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!

Scrambler

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.

Redline Motorcycles – new and used bikes Bristol road, Birmingham

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

Lexmoto ZSA 125 – Initial impressions

 

 


Yamaha MT07 – What a fun little bike!

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

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

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

Ready for the off!

Power and lightness

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

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

 

Ride and comfort

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

 

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

 

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

Simple and flickable fun

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

A victim of brand snobbery?

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

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

 

Words and pictures: Tony Donnelly

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

 

The faired cousin…

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

Proud owner on day one…

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

Here’s hoping for more blue skies….

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

Words and pictures Michael Bell

Real Riders takes on some of the rivals…

KTM 790 Adventure – All you Actually Need?

Maybe something a bit more simple?

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

Recently updated but worth consideration?

Africa Twin CRF1000L test ride, March 2016

The Favourite….

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer  (2015)

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer – Review and Pictures


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

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

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

Bumpy start for the Himalayan

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

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

Snows no boundaries!

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

So is it any good?

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

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

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

It even has a actual compass!

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

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

Early Days but the signs are very positive 

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

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

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

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

Words and pictures: Freddie Sheddington

Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor review:

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

A more mainstream alternative?

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

 

 

Freddie is also a ‘Vlogger’

https://www.youtube.com/agardenshedvlogs


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.

 

 


Z900RS road test & review

Kawasaki Z900RS Café – Retro clothes, modern performance roadster

I’d been hankering after a retro-style bike for quite a few years. I’d read and heard positive views on the Z900RS, but the bike was never really on my radar. After a little research, I found that they produced the bike in the lime green Café version with the old school style headlight cowl.

There seemed to be an over-supply issue with the Café version and I found brand new bikes for sale at M&P Swansea for £8,000! That’s well down from the £10,299 retail price. The purchase was made and I began to experience life with the Café. It soon became obvious that this is one of those bikes that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Z900RS – Beautiful looks and sounds

The looks of the bike are stunning! It manages that rare combination of retro and contemporary styling perfectly. The silver-rimmed clocks, easy-to-read dials and tail section emulate the original Z1 design. The headlight cowl is also classic 70’s style and the exposed engine has faux air-cooled fins. With the lime green livery the bike really ‘pops’. I’ve lost count of the times that other bikers from Joe Public have approached me to ask about the bike and comment on its ‘wow’ factor. The standard exhaust also gives a purposeful auditory raspy note, something that is rare on modern bikes out of the factory. Kawasaki clearly gave serious thought to how the bike should look and sound.

 

z900rs-best-price-uk

 

Performance in the real world

Nevertheless, this bike has thoroughly modern performance with KTRAC traction control, a slipper clutch and ABS. The motor is fundamentally a Z900 948cc supernaked unit. It is re-tuned for less peak power but more low and mid-range torque The short wheel base, tubular chassis (again based on the Z900 SN) and the fully adjustable suspension gives the bike very sharp handling. Even with the mediocre OE GPR 300 Dunlops, this bike shines on the twisties. If your mate is on a sports bike, they may be in for a surprise when you ‘do’ them on a corner!

Make no mistake, this is a quick bike! The low and mid-range shove gives a superb spread of power when you need it most. Rapid progress and overtakes are a breeze; short shifting with little effort at 6 to 7k on the tacho. The bike also loves to rev! Full throttle and higher RPM give a searing top-end rush. Fortunately, the brakes match the performance, with plenty of power and good feel. The gearbox is smooth and slick.

A few issues

Of course any machine has the odd negative issue and thankfully these are few with this bike. A common complaint is the clocks getting moisture behind the lens. This occurred with my bike during the winter run-in period. It did dry out quickly when stored and it didn’t occur in the warmer summer months, so it’s something I’ll put up with. Another issue is a snatchy throttle and ‘fluffy’ fuelling due to Euro 5 emissions regs. I never found the throttle snatchy, although I did get the odd ‘fluff’ at low revs when pulling away in higher gears on a roll on from a closed throttle. Fortunately, there’s a cheap and easy fix to this in the form of a plug-in O2 sensor eliminator that pretty much solves the issue.

Pillion comfort

The Z900RS Café is just as happy with two-up, having a decent-sized pillion seat and a stunning OE chrome grab rail which enhances the retro-styling of the bike.
Of course I parted with my own cash for this bike and I’ve covered over 2000 miles to date. Notwithstanding this I’m being entirely objective when I say the Z900RS, either naked or Café versions really are excellent motorbikes.

 

z900rs-uk-review-performance

 

Cliché or not cliché?

The term ‘roadster’ can be a little bit of a cliché. All too often it’s style over substance and rideability… but this is certainly where the Z900RS shines! It delivers on every level – style and performance. That to me, is the definition of a modern roadster!

 

Review and road test by Geoff P. 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.

 


kawasaki zh2 supercharged road test review 2020

ZH2 Supernaked – This engine is bonkers!!

By pure chance, I’d managed to blag a ride on Kawasaki’s new ZH2 Supernaked at a recent Kawasaki demo day. The group ride was going smoothly through some tasty twisties of rural Worcestershire. The only slight fly in the ointment was that we were under strict instructions not to overtake anyone else. With a bike like the ZH2, this was a little frustrating…

Nevertheless, there had been a few opportunities to give the bike some beans as gaps opened up in traffic. The break came when I got separated at the junction of an A-road while the bikes in front got away.

Opening the throttle wide was to be rewarded with a tsunami of unrelenting power that had my adrenaline glands on overdrive and a grin that spilled out the side of my lid!

This was just the start of it. Going up the box at at higher revs using the excellent quick-shifter, I was on the crest of that power wave with the anti-wheelie working hard to keep the front down. It was still allowing the thrill of the front lifting as the power tried to batter the electronics into submission. The lack of fairing increased the raw and visceral sensation.

Supercharger madness

All too quickly, the madness was over as I caught up with the rest of the group and had to calm my jets. The brakes are excellent, as is the auto-blipper downshift at higher revs. It is lumpy lower down the rev range. Compared to the system on my 2018 BMW S1R it is not as smooth The ‘chirp’ of the supercharger when off the throttle is intoxicating, a sound I would never get bored of. Especially as you can do impressions to bemused friends when back at the pub…

kawasaki zh2 supercharged review road-test

The demo route was on roads I’ve ridden many times. Accordingly, I was able to test the handling. It was impressive, at 239kg wet weight the bike is not light; once on the move though this weight really does vanish. Cornering was precise & planted with quick turn-in due to the short wheelbase and fork rake angle. The Showa suspension worked well. My only issue was that the settings were very hard & the seat like a plank. I really felt this on the rural bumps. Of course it is fully adjustable & a good setup works wonders. Again however, it was inferior to my S1R semi active system. No doubt next year’s bike will come with the option of the same semi active unit as the H2SXSE+.

The instrumentation is comprehensive on the full colour TFT dash; with trinkets such as lean angle display as well as the more usual information.

Verdict

I really enjoyed riding this bike – it is a beast! Looks can be subjective, but I’m a fan of the Japanese ‘mangaesque’ style. If you’re in the market for a new supernaked, I would certainly recommend the ZH2.

Finally, thank you to Completely Motor Bikes of Worcester for organising & allowing me on the demo ride. Big thanks also to my friend Jamie Crawford who provided photos of his own ZH2 for this review.

 

Review and road test by Geoff P. 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.

 

 

 


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