Category Archives: The Occasional Motorcycle Review

‘Say, What is This?’

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That’s what we heard from lots of people while test-driving a 2017 Polaris Slingshot SLR for a USA Today review. The Slingshot, which looks like a sports car but is categorized as a three-wheeled motorcycle, attracted lots of attention.

It was unnerving at first, but we got used to it. It’s fun to drive, but I’ll stick with conventional motorcycles for now.

A link to the USAT review is here.

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Great Bike

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I review motorcycles every now and again for USA Today online and the 2016 Honda Africa Twin is probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most, to the point of considering buying one myself.

All the bikes I’ve tried were great – the Indian Dark Horse and Springfield were the best-looking and really fun to ride – but the Africa Twin appealed more to the type of riding I like to do. Or aspire to.

The Africa Twin is a venerable Honda model that was introduced in Europe. It won Paris-Dakar four times in the 1980s and was popular overseas but was never sold in the U.S. It was considered the quintessential motorcycle for long-distance, world-spanning travel. Honda stopped making it in 2003.

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Much like “the Olympics, the distant dream of anyone who has ever laced up a pair of track shoes,” (as sportswriter Jerry Izenberg wrote) I suppose most everyone who has a motorcycle dreams of riding around the world.

The AT, billed by Honda as a “go anywhere” bike, could do it. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much, it lived up to the hype and matched my dreams.

I took it out to West Virginia with Bob Hamilton, a riding buddy, and later up to Cleveland for my high school reunion. The rain photo was taken on I-66 eastbound when I realized I was still having a good time. Great bike.

The USAT review is here.

Why, yes, I suppose it is pretty

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Linda records video in Manassas.

I was fortunate to review the 2016 Indian Springfield motorcycle for USA Today online recently. It’s a great bike that’s fun to ride.

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As we see during rides with Linda on her Vespa, motorcycles attract attention, most often at gas stations. The more exotic the machine, the more people it will draw. Even those with only a passing interest in bikes will come over and ask about your Triumph, old Honda, or Indian.

Indian motorcycles are stylistically distinctive. The full-skirted fenders and large headlight nacelle let people identify them a mile away.

So it was the same thing with the Springfield. It drew in the older gentleman, a former Harley rider, in Washington, Va.; the sports-car enthusiast at the outdoor tables at a restaurant in Manassas; the bike riders at the Sheetz station in Chantilly.

Some guys base their bike choices partly on how much attention they’ll get riding them. I was never that way, though I do enjoy talking to people about bikes.

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In addition to comfort, performance, and cost, part of doing these reviews is how people honestly react to the bike you’re testing. So nearly every conversation I have is fodder for the writing. But not all.

“That’s a real pretty bike,” said a young woman on her way in to the Manassas restaurant, and I almost started laughing, wondering how to work that into the review. I could have asked what she liked about it, whether she’d been on a bike before, and would she consider riding it, but in the end I only said oh, thank you, and let it go, thinking, yes, I suppose it is pretty.

The USAT review is here.

 

Riding the Dark Horse

The 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse.
The 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse.

I’ve done a few motorcycle reviews for the online version of USA Today. The latest one is on the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse, a blacked-out cruiser that’s proving popular among riders.

Cruisers usually aren’t my first choice of bike, but I really like the Dark Horse.  It handles very well and feels solid and dependable — and exciting — on the road. And I think the color scheme works.

You can read the USAT review, along with photo gallery and 2-minute video, here:

2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse