XR loved to show off.  If I wanted to get out of a blind spot, the bike complied with a beautiful growl and leaped forward.  If a vehicle needed to be passed, it was effortless to do it safely and with precision.  The XR felt planted at high speed with no apologies. 

Exiting at Ortega Highway (CA-74), from Interstate 5, I made a left turn and headed to Lake Elsinore.  At every stop light, I received tremendous attention from men and especially women.  Soccer moms, college co-eds, and professional women alike all gazed at the bike and her pilot with lustful intent.  Crossing Antonio Parkway, Ortega Highway starts to become the road riders, near and far, flock toward.

Dipping into the first good sweeper, the bike felt completely natural and confidence inspiring.  Further along are some beautiful 180ยบ sweepers that are well cambered.  Again the bike acted as if it were on rails and even begged me to take it faster.  Without citing numbers, for fear of setting a bad example, the XR was able to take these corners at significantly higher speeds than would be prudent on other bikes. 
Corner after corner, the XR flicked back and forth with ease.  At one point, the XR seemed to completely disappear.  The XR simply went where I willed it to go with hardly more effort than a thought.  It was as if the bike was no longer there, and I was flying through the air.  It’s a remarkable feeling that, in all my experience as a rider, has never happened before.

Using the quick-shifter both up and down was easy and uncomplicated.  When passing a slower vehicle, a quick foot tap down, to drop a gear, and a roll on the throttle were all that was needed to put the vehicle in my side view mirrors. 

Slowing down at El Cariso Village, the temptation to see what the XR could do on some less ideal roads was pressing.  A left at North Main Divide led to a loop of little-used picnic spots and campgrounds to satisfy the temptation.  The road varied from nice flat asphalt to asphalt covered with pea gravel and broken up, goat-trail, asphalt.  There are some elevation changes along the way, too.  A lot of interesting debris could be seen, strewn about, including several pairs of knickers, some pink heels, a pair of shorts and tons of condoms and wrappers.  It seems that this is where Lake Elsinore locals go for romance.

The loop is about 8 miles and is an interesting and scenic run, despite the aftermath of lustful desire.  After about 20 minutes, the road eventually takes you back to Ortega Highway.  Before you ask, "Is the XR a good bike for off-road?" let me say, yes and no...  It's fine on hard dirt or gravel.  It can handle sand.  It's simply not a GS with all the bash plates and protection offerings.  During the ride, it was taken a little off-road.  It performed great.  If you are serious about rougher roads than what I describe, this may not be the solution for you.  Supposing you are primarily a street rider and you don't mind taking it off the asphalt every now and then, the XR will perform admirably.

As is custom, a stop at The Lookout was in order.  Photos and some water to hydrate were necessary.  It is also a good opportunity to place the GoPro in a different position.  Once rested, the XR and I set off for the crescendo of Ortega Highway from The Lookout to the valley floor.  Waiting as long as possible to give any cars ahead plenty of room, I finally took off.  Again, the XR seemed to float in the air much like a speeder bike from “Return of the Jedi”. 

The best part of Ortega Highway
Having reached the bottom, in record time, a U-Turn was immediately initiated.   The incredible roadway was re-traversed, going uphill. At The Lookout, once again, a u-turn was made and the trek back down resumed.  Several other motorcyclists had a similar idea and we waved to each other, every time.

Knowing the deviations cost a bit of extra time, I opted to take I-15 to the 91 Freeway back to Irv Seaver BMW.  Again, the journey, even on the boring super slab, was fun, and filled with stares. 

The total trip was three hours, in the saddle.  During that time, I felt great and could ride it all day.  The wind protection was perfect.  Being 6’04” (193cm) with a 34” inseam, I was able to easily flat-foot at a stop.  Riding the XR for extended periods was comfortable and natural.  The ergonomics were spot-on with no improvements necessary. 

Some have commented that the grips get a little buzzy at higher speeds.  It is true.  Most high-performance liter bikes are buzzy at high RPMs and speeds.  The buzz wasn’t a bother to me, as I don’t ride with a death-grip.  Rather, a light and a looser grip is optimal with the XR. 

Final Thoughts

Stat junkies will probably be disappointed as this reflects my thoughts and feelings riding the S 1000 XR.  Don't be dismayed though.  If it's stats you wish to salivate over, here's the official Technical Details from BMW's Page.

The BMW S 1000 XR is simply amazing.  It is the bike I truly want and will work hard to earn.  It does everything one could ever want and need in a motorbike, and it does it better than anything I’ve been on before.  It would be a demon at the racetrack.  In the canyons, the XR dances like a world champion ballroom dancer.  For commuting and freeway travel it is precise and planted with excellent visibility and wind protection.  Heated Handgrips, ABS, Ride Modes, ESE Electronic Suspension, Luggage options, Cruise Control, GPS Mount with control ring and perfect brake response make this the very best bike one has ever ridden, to date. 

