My internal debate this spring is whether to choose my 1982 Japanese motorcycle or my 1983 Japanese motorcycle for a June-July ride of some 10,000 miles (16.093 Km) to Fairbanks, Alaska and back.
|1982 Silver Wing|
The first candidate is a Honda Silver Wing Interstate, a 500cc touring bike with a full fairing and hard luggage, a liquid-cooled engine and shaft drive. I bought it in 2004 and in 2005 it carried me safely on a 13,800 mile (22,200 KM) six-week ride around America, through 33 states, including all four "corner states," California, Washington, Florida and Maine. This is a wonderful motorcycle, on which I rode today from Campton to Hampton, NH, some 240 miles, round trip. The bike is running very well. It is about to turn 44,000 miles old, which is not many for a 30 year-old bike. I have no doubt it could make the trip to Fairbanks and back, and it would offer me the comfort of the big fairing and windscreen. But, touring is almost too easy on such a machine, a bit "autoesque." And as a 500cc twin in a heavy, air-draggy bike, it feels pushed at over 70 MPH, a pace oft-exceeded in the West. My 2005 ride taught me that at speeds above 70, the Silver Wing's fuel economy falls from about 46 miles per gallon (5.11 L/100km) at about 60 mph to about 35 mpg (6.72 L/100km). That may still sound good, but with only four gallons of usable fuel, it reduces the range at high speeds to a risky level, given the wildernesses we'd have to traverse between here and Fairbanks.
|1983 Suzuki GS1100E|
The alternate choice is my 1983 Suzuki GS1100E. This 1100cc "E-bike" has some 54,000 miles on the odometer, cruises 70 mph at about 1/8 throttle, and gets 50 MPG quite reliably at that speed, so range is less likely to be a problem. And, though when used for touring its chain must be oiled both mid-day and nightly, and must be adjusted each morning, it is a proven road-burner, having taken me from New Hampshire to California and back in 1995, in the company of my sons Jamie and Jesse (on their own 550cc Suzukis). Then, in 1998, Alex McD. and I rode Suzi two-up to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and ferried her over to Port-au-Basques to tour Newfoundland. Finally, she has carried Piper and me to Florida and home again. So, though sold as a superbike, not as a tourer, Suzi does the latter job very well. But, she has only a bug-deflector for a windscreen, and will require that I use soft saddlebags, which I own, but which are somewhat less convenient to use than the Honda's built-ins. Also, I wonder how much rain and cold I might face on the ride to Alaska. Both bikes run fine in the rain, but I get wetter faster on the Suzuki. Finally, there is the fun factor. The Suzuki is a great handler, and has thrilling power on tap anytime one cares to call for it.
I know, it is a fun debate to be having, and I am lucky to have two such fine bikes. (My Scottish blood relishes the fact that I bought the Honda for only $1100 with 16,700 miles on it in 2004, and the Suzuki for a measly $600 with only 15,900 miles, in 1991.) But the debate is not over, by any means. If you have an opinion, I'd sure appreciate your input.