BMW F800GT: Compact but Capable Sports Tourer (2015)

A More Manageable Option?

Don’t get me wrong I think that my current bike, a 2016 BMW R1200RS S Sport (pause for breath….) is a fabulous bike to ride: Fast, very comfortable and secure when punted through a bend with a little enthusiasm. It’s a bike that exudes a certain confidence. The quiet man that doesn’t over react or shout latest. Rather it is cool, calm and capable. So what’s the problem with it? In a word, weight: Not so much when being ridden, but when you are the bike and trying move it about in the garage or parking up somewhere. It feels like a proper chunky old thing and I feel the need for something easier to move about on the horizon. Time to have a look at some my options when the time comes

An Ideal Opportunity

So when an old friend of mine popped in on his 2015 BMW F800GT I jumped at the chance. The GT boasts many of the attributes of my RS: Low seat height, comfort, no chain drive (belt in this instance), hard luggage and heated grips etc. The list goes on for sometime. However while the F800 is only 7kg lighter on paper it feels significantly more manageable in reality. As soon as I got on the GT I was comfortable. I felt at home quickly as all the controls fell naturally to hand. The seat on this particular bike has been sculpted out and is even lower than standard. Oddly I found it almost too low! This is a rare feeling for me!

The BMW F800GT. Understated, but not unattractive

The GT is propelled by a willing 90bhp parallel twin engine. It revs cleanly and with no obvious peaks or troughs in the delivery. I rode it on some country lanes that are local to where I live. Very soon I was covering the ground pleasingly briskly. The linear nature of the power delivery and quiet exhaust means that is perhaps a tad lacking in character. Also it did feel  lacking in the grunt department. The F800 suffers when compared to my 1200, having to be worked harder for a given level of performance than I have become accustomed to. But it was no hardship as I found the bike good fun to ride.

Other than some Buell’s & smaller Kawasaki bikes belt drive has not really been all that popular

Easy to Ride

The gear change is crisp and certainly better than the somewhat clunky affair on RS box. The brakes are well matched to the level of go on offer and I can’t say that I noticed them much, which is a compliment. Handling was assured too and the F800 could be jollied along at a decent lick with the minimum of fuss and great level of enjoyment.

My friend tells me this example is excellent on fuel , I have heard this from other F800 owners too. So when you consider that the bike is fitted with hard luggage and all the kit you truly need  it would make a logical, easier to handle replacement for my current ride when the time comes.

Neatly Finished, it’s one to consider

The BMW is well finished too and I have not heard as many horror stories about these as I have the R1200 range. In summary I came away impressed, but not blown away. It is a really capable bike and willing bike. There is nothing wrong with that and there isn’t much wrong with this excellent bike.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

Other Options I have considered:

Ducati 950S Supersport – Slick, Quick, Capable

My Current Ride:

BMW R1200RS – Better than the all conquering GS?

Another take on the F800:

BMW F800R. A Fun BMW! Brief Riding Impressions


Yamaha Niken: Wonderful or Wacky?

Our latest Real Rider Review covers a bike that I am really interested in: The Yamaha Niken. Typically Yamaha have gone a bit left field and been the first to apply the two front wheels concept to a ‘Super-bike’. Peter Wills is the lucky man who got to have a try of this fascinating machine:

Should Mr. Skywalker be Riding One?

The first time I saw one of these bikes in the flesh was at the NEC when they first came out (back in 2018).  With its futuristic looks, it was like something out of a science fiction film and I wanted one!

But I had my Rocket 3 and Tiger Sport and hadn’t had enough of either one at that time (there is a very limited space in my garage).  So I waited…….

Fast forward to two weeks ago when my wife and I were visiting friends in Bournemouth and I said “We just need to pop in to see Richard at Moor Valley Motorcycles.  I haven’t seen him for a couple of years”.  Walking into the bike shop, the first bike I saw on the right was a Niken!!  I was as excited as my wife is when she sees a Luis Vuitton handbag.  So after a brief chat with Richard I swung my leg over the beast.  Riding position was very relaxed and comfortable.  “Can I take it out?” I asked Richard.

Three wheels on my wagon! 

Last weekend I went back with my Tiger Sport and after the usual paperwork I got to take it out.  Riding out of the dealers and onto the road, I was very impressed by the normality of it.  It felt like a normal bike.  But it wasn’t until I got to the dual carriageway that I had a chance to give it the beans.

In the words of a certain J.Clarkson: More Power!!

I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised at the lack of oomph as it was a heavy bike (260Kg) and only an 850cc engine.  It could really do with an upgrade to maybe a 1200 in my opinion, but of course, that would make it even heavier.

It had rained last night, so there were a few wet patches around.  Coming to my first roundabout (which was dry) I entered the roundabout at normal speed and the bike felt very stable.  The next roundabout I pushed a little harder – no problem at all.  The third roundabout (yes, there are a lot of roundabouts on this road) was damp but the bike felt very stable again.  A little too much throttle on the exit saw the back start to lose a little adhesion, but it all felt very controllable.  Coming to a long straight, I opened it up and at 60mph the wind noise was significant.  At 70+ it was deafening (a big minus).  I was later informed by Richard that this “standard” model has the touring screen, whereas the GT (there’s a GT??) has a shorter screen, which should be better.

Filckable, but a tad heavy?

Off the dual carriageway and onto some twisties, the handling was very sweet.  I could flick the bike through the bends with ease.  The sun was finally out and I was able to push it harder and harder.  Had a lot of lean angle with nothing grinding (I believe it’s advertised as having 45° lean angle, which is more than most people will use).

Not our author, but it shows the bike being pushed hard. A guy at his work goes on regular track days and there was one of these there a few months ago. He said nobody could touch it in the corners.

I turned off a side road and got off the bike.  I wanted to see how easy it is to manhandle.  When I get home, I ride up to my garage then have to turn the bike 180° and back it in (all on a slight incline).  So I wanted to simulate this but turning the bike around.  As I suspected, it was heavy.  I’d already sold the Rocket a year ago as it was starting to get too heavy to push around (I’m 65).  Hmmm…….another negative.

Good, the Bad and The Ugly

So looking at the pros and cons, here are my conclusions (albeit after a short 45 minutes on the bike).


  • Futuristic looks
  • Very grippy front end
  • Very comfortable riding position
  • Cruise Control
  • Lots of lean angle


  • Significant wind noise
  • Heavy
  • Messy instrument panel (looks a little dated)
  • Underpowered

Got back to the dealers and decided it just wasn’t for me.  The weight and lack of power were the two big negatives for me.  Got on my trusty Triumph Tiger Sport to go home.  After the Niken, the Tiger Sport felt sooooo much more lively and fun.

Not sure what the future holds for the Niken, but it needs to go on a diet before I’d have one.

