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

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

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


KTM 790 Adventure – All you Actually Need?

Another ‘real-world’ review by an experienced biker, this time my old friend Paul is trying out the new KTM790 Adventure while his own 990 was in dock for a service

KTM 790 Adventure

I don’t often get the chance to ride different bikes – in fact I haven’t ridden that many in total – so when I was offered the option of a courtesy bike while my KTM 990 SM-T was being serviced I jumped at it.
Standing in the KTM dealer I was asked “are you just planning on riding it home?”. Given that this was the weekend and the weather report was for a mini-heatwave I responded “well, I was planning to spend some time enjoying it”. He thought about it for a moment and then offered “790 Adventure OK?”. “Sounds good”.

First impressions: it’s smaller than I was expecting with a notably lower seat height than mine. It carries a lot of weight – both literally and visually – low down at the front, with the fuel tank sitting in front of the rider’s feet on either side. I’m not a huge fan of KTM’s current design around the headlight but this one is no worse than inoffensive and the side profile is pleasing enough. Swinging a leg over it I find the seat is long and towards the rear, where I typically sit, pretty wide and flat. This makes reaching the ground a little less easy, even with the lower height.


Not the prettiest face, but distinctive

Turning the key lights up the dashboard – here things get much better. The bright TFT instrument panel is clear and easy to read with a range of useful and configurable information on it. The user interface is intuitive through the controls on the left bar and there’s plenty to play with including Bluetooth connection to phone, headset and satnav – sadly I don’t explore these options.


Bright TFT dash is visible in all conditions

Thumb the button and it starts immediately, settling into a pathetic whimper. It’s on the stock silencer of course, but then so is mine – this just sounds pitiful. I remind myself it’s a 799cc parallel-twin compared to my 999cc V-twin and it is muted with emissions controls.
The ride home from the dealer is around 11 miles of suburban and dual carriageway roads and… I’m disappointed. It claims 95 bhp and 65 lb-ft so ought to get going well, but it feels a bit slow and ponderous. No doubt the 21” front and 18” rear wheels rob it of the agility I am used to in favour of off-road performance. However the suspension is pretty firm at the rear, which is more road-biased. The brakes are good and include cornering ABS but take a handful at the front and the unadjustable fork dives deeply. My disenchantment with the bike is probably also due in part to the way it is physically set up – the front brake lever is way too high as is the gear lever, meaning the controls need a conscious and concerted effort to engage.
Once at home the tools come out. The gear lever is easily adjusted – loosen the two locknuts either end of the linkage, spin the linkage to raise or lower the lever, then tighten the nuts again. The brake lever is a bit more involved – two bolts loosen the clamp on the bar but the reservoir and cables foul the handguard, meaning this also has to be loosened and repositioned. Spending a bit of time up close and personal reveals a well-made and nicely finished machine. And now, having made it fit, I take it out for a proper session.

It’s mid-September and the Indian summer is in full swing. I plot a vague route in my head around the North Wessex Downs, using some of my favourite local roads in order to give it the best chance of redeeming itself. Over the next couple of hours that’s exactly what it does. It turns outI had been riding it wrong – where mine grunts out low-down torque this oneloves to rev, and this is where it comes alive. Above 6,000 rpm it picks up and goes, accompanied by a satisfying soundtrack. Rolling on at low revs generates some shuddering but it picks up cleanly enough. Tipping into corners needs a bit of effort but in the corner it is unshakeable. The suspension is still a bit of a compromise, with the front bobbing and diving and the firm rear occasionally kicking me out of the seat but for the most part it is planted and stable.
One thing this bike does very well is the gearbox. Now that the lever is an easy reach for my road boot it snicks up and down slickly. It also has a quickshifter – an optional extra I believe – which works very well and I want one. The gear position indicator is useful and I don’t realise how much I looked at it until I get back on my bike where it is missing.
Looking at it more practically it has a two-piece seat but there’s pretty much no space for storage (a toolkit is included). The pillion seat is decent and the grab handles large and solid. There is a small rack on the back which will no doubt accept something suitably boxy and aluminium. One big issue for me is the missing centre stand – not only does this make simple tasks like chain oiling and wheel removal easy – something you’d think an ‘adventure’ bike would need regularly – but it also means that the bike takes up a lot of space in my garage. It’s a wide bike anyway with the low down fuel tank and wide bars, but leaning on its sidestand it gets in the way more than it should.The dashboard was registering an impressive 65-ish mpg, which would deliver around 280 miles from the 20 litre tank – I can’t say I believe this as the last couple of bars on the fuel gauge disappeared alarmingly quickly. The screen sits in two positions – adjusted by removal and refitting – and both levels were bearable, if not especially quiet.

