At one point during our courtship my wife said (and I paraphrase), “I think you need three motorcycles. One for us to ride on together, then a his and hers.” I’ll not comment on the effect this may or may not have had on my resolve to marry her since I’m pretty sure sure we were already engaged at the time, but it really got me thinking about a question I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since then. If I really was limited to just three motorcycles (ever!), with her guidance being my rough objective, what would actually make the cut? Because I love motorcycles and everybody loves “Top ## of” lists, here’s what I think I’ve finally settled on.
The Touring Bike
This one’s a no-brainer and no contest. The only two-up touring bike I’d even consider is a BMW K1600GT/L. Incredibly fast, powerful, and comfortable, the GT truly lives up to it’s Gran Turismo or “Grand Touring” nomenclature while the GTL is just slightly more luxurious with a more upright or sofa-like seating. The same options are available on both bikes- they’re really just differentiated by two inches of posture in the handlebars and footpegs, and the size/shape of the windshield. I lean toward the GT, no pun intended, because I enjoy more spirited riding and I hate looking through a windshield. I firmly believe it to be a potential hazard on a bike and would rather look over than through a windshield. Why? Bikes don’t have windshield wipers. At least I can wipe the visor of my helmet with my free hand… Just sayin’. Although now that I’m stuck living in flyover country, with no really good motorcycle roads, the extra comfort of the GTL might sway me a bit… Nah. I’ll stick with the GT because someday I’ll move back closer to one of the coasts (either coast will do) and back in proximity of curvy, fun, and interesting roads. Beside, I can always swap the pegs, bars, and topcase/backrest when I get older. The GT and GTL have won Sport Touring and Touring bike of the year, respectively, since they debuted and haven’t been dethroned yet- three years later. That’s how far they’ve surpassed the competition. The GTL is pricey, but within $500 of Harley’s “Project Rushmore” Electra Glide Ultra Classic- and the German bike is faster, smoother, lighter, and still more sophisticated despite being three years older. (Though at least Harley’s side bags open upward instead of to the side.) The GT is a few thousand cheaper. I’ll take mine in the beautiful Persimmon Red from 2011, thanks. Read further reviews of the best touring bike on the road to-date here and here.
A 2007 BMW R1200GS Adventure, or a Ural. 2007 was the last year the big GS came without traction control and electronically adjustable suspension, and while I’m fine with those things on a street bike I get (probably needlessly) nervous about them failing on an off-road bike. I love the big square aluminum cases for luggage that can double as seats at a campground, the roomy and comfortable accommodations for rider and passenger, and that year came with a beautiful white paint job. Since I don’t live in California and the rest of the United States stupidly doesn’t allow lane splitting, I’ve always kind of hoped to be confused for a motorcycle cop and have traffic scoot out of my way when I hover in their rear view mirror. The realization that I don’t actually go camping or riding off-road, despite loving Long Way Round, coupled with the speed, comfort and stereo featuring iPhone integration on the GT is why I’m sticking with a street machine. And while sidecars are very cool, the Urals just aren’t reliable enough or fast enough for me to take them seriously as a touring machine for the missus and me. They come with the most complete toolkit you can get on a motorcycle for a reason…
The “His” Bike
This one’s tough, because there are so many cool bikes to choose from. I love my 2011 BMW R1200R Classic. I loved my 2006 Ducati Multistrada 620 Dark, and I’d own a 2009 Multi 1100S in a heartbeat. I’d love an old classic BMW like an R69S or R90S or R100S. Or a Vincent Black Shadow! Maybe a K75S, to have something kind of weird and unique. Maybe a Ducati Diavel…? I love the blinkers, taillights, and how the passenger pegs fold out of sight when solo, but the gas mileage is awful. Choices, choices…
Time to break the mold a little bit here, but my choice has to be a Triumph Bonneville T100 Steve McQueen edition (first image in the mosaic above). I’m too young to care much about Steve McQueen, and would be sorely tempted to remove the sticker of his signature from the bike, but everything else about it is perfect. No chrome except for the exhaust and tasteful pea shooter mufflers, otherwise it’s brushed aluminum. Classic good looks with a standard seating position for optimal control and modern reliability. Bash plate and spoked wheels for light off-roading pretense, a solo seat for that lone awesome guy image, a luggage rack for my Brooks Brothers duffle… The T100 is silent, smooth and refined on the road, beats Harley Sportsters and Moto Guzzi V7s in every comparison, and has plenty of aftermarket parts and support to add more power. In the imaginary world where I own a BMW luxury rocket touring bike, this is the “his” bike for solo manly awesomeness I’d choose to compliment my collection.
The “Hers” Bike
Choosing this bike always seems the hardest. Part of the difficulty is knowing it’s the last on the list. After this one, in my little fantasy world, there are no others. No mas. This is the one to complete the set and end fantasizing. But the other tough part is that this bike is ostensibly for my lovely, who had a bad experience in her MSF class and isn’t terribly interested in riding her own bike- so it’s really more like a plaything for me that needs to double as her practice bike (my excuse for owning it). Maybe things will change in the future, but for now that’s the criteria being used for this selection.
Previously, the runner-up choice would have been a Honda Ruckus scooter, because it’s kinda cool looking and lack of body work to be hurt if it gets dropped. The Ruckus was never quite a real contender though, because it’s just not fast enough and drum brakes suck. There are some really cool Ruckuses (Rucki?) out there, but this isn’t the bike in my collection for a project and dumping lots of money into customisation- that would be the “his” bike if I’d done something vintage. No, there are only two realistic choices for “hers” and one of them would be the Honda Grom. Inexpensive, fuel injected, disc brakes, extremely light weight, 100+ miles per gallon… There’s nothing else new worth considering half as much for a starter/fun bike. And if this list were real life, the Grom would be the clear and only choice.
But this is a fantasy list. This is my dream sheet. And there’s no way I want all three bikes to just be bikes without throwing a sidecar or a scooter or something offbeat into the mix. The third and final slot is, has to be, a Vespa GTV 300ie. I’ve wanted a Vespa since the GTS 250ie, and something Italian would round out my Euro-centric fantasy bike stable. Motorcycle.com called the GTV 250ie a “two wheeler fit for nobility“. I’d choose the mildly updated 300ie for it’s standard luggage racks both front and rear. I don’t care that it costs a bit more than twice the Grom’s MSRP; this is a fantasy list and the Vespa has a higher top speed that is freeway legal and a gorgeous genuine leather seat. No shifting with a twist-and-go CVT transmission, glove box, luggage hook to carry a bag (maybe groceries?) conveniently between your legs, beautiful and high-end details in the dash, handlebars… Even the reservoir caps are polished metal. Under seat storage and even a compartment that holds a cover for the aforementioned leather seat to keep it pristine from the threats of sun and weather. The available paint colors have varied over the years, but there’s always been at least one favorable hue to purchase. This year the Sienna Ivory provides a nicer contrast with the leather saddle than Espresso does. Depending on the paint, it may be worth going back to previous year 250ie and buying the front luggage rack out-of-pocket. But no question about it, for the elegance, style, practicality, and variation from the others, this is the last bike in the stable.
It’s tough to narrow down choices like this when there are so many good options and so many roles to fill (and so few places on the list to fill), but I’ve been mulling this over for about a year and I’m pretty set in my dream sheet. Of course, it’s also not really final, because life is fluid and I could still get an old R27 with sidecar if I really wanted (another potential “his” bike). But as a hypothetical, with the criteria given…?
So, if you had to quit daydreaming and settle in on a set of hobby items or goals for life, what’s your criteria and how do go about choosing?