The New Bike
Ever since I sold my BMW, I always get the itch to go riding on a nice day or when I see others on their bikes. I had decided that my next bike would be similar to the R1150R but with a little more amenaties like adjustable windshied, bigger fairing and ABS. Shaft drive is now my preferred way to go and for budget purposes, I ruled out another BMW. Great bikes, but I don't want to spend so much on maintenance costs.
This criteria led me to the Honda ST1300 and Yamaha FJR1300 with the possibility of a Kawasaki Concours14. I've always been pleased with the Hondas I've owned and ridden so I expected it to be the winner. One of the problems with buying a motorcycle is that it can be difficult to do test rides so I decided to rent each for a day to help in my decision.
First up, I rented a Honda ST1300 from Eagle Rider. I picked it up at WOW Motorcycles and headed straight to the mountains of north Georgia. This is where I would do most of my riding so it would be the perfect test bed. It combines a couple of hours of highway riding along with 50+ miles of twisties. Two good links for where I like to ride are here and here. The ST1300 hasn't changed in a looooong time so it didn't matter which year I rented. The only option it had was ABS which I have decided I want on my bike. The bike rode comfortable on the way up to Dahlonega but I wasn't able to drive it one handed on the long highway stretches. Once you're in the turns and tight twisties it started to show it's size. It never felt agile or light. For the bike I was sure would be the winner, it didn't have the feel I was looking for. That's too bad because the used market has quite a few options and the pricing is good for a bike that is still less than 5 years old.
Next, I was able to test ride the Kawasaki Concours14 at a dealer days event. I wasn't expecting much from it but hey, I will always take advantage of free test rides on bikes I've never ridden. After signing in and waiting for about an hour, my group was called. We did a 20 minute guided ride around Alpharetta with a combined city and highway speed route. Within minutes of riding the bike, I was totally impressed with the acceleration, riding position, and handling. This was a great surprise from a bike a hadn't really considered. It is based on the previous generation Ninja ZX14 so it is no surprise that it was very quick and quite fast on the top end. It trades chain drive for shaft, adds hard saddle bags, a small glove box and heated grips. By the end of the test drive I really wanted the bike and immediately started checking in to the used options. I found a link for a video where somebody did a similar ride but at a demo in another city. This gives you a good idea of a first impression.
To finish my sport tourer evaluations, I rented a Yamaha FJR1300 from Dan's Motorcycles. Dan was real easy to deal with and very accomodating for rental pick up and drop off times. My buddy Chris met me at Dan's place and we headed up to the normal riding area. Chris rides a Honda Shadow 1300 cruiser style but since we're not doing a track day, we should be able to easily ride together. On the way up 400 north I was able to get on the gas a little especially on on ramps. It will scoot to 100mph in a very short period of time so I did leave him behind on occasion. The Yamaha felt much lighter and more nimble than the ST1300 but it had a horrible factory seat that had my ass cheeks cramping by the end of the day. It was easy to drive one handed, felt very sporty and was a good looking bike. I wasn't crazy about the burgandy color but I have seen some dark blue and silver models that looked very nice. This bike also has the ABS option. The used market for this bike is also pretty good and I was looking at 2007 and newer due to some design changes.
My biggest disappointment with all of the 3 initial options is the lack of electronic cruise control. It is my intention to do some big rides in 2013 and this would make the ride much more comfortable. Since this is not available, I will buy a Kaoko throttle lock and install it.
After riding the three bikes, I had my choice narrowed down to the 2007 or newer FJR and a 2010 or newer Concours14. Kawasaki did some good design changes in 2010 that helped with heat issues and added ABS / traction control as an option. By 2011, ABS and traction control come as standard equipment. My preference was a 2010 model because I like the blue option that was available. I continued to read reviews and had myself convinced that I should go with the Kawasaki. Everything I read had it at the top of the heap with only a BMW K1600GT consistently beating it. Finding a used '10,'11, or '12 was proving to be difficult for this time of year so I decided to just wait until a good deal came along or maybe a screaming deal on the Yamaha and just buy a new seat.
While still deciding between the Yamaha and the Kawasaki, I wanted to be able to hop between the 2 to see if the seat on the Yamaha was the only thing holding me back from considering it more. On my way home from visiting Surflexus in the hospital, I stopped by my local dealer because I figured they would have both in stock and I can compare the them in the same room. Unfortunately they didn't have the FJR in stock so I spent all my time on the Concours. The salesperson came over and asked me if I had any questions and I told him I was comparing the 2 bikes. He asked the right questions and was very knowledgable about both bikes. He asked when I was looking to buy one. I was honest with him and said I was ready to get one but had no intention on buying new due to the cost. He asked if he could at least give it a shot and I said sure. They came back with a pretty attractive offer and 0% financing for 60 months. Hmmmm, now the price discrepancy between a hard to find used bike and this brand new one was much less. Granted, it is still a few thousand dollars more than used but dangit, I was ready to stop shopping and start riding again. My car was going to be paid off in a couple of months so I basically would be trading that payment in for a new motorcycle payment with a little cash back each month. That cash back hasn't happened yet since I keep buying motorcycle related things. So, with a good offer presented, I called Stacie to ask if there was any major expense coming that I needed to know about before committing to purchasing the bike. With a confirmation from her that we were in the clear, I said let's do it. When I say, let's do it, apparently I was in the mood for the whole package. I prepurchased 3 years worth of service work, got the extended warranty and even the tire / wheel warranty. Normally I wouldn't consider most of this but two things helped ease the pain. First, all of this would also be financed at 0% and second, if I don't use the extended warranty, I get that money back. It's a gamble I know but I'm OK with it.
So after all of that, I ended up buying a new, black, 2012 Kawasaki Concours14 with single digit miles on the odometer. The dealer had to do their normal prep work so I came back the following Monday to get a check out and take final delivery.