Summarising my weekend with the 790, I did enjoy it and the bike did everything I expected of it. I didn’t go any further offroad than a gravel car park so can’t comment on that side of its capability but as a road bike it makes a decent enough case for itself. Did I like it? Yes, I think I did. Would I have one? No, I don’t think I would but I can see why someone after a middleweight bike to cover distance, have a bit of fun, commute to work and tackle some light greenlaning would. One thing it did do though is put my bike into context; the ride home on my freshly-serviced SM-T was a joy and the 790 helped me recognise that.

Thanks to Paul Beasley for the words and images


Triumph 900 Street Twin – Cool bike for a chilled out ride

Sports bike fan Neil has recently had to have his Suzuki GSX-R serviced and was given the opportunity to ride the 900 Street while his Suzuki was under the knife….he came to the bike with a little prejudice against Triumph bikes, but came away with a new view point altogether…

I like to say it how it is, regardless of others opinions, facts are facts, I have never had a good word to say about Triumphs. This is probably due to friends of mine who love the old ones and keep telling me these new ones are nothing like the real ones they own. This along with the fact they are not my style of bike, so here goes:

I took my Suzuki GSXR1000 in for a service, MOT, new tyre and a couple of other jobs. The dealer gave me a choice of courtesy bike: A Suzuki SV650, a scooter, another bike I can’t even remember and this Triumph. I instantly said I will take the Triumph; let’s see how poor they really are. The example they let me loose with was a brand new bike with only 150 miles on the clock – the 900cc ‘Street Twin’. My first impression as I took off was bloody hell where to I put my feet!? I have been riding super bikes all my life! As I got underway, I thought hmmm quite punchy, takes off quite well. Sitting upright, my arse started to hurt before I got home, a trip of a whole 9 miles. Not good, but I quite enjoyed the ride.

Time for another try…

The next morning comes and decided to take it for a longer ride out: Tee shirt, no gloves just enjoying the weather (I know, I know…) One thing I did notice, a couple of other bikers thought they could pass me, I even had a Audi driver race me off the lights! These things never happen on my GSXR, and I didn’t let it happen on the Triumph! I got the impression others see me cruising in a Tee shirt on a sit up style bike, they can take advantage and blow me away.

Changed Opinion:

Never mind, doesn’t interest me to be honest. Anyway, I just want to say that I have changed my opinion, I actually like the bike, I will never say another bad word about Triumph; each to there own. It’s not my type of bike, but still a nice ride, I certainly enjoyed it, another ride awaits before picking up my own bike. Oh the only one downside I thought: My left leg gets cooked by the heat radiating from the engine! I kept leaning my knee out, as the heat was burning me. That said, it wouldn’t stop me buying one…

Neil

Originally posted in the ‘Over 50 UK, still on two wheels with engine and loving it’ FB group


Moto Guzzi V7 Special III – Cool Blue – Review and Pictures

The first thing that hit me when I walked up to the V7 wasn’t anything to do with how it might ride or perform…it was the looks. For me the  combination of teal blue and orange was absolutely gorgeous, oddly reminiscent of the late 1960’s Porsche LeMans race cars in Gulf colours. I know this is a bit shallow, but there you go and the look of the latest generation of retro bikes is key to their appeal. As the trend in biking seems to continue to swing from sports bikes and sports touring towards ‘adventure’, naked and retro bikes the little Guzzi V7 is ‘on-trend’ and has pretty much nailed the retro look. With a transverse V-twin motor and shaft drive transmission the bloodline back to the classic 70’s Moto Guzzi is direct and unbroken. This isn’t a ‘tribute’ band type of bike, a Counterfeit Stones to the Rolling Stones, no this is the real deal. But all the modern amenities are there too, fuel injected Euro 4 compliant engine, traction control., ABS. The Guzzi even has a simple trip computer!