Words and pictures: Peter Wills

Interesting insight from someone who has also ridden this fascinating bike:

I have ridden quite a few Niken; Until April 2021 I worked at a Yamaha main dealer and even managed to get on the dealer launch! This took in the back roads all around Matlock, led by a  rider that runs focused event’s track days. We weren’t hanging around 🙂
I used to regularly take the demo up to the Norton bike night they used to have at Donington. The engineering is just clever geometry, nothing too technical, an extra hour labour at the 12k service for greasing the bearings is the only extra work involved.
Get on one . Anyone who says they are pointless or OK for disabled riders has obviously never ridden one , ignore potholes and odd gravel patches and just enjoy it .
Nigel Cartwright

Some other 3-wheeled options:

Piaggio MP3 500 HP – Tre sono meglio di due?

Yamaha Tricity – a trike, but not as we know it. Review and Pictures

Honda CBF500 (2006): You Know Where You are with a Honda

Time for another one of our popular Real Rider Reviews. This one recounts the tale of very hard working Honda. A bit of an unsung hero of the biking world. Take it away Dan White:

The Simple Things in Life

In mid-2018 I changed jobs and got back into riding again after a few years commuting via train.  I chopped my Tuono in for a BMW K1200R Sport.  As almost any BMW owners know they don’t exactly have a reputation for reliability nor paint finish (to be fair this was my first BMW).  After doing a few minor maintenance tasks and cosmetic upgrades I decided it was too complex a machine for me to “practice” my DIY skills on.

I decided to look around for a bit of a project bike.  I was happy doing oil/coolant changes and rebuilding brakes but anything more complex scared me.  I was pretty much set on a budget of £1,500,minimum 250cc and it must have ABS. This, as you can imagine, narrowed the market.  One that kept coming up that met the requirements was the CBF500.

I found both a CB500 and a (much higher mileage) CBF500 online.  I’d asked for opinions as to which was best on ‘Reddit’ of all places.  Low and behold someone commented that they had a CBF and wanted rid of it before the imminent ULEZ came in.  We decided to meet, and the deal was done there and then for £540. Bonus: The Honda even had a (VERY short) MOT!  It was a 2006 model, black, with 67,000 miles, and pretty much standard apart from some Renthal bars and a Black Widow Can.

It might not be glamorous, but it is CHEAP!

First job was to make sure it passed its next MOT (10 days later). This meant a rebuild of the rear brake caliper due to a corroded piston.  Luckily it passed, albeit with a stern warning about the exhaust noise.  It had been a good 4 or 5 years by that point since I’d ridden anything less than about 120hp so this was a real learning curve.  Considering I felt like I was going to die every time I hit a corner on the way to the MOT station, I knew I’d need to upgrade the suspension!  I’ll add here that I’m about 6ft and 18stone so even on brand new stock springs I’d be pushing it…..

Let the Project Begin

I duly brought a street upgrade kit from Hyperpro but then found out nobody would/could refurb the stock shock so only kept the new fork springs.  Then somehow I ended up getting a YSS Z series shock with a custom weighted spring (I didn’t realise Hagon did custom spring weight as standard and for less money) and an ABBA stand and took the forks and shock off.  Again, this was the first time I’d ever touched suspension – I’d never even thought of touching preload before. The stench from the fork oil was awful!  Without too much difficulty I got it all back together and went for a run.  The difference was startling, no longer did I fear imminent death at every corner!

Since then, I’ve changed the chain and sprockets, put on a Lextek exhaust with BSAU mark, rebuilt then replaced the carbs, hardwired a dash-cam, uprated headlight, auxiliary lights and socket, blacked out almost everything, Givvi rack, TRK Stainless front brake pistons, EBC disc, Titanium bleed and banjo bolts, new head bearings, Stebel Nuatilus airhorn and a new EBC clutch.  This may sound like a lot but it’s been my experiment as much as a project bike.

Tough Old Thing

The ONLY thing to have failed has been the radiator fan switch.  The clutch had some life left in it but the new one has smoothed things out. The carbs were just worn, and a second-hand set was cheaper (£35) than rebuilding them fully.  This has allowed me to tackle similar jobs on much more complicated bikes.

I mainly used it for very short journeys or urban commutes to work and back.  Also, considering its low cost and weight I’ve even ventured out in Icy conditions (commuting) which I’d never have considered on a bigger bike.  When my several BMWs turned into absolutely hatefully, unreliable pigs I just ended up taking the CBF more and more instead. I just knew that it wouldn’t let me down and would always give a good account of itself.  In fact, apart from when I tried to start it on a freezing December morning with the new E10 fuel it’s NEVER had an issue starting nor broken-down.  It’s been to many a bike night and day trip.  I took it on a 500-mile weekend camping trip to Wales and back – 250 miles on the Saturday alone.  It’s been on IAM ride outs, ordinary social rides and everyone has been shocked by not only how it kept up but by it ticking over 71,000 miles without issue.

It’s a Tourer too!

You do have to bear in mind that this is at heart a budget commuter/first big bike.  As such the front brake isn’t particularly
brilliant and you have to use quite a lot of back brake to help it slow down.  Whilst it HAD 56hp I’d wager it’s lost a few (most likely due to poorly synced carbs) however it’s far from struggling.  It will happily cruise and overtake at shall we say, “Motorway Speeds” and has no problem leaving cars for dead.  The only real issue on any sustained high-speed cruising is the total lack of wind protection resulting in rider fatigue.  It is BRILLIANT on smaller B roads and urban environments.  It turning circle is very small and aided with the big wide Renthals it makes shoulder checks and very fast filtering an absolute dream.

Remember it is a Budget Bike

Due to the relatively relaxed nature of the steering angle and simple damper rod forks the front suspension isn’t the best.  It has a tendency to crash over high-speed bumps but never to the extent it feels dangerous.  I’ve had trouble finding linear rate springs in the correct size as well.  I’m looking at getting either some YSS PD valves or possibly (if they fit) a second-hand set of forks from a CBF1000 due to their Cartridge design.  Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, and the majority of people would be absolutely fine with it as standard but I’m always after a new project.

Considering it’s apparently spent its life commuting year-round around London the cosmetic condition isn’t terrible.  I decided to black out the Engine as it required less work than repainting and keeping the silver/grey clean.  I’m going to get the swinging arm powder coated due to quite a few stone chips and maybe the triple clamps due to key scratches.

A Few ‘Rider Aids’:

I have auxiliary lights on the front mudguard, the hardwired dash-cam, USB charger socket and wiring for Gerbing heated gloves.  Not once can I remember needing to charge the battery nor does it give starting problems.

On the original carbs I was averaging around 32mpg.  From what investigating I could do it seemed either the diaphragm or elsewhere was worn.  My eBay special secondhand set worked wonders and it then returned around 65mpg ish – this has gone down to mid 50s since the Lextek has been fitted.  It used very little oil and certainly nothing to worry about.  As mentioned, the only other issue I had was around using E10 fuel.  It backfired terribly and wouldn’t idle with the choke off until I had ridden a few hundred yards.  A change back to E5 sorted this out although the E10 works fine in warmer weather.

