Superior Circle Tour: What Makes a Touring Motorcycle?

My BMW R1200RT has been a capable vehicle. I am now more appreciative than ever of some of its features.

I usually ignore the cruise control in my car, and I never expected to find one on a motorcycle, but my RT has one! Like my car, I have almost never used it, but it has become very welcome on this extended ride.

My normal defensive riding style is to provide a vise-like grip on the throttle (note that I do not describe it as a death-grip :-), but after about 30 minutes, my hand becomes tense and numb. The cruise control lets me relax it, along with the other (clutch) hand. It is a welcome relief and I credit it with keeping me from becoming dangerously fatigued in my arms and hands.

I am also appreciative of the heated handlebar grips. During the lengthy ride in the rain on Sunday, my gloves became saturated and my hands started to chill, but the grips kept them warm enough that the fact that they were wet did not matter anymore.

Heated grips are great for the driver, as is the heated saddle. After showing Poldi how she could control the switch for heat to the pillion (with two levels: warm, and really warm), her comfort level improved proportionately.

The fairing keeps the wind blast and sting of the rain off of my hands, and the road splash from my shins, although my boots still get soaked.

The weight of the bike is a blessing and a curse. At 500 pounds, it keeps us from being blown over by wind gusts and truck blasts, but it becomes a challenge at low speeds, especially with a near-equal amount of passenger and cargo ballast.

Keeping the balance at a stoplight is easy, and riding at any speed above 10mph is completely stable, but making a slow turn maneuver in a parking lot, or to turn around, is murder. Consequently, I frequently must ask Poldi to dismount while I get the bike oriented correctly when we arrive or depart, or re-navigate, or recover from a wrong turn.

This might not seem like such an inconvenience but take a look at the configuration of storage panniers on the bike—especially the top trunk. She needs to step up on the foot peg, and then swing her leg nearly over her head to clear it, then settle into her saddle, all the while keeping her center of gravity close to the center of the bike so that the stabilizer (me), is not overwhelmed by the misbalance, and allow the bike to slip the strength of my planted foot outriggers and grasp of the handlebars.

Imagine mounting a horse, and then imagine doing it a dozen times. This is what I am asking of Poldi, and she does it skillfully, up to the point where we are BOTH too exhausted to swing that leg up and over one more time. This is the point where we probably look silly attempting the maneuver, but it is also a sign of increasing danger. Fatigue leads to mistakes.

But Poldi is one tough cookie and always manages to muster the strength to keep us both upright, stable, intact, and ready to navigate the next miles.

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3 thoughts on “Superior Circle Tour: What Makes a Touring Motorcycle?

  1. Pingback: Superior Circle Tour: How I Got To This | Thor's Life-Notes

  2. Pingback: Superior Circle Tour: Grand Marais to Grand Marais | Thor's Life-Notes

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