Follow by Email

Saturday, July 26, 2014

a little recognition for my "beater bike"

Those of you who know me are in tune with just how much I love my Kawasaki Concours 1400, so I don't need to explain all that it does well. No, I need to talk about the other bike in my life, my 2012 Suzi Vstrom 1000 Adventure. I bought this bike to be my do-it-all machine. A bike I didn't have to obsess over, a bike I could let get dirty once in a while, leave parked outside without worrying about pieces getting sun faded and a bike I could take on the worst of California freeways with. And it does all that well.

Now let's not lie here--it is an ugly bike. Seriously. The designers added about 15 pounds of unnecessary fairing bulk and panels that hide the basis of why this bike is so good--the TL 1000 based v-twin. From any angle you look there is too much going on in the "styling" department. Soft curves, hard angles, insanely robust luggage brackets and an exhaust system that likely adds 30 pounds to the bike. And drags in hard right corners (blow the picture up here and you will see the scrapes on the exhaust shield).

But, ugly aside it is a damn good machine. I have commuted to work on it, ridden canyons, run errands, picked up groceries, buzzed down fire roads and generally used it for any type of riding I wanted to do. And it does it all with a healthy dose of power. The Strom is rumored to put 98hp and 74 Ft/lbs of torque to the back wheel--which makes keeping the front wheel on the ground a bit of a first and second gear challenge.

The upright, dual sport style riding position and wide bars make staying in the seat all day a pleasant experience and the sheer size of the bike makes toting a passenger a pleasure. And the fact that it is that comfortable allows your passenger to stay relaxed--which was good that day we were dragging the passenger pegs in corners!

I have some modifications I will need to do, eventually. So far all I have done is basic service and replace tires, because the bike is just fine. It could use better brakes--I will probably add some braided lines, better pads and maybe look at different calipers, but for now they stop the bike from any street speed I attain. The suspension is due for an overhaul, but the factory adjustments are not quite maxed out yet--close so I expect that to happen sooner. And then there is that exhaust. Its big. Its heavy. Its bulky. I am sure a new system would shave a bunch of weights and wake the bike up significantly, but then it would be a lot louder--and a full system has to be spend. So for now....

The Vstrom is just a good bike, not great, just good. It has no overwhelming characteristics of anything--except ugly, damn it really is just ugly--but it works. And it does anything I ask. And if you look at the number of units sold, the appeal of these bikes is undeniable.

A new model is on the market now, no better looking, but better equipped. If you are stuck on what one bike to own to do most everything, check in with these guys for all the vstrom information your brain can process.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Don't hate the hipster--well I tried, anyway

Had to go check on a brother-in-law's pets last night in Irvine. I'm in Laguna Niguel so it is not that far, not a big deal. It was about 630 when I left the house, so I figured I could check on the animals, feed them and then head out to PCH for a nice sunset ride home on the beach--a perfect way to spend Friday night.
It was a wonderful night, perfect temperature, and clear as it could be in the skies. Leaving the animals behind I hopped onto Jamboree to blast the beach. Jamboree to those of you who do not live in Southern California, is a long, winding ribbon of what would be perfect road--if it were not for all the traffic lights, mini-malls, car dealerships and the Irvine Police Department. It winds, crests and straightens out all in an effort to tempt your throttle hand into misbehaving. Veteran of the road, I resisted its call--OK, well I might have left one traffic light slightly quicker than necessary to remind the guy in the Audi A8 that, well he is still in a car--not a supercar--and I was on a 1400cc Kawasaki Concours. Mid second gear, I slowed enough to let him catch up and smiled at him through my helmet, I am sure he understood.
I cut through traffic down PCH--Pacific Coast Highway--through Newport Beach and towards Laguna Beach. The sun was just starting to soften and set, the light was amazing. I felt that a picture of my bike and the coastline was in order--I just sort of forgot there is nowhere between Newport and Dana Point (where I would turn to go home) that is both undeveloped and coast accessible. Photo effort was destroyed, but the visuals were still amazing. The Pacific in its glory, beautiful homes, nice cars, bikini-clad girls walking the sidewalks, yes it was a great commute home.....
Anyway, to my point here. I needed fuel on the way and I stopped into a gas station on Crown Valley Parkway in my home town of Laguna Niguel. As I pulled in I immediately saw another bike so my spirits jumped. You know, gas station camaraderie. Talk about bikes, roads, where the cops are, the things you do when you see a kindred spirit. My hopes were dashed instantly as I got closer. He was a hipster with an attitude. He looked at me as I rode in on the Concours and did a very minor disgust head shake. Like he was the pure biker at heart and I was on a big, useless machine. I may have been wrong, but 44 years of being around riders tells me otherwise. I immediately had an attitude as well as I sized up the wannabe resplendent in his official hipster garb. He had, and I kid you not, skinny jeans, high top Vans, a faded red tshirt with a largely oversized zippered hood and a '70s fullface helmet with no face shield. His bike? A Honda 450 with the side covers removed, the tail section stripped to a bare minimum with the taillight hung from the subframe so the fender could be removed and the seat redone to look like a '60s Triumph, clip ons and the crowning hipster touch? A black "X" made with electrical tape on the headlight.
There was nothing I could talk to this guy about and I knew it. We were two very opposite ends of the motorcycling spectrum. I took another glance at his bike and was assured of my suspicion--huge, giant, glaring chicken strips on his tires. Sure, some people have to use their bikes to commute, I get that and leaning to the edges can't happen in town, but--this was a half worn tire and just 4 freeway exits south of this gas station is Ortega Highway, pretty sure with a decent canyon that close a few corners can be negotiated.
He finished gassing up before me, and started his unbaffled two-into-one megaphone pipe equipped machine. A quick blip of the throttle to about 5-6000rpm assured the owners of the SUVs and MBZs at the station he was ready to leave. Out of the gas station he bleated and blasted to the..... traffic light 40 yards from the driveway. It reminded me of Thursday night at the Kawasaki Koffee Break as I was standing outside with a Kawasaki employee/friend. We were looking over the bikes in the parking lot show when a guy on a Ducati Panigale equipped with super loud pipes made the turn in front of the building winding out first gear so he could do the super loud, look at me deceleration ride into the parking lot. It inspired me to drag an old line out of my book when I said "Oh look, they must have been out of Harleys with straight pipes, so he bought the Ducati". We laughed and laughed and laughed.
So, I didn't want to hate the hipster, but I did. Not because he was different from me, remember I used to own a Harley and a GSXR at the same time, but because he had a crappy attitude and wanted me to think he was cool because of it. You ride. I ride. That should be all that matters, not the bike, style, brand--OK, well scooters, you can ignore scooters--just that you ride. I'm going to try not hating again when I ride today, but please don't give me attitude, or as Chopper Dave and his shirts and key chains say "They Forced me to Hate"
You can find Chopper Dave's stuff at

Also if you want other cool shirts and stuff that says you ride to people that also ride check out Church of Choppers store at

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not So Entertaining--My New Business--Please refer your friends

After a very long career of working for other business owners and learning everything they had to teach, I have decided to open my own business offering business management and marketing. consulting.

It is a huge leap of faith, chance to take, but it has me pretty pumped up. I know I can help the average struggling business to do better, so in all of the glory I can muster, here is my official press release.

HKC - Howard Kelly Consulting

With 30 years of business management and marketing experience, Howard Kelly now lends his abilities to your endeavor. From selling automotive tires in a discount shop to holding the editor’s chair at HOT BIKE Magazine during its’ prime to marketing industrial air chillers and creating all of the 2014 Kawasaki product brochures, Kelly brings a unique perspective to the table. His combination of business experience, budget management and expert marketing strategy creation will allow your company to reach the next level of success.

Unlike most marketing consultants, HKC insists on starting by learning your business and the infrastructure that supports it. An evaluation of your business practices and the team that implements them is done prior to preparing a marketing campaign, because if your business can’t support new business growth, that must be addressed first, otherwise you will be wasting marketing efforts and dollars.

When you are ready to get your marketing plan going, HKC will build a custom strategy based on your budget, anticipated growth and infrastructure expansion. All aspects of media are incorporated—web, print, direct and social. HKC can create your press releases, catalogs, brochures, collateral materials, advertising and full marketing campaigns. HKC can work with your existing art director or introduce you to one. Additionally, with Kelly’s full background in photography, studio, location and event coverage can be provided.

With a network of the best professionals in the United States working directly with HKC, no project, event, trade show or store redesign presents a challenge. When you partner with HKC it is like adding a complete marketing department to your business without the need for extra office space for the staff. You get professional services at a fraction of the cost of a full department.

Because HKC will work directly with owners/principals, client space will be limited.


Howard Kelly

(949) 491-5182