You Know Where You are with a Honda

Overall, these are absolutely fantastic little bikes that will be more than enough for the majority of riders out there.  What you lose in the straights you can gain in the corners and the smaller roads.  You will have very little – if any – real reliability problems and insurance, running costs and maintenance will be minimal.  It’s impressed me SO much that I’m now a 100% Honda convert and have chopped my BMW in for a VRR1200F.

Words and Pictures: Dan White

Honda VFR1200F

HONDA VFR1200F (2010) – Sporting Tourer or Touring Sports Bike?


Small Ones are More Juicy – 250cc Selection

There is Something About a Quarter Litre Bike

I don’t quite know why but somehow over the course of the 40 years I have been riding bikes, I’ve somehow managed to own quite a few 250cc machines. They are just big enough to be a ‘proper’ bike and still small enough to be light, flickable and fun. Well some of them are…

So my 250cc odyssey started just after I passed my bike test in 1984: I couldn’t afford a big capacity bike, something like a GPz550, so I went for the quickest 250 then on the market: The Yamaha RD250LC. That was 36bhp of pure two-stroke fun. What a great bike it was. Fast; just over 100 mph could  be squeezed out of it when your mate with the slightly downhill private test track gave you free reign (ahem). The LC also handled and stopped well. Compared to the CB100N that I had been riding up to then it felt like a major upgrade.

Man I loved that LC

I kept the LC for about a year and enjoyed some brilliant adventures on it. Ride-outs to rallies with my bike club, a superb trip down to Cornwall with a mate on a GS250T Suzuki. On one memorable ride while on that trip I massively out-braked myself on a twisting downhill section. I wound up taking to a dusty escape road!  The LC bounced along it gradually loosing speed, while I was barely keeping the thing upright. We came to a halt right at the end , swathed in swirls of dust. I looked around and the eyes of my terrified passenger were wide open and staring. In addition his fingers had all but crushed my grab rail as he was gripping it so tightly – oops!  Many other blasts and just loads of general messing about followed.  The two-stroke buzz was such that I sold it to help pay for a RD350 YPVS, aka ‘The Power Valve’ , it’s bigger brother . Now that was a motorcycle, but those tales are for another day

A Bit More Sensible. Well Much More Sensible Actually

Back to the 250s and next up was perhaps the most divisive of the them all. The Honda CB250N Superdream. The poor old Superdream is to some degree looked down on by many to this day. Nowhere near as fast, or perhaps more crucially, as cool as a Yamaha RD or a Suzuki X7. The fact is the dowdy Honda sold in much bigger numbers than either of those bikes.

If you’re trying to look cool, don’t wear cheap trainers and an Arran jumper. Oh, and don’t sit on a Superdream! 

I came across my 1978 example in mid-1984 on sale for pennies. The thing was in good condition,  had a rack / top box and a truly awful handlebar fairing. I seem to remember paying £100 for it. That wasn’t a lot even back in 84! I immediately pressed into service as my commuter hack, whilst my 250LC was reserved for the fun weekend stuff.

The poor old Superdream was rather out-gunned by the LC that I had at the same time

The rear suspension was taken care of by a pair of the infamous FVQ spring/damper units. Everybody used to say that stood for Fade Very Quickly. True to form they had indeed faded very quickly and the bike pogoed through corners in a way that Zebedee would be proud of. I cured this by obtaining another bike, yet another Superdream. I was actually given this one! It had been in an accident and so long as I could collect quickly it was mine gratis.

My parents hallway is a thoroughfare!

The best memory I have of this unfortunate example was how I wheeled it through my parents house; a neat semi-detached house in a leafy Birmingham suburb. Let me tell you it is tricky to push a bike with bent forks through a narrow porch door, then a front door before tackling a long hallway, taking a sharp right into the lounge and then out through a pair of ‘French-Doors’ on to our yard! What made all this sweat and tears worthwhile was that this battered old thing had some shiny new Girling rear shocks! I quickly swapped these over to my other example and the handling issue was promptly sorted.

The crashed one. I can’t remember what I did with the front wheel. Note the missing shocks

Not too much later the two Superdreams were traded in as part of the same deal that saw the  RD350 YPVS come into my life. This meant I remained without a 250 for awhile. Then I crashed the YPVS into the side of a Bedford TK. I think it was the law if you had a YPVS to crash it in those days! That was if you hadn’t had it nicked by then. The 80’s was fun.  The upshot of all this was that I needed another bike in a bit of a hurry. So I bought a tidy looking Kawasaki KH250B5 to use while I attempted to piece the YPVS back together.

Classic? Are you kidding?

Now the KH is revered and viewed as a classic. However I hated my example. It wasn’t all that quick and I could never get the thing to run properly. The air-cooled 2 stroke had three sets of points if memory serves. Kawasaki themselves tacitly admitted it was fiddly to set up by including a neat rack under the seat for spare spark plugs!

If you look closely you can see my stricken YPVS lurking in the garage

The most notable event in the brief period that I owned this miserable device was having to ride in the coldest conditions I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. Temperatures in the winter of 85/86 plummeted and I had to head out over the seven miles to work as they hit as low as -15ºC! This was added to by several inches of snow. It was not fun battling through it on a temperamental spluttering 2 stroke triple. A few weeks later I was glad to see the back of the thing and got a bus pass. That’s how much I hated it. Classic? You have to kidding!

Taking a break for a while

So another period sans 250 followed as I had patched up the RD350 by now. I was a happy boy once more. Then one Friday evening the RD started to misfire and then barely run. Great, the CDI had gone west and I needed to be somewhere a long way away in short order the next day. Brilliant. I couldn’t wait for parts so went out and bought, you guessed it another 250. This time a Honda CB250RS-A, a plucky little single putting out 26bhp if I recall correctly.

This picture was taken after I sold the RS. My mate still has the bike

Well this turned out to be a bike that provided fun in a measure well beyond its meagre power output would lead you to believe possible. I used the RS intensively over the next 3-4 months and managed to rack up around 9000 miles on  this plucky little machine

The RS pounded between Birmingham and Norfolk every weekend as I had moved over to the East coast for work. I also took the Honda up to Northumberland. This was all taken in its stride and on one occasion I squeezed an indicated 90 mph out of it. I was been pushed on by one of those vast double-decker express coaches in the outside lane of the M6. I couldn’t get over due to the traffic. Thank God those things are governed these days.

Overall the CB250RS is a way better bike than its 250 Superdream stable-mate. However excellent the service it gave me I didn’t need it once I had a permanent base in Norfolk. So a mate bought it from me in early 1987. He still owns it to this day. That says a lot about how good they are.

A return to a 2-stroke

Next up on my quarter litre journey was another RD. But his time a ‘coffin-tank’ air-cooled model of 1980 vintage. It was about seven years old by the time I picked it up, but had only covered about 5k miles. I didn’t pay much for it, but despite it being great fun to ride I don’t have much use for it. So it led a quiet life really apart from one crazy blat to Dorset from Norfolk in company with a lad riding a FT500.

