BMW R1200RS: So is it STILL better than a GS?

My RS has ticked past 13,000 miles in total. About 7000 of those miles have been in my hands. Time for an update

Getting Out and About – The Miles are Building

Despite the best efforts of a certain global pandemic and its aftermath I have managed to keep building the miles on my RS. I acquired the beast just after the C19 storm hit in 2020. As a result many trips I had originally planned were cancelled; Ireland, IoM, Scotland and Europe all fell by the wayside.

My RS at Melrose View in southern Scotland.

As the swirling mists of the pandemic have slowly cleared and restrictions lifted I have managed a few trips on the old crate. Wales, the Cotswolds, the South-West, Scotland, the IoM and the Peak District all receiving visits.

So have my favourable impressions of the how the bike rides continued as the mikes covered clicked past 13,000? 7,000 of these  have been in my ownership.  Fundamentally yes. However there are caveats and will come to those.

The Positives:

Let’s get the good bits done first! The RS remains surprisingly swift, assured and capable bike to tour on-board briskly. This is achieved in a good level of comfort too. The riding position whilst not bolt upright, is sufficient that pressure on the neck is much less than a full on sports bike. 200 miles + a day on my creaking 57 year old frame are easily achieved with minimal recourse to paracetmol!

Calf of Man on the Isle of Man. Classic TT/Manx GP 2022

I had to swap out the Michelin tyres before heading for Scotland. I went for Metzeler as replacements. This was on the very scientific basis they were the only ones I could get hold of in time for my impending four day trip to Braveheart Land.  The Michelins still had some life in them, but not enough for the 1000 miles in four days that were looming up.

The Metzelers seem fine to me: I am not a good enough rider to give a definitive judgement, but the bike was secure in bends and turned in crisply when asked. If push comes to shove I would say I prefer them to the Michelins. However I do think the bike rides with a tad more harshness over broken surfaces. Which is way too many of them if you ride in the UK! In the Peak District some of the surfaces are pretty shocking.

Entering Braveheart Land

I packed all my gear easily enough for the longer trips: My four day jaunt to Scotland, a week on the IoM for the Manx Classic TT and a two night trip down to the South west. However I still think the top box could be bigger.

The dash layout still irritates me, the speedo should be a rev-counter and the digital bit is too small and busy to read easily. I would be interested to try a 1250 with its flash colour TV for a dash!

The Downside:

So I have been some cracking places and the bike has ridden admirably. All positive then. Not quite. On getting back from a run into Wales I noted oil splattered all over the fork leg and front tyre. A fork seal had blown big time. I couldn’t safely ride the bike. So for the second time in my ownership the bike got dragged off to the BMW dealers in the back of a van.

After a bit of to and fro with the dealers it turned out the fork stanchion was marked and that had taken the seal out. They said it was impact damage and not covered by the warranty. I argued the finish should be able to withstand a bit of road debris. But no, apparently not. Several hundred pounds and a new fork leg later I got the bike back. I was not a happy bunny.

Next up was the 12,000 miles service and the new tyres I mentioned earlier. I had it done at the excellent and attentive BMW Cotswold. I could work from their comfortable customer waiting area whilst taking copious advantage of the free biscuits and tea. They are not really free as the bill for the service and tyres was not small. I could have got the tyres cheaper, but they had stock and it’s important to keep the service book stamped to maintain resale so they say. Still pretty salty to take in one hit though

Out with the Smoothrite:

One last gripe is the finish on the centre stand, which has gone a bit west. I had to rub it down and repaint with black Smoothrite in situ. It just gives the impression that eurocents have been pinched here and there in a way that might surprise the unwary

So overall the RS remains a really superb bike to ride, but seems a little prone to quality niggles. I still love it and look forward to more adventures to come.

So I will sign off for now and update you all again in a few months’ time

The initial review:

BMW R1200RS – Better than the all conquering GS?

Some of the Outings:

I’m a West Country Boy – Simple Times are Sometimes the Best

The Wonder of Worcestershire 2022: Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot! Thundercat Forum Ride-out

Four Seasons in One Day: Bikers Cafe Run – 02042022




KTM 890 Adventure: Aint No Love in the Heart of the City

Subject of the latest Real Rider Review is the KTM 890 Adventure. Stuart Holliday was let loose for a brief blat while 1290was being tinkered with. OK, so he didn’t do any actual adventuring, but it’s an interesting insight nonetheless

Take Your Opportunities: 

ok, before I start the bike review, I need to set the scene and start with a confession: I went to the dealers to get the brakes done on the 1290. I know, I know; I should have done them myself but I’ve got history with brakes and seeing as the bike is my daily transport I thought I was justified.

