Lexmoto Vendetta 250 – Is it me or are Chinese bikes getting cooler by the minute?

Recently I was at  a local bike shop and parked outside was a cool V twin bike. Styled somewhere between a 60’s dirt bike and a cafe racer. It looked so good I had to have a closer look…to my surprise it was a Lexmoto! It is a good looking machine and for me marks the breakout of the Chinese manufacturers from their 50 and 125cc beachhead.  A member of a local MCC has bought one and has been good enough to record his experiences with the Vendetta so far. Over to Craig… 

Like many owner reviews I feel a bit of backstory will help, My main bike is a 2016 Kawasaki Vulcan-S but wanted something different for work in the winter a 4 year journey to find a 2nd bike was started. I’m a tall rider at 6’6” so what most riders might settle for just don’t work for me, bikes like VFR, GSX, Bandit or Himalayan simply don’t work for me so I have to look a little further a field. A GPZ305 had shown me small could work, an XT600 said tall was king, a KLX250 was great but worrying to leaving anywhere, a Skyteam125 had surprising quality; was there any middle ground to be found? Enter the Chinese Lexmoto Vendetta 250 with its knobbly wheels, wide bars, long seat and being highly unlikely to be on organised thieves hit list.

Purposeful and good looking, the Vendetta 250

I was worried about the high end of this when buying brand new in Sep 2020, I resisted the urge to take it out for a test and ran the engine in properly, during this the stock nylon Chinese tyres were not holding the corners at all; a pair of Metzeler Lasertec from MyTyres soon fixed that. The dealer who supplied the bike (Redline Motorcycles) fitted them for me. Once run in I have to say the bike’s performance is nothing short of puzzling because it is a fantastic ride and hard to believe it was the lowest bhp for new 250cc bikes in 2020.  The bike accelerates well through 1-4 but 5th is pretty much a petrol saving cruise mechanism, the front lifts (not popping) while accelerating through the gears but there is a 9k rev limit low end, makes sense for its target audience but I feel it could cope higher, after 1st change at 8k to gain high speeds quickly or keep around 3k throughout to glide around, either way the bike doesn’t sound troubled.

Round town I am cutting in and around traffic easily, onto the bypass and its still great at 60mph, cut to a situation where I’m on a 4 hour cross country ride and I’m heavy on the brakes to avoid catching the bigger bikes in corners. At higher speeds I’m not loosing much ground and the motorway is fine for a short hop.  When it comes to high speed performance the bike is alright up to 60mph, after that acceleration is gradual and overtaking needs planning above 50mph. As I said the fun really is in the corners and has made me rethink my whole bike setup (sigh, not again).

Everyone who has been out and about with it have been impressed, people like how it looks and those who have had a go had nothing but good things to say, there are mixed reactions to the seat however, I like the seat and have to say its more comfortable than the cruiser at sustained speed, its an unshaped flat seat but padded so not like a plank, might take a rider a few rides to grow into it.  There are bar vibrations but not enough to put you off a cheeky ride in the sun.

The 250 V twin as been more than capable of exploring further afield

The build quality is acceptable for the price point. So far nothing is falling off after seven months on my commute when the bike is left outside. It is garaged overnight at home.  I have put 2500 miles on the clock and Redline Motorcycles (Birmingham) have been great with the couple of niggles that have come up.  An ABS sensor and Regulator have needed to be replaced, but it was  all covered by the 2 year warranty and so both were changed for free.  There are signs of rust on bolts and minor fixings so I plan on doing a strip, replacing, copper slipping and re-coat connecting parts. These issues  do not seem to be hitting more major parts such the chain, brakes, levers and foot-pegs. The exhaust is stainless so no worries there.  Considering I paid £3,000 ride away with 2 years warranty I feel the quality is fair, but I do think dealers should have a tyre switch-out option available at purchase because it’s dangerous putting Chinese cheap tyres on bikes intended for newer riders.  Initially I thought the back break felt a little spongy but I have had to do plenty of emergency stops (use your damn eyes people!) and they have not made me consider changing them, the stock setup is staying.

Neat and well laid out…better set up than than my Ducati Scrambler!

I have to mention economy, I don’t count mpg (specs say 88) but a full tank of supreme costs just under £13 which will last around 130 miles while riding the daily grind, by the time I need petrol I usually cant remember the last time I filled up, It’s great! I have not taken this bike off road, I don’t intend to either, it’s a stylised road bike; my replacement tyres are wet focused road tyres.

If someone was to ask me if they should buy one, the answer is dependant on their situation.  As a permanent A2 main bike you can get a big brand used bike for the money which will hold more value,. If you must buy new I would say save £6k to £7k and get one of the big name brands, if your adamant for new and £3K is all you can stretch to then you have little other choice above 125cc but you will like your new bike once some real tyres are fitted.  As an alternative to a rat bike for winter, a casual pop out for the afternoon bike or simply just a lighter option this bike will put a great big smile on your face and will make a relatively small dent on your wallet and garage space: If for some reason your left with this as the only choice on a ride out day or charity event you will be fine, just let the R1’s do their thing and you enjoy yours but I wouldn’t suggest this footprint for 2 up or carrying a load of camping gear.  At this moment in time I can say I do not regret my purchase as the only thing I want to change is the giant Lexmoto sticker on the side, I have made much worse purchases on the way to find this bike that’s for sure.

Words and Pictures: Craig – Shatterford MCC & Team Tankard MCC.

Redline Motorcycles – new and used bikes Bristol road, Birmingham

https://www.lexmoto.co.uk/

Lexmoto ZSA 125 – Initial impressions

 

 


Yamaha MT07 – What a fun little bike!