Looks so cool in those KR colours

I had to move it on after cracking a piston trying to keep up with a boy-racer driving a Ford Escort XR3i. I had him comfortably in hand on acceleration, but top end was a different story. The RD lost power and I eventually  tracked down the issue to a  cracked piston. So I sold it to a dealer by memory as the poor thing still idled perfectly. Naughty boy really

Back to plodding

Move on a couple of years and for reasons lost in the mists of time I bought another Superdream. This one the snazzy DX model. Reverse ‘com-star’ wheels, little spoiler on the tailpiece. Shame it was clapped out. I didn’t use it much and sold it at a bit of loss. About the only notable thing I did with this pile of poo was, appropriately enough, go and buy nappies for our then newly born daughter. She was going through them at a rate of knots at that point. Not the most glorious of memories, but there you go.

Not my actual bike, but it was just like this one. Note the ‘spoiler’ on the tail piece 

A bit of a Hiatus, then a fun single again

Well that put me off 250s for a good while and another 12 years passed before I made a comeback: Another CB250RS, but the posh deluxe model this time. Notable amongst the mostly cosmetic upgrades was an electric starter. Shame that it only worked occasionally! This one I enjoyed too and rode quite a lot over the next few years. The RS is a great bike. You really can have such a lot of fun on them on urban and country roads in particular.

Simple, fun

The RS was at its best on that kind of running along with commuting occasionally. Best memory was a proper silly dice riding it in company with a mate on a SRX400. They were well matched and you don’t have to have a huge bhp output to enjoy a bike to the full. However generally it just got on with things and being a good bike.

Like all my other 250’s with the exception of the LC it was my second bike and in three years I notched up a few thousand miles. I sold it when a FZ600 caught my eye on eBay.  Like my other RS it is still with the lad I flogged it to back in 2006. Another testament to how decent a bike they are.

So How do they all rate?

So that’s it, eight 250cc bikes over twenty-two years. So which was best?

  1. Yamaha RD250LC – My first big bike and a bonafide classic now
  2. Honda CB250RS – Fun and dependable
  3. Honda CB250RS-D – As number 2!
  4. Yamaha RD250E – Great bike, but it did blow up!
  5. Honda CB250N-A – Effective but dull
  6. Honda CB250N-DX – The one I owned was a bit of a shed
  7. Kawasaki KH250 – Sounded great, other than that it was dire
  8. Honda CB250N-A – This was the crashed one!

So no more 250’s have graced my garage since 2006 apart from a fun blast on Kawasaki KR1S last summer and couple outings on dirt bikes, I have not even ridden a 250 in recent years.

However I do keep an eye on the new 250cc bikes and a Lexmoto Vendetta does take my eye. If only the name didn’t remind me of a posh ice cream!

Anyway that concludes my tale, I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Words and pictures Tony Donnelly

More 250 based reading, just in case you are not completely bored yet:

Yamaha RD250E

Blasts From my Past – Yamaha RD250LC – Autumnal Adventures

Kawasaki KR1S – Way More Fun Than a DeLorean!

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



BMW R9T – Why Have Vanilla When You can Have a Strawberry Sorbet?

Next up in our series of  Read Riders Reviews is the BMW R9T. Steve has come to the world of flat twins from the towering competence of the XR1000. He has bought a slower, less well equipped machine with minimal tech. You know what? He absolutely loves it! Read on to find out more…

First Impressions Were Really Positive

I first rode a BMW R9T a couple of years ago. It was a bike I had always liked the look of. So when offered a demo ride while my XR1000 was in for a service I jumped at the chance.  What followed was probably the most enjoyable 50 miles riding I’d done in a long time: I just couldn’t get the smile off my face! In fact I didn’t want to go back, it ticked a lot of boxes for me. There and then I vowed that one day I’d have one in the future.

Two Years Later

Fast forward two years, we are just coming out of lockdown: I’ve just come back from “another” ride on the XR and just decided: I’m buying a 9T. Don’t get me wrong the XR was all the bike you could ever want; lightening quick, responsive, powerful, blah blah blah. Yeah, it was boring and the 9T had lit something inside me.
So the research started and I decided if I was getting one it had to be the real deal: All the toys, the right paint job, all the bells and whistles. I opted for the original the R9T 719 edition, a brand new 2021 model. Incidentally 719, for those not familiar with the history here, is the code for the custom arm of BMW in the 1950s, . There are cheaper Pure, Urban GS & Scrambler editions also available, but I wanted the full fat original.
719: The number of biking fun!

More than the sum of it’s parts

Now for a little history on the R9T: It’s a ‘parts-bin special’ born out of the necessity. About seven years ago, following the world conquering water-cooled GS selling faster than frothy lager at Oktoberfest, BMW found they had a load of air cooled boxer engines kicking about gathering dust. So a light bulb pinged above someone’s  head and they decided to pop all these old air-cooled lumps into to a heritage frame. Then they made it look all cool, retro and cafe racer inspired with no fairings. Add spoked wheels and basic tech, keeping frills and BS to a minimum. Then they sent their latest creation on its way. The public, bike builders and the cafe cool crew loved the inspired old school look of it. BMW had also made it possible to customise the bike almost infinitely. They offer a bolt on back end which means a catalogue of cool parts can be used instead giving each example a very individual look.
Now seven years later with several other models the R9T is now a firmly established mainstay of the Bavarian heritage range. The point is though as much as its beginnings scream afterthought, it really isn’t: The bike is original, real and everything that went into the build looks as though it was put there with a purpose in mind. Well thought out. The 719 isn’t trying to be something else, it isn’t a Triumph Bonneville nor a Ducati Scrambler. It has it’s own identity that others are now racing to copy. I think the 9T looks amazing and the attention to detail is plain to see if you look underneath the skin, the DNA is there to see.

Difficult first few months

Following a few teething problems,  stemming in the main of a completely incompetent sales assistant I picked it up one cold, wet Saturday morning. I was decked out in a full goretex textile suit ready for the conditions. The ride home wasn’t the romance I remembered from that spring day two years ago. I got home, put the thing away and sat considering if I’d made a mistake.

Then it happened, the following morning the sun was out. The day was cold but dry and I had arranged to meet some fellow members of the IAM. I set off and within a few miles the whole experience changed. The bike was back! It was magical, it was a comedian, it was fantastic.

In it’s natural habitat

Retro styled clocks with a hint of tech, simple easy to use switchgear, god awful looking mirrors (more later). Its an 1170cc air-cooled flat twin boxer shaft drive and here lies the first bit of quirkiness. On top of all that the exhaust note is amazing, not V-Twin deep grunt but it sings. When stationary if you blip the throttle, depending on where the pistons are in the stroke it pulls you one way or the other, it’s hilarious but in a bend it’ll do the same: Either pull you out or drag you in a bit more to the bend.

Such fun to ride

It is a real hoot to ride. But real genius is that you have have to work at it. You don’t point and squirt, it isn’t blessed with power to paper over the cracks in your riding. So you work the rev range and gearbox (which incidentally is as smooth as butter):  short-shift, jump on the revs, use the engine braking, get is singing. It is planted and sure footed but you have to make it be that, it is an all involving complete pleasure to ride, a scream. This is a brilliant piece of machinery.