Come into Irv Seaver BMW to take a test-ride, yourself and see the Cheshire Cat make an appearance on your face. 
Grinning Ear-to-ear at the completion of my ride on the S 1000 XR

Giving the cars going down the hill extra space before I catch up to them.

Complete Moto Contentment

©2015 Jim Foreman.  All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Definitive Guide for Motorcycle Passengers

I am the passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city's backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, the bright and hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight

The Passenger -Siouxsie and the Banshees

1923 BMW Series II R 32
Story by Jim Foreman.

Since the very first motorcycles were produced, one of the first accessories added was a passenger seat.

Inviting a passenger to ride with you is rather straightforward.  There is no limit of people who want to experience the excitement of riding a motorbike.  Many of those passengers are even going to be future motorcycle riders.   Others are content being the pillion.

There are three elements or responsibilities to successful riding with a passenger.  First is getting someone to ride with you.  Second is what the pilot needs to do to ensure a great experience.  Lastly, what the passenger must do to make for a safe and fun outing.

Getting Someone to Ride With You

2016 BMW R 1200 RS
For some, this is the easiest part.  As an attractive single man, a conversation with a woman will invariably include riding my motorcycle.  From there, it's a high probability that she will desire and even ask to take a ride with me.

Ask any 19-year-old who just bought a GSX-R or R6.  They’ll admit it’s to pick up girls.  It works until they crash a short time later.  Sadly, many young women are just as stupid as the young men who try to pick them up.  A beginner with a huge ego and libido on overdrive is not a promising start.  Add a 600 or 1000cc supersport, with no training, gear, license, or insurance and one easily sees a fast lane to disaster.  It’s important to note that not all 19-year-old riders do this.  Many do get proper training, license, insurance, and become excellent riders.
A very unwise combination

Many potential passengers have been brainwashed into believing that even standing near a motorcycle will result in possible death.  Other times, partners or significant others don’t share the enthusiasm you have for riding.  Lastly, there are those who simply don’t have the confidence that riding with you won’t lead to a crash or worse.

All of these rejections boil down to fear.  Sometimes that fear is rational and justified, other times not.    One example of justifiable concern is after twenty something years, you decide to go buy a motorcycle to relive your wild youthful days.  The last bit of training you had was your uncle saying, “Don’t crash, OK!”  Another source of rational fear and doubt is when you arrive and your bike is all scuffed up, you’ve been drinking, or you brag about recent crashes.

The irrational fear is something entirely different.  There are levels of irrational fear from mild to extreme.  If the fear is unrealistic, it’s best to smile and forget it, at least for now.  Be pleasant and ask kindly.  If the answer is no, just say, “Whenever you change your mind, I’d love to share this with you.”  Then without any sadness or disappointment, gear up and go for a great ride.  Do wave and smile as you ride off.

If it’s your partner or child, it important to never be negative and always express the fun and beauty you experienced.  Build in them a desire to want to ride without nagging.  Nagging never works, it just annoys the other person.

For those with only a mild fear, mention a recent training course you took and how much better a rider you’ve become.   A sure-fire motivator is a photo or stories of a recent trip where you experienced incredible and beautiful things.  In every case, it’s your calm, confident, and non-desperate demeanor that will have the most success.

Sometimes, with your child, the other parent may have, for any number of reasons, filled your son or daughter's head to not go riding with you.  For six years, my daughter would not ride with me.   One week before Father’s Day, I casually asked her if she’d like to ride and she said, “Yes.”  She immediately got a big hug and then proceeded to gear her up with an armored jacket, helmet, gloves and knee armor.

My daughter, excited about riding
We did a short back-road ride for about half an hour, and then, we came back home.  When she got off the bike, she was jumping and smiling and asking when we could go out again.  We’ve been riding together, ever since.

Initially, her mother was furious.  Adjectives hurled at me included childish, irresponsible, a bad example, and reckless.  My response was to send a couple of photos of our daughter all geared up and smiling big with a beautiful backdrop.  After the initial outburst, her mother has mellowed out and has not brought it up since.

Your Responsibilities as a Pilot

OK!  You were successful in arranging a passenger.  It is entirely within your power to make the ride a great and memorable experience or a terrible one.

Foremost, please have at least 1000 miles of safe, recent riding under your bum before you think about taking on a passenger.   Any less and one is really too inexperienced to handle themselves on a bike, yet alone a pillion.

A good start is to ask if they have a helmet.  Some will and this is a good sign.  If they don’t have a helmet, do NOT go into your garage and dig out the old, stinky helmet you used to wear with a scratched visor, and it’s lining falling apart.  Now, what about states that don’t require a helmet, you may ask.  Make sure you are both wearing a good DOT helmet, period.

