When my mood gets too hot and I find
myself wandering beyond control I pull
out my motor-bike and hurl it
top-speed through these unfit roads for
hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence
I like motorcycling because it is something which requires different craft and skill than driving a more stable vehicle. I definitely recommend learning to motorcycle well to anyone who wants to improve their vehicle handling skills. Just like flying a taildragger, it will make you a better pilot.
My beast of choice is a Buell Ulysses, my Tiger-Orange beast with a tweaked Harley Engine and Bike by Buell. There are a lot of good bikes out there, that's the one I have at the moment. It is comfortable on long trips. It twists the curves with ease. It can tour or commute comfortably. I like it!
These are items I've started to take note of to look at different motorcycles.
Initially, I want to get a used bike. I know what flight training is like, and I know some experienced riders, as well as beginning riders. I'm expecting that I'm going to take a spill or three, and don't want to trash a really nice ride with my inexperience.
At first I thought I would choose a motorcycle for my "mission", and that would determine the bike I needed. I was thinking of a general purpose motorcycle, or perhaps a gp/sport bike mix. Mission? Well, lets see...
Then, someone suggested I sit on a bunch of different bikes and find ones which ones felt good. Egads, what a concept! A good one, really. The comfortable fit has created some bizarre results..
Most of the bikes I know are from older times, and are Hondas. Sabre, Magna, NightWing. Lots of Honda stuff floating around here, just because I've seen them before and Honda makes darn nice stuff. I thought the GoldWing would be a good match for my skill level and mission. So far, the only one I've found that actually fits me well is a friends'. It is a 1500cc, same as others I looked at, but isn't as bulky. The rest ... I felt my Jeep was a smaller vehicle!
I find the Ulysses to be a comfortable bike to ride, or even to just sit on. The seat height is good, and it is comfortable to sit on it. The pegs are in the right place, and my knees tuck into the tank behind the frame sliders. With the short seat in-place, the motorcycle becomes a bit cramped for me, and my legs actually started to cramp! The handlebars place me at a comfortable angle. All-in-all, it is one of the more comfortable motorcycles I have sat on or ridden. Closest competitor is the the Honda CBR1000F.
Riding the Ulysses is equally comfortable. The engine is delivers quite a bit of torque and has plenty of power at all the RPMS I drove at. You can accellerate easily without shifting, throttle only with the torque. The thing I missed at highway speeds was a 6th gear on the transmission. The engine wasn't loud or noisy, it was all too natural to try one more gear and reduce RPM to the 2000 range at highway speeds.
The ZTL front brake has plenty of stopping power, yet is easy to use and not too "grabby". The rear brake was was easy to modulate to maintain control and braking effectiveness.
With the short windshield, air flows smoothly across my helmet, although I am in the bug and grit windstream area. However, even being in the blast, the noise level is quite low, the airflow is smooth ... and that was with the face-shield on the full-face helmet cracked a bit for ventilation air.
The controls on the Ulysses are different from those on the Blast and the older Lightning I drove before. Those two bikes have the same setup. The Ulysses has the same handle bar grips and controls as the other two, making you feel at home. The clutch is noticeably lighter than even the Blast, making clutching and smooth clutch release/engagement a dream.
The feet are where things change from the prior Buell motorcycles. The foot pegs are wider and deep-treaded, supposedly easier to keep your feet on. The shifter and brake controls are both larger, and covered with a rubber traction grip. There is also more room between the peg and the controls, which works great for larger fee. The only disadvantage of the new setup is that my feet tended to skid around on the foot pegs! The previous (small) pegs hold your feet better since there is more force per peg size ... and they sort of grab the bottom of your boot. The Ulysses pegs are large enough that your feet float on them. I really noticed this with the mis-matched to my body short seat, which has me more zig-zagged on the bike than the normal seat. I think that putting deep-grip V-Strom like foot pegs on the Ulysses might workout better for longer rides.
Buell provides the Ulysses with a factory supported set of touring cases made by Hepco & Becker. The Buell versions have reflectors added to the cases, and may have a 2nd brake light in the topcase. Buell rates these for any speed on the Ulysses, although speed ratings are typically above the legal limit in the US or Europe :) It appears that the Ulysses rear turn signals are located far enough back on the bike that the sidecases do not require them to be relocated. Indeed, it appears that the side-cases have indentations for the rear turn signals to maximize space use at the rear of the bike.
The Twisted Throttle says that the Ulysses sidecases are the same as the H&B 42 Liter Journey sidecases. These are 50x30x29 cm (19-1/2 x 11-3/4 x 11-1/2 in) black with silver accents. The aluminum silver accent panels can be removed to be painted in whatever color match you want. An inner nylon liner bag is available as optional equipment from H&B.
The matching H&B topcase is the H&B Journey TC40 38 liter topcase. The dimensions on the topcase are 32x44x29 cm (12-1/2 x 17-1/4 x 11-3/8 in), and are available in all-black, or the black with silver accents like the sidecases. Unfortunately, the topcase will not hold two helmets; rather a helmet plus some extras. Unfortunate for touring. The larger TC50 case will hold two helmets, and may just fit on the Buell mounts. Optional H&B extras for the topcase are a Backrest, Inner Nylon Bag, and a Topcase Rack. The Ulysses doesn't need the backrest, for the Triple Tail is put in the upright position when the topcase is mounted, and it provides a nice passenger backrest.
The motorcycle was re-engineered twice, once in 1989, and other time in 1993 or 1994. Horsepower was 135 at that time. Some models in Sweden and Germany had 105 horsepower with intake restrictors. The first re-engineering fixed a bunch of problems the original had, and made it into a rock-solid bike. The second 1994ish re-engineering added the linked brakes, dropped the HP to 125, but left the bike with major imrovements to reliability. It also changed the cam chain tensioner to a new design which works better. The linked brakes may be a bit touchy, but the improved mechanicals in the more recent years seems to be worth it.
In 1997, Honda discontinued the CBR 1000 F Hurricane; Its replacement is the awe-inspiring CBR 1100 XX Super Blackbird, or just Blackbird as most call it. At its introduction, the Blackbird was the world's fastest production motorycycle! The Blackbird is a bike in the same tradition as the CBR 1000 F, a sport-tourer, just more powerful and updated. The engine technology is a step beyond that in the Hurricane; Fuel-Injection instead of carburetion, and also a smoother running engine due to more/better balance shafts. This is a factor for sport-touring since it makes the bike less buzzier, which reduces rider fatigue. The original Blackbird survived for 2 years, then was updated in 1999; one of the big updates there was a high-output alternator. This is a big help for touring use, with all the varied electrical loads such as heated clothing, GPS, cell phones, music, intercom, etc. Also changed was the addition of a ram-air induction system, which pumps ram air into the engine induction for mild boost effect. A downside of this change is that the oil-cooler inlets were moved from this high-pressure area. Later model Blackbirds often suffer from high (but not overheated) oil temperatures -- watch out for that.
I'm not certain, but I believe the Blackbird changed again in 2000; at that point I don't know if the oil temperature problem was fixed. The final year of Blackbird availability in the US was 2003, and production of the bike has ended as of 2007.
Here are some of the local Madison and Southern WI motorcycle dealers.
I've been fitting all kinds of helmets. The best fit for both tightness and comfort I've found so far is o an $400 Arai helmet. Nice liner, it felt like it was part of me, not loose, not tight. There is a Shoei that fits well too. I'm still working on finding a helmet which fits well.
It appears that TourMaster may make some of the Harley FXRG stuff. Gloves at the least I was looking at the Harley FXRG, and it is nice gear. I liked the boots and the jackets, need to look at some more.