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Motor Patrol: Working on Two Wheels

Motorcycle officers have definite opinions about what makes a good police patrol bike and what can be done to make them better.

February 01, 2004  |  by Mark Kariya

Street policing demands also tend to tax the BMW's single-plate, dry clutch, compared to the multi-plate, oil-bathed clutch that Kawasakis and Harleys use. "It is an adjustment; it's a learning curve to figure [the BMW] clutch out," Simi Valley PD Officer Patrick Coulter admits. "But in this environment-in a metropolitan police department where you're jumping curbs and doing the silly stuff that a CHP officer more than likely does not do on a daily basis-I would like to see a wet clutch or a multi-plate clutch."

Rich Greenwood, who retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after a career that saw him on motors for 19 years, believes that the clutch design is one of the reasons why the BMW police models offer great advantages for highway officers, but are not necessarily well adapted to urban policing. "[BMWs are] nice bikes, but they're better suited for the freeways; they aren't real good for slow riding, and we do a lot of slow riding [as city cops]."

However, the BMW's electrical system is well-suited to urban policing. With all the electronic instruments and accessories on modern police vehicles, the BMW's dual battery system received high marks from motor officers. "The load requirements of our job with the radio and all the electronics and the radar systems that are mounted on the bikes just require an incredible amount of amperage that a regular civilian bike doesn't need," Simi Valley PD Officer Dan Hampson points out.

"When you throw that load onto just a one-battery system like the Kawasakis have, we just go through batteries left and right. If you're home on your weekend and you forget to turn off the radio, your battery's toast when you go to start it two days later, and it won't come back-you've got to replace it," Hampson adds.

A Place for Stuff

Simi Valley officer Coulter singles out a common complaint about all police motors: lack of storage space. "We have such limited storage for the amount of stuff we need to carry that if we can just put it in the saddlebag and forget it, and have the things we go to every minute right there on the outside of the bike, that's what we wish the manufacturers would do," he says.

To remedy this problem, Simi Valley PD fabricated a citation book holder that mounts behind a crash bar on one side of the bike. But manufacturers are also starting to listen to cops about their needs for better storage options. A combination rechargeable flashlight/baton holder is a much-appreciated accessory on the Harley-Davidson FLHPI Road King in use at the Peabody (Mass.) PD traffic unit, according to Sgt. Bill Cook.

"Kawasaki and BMW also do a great job of manufacturing the crash rails that provide points to mount [accessories] on," Coulter observes. The Kawasakis have good points and BMWs have good points to mount [accessories] on."

Tailored Fit

For all motorcyclists, it's critical to adjust the bike to match the size of the rider. For motor officers, fitting is even more important because the machine happens to be the "office" where they spend most of their day. One size fits all doesn't cut it.

BMW's three-step seat height adjustability gets credit in this area. Though you can't quickly and easily move the handlebar or adjust the angle of the levers on the BMW as you can on the Kawasaki 1000 Police, you can easily adjust the distance from handlebar to lever on the BMW R 1150 RT-P. (Note: Late-model Kawasaki sport bike levers are adjustable and might be able to be adapted to the Police 1000.)

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