Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX Review – Top Gun Tourer?

When its time to decide to purchase a new Motorcycle there is so much choice these days, you only have to rock up at biker café, a bike night or an event like  the TT and there will be hundreds of bikes and not one of them will be the same. So why did I opt for the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 SX ?

Why the Ninja Got the Nod

A few reasons, the brand name and reputation, I’ve owned two Kawasaki’s before and  loved them both. Then there is the aesthetic: A bike has got to look right obviously.  Also I was looking for a faired bike after many years of riding naked bikes. Finally a key factor for me was being able to put my feet on the deck!

My initial thoughts was to go for a Yamaha Tracer 9000 GT but when I called into Fowlers in Bristol one Sunday morning I was only just able to touch the floor on tiptoes and just didn’t feel safe. I wasn’t too impressed with the split two piece TFT screen either.

Tip Toes

I had also considered the new Triumph Tiger 900, However I had the same issue with the seat height.  As a result the Adventure Tourer option didn’t seem to be right for me, so my thoughts turned to Sports Tourers.

So in November 21 I made the fatal mistake of dropping into Completely Motorcycles Worcester “just to have a look”!  The Ninja 1000SX caught my eye and I could touch the floor flat footed too: Result!  So the following Saturday I booked a test ride and on damp cold November morning took a ride out to Bromyard on the A44 and back and just loved it.

Good Deal, left me with no option!

The next thing I know, after being given a very generous trade in offer on my FZ8 (only £2500 less than I paid for it 8 years previously!), and somehow managing to convince the Finance Director (AKA the Mrs!) that it was good idea, I’d put a deposit down on this black and White 2022 Performance Tourer edition.  2 weeks later it’s delivered to my house at no extra cost just in time for Christmas!

The Clever Stuff

So a bit of the technical stuff,  the Ninja 1000 SX Performance Tourer is 1043 cc 140 bhp16valve in line four, with more power and grunt than you will ever need on normal road riding.  It pulls from 30mph in 6th gear if required but use the gear box and it really shows its capabilities.  You’re doing license loosing speeds very effortlessly and its sewing machine smooth.

It came fitted with a Carbon Fibre Akrapovic end can as part of the Performance Tourer option.  It’s more pleasing to the eye than the OE Standard “rocket launcher” and gives it a deeper tone but it’s not loud courtesy of the catalytic converter. The baffles can be removed. However it means drilling a 12mm hole in the Carbon Fibre tailpipe and according to Face book group comments it doesn’t make much difference to the noise levels. Understandably then I haven’t bothered.

Generously appointed

Other options that come as standard on this version are the Kawasaki OE heated grips, crash bungs, the tinted tourer screen, rear seat cowl and colour coded hard Panniers.  It has a very intuitive TFT screen (a bit more about that later) Kawasaki’s Traction control system with 4 settings, Rain, Road, Sport and rider specific. Rounding off a very comprehensive list are a quick shifter that handles both up and down changes, and finally cruise control.

Nice telly

The OE heated grips look the part and are easy to operate but I would describe them as barely adequate. They don’t get hot, even on the hottest setting, just about take the chill off at best.

The tourer screen is slightly bigger than the standard one, which you get in the box if you ever want to re fit it. It’s also is slightly smoked and is adjustable through four heights via simple push button.  I have experimented with each setting and whilst you can tell the difference it’s minimal: I tend to leave it on the 2nd or 3rd settings. These seem to suit my 5ft10 frame and does a good job of taking the wind and rain off your chest.

The seat cowl replaces the standard rear seat, (again this also comes in the box) and looks the part. It’s very simple to remove and swap with the pillion seat.

Luggage Too!

The colour coded panniers are excellent, they look the part and locate and lock onto the rear Grab rail.  Slot in and slide forward and lock in place with the ignition key, the opposite to remove.  The LH one was a bit stiff and tricky at first but that’s eased off with use.  They unlock and open like a book and come with a pair of very natty inner bags that have a carry handle that are perfect for small clothes and perfect if you have an overnight at a B&B, no need to remove the panniers which are big enough to fit a full face helmet.

Doing what it is best at

The Telly is Good

The TFT screen is easy to read and has two basic themes.  Both options have a black background with white lettering or light background with black writing.  It’s fairly easy to navigate the various screens. All the usual information is there: Time, fuel consumption, range, etc.

It has Bluetooth connection to your phone but doesn’t have the SAT Nav capability like the New Suzuki GSX 1000 GT.  The Kawasaki Rideoligy App does connect to your phone. Sadly it is a real pain to set up, but you can review the settings etc from your sofa. However, to be perfectly honest it’s a gimmick only and not much use.

What a Revelation

The quick shifter is a revelation! I’ve never had a bike fitted with one before. It makes going up though the box an absolute delight. Just keep the revs on and click it up through the box with