Day 3 Continued...
The 90-degree V-Twin of the V-Strom was a perfectly willing motor. We like the way it hums up to speed without hesitation or vibration, and though it doesn't have a gear indicator, it does let you know when it is in overdrive so you don't keep searching for higer gears.
After our Oregon tour was complete, these bikes paired off on the drag strip for some performance testing. With the same rider on board, the V-Strom
posted similar times in both the eighth- and quarter-mile times. The Ducati
, the lightest of the group, were the fastest and also closed out with similar score cards. With its water-cooled Inline-Triple it wasn't too hard to figure out that the Tiger would likely use its power advantage here at the strip. Not only was it the sole bike to break into the 11-second bracket (11.67 @ 113.48 mph), but it was also the only machine to pump out more than 100 ponies on our Dynojet 200i dyno. Nearly 104 HP was 14 more than the next-closest V-Strom
(103.7 vs. 89.5) - that's more than 15% of the Suzook's total power and it felt every bit of that on the street or the strip. Suzuki
wins the undercard war of the Twins with the GS in third and Ducati bringing up the rear at 86 and 81 HP, respectively.
The V-Strom's 90-degree V-Twin is the only liquid-cooled two-cylinder and though it doesn't win either the horsepower or torque categories on the dyno, the comfy Japanese bike is deceptively fast, easy to ride and confidence-inspiring.
"The power was there whenever I needed it," says Ramos. "Passing or powering up a steep gravel hill at an unexpected shortcut, the engine was eager to please. The lay-on of power was smooth and even, just right for rolling on and off the throttle through the corners."
The Tiger is categorized by Triumph as one of its Urban Sports machines, but considering that the British marque doesn't have a dual-sport or adventure-touring category, we let the technicality slide and included it anyway.
"Head for a bit of fun at strange angles," suggests Triumph's website "Tucked into a brilliantly balanced chassis, the Tiger's potent engine delivers power and ear to ear grins."
Well, we took the advice and ran with it because this little blurb isn't some half-truth cooked up by Triumph's spin-doctor marketing department - it's dead on. The 1050cc Inline-Triple flat gets with it, and the chassis and suspension play the supporting roles. A trio of cylinders bored and stroked to 79 x 71.4mm squishes fuel with a 12:1 compression ratio. That may sound all fine and dandy, but perhaps to put it in better perspective, it's the same engine that powers the immodest Speed Triple streetfighter and the spirited-yet-companionable Sprint ST sport-touring machine.
The Beemer's 1170cc Twin puts out power that is extremely usable across the board. You won't win too many outright drag races, but like the rest of the bike, the motor fits perfectly for what this machine is designed to do.
"The Triple likes to rock-and-roll," says Ramos. "It can be a little spiky when you jump on it and, as you would expect from this engine, it likes the higher rpm. The delivery of power was predictable and most definitely there when you called on it."
Haldane echoed his sentiments. "What else can I say but 'wow.' If you are looking for an adventure-touring bike with more than enough power on tap and a distinct sound, this is the bike for you. One twist of the throttle and the revs from this Triple will get you wherever you're going real fast."
Though not the fastest machine or most-violent accelerator, the BMW's Boxer Twin was actually one of the most usable in the group. With 71 lb-ft of torque on tap, the opposing cylinders dish out plenty of grunt to get the hefty machine up to speed. We did some unofficial moving drag races from 50-80 mph with the bikes in third gear, and the Beemer definitely didn't wax the entire group. The Ducati and hi-po Triumph were challenging for that title, but the GS showed that it can easily hustle its way around a slow-moving tractor-trailer rig. The word that comes to mind with the BMW motor, and in fact the entire machine, is "easy." Getting the jump off a green light, passing slower vehicles and cruising upwards of 80 mph require roughly the same amount of mental effort - none. The bike is willing, smooth and ultimately very good at propelling the GS at virtually any speed you would require.
There are multiple bridges that span the majestic Columbia River, but the steel grated one that we chose was not our favorite moment of the trip. However, cruising the gorge was well worth it.
Now that we were aware of the twisty, and less traveled, way out of Washougal MX Park we headed back to Hwy 14 and out towards Mosier Loop. The Loop is an 80-mile ride west of the city of The Dalles that has been used for testing and photography for Yamaha's FZ-6 and Mercedes' SLK sports model according to Lavine's pal Tom Mehren, author of The Sound Rider! guide to Motorcycling in the Columbia River Gorge
AMA Motocross action might not have the same adrenaline excreting effect on the rest of our group, but as the moto guys power-washed the last flecks of Washougal mud from their roaring machines, I was ready to get back on those two-wheelers of ours and find some doubles, somewhere out there in the boondocks. Fortunately, our daily plan had one last stop that we needed to make before heading to our evening accommodations.
We tooled back along the northern side of the Columbia River Gorge to one of the most important economic fixtures in the Northwest - the Bonneville Dam. After drinking our visual fill of the Northwest's largest hydro-power-producing structure that utilizes two powerhouses and 18 generators to produce roughly 1,00,000 kilowatts of power for Portland, we continued East past the river's third-oldest bridge known as the Bridge of the Gods at the Cascade Locks. A brief glimpse was all we had time for as our stomachs continually reminded us of a dinner appointment, scheduled with another of our good buddies a ways up the road in Hood River, OR. One last obstacle, a steel-grated bridge stood in our way as we crawled back to the Oregon side of the waterway and into America's wind-surfing Mecca.