EagleRider Experience – A Weekend in Albuquerque, Part 2

In Travel by AbhiLeave a Comment

You’ve seen several mentions to Club EagleRider on this site on the last few months because I really enjoy the program and want to share it you, my dear reader. With that said, I’ve only been describing it to you in hypotheticals, so I figured it’d be helpful for me to share exactly how the experience goes whenever I take advantage of a rental – the good and the bad. Hopefully, it’s good, and you’ll see why I enjoy the program so much! So, here’s how my experience with EagleRider went during a recent weekend in Albuquerque.

Missed Part 1? I met up with reader Gary C, discover some great vintage bikes (and tractors), pick up a rental Triumph Tiger, and grab Vy from the airport. Oh, and the freaking hot air balloon festival couldn’t fly due to wind! Hopefully it’d be OK the next day…

The main reason Vy and I came out to Albuquerque was for the International Balloon Festival. But in part 1, the hot air balloons weren’t cleared to fly due to high wind. Vy and I had one day left in town, so we were both desperately hoping that the weather would be more suitable for flight. So yet again, Gary joined us before sunrise out on the field. We were looking for the green flag that signifies that weather was good enough to fly. It didn’t matter though, because we didn’t even have to get to the field – we were rewarded by a Bimbo! Well, a Bimbo sponsored balloon:

It was an incredible sight. We got there just in time for the first wave of balloons to start taking off. When the burners are lit, these yellow balloons look like someone turned on a light bulb:

The “Zebras” are Launch Directors at the Fiesta. Some dress up more seriously than others, but they have a very important job. They are dedicated volunteers who make sure that the launches happen safely, and managed crowd control when a balloon is about to go up.

Many of the balloons operate as a rental service and take customers up. Whether it’s a first timer or a veteran in the basket, you’ll often see them waving to the crowd (and vice versa):

Many of the balloons have writing or signs on the bottoms of the baskets:

Someone’s using their burner to get the balloon upright:

Gary and VyVy look on at the ascension:

Wells Fargo is apparently a big supporter of the hot air balloon community and they have a fancy stagecoach balloon as a showpiece. It initially had some trouble getting inflated, and as the Fiesta was happening while news was breaking about Wells Fargo’s scandal this year, it ended up being the butt of many a joke:

Two of the most popular balloons were Puddles and Splash, a pair of penguins:

Once the penguins were up in the air, Puddles “proposed” to Splash, who had the following banner ready in response:

PrimeLending had a fun shape with buffalo heads sticking out…

…but my favorite balloon shape from the festival was this cow.

It’s sponsored by Creamland Dairies. The wind was too strong for the specialty balloons to get up in the air, so it was inflated but had to stay grounded:

Turns out the cow’s name is Airabelle:

Another special shape, but this time it’s one capable of flight:

Some teams have multiple balloons. Some teams have clever team names. This team had both!

Balloon pilots need certain pieces of information to safely get around. Here’s an example of the instrumentation that they get.

Once the balloons are in the air, there’s not much else to do besides take photos (like this one VyVy took):

Photo by VyVy Nguyen

One option is to explore a chainsaw carving competition. To help fit in with the festivities, there was a large inflatable chainsaw – though I doubt this one could fly.

This entry was one of my favorites:

This was the first place winner:

Baby Jack had to get in on the fun, of course.

There’s also a section with vendors, which sell the expected trinkets, pins, and fried food. An unexpected vendor was Elio Motors. Founded in 2009, they’re shooting to create the “Ultimate Commuter Vehicle.” On paper, it’s somewhat interesting: 3 wheels, $7,300, and 84 miles per gallon. But they’ve made some odd decisions (like suggesting that Pep Boys would be their official partner for service) and potential customers are starting to feel like this might be vaporware. Plus, that amount of money could also get you a Yamaha FZ-07:

Here are the claimed paint colors that will be available. Seems like they’re trying too hard to be cute:

Having satisfied our desire to see hot air balloons, we left to see more of the town – and in my case, eat as many green chiles as possible. Vy and I were scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles first thing the next morning, so we had to return the Tiger today (a Sunday). EagleRider’s Sunday hours in Albuquerque are typically quite limited (10am-11am), but John Agee (you may remember him as the man behind EagleRider’s ABQ operation) went out of his way to let me return the bike later in the day so I could put some more miles on it before I said goodbye to it.

Mini Triumph Tiger 800 XRx Review:

I was very excited to try the Tiger, but I came away disappointed. The XRx makes more sense for EagleRider to offer than the XCx – the latter gets a 21 inch front wheel, spoked wheels, and some pretensions of going off-road. The XRx has a 19 inch front, cast aluminum wheels, downgraded suspension, and a regular front fender instead of the “beak” that you see on many ADV bikes. In a way, it’s refreshing: on paper it’s perfect for someone who’s honest with themselves about how often they’ll be taking the bike off-road.

The good stuff:
The motor. The 799cc triple is derived from the 675cc engine of the Street Triple, and it’s nice. The power is more than adequate (95 horsepower) but I really appreciated the delivery, which blends the torque of a twin with the ability to wind it out that you get from an inline four. There’s a reason why people love triples! After 5,000 rpm it sounds good, too.

Equipment. This bike comes with a lot of treats – traction control with an off-road mode, ABS with an off-road mode, cruise control, two 12V power sockets, a digital computer with enough information, and four ignition maps (road/off-road/rain/sport). Also, the optional factory hard bags made by Givi are well-designed and capacious, though they cost about $1,350.

Seat height. I’m not short (6’2″) but I can’t normally get both feet flat on big ADV bikes. The XRx has a 32 inch seat height (you can adjust it to be higher), making it easy to comfortably flat foot. This inspires confidence.

Passenger comfort. Vy gets seat time on a lot of bikes nowadays, and she said that this was one of the more comfortable bikes she’s been on the back of. Her main complaints with seats in the past are a lack of padding and/or a weird angle that makes her slide forward when I brake, and this bike had neither of those problems.

The bad stuff:
There were a few positive points about this bike, but the reason I was disappointed was the handling. I usually love the handling traits of street-focused ADV bikes, with wide bars and comfortable ergonomics. But I never felt confident enough with the XRx to throw it around like I usually can with most motorcycles. It resisted leaning over more than any bike I’ve ridden in recent memory, which required a lot of counter-steer to solve. Part of this is the bike’s fault, as it’s top heavy. Part of it may also just be the trials and tribulations of the life of a rental bike, though this unit did not have a lot of miles and I was able to verify that there were no obvious issues like squared-off tires. This handling sensation kept distracting from me enjoying the corners and it took a lot away from what was otherwise a decent bike.

End of mini-review!

John, his girlfriend Jessica, Gary, and my ridiculous hair all meet up at the end of the day as the Tiger goes back to EagleRider and my time with a bike in Albuquerque comes to an end:

Considering he’s a one man show, John does a good job running the EagleRider location in Albuquerque, and he’s very personable. Just remember that if he’s busy, there’s no one else to help – so plan ahead and don’t assume you’ll be able to get in and out in 5 minutes. If you need to rent a bike in the area, he’s definitely worth contacting. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer it to the best of my ability. I like the program because it gives me access to motorcycles across the country, letting me experience things like the International Balloon Festival without having to rent a car.

As a reminder, you can also sign up with EagleRider if you want access to bikes when you’re on the road. EagleRider recently cut the monthly membership price from $39 to $29, and they have a special rate for Bike-urious readers: if you sign up through this link, EagleRider will waive the initiation fee and they’ll give you an extra rental for free right from the beginning. Happy travels!