What a great little bike the MT07 is. I recently rode its sensible brother the Tracer 700 GT and while a hugely capable (and great value for money) that motorcycle was perhaps almost too sensible for me. The basic MT 07 is one of those rare machines that adds up to far more than the sum of its parts.

Perky, eager and fun… a ‘lid & leather’ bike

The plucky Yamaha has no frills… basic suspension and brakes, a 75bhp twin cylinder engine. No flashy multi-function TFT screen, no elaborate controls for traction control, engine modes and suspension settings. It is what I call a ‘lid and leather’ bike: Grab your lid, grab your jacket, hit the start button and just go off and have some fun.

Ready for the off!

Power and lightness

That willing 689cc engine pushes the light MT along at a good enough lick to put a big smile on your face. Riding one of my regular local loops, the ever-joyful run up to Clee Hill, the MT is frisky and can pick of any traffic you meet with ease. Its inherent slimness and low weight are a great help here. Even on a more powerful bike you would have to work hard and put yourself and your licence at risk to go significantly quicker.

Lucky to have such a lovely spot only a few miles up the road

 

Ride and comfort

Don’t get me wrong it is far from perfect, the suspension can get a little overwhelmed on some of the bumpier sections, but always in a way that is somehow fun rather than threatening. The front end especially is a little soft, so maybe some thicker fork oil would calm things down a little. Meanwhile the rear suspension is a little harsh when tackling some of the rougher sections too. But you feel what’s going on and it somehow adds to rather than detracts from the riding experience.

 

The 689cc parallel twins spins freely, but perhaps would benefit from a more characterful exhaust note

 

The MT has an upright riding position and a low seat height, so I was instantly comfortable when I hopped aboard. All the controls fell easily to hand. The bikes simple basic nature meant things like the switch blocks are straight forward and easy to use. The small digital dash could stand being a little larger but again its easily legible. While I do think the MT is better suited to 50 to 80 mile sprints it would be perfectly capable of doing much longer runs and touring. This is where the comfortable riding position and excellent fuel consumption would come to the fore. The example I rode also had the optional fly screen, a rack and an enormous top box fitted. The box was perhaps a little too large, but it all added to the usability of this eager little bike

Simple and flickable fun

So, what we have here is biking pared back to just what is needed. An eager fun engine, simple controls, low weight, flickable handling and for less than £7,000 it’s a compelling package. You could commute on this bike in the week, have  bit of fun on a Sunday morning with your mates attacking the twisties and round it off with a bit of low level touring. Just hop aboard and while your mates are still working their way through what engine mode to use, you would be half a mile up the road!

A victim of brand snobbery?

It’s not perfect, the engine note is a little anodyne and how well the finish would stand up to a British winter would be interesting to see, but in fairness it looked well screwed together to me. Some of the colour choices are not to my taste, I didn’t like the grey my test bike was finished in, the blue option looks great and would be the one to go for. I can see both inexperienced and more seasoned riders enjoying this bike. The new riders would appreciate the accessibility of the bike’s performance and ease of handling, while a more experienced rider like myself would just like the simplicity of it. I could visualise the MT being in a garage alongside a front-line sports bike, a large tourer or adventure bike.

The biggest complement I can pay the MT is that I came perilously close trading my Ducati in for one. I am still pondering if I am paying the price for brand snobbery. The MT is a cracking bike and well worth a look for anyone after some easy kicks.

 

Words and pictures: Tony Donnelly

Thanks to Kidderminster Motor Cycle Mart for the loan of the demo bike. One day I will actually buy something…

 

The faired cousin…

Yamaha 700 Tracer GT – The Quiet Man – Review and Road Test

The original 2014 model if you want something a little older (and cheaper!)

Yamaha MT-07 Review and Pics. Test Ride a Yamaha…buy a Harley!

 


The Ones That Got Away…

Recently I have seen quite a few lists on various internet groups and websites of bikes that people have owned over the years. It is interesting when put down in an entertaining way, helping to build a picture of person and their life experiences. Of course, I have list of my own, engineers often love a list. You can see how I have progressed from a humble 100cc Honda on to rather more potent machines. It tracks your progress in life too and how your finances have ebbed and flowed, with relationships, houses, jobs, kids and all the other stuff that life throws at all of us over time influencing your biking choices. Doing well? Lovely new sports bike. Having a tough time? Fixing a knackered 600 Diversion in the pouring rain on the way back from another miserable shift.

Unrequited love

But what I have not seen so much of are the tales of the ones that got away. I do not mean the bikes we have idly pondered over on some auction website of another. That would run to literally hundreds of bikes for most of us! No what I really mean are the bikes have always longed for and wanted, but for a variety of reasons have eluded you…money, timing even divorce! That sort of thing. Bikes you have never owned but always wanted to.

For me amongst the myriad of bikes I have lusted after but never owned, three stand out: First up is the Yamaha RD500LC. After passing my test in 1984 and buying a RD250LC before quickly (literally) progressing to a RD350YPVS it was the RD500LC that was ‘The Daddy’. I wanted one so much it almost physically hurt! After a ridiculously enjoyable 2-3 years on my LCs the RD500 was the natural end game. The amount of attention and notoriety the V4 stroker got in the press just meant that I wanted one even more. There was an iconic image on the front cover of ‘BIKE’ magazine with RD500 pilot flicking the ‘V’s’ at one of the plod on a R80 with the by-line ‘How do you expect me to catch them on this???’