For me, any passenger I take with me will wear a helmet, jacket, gloves, long pants and boots.  Hiking boots work well, and most people have them.
Good reason for a full-face helmet

If your passenger does not have a helmet and you do not have a new or very lightly used helmet that will properly fit, meet at Cycle Gear or a local store with a large selection of helmets.  HJC makes pretty good DOT certified helmets.  Often they are less than $100.00.  It’s not necessary or recommended to go out and buy a Schuberth or Shoei helmet for a first-time or occasional rider.  If your passenger becomes a regular rider, then certainly get the top-tier kit. 

A full-face helmet is highly recommended.  If there is a protest or a comment that the ‘party lid’ half-helmet is fine, suggest that bugs hitting one's face don’t taste or feel good.  If anything were ever to happen, you’d want their whole face and head protected.

In one instance, my passenger met me, at her door, holding her helmet but wearing short shorts, a baby-doll tee, and sandals.  She looked stunning, and I offered a pleasant kiss upon first seeing her.  I asked her if we could take a few photos to remember the day.  I put the motorbike on its center stand and had her sit in different poses, on the bike.  Her roommate was asked take some photos of us together both on and around the bike.  After the fun with the photographs, I calmly smiled and said, “That was a great idea dressing like that for photos.  Now, let’s get dressed for the ride.”  She hesitated for a brief second, smiled and said she’ll be back in a few moments.  When she reappeared, she looked incredible in jeans, jacket and hiking boots, and I told her so.  I even asked for another photo of us and the bike and one of us riding off together.

Many first-time pillions only understand being a passenger by watching movies, TV or notice women wearing skimpy outfits.  That's all they know, so they come to believe this is acceptable.  Without ever being negative, I say, “Yes, they do reveal a lot of skin.“ I express, “If anything were to happen, I want you to have the best chance of being uninjured.   Then I'll add that nothing looks more attractive than a woman in good riding gear.”  A quick browse to the Dainese or Held website women’s section will prove your point.
Dainese Woman

For the first ride, it’s imperative that it be short, fun, and interesting.  The first trip should last 30-60 minutes.   You want to leave your passenger asking for more rather than complaining that it was boring, or too long.   If your passenger is experienced, she'll probably have her own riding gear.  You both can decide, later, to extend the ride.  Stop for a break after a short time and ask how your passenger is doing.  Make sure they are comfortable and happy on the bike and with you as a pilot.

Before you take off, take a minute or two to tell your passenger what to expect.

First-time passengers hear these simple instructions when riding with me.
  1. Keep away from the muffler.  It’s hot and will burn quite quickly.
  2. Please ask before mounting or dismounting the motorcycle.  Do it as if mounting a horse.
  3. Indicate how you prefer they hold on.  I prefer they grip me so I know where they are and can feel what they are doing.  The ‘girlfriend’ holding your chest or waist, or ‘backpack’ is perfect.
  4. Look in the direction that we're going.  It will put you in a good position.
  5. Explain leaning and how they need to lean with you.
  6. Indicate some simple taps or signals to communicate, as it will be difficult to hear.
  7. Have Fun!

As the pilot, it’s critical that you don’t make the following mistakes with a passenger.
  1. Don’t ride like a jerk or show off.  Wheelies are a very bad idea!  Scaring your passenger will only get them not to like you and regret their decision to ever ride with you.  It will also guarantee any romantic intentions that might have existed will be lost forever.  Mellow out and ride a little slower than your solo-riding pace.  With a passenger, it will take longer to slow down.  The bike will also react differently than you are used to.  Be Smooth and your passenger will respond warmly.
  2. Don’t do an epic ride on the first or second outing.  Your passenger is likely not used to being on a bike for so long.
  3. It’s advisable not to ride with anyone else the first couple of times.  When there are others, egos tend to be fueled.  Riding with others will result in your passenger feeling awkward, at best and angry at worst.
  4. Don’t talk too much when you take a break.  Listen five times for every one time that you talk.  Your passenger will want to express how they feel.  Let them.  Don’t brag.  Simply and positively express how they’re doing and make simple corrective suggestions, if necessary.
  5. Don’t put ‘the moves’ on your passenger.  Even if you two are already romantically involved.  There is enough swirling through their head without the added nuisance.  If there is a romantic desire, pursue it at the conclusion of the ride.

Being an Excellent Passenger

Being a passenger on a motorcycle is a compliment and an honor.  Good riders don’t just take anyone on their bike.  Whether it’s your first time or your twentieth time, it’s important to recognize that every pilot is different.  It’s important for you to sync up with their unique riding style and be as neutral as possible.

