Touring Modifications for a Naked Bike
As I covered in my T-minus 70 days post, I had to carefully consider the kinds of roads I would be traveling and the kind of riding I would be doing, when selecting a motorcycle for this trip. With the prospect of canyon carving through the Rockies and up the West coast, and tooling around several major urban areas, my choice was to ride my Triumph Speed Triple naked bike.
A naked bike would not be the choice of many motorcyclists who are planning extended trips. Naked bikes retain a number of the drawbacks that make sport bikes so difficult to ride on for extended periods of time in variable weather, including hard seats, little to no wind screen, exposed hands. As a result, I have made some modifications to my Speed Triple that will help minimize those issues and increase comfort over long distances.
The first thing I noticed when I bought my Speed Triple was the fact that the stock seat was, in point of fact, a torture device that was likely created by a particularly salty and vengeful professional. Every buckle in the road became a godawful tooth-rattling, lumbar-crunching experience. A day or two of that, and I was burning up Google and diving into motorcycle forums trying to figure out an alternative. Thankfully, a solution made itself apparent right away in the form of a Corbin Solo Saddle, and I was able to snag my replacement seat on eBay for 1/3 of what a new one would have cost.
While this seat still uses a special foam rather than gel, it has been fantastic. My desk chair at work isn't as comfortable as this thing is. Other than maybe buying a newer version, I wouldn't change a thing. In the seat department, I'm already set for this trip.
The windscreen on a Triumph Speed Triple is such a minimal affair that it has earned the nickname "bikini faring", because it covers the instrument pod and pretty much nothing else. It certainly does nothing to block the wind. As a result, riders take the full force of the air. This is no big deal tooling around town but, as many of you know, it can be exhausting to spend hours in the saddle being buffeted by wind gusts, cross winds, the turbulence caused by 18-wheel trucks, to say nothing of the 70+ mile-per-hour blast of air you generate yourself. This meant that one of the most critical purchases I still needed to make ahead of my trip was a windscreen that would provide a taller rider like me with enough protection.
Research into various kinds of windscreens, from manufacturer and retailer websites to motorcycle forums, I was coming up with no definitive idea of what brand of windscreen to purchase. While I had the option of borrowing a friend's universal windscreen, as I had (with mixed results) during last year's Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000, I wanted something taller, more solid, and made to better fit my particular motorcycle.
On a hunch, I thought I would try Sport Wheels in Jordan, Minnesota, a local motorcycle salvage yard located about 30 minutes south of Minneapolis. Sport Wheels sells used motorcycle, but the facility also features over 10 acres of parts for all sorts of motorcycles. For motorcycle parts, I'm still nervous about purchasing things like this online. I really wanted a chance to physically see if a given windscreen I would would fit on my motorcycle, look good, hold fast, and come in at something approaching affordable. After all; any money I can save in my prep ahead of the trip will be more money I will have available on the road.
As luck would have it, I not only found a windscreen that fits quite well on my bike (the National Cycle VStream Windshield), Sport Wheels had a complete windscreen mounting kit in their parts warehouse that I was able to adapt for use in mounting my new windscreen. Again, I managed a spectacular deal on what I needed, spending maybe ¼ of what a new Puig or National Cycle windscreen with mounting hardware would have cost.
A few weeks ago, I got the bright idea to see if I could find out what the average temperature would be along my trip. After some searching, I ran across Weather Spark, a website that provides temperature averages for any day of the year, for any major city in the world. Looking at places like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Helena Montana, I realized that at my planned departure times, those locations averaged lows down around 50°F. I was looking at temps cold enough to pose a problem with staying warm during my early morning starts.
Because I typically ride until the snow flies in early December, I've been thinking about finally getting heated grips for years. Seeing as how they're going to be critical for helping me maintain my trip schedule, now is the time to finally invest in a pair.
As of this writing, the Bike Master heated grips I chose have arrived at Scooterville in Minneapolis, my motorcycle shop. I’ll be making an appointment soon and bringing in the Speed Triple in to have the guys slap ‘em on and make sure my electrical system can handle the load of them along with the rest of my electronics.
I doubt that I’ll be ferrying very many people around during my trip, but this is the last piece of gear I need for the trip. Why? I’ll go back to the limited carrying capacity of the Speed Triple. As I’ll be utilizing soft luggage, good anchor point will be the difference between cinching things down nice and tight and having the load shift around on the highway. I think I’ll manage, but a grab bar would make things a lot easier.
Alas, it turns out that grab rails for my motorcycle are exceedingly rare. I’m holding out hope for spotting one before the trip begins, but I’ve been looking for more than a year. So if anyone spots one, please be sure to let me know. ;)