Lose the Tech

Now like I said earlier, it isn’t blessed with tech, flashing lights, TFT screen, bells and whistles as it is a retro bike at heart. Don’t get me wrong there’s some rider aids: ABS, traction control, 3 rider modes and electric engine braking in sport mode for example. I thank the stars for the  heated grips too. Of course all this, and the paint job etc costs extra; it’s a BMW after all!

Since picking it up I’ve added some extras myself, sympathetic to the retro feel of the bike: Luggage, radiator guard, sat-nav. bar end mirrors and some fancy aluminium milled parts. I have also swapped out the tail tidy for something more discreet as the plastic original was reminiscent of a yawning donkey.

See what I mean about a yawning donkey!

But the bike at heart is the important thing and it is an absolute hoot to ride. Spirited, sometimes hard work, but my god you have fun. It is ultimately customisable so if I ever get sick of the look of the bike, I can make it look completely different. Not that I will because look at her: she’s stunningly beautiful.

Worse, but so much the better for it!

It gets a lot of attention when I’m out as it looks so different, the styling and paintwork is unique, I’ve not seen another like it. The attention to detail, the red frame, the build quality, everything is done right on this bike, built phenomenally well. The engineers in Germany did not miss a trick and built probably (personally speaking) the best bike I have ever ridden based on everything I have just said.

It’s horses for courses, the XR was the do everything bike, quick, comfortable, capable of eating motorway miles and getting down & dirty on the twisties.  However, and here’s my point, it did it all so well, it was soulless, boring, vanilla. The 9T gets me going, it excites me, I want to ride it. It’s not the fastest but you can ride it quick if you work at it, the riding position is comfortable.  I’m 6ft and probably make it look like a small bike but I can ride it all day without the usual back, shoulder, age related issues of other bikes. Definitely a serious consideration if you’re in the market for an uber cool retro looking bike to jump on and have some serious riding fun.

Words and Pictures: Steve Durden

His previous bike….

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

What he does on his days off…

Manchester Blood Bikes – A Few Days in the Saddle…

Kawasaki KR1S – Way More Fun Than a DeLorean!

Two Stroke Time Travel!

It’s amazing what a motorcycle can do: I don’t mean the way it performs, stops, corners or even how comfortable it is. No, the real magic is how it can make you feel: How it can melt away your troubles.  Genuinely I cannot think of another machine that can connect with you in such an emotive way

I encountered a perfect example of this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago: I was lucky enough to be trusted with a friends immaculate 1991 Kawasaki KR1S. This is an iconic 2-stroke sports bike was pretty much at the high-water mark of the 2-stroke motorcycle as sports bike. Alongside the likes of the RGV Suzuki, later TZRs and the RS Aprillia

The smile says it all!

Extinct breed now

Today the light weight, small capacity sports bike is an extinct breed, at least as a new bike. However right through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s this class was the natural home of the true hard-core nutcase. Those who just wanted to ride a bike to the max everywhere, ALL the time. The remnants of this breed now either confine themselves to track days or ride GSXRs these days

I was one of those nutters: I wore my badges of honour with pride. My riding gear consisted of jeans, trainers, paddock jacket and a cheap lid. We couldn’t all afford a Simpson you know!

But that was many moons ago. Times changes, things move on, and waistlines expand! Today I ride a very capable, but slightly sombre BMW R1200RS. So, would the diminutive Kawasaki seem like silly plaything?

Does it shatter my illusions?

Well, I am absolutely delighted to report that it absolutely is a silly plaything! Man, I only rode it for a few miles but right from the off I was transported back in time. The second the whiff of two stroke hit my nostrils I was 19 again! The bike was already warm so when I pulled out the car park it was down to business straight away. The revs climbed then suddenly the note hardened and the needle took off around the tachometer.

I furiously grabbed gear after gear as the speed climbed. The Kwak speared along the country lanes with the hedgerows turning to a blur and every dawdling car screamed past, left for dead to smell the whiff of 2 stroke oil hanging in the air! How can just 60bhp be this much fun?

So Much Fun!

I went through a series of sweeping bends and the KR just sliced through them seemingly by the power of thought alone! So light, so manageable. You just need to keep it on the pipe and then it rewards you in spades. We dived into an island, blipping down the gears like I was a racer competing in the NW200. The twin discs only have to deal with 130kg. I’ll ignore my contribution to our combined weight here! So right now all the modern fripperies like ABS just seem an irrelevance.

All you need in truth

The engine burbled as I leaned the bike right over and flick flacked side to side to come out the island, still on the lean and screaming up through the box. This is pure un-cut pleasure, straight to the essence of what a sports bike is about. Have we allowed ourselves to be consumed in bullshit in recent years? Lost the purity of bikes like the KR? Perhaps we have

Back Safe and Sound

I returned to the car park and the bikes nervous owner. I think my smile said it all. What a bike. I was an RD Yamaha man back in the day, but hey a two stroke is a two stroke! My friend has done a lovely job of restoring this 1991 example. Perfectly standard with less than 10,000 miles on the clock. You could be in a Kawasaki show room with Nirvana tracks booming from the workshop Ghetto Blaster.

The bike is a credit to its owner and I am so grateful to have been given such an opportunity to go back in time! I’ll say this: The KR1S is a more fun way to time ravel than a DeLorean!

A massive thank you goes out Shane Harding for trusting me with his pride and joy

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

My adventures on a RD250LC

Blasts From my Past – Yamaha RD250LC – Autumnal Adventures

For those who want to read about the nuts and bolts:

Mutt Mastiff 125 – The Return of the Prodigal Son

Another one of our Real Riders Review and this time it is the Mutt Mastiff 125 that is coming under the spotlight. The Mutt is the comeback bike for Bill Voyce, who is a like a prodigal son returning to biking after a break of many years. Quite a common thread in modern motorcycling.  He wanted to get back into things reasonably gently, but still have a stylish bike. His choice was the Mutt Mastiff 125. Let’s see how he has got on:

A childhood dream realised?

The Mutt Mastiff is the motorcycle I would have drawn on the inside cover of my school exercise books when I was sixteen.  To put that in to context, it would have been in 1980, whilst I was riding a 50cc Yamaha FS1E. Then I graduating to an air-cooled Yamaha RD200. These were days when you could still ride bikes up to 250cc on L plates.   When I look back I have to admire these two bikes, small but perfectly formed Japanese offerings: Both of them were totally reliable and fast for their size.  It was Gotterdammerung for the British motorcycle industry at that point in time. All the big names such BSA, Norton and Triumph were in trouble.

Time to go British before it was too late!