Being an excellent passenger starts with having a great attitude.  If you’re not in a good mood and ready to have a great time, don’t do it.  You will be experiencing new and exciting sensations.  How you react will depend entirely on your mood.

Care about your safety.  Even if you’re not prompted to by the pilot, wear long jeans, a sturdy preferably leather jacket, hiking boots, gloves, and a Helmet.  Most of the time, the rider can help you with these items.  Don’t be afraid to visit Irv Seaver BMW or a gear store like the Dainese D-Store or Cycle Gear to pick up some moto apparel.  Remember, nothing looks more attractive than a passenger in well fitting riding gear.  Some riding gear is so stylish that people choose to wear it when just going out on the town.

Here are some ways you will be an excellent passenger.

  1. Listen to the pilot’s requests and follow their instructions.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. If the pilot grabs or taps your leg or hand it means you are doing a brilliant job, not that they’re trying to feel you up or get fresh.
  4. It’s OK to give the pilot a hug if you are happy or they completed a complex move well, in appreciation.
  5. Look in the direction you are traveling.  Keep your body close to the pilot and lean as they lean.  It may seem awkward at first, but it’s important.
  6. Try to use your feet and body to keep from putting too much weight on the pilot while braking.
  7. Be gracious.  At stops go in a buy both of you some water or a snack.
  8. Have Fun!

There are several key things that a passenger should not do or avoid.

  1. Don’t be a diva or complain.  Nobody likes that.  If you are too negative, you may find yourself taking a cab home.  As mentioned above, it’s preferable that you mention any concerns.  If the pilot is a jerk or not interested in what you have to say, arrange for your own ride home.
  2. Don’t make sudden moves.  The bike requires balance.  Any sudden moves can upset that balance.
  3. Don’t lean opposite of the pilot.  It will put added strain on the pilot and is more likely to cause the bike to crash.
  4. Don’t be a know-it-all.  It’s cool that your dad or uncle rode and blah, blah, blah.  You’ll be instantly ignored if you try to act like the smartest person in the room.  Yes talk and ask questions but don’t act like you have all the answers.
  5. Don’t forget to thank the pilot at the end of the ride.  If you’re inclined, offer to take the two of you out for a drink or meal in your car.


Personally, Most every passenger experience has been great.  Everyone listened to my simple instructions, looked and leaned as I leaned and were exceptionally gracious after the ride.

On occasion it proved smart to wear my Oxford Riding Grips, a special belt with grab handles, to make it easier and more comfortable for my passenger.  Alternatively, some sportbikes have passenger handles mounted around the gas cap ring and they swear it works. Other options like Cycle Handles work well, too.

Several friends were invited to share their experiences being a passenger.  Here’s what they said.

Rocio Duran at the Korean Friendship Bell
Rocio Duran  –For years, Rocio’s mother would caution her against motorcycles.  It’s not uncommon for moms to do this even though their own experiences were probably positive when they were younger.
About two years ago, Rocio’s best friend, Nick Chan, also a rider, asked if she would like to go for a ride.  Rocio accepted.  Nick made sure Rocio knew about safety and gear and insisted that she wear a thick jacket, long pants, boots and a helmet.  He was able to provide a helmet for her to use.
The first trip was about an hour, and Rocio loved it very much.  Nick was an excellent pilot and made her feel safe.  They continued to take longer distance trips together for over a year.
When asked if there was any romantic intention with Nick, she said, they were and remain great friends, but no romance.
About the same time, Rocio began as a passenger, she also started attending bike nights with the Los Angeles Motorcycle Riders (LAMR).  Over the next few months, Rocio went and bought herself a helmet, armored jacket, gloves, and moto boots.
By the time all her moto gear was assembled, Rocio decided to take the MSF Basic Riders Course and get her license.  For the last six months, She has been riding a beautiful 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250.  She rides primarily for commuting to and from work but is planning longer distance trips, for pleasure.
Recently we rode together, and she proved to be an excellent rider with a great attitude and sensibility.

Laura Ruddy in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Laura Ruddy  -Laura and I became acquainted through the BMW MOA.  We are both on the younger end of the age spectrum, of the group, and shared many similar interests outside of motorcycling.  Laura is originally from Mesa Arizona but has lived in Germany for the last ten years.
Recently, on a visit stateside, we met up, and I took her out as a passenger four or five times.  I knew she was an experienced passenger, so longer trips were not a problem.  Laura owns her top-tier moto gear.

Instantly, Laura proved to be a riding muse.  She was like a $10,000 suspension job on my bike.  She would keep her petite frame light on the bike and lean, perfectly, into corners as I did.  Laura’s actions would settle the bike going into a corner and give me the added traction to take a more aggressive line.