I can almost hear the exhausts crackling…

One lad I knew had one with the super rare red and black paintjob fitted with four expansion pipes that emitted an almost malevolent and evil guttural wail. Man, I was SO jealous! But the reality of apprentice wages soon tipped a bucket of stone-cold water of that burning passion. Redundancy finished the job off nicely! Do not worry I soon got myself back into a decent job, then bought a house, so sensible. Not only did I not get a 500 I had to sell my 350 as well and wound up riding an elderly and rather worthy Suzuki GS550. The moment had passed, the desire to own the 500 remains but they are moving target financially: Every time I think I could be in a position to afford one the prices take another leap away from my longing grasp. I saw an example advertised for £22k the other day! I console myself by saying they weren’t all they were cracked up to be, but deep down I still really want one. One day, one day….

Still ‘King of the Hill’ for me…

Next up: The Yamaha R1, but the one you might think. I know the whole world is going mad for the launch model 4XV in red and white and paying a bazillion pounds to turn them back to stock, but the R1 I have always lusted after is the 2002/3 model in silver and black with the cool slim LED rear light. This time I even got as far buying myself the official Yamaha jacket with ‘R1’ proudly emblazoned on the back. I lost count of how many times I was going to trade my current mount (a YZF600R Thundercat) in for one. But somehow it just never happened. Trying 2006 and 2011 examples only served to feed my desire for my own R1 but as the years passed my waistline expanded from the effects of one too many ‘light salads’ and as a result sports bike were not for me anymore. I wound up buying a FZ1S, a sort sports-bike for old fat blokes as one of my lovely mates so delicately put it. Many more years have passed and desire for my own R1 in silver and black remains, but so does my belly! One, one day…

One day, my love…One day

Last, but not least in my list of out of reach loves, a Moto Guzzi, any Moto Guzzi really. I have always thought of them as cool bikes for proper hard core Italianate bikers. Why a Guzzi? Well because despite the fact they are not technically all that brilliant on paper; they are slow heavy things to muscle about on,  they just have a certain something. Many years ago, I shared office space with a French or Belgian guy who was cool personified. He rode a care-worn Le-mans Guzzi in all weathers and would arrive in the bike park outside the office peel off his one-piece riding gear to reveal a bafflingly immaculate suit underneath. He would then fire up a Gauloises cigarette and head off to start work, practically leaving frost in his wake he was so cool.

Inspired by this vision of steely assured style I booked test rides on a variety of Guzzis in the rather nieve hope I could similar levels of panache nearing by riding a lump of Italian engineering. First was a V65 Lario and then a Lemans V. Both rides confirmed that I just wanted one. That agricultural, gutsy V twin combined with an industrial feel to just get you going and want to ride and ride. Fast forward a couple of decades and somehow a Guzzi is still yet to grace my garage. Even test rides on more recent models have left me smitten despite gradual development soothing off some of the rougher edges over the years.  I particularly liked a V7 Special, but the Guzzi remains of my dreams remains elusive. One day one….

Cool, calm, style….

So what are bikes your ‘ones that got away’?

 

Words and Pictures Tony Donnelly


Yamaha T7 Tenere – The Bike of the Moment – Or is it?

The new Yamaha T7 Tenere is very much the darling of the biking press at the moment . One of my old friends, Michael Bell has bought an example. However a certain little bug you may be aware of has stopped him using as much as he originally planned. Nevertheless he still has managed to gain an revealing insight into the bikes capabilities. As ever it’s always great to hear what an owner in the real world thinks of a machine. So over to Michael…

I was so excited when I collected the Tenere, but so far I have only ridden it for 1300 miles. Due, of course, to good old Covid19. My plan for the bike and why I bought the T7 was to use it for an annual 3 month tour. I am lucky enough to be able to undertaken such a trip each year. This year, 2020,  should have seen me riding to the new Yamaha across Central Asia. The plan was to ride through Europe to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and back. It was going to be epic and I thought from everything that I have read and seen online that the T7 would be perfect for the trip. However to be to be honest, I have not bonded  with the bike at all yet. When compared back to back with my trusty 2015 Tracer 900 on which I have covered over 42,000 miles from new during visits to 30 countries, the old master comes out on top. The Tracer is a better bike in every area bar one; tackling actual trails type riding. To be fair to the T7  I need to undertake a ‘proper’ big tour in order to bond with a bike. Until that happens, I have to admit, the Tracer gets pulled out of the garage first.

Proud owner on day one…

Everyone on the forums says the Yamaha T7 is best bike ever blah blah blah. But in my opinion it’s too heavy for the dirt and too slow for the road. I am hoping that for the expeditions I have planned, it will be the best bike for my purpose. Consider this; the T7 is a significant  30kg lighter than the much vaunted Honda Africa Twin and (by repute at least) much more reliable than a KTM 790 Adventure.

Here’s hoping for more blue skies….

Yes, my Tracer has been great. Now, with all those miles on the clock and bearing a few scars,  it’s not worth selling her. She still runs so smoothly. T7 has been bought for travel as I said, but also to slow me down. Maybe that’s been the hardest thing to get used to? Heavy and low power? On my usual UK rides, it lacks the thrill of my Tracer. Riding with mates, it’s too slow. Tracer is still the best when it comes to thrills and fun. T7 is for adventure travel and fun I guess. The Tenere still feels a bit awkward with the 21 inch front wheel and towering 875mm seat height. Psychologically it’s still ‘new bike’ precious too, and I don’t feel comfortable just hacking about on it no matter what the conditions. Going forward I still need to get the seat on the T7 sorted to my tastes and upgrade the front and rear springs for my weight. Riding her daily on tour will cement the relationship I am quite sure. More in the next thrilling episode!