However, this did give me an opportunity for a test ride on something that I’d been looking forward to for a long time: The KTM890 Adventure. A couple of years ago when I was looking for a replacement for my GS, I was working with a lad whose mate had been working on the launch of the 790 Adventure. He’d been raving about them constantly. So a seed had been planted and this bike had something to live up to. Also, I’d ridden the 790 Duke and that was an absolute riot to ride. So off to the centre of sunny Birmingham I went;

A Quick Blast

The plan was hand over the 1290 for the pads to be done, quick squizz around the ring road and then out along the A45 dual track. Finally then back through the lanes until I hit the urban area and back to the dealers to collect a bike that actually had some friction material on the pads.

So initial impressions were that it looked great: The pre-requisite substantial slab of orange, the insect eye headlamp and all the other usual KTM adventure styling cues. So it’s off to a good start.

Looks good

KTM had fitted their obligatory marble seat

Hopping on reveals it is lower than my 1290. However it had the standard KTM rock hard seat, but a nice clear LCD screen and some nice switch gear. A quick stab of the start button and the parallel twin bursts into life with a very restrained engine note. I was off across the car park and straight into the Friday rush hour traffic of central Birmingham.

No sweat though, the bike is small and skinny (in comparison to the 1290) with plenty of pep, so I cut thru the traffic no problem. Until I hit some road works !! Now usually this wouldn’t be an issue, a bit of judicious filtering and you’re through and on your way. This time they had narrowed the lanes so there was no room. The road works came hard up against the line of cones (so no cheeky rat-runs) which left the only option queue with the car drivers !

Pass the Hemorrhoid cream

At least the nice telly will keep your mind off it

Thankfully the clutch was light but the bike was definitely struggling in the heat as the rad’ fan was blowing hard: Directly onto my shin !! 20mins to do 2 miles. This  definitely ate into the test ride time sadly.

Escape at last

Finally, I escaped the traffic and gave it some beans off the roundabout. The 890 certainly goes around urban corners ok but it felt a bit lacking as I short shifted through the gearbox. Ok, next set of lights and I thought maybe I needed to use some more throttle (its only a “little twin”) and hold the lower gears. Let’s try again. No, still lacking. Ok, in fairness I have an absolute torque monster in the 1290, but even in comparison to the 790 Duke it just felt a bit flat!

More fun on the Twisties?

Well, that was at mile 4, so the next thing was to see if it would shine in the twisties as time was getting on now. Well, it was ok;  not managing to spit me off, so good news all round. However it didn’t “sing” along the back lanes either. I stopped for a couple of obligatory photo’s and then back to the dealership.


In summary, it was all a bit “meh”…as massive anti-climax. It was fine, but the engine was un-inspirational, the handling unexceptional although the ergonomics and LCD were fine. I can see why KTM dropped the 1050 (too much like the 1290) and the 890 is direct competitor to the 700 Tenere, but it wasn’t floating my boat, The fact is it reminded me too much of the ER-5 I did my DAS on a decade ago. Not good

Home sweet home

I was very happy to be back on the 1290, it takes a try on something else to make you realise how epic a bike it is (wasted on me, but still epic), looks like its going to be a keeper for a little while longer.

Words and Pictures; Stuart Holliday

He enjoyed this one much more:

KTM 790 – Brief Encounters can be the most fun! Riding Impressions and Road Test

A more positive take on the earlier 790

KTM 790 Adventure – All you Actually Need?

BMW R1250GS 719 So are They Actually Any Good?

One of regular contributors was thrown the keys to a R1250GS whilst his F900XR was being serviced. This what he thought of the big, all conquering BMW:

R1250 GS: As good as the hype?

I’m not one for hype.  In fact I tend to avoid anything that gets hyped up just to be contrary.  Sometimes this means I miss out on genuinely good things; the film Avatar for example. I really liked that when I finally watched it.  Same goes for the Harry Potter movies: I stubbornly avoided these for years.  So what will I make of the most hyped bike of the last 20 years, the BMW R1250 GS?

One in, one out

It starts with my bike needing a service. I booked it in at Bahnstormer BMW, where I bought it, which is an hour or so from home.  When I made the booking they reckoned it would be 2-3 hours in the workshop. That’s too long to hang around the dealer (although they do have a nice cafe) so I enquired about a courtesy bike.  They said they could let me have something for a few hours and so the path to the big Bimmer was set, although I didn’t know it at the time.

