Sunday, June 3, 2018

Suzuki Burgman 200

Why I ask myself am I the only rider in North America who thinks the Baby Burgman motor scooter is the ideal ride? Perhaps it is because of where I live, in a land of 55 mph speed limits and ample free scooter parking. The Burgman 200 copes very well with both:
 In the world of motorcycling the US stands apart, a place of vast distances connected by amazing freeways, huge mountainous amphitheaters and desert landscapes all contained in one country that uses the same language, the same currency and by-and-large the same habits and customs with modest regional variations. It is I suppose hardly surprising that the motorcycling community has adopted the mantra that there is "no substitute for cubic inches" which, in a nation that firmly rejects metrification is a way of saying big is best. My Burgman at 200 cubic centimeters rates a mere twelve  cubic inches, laughably small in the land of Harley Davidson! But change is in the wind.
Just this month one of the last traditionally styled paper motorcycling monthlies, Rider has a review of three small adventure bikes, under Japanese Indian and German labels but all built in factories in the Far East where these types of bikes are just now coming into their own as toys for the emerging middle classes. Funnily enough they are also starting to appeal to rider sin the US  which brings me right back to my 360 pound 18 horsepower scooter.
I think in the land that developed the above mentioned theory that there is no substitute for cubic inches a modest 200 cc engine doesn't rate for those bad ass bikers. Indeed my scooter was originally purchased by a wife who wanted to ride with her husband until she lost her nerve. Lucky for me she did as I got a $5,000 scooter for just three grand. As I grow older I find myself more and more intrigued by the miniaturization of our world. Technology makes it possible to compress machinery and tools that used to be vast into smaller and smaller packages. As much as that is true of the silicon chip it is also true for motorcycles. Look at me, I was very happy with a 500 pound 900 cc Triumph which I rode for a decade and a hundred thousand miles:

So perhaps I am on the cutting edge of the go small movement? I don't think it's that, I think the pool of riders is just getting smaller and older. Harley Davidson sales are plummeting and their attempts to attract younger riders aren't working real well. Motorcycling is viewed as dangerous and not enough of us make it sound fun adventurous and exciting. Young people aren't driving and they certainly aren't riding and as we old guys age smaller bikes keep us on the road so it seems like geezers are still powering the market. Rider a long time advocate of small bikes, makes a point of saying in the article that these are not beginner's bikes, the fatal label that makes strong men afraid to ride small capacity bikes, these are capable touring machines.
So for someone like me who cares not one jot for fashion or hipness the Burgman is a severely practical answer to the mobility issues I live with. I am 23 miles from work (and play) in a year round mild climate and 75 to 80 miles per gallon on a scooter that is easy to ride and fun makes too much sense. I don't miss shifting gears especially as my arthritis in my left wrist won't go away and using a motorcycle clutch just aggravated it. I wasn't even riding the Triumph Bonneville much before Irma flooded my downstairs at home and wrecked the bike.
While I appreciate the economy and ease of riding and the practical storage on the Burgman it is also a whole load of fun. It's fast enough to put me out of the misery of slow poke cock-blocking drivers who think you can't pass on US One. It keeps up with freeway traffic so I am looking to make some long mainland trips on it when I can tear myself away from Rusty (my wife is much more obliging and likes her space). It is secure and relatively comfortable in heavy rain and I enjoy riding the thing. Check out the underseat trunk, so huge I don't yet find a need for a bulky rear top case:
With this scooter there comes an identity crisis. Am I a motorcyclist any more? I think I am because unlike most Americans I am not a fair weather weekend warrior, I would rather be riding than driving any day of the week. The way you look for the car keys when transport is called for is how I check for the scooter keys when I have to go somewhere. The only time I drive is when Rusty or my wife are involved. Perhaps I'm not a motorcyclist exactly but a rider. I don't even know if I will ever go back to a traditional motorcycle with gears and everything. There are scooters that are every bit as powerful as big motorcycles and more useful. However the Burgman can never be as sexy and appealing as a traditional Vespa. I still have one of those!
Unlike American riders I grew up on a mixture of motorcycles and Vespas like most European riders. Scooters were just another riding choice and these days of immense traffic congestion European riders are as much frustrated car drivers as motorcyclists. It's only in the US that scooters are objects of derision.
Perhaps I should have joined the crowd and gone for a small capacity motorcycle and many of them appeal to me. But for me the ease of use the practicality and low maintenance of the Burgman 200 combined with a  top speed of 80 mph which I rarely feel the need to exceed, makes me a very happy camper. Former motorcyclists perhaps? Whatever!


Two In One

Robert and I had lunch together at the Bier Boutique on First Street. We talked of this and that, perhaps a new home, winters spent in the far west skiing in Utah, a plan much liked by his wife.  I have known Robert for almost 30 years and I am surprised by his embrace of things new and different. A tropical man apres-ski. Well, well.
My wife is the key to my retirement and fortunately for me she only occasionally expresses a longing for a her youth and ski trips to Lake Tahoe with her father. I think Rusty might like snow. He sat around watching the world as Robert and I ate burgers.
 We are boring old men and usually I just take the easy route and do the special. Robert frequently branches out and seeks a bison burger of his own but we both settled for (!) the sriracha burger this time.
 Being a  temporary widower with a wife off at a conference my wife decided she should get to spend some time with Robert so in a rather unusual move we had dinner out with him in Big Pine Key.
It's a miracle, that's the name of the restaurant -Milagro - and the miracle is it might well flourish in Big Pine Key. The food was excellent, the ambiance was more romantic than I needed it to be for dinner with Robert.
 Pozole, which is a Mexican hominy and beef soup.
The fish too was superb. This place rocks.
I want to go back. Big Pine has  a great place to eat.