Words and pictures Michael Bell

Real Riders takes on some of the rivals…

KTM 790 Adventure – All you Actually Need?

Maybe something a bit more simple?

Royal Enfield Himalayan – Rugged, simple, affordable. What is not to like?

Recently updated but worth consideration?

Africa Twin CRF1000L test ride, March 2016

The Favourite….

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer  (2015)

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer – Review and Pictures


BMW R1200RS – Better than the all conquering GS?

I have been assimilated…

To be honest I can scarcely believe it myself, but after years of ridiculing the whole fascination the UK biking scene seems to be afflicted with when it comes to all things BMW flat twin 1200 shaped. Indeed after going as far as labelling the bikes themselves as ‘ditch-pumps’, I have only gone and bought one of the bloody things.

At least I have not gone for the full fat ‘Charlie and Ewan’ spec GS but rather the more road orientated RS variant. I must admit that my opinion first began to shift a couple of years ago when I rode a 2014 water cooled GS over some twisting and turning, bumpy rural A roads. I came away impressed. The motor was much gruntier than the air-cooled variants that I tried previously. Also, the computer-controlled suspension dealt with the demanding conditions with aplomb and I found myself hustling along at a decent lick on an unfamiliar bike. It left an impression…

Fast forward a couple of years and I am still using my Yamaha Thundercat 600 for touring work, but as my bones (and the rest of me!) age, I was finding increasingly uncomfortable on long runs. Things come to a head on a long run back to the midlands from Cornwall where for much of the journey I was in agony. Time for a relatively upright and comfortable bike: Oh God,  BMW GS beckons. Break out the ‘Long Way Round’ DVD…. I just could not bring myself to do it. I had to try some of the other options before I pulled the trigger. First up the Yamaha 900 GT Tracer…what a superb bike; fun to ride with an impressive engine and great value for money, but a tad too tall for me. Next up the Ducati 1200 Multistrada. This bike I loved whilst actually  onboard and riding it: Very quick and a bit of a hooligan on the quiet, but I found it hard to get on and off and it was a little unwieldy. The GS was looming, but then I remembered its close cousin…the R1200RS. All the attributes of the GS such as the impressive suspension system and flat twin 1200cc engine, but a more road orientated riding position and a neat half fairing. A quick web search turned an example at a local dealers, but that sold before I could get to it, So I wound up down in the massive dealership Cotswolds Motorrad staring at blue and white 2016 model. It was in great shape with only 7000 miles on the clock with a FSH and it backed by a two year Motorrad warranty. A quick test confirmed my positive memories of the powertrain and suspension, even if it does have conventional rather than Paralever suspension. A few negotiations saw a good deal on my trade in being agreed and suddenly I was a BMW owner. Oh God I am going to take some stick for this.

Cool Blue

The bike, quickly christened ‘Herman’ (as in ‘Herman the German’) boasted a few firsts for me…ABS, cruise control, heated grips, integrated colour-coded luggage, keyless start and even sat nav. Blimey I will be a while reading the manual! But being a typically pig-headed bloke, I hit the start button and headed off into the blue…

The RS is a brilliant all rounder…

The bike is quick, not bonkers quick, but has plenty of grunt to really get a serious should the mood take you. The power and torque are focussed in that real-world area of the mid-range. What this means on the road is the BMW has a natural pace and almost seems to whisk itself along, covering ground in a composed, measured way. The 125bhp flat twin has tuneful exhaust, but some might like to add a little more bark to its bite with an aftermarket exhaust. But if you know what you are doing it can keep up with the fly boys should the occasion arise. There is a selection of modes available, RAIN, ROAD and DYNAMIC. They subtly alter the throttle response as you might expect. RAIN softens the power delivery and is quite a pleasant for day to day use. ROAD is unobtrusive and natural, with clean instant response to throttle inputs. DYNAMIC sharpens responses and is a little less smooth, I have used it a couple times, but more out of curiosity if I am honest. I generally leave it in ROAD mode and suspect many others will too.

Braking performance is similarly measured and capable. Linked front and back, there is ABS and traction control to be called on should things start to get a little sticky. The biggest compliment I can give them is that in 2200 miles I have not really noticed them! They just sort of get on with it! I will be keeping an eye on things in the longer term as a GS owning friend of mine had a bad experience with his bike following a front brake pad change, where the braking feel went badly off and the lever travel increased and no amount of bleeding and head scratching by BMW technicians improved things. We shall see.

One of the things that led to this bike was the impressive suspension set up and while the RS has conventional telescopic forks it still can be punted through the twisty sections with surprising ease. In harmony with the engine and brakes the cornering and feel of the bike is very composed and calm. The ride is smooth, and the bike rarely gets out of shape. The front does feel a touch soft and remote when pushing hard, but generally the bike is very confidence inspiring. You can switch between modes easily too and select damping for 1 up and 2 up with or without luggage via a button. All very clever and the technology gets on with all the wizardry in the background. Impressive.

So, what is the comfort levels like? One of the key reasons I came to this bike was the comfort and it has not disappointed. Spacious, roomy riding position. Not bolt upright, just a slight forward crouch. Comfortable seat and the controls all fall naturally to hand and logical to use. Thank God BMW have dropped those infuriating indicator switches that they championed in isolation for many years. I have done a few long runs on the old crate and a long weekend touring the Yorkshire Dales and found the bike very comfortable for up 150 miles at a time, with little or no neck pain. The half fairing (with height adjustable screen) protects well and the big stick out pots protect your feet. Even in my somewhat ancient and rudimentary riding gear I was kept dry when riding in some hard driving rain. I really like the heated grips too!