After Laura’s stateside trip, She invited me to join her in Germany for three weeks.  Every day we rode through Bavaria, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Czech Republic.  Each time we would ride, our synchronicity would get better to the point where we knew exactly what we were thinking and how each of us was feeling based entirely on non-verbal communication.

(L-R) Sean Ruddy, Ian Ruddy, Laura Ruddy, and Jim Foreman
Many times, Sean, Laura’s husband, and her son Ian would also ride with us, on another bike.
Laura has evolved to become a 10 out of 10 pillion rider.  She can handle everything from a romp to the market or a day of laps at Nurburgring.  It’s reasonable to say I’m a better rider because of Laura Ruddy.

Though Laura has her ‘M’ endorsement and can ride, she prefers to be the passenger.  Lucky for me!

The things Laura loves, aside from Star Wars, her husband, and son, are motorcycles and a dunkel bier, and Germany.

Again, Many thanks to Irv Seaver BMW for their support of this blog.  Do stop in for the absolute best BMW Motorcycle deals, apparel, parts, and service anywhere in Southern California.

It would be wise to avoid riding with these kinds of riders.

Some inadvisable passenger riding techniques

Happy memories riding with a passenger
Gina Cardenas and Elaine Chang riding with the hero motorcycle cops of Santa Paula.

Jim Foreman and Laura Ruddy in Italy

Jim Foreman and daughter

©2015 words and photos Jim Foreman

Saturday, July 11, 2015

So, You Want To Ride In Europe.

So, You want to ride in Europe?

Mittenwald, Bavaria Germany.  Along the Austrian Border north of Innsbruck.

Since returning from a recent 21-day European riding trip, questions have been asked of me, almost daily.  What's the cost? What are the best locations? How to do it? These and much more are among the most common queries regularly received. 

Here is what you need to know.

Arguably, a motorcycle is simply the best way to travel around Europe.  You can go everywhere, park the bike nearly anywhere, and the cost of fuel makes it very economical.  Besides, motorcycling will open opportunities to make friends, discover lesser-known roads and see the ‘real’ Europe outside of the tourist centers. 

Fortunately, it’s not difficult or outrageously expensive.  In many ways, Motorcycling through Europe enables it to be less expensive for lodging, meals, and entertainment.  All you really need is your license, passport and credit card.  Some countries may hassle you if you don't have your International Drivers Permit.  Just bring a passport photo and your state drivers license to a AAA office (if you are a member) and pay the $15USD to have them make it up.  It's quite simple and is done in minutes.  If you are not a member of AAA, you should be.  Especially with their +Plus RV Motorcycle Premium Membership.  The first time you use it, will pay itself off for the year.

There are four ways one can go about doing some motorcycling in Europe.  Curiously, it’s similar for Europeans who want to rent or use a bike in the US.  Riders coming to the US have the option of buying a motorcycle here and selling it when finished.  In the EU, this is not really an option.

1)    Organized Motorcycle Tour

2)    Motorbike Rental

3)    Use of a friend’s bike.

4)    Air or Sea Cargo Transport of your motorcycle.

Unless you work for BMW Motorrad North America, a major Motorcycle Magazine or are invited on a press junket, these are your choices. 

One by one, the pros and cons of each will be illustrated and broken down.

Organized Motorcycle Tour
If you have a limited time (around one week) and don’t know Europe very well, it is probably best to book an organized Motorcycle tour.   There are several excellent tour companies that service all parts of Europe.  Edelweiss Bike Travel is the best known and has been a leader for over 30 years.  You arrange round-trip airfare to a starting point and just show up.  Everything is included in the price except drinks and souvenirs. 

The routes are often interesting, but the riding, per day, is fairly short.  Bear in mind, there is a limitation of the slowest person in that group.  Though you may not have to ride in a group formation, you’re still part of a group. 

Friends are easy to make as you all have similar mindsets. Extra days can be arranged, for a fee if you wish.  

Now, that’s the good.  Motorcycle tours are very expensive.  Someone is paying for the guide, to bring and return the motorcycles, and the tour company isn’t a charity.  They’re in it to make a profit.  None of this is wrong and the value to have peace of mind and to be led to beautiful sights is certainly there for many.

Unfortunately, if you wish to travel to a destination other than the route, you can’t. You can often make arrangements to rent the bike for additional days, at a premium.  Lastly, when one is in a tour group, most of the socializing remains in the tour group.  Sure you can talk to and get to know people, but when it’s time to leave, you’ve got to say goodbye. 

Motorbike Rental
If you are going to use a bike for less than three weeks, rental is probably the best and most economical option.  A variation of this to consider is a self-guided motorcycle tour.  One such company with a great reputation is Adriatic Moto Tours.  They will plan an Itinerary and arrange hotel reservations for you based on your desired destinations. 

