The Perfect Machine for Ontario Roads—Top 10 Motorcycles for Top 10 Routes
By Dustin A. Woods
Over the years, my father has done his best to educate me—sometimes more successfully than others—on the fine art of home and vehicle maintenance. During those times, he consistently instilled the importance of using the proper tool for the task at hand. This theory can indeed be practiced in many other areas of our lives, including the ability to match the right motorcycle mate for a particular journey. Every year I embark on a number of excursions and whether it is in Canada or abroad, I attempt to arrange an appropriate steed for the adventure. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head, while other times I miss the mark. All modern bikes are more comfortable, reliable and versatile than ever before, however there is still something indescribably magical about exploring the perfect road on the perfect motorcycle. It's like slipping on a well-fitting glove.
In this vein, I have compiled a list of motorcycles that I feel are well suited to Mike Jacobs’ choices for the top 10 motorcycle routes in the province. Just like every other compilation, these are subjective and discussion is encouraged.
Let’s play a little Motorcycle Matchmaker, shall we?
10. Ontario's Southwest
Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special
Port Dover may be home to Friday the 13th celebrations, but there are far more reasons to explore this area than simply Canada’s biggest motorcycle gathering. While all makes, models and vintages of bikes are welcome (I’ve even witnessed people arriving in Vespas), FD13 is primarily an event for Hog riders, so I’d opt for arriving in style on the 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special. Named Project Rushmore, the entire Harley touring line-up was overhauled for the 2014 model year with a laundry list of much-needed and long overdue updates, such as a high output twin cam 103 engine, a hydraulic clutch, re-styled saddlebags, adjustable shocks, linked brakes with ABS, improved ergonomics and aerodynamics, as well as an info-tainment system that boasts a touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity. This custom-inspired bagger turns heads, sounds incredible and is the perfect companion for day trips through the rolling hills of Ontario’s Southwest region.
9. Ontario’s Highlands
Ontario’s Highlands are filled with opportunities to get off the asphalt and explore remote and picturesque trails that are off the beaten path. A dual-sport like the Yamaha WR250R is an ideal mount for satisfying this double duty as you travel between trails that range from relaxing to challenging, so you can choose your flavour from mild to wild. Yamaha’s liquid-cooled and fuel-injected 250cc single-cylinder WR250R is fuel-efficient and versatile. The chassis and swingarm are constructed from aluminium and are complimented by adjustable suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. High build quality comes at a price, but you get what you pay for with the versatile Yamaha WR250R.
8. Peterborough and the Kawarthas
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS
This area offers a combination of epic turns like those on Northey’s Bay Road and the legendary Buckhorn Road, but also boasts plenty of wide open two-lane touring. This requires a versatile motorcycle that will be capable of tackling the twists, but also comfortable for longer stretches, perhaps even riding two-up. The Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS 1,043cc inline four-cylinder engine has torque for days in any gear, while the upright riding position and aerodynamic fairings make this litre bike more than your average sport bike. Accessorize with colour-matched saddlebags or top case for longer hauls, but definitely upgrade to the gel seats if your rides go over an hour or so—your backside will thank me.
7. The Algoma ADV Loop
Triumph Tiger Explorer XC
Developed by Steven Fox-Radulovich, the Algoma ADV route balances some off-highway and some on-highway riding, so personally I’d call upon the Triumph Tiger Explorer XC for this loop. I can’t think of an adventure bike that is able to cover long distances on tarmac and transition to unpredictable dirt and gravel with such character and ease, while also offering decent value. This may be a wish list item for me, but I’m still considering that these bikes will be purchased with your precious hard-earned dollars, after all. The Tiger Explorer XC benefits from a responsive shaft-driven 1,215cc three-cylinder engine with decent fuel range, rider aids like switchable ABS, traction control and cruise control in addition to benefitting from a broad torque curve that helps offset the added weight of gear and/or a passenger. It also offers badass equipment like a sump guard, fog lights, and hand guards that you likely won’t care about until you need them.
6. The Northwest Loop
Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero
Kawasaki’s first bagger model features their advanced brake system K-ACT ABS, Electronic Cruise Control, and a high-spec iPod-compatible audio system, making it a safe, comfortable and ideal travel companion for day-trips or longer journeys. The double-cradle, high-tensile steel chassis feels stable and confident while the liquid-cooled 1,700cc V-Twin provides more than enough oomph to keep a smile on your face during the entire tour of the Northwest Loop.
5. Georgian Bay Coastal Route
Honda Gold Wing F6B
I’ve always seen the Honda Gold Wing as something of a Winnebago on two wheels, but the new for 2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B attempts to shatter these preconceived notions. While it has managed to shed roughly 32 kg (70 lbs), it has retained the sewing machine smooth liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine along with many of the features that have made it the seminal touring companion for those who log serious miles. The F6B would be ideal for this trip because its low maintenance demeanour would allow its rider to focus their attention on the incredible scenery and soak it in like a sponge.
4. Ride The Edge
Whether you plan to ride the long loop or the short loop, the versatile, stupidly fast yet shockingly smooth BMW K1300S is a capable and appropriate companion. Boasting a refined, stable chassis with a host of electronic aids, advanced aerodynamics and 175 horsepower, the K1300S easily accomplishes the balancing act between sophisticated touring bike and super sport.
3. The Temiskaming Loop
Harley-Davidson CVO Limited
All makes and models may be welcome at the Bikers Reunion in the heart of the Temiskaming Loop, however it is predominantly attended by those on Electra Glides and Gold Wings due to its great distance from...well, everywhere. The crown jewel of the new Rushmore lineup of touring motorcycles from Harley-Davidson, the CVO Limited may feel bloated in urban settings but is right at home on the wide open road, which the Temiskaming Loop has in droves. Improved performance, ergonomics and aerodynamics, intuitive controls and advanced info-tainment have brought this beast out of the Middle Ages and onto my list of bikes worthy of your attention.
2. Ride Lake Superior
I’ve been fortunate enough to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime excursion multiple times and found that the best companion for the trip was the BMW K1600GTL. Well-equipped and weighing in at 321 kg (708 lbs), its proportions never felt bloated, since the weight is distributed low and evenly. The 160hp DOHC 24 valve liquid cooled 1,649cc powerplant is the lightest and most compact in-line six cylinder motorcycle engine in mass production, and 70 percent of the torque is available at 1,500 rpm. Saddlebags matching cavernous topcase are all quickly removable, lockable and weatherproof. Adjustable suspension, throttle-mapping and intuitive controls round out the already impressive package.
1. The Grand Algoma
BMW S 1000 RR
The BMW S 1000 RR may be considered overkill anywhere but the racetrack, but its stripped down brethren is a naked roadster that offers 160 HP, 83 lb-ft of torque and a power-to-weight ratio of 2.85 pounds per HP in a more comfortable, user-friendly package. The S 1000 R is fitted with Race ABS and ASC (automatic stability control) as standard to help keep you in control and Rain, Road and Dynamic modes adapt to rider ability and road conditions at the push of a button. This highly sophisticated and over-engineered streetfighter would make a more than capable mount for the trip.