With fellow members of the collective

So, it is all positive then…no, not quite. The clocks and dash in general are a bit of a mess. The large speedo is overly marked and graduated making it difficult to read. It would be so much better if this were a rev counter and more in keeping with the RS moniker. The rest of the dash is digital and tries to get too much information in too small a space no matter which of the three modes you select. Modern TFT set ups knock this display into a cocked hat – whatever that means!? I bought the BMW Sat Nav that goes with the bike and that is a great piece of kit that can be used to display few things such as speed and range which eases the problems considerably

The luggage system is very well made, easy to fit and remove and the carry handles are most welcome. However, they are not the most spacious, especially the top box. A couple going away for an extended break would need to plan what they took carefully. Keyless ignition is a bit of a gimmick and I had a bit of scare when the battery in the fob went dead while I was parked up in the middle of nowhere. It’s just not needed. The bike is also a chunky piece of kit, and while the weight seems to evaporate the second you get rolling it is hard to manoeuvre, but I am getting used to it over time. Final gripe is the complexity of the handlebar switch blocks, but with so many systems to monitor and manipulate a degree of complexity is inevitable I suppose

It’s hard to judge reliability on just 2,20o miles, but a certain little bug prevalent in 2020 (you may have read about it…) has restricted my usage somewhat. However I have noticed that the hydraulic clutch seems to need bleeding as prior to both my recent outings I have had to pump the lever to get  a decent bite point and feel. I will be taking this up with BMW (Update Feb 2021 – BMW resolved the issue under warranty without a quibble – slave cylinder replaced)

Overall, the RS is an excellent piece of kit and that does exactly what it says on the tin. Comfortable, quick and capable. Do I regret all the years of ‘Ditch-Pumps’ jibes aimed at my BMW riding friends? No not a bit of it! I do feel a little like I have sold out, but the bikes compelling mix of capability and a manageable seat height was too hard to resist. But I still cast a wistful glance at Multistrada owners and wish I was a tad taller!

Words and Pictures – Tony Donnelly

The other bikes in the frame:

BMW R1200GS – The one that impressed me:

BMW R1200GS (Water-cooled) – Was ist das Deutsche für Humble Pie?

Yamaha 900 GT Tracer – Really excellent machine

Yamaha 900 Tracer GT – Just really, really good

BMW R1200GS – Long brake lever travel

BMW R1200GS – Braking Bad

Ducati 1200 Multistrada DVT – The Hooligan’s choice

Ducati 1200 Multistrada DVT – The Power and the Comfort, Impressive Italian Tested

 

 

 

 


Royal Enfield Himalayan – Rugged, simple, affordable. What is not to like?

Another ‘Real Rider Review’. This time Freddie Sheddington, a very experienced long-time biker has treated himself to perhaps the Adventure bike we actually need as opposed the the one we actually are told we want…

It might have been September 2020 when I bought a Royal Enfield Himalayan but the story behind why really starts at its launch back in 2015. It was immediately apparent that it  represented the distilled essence of motorcycling for me: Simple, affordable and , capable….what’s not to love?  The concern for me was reliability, not a word often associated with Royal Enfield in the past. It’s   something they have worked hard to improve in recent years,  and they have even moved R&D to the UK in a purpose built state-of- the art facility.  Frame building legends, Harris Performance have also joined the RE family to help develop their bikes.  All this investment has paid off and certainly shows in the quality of their more recent bikes such as the extremely successful 650 Interceptor .

Bumpy start for the Himalayan

The Himalayan got off to a rocky start with reports of cracked headstocks on the early Indian bikes amongst other issues. A now infamous promotional video even showed a foot peg fall off.  By the time the Himalayan was launched in the UK/European market Royal Enfield had solved these and other issues. Reports since then on reliability have been mostly positive with the likes of Nathan Millward, Itchy Boots and others racking up some serious miles on their beloved Himalayans.

In 2019 I was planning a trip of a lifetime (UK to Singapore) and looking for a bike for such a trip. Contrary to popular belief the majority of overland travellers favour smaller capacity, lighter, and less technology laden alternatives. With 850 GS’s, KLR 650’s and CRF 250L’s being popular choices. It seems amongst this crowd the Himalayan had gained a following. It was one of two bikes at the top of my list due to its mechanical simplicity, off-road capability and an unintimidating seat height of 800mm. An important factor being only 5’6.

Snows no boundaries!

Keen to see if it was as good as owners claimed, I found myself on a wet autumnal morning gazing at the bike that I hoped would carry me to the other side of the world. A quick glance showed it had everything I would need. It had chunky tyres, reasonable ground clearance, the ability to fit luggage and a lack of technology that could go wrong.

So is it any good?

My first reaction when swinging a leg over was “I can flat foot this”, a joyous revelation for someone of my size. The 2-hour test ride flew past. Riding a mixture of twisty B roads, bumpy single lanes and some dual carriageway. Despite the pouring rain the Himalayan made me smile so much my face was hurting. Its 24.5bhp was enough on the majority of roads allowing me to keep up with traffic but it also made riding engaging changing gear frequently to keep it on the power. If you want a bike for motorway miles the Himalayan is not for you, it will do an indicated 80mph but is happier cruising at 65. Considering its power, the low-end torque is impressive, a real benefit to those wanting to take it off road. There are some small vibrations through the bars and pegs but not enough to cause any discomfort. They add the character, something which it has in abundance. The brakes are more than sufficient for the Himalayans size and pace but don’t expect Brembo performance. I also found out the ABS works well when having to do an emergency stop on a wet and greasy road. The suspension handled the lumps, bumps and potholes really well and it proved stable and nimble in the corners.

