Mid Winter Ride

“Last warm day for a while. Good day for a bike ride,” says my wife, a bonafide connoisseur of weather forecasts. She was raised on a farm with real animals and crops and stuff. The BMW F650 is the closest thing to a tractor we have. So I translate, “Get out on the tractor and do something.”

Could this be a day to go around Lake Winnipesaukee? 65 miles. You betcha. I check the temperature. 40 degrees. No sun. It’s as good as it’s going to get. At noon, the temp is going to start dropping.

First things first, I install my Iron Butt credentials on the bike.


Now I’m ready. I head out on 11A towards Alton Bay and immediately get buffeted by ubiquitous frost heaves. I imagine these conditions all the way around the lake and remember smoother days last summer. I keep going.


Bob Houses on Alton Bay

The frost heaves aren’t that bad everywhere. Before I know it, I’m closing in on Wolfeboro.


Bob houses on Tuftonboro Bay

Riding up north of Wolfeboro, I realize I’m enjoying navigating my way along these bumpy roads. I slow down, stay in third gear more. After all,  I’m on an adventure bike. Good in adverse conditions. There is something satisfying about handling the obstacles.

Bumps, wet areas, patches of sand, clumps of salt, snowmobiles. A car turning and then not turning. An entertaining amount of uncertainty.

A big truck coming the other way salutes with a mighty horn blast!


The Mount Washington cruise ship in winter quarters.

On a previous ride at 45 degrees, my core had become chilled by the time I got to Center Harbor. This time, I had the Gerbing vest and at the Moultonboro Airport, about halfway, I switched it on to 25%. Hadn’t felt any chill until then. With the heat on the second half, I was comfortable all the way around.

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Bob Houses way out on Center Harbor Bay

Being out here in the winter, a bit cold and damp, I remember gassing up the F650 down on the Merritt Parkway on my Iron Butt run last October. A guy walks over and says, “I was following you. Before I could see what you were riding, I told my wife only BMW riders are out in the cold rain. Sure enough.” He said he owned a BMW F800.


The winter community on Meredith Bay


Let’s Dance!


2017 Spring Winnipesaukee Ride

When a good day suddenly appears, I’m apt to find myself on a ride around the big lake. Like today, for example. Snow in the woods, bare roads, a high near 70 degrees and sunny.

I recently acquired a new Sedici three-season armored jacket for a closeout price of $138 and I wanted to try it out.


It has zip-out wind and thermal layers. I had them both in. I was too warm when stopped, but it was okay moving. In several pockets of snow and shade, the jacket was just right.

I should have removed the thermal layer when I got overheated but I was too preoccupied (lazy).

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Cottage on Alton Bay with a red roof

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Tuftonburo Town Beach

The bob houses have retreated off the spring ice after curing several fishermen of their post Christmas blues. See December photo.


Mount Washington cruise ship resting up before the summer season begins.

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Bad BMW man peering in the window at Meredith Harley Davidson

The bike ran well as always, traffic was sparse, things to see, spring in the air. And I like the jacket a lot. It was a good ride.



Last Ride

It’s  just after Christmas, sunny and in the mid forties. That’s right. Time for a motorcycle circumnavigation of Lake Winnipesaukee. Quite likely the last such ride in 2016, by anyone.


Alton Bay, already frozen over.


The F650 loves cool weather.


Route 28 north to Wolfeboro. White Mountain National Forest in the distance.


Big lake house under construction. Just the top of it visible.


A bay on the big lake, north of Wolfeboro

There are actually some guys in those bob houses. Recovering from Christmas.

Kankamangus Highway

Nearing the end of September, the good days are dwindling down to a precious few, especially with the reliable two weeks of fall rain still ahead. So I set off for another loop up north. My last loop was the Sandwich Notch Road, and the next northerly loop is the Kancamangus Highway, which runs from Conway, NH west to Lincoln 32 miles through the White Mountain National Forest.

Map1024It can be difficult to lay yours hands on an actual paper map these days, at least one that has a usable scale, so I had picked these up knowing I would be travelling the White Mountain roads at some point.

It would get into the low seventies today but I put on some thermal underwear anyway. I took my maps and a bottle of water and walked over to get the bike. I packed up some tools to repair a flat tire if it came to that. I started up the F650.

