Friday, January 20, 2017

Long Term Test: 1984 Shogun 600 post #4

Beach Streets Midtown open streets
event in Long Beach, CA
While the Orca has sat on the rack gathering dust, the Shogun has seen at least a little bit of use. As a part of the semi-annual Beach Streets event, I was able to not only get out and ride a little bit, but also give the Shogun some much needed and long overdue maintenance.

Key among the items that needed to be addressed was the chain, which had not been cleaned in easily a couple of years and a few hundred miles worth of riding. As a result, the drive train, including the chain, chain ring, and rear derailleur all had accumulated a wealth of road grime. Since we had plenty of people working the booth I was staffing at Beach Streets, I took the opportunity to give my chain and drive train a good scrubbing, With it freshly cleaned and lubed, I was able to take it for a quick ride along the Beach Streets route while the streets were still closed. For a bike that is over 30 years old, it still rides beautifully and is still my favorite bike ever.

Hopefully once the weather becomes agreeable again in the spring, I will be able to spend more time out riding. I might also have a few accessories that will be acquired to allow me greater latitude in carrying precious cargo. We shall see at the next update.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Long Term Test: 2012 Orbea Orca Bronze post #4

My poor Orbea has been sitting largely untouched for the last several months. Following some injuries sustained at the end of September, in conjunction with the colder weather and the craziness of my current home life, I simply have not had as much time to ride as I would like. To make matters worse, I also have not had the opportunity to give it a proper tune-up while it has sat out of service. Of course, once things settle down again, I intend to get back on the bike and get out there to meet the seemingly impossible task for me of riding 1,000 miles in a single year.

Still, in the meantime, even though I am not riding it, at least I get to enjoy looking at it. The Orca may not be the most wild design out there, but compared to the simplicity of the rest of my bikes, it is genuinely a great looking piece of art to hang up and be appreciated.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Long Term Test: 2016 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E Platinum post #1

So we finally did it. After all of my effusive praise heaped upon it and the many test drives, we finally have a Volvo V60 as a part of our long-term test fleet. Our recently acquired V60 wagon comes in a stately Savile Gray Metallic paint job and packs Volvo's very impressive Drive-E 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a well-sorted Aisin 8-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. In the Platinum trim level, the V60 comes with nearly every single available widget the Volvo offers: blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and on and on. The alphabet soup of driver assist features combined with the potent Drive-E engine and Volvo's downright phenomenal seats makes for what should be an excellent long-distance touring car. Add to that the storage capacity to hold luggage for the whole family and the V60 will likely find itself serving road trip duty at least a few times during its tenure with us.

Of course, the eagle-eyed among you will likely notice a few missing features that made me offer up my prodigious praise of the V60 in my prior reviews. The sport package with its gorgeous diamond-cut 19-inch wheels was not on the table because availability with the package and color options was pretty much non-existent. Somehow, when we were ready to finally grab one for ourselves, there were simply no cars in the area that could provide the right mix of trim level, packages, and color that we ideally wanted. Since this would not be my daily driver, I had to ultimately defer to the desires of the person who would spend the most time with it. Still, the standard wheels work well with the understated choice of paint color and give the V60 a dignified appearance.

Even so, the V60 is an exciting (yes, an exciting Volvo!) addition to our long-term fleet. It is also the second vehicle in our long-term fleet to come packed to the gills with driver assist systems, giving us an opportunity to compare how two different manufacturers implement these systems and to test how well they work in real world conditions. With autonomous cars marching ever closer to the consumer market, these interim steps of current generation driver assist systems give us a taste of the autonomous future to come.

We have a full three years with the V60 to find out if it really is as good as my test drives led me to believe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX Tech post #6

The recent acquisition of our 9th generation Honda Accord Touring places us in an interesting position to examine something: is the RLX genuinely worth the rather extensive premium over its more pedestrian relative? While a bit older in age, the RLX and the Accord both sit at the top of the sedan ranges for their respective brands. They theoretically serve the purpose of getting buyers to get large sedans with nearly full-size levels of leg room in more typically mid-size exterior dimensions. Sharing many traits, including their FWD architecture, similarly rated 3.5-liter V6 engines, and even their 6-speed automatic transmissions, the two cars are so close in spec that it is no surprise that people often complain about the RLX being little more than an Accord in a fancy suit. But since we actually have the two cars in our possession at the same time, let's actually compare a few of their key traits and see if the comparison is a fair one.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Welcome to 2017

It has been a little while since we have had a chance to post consistently. The last half of 2016 was fraught with big changes for both of us as we settled into new jobs, new roles at existing jobs, spent time dealing with personal items, and giving back to our communities. As a result, we not only did not have time to generate new content, but we have also missed numerous long-term updates, which we will work on getting caught up on this month. Once we get caught up, we hope to have some great new content to share throughout the year.