The ergonomics mean an upright riding position with legs just under 90 degrees perfect for serious stretches in the saddle.  The seat is very comfortable despite a slight tendency to slide you towards the tank. The screen did a decent job of keeping my head out of turbulent air whilst providing gentle airflow which would be most appreciated to keep cool in warmer climates.

Needless to say, I walked away from the test ride know this was the bike for me. It had far surpassed my expectations in every way. The downsides being the compass not working and the standard exhaust being virtually inaudible with ear plugs. I’m a petrol head, a little noise is always a good thing.

It even has a actual compass!

Unfortunately, due to the events in my life the Big Trip was no longer possible despite this I wanted a Himalayan more than ever. Fast forward to September 2020 and I found myself with a redundancy cheque in my hand, and a need to cheer myself up. Needless to say, I did what any responsible person would do, went straight to the dealership and bought a Himalayan.

The late 2020 models have shorter side stands, improved rear brakes (both common complaints of owners) as well as a blue backlit display. Whilst the Indian and American bikes also get switchable ABS, Royal Enfield have confirmed this will not come to the UK / European market.

Early Days but the signs are very positive 

The Himalayan has a pretty restrictive run-in period. I was advised to keep it below 3,000 rpm (40mph) until the first service (due at 300 miles) and 4,000 rpm (50mph) until it has reached 1,000 miles. After the first service it needs valves checking every 3,000 miles with oil and filter changes every 6,000. Due to its simplicity the normally costly valve checks with an Oil and Filter change than are less £200 from a dealer. I covered the initial service period in three weeks, the advised 40mph was in no way dull as I feared. You notice a lot more at a slower pace and tend to ride smaller roads you previously ignored.

The 700 miles I have covered so far have not been trouble free. The gauges mist up in cold weather and my bike kept stalling when starting with a cold engine. For some reason the idle was set lower than it should have been. Like every Himalayan it will probably transpire that the factory didn’t put enough grease on the headstock bearing.

Despite the issues I have loved my 700 miles of ownership it still makes me smile like a man possessed. Owners say it improves further as the engine loosens up around the 1,000-mile mark. It is a simple, fun, grin provoking motorcycle.

The Himalayan certainly isn’t perfect but the imperfections give it a certain character. It is often described as the Land Rover of the bike world. It is not the fastest nor the flashiest, but makes every ride feel like an adventure. What more could you possibly want?

Words and pictures: Freddie Sheddington

Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor review:

Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor – The Empire Fights Back! Review and Riding Impressions

A more mainstream alternative?

Yamaha T7 Tenere – The Bike of the Moment – Or is it?

 

 

Freddie is also a ‘Vlogger’

https://www.youtube.com/agardenshedvlogs


BMW S1000XR….Sensibly Stupid! Is it just too good?

Steve, who gave us such a superb insight into the work of ‘Bloodbikers’ has been pondering what he thinks of his own ride…a 2017 BMW S1000XR….seems it might actually be a bit too good. That light thudding noise you can hear is a BMW development engineer head butting a wall in Berlin (Not that one though…) 

The 2017 BMW S1000XR is quite simply everything you would ever want in a sit up and beg ballistic missile: Superbike quick, adventure bike all day comfort and it turns and handles like a sports bike…… but the more I own it, the more its beginning to make me feel a bit meh!

Snow…I see no snow…things got off to a chilly start…

I bought the bike in 2017 with a few miles on, I still remember doing the deal, paying the money and on collection day went to the dealers to see the bike sat at the front of the showroom with my name on. (BMW, it’s the little things) it was a cold, snow filled March morning and the sales guy was desperate for me to leave the bike there for fear of me crashing in the conditions but I assured him I’d ridden in worse. That ride was a non-event but the following almost 3 years since have been a bit different. The bike has all the toys, dynamic traction control, ABS, quickshifter with auto blipper, 4 riding modes from rain (which dials up the ABS, traction control & power) to dynamic pro (available via a separate chip that plugs in under the seat). This chip was given to me at the dealers and told to plug in at my own risk as it is the “all bets are off, you’re on you’re own” mode which turns all the rider aids off and gives a great over run burbling engine note.  Combine all this with electronic suspension, Race modes and it fair to say the bike has everything. The (claimed) 165bhp (the engine is a re-tuned S1000rr sports bike plant) is on tap and easily accessible, it is bullet quick off the mark and pulls like a train, it is a joy to ride, great and surprisingly manageable in the twisties, capable of easily keeping up with the litre sport super bike and probably quicker in the right hands.

Things did get a bit sunnier later thank goodness…

Another thing worth noting is a lot of owners complained of bad vibrations through the bars and footpegs. All manner of bar ends screens and other mods have had varying degrees of success in nulling them but I have honestly never suffered with them. It seems each bike and owner is different but my model was factory fitted with a thicker rubber gasket between the bars which seems to have eliminated it. That and I came from a 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i that was a bone shaker by comparison with the silken BMW.

In truth it is made for a taller rider than I(though there are 3 factory heights available) but I still find it all day touring comfortable. When need the Brembo front and rear brakes stop you on a sixpence too….. you seriously can’t ask for more from a motorbike….. or so I thought. I don’t know, I think its just become a bit vanilla. Yeah its a lovely looking, capable, do all motorbike. You know exactly where you stand with it, it starts 1st time, doesn’t skip a beat, is lightening quick, pulls through the rev range, sofa comfortable and with a few additions (screen, end can, different luggage as the BMW options for this model aren’t great) is a fantastic bike. I’ve been all over England, on bike rallies loaded up with tents and toured Scotland a couple of times and loved every minute of it. With the rider modes dialled down you can get the back end moving out of corners, during spirited gear changes the front will lift and you know that the bike is going to sort all this out……. and that’s the problem I think. The first time I accidentally (I know) power wheelied my old 954 Blade it scared the living sh*t out of me, but it lit a fire in me, made me think about what I was doing. The XR, as great as it is, just doesn’t quite frighten me in the same way. Not within my capabilities anyway.

