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Choices. In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow...I am havin' a thought. The thought being I have a hankerin' to upgrade my ride. I know the process involved will take some time and extended research, so I figured I would start with the keepers of intimate knowledge on the subject - The CMC Family! While I am still quite open to other choices, I have narrowed it down to 3. All look different. All ride differently. Certainly all are built differently; and most assuredly all come with different price tags. My initial selection involves new bikes. Some of you will be gearing up to let me know that buying new is not necessarily the way to go. Yes, I hear what you are about to say, and to be honest, I am in agreement with most of the salient reasons you have yet to voice. But I consider these choices part Bucket/Wish List. Also part reality check; which time and again tends to smack you upside the head if you go off with unrealistic expectations. Do not get me wrong; it’s not as if I would never get a used bike, it’s just that these are the ones that seem to have my attention at the present time. There are valid reasons, but first, a bit of a preamble. I currently own a 2008 Suzuki GSX650F which was purchased new. It also happens to be the first, and so far, only bike I have ever owned. Prior to that I only ever rode on a Honda 750 Shadow that a very trusting friend allowed me to practice on before taking the M2 exit course back then. So why did I choose this particular bike as my first bike? At the time I used The 4 C’s of Practicality (at least to me). Cost. Confidence. Comfort. Choice. Cost This turned out to be financially manageable (ie under $8000) for a new bike of this CC class. Yes a second hand bike would seem the most ideal for a brand new rider; especially if you were going to “outgrow” it to move on and upwards to another model. But I did a fair amount of research into this particular model and it has proven to be very reliable, as I am entering my 7th riding season with it. Confidence Some would say that is crazy talk. Confidence for a new rider on what for all intents and purposes is a Sport Bike? Let’s back up a tad. Up to the point of me purchasing this particular bike, my experience level was mainly on the aforementioned Honda 750 Shadow. A user friendly, no surprises choice. The thing is I was slightly unnerved as a new rider in the way it turned. This mainly had to do with my height and length of legs. I felt compressed on the bike. No fault of the bike to be sure, but having since ridden the Suzuki, my confidence level has increased exponentially, to the point that I have ridden other cruisers and larger CC bikes without issues. I was able to acquire invaluable reference points on the handling and turning of the different types of bikes. Comfort Very few could argue that most bikes can match the comfort level of a Honda Goldwing 1800. Where then do I get the audacity to even remotely intimate that a Sport Touring bike is comfortable? My view is that your comfort level should not only be limited to the plush quotient of the component supporting your heinie. The aforementioned confidence level again comes into play. The more confident you are on your bike, the more comfortable you will be in all aspects of its use. Yes, after a certain age, the nooks, crannies and associated body joints, do begin to protest; especially if your posture and poise do not allow for a relaxed, pain-free ride. At some point you begin to reassess where the perfect balance of comfort begins and where it ends. This then leads to: Choice I tend to go back and forth with this one. Sometimes I think I should have placed this first on the list, but all of the aforementioned seem to encompass your choice of ride. Does the styling of the bike evoke any form of excitement or wanderlust? Does the mystique or iconic nature of a particular brand call your name and dispel some of life's mundane trappings? Whatever grabs you about a particular bike can reveal on a deep level, that which stirs your soul; and that in turn can be quite telling about you as an individual. This grand adventure not only encompasses the opportunity to heed the call of the open road on two (or for some, three) wheels; it also is coupled with the decision processes involved when making an informed (or emotional) choice about the style of ride to acquire. So this brings me to my current choices in no particular order. Ok maybe a little bit of ordering The plan is to upgrade my ride to a long distance touring bike. No particular timeframe is set to have this completed, but the baser instinctual side of me would of course like it for next week. Common sense, economic prudence and the Missus have partnered to ensure I do not go off the rails! So here are a few mitigating factors that hopefully will validate my reasoning: My Needs vs Her Needs The next ride is not just about me. It has to encompass my better half with a high degree of comfort and safety. That includes not only the seat/backrest, but any inherent safety feature or component that translates into increased confidence, not only for me but for her. This could optionally include adjustable suspension, traction control or ABS brakes. Range & Carrying Capacity This is for 2-Up long distance riding with luggage. The bike has to accommodate my 6 foot frame with good centre of gravity and retain sufficient storage capacity with good fuel capacity and efficiency (minimum 380km between fill ups) Easy Access to Dealer or 3rd Party Maintenance I may have flown planes and even studied how to fix them (way back when) but I do not lay any claim to being a motorcycle mechanic. I am looking for as maintenance free (eg shaft drive) a bike as is possible. When I do need regular or emergency maintenance, there needs to be a very good chain of bike dealers or mechanics readily accessible, regardless of where I find myself in North America. I can take care of the oil changes and other minor things myself. The Chosen Few (Thus Far) Taking a verse from Sesame Street and totally mangling it: All of these things is not like the other; yet one of these things definitely belong....to me! Just click on the thumbnails below to get a larger image. Yes, I fully expect jaws to be a flapping once you take in the selections below, but seriously folks, I would value your cogent observations, suggestions and recommendations.