Happy 2017 and hope everyone's year has gotten off to a great start.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Road trip: The Road to Paso

Sometimes, you just need a break from the drudgery of the day-to-day and do something a little different to recharge the batteries. I hit this point around the end of July this year and decided to treat myself to a couple of days away. The goal was to put in a full day of riding to clear my mind, ending in a destination where I could grab a good meal, have a drink or three, and then just relax and get a good night's sleep. With the goal of arriving at my destination by early evening, I scoured the map, trying to find a location that would provide the right mix of great riding, great food and drink, and relatively inexpensive accommodations. Thinking back to our trip to Monterey for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, I settled on the Central California winery town of Paso Robles. And to maximize the fun riding, I plotted my ride through Ojai and up through some windy roads of the central valley before heading back west towards the Pacific Coast, saving the more direct ride along the coastal route for my return trip.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Editorial: What does it mean to buy American?

Following the recent election, the future of many major industries is likely to be in flux, the automotive, motorcycling, and even cycling industries in particular. Each of those industries has their distinct structures for design and manufacturing that can make the idea of "buying American" a difficult one to define. All of them are manufacturing industries that rely on "overseas" manufacturing jobs to one extent or another and with promises from the incoming administration to correct trade imbalances and place tariffs on products made overseas for sale here in the US, there is a lot of uncertainty about what potential impacts there are. And in this day and age of globalized economies, figuring out what exactly is "made in America" is not necessarily clear cut. So when it comes time to purchase that new motorcycle, bicycle, or car, what exactly does it mean to buy American?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Daydreams: Third Generation Acura TL Type-S

At some point, both East Brother and I had access to a third generation Acura TL Type-S. East Brother owned a silver 2008 TL Type-S with the six-speed manual, while I had joint custody of a white 2008 model with the five-speed automatic. We both loved these cars immensely and we both miss them quite a bit. East Brother ended up having to sell his TL when he and his wife purchased a home with only one available parking space. The TL that I shared with our folks ended up getting traded in for a 2011 Acura RL Tech after I obtained my S2000. To this day, East Brother still regrets selling his TL, and I still miss the white TL, even going as far as admitting to friends and family that I would sell my S2000 if I encountered a manual equipped Type-S for sale.

But this article isn't about how much East Brother and I miss our respective TLs. I've seen quite a few TL Type-S on the road in the last couple of weeks, and I started to think what I would do to further improve the car to reach modern standards.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Editorial: Riding the Rails

When I was a freshman in college over a decade ago, Metrolink and I became well acquainted. It was an easy way to get from the small town where my school was, which fortunately had a stop, and the Inland Empire or Downtown LA. The trains were reasonably comfortable, seeing as they were intended for commuters making the daily slog to their jobs in the city, and the ridership during the weekend tended to be largely students going home or the occasional tourist who opted not to rent a car. The trip duration could tend to be on the long side and since rail infrastructure in Southern California is not exactly well developed, once I reached the end of the line, it could take a fair amount of planning to actually reach my final destination. Being a poor college student at the time, that often meant the "last mile" portion of my trip was either another form of public transit or an awful lot of walking. However, after I got a car my sophomore year, I pretty much have never set foot on Metrolink again...until yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX Tech FWD Wrap-up

With our folks now retired, and their need for two vehicles at home completely unnecessary, it seemed prudent to part ways with our big, hulking Acura SUV. Even though it has treated us well for the last two and a half years, trading the MDX in sooner rather than returning it at the end of its lease seemed to make much more financial sense. Acura's MDX is a perennial favorite among middle-class buyers, providing a solid mix of luxury accouterments and daily driver practicality. These were largely the very reasons that the MDX was so popular with our family, this being the fifth that we have owned. During its time with us, the MDX served many purposes, having been a road trip car multiple times, including at least one trip where our pup came along for the ride, a work horse, and just a daily driven grocery-getter.