I’m keeping the bike, just because its just such a great bike for every occasion. I wont get rid of it and I can probably say I’d have another in the future, I need that dependability, something to rely on. Call it steady organised efficient German fun if you will.

I am however looking for something else to keep it company , something different….watch this space

Words and Pictures: Steve Durden

 

Just for reference what I thought of a S1000XR when I tried one a few years back…

BMW S1000XR – Have Honda taken over?

 


Honda VFR800 – Cool, calm and collected

If you want a quick bike with a great racing heritage why not opt for the bike that just gets down to business of being quick and capable without the need to shout it from the roof tops….I give you the 2004 Honda VFR800.

If a V4 Honda was good enough for a certain member of the Dunlop family I suspect it will be good enough for you. Our resident bargain Honda fan, Paul France, discovered recently that a slice of the action is available for as little as £2500 these days. Read on to see how he got along with his example of perhaps the best all round mid-range bike of the last twenty years… has the spark faded since 2004 when his example first took to the tarmac?

Great looks, great exhaust

The VFR800 is a great looking bike, especially when finished in the Italian red with a matching pillion seat cowl and with a cool smoked black double bubble screen finishing it all off nicely. The combination lent it an aggressive sports bike look. My example hailed from from 2004, but even by today’s standards this bike looked modern. Personally I’m a big fan of under seat exhaust systems and I think the standard stainless end cans looked great, even if they were a bit quiet and lacking in character.

A characterful V4 but where’s the thrill?

Speaking of character, where this bike really had any was in Honda’s renowned VTEC V4 engine that nestled neatly in the beam frame. At 6800rpm you really notice it kick in (and I mean kick) giving a distinctive gurgle and sudden surge of energy. That is it though I’m afraid, and about as exciting as this bike got – at least for me anyway. If, like me, you’re used to riding 1 litre bikes and upwards where power is usually more than you’ll ever need anyway, you might find the VFR800 leaving you wanting a bit more.

Handling is not the strongest point

The handling on my VFR wasn’t particularly confidence inspiring, but doesn’t do too badly on most twisty roads, but I found when I wanted to push it harder it wasn’t giving me the feedback I was looking for, plus it didn’t take much before the pegs grounded out. I did put some Bridgestone BT023’s on which I swear by on all my sport touring bikes. I must say they did suit the bike well. Perhaps if I gave it more of a chance I could have gained more confidence on it, but I just didn’t connect with it in the way I have done with others.

Comfortable but ‘numb bum’ syndrome strikes

In terms of comfort, my bike was fitted with bar risers which gave a pretty decent riding position for long distances, my only complaint is the standard seat gave me a numb bum after 2 hours of A roads/motorways, which isn’t bad going, but I’d recommend upgrading if you can. If you’re a taller rider (I’m 6ft) the MRA touring screen is a must. I certainly noticed the difference when I replaced it with the sporty double bubble.

Other things to note, I wish the bike had a gear indicator, I found it hard to get to grips with what gear I was in at times. The throttle I found to be a bit ‘snatchy’ low down, so a remap of the fuel injection would have been on the list if I decided to keep the bike, which I’ve heard isn’t too expensive with a power commander add-on.

Conclusions

To finish off, I think the bike is perfect for mid-range touring/commuting but could be good for even longer distances with a more comfortable seat and of course luggage add-ons, otherwise it’s also relatively good for the more reserved Sunday scratcher. It could be better or more ‘hard-core’ if the suspension is upgraded perhaps?

But, of course, the best thing about this bike is that it really is a nice looking machine which definitely turns a few heads. It seems however that the racing heritage is well hidden…

 

Review and road test by Paul France for BikeMeet – all image and content rights reserved. If you’d like to publish a motorcycle or bike accessory review on here, get in touch via the contact page.

 

 


KTM 990 SM-T – Troubled Transition to the Temptress Twin…

Another review from my friend Paul Beasley; This time it’s his own KTM…a 990 SMT. He struggled to come to terms with his new machine at first after the thick end of two decades of  four cylinder smooth Yamaha Thundercat ownership….have a read and see how he come to grips with the Austrian temptress…

I have a complicated relationship with this bike, which started with lust and has developed through doubt, frustration and mistrust to satisfaction and the beginnings of some passion.

It started a long time ago – I was in a long-term relationship with my ex, a Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat.  I knew that bike inside out and enjoyed riding it but started getting itchy feet and a wandering eye.  I considered a few replacements – Aprilia Falco, Ducati ST2, Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer but these were all just window shopping, I always went back to the Thundercat which was as reliable as the sunrise and kept me satisfied.

During one of my weaker moments I found myself considering the KTM 990 SM-T.  I liked how it looked and the more I read about it the more it impressed me with its alleged mix of performance and practicality.  I started idly looking at what was available and how much for until one came up that captivated me.  A very low mileage example at a nearby KTM dealer; it wasn’t cheap but it was spotless.  Before I knew it I was at the dealer and doing a deal to PX my faithful companion for this temptress.

With the Temptress….

