Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2500 mile update: Interstate impressions and road mannerism

I’ve now owned my 250 for almost two months and logged a few miles on it. Most of these miles have been at interstate speeds, so I thought I would share my experiences with those out there in motto- world that are still debating whether this bike can handle the super slab. It’s an axiom that this bike is not really intended for sport touring, however, some of us will defy engineers and push the limits of the 250, or is it the inverse? So how does the bike handle the Interstate? I’d say rather well. I’ve ridden the 250 through thunder storms while being passed by semis, light rain, strong head winds, up and down hills (up to 3585 ft / 1092 m) at times in the fog, up to 75 mph/ 120 kph fully loaded (+- 80 kg). And the 250 has delivered and impressed me with its subtle capabilities.

But is it comfortable you asked? I will say up to x distance, depending on terrain and rider stamina. Riding the 250 long distances at interstate speeds demands; fortitude, commitment and a positive mind set, the bike is rather light and wind shifts will affect its trajectory, thus it will require continuous rider input. Wind conditions will have a direct impact on ride quality, it’s unavoidable. The lower fairing provides adequate wind protection; the windscreen on the other hand leaves you exposed at high speeds, offering little protection. The rider has only a few options, full tuck or half tuck if you happen to have a tank bag that hinders a full tuck, or a bigger screen. At times I felt like I was in a boxing match taking direct jabs from the wind right on the face, resulting in my head flailing to the right and left repeatedly. Other times (few) I felt I had to really, really lean into the wind to be able to stay on my lane, a disturbing feeling.

The geometry of the bike (although relax by sport standards) places a lot of stress on the lower/upper back and neck requiring shifting of body positioning. The stock saddle is surprisingly comfortable for looking and feeling firm. My longest day on the saddle was 415 miles/ 664 km and I did not experience major issues during the ride. Sure, I had to shift sitting positions to relieve pressure points, but that is expected. The bike’s suspension and steering tracked really well, and at high speeds on smooth tarmac the 250 glides smoother than an electric monorail, the bike feels positively solid and at high speeds only minor weight shifts will carry you on your intended path. Even while fully loaded the suspension (at factory settings) handled road imperfections well, and trust me there were a lot!

Overall, considering the 250 is being utilized for something other than its primary [commuting] purpose, if one has realistic expectations and copious stamina the 250 will make a stupendous tourer. Would I change anything on the 250? So far, I can’t think of anything. I did want heated grips but instead I purchased heated gloves. Other than that I’m pretty satisfied with my purchase and the bike’s performance. Two things will make the ride more enjoyable: one will be to log more miles and consequently build more stamina, second; having the right cold/wet weather gear.

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