SpeedoStart   It had been a little cold in the night so I sat there idling and took a shot of the gauges. 10:23 am, 8881 miles on the odometer. It felt good to have the day ahead of me. I set off towards Alton Bay.

AltonBay    The southerly end of Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Looking north where I was headed. I gassed up in Wolfeboro and spent some time looking at houses on Sewall Road and thereabouts.

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Here’s one that’s probably worth 500K instead of 5 million:

NearSewall Road

I left Wolfeboro on route 28 and headed northeast towards Ossipee to pick up NH 16 , the highway up to Conway.


Out in the middle of nowhere, I pulled onto the shoulder, left the bike running, pulled out my phone and took a few shots including the one above. Then I realized there was a man standing about two feet behind me. I shut the bike off.

He said, “I saw you taking photos and was wondering what you were seeing out there. We have a lot of wildlife in here, but I don’t see any.

I said, “I just liked the colors.”

“Oh I see. Sorry to interrupt.”

He got in his truck and backed up about 50 feet so I could see anything oncoming as I pulled back into the lane. It’s wasn’t really clear to me what had just happened.


Rural scene above is on Route 16.

Chocorua Village SignMountChocorua

Mount Chocorua in the distance.


Covered Bridge in Conway.

I rode a few more miles up 16 to North Conway and bought a sandwich. Came back down and looked for a motorcycle accessory distribution center on Rt 302 but didn’t find it and rode back into Conway.

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I like libraries and this building in Conway is one of the best you’ll see anywhere.

From Conway, I started up the Kancamangus Highway and saw this sign:


Another covered bridge a little ways up the Kancamangus, over the Swift River.


I climbed for about 15 miles and reached Kancamangus Pass at 2850 feet:

Kankamangus PassKank Pass 2

I started down and eventually got behind a Porsche, following two guys on motorcycles. I watched the bikers up ahead moving through the forest colors, cool air, warm sun, and I imagined them roaming carefree on the planet, enjoying the fun of it. Since I was also riding, it sort of applied to me as well and I momentarily felt lifted out of the normal press of life. A good feeling.

I rolled into Lincoln and took NH 3 down to Plymouth, staying off the 93 Interstate. I gassed up again near Plymouth State University. Bought a snack and rested a bit.



Stopped by Squam Lake in Holderness and took another library shot.


Back to Lake Winnipesaukee, I stopped at the Weirs and took this picture of the Mount Washington cruise ship with the Doris E next to it and the Sophie C nearest the camera. These last two are both US Mail boats servicing the island summer homes on the big lake.


Back home after about 6 1/2 hours and 176 miles.

The F650 is just about the ideal bike for cruising the roads of New Hampshire. It’s very nimble, effortlessly swerving around road hazards and bumps. I can stop and turn it around easily and slip into any little spot to park, so exploring and looking at things is easier than in a car. It takes the unavoidable bumps on the frost-torn back roads and I can smooth it out even more by momentarily leaning forward. The front of the seat rises up under the rear of the fuel tank and if I grip that part of the seat with my thighs my butt comes up off the seat as I lean forward. The bike has plenty of power and the mild vibes tell me what the engine is doing. It ran flawlessly, as usual.

Throttle Magic

Last Thursday evening,  I took a leisurely F650 ride around Lake Winnipesaukee and as I passed through the Weirs Beach area, I saw a hundred or so vendor tents already set up for Motorcycle Week. Approaching  Meredith, a grand tent covered a very long row of new bikes in front of the Harley Davidson dealership. A huge Kuryakyn trailer loomed over Route 3. It was warm and sunny. Bikes everywhere. Only about 8 miles from home and I was already enjoying myself immensely.


Riding for enjoyment,  I became sensitive to gear selections and throttle settings, because the F650 is a big single with inherent vibes in need of taming. Fortunately, there seems to be a very satisfactory gear/throttle optimization for just about every combination of speed, incline, flat, and downhill encountered in the 62 mile circuit of the big lake. I got a lot of pleasure coaxing silky-smooth power out of that simple reliable engine.

