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Sport Touring Corner

By Norm Kern

Definition of Farkle: (noun) popular sport touring rider term for motorcycle accessory.

When I bought a used Honda ST1100 around 2001, farkle was a common term in Honda ST Owners Club (STOC) discussions. Although some claim it’s an acronym for “Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive,” most explain it simply as a contraction of the words function and sparkle

It’s no accident that the function part of the term comes first. Farkles that sport touring riders put on their bikes are chosen to improve comfort, performance, reliability etc. If they improve appearance, that is a bonus, but not a requirement.

My Yamaha FJR ES doesn’t draw much attention at motorcycle gatherings, despite having many farkles. That’s fine- they were not installed to impress other riders- they were done to please me. A complete list is beyond the scope of this article, so I’ll just list the main categories along with a few detailed examples.

Physical Comfort is top priority! Less comfort means less riding for me. The centerpiece of my comfort plan is the Russell Day-Long Saddle– it’s not very pretty, but it lets me ride a thousand or more miles in a day with zero discomfort.

The second piece of the comfort puzzle is an MV Motorrad handlebar plate that shifts the relatively low and short FJR handlebars back about 1-1/2″ and almost 1″ higher. This allows me to sit up straighter, bend my elbows a bit and relax my bad shoulder.

Another comfort item is a windscreen that’s 4-1/2″ taller than stock. Using the FJR’s seven inches of electric adjustability, it provides weather and wind protection in the raised position, yet plenty of ventilation in the low position.

Sport touring bikes don’t have big wide windshields and fairings, so the rider’s hands are more exposed to the elements. I added hand shields to protect my hands from cold and rain. They are from a Suzuki V-Strom and are easy to adapt, but I wanted a mounting system that enabled them to be removed or replaced in a minute or two using a single allen wrench I carry in the tank bag. That required some custom design and machining. Special nuts that can be tightened with the allen wrench took care of the inner mount on the clutch and brake lever pivots. The clamping assembly for the bar ends was made so that the groove for the shields collapses and disappears when the shields are removed.

Safety- The FJR comes with ABS brakes, traction control and a lot of other safety features, but I like additional brake lights to alert traffic behind. Skene lights are extremely bright red LED brake light modules that flash several times before staying on continuously, getting the attention of drivers behind you.

Crash/Tipover Protection- I only had my previous FJR for a few months when some cager knocked it over while I was inside registering at a hotel. The $3000 in damage was mostly cosmetic other than a broken mirror, which was a distraction for the rest of my trip.

That experience got me working on a strategy to minimize expensive damage from future tipovers by protecting the things that commonly get broken. In addition to canyon cages and saddlebag guards, I used replacement mirrors that fold up instead of breaking and added easily replaced rubber pads and trim pieces that protect expensive body parts.

For example, I added rubber pads on the top of the saddlebag lids, so my boot doesn’t scratch them when getting on and off the bike.

If the bike tips over, the saddlebag guard prevents the saddlebag lid from being broken, but the upper side of the bag can still contact the ground and get scratched. Refinishing a lid costs $250-300. By adding two plastic trim strips, they get scratched but the paint on the lid is saved. Repair is easy- just peel off the damaged trim strips and stick replacements on- in a couple of minutes the saddlebags are good as new for about $10 in material cost. 

Luggage/Storage– A tank bag makes it easy to get to a cloth to clean the face shield, carry small items and stow electronic gadgets to carry inside at lunch stops.

Saddlebags with side-opening lids present challenges with stuff falling out when you open them, so I installed nets in the lids and a flexible aluminum panel in the inside part of the bag. I can stack up rain and heated gear, Rain-X, bungee cords, electric tire pump etc. behind the panel so it doesn’t fall out, yet I can bend the panel outward to easily reach the bag contents. The panel attaches to the floor of the bag with velcro so it’s easy to remove it if not needed.

Electronic Gadgets are the most popular sport touring farkles. Some of them have a lot of functions and installation tricks that will be subjects of future articles. For now, I’ll just list them with a few comments.

Smartphone handlebar mount– RAM X-mount makes it easy to mount your phone on the handlebar. I like it on the right-hand side, as I don’t fiddle with it much. (I can take the occasional phone call through a Bluetooth headset.) It’s mounted high to clear the tank bag when turning and can be rotated to shoot photos or video in landscape mode. When on the interstates, I often run Waze for traffic information. It keeps the screen on continuously and the brightness must be high to see it on a sunny day, so a cord that connects to a bike-powered USB jack is essential. 

Valentine One Radar detector– Many will question whether a radar detector is of any use on a bike today, which will be the subject of a future article. Regardless, it’s of no value if you can’t hear it beep so mine is interfaced into the Bluetooth audio system.

GPS- The most valuable electronic gadget on my bike is the Garmin Zumo590 GPS. Not only does it provide maps and routing, it has an MP3 player with hundreds of hours of music, shows weather radar, traffic conditions with estimated delays and alternate routes. You can even look at traffic cameras along the interstate to see if traffic is flowing. It’s an amazing integrated information system- a worthy subject for a several articles.

Digital Voltmeter– Lots of bikes have weak charging systems. A digital voltmeter mounted where you can easily check it while riding is good for peace of mind and can give you early warning if there is a problem.

This completes the first year of Sport Touring Corner. Thank you for your kindness and support. Let’s make the 2019 riding season even better than this year! 


Connect with local Ohio Motorcycle Sport Touring Association riders at these monthly breakfasts:

Southwest Ohio Breakfast, 9AM December 15

Village Family Restaurant
144 S. Main St.
Waynesville, OH 45068

Central Ohio Breakfast, 8AM, January 6

Portside Cafe
6515 S High St
Lockbourne, OH 43137

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