Friday, April 10, 2009

Street Triple Review

This column originally appeared in CityBike in March of 2008.

I would like to apologize to you for being light on the motorcycle-related content front as of late. Cranking out fresh copy for Old Man Halton every month like some kind of trained monkey is a challenge. “Not bitter enough!” he growls via email. “You call that irony?” he writes. So my columns tend towards the bitter and ironic, and the motorcycling aspect is sometimes left at the bus station, sleeping under the Racing Form until the transit cop rudely rousts him with a well-placed jab of the nightstick. Of late, I have been focusing on issues better left for the Northern California Jewish Bulletin. Sorry about that.

 So now, for your troubles, and to thank you for taking the empty Starbucks cups out of the Citybike rack, I give you an actual motorcycle review. To celebrate the fact that this is an unpaid (but tax-deductible) gig with Citybike, I will write this review in a very unstructured way. So if you are after information, and not entertainment, I beg you now, before it’s too late, to put this paper back under the pile of The Learning Annex and turn on KNBR.

 The bike: the Triumph Street Triple 675. It may be the perfect motorcycle, once a few glaring flaws are addressed. Let’s get them out of the way first:

 -Crummy suspension: To account for a weak dollar, I think Triumph needed to keep the price of the rear shock under £2, 5 shilling, sixpence per unit. It has a soft spring and little damping. I cranked the preload collar way down, which controlled the ride a little but made me bite my tongue when I went over bumps. The front suspension is non-adjustable, and will bottom out if you hit a dip at 50 mph.

 -Cheap brakes: Two piston calipers, much like what you’ll find on a Ducati SportClassic or SV650. At least Triumph has the class to use steel-braided lines, which means what feel there is isn’t squandered by rubber lines. Still plenty of power to loft the rear wheel, if that’s what you’re into. 

-No wind protection: my Speed Four came stock with a little flyscreen that was pretty effective, and the MSRP was $1400 less. It’s not my fault Bush wrecked our economy and made the dollar worthless against the Pound. Please don’t take it out on me.

Easy fixes, all three issues; hop on eBay and a universe of 675 Daytona parts will crop up; lower fork legs, radial-mount brake calipers and the Daytona’s stellar rear shock will be yours for the asking. And they sell a flyscreen out of their accessory catalog. What’s right about the Street Triple is everything else: this is a barely-fettered middleweight supersport bike that’s fun and comfortable to ride, has way more torque than rational people need in something so light and peppy and is fast where it counts: from 30-100 mph. All the while it makes these sounds through the airbox and mufflers that makes a V-Twin sound like Mr. Magoo’s Hupmobile. It will have you saying things like “Cack,” and “Bollocks,” even if you have no idea what they mean.  

Triumph hit one out of the park here, folks, and that any testicle-equipped twenty-something would pick a sportbike, which is really no fun unless you’re on a racetrack or a perfect stretch of road over one of these is another of life’s great mysteries. For the love of God, it does second-gear wheelies without being asked. It can slalom through Bott’s dots at 75 mph. It has near-perfect fuel injection, is smooth at 11,000 rpm and it’s wicked, wicked fast. For street riding it’s too fast; the bike’s attitude rubs off on you and encourages chance-taking you wouldn’t perform on another machine.

It doesn’t matter that the guy trying to pass on a GSX-R1000 has 60 hp on you; that triple-cylinder honk hits your inhibitions like a chain drug store’s house-brand gin (“Royal Guardsman”) and makes you roll the throttle open to the stop, leaving GSX-R guy wondering who the looney fucker on that weird green bike was, and why he took off like Mike Huckabee suddenly realizing he accidentally walked into the AVN Awards Banquet.

Can you tell I like it? Can you tell I want one? If the best sportbike is a modern middleweight, with a hundred-something horses and a featherweight chassis, then putting handlebars on one and stripping the bodywork makes it even better, possibly the ultimate streetbike. It’s the kind of bike that makes global warming acceptable, that makes you sympathize with sex offenders and repo men. It’s enough to make me stop saying “Oy, vey,” and start saying “Oi! Wanker! Out of me way!”

Gabe Ets-Hokin is an English actor, known for his hard man roles in the Guy Ritchie crime films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Revolver and Snatch

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

AMA Pro Racing Announces American SponsorBike Class for 2010

Photo: Paul Goff

Not confused enough by the new AMA Superbike series? Just in case you do have a firm mental grip on the differences between Daytona Superbike, American Superbike, Supersport and MotoST, Florida-based AMA Pro Racing today announced yet another class for the 2010 season: American SponsorBike.

The new class will pit an array of different-displacement motorcycles clad in unique bodywork designed for “maximal aerodynamic and revenue-gathering efficiency,” said Colgate Aamco, AMA ProRacing’s director of competition and cooperation. The neon-illuminated fairings, designed to resemble the “dustbin” style enclosures seen at Grand Prix races in the ’50s, must be a minimum of 9 feet long, 6 feet high and will be maintained by special crews from Clear Channel Outdoor.

To ensure exciting competition with “enhanced adequation,” a careful mix of motorcycles will be allowed in the class. The Buell 1125R will be gridded against the Suzuki SV650SF, Yamaha FZ6R, Kawasaki Ninja 250R, Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo and Honda Nighthawk 250RR. Ducati will be allowed to enter a Bianchi 12-speed if it’s ridden by a heavy smoker, preferably with arrhythmia. 

Other competition- and revenue-enhancing programs will be put in place for the 2010 season. In addition to AMA officials actually selling their personal naming rights, announcers will now replace select verbs, adjectives and nouns with sponsors’ names. For instance, the word “pass” will now be “Tide,” “win” will now be “IBM”, and “motorcycle” will now be “Sunoco,” among other changes. 

“I think this will be an IBM-IBM situation for everyone,” said AMA Pro Racing director McDonald’s Tyson. “There will be Fedex Cisco-ing and Google Nike-ing. But not too much Qualcom-ity will be allowed to Nordstrom the Sherwin-Williams or eBay the McKesson. But let’s not forget that first and foremost, AMA Pro Racing will always provide an Allstate to the loyal Home Depots out there, and not just Pfizer the 3Ms.” 

Gabe Ets-Hokin has been taken out behind the woodshed, where he will be safely recycled.