I desperately wanted a British bike before it was too late.  So I managed to get hold of a BSA Starfire, a 250cc single cylinder machine. To me it looked like the legendary Goldstar. Of course it didn’t really, but it was close enough. The Starfire allowed me experienced all the characteristics of a ‘real’ motorcycle.  Refusal to start, leaking oil, blown gaskets and a main beam that had all the power of a candle in a stiff breeze.  I was still on an L plate when I scraped together enough money to buy a Honda CB250N Superdream and reluctantly let go of the BSA.  Anonymous and sluggish the 250N was the bike that eased me out of two wheeled transport: I happily sold it to finance my first car without completing my full bike test.

Honda CB250N Superdream. So exciting he bought a car!

Forty Years Later

Fast forward to last year and my slightly late mid-life crisis. At 57 years old I decided to get back on the saddle. But first I had to get my licence, and that meant a 125.  My son suggested I look at Mutts and I was on their website for only a few minutes when the Mastiff caught my eye. The Mastiff was the machine my gaze kept returning to. I felt myself falling in love, and as I didn’t intend on keeping the learner bike for too long, I didn’t want to invest in a top spec’ Japanese motorcycle.  I wanted something earthier, a ride that felt more authentic, and looked British.  I didn’t for one-minute swallow the Black Country metal manifesto on the website, and I immediately spotted the bike had a licence- built Suzuki GN motor at its heart.  I suspect most of the ‘custom’ parts that form its clever styling, are probably squeezed out in some far eastern factory to, but it just looked the part.

Imposing, convincing looks

It’s an imposing bike, with its voluptuous 17 litre tank, topped with a Monza style cap and resplendent in its mat-black and silver livery.  It chugs along on wide black rims dressed in fat, knobbly tyres which are surprisingly good in all conditions.  Dotted about the conventional twin shock frame are nice brushed aluminium details, like its chunky sump guard and a brake cylinder housing.  I can’t find a bad weld on mine, and the finish on all the parts is excellent, with nice details on the engine covers, CNC bolt heads and fork yolks.  I particularly like the brown, diamond pattern seat (complete with a Mutt stamp) and its matching grips.  The chip basket headlamp grill and bullet indicators finish off the stripped-down sixties look.  It sounds the part too, the brushed stainless steel exhaust system being tuned to grumble just right

The Mastiff certainly looks the part

That slim seat is comfortable enough, but the stiff rear shocks and slightly soft front forks only provide enough comfort for an hour’s journey.  Any great distance will require several comfort breaks and one of the popular items on the forums is, ‘How do I change my shocks for ones that work?’.  It was clear to me from the outset, that it’s not a bike designed for touring.  The single cylinder power unit vibrates too much for that.

Urban cool 

Don’t get me wrong, that little engine is a marvel, and it does what’s asked of it.  At that size I can’t think of a better choice for a reasonably priced learner machine. However it’s really at home in an urban environment.  The Mutt is a street bike and it lives up to its brochure image: Here it’s blasting around the ring-road, or eating up the streets of town in fourth gear.  Put on your Bell classic, climb in to your lace-up boots and slip on your trucker jacket: This is your bike.  Your hipster pals will probably have Mongrels or Fat Sabbaths, but you are the sensible one that rides a Mastiff, king of the Mutts. Rev it hard, be gentle with the gears and off you go, beating most cars out of the lights. Even if they do soon catch up.

Squint a bit and it could be a BSA Starfire

Speed records are not under threat…

With only 12 hp, it’s not a fast machine, and the claimed top speed of 70 mph is terribly optimistic.  Down-hill, with a wind behind you, bent over the tank, you might reach 65. However most of the owners I’ve spoken to can never coax a Mastiff past 60 under normal conditions.  Its turning circle isn’t tight, though it corners well and you can lean in to bends with confidence. The Mastiff will respond happily to the subtle movements of your body to alter line.  Once you find the sweet spot on the throttle, the whole dynamic of the bike comes together: You can dream you’re on a bigger machine.  With a tank that size, and a fuel consumption averaging 70 mpg, I can cover over 300 miles between fill ups.

If only only Mutt had been BSA!

Even with an L plate, it attracts the attention of bikers on meatier machines, especially Triumph owners who will come over and give it an admiring glance and start a conversation.  I am very happy with it, and I prefer the sit-up riding position to the Z125 I used to complete my CBT.  I can’t help thinking if this had been the state of play with British machines in 1980, and this had been my Starfire, I would already have my full licence.  I might even still have that Starfire!

Words and Pictures: Bill Voyce

HONDA VFR1200F (2010) – Sporting Tourer or Touring Sports Bike?

Glynn Williams is a highly experienced biker and he gives us a great insight into the often misunderstood Honda VFR1200 with his Real Rider Review:

Vilified By the Press

Vilified by the press on its launch for being too sporty, lardy, thirsty, technically underwhelming, expensive, unsuitable for touring with no storage pockets, small panniers; the list went on….and on. Some of course was justified. The VFR is heavy in comparison to a sports bike. It is some 67kg heavier than a CBR1000RR for example. Yet compared with a BMW k1300s, a more  direct comparison, there is only 9kg in it: A couple of bags of sugar in the even smaller BMW panniers, or a more lardy pilot and all is equal. Compare it with a ZZR1400 and the Honda is supermodel slim at almost 50kg less. An extra bonus the VFR boasting 20 horses extra too. This is the problem with comparisons and expectations and of course the power. The mainstream bike press. They are notoriously fickle and it can prejudice you. The disparaging magazine articles eat away at your ability to make a decision on your own rationale, makes you doubt your own ability to know what it is you want from a bike.

So is it a touring bike?

Mine example is red that rich, cherry red that looks as good now as it probably did in the showroom back in 2010. The hint of metal flake making it shine on even the worst of British days. It’s fitted with Honda panniers and topbox (more of which later) and Honda heated grips, well one Honda one Oxford these days! The odometer shows 35k now and I have been responsible for 18k of those in my 2 years of ownership. Mostly commuting and ‘headspace’ rides in all weathers, although not intentionally. I hate riding on snow or in icy weather, but I’ve been caught a couple of times and the Honda was fine.

The Gates of Heaven…or Hell?

Most things in life are relative; if you like big comfy touring bikes and do the miles you’ll notice how well the VFR hides it’s weight. In fact it will probably feel like a sports bike to you. You probably won’t like the sporty riding position of the Honda though: The weight is on your wrists but this lessens as the speed increases and the smallish screen does a magical job manipulating physics so that the weight disappears. Don’t ask me how I don’t get it, especially as the sporty little fairing does such a great job of keeping you relatively dry. The rain does get through somewhere as I always end up with a wetter groin area than I expect! You will also hate, I mean hate beyond belief the lack of miles you can do before stopping to give tiny fuel tank a drink. Less 4 gallons…come on Honda! If you manage 160 miles you’re a better person than me. Honda quote 44mpg and I get around this figure. On a fun the range can be alarmingly less. In fact 120 miles and it is time to fill it up. That is pitiful for a touring bike but the VFR isn’t a touring bike is it?

Or is it a Sports Bike?

