Preparation Update: T-minus 70 days
Updated: Jul 21, 2018
Q&A on what I will ride on this year's adventure
There are some common questions I get when I talk to people about riding long distance on this particular type of bike. I'll attempt to answer a few of them here.
Q: "What kind of bike will you be riding out there?"
A: Weapon of Choice: Triumph Speed Triple 955i (2000).
My motorcycle trip will take place using my 2000 Triumph Speed Triple 955i, a motorcycle that was among the first to be called a "naked bike".
Historically speaking, the engine and appearance of my motorcycle originated with 1980s racing culture. People would buy production version of racing motorcycles, attempt to replicate the moves professionals could make, fail spectacularly, and wipe out, grinding down the faring and bodywork on their nice new motorcycles. Without the funds to order up expensive replacements, many riders began to simply remove the damaged bodywork and ride their motorcycles "naked", tearing ass all over town on powerful motorcycles, raising a ruckus, and generally acting like hooligans. To this day, another nickname for both this style of bike and those who ride them is "hooligan".
Q: “How can you ride that kind of distance on a sport bike?”
A: It’s all about the ergonomics.
“Without the funds to order up expensive replacements, many riders began to simply remove the damaged bodywork and ride their motorcycles "naked", tearing ass all over town on powerful motorcycles, raising a ruckus, and generally acting like hooligans. To this day, another nickname for both this style of bike and those who ride them is "hooligan".”
The main structural difference between a naked bike like my Speed Triple and a typical sportbike is the fact that my Speed Triple has actual handlebars, while a sportbike has “clip-ons” (the clutch and throttle are attached, or “clipped” directly onto the frame). Clip-ons allow a rider to hunch down and hug the motorcycle tightly like a jockey on a horse. This helps reduce drag, lowers the center of gravity, and generally makes it easier for a rider to control the motorcycle through tight turns and at high rates of speed.
Comfort, however, isn’t in that equation. Even sportbike enthusiasts will readily admit that those things are horribly uncomfortable after just an hour or two.
Contrast this with my Speed Triple. The handlebars allow for a more upright riding position, something that makes a long motorcycle ride not simply bearable but enjoyable. I have also added a Corbin gel seat to my bike. It provides a slightly improved saddle feel versus the OEM seat, and it's nice and comfy. The original seat, by comparison, felt like it was made of pine. >.<
Q: "Why aren’t you going to ride one of those big touring motorcycles like a Honda Goldwing? Wouldn’t you want something like that for greater comfort on that kind of trip?"
A: I have to find a balance between the ride and the bike
This trip calls for me to ride several kinds of roads: wide open interstates, twisty canyon and mountain highways, city streets in large cities. While a larger motorcycle would be perfect for one of those three, it would be a pain in the ass the rest of the time.
Yes, a Gold Wing or any other kind of large touring motorcycle with a lot of storage capacity (“Baggers”, as they’re commonly called) would be perfect for eating up the miles in comfort. I happen to own a 1987 Honda Gold Wing Interstate; that thing is like a sofa on two wheels. However, I do not relish the prospect of plying the city streets of Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle on such a large, heavy, and unwieldy motorcycle. I am also not fond of the idea of cutting through the Rocky Mountains or carving up the Pacific Coast Highway and through twisty blacktop in the Redwood forests of northern California on a rolling sofa.
With this trip, I’m balancing comfort with flexibility, ease of riding, and the fun factor. Having completed an Iron Butt Saddlesore 1000 (riding 1,000 miles in under 24 hrs.) this past Labor Day on my Speed Triple, I know that I’ll be perfectly comfortable during each leg of my trip, the longest of which is the 13-hour, 745-mile jaunt on the fourth day when I ride from Salt Lake City to San Francisco.
There's riding, there's touring, and then there is sport touring. I intend to do some spirited riding and have a blast, not simply sit back and watch the terrain creep by. The whole point of taking such a trip on a motorcycle is to travel in a manner that puts you closer to the environment around you so that you can experience it more directly. I like the feel of riding, and a bike like the Triumph Speed Triple provides more of that feel, in more varied environments, than a big touring motorcycle can provide.
Q: How are you going to carry everything you need on such a small bike?
A: Carefully. ;)
I already have (most) of the bags I’ll need for my trip. I’ll be covering the hows and whys of loading up my motorcycle in a later post.
If anyone has more questions for me regarding the technical aspects of riding a Triumph Speed Triple on an extended trip like this, please shoot me a message, and I'll answer them as best I can. :)