As I rode away from the dealer on my new bike I almost immediately experienced buyer’s regret.  I had ridden in on a smooth, carb-fed, inline-4 that I had been riding for 17 years and knew every detail of.  I knew how it responded to inputs, the brakes, the chassis, the engine – I knew which gear to be in and when and I knew it would get me wherever I was going – it always had.  Now I was on this snarling, shaking beast that was all wrong.  What gear should I be in?  Is the engine supposed to sound like that?  Why is it so narrow?  HOLY COW why is it so fast?  WHAT HAVE I DONE?!

The deed was done though, I’d made my bed and now I had to sleep in it – this was my new partner so I set about recalibrating myself to make this work.  Fast forward two years and I am sitting writing this having worked through some difficult times to reach a level of stability and contentment.

First of all – what difficult times?  Having previously owned a bike for 17 years that had only had one problem – a failed spark plug cap – in all that time the KTM has been somewhat less reliable.  First of all the front brakes were juddering – it turns out they are known for this and a quick inspection with a dial gauge confirmed both discs were warped.  I tried to straighten them and did OK with one side, but the other was too far gone so I splashed out on a pair of EBC discs and fitted them myself.  This was immediately better and made the ride far more pleasurable – problem solved.

Then the rear brake pedal went long requiring a master cylinder rebuild – I found the official Brembo kit and rebuilt it – problem solved.

Next, a warning light flashed on the dashboard – the FI light was blinking a code which turned out to be a MAP sensor failure on the rear cylinder.  Luckily it was the rear one because this was easy to get at and replace, which I did – problem solved.

Then it started bogging down and eventually stalling after around an hour’s riding.  I eventually traced this to a blocked fuel filter – replacing this requires the removal and refurbishment of the in-tank fuel pump, which I duly did – problem solved.

Motorcycle bits

More bits than I saw in 17 years with my Thundercat!

As I write this the bike is mostly in good form… mostly.  One of the digits on the LCD speedo flickers sometimes, another known issue with this instrument panel caused by plastic parts inside fretting and generating plastic dust, which gets into the push-fit connectors between the LCD panel and the circuit board – I haven’t yet had a chance to sort this out, but it’s yet another issue that makes me question the bike.  That said, it has always got me to my destination, even though it has sometimes stopped along the way.

OK, so if it’s so bad why do I still have it?  Because when it is working and I have dialled into it it is great fun.  The engine is grumbly and vibrates at low revs but it still pulls like a train and keeps on pulling.  It red lines at 9,500 rpm but you don’t really need all of it because the torque curve is so flat.  I know this because one thing I have had done is a remap at BSD Performance – experts in the LC8 engine – to smooth out the on-off throttle response and generally optimise the mapping.

It’s an evolution of the 990 Supermoto, something of a hooligan bike and the simple addition of a ‘T’ (for ‘touring’) hasn’t really hidden that.  It gains a bigger tank, ‘touring’ seat, pannier mounts and small fairing/screen but retains the 999cc V-twin – good for 116 bhp and 72 lb-ft – as well as multi-adjustable WP suspension, Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels at both ends.  Mine has had KTM heated grips and a KTM (Shad) topbox fitted and I have fitted KTM auxiliary LED lights.  It also came with an updated, later model seat with a more grippy surface and orange stitching.  Don’t even think about a KTM if you don’t like orange.

 

Words: Paul Beasley

Pictures: Paul Beasley and Tony Donnelly


Honda CBR review

Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird – Cheap thrills await you!

In a biking world where you can easily pay around £20K and beyond for a new sports tourer there is an easy way around it: Buy a used bike of course! Ok the world of TFT screens, multi mode traction control and engine mapping will be alien to you, but do you really need all that stuff? A friend of mine has just picked himself up a swift (175 mph…). well built (it’s a Honda) and iconic bike for the right side of 3K! Ladies and Gentleman I give you the 2005 Honda CBR1100 XX Superbird Blackbird…
To get straight to the point, this is a phenomenal machine with impressive handling and smooth power delivery. When you combine this with it’s typically noughties aerodynamic curves and angled front end, you just have to love it. OK the headlight makes it look a bit old hat, but overall with it’s long aggressive frame and lines I think it stands the test of time very well.

The engine is beautifully smooth and delivers endless amounts of power and torque from any rev range and in any gear, for any situation. That being said, it definitely prefers going fast!
The handling blew me away when I first got on it, it’s so confidence inspiring and just not what you expect from such a big bike which was designed some 24 years ago. High speed cornering is effortless and I find I could have always pushed harder, except perhaps on the tightest of bends. Being a big long bike, I find the slow tight corners can be a bit challenging, particularly if there’s debris on the road which seems to easily upset the balance – although that’s probably more my lack of experience with the bike, so a thoughtful approach to such corners is probably all that’s required.

My bike has a custom seat which not only provides very good comfort, but also a sportier look compared to the standard so I’d recommend an upgrade. I’ve done a 5 hour trip on the bike with only 2 stops, which only the last hour I found uncomfortable. I have bar risers fitted and even then it’s still a surprisingly sporty ride position compared with most sport tourers, so I’m not sure I’d fancy a big tour on it. The dash is pretty comprehensive but missing a gear indicator, although it’s so smooth and quite easy tell which gear you’re in. I’ve managed to squeeze in a tom tom sat nav, but it is tight even with a double bubble screen. The tank range is about 170 miles with a mixture of giving it some and fast cruising, not bad and around £24 to fill.

To conclude, I think this bike is just brilliant, provides big smiles every time I get on it. A great bit of kit for getting a kick out of, but also capable of the more serious day to day stuff. Lives up to it’s legendary status.

Words: Paul Towers-France
Pictures: Tony Donnelly