The following scenario applies to an unmodified, stock, 1997 BMW F650 single cylinder dual sport bike in good working condition. I does have a new set of Metzler Tourance tires which are a bit streetier than the orginal Michelins. Lake Winnipesaukee is in the foothills of the White Mountains and the frost-weary roads are peppered with twisty sections and small hills, even near the lake. Between the stop lights, 30 mph congested areas, and a straight stretch south of Wolfeboro where traffic can hit 70 mph, you pretty much run the gamut of New England back road conditions.


Vibration versus Load

One of the subtleties of F650 vibration management is the awareness that load causes the engine to run smoother. There is a natural vibration peak at 4000 rpm and it’s more noticeable in the lower gears, where the engine output typically over-matches any load on it.

In fifth gear, the engine is turning 4000 rpm at 60 mph, and the vibration is moderate, tolerable, and lessens going up gradual inclines. Even so, you would tend to avoid travelling at that exact speed. 55 mph is a dream and 65 is very comfortable with the wind just starting to be a factor. Wind aside, you can do 75 comfortably, but I have yet to try it for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

In the lower gears, the 4000 rpm vibe is a good signal to upshift.

You get the feeling that the 650cc engine size is pretty optimum, because you have enough power but not a big vibey excess.

 RPM Versus Speed

The F650 has the happy characteristic of tachometer correlation with the speedometer. While a bit of a simplification, you can comfortably loaf along with the engine at 3000 – 4000 rpm, and in that rpm zone, you are doing 10-20 in first, 20-30 in 2nd, 30-40 in 3rd, 40-50 in 4th, and 50-60 in fifth. Another way of putting it is the teens are for first, the 20s for 2nd, the thirties for third, the forties for 4th, and everything else is for 5th.

The low fifties are a bit slow for 5th, power-wise, and you don’t want to lug the engine, and fortunately 4th and 5th overlap a bit and you can comfortably hit 55 in 4th before upshifting.

A noticeable “smoothness problem zone” is 40 mph. In third, you are running a lot of excess power at 4000 rpm and the resulting vibes are enough to make you want to do something about it. 4th is a little weak at that speed, meaning it will still pull, but you feel like you are lugging the engine unnecessarily.


Relaxed cruising up inclines is best done at 3700-3900 rpm where the engine is putting out decent torque (peaks at 5000), but no vibration. In 4th or 5th, you will just notice a subdued, 4K vibe peak.


You can always comfortably accelerate through the 4k peak in any gear.

In a lively acceleration scenario, like pulling ahead of traffic when the light turns green, I’ll briefly punch the throttle up through 4K before up-shifting and that leaves you a good bit above 3K to pull the rpms back up towards 4K or more.

A more leisurely acceleration might find me trying to pull from 3K and in that case I’ll let it ease on up more gradually from there.

The tachometer is good to have when you are pulling from low rpms, because if they are too low, you need to downshift.


Roar is engine loudness, approaching a scream above 5000 rpm. I suppose it is mostly exhaust sound, but intake and mechanical noise are there also. Roar seems to be a combination of high rpms and load. At 5000 rpm 5th gear, the engine is beginning to roar, whereas 1st gear roars earlier. You often need to roar in first to get enough speed to upshift. There seems to be an awkward zone between 1st and 2nd. You can easily start off in 2nd, but it seems like you are asking too much of the clutch when doing that.

In the vicinity of 5000 rpm, roar begins to flood your senses and you can confuse it with vibration. In general when you are focused on engine vibration, you are apt to be confused by roar, tire noise, road surface texture and and wind noise.

Low Speed Issues

The F650 is carbureted (dual carbs for a single cylinder) and it is common for it to surge a bit in the 2-3K rpm range. You can pull in 1st gear from 2.5K, but otherwise you want to stay away from that range.

Going down a hill you might get below 3K and then want to speed up and there you really want to be graceful with the throttle, easing it from off to on.

Like keeping the bike upright, the throttle is initially a twitchy thing, requiring some deep tracks burned in your brain before you can enjoy the easy grace of experience.


You can get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from the practiced application of throttle and from mastering the nuances of engine and gearing characteristics. You can get that simple, inexpensive motorcycle to run smoothly, to loaf along forever carrying you and your gear.