I took the day off work and decided to make an outing of it.  The dealer is just along the road from Loomie’s Moto Cafe, and since my bike was booked in for early afternoon I decided to have lunch there before dropping the bike off.  It turned out to be breakfast really, but who’s clock-watching?

You just can’t beat a light salad…

Suitably refreshed I pushed on to the dealer and dropped the bike off.  When I enquired about the loan bike they said “we only have a 1250 GS left, is that OK?”.  “Fine by me” says I, so outside we went for me to pick it up.

The R1250GS 719.

Luckily the GS uses the same BMW Navigator mount that my bike uses so I swapped the unit from mine to the GS and set a destination.  I had done some research and wanted somewhere to head, so I picked Portchester Castle, near Gosport, for no other reason than it was near the sea and had a car park.

The amazing shrinking motorcycle

Getting on the GS I was a bit surprised; it kind of shrinks around you because it doesn’t feel as big from the saddle as it looks from the ground.  The side stand is quite a way forward though and as I went to kick it back I caught the gear lever and knocked it into gear. Luckily I didn’t drop it as it lurched forwards and stalled!  With that mishap out of the way I got going with no further issues and started to analyse this legendary vehicle.

At this point I have to say I have read many reviews and articles about the GS, where it always comes out on top, where it is universally praised and owners are evangelical about them.  I had some high expectations of this thing: I had never ridden a flat twin before, nor a bike with a longitudinally-mounted engine, nor one with Telelever front suspension. All of these things come up as being part of the success and character of the Bavarian Motorcycle Wonder.

They still remind me of Sir Patrick Moore

Pert back end

It even has a Telly!

First impressions? A bit non-plussed if I’m honest.  Sure, it was a nice bike and went well enough but after all the talk of torque and acceleration unbecoming of something so big, it never really blew my socks off.  It pulled well in every gear but then my bike does that, as did the ones before it.  The ‘blingy’ TFT dashboard was very similar to mine, so that wasn’t a big wow either.  One thing it did do well was comfort – the saddle was not too hard and the screen and fairing kept a lot of the wind off – however I found the saddle a bit long, meaning I had to sit quite a way back before I could nestle my bum against the raised pillion seat, which is my preferred stance.  Having done this, the bars were a bit of a reach – not too far but more than I was used to.

Get the mode right

Once I had acclimatised to the cockpit I found it to be perfectly pleasant, easy to ride, surprisingly agile and generally a nice place to spend the afternoon.  I did find the suspension a bit soft in ‘Road’ mode, causing it to pitch to and fro on throttle changes and gear shifts – switching the ESA to ‘Dynamic’ mode made it much more to my liking.  I liked the little pops and burps from the exhaust on the overrun, although there were also some noticeable vibrations from the engine.

Time for an ice-cream

I made it to Portchester in good time where I carried out the photography – warm work that required an ice cream to cool down.

Towering Bike and a tower!

All together now: ‘Just one Cornetto’

Once the money shot was in the can I set the Navigator to take me back to the dealer by the winding route and departed.  It definitely chose some roads I would otherwise never have found, a great mix of B and uncategorised roads, sometimes going down to single lanes with a heavy gravel centreline.  This was probably a good way to really test out the abilities of the big bumblebee – I never actually went off-road but it did get a bit loose underneath me a few times and was confidence-inspiring when it did.  I also did some riding stood up on the pegs, to help see over hedges and around corners and it really suited this stance well.

Final Impressions

As I neared the dealer I replaced the fuel I had used and headed back.  As I did so I mulled over the time we’d been together and found myself wondering if I had missed something.  I enjoyed the afternoon on it and I can see why people like them – I would certainly find it good for doing big distances, but I never really got a “WOW!” from it.  Perhaps I was expecting too much, perhaps I had been spoiled by my own bike, perhaps an afternoon is not long enough to make a judgement or perhaps I’m just not a GS person.  I was once told by a GS owner that if I took his for a ride I would go out and buy one.  Well, I rode one and didn’t buy one.  In fact, getting back on my freshly-service F900XR for the ride home, I was even more impressed with it.  It suddenly felt a lot smaller but also a lot more lively, more agile, almost as fast and – crucially – more my cup of tea.

It doesn’t mean it has 719cc 

PS – if you’re wondering what “Option 719” means, so was I.  Here’s what it is.

Words and Pictures: Paul Beasley

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

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

BMW R1200RS – Better than the all conquering GS?

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 it 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 didn’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 on 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.

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!

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: I Didn’t Need it, but I Loved it All the Same!

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