I made it home Saturday night around 8:40 pm after one final 800+ mile day. The weather was perfect for riding and traffic was never a problem.
As I reflect on this years ride, I have to say that the Electra Glide is more comfortable for me than the BMW for those long stretches of Interstate highway that need to be traversed in order to get out West. However, once i got to the mountains, the BMW was fabulous. The power, handling, and brakes are great especially for a bike this size.
My back and neck bothered me almost constantly making it uncomfortable for most of the ride. I suspect that some changes to the seat and/or handlebars will be necessary to resolve these comfort issues. I wasn’t prepared for this because I never experienced this with my local rides. It could also be that the new helmet that I started wearing a week or two before this ride contributed to my neck pain. It’s also possible that the additional hour or so between fuel stops is just too much time between stops. The 7 gallon gas tank typically has me riding for 3-4 hours between fillups compared to 2-3 hours on the Harley. Once I figure out the cause of this back/neck pain, the BMW will be perfect.
The BMW was surprisingly good in the windy conditions riding across the plains. It handles the wind much better than the Harley. The windy conditions still push the bike around, but it doesn’t seem to affect the BMW as much. When there’s a string headwind, the BMW just pushes right through the wind, The Harley often struggled to keep its speed when driving into a headwind.
When you get to the mountains, the BMW head and shoulders above the Harley. This is where the BMW really shines. The power of the 6 cylinder motor allow you to pass slow moving vehicles very quickly. Passing slow vehicles with the Harley requires more planning and distance. The BMW goes around corners so much better than the Harley and powering out of one corner toward the next one is a blast on the GTL I still haven’t come anywhere near the limits of this machine. I still haven’t scraped the footpegs and there’s still about 3/4″ of unused rubber on the sides of the tires so I know there’s more lean angle than I’ve been willing to use.
I rode must of the way from NY to CA with the throttle set to rain mode and the suspension set to normal or comfort. When I got to Kaydee’s house, I took all of the bags off, and switched to Dynamic and Sport mode and the bike transforms into a machine that just begs to go for a spirited ride on the Ortega Highway. Twisty mountain roads are where this bike really shines.
I’m probably an average rider and more cautious than I need to be because I really don’t want to crash and hurt myself. I’ve ridden the Ortega Highway on the Harley and always felt that simply keeping up with traffic was a bit scary and pushed myself and the Electra Glide pretty near its limits. However, the BMW is just so easy to ride in the twistys that the cars seemed slow and I was excited to blow by them anytime I got a chance to do so safely. Passing power is amazing and actually requires some restraint because the acceleration is amazing on this bike.
Another great road that I rode on was Angel’s Crest Highway. I was fortunate to ride this road on a weekday when there was very little traffic and for the most part, I had the road to myself. This highway is about 60 miles long and has very few straight roads. It’s almost all winding mountain roads with everything from 10-20 mph hairpin turns to nice easy sweeping turns. There were a few sections where there were rocks in the road but for the most part, it was a nice smooth road that is easy to have fun on. I’ll definitely ride this road again.
One of my biggest worries about the BMW was tire life. I’m pleased to say that the Michelin PR3’s did just fine. With a bit over 7,000 miles on them, both the front and rear tires still look pretty darn good. I should be able to use them for at least a couple more weeks commuting back and forth to work. I’m pretty sure that they’re good for another 500-1,000 miles.
I also traveled with motorcycle pants, jacket, gloves, boots, and a full-face helmet this year. In the past, it was basic jeans and t-shirt along with a half-helmet and gloves if my hands got cold. I have to say that riding with all of the gear wasn’t all that bad. It got hot when it was 95+ degrees but even in jeans and a t-shirt it’s hot so there really wasn’t much of a difference. Another benefit is that since I was basically covered from head-to-toe, I didn’t need multiple applications of sunscreen to protect my bare skin.
This was my 6th trip to CA and I visited some familiar places although riding the BMW made this years ride different – more enjoyable in some ways, but less enjoyable in other ways. For general Interstate travel, the Harley is more relaxed and comfortable. However, if you happen to hit slow traffic, the Harley is just miserable due to the excessive engine heat. The BMW never really gets uncomfortably hot even in stop-and-go traffic. Once you get to the mountains, there’s simply no comparison – the BMW wins by a large margin.
Total miles for this year’s trip was 7,213. For next year, I hope to have the comfort issues worked out. If I can do that, the BMW will be the ultimate long distance bike.