If it’s a sports bike you are comparing it with you may be even more disappointed, the weight will be apparent: The comparative slowness, almost reluctance to turn. The lack of gizmos to fiddle with. There is no electronic suspension gubbins, no anti wheelie, no launch control. There is little more than a decent suspension package and anti-lock brakes. You won’t miss out any power though. Whilst the paper figures may make 160bhp seem low it isn’t. Especially when combined with the massive 95ft lb of torque and a plenty good enough 165mph top end. In Germany only of course! The only bikes passing you on the road will be ones you are letting pass or the very occasional nut job that just has to pass what’s in front. This is a quick bike, far quicker than I expected only losing out on top end but be honest. How often do you do big numbers on the Queen’s highway? And that brings it back to apples being compared with pears: Both fruit but one is a different shape to the other, the VFR is a motorbike but a shape all of its own.

Ride one without any pre-conceptions and this bike makes so much sense. Well it does for me. I like a powerful bike. Big tick, I like a tractable bike. Another tick. Versatile, comfy, decent handling and great looking. Tick, tick, tick, tick and tick again.

Go into the VFR with an open mind

How would this bike fare without pre-conceptions and prejudices? Let’s imagine I’ve never ridden a motorcycle but I know how to though by some magical gene pool brilliance: So here I am standing in front of something without a single preconception or bias. It’s good looking this motorcycle, it appears quite small until you walk towards it and it somehow stands tall on its accessory list centre stand and winks at you as the Welsh sunshine glints off the thick luscious paint almost showing a cheeky side, the dart along the tank blending seamlessly with the sculptured fairing and the non-stock seat with the VFR monogram. Yes a most handsome machine. This example  has full luggage that I fiddle with. The panniers come off and go back on easily, no training required. Same with the top box. I notice it wiggles a bit and (due to my acquired motorcycle knowledge) reckon it is to do with the manner air passes over the bike and stability. Well that makes sense to me. So I lift it off the centre stand, well I do second time I didn’t expect it to be quite so heavy and lean it on the side stand and cock my leg over, turn the key and stab the button. Now I notice the aftermarket Akrapovic exhaust rumbling somewhat menacingly, promising more from this thing than I anticipated. There is nothing to learn before I go, indicators, horn and that’s about it, the dash is smart led, big central old fashioned rev counter, un-cluttered and modern so I stand it up, pop it in first and go.

Just hop on and go

A Sublime ride

The 1200 rides sublimely on these sultry curvy A roads. It feels quite long soaking up the bumps and yet it’s taught somehow. No wallowing, it doesn’t wriggle or buck it just stays on its line and moves on to the next bend. The VFR joining them together almost effortlessly. Like the Honda is reading my mind, without any hint of drama at speeds the police may find interesting. It just does flows. However the VFR is  not such a magic carpet on poor B roads: The front end feeling unconnected and the back end firm going on hard. I really want a little more damping as it all feels a bit frenetic and too ‘sporty’.

There is a reluctance to turn in that wasn’t there on the smoother roads, I’ve got to shake the bar to make it drop and lift my shoulder to drag it upright again- it still holds it line though, faultlessly. The seating position is a bit strange too on these sort of roads: My relaxed and spacious top end feeling vulnerable and at odds with the slightly cramped foot-knee-hip sporty position. However as I relax the right wrist and bring the speed down to legal it all makes perfect sense once more. Still fun and probably just as many miles covered in a similar time as when I was pushing the thing out of its comfort zone hauling on the brakes and giving the long travel throttle big twists. Nope, it’s not a sports bike.

Vibration evident

There is some vibration though; if you’re lucky enough to be on a stretch where you can maintain higher speeds  you will notice it. It’s not nasty, it’s just ‘their’ and it’s only a small band. Ride around the motorway limit or over 90 (where allowed) and it’s gone. It is for me a perfect gear change indicator though when you’re riding normally or pushing on a bit as it comes a touch higher up the rev band halfway to the 10k red at around 5k. Feel the buzz and change up, there really is no benefit in thrashing the thing, just keep moving and use the massive torque. Actually that’s not entirely true, the visceral experience as the exhaust note changes from ‘growl’ to ‘Banshee’ above 6500 is exquisite! Especially from the Akrapovic, the noise bouncing back at me from the mountains goading me; more, more, more. A very un-tourer like attitude for sure!

It even stops!

The brakes work fine they are linked and have anti-lock and are plenty sharp enough for panic stops when the inevitable driver pulls out into your path but they lack any finesse when being ‘sporty’. They are a little ‘all or nothing’ but ‘woolly’ too and just don’t do the sporty side of this bike justice. You’ll get used to them pretty quickly, well I did and they don’t compromise the bike or spoil the ride; they just don’t flatter it.

I’ve done 145 miles and the yellow fuel light is shouting it’s warning at me so I stop at the next highway robbery station and throw some fuel in. The light obviously comes on early as I only need 15litres so it’s done around 40mpg in old money. I get back on and toddle back on my merry way, road signs telling me Cardiff is only 50 miles away so I head on down and head for the bay. It’s a few miles on that I realise I’m still comfortable, my wrists that ached through town and the 30mph limits aren’t sore at all, neither is my back, neck or knees, I’m young again!

I go for a walk around Cardiff bay, have a coffee and a light lunch, hop back on and go for a wander. I find myself back at the same petrol station after subconsciously heading for home, this time I put 13 litres in for the 135 miles I’ve done at normal speeds this equates roughly as 48 to the gallon; not bad.

Keeping the fly boys honest

The weather is holding but I head for home via roads I know, I’m planning on trying to make 50mpg but after just a few miles the sporty side of this fully panniered and top boxed beauty is whispering in my ear. I play with two lads on the sportier Fireblade and I find that the VFR quite is capable of overtaking at almost any time in this 15 or so miles. But I don’t want to shame them as they bang up and down the gears; so I give up and let them go. They are getting more and more ropey, panic braking, ragged lines, accidents waiting to happen, I’m too old for this so I turn left and leave them to calm down.

I’m nearly home after around 9 hours in the saddle and reflect on the day, it’s been a good one. The red Honda has done everything I asked of it. If I did have nothing to compare the VFR to I would be swept away by its all-round brilliance. However I do have comparisons. It’s not as roomy as a specialist tourer: I’ve had the Mrs on the back, she’s not the most willing pillion but was happy enough, not as happy as she was on the BMW K1600 I used to run, but far happier than when she was perched on my Ducati.

The road beckons, the tank runs dry,,,

It doesn’t go far on a tank full of fuel which is a nuisance. The small tank is a pain in the normal day to day commute, I have to fill up 3 times a week as compared to once a week on the big Beemer. It’s more of a nuisance if you were touring as you don’t need to stop that early as this is a comfortable motorbike capable of a good 3, possibly 4 hours in the saddle. The cramped leg position and awkward weight forward on your wrists riding position is only really apparent after several slow miles of pot-hole Britain. You probably wouldn’t suffer the same on decent smooth roads so you would be far happier keeping going for more than a couple of hours.