Most major cities also have at least one agency that rents out motorcycles.  BMW is the principal brand offered for rent and to a lesser extent, H-D.  As in the US, there are smaller agencies that rent Ducati, Goldwings, and Triumph, but that’s it. If you're looking to rent a sportbike, a BMW S 1000 RR is your only practical choice. 

Motorcycle rentals are not quite like car rentals.  They start around €95 (currently $105USD) per day for a G 650 GS.  The prices go up to €221 ($244USD currently) for a K 1600 GTL.  The R 1200 GS is €166 per day.  The rate does go down if you rent it for a week or more.  Also luggage, tank bags, and GPS are all extra, ranging from €3-8 per day. 

A huge mistake Americans often make, is in believing that ‘bigger is better’.  It isn’t!  A smaller bike is advantageous in many ways.  Being light and maneuverable is a tremendous advantage when hitting switchbacks, city traffic and tight areas.

A BMW F 700 GS is truly a perfect bike for traveling Europe.  It’s nimble, fun, good looking and sips gas. Fuel prices range from $6-13 per gallon, depending on the country. 

Be advised, you’ll have to leave a €1000 insurance deposit on your credit card to cover the deductible should you return a bike that has any damage.  Also, a rental agency will usually need to have a deposit left on it of €1000 used toward the rental price that is non-refundable 10-14 days before the scheduled rental. 

To find a reputable rental agency, Google the closest major city and Motorcycle Rental. 

Use of a Friend’s Bike
If you are a personable person and have a good friend in Europe, you may be able to use his or her bike. 

That person must be one great friend and one that you would also gladly let use your bike when they visit the US. 

Send a copy of your state drivers license and passport so your friend can add you to insurance. 

Insist on paying your friend, in Euro, for the added insurance and wear and tear on the bike.  €200-€250 per week. 

If you are going to do a lot of traveling, arrange to get it serviced or have the tires replaced if they are getting worn. Also check if your friend needs any BMW parts, accessories, or apparel from the states.  It's typically much less expensive in the US. One can pick them up or order items at Irv Seaver BMW and bring them in your luggage.

The major benefit of using your friend’s bike is that since he or she rides, they can show you some of the best roads in the area and introduce you to other riders.

The danger is that, in the back of your mind, there is a constant awareness that you do NOT want to crash your friend’s bike.  A rental is no big deal.  You have insurance.  Your friend will have a more personal attachment to their bike, just like you.

Truly, do unto your friend, as you would have them do unto you.  Be very gracious!

Air or Sea Cargo of Your Personal Bike
If you are planning on doing a Round the World trip, this is probably your only option.  The exception would be that you will buy and sell one as you travel from continent to continent.  This tactic is particularly useful in Russia and China. 
If you plan or riding for several months or longer, this may also be the the best option for you, financially.  You will have to source your own European insurance.

If you have a specially modified bike to accommodate a disability, this is likely your only option. 
Otherwise, the cost of transport, customs, potential customs delays, temporary import permits and legal paperwork is probably not worth it. 

Let’s say you are moving to Europe.  It’s probably best to sell your bike in the US and get an EU based bike in Europe. 

The primary focus of these options is cost and convenience.  Sometimes a situation will make one option more attractive versus another. 

Thoughts on Riding in Europe
Getting the bike is the easy thing.  Once you have it, there’s quite a bit one needs to be aware of when riding throughout Europe.

European Streets were built around horse-drawn carts rather than Cadillac super cruisers.  They are often narrow and one-way.  Lane sharing, in various forms, is legal and practiced by most riders. 
Parking is also a blessing for motorcyclists.  You can, without anyone blinking an eye ride onto a pedestrian area and park the bike where the bicycles are.  Just don’t block a walkway. 

Please note that Europe has graduated motorcycle licenses.  It is very expensive for most Europeans to get a full, unrestricted license.   Upwards of €1000 is spent on motorcycle training, licensing, and fees to ride a full-size bike. 

For this reason, most motorcyclists are exceptional riders.  They love their bikes, and they truly appreciate other motorcyclists.   Be sure to say hello to other riders and don’t be afraid to ask for advice or directions.

Unlike the US, most Europeans speak two, three or more languages.  Many will be able to speak at least minimal English.  It’s all on the approach.  It’s recommended that unless you are in Britain, Ireland or the UK, that you politely ask if you may speak in English.  If they don’t, they will try to find a friend who does.  If you don’t act as though everyone should bow down to you as an American, you’ll do just fine in all of Europe. 

It is highly advisable to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you will be spending the most time.

Surprisingly, if you know a little Spanish, you’ll be much closer to communicating with people in Portugal, Italy and, of course, Spain.

