Yes Emily

Yes Emily, girls can ride motorcycles!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

18 Days - 6,300 km On A VStar

aka 18 Days - 3,915 miles

The 650 VStar Custom - I give it 4 stars
My trip lasted 18 days, at least I was away from home for 18 days. One day I spent visiting friends and relatives, not much riding and one day I spent drying out from the ride visiting friends and relatives - so really, it was 16 days of "Riding On A VStar". What a great way to vacation, new sights, new sounds, new smells, new roads, old roads and always a bit of personal and sometimes a physical challenge.
(By the way, thanks Leslie for pointing out my typos and spelling errors and for making me realize I really did have a spell check feature I could have used all along, hum, how'd that get there?)
The Bike
Yamaha 650 VStar Custom: Air cooled, 4 valve VTwin, 649cc, 5 speed transmission, shaft driven, single disc front break, rear drum break, 2340mm (92.1") long, seat height 695mm (27.4"), wet weight 233kg (512.6lb), 16 litre (3.5 imperial gal) fuel capacity, estimated mileage 21 kpl. (For more specs go to
Accessories: Spitfire universal windscreen, Custom World 8" passenger backrest, luggage rack and saddlebag brackets, Rapid Transit soft sided top bag (fastens to backrest), Gears soft sided saddlebags, Oxford Sports Lifetime Luggage magnetic tank bag.
The bike ran like a charm, and so it should have being brand new. It drew a lot of great comments from other bikers and enthusiasts with it's luminous white paint and chrome, and flashy tank detailing (in pink I might add).
The front break developed a slight squeal after the last day of rain, but has since been checked by the mechanic, not an issue and now gone. The single disc front break rear drum break provided adequate stopping in both light and hard stops, though the rear break pedal takes some getting used to in both position and pressure required to stop.
I didn't get the estimated 336 kilometres per tank - the maximum I got, pre trip was around 250 on a tank. On the road I stopped every 150 km and kept it topped up, knowing that I could probably go another 100 km but not wanting to risk it. At 150 km it's time to take a break if you want to stay alert and safe. The tripmeter is a great way to keep track of when you need to stop and I managed to remember to reset it most times. I had the Garmin set as a back up to remind me to refuel. I was less consistent remembering to reset the Garmin fuel reminder.
The foot pegs and seat height on my "low slung" VStar are the perfect "comfort" height for me. I can rest both feet flatly on the ground at a stop and don't feel cramped on the go. The handle bars are also set in a comfortable place and distance from the seat for my reach.
I appreciated the 5 speed transmission - the range of 5th "overdrive" gear. It is particularly great when touring, usually no down shifting required when slowing down from 100 kph to 60 kph going through small hamlets or towns and lower rpms on the highway.
I found the speedometer in a less than perfect spot for a full face helmet wearing rider. It's low enough on the tank that a full head nod was required to see it - in my case, the 'on center' handle bar mounted, see at a glance Garmin replaced the speedometer and gave me a lot more information at the same time.
I appreciated the locking side cover storage area for tools, air pressure gauge and extra head phones and wires for the Garmin but the helmet lock was unusable with the saddle bags on, just not enough room for it to open.
Most favorite all round feature - the shaft drive system. No more oiling chains, checking tension of chains/belts. The extra weight is well worth it and appreciated riding in the high NewBrunswick cross winds.
Packing The Bike
For the trip I had packed approximately 95 lbs of gear plus myself so the VStar was what I would call loaded to capacity or at least loaded to the maximum weight that I felt comfortable with, especially making a few of those U turns in tight spots. The loaded weight was close to 720 lbs. Since I'm not into body building and don't consider myself particularly Amazonian or even strong the weight is something that has made me always shy away from heavier bikes. And if you've been following along I did have a problem in one location trying to back the bike up in a tight spot. The bike is well balanced and I had no issues on the straight stretches or curves of the road carrying the weight. The extra overall length gained mainly by the roomy passenger seat and luggage rack that extended the length of the bob tail rear fender accommodated much of the extra gear I packed for this solo trip. On the Suzuki the top bag, fastened to the front of the passenger backrest became my backrest, but on the VStar there was gap large enough to cargo net a rolled Mountain Equipment Coop 2 person backpacker tent and sleeping bag (tent poles and sleeping pad were packed lower in a saddle bag). I appreciated the rolled tent and bag as they became my backrest making for comfortable touring. I had sufficient seat and leg room but if you are much taller than 5'3.5" you might find it cramped and need a more foot forward peg style or an overall longer bike (the VStar 650 Classic is, I believe, a bit longer than the custom and not that much heavier). I tried to pack as much weight as low as possible and thus the ripping of the over-stuffed and travel worn saddle bags early on. The saddle bags and top bag all expand to nearly double the zipped up size so, to prevent further ripping, I expanded the saddle bags to the max. Ripped, the saddle bags were even less water resistant than usual, luckily I had most things in plastic bags or dry bags inside. The top bag has proven to be quite waterproof in the past, but I always line it with a kitchen size garbage bag just to be safe. My netbook and collapsible cooler were cargo netted to the luggage rack. The net book securely inside a 20lb dry bag which did the trick.
I've finally figured out the ideal footwear to have with me. Of course I have the protective riding boots - that's a given, but they are not great off the bike (heavy, hot and high). In the past I've always tried to pack hiking boots or running shoes plus sandals. This year I found a much better balance by taking some "light hikers" by Sketchers. Lower and much lighter than either running shoes or hikers and great for the 4k evening walks or just strolling around town. Plus I took a pair of rubber flip flops for poolside and campground and they easily slid in amongst the rest of the gear. As usual,I packed a few articles of clothing that never made it out of the bag, less this year than last but I wonder how does one judge that? I guess you just have to keep reminding yourself, there are laundry facilities out there! The cosmetics, well don't get me going, I may have to haul a trailer to keep up with what's needed there (ah, the vanity).
I didn't carry much food with me I'd either stop when I thought I was getting ready to end the day or rely on the camp store or a nearby restaurant for dinner. The cooler was most useful when I set up camp for the extended stays on the Island and grocery bagging it - much less expensive than 'restauranting' it for sure.

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