42928679371_33e6428535_b.jpg

Get aboard and the upright position with just the slight lean forward gives you that classically sporting stance, but relaxed, un-flustered. Big tradition analogue dials for speed and revs are crisp and classically presented. Thumb the starter and the V7 comes to life with a little shiver to remind you that you are on a V twin. Less pronounced that the larger V9, but still evident and still welcome. Snick into 1st and it immediately becomes obvious this bike has  sweet drive train, certainly when compared to its bigger brother the V9 Bobber I also rode on the same day. The special is a ‘proper’ motor bike, everything has a solid feel and there is no plastic adornment on the bike. However, like the V9, it really needs some decent aftermarket pipes to release the V twin character the regulated pipes are busily strangling the bike in order to  meet noise regulations.

28059423567_3687525da3_b.jpg

42928680231_36dcf46976_b.jpg

Once on the road I really enjoyed myself. The 750 doesn’t produce much power…52bhp and 60Nm of torque, but it is enough whisk around the country lanes of Worcestershire at a decent lick. This is no sports bike, but it isn’t trying to be and really is fun to ride….the bakes and suspension cope well with the power and get into a grove and on a sunny day and on  classic English A and B roads this bike is a honey to ride. You don’t feel obligated to try too hard, just push on briskly and popping past any traffic that appears. If you want to a major adrenaline rush, buy a MV or a Ducati….this Italian is more about making swift understated progress and looking cool. A bike to ride nowhere in particular and not to a schedule, this is a good thing…a very good thing.

42928676941_41e8dd6efe_b.jpg

42928675811_ec368fcb99_b.jpg

To summarise the Guzzi is beautifully finished bike: delicious detailing abounds from the paintwork, through the badging the chrome etc. This is a bike I really enjoyed. On a sunny afternoon the V7 is the perfect companion….stick on leather jacket, some wrap around shades and an open face lid and just go out and enjoy the ride. Drink in your surroundings, stop for a coffee, take your time appreciate the niceties of life


Indian 1200 Scout ‘Bobber’ – Black is the new Black….Road test and Review

Fancy a ‘full-fat’ American V twin but without the bling and attendant BS to put you off? Well the resurgent Indian Motorcycles might have just the thing for you! It ticks all the important boxes…authentic USA heritage, big V twin motor, brooding good looks and above all…it’s just cool! The ‘Bobber ‘takes the stock 1200 Scout as a base and pares the concept back still farther. Black is very much the order of the day: Black paint, black engine, black exhausts, black wheels, black faced clocks..you get the vibe….

24332440578_92f8c83af5_z.jpg
Low, mean…ready for action

Appropriately as I set off the Worcestershire skies were as dark and brooding as my mount, I felt like a cast member in a 1950’s film, all very ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. To ride the Bobber is very like the Scout I tried a few months ago, but with just a little more ‘attitude’ for want of a better word. The small mods making a real difference to the stance and feel of the machine. Shorter rear shocks, dropped the back end a little. Dual purpose indicators/rear light clean up the back end significantly and the much better looking (than standard) Vance & Hines pipe meant the Bobber had a bark to go with its 1200cc bite.
The Indian handles the bumpy, twisting, leaf strewn A and B roads that surround Midwest Moto with aplomb. While you can’t chuck it about like a sports bike you CAN cover ground at decent lick with a little planning. I found it great fun to hustle along making good use of 4th. 5th and 6th gears in particular. The exhaust has  great barking rasp on change downs as you blip the throttle…big grins all round!

38128441306_fe74777910_z.jpg
The gates of heaven or hell?

26408060869_fe2df369ce_z.jpg
V&H pipe added a bark to match the looks

The V twin motor is a perfect match for the look and the performance is strong and very easy to access, using that slick 6 speed gearbox. The brakes cope easily too with whatever you and bike throw at them within reason. In summary what we have here is a pared back take on the American dream. For me the Bobber is the perfect foil for slightly softer Scout; everybody needs a tough, streetwise brother and the Bobber is very much that sort of bike!

38128432756_f854e35f59_z.jpg
Brothers-in-arms

Thanks to Mark of Midwest Moto for the opportunity to try and look cool, for at least an hour or two at any rate!

https://indianmidwestmoto.co.uk/