I slept like the dead. The Alker Seltzer knocked out whatever was bothering me, but my body clearly needed sleep. Motel coffee and a granola bar would have to do for brekkie. We hit the road. The sun was gleaming in the clear blue, the air was cool and the road was empty. I listened to The Velvet Underground as we rode out of Hawthorne. We stopped briefly to enjoy the local ordinance museum.
As we rode three abreast down towards Mono Lake, the road free of cars for miles, we stopped to enjoy the view of the Sierra Mountains. On the other side of those things is home.
A cherry Danish and double espresso in Lee Vining was our welcome to California. As we rode up the 395 past Mono Lake I started to think about the trip and the bike.
The trip has been great. A motorcycle trip is hard work. Hours and hours in the saddle, concentrating on the road, the constant noise of the tyres, the wind and Mike prattling on over the com set can drive you insane. Setting up camp after a long day, particularly in the cold, is exhausting and all this can put strain on any relationship.
We turned onto highway 108, the Sonora Pass to cross the Sierra mountains.
I barley knew Mike when I agreed to go on this trip and hadn’t even met Kris. After 8 days and 2300 miles these guys are no longer strangers. They’re bruvs.
So, what about the bike?
I listen to a podcast that MyMateChris got me into several years ago. Those guys talk about the S1000XR like some sort of mythical creature sent to us mortals from a benign God of motorcycles. The perfect machine for sport touring.
I have wanted one for a while. I live in a place where there are roads made for a sport machine with touring capability.
The S1000XR is an amazing piece of kit.
But this gear box thing had me very upset for much of the ride. On day one I pulled into the turn off for our campsite in Death Valley and found I could not change out of 5th gear. By day 5 I was getting stuck in all the gears. MyMateChris had sent me a link on how to reset the gearbox (it is all electronically controlled). The reset involved riding up through the gearbox, ten seconds in each gear staying around 50 mph and then going back down the gearbox to a complete stop, clutch in and then turning off the bike for two minutes.
The reset has worked and the ride over the mountains was sublime.
I think the best thing about the XR is the engine. There is so much usable power. The delivery is smooth, the sound from the exhaust is amazing and there is so much power. The stopping power of the brakes is really good too. I also really like the geometry of the thing. The riding position is very comfortable, the wide handlebars make it easy to control and great for impromptu horn blasting.
I bought this bike as ‘the perfect bike to replace the Tiger and the Sprint’. When I compare these bikes, the BMW is better than the sprint. Smoother, easier, even more power, very light. The BMW is as comfortable as the Tiger, the engine is smoother and quieter, the ride is better. The controls on the XR are not as good as the Tiger. The cruise control does not work quite as well and the on board information is not as good as the Triumph, despite being four years younger.
And then there is the gear box. This quick shifter is really just too much electronics. It is absolutely amazing. When you accelerate up through the gears it seamlessly shifts without the use of the clutch. When you change down, the engine automatically blips the accelerator to match the engine and transmission for quick, clutchless shifting.
Unless it doesn’t.
For much of this trip I have been conscious of the possibility of my gears getting stuck. Even after the reset, I have still been nervous and rode differently through the mountains than I might have with full confidence in my machine.
So, ultimately, my opinion of this bike is that it is amazing, I want to love it, I will need to have faith in the gearbox for that to happen.
All that said, the gear box wasn’t what defined this trip.
It was the horn!