The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod: I don’t get this motorcycle

Harley-Davidson Street Rod

Harley-Davidson made a lot of improvements to its Street 750 to create the Street Rod. So why is it one of the most awkward-feeling motorcycles I’ve ridden?

Most people were underwhelmed by the Harley-Davidson Street 750, Harley’s new liquid-cooled “world” motorcycle. Performance was nothing amazing, which is not that surprising for Harley-Davidson, but what was surprising was the general quality of the fit and finish and the looks.

In introducing the 2017 Street Rod, Harley had been unusually responsive to criticism. This new model addresses the Street 750’s shortcomings with a range of improvements: steel-braided brake lines and dual discs up front, far better fit and finish, a little more power — even little things like improved, bar-end mirrors.

So this is a Harley I should like, right? One that can go and lean, at least a little. I took the one we currently have on loan at RevZilla for a short ride this past week while I was in Philadelphia, and I’m sorry to say I can’t get on board the Street Rod train.

I just don’t get this motorcycle.  Continue reading The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod: I don’t get this motorcycle →


A Scootour of Puerto Rico

This story originally appeared in Rider magazine.

scooter tour of Puerto Rico

Homely scooter, beautiful beach.

Sometimes you just need to take a ride. Even if circumstances aren’t optimal. Even if there are obstacles to overcome. Even if those around you react with, “You want to do what?”

That’s how I came to find myself on Puerto Rico Route 191, a narrow road of tight switchbacks that climbs 2,000 feet in just a few miles, wringing the throttle on a copper-colored, Chinese-built scooter of questionable lineage and well-worn suspension. The scooter’s engine whirred in pain, the plastic housing in front of my knees rattled loudly with each bump, the front end threatened head-shake despite the modest speeds, but really, none of it mattered. Because sometimes you just need to take a ride. Continue reading A Scootour of Puerto Rico →


Dunlop RoadSmart III sport-touring motorcycle tire review

Dunlop tires on a BMW

Test riding the new Dunlop Roadsmart III sport-touring tire on a BMW R 1200 RT. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

I had a shock last year when I changed the front tire on my Kawasaki Versys and went to write down the mileage in my maintenance log. According to the numbers, that Dunlop Roadsmart II had been on the front wheel of my Versys for 25,000 miles!

I was certain it was a mistake. I must have changed it without writing it down. But since I only buy tires from RevZilla, where I work as managing editor of Common Tread, I had an easy way to check. My purchase records there confirmed it.

I got 25,000 miles out of a front tire. I’m certain I’ve never done that before.

Now admittedly, the Versys is fairly easy on (especially front) tires and I don’t ride the bike that hard, typically. But still…

So when I got a chance recently to attend the press intro for the next generation of Dunlop sport-touring tires, the Roadsmart III, I was really interested in seeing how they’d do.  Continue reading Dunlop RoadSmart III sport-touring motorcycle tire review →


Indian promises the future, but for now we get a fringed monstrosity

Indian Roadmaster Classic

This is not the future.

Ever since Polaris decided to shut down Victory Motorcycles after 18 years and go all-in (motorcycle-wise) on resurrecting the Indian brand, just about every public comment by company executives has reassured us that they know they have to attract new customers, that they will expand the product line beyond heavy cruisers and great things are coming. For now, though, we have this 900-pound fringed monstrosity.

It’s the new 2017 Indian Roadmaster Classic, a $26,999 barge (in black; two-tone paint costs more) distinguished from the regular Roadmaster only by being slathered in fringed leather (which also means you can’t lock that luggage, so the bike is less useful). In other words, Indian took a bike that hardly anybody under 40 would pay attention to and turned it into a bike that young new riders or young potential riders might actually look at — but only to gag a little. Continue reading Indian promises the future, but for now we get a fringed monstrosity →


One man’s idea of the perfect sport-touring motorcycle

Mark Morel on the road

Mark Morel built his own vision of the perfect sport-touring motorcycle.

What comes to mind if I say the words “custom motorcycle?” Maybe a themed cruiser where form always trumps function, sitting on a bike show pedestal. Maybe a lowered sportbike gleaming with custom paint and neon lights.

Mark Morel’s bike wouldn’t get a second look (at least not an admiring one) from the people who love those kinds of customs. But in many ways it represents the essence of customization. It is one individual’s vision of the ideal bike, with all the work done by the owner’s hands. But instead of going for the perfect look, Morel aimed for a personal ideal in terms of function.  Continue reading One man’s idea of the perfect sport-touring motorcycle →


The American motorcycle company death of the week

Buell logo

Pegasus grounded, once again.

We are 26 days into the new year and I’ve already written about two motorcycle companies ceasing operations. If the closure of Victory came as a bit of a shock, the shuttering (again) of Erik Buell Racing felt more like a mere formality, a begrudging recognition of the inevitable. Continue reading The American motorcycle company death of the week →


The not-so-polar-bear ride

coffee stop

A quick stop for some gas station coffee and to warm my fingers on a sunny but chilly January 1.

Some people say going for a ride on the first day of the year brings good luck for the following 364 days. That’s probably just an excuse to ride, but in the gray days of winter at these latitudes, I’ll take what I can get. Continue reading The not-so-polar-bear ride →


A look back at my 2016 in riding

California sunset

As the sun sets on 2016, here are a few of my memories from the year on two wheels. Photo by Kevin Wing.

In the waning days of December, the nights come early and the tendency to look back comes easily. For me, the year of riding was far from the best or the worst.

For some, riding a motorcycle is a hobby, maybe even an expensive and time-consuming one, like playing golf or owning a boat. These are the people who post ads for used motorcycles for sale, saying “no time to ride.”

I don’t need time to ride because riding is just one more thread in the fabric of my life. It’s my job and my hobby, my entertainment and my recreation, and it’s my transportation. So I never have to make time to ride. It just happens because I’m living my life and going places.

In 2016, that riding included no epic, once-in-a-lifetime trips, but no year on two wheels is totally uneventful. There was that foolish thing I did back in April, a couple of “work” trips to the Superbike races, trips to the office in Philadelphia for work and to the hospital in West Virginia for family, and to Maine and Michigan for fun. Here are a few highlights in photos. Continue reading A look back at my 2016 in riding →