Learn the standardized road signs of the EU.  Many signs are similar to the US while others are more difficult to work out. 

In Europe, like New England, the towns are fairly close together.  Most have a town center with a church.  Many even have a castle in various states of decay.  Remember, Europe is much older than the US.  Movement of goods was limited to waterways and horse-drawn carts.

Unless you are in a tremendous hurry, avoid the Motorway, Autobahn, AutoStrada, Autopista, or Toll Roads.  Smaller highways and roadways connect all of the towns.  These are much more interesting.  Before you ask, yes, it’s true, throughout many parts of the German Autobahn, there is no speed limit.  If you are there, go ahead and give it a go.  Just be mindful of cars that wish to overtake you.  The BMW K 1200 R Sport had done 230+ Kph (145 MPH), with a passenger, before prudence brought me down to a more reasonable speed.

If you are riding or driving on any European equivalent of a freeway, there are a couple of things one must know.  First, it is forbidden to pass on the right side.  This rule is true, no matter how many lanes of travel there are.  Always pass on the left.  If you are in Ireland or the United Kingdom, just use your common sense and reverse it.  Don’t stay in the fast lane.  Leave it for passing unless traffic is heavy.  Make your pass and go back the one of the other lanes.  If traffic is heavy or backed up, and you are going to split lanes, do it between the Number one (passing) lane and the number two lane.

The result of going 124kph in Austria.
Most of Europe has speed cameras on the highways.  They are often set to go off at 5ks (kilometers) over the speed limit.  Be mindful of this.  Traffic stops by police are fairly rare.  If you are stopped, most countries will have you pay the officer right then and there.  Yes, they do accept credit cards.  If you have the cash, many country’s police officers will allow you to negotiate a little if you are respectful.  Humbly admitting fault and thanking them for their duty to safety helps you, when negotiating. 

Switzerland, in particular, takes their speed laws extremely seriously.   You will spend more time looking at your speedometer than the beautiful scenery.  DON’T SPEED in Switzerland!  The ticket will cost you about $300USD payable right there and then.  They do accept credit cards for your convenience.  If you can’t or don’t want to pay, your vehicle will be impounded, and you will be left on foot. It's even worse for Swiss nationals. 

If you get ‘flashed’ by a speed camera, just remember what country you were in when it happened.  Let the rental agency, tour company, or your friend know.  Be sure to make payment arrangements. 

Europe is quite beautiful and steeped with rich history.  If you’re racing through, you are missing most of it and being a jerk.  There are plenty of open highways and moto-awesome roads that draw locals.  Much like our Snake, Dragon, and Angeles Crest Highway.  Ask other motorcyclists.  They will tell you where and usually tell you where cops like to hide with their speed guns.  

Maps do exist of some of the best motorcycling in Europe.  They are much like our outstanding Butler Motorcycle Maps.  Some are available on paper while others are available online.  FIM-Europe has some excellent maps, by region, available for free. Alpentourer is also a great resource.  Unlike the US, most Europeans and Germans, in particular, have similar spirited road tastes to motorcycles.  This means a good auto-touring map will also be great for motorcycles, too.

Certain countries have certain driving cultures.  Though incomplete, this should be a pretty good picture of what to expect.

Austria-  Beautiful scenery. Very good drivers and riders.  Cops like to use radar on the side of the road at the main entrance and exit of towns near the border.  Police negotiation is possible if stopped.  You need to purchase a special pass to use their Autobahn. 
Belgium-  Pretty mellow.  Usual speed cameras on freeways and in major cities.
Czech Republic-  Gas is much less expensive.  Though many places accept Euro, the currency is the Krona (or crown).  Few speed cameras mostly in Prague.  Much fewer people speak English outside of Prague.
France-  Lane Sharing is widely accepted.  You must carry a hi-viz vest and wear it if you are broken down on the side of the road.  Roads leading to Paris are typically very boring.  Southern and Western France and the alpine region is where it typically gets much more interesting.
England and the United Kingdom-  They love their speed cameras on the motorway.  London has a congestion tax/fee for cars.  Bikes are exempt.  It’s best not to have a car/bike in London until you are ready to get out of the city.  Riders are excellent.  Drive on the left side of the street.
Germany-  My favorite!  Germany is one of the most beautiful and interesting countries in Europe.  Certain towns like Stuttgart have a saturation of speed and traffic control cameras. Excellent drivers.  It’s fairly easy to spot speed cameras.  Technically, lane sharing is not legal.  If traffic is backed up, there is no problem if you ride at a reasonable speed.  Just be respectful.  10-15KPH over the flow of traffic should be your maximum.  If you are involved in an accident on the autobahn and you are traveling over 130Kph, you will be automatically deemed at-fault.  Many insurance companies will not cover you if you are traveling over 130Kph.  Bavaria is a rider’s paradise. There are extremely few toll roads in Germany.  One, in particular is just outside of Garmisch.  It's a great moto-road. 

Holland-  Amsterdam has many speed and traffic control cameras, but the rest of Holland is pretty mellow.
Ireland-  Drive on the left.  Roads can be very narrow.  Mind the truckers.  Pretty mellow.  Parking in Dublin can be a challenge.  Read the signs and park where other motorcycles are parked.
Italy-  My second favorite.  There are many speed cameras that don’t even work.  It’s somewhat a free-for-all.  Traffic signs are mainly suggestions, especially the further south you go. There is a method to what seems like chaos.  It works.  Don’t be timid.  Other drivers see you.  The AutoStrada is a toll-road.  Use the local roads.  Gas is much more expensive.  Here's a video of a typical intersection in Italy.
Luxembourg-  It’s very similar to France.  Don’t blink or you will miss it.
Portugal-  Laid back.  Cops are pretty cool.  Just don’t be jerks in the cities.  Expect beautiful riding, all over.  Perfect for wandering.
Spain-  You must have nerves of steel to enjoy Spain.  Toll roads everywhere.  Do not be alarmed if you are tailgated.  That’s how they drive there.  The drivers are typically very good, but will be less than 2 meters from your rear tire.  Very mountainous in the north.  Be very wary of pickpockets in Barcelona and a little less so in Madrid.  They are often attractive teenage girls or children.  Anything that can be stolen off of your bike will be.   Make sure it’s secured and try to park in paid lots or big hotels near an attendant.

Switzerland- Very strict speed laws.  Do Not Speed in Switzerland.  Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc.  It's the most expensive country, by far.

This country guideline is nowhere near comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of what to expect.

Every country you travel to will have a sign that indicated the speed limits for the motorways(freeways), highways and within towns limits.  They do vary from country to country.  

The average daily cost was between €70 and €100.  The figure includes lodging, meals, drinks and fuel.  Surprisingly, to most Americans, most of Europe is quite inexpensive, once you are outside of the major cities.  This is not to say, "Don't visit major cities."  Rather, it's better to stay in smaller towns.  The experience is much more interesting and authentic.  Most Europeans don't hang out in the city centers.  Instead they live, work, eat and drink much like you probably do, in the US.   Do enjoy the rich history of major cities, just realize that it's primarily other tourists you will interact with.

Europe is a wonderful place to ride.  To be mindful that they do have seasons and it gets very cold in winter and parts of fall and spring.  Despite some commonality through the European Union, the countries are largely very different.  Enjoy yourself and make lots of friends.

Again, a very huge Thank You to Irv Seaver BMW Motorcycles in Orange County, CA for sponsoring this blog.  When looking for a motorcycle, parts, apparel or service, those in the know travel to Irv Seaver BMW.

Festungruine Hohentweil Singen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Biberwier, Tyrol, Austria

Bruges, Belgium

Salzburg, Austria

Crossing into Germany near Strasbourg

Organized chaos of Italy

What's left of Ceasar's Forum in Rome.

Riding through the Bavarian countryside with Laura Ruddy.

When in Munich, one must pay a visit to BMW Welt adjacent to Olympic Park

Innsbruck, Austria

A Bavarian moto hot spot where bikes and riders constantly go up and back.

There are tunnels everywhere in Europe.

Cabra Castle and Hotel north of Dublin, Ireland

Do read the parking signs.  It cost €85 to pay to have the boot removed for a simple parking violation.

Adare Castle in Ireland

British Parliament and Big Ben

In Paris at the Arc de Triomphe looking toward Defence

Breitenwang, Tyrol, Austria

Cihelny, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Italian Adventure Rider
Many service stations in rural Europe have Biker Sections as meetup places.  Much like the Shell Station at ACH.

If one needs a more colorful diversion from a long ride, places like this are nearby.

Any bike can be an adventure bike.  In this case a BMW S 1000 RR.

Some great friends made while riding in Italy.  Team Drink N Ride from Germany.

One of the dozens of Alpine passes you'll want to run.

Reschen Reservoir Curon Venosta, Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol, Italy

Looking out at Switzerland from Germany

Pink wigs means it's a hen party.  Quite spirited women.

Guess who's getting married?  A Stag party in Munich.

One of the many biker spots in Austria.

The Wassenfalls of Triberg in the Black Forest with Jim Foreman and Laura Ruddy.

A Black Forest Castle Ruin in Schenkenzell, Germany  Notice the streetbike in the left corner.

Riding through the Dolomites with team Drink N Ride.
©2015 Words and Photos by Jim Foreman.  All rights reserved.