Weight isn’t an issue

The weight everyone talks about really isn’t an issue or indeed relevant, I easily touch the floor at the lights, it’s reasonably easy to paddle around whilst on the bike, or if you move the bike around off it, there isn’t a problem either. The panniers are quite small but packing for a few nights away isn’t a problem and they don’t get in the way when filtering- which is a big plus, all the same I leave them off unless I know I need them. The lack of cubby holes is a niggle though as is the lack of charging for your phone or sat nav if you use them. The mirrors are brilliant, rock steady and out of the way of elbows so you always know what the scenery behind looks like.

Is it reliable?

So what has broken in my two years? Very little. One heated grip failed. I replaced this with an Oxford item as my local motorcycle workshop just happened to have a single grip lying around. He’d just done my tyre changes so there was a deal to be had.

As an aside I would say that if you are lucky enough to have a local workshop support it as best you can, don’t be a tight arse trying to save a tenner on a pair of tyres. Build a rapport, they may not be able to do every job you want on your bike, especially if it’s a modern beastie but they’ll save you a fortune on routine stuff. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.

My braking system went awry, binding and freeing up and binding again despite a meticulous strip and clean at home it just kept doing it. Intermittent faults are the worst. Eventually I gave up and passed it to A1 Motorcycles . A full brake overhaul, new seals and a couple of new discs and it’s been fine.

There is a rattle, shortly after starting. This alarmed me but apparently: ‘they all do it’ said the salesman. Anyhow I took it as I had little to lose as it had a 3 month warranty. If it broke it was going back. It’s never broken. It still does it though. Start it, 30secs later it starts to rattle 90seconds later it’s gone. Strange but true.

The battery gave up the ghost. Amazing isn’t it how these things never happen at home? I’d gone to work as normal, no lazy start or indication of a poor battery. Went to it at the end of the day and nothing. As dead as a dead thing. Got a jump start but as soon as I took the leads off it conked out again- flatter than a witches t*t!

Just routine maintenance

That’s it. Nothing else. It gets an extra oil and filter change but that is it. Washed once in a blue moon and polished less but when I do wash and polish it the results are remarkable. Hats off to Honda the paint and finishes are exemplary.

So there you have it the Honda VFR1200f. Neither a sports bike nor a touring bike. It’s a bike all of its own, sporty-ish and tourer-ish. If you don’t do an awful lot of either but do a lot of ‘in between’, with an occasional weekend away or hooligan thrash you should love this anomaly of a motorcycle, I know I do.

Words and Pictures: Glyn Williams

Another V4 Honda:

Honda VFR800 – Cool, calm and collected

Ducati Scrambler Classic – Pastiche or the Real Deal?

Well I don’t have a beard, sleeve tattoos, braces and an aged leather man bag. I don’t even put my hair in a bun or have a ‘piss-pot’ crash helmet with goggles. Apparently these are all prerequisites of Ducati Scrambler ownership, at least according to the stereotype or so I am told. However what I DO have is a really straight forward fun motorcycle.

Taking a break

I came into Scrambler ownership after trading in my 2008 Ducat S2R1000 Monster, itself a really fantastic bike.  My example is a Classic of 2015 vintage with a mere 3500 miles on the clock. It came festooned with a variety of tasty add-ons notably the pipe and the slightly lower seat. The contrast between the two bikes is quite marked despite sharing much DNA including the V twin, air-cooled engine. With the Scrambler Ducati were shooting at achieving a cool, retro vibe. I think that they have pulled it off. Not easy as it is a very fine line between getting it right and winding up with a clumsy pastiche. The finished article is a simple bike, one where you just want to grab your lid and leather, jump on and head off for a fun, local blat. For me the bike has a perky, naughty feel: The wide bars give you great control and 803cc V twin has plenty of instant grunt on tap. This ensures the Scrambler is huge amounts of fun to ride on a country lanes and minor single track A roads. Luckily I am surrounded by such roads and here the Duke is very much in its element. The S2R was altogether more serious and focused about the task in hand, but the Scrambler remains a hoot to ride. My example sports a high level Termigoni pipe which announces our progress with characterful bark.

Adding bark to the bite

Moving on to how the bike handles, it is easy to throw about, more so now as my confidence grows in the chunky ‘off-road’ tyres. I might still go for more street orientated rubber when the time comes to replace them. I very much doubt I will ever tackle anything more demanding than a gravel track or damp, grassy field on the Scrambler if I am honest . The bike may have a classic off road stance and even have such off road accoutrements as bash plates etc, but it is more about the look than actually doing the business off-road. I don’t have a problem with that and I think it looks great in the vibrant orange and silver colour combination of my 2015 example.

This brings me neatly to the suspension and brakes. The overall set up for me is very road orientated. The front forks are actually pretty firm; I was expecting a little more compliance in general. I’m not complaining as the bike can be push through tight and twisty roads with aplomb, even by someone as cack handed as me:  The Ducati is a smile maker par excellence!


Every bikers Nivarna…

The single front disc brake is ok, but I do find myself missing the bite given by the twin disc set up on my S2R. Also when the last few mph are shed or you slow gently the bike feels a little ‘pulsy’ almost like the disc has a slight high-spot or very slight distortion. I might have to take it up with the dealer I bought it from (Moto Italia). So far they have been great and I am really happy with how they have dealt with me.

Out with a fellow Italian

So what do I think of my first few hundred miles at the helm of my Scrambler? As I said earlier it is all about getting to the crux of biking. Getting your lid and leather on and just enjoying the ride without all the clutter we seem to want to saddle ourselves with these days. It is especially well suited to local rides of say 50-100 miles, when you just need a biking ‘fix’.  I am looking forward to the next couple of years very much….I will keep you posted as the miles build.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

My Ducati S2R that I traded in for the Scrambler:

Ducati S2R1000 2008 – 1st Impressions… and few updates along the way

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.

UPDATE 13/02/2022:

It seems that Craig is not the only owner who rates his Vandetta:

As my 2021 250cc Chinese Lexmoto is now 4 months old, it has now depreciated into Unloved and worthless territory (probably now worth under £2000) so I thought I would report on its performance thus far 🙂. I have covered over 2000 miles in that time and whilst I know that’s still very low mileage there have been no problems at all.

On the last check it was doing 95mpg, the lowest has been 88mpg, I have done several journeys of well over 100 miles, because it was inexpensive I use it in all weathers, covered in ACF50 and so far as I can see there is no corrosion at all but that will be confirmed when I give it its first clean in April 🙂. Apparently it tops out at about 80mph but I have never been over 70mph nor do I need to, I dont use it on motorways although you probably could. I will go as far as to say that thus far its probably the most useful and best value bike I have owned, its also lightweight at 151kg. I will shortly be getting another (more expensive) Chinese bike as this won me over, but that will be well out of Unloved and Worthless territory 🙂 PS the brakes (ABS) on this 250 are the best I have ever had 

Reproduced courtesy of Vaughanb Brean

(unloved and worthless motorcycle club on FB)

Redline Motorcycles – new and used bikes Bristol road, Birmingham

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