Howdy all. I mentioned something about a long trip in my introduction to this site and said to look for some pictures in May. Obviously I am a slacker and procrastinator. But I would like to share the highlights of my trip with you all, at least with regard to the Versys.
This was my first motorcycle trip of any kind longer than half a day or so. And it was a long one, nearly 3700 miles. Here is our original itinerary:
The trip was planned for the last half of May. That turned out to be a little early but we were stuck with those dates. Originally my wife and I had planned on a backpacking trip to Utah for those dates. While planning that I mentioned a motorcycle trip up Hwy 1 and she was surprisingly excited by the prospect. This is actually how I ended up with the Versys in the first place. Once we made the switch to the motorcycle trip over the backpacking trip I started looking for a more capable motorcycle than what I had ('81 Suzuki 550 wasn't going to cut it). I was set on the KLR 650 until I realized its limitations for 2-up and road touring (I still want one for myself though). I found my V on craiglist and couldn't be happier with it. I bought and installed the Givi rear-case, with the $50! back-pad accessory, and bought some soft Givi saddle-bags as well. I like the hardcases but I had just bought this bike and we were planning the trip so $800+ was not possible.
Weather turned out to be a huge issue for us. The very first day we got turned back at the first mountain pass by a heavy snow and had to ride 1.5 hours back to Ft Collins just to start on our alternate route. Our alternate route took us south through Denver all the way to NM. The timing and weather conspired to make this a very stressful stretch. No snow, but a constant deluge of rain and occasional hail while navigating through Denver's rush hour traffic. We only made it to Aurora, just south of Denver, before we gave up for the night. The next day was better and we continued south on I-25 until we hit 40 and took that to the border of NM and AZ to stay in the lovely little burg of Gallup, NM. The next day was a long boring highway stretch to Barstow, CA and from then on we were back on the original itinerary. However, we did miss many fun, interesting, twisty miles through CO and UT in exchange for the rather boring highway miles we took to get back on track. Weather held for us until CA when we started to get some rain again, but not bad. On the 4th day, the day we were to hit the coast, we stopped for lunch and I saw the steel belting coming through the rear tire. I had been anxiously watching them wear down but the speed at which they lost their final bit of rubber surprised me. It was a Monday and we were Santa Margarita, CA - very small town with no MC shops. I spent a frantic lunch making a bunch of calls and was finally able to find a shop in San Luis Obispo that was open and could help us out. They were great and an hour later we were on our way with a new set of Dunlop RoadSmarts, which I love. The weather was passable for most of the coast. It got much worse later. The morning we left Corvallis, OR it was already raining steadily at 6:00 am. We were going over a couple of passes through natl. forest areas but these passes were at 5K' so I didn't think much of them. Evidently 5K' in OR is quite enough in May to have snow - a lot of snow. We had already started off soaking and the precipitation never stopped. It just went from rain to snow to sleet, etc. I was pretty nervous for this stretch and thought we may have to ditch the bike, hitch a ride into town and come back later for it. We made it through that and thought the worst was behind us, but it wasn't. That whole day we traveled east through OR on a high plateau. It was cold, rainy, very windy and at one point we got caught in a vicious hail storm. Luckily, there was a rest stop right there when the hail really started. We eventually got off the plateau and thought we were in the clear. Nope. That night we stayed in Boise and had only a little ID and UT to go through, then WY and home. I thought for sure UT would be relatively warm and dry. No, it snowed, hailed, rained and sleeted on us that day too. It was very cold and very windy. We only made it to the border of WY and stopped because we saw a hotel with a hot-tub. We were both a little sick and very wiped out by this time. The next day was our last and it was a cold one. 35* to start out from Evanston, WY. Snow all over the ground and very windy but we stayed dry that day. We were extremely happy to get back to CO where it was warm and beautiful.
The bike though, was brilliant. It gave no problems whatsoever and performed in all conditions. I was able to lean it way over on super-curvy roads in Redwood Natl. Forest, and I was able top 100 mph on the highway, into the wind, with passenger and 60lbs worth of luggage - we figured around 430 lbs of load all told. Desert heat or mountain snowstorms, either way the bike kept going with no complaint. The tires gave excellent traction in all conditions. I found the seat to be passably comfortable, but then we were often dealing with greater discomforts. My feet and lower legs experienced discomfort and touring pegs would have made all the difference. My wife was fairly comfortable as well, with some butt and leg pain, but not bad overall. the back-rest made all the difference for her. We averaged around 45 mpg, sometimes as low as 39 or as high as 58, but those extremes could be down to the imperfect method of figuring the mpg. This means around 200 miles between stops which was just right - that's right when we were ready to get off and stretch a bit. Thankfully, we had full gore-tex riding gear, without which we would not have survived. It kept us surprisingly dry except in the worst downpour when water would pool in the crotch area and eventually soak through. The saddle bags came with rain covers but they turned out to be worthless. They actually made it worse by collecting and holding water in the water-proof membrane. At many stops I had to tip them and empty the several lbs of water that had accumulated. Eventually we left them off altogether and put everything inside the saddlebags in garbage bags. this worked much better. Tha hard rear-case was and continues to be an excellent choice. I think I actually like the look of the bike with it on more than without it. Once home I washed the bike, which was absolutely filthy, and changed the oil again, installing my new magnetic drain plug, and cleaned the air filter - also filthy.
In my opinion the V is more than up to the task of long distance touring. 2-up will work, but it's not ideal. If it were just me on the bike I would have no qualms about putting thousands of miles on the bike in almost any condition. I was more nervous and cautious with my bike riding with me but the V was certainly up to the task. Occasionally, on the highway with a very strong headwind, I would have to downshift into 5th to get any decent acceleration, but that was rare. We were at least 30 lbs over the maximum weight limit as listed but that didn't seem to be an issue - perhaps accelerated tire wear. I mean, yes I would have taken a goldwing or R1200GS for the trip, and it would have been more comfortable. Even a V-strom would likely have been more comfortable. But the V is so much fun. I would not have had nearly as much fun on the curviest roads on a goldwing, I imagine. And the V is also my everyday commuter, and my canyon-carving sportbike. And it's freaking cheap compared to most bikes. After all was said and done I'm even more in love with my V now, the hardship of the trip bonded us together (the bike and I - I guess my wife and I bonded too) and the good, fun bits made me appreciate the bike's abilities even more. Also, upon coming back from spending every day on the bike for 10 days, over 3600 miles, I've felt more confident and competent than ever on the bike, or any bike for that matter. I lean over into the curves more than I ever have and feel like I have a much better appreciation of the mechanics of riding. I will post some pictures later on from home.