Saturday, March 19, 2011

Speed Sucks

One of the frustrations of riding the R1200RT is adhering to the posted speed limits. It's bad enough that local constabularies have become the de facto doughnut tax collectors, but the RT makes it that much more difficult to avoid paying that tax. Before all the authoritarian but holes scream forth about young married couples and their kids, let me clarify a few things. One, Iowa is so bad with cops ticketing people for tax collection that the state graces two speeding tickets a year if they are under 10 mph over the speed limit. That means they don't count towards taking your license away. This is because no one would have a license after a couple years. It's that bad.

Two, on many roads speed limits are kept low to increase revenue. Roads can be certified for speed limit and in some cases, local municipalities won't do it because they will lose revenue. So, if you get a speech about safety, bullocks. As someone once said, follow the money. I see roads in Iowa that are semi-divided with 2-3 lanes on each side and the speed limit is 35-40 mph.  Anyway, back to my problem. The problem is, the RT is geared tall and built for the Autobahn. Hit 5th gear and I have to use cruise control to keep the speed down on the interstate. Same with local roads with other gears. I like to use the higher gears to keep the revs down and the gas mileage up, but still, the bike wants to do 80+ when the open road arrives, moreover, I think 110 all day is doable. I never had this issue with the Nomad. The Nomad topped out around 105, so the bike was in it's element between 65-80. It didn't want to or have to go faster. For some reason the silver Teutonic missile has other ideas. I swear, I can hear the bike (in a German accent): Don't be a girlie man, twist the f@#king throttle you weakling! 

The biggest problem and therefore roadblock to higher speed limits in the US is driver training. Driving as more of a right than gun ownership and you'd think it was an amendment in the constitution. If you look at the land of the Autobahn, they have fairly rigorous requirements for riding a motorcycle. From what I understand, a rider has to take 6 hours of theory and a minimum of 12 hours of practicum, 5 hours on the road, 4 hours on the Autobahn and 3 hours of night riding. These are minimums and the cost of the school is €1500-2000. In many European countries, licenses are tiered. You may get a motorcycle license, but it is limited to an engine size until you have enough time on it to graduate to the next size. I believe they do this in Britain, where everyone has to start out on a 125 or 250. Pity the poor bike of that size with me on it.

As libertarian as I am, I would be ok with stricter licensing requirements if we had higher speed limits. I would pay for the training and obviously go through it myself as well. I think we could benefit from it as well, but the biggest objection is the compulsory nature of it. In the state I currently reside, Iowa, there is no helmet law. In as much as it may seem that driving seems to be a constitutional right, try making riders wear helmets here. You'd have a mutiny on your hands. May be the best solution is to have it as an option. Want to ride fast? Go through the extensive training and get a special tag for your license plate and endorsement on your license. People as such could ride the higher speeds in such lanes allotted for that purpose. That said, while we are on the subject of lanes, I will say that commercial trucks should be limited to not being allowed in the left lane. They aren't in NY, they shouldn't everywhere. It clogs up the roads and makes it more dangerous.

So, am I closer to solving my speed issue on my new bike? Not really. What it comes down to is a conscious effort to rein myself in within the rules that everyone else abides by. Will I work to change rules? Sure, but until then, I will try to keep the RT on the simmer burner and keep myself from paying the doughnut tax.


jeunebug said...

Nice blog! I came across your blog while searching for mine when I first posted it. I agree with you, these bike can get up there in speed effortlessly, one has to constantly keep an eye on the speedometer. I'm almost aways finding myself at 80+ without even trying.

Geoff James said...

Learner licensing is about to be made a whole lot more rigorous and that's something I'm really comfortable with. Still too many serious injuries to inexperienced motorcyclists due to shortcomings in their situational awareness.

I'm surprised there are still states without helmet rules. Mainly the Harley riders who object perhaps? Maybe the theory of natural selection will gradually weed them out!

Nice blog!

Jim L said...

Thank you very much to both of you. I appreciate it.

In this country, we have 50 states that each have their own standards for licensing. Some even offer the tests in dozens of different languages and the requirements in general aren't too rigorous. I have no idea how there would be a uniform or basic standards that would be more rigorous, but it is something that will be looked at at some point. Driving and riding aren't a natural right (although I'd like to explore the case. :)), so it is easily regulated. Anyway, as far as helmets go, I originally lived in NY where it is required, so I am used to it. I have tried riding without one and it feels weird, not to mention it is way too loud. ATGATT.

While the RT isn't a C14, it loves to cover great distances effortlessly. It's a great bike. Now if I could only ride to it's capabilities...