For years, before my long trip to South America, I had used an XS1100, Yamaha’s vintage big tourer, to travel around the United States, and had no complaints about it’s performance. It was big and heavy, but had excellent performance, lots of luggage space, and was mechanically simple enough I could deal with simple problems on my own without needing to involve a paid mechanic unless I chose too.
The XS11 was actually a choice to bring with on the trip, though it’s MPG (40 on a good day but usually around 35), weight (almost 800 pounds), complexity (four carbs that took almost an hour to remove), and mileage (over 80,000) all worked against it. Buying another one of the same model never occurred to me.
So, it was the small bike that I threw a leg over and took on my epic adventure (part one). But I kept the XS11, in storage, and when I got home it was the bike I got out to start riding on while Curiosity (the 250) was still being repaired.
Recently I took a ride up to Canada for the Horizons Unlimited Canada East meet. I had planned to ride Curiosity, but a failed seal a few days before I was due to leave meant I was back on the XS11, headed for the north shore of Lake Superior. It is nice to have a stable backup motorcycle, much like having a good back up quarterback. You definitely have a first choice, but if there’s something wrong with that choice having something that at least doesn’t suck is too.
But does the XS11 only not suck? Is that all I have to say now about a bike that has carried me so far, to so many places? I had it when I went to the Grand Canyon, it’s been to Yellowstone. It was there for my Space Shuttle Launch trip and later when I went to the Smithsonian. Has that bike really been relegated to solely a back up role, now only to be used when I can’t, for some reason, ride the 250?
The truth is there are times when the higher cruising speed, or better wind protection, of the big bike is more appropriate. The 250, while fun to ride and more fuel efficient, isn’t fast, well it actually co go as fast the XS11 does on the interstate (where, lets be honest, sometimes the posted speed limit isn’t full observed), but only at the cost of high RPMs and vibration. It hurts the MPG too.
And fall is here, winter is coming, and until the snow starts to fall the XS11, with it’s full fairing, is a warmer bike to ride. In the heat I might curse that fairing but not when the temps start to drop. And with nightly freeze warnings they are definitely dropping. So you would expect the XS11 to be parked at my house right now, ready to go right?
Because while all those things make sense, a lot of sense, the truth is the 250 is just running better right now. That probably has something to do with all the money I invested this summer into making it run well, while the XS11, my primary riding bike for most of the year when I got back, only got a cheap battery. So cheap in fact it seems to already be failing as the overnight lows reach freezing. I had to be jump started twice in Canada.
Right now I don’t know what this all means for my long term motorcycle ownership. I love my XS11, and will fix all it’s problems. But if I were to go for a ride right now it would be on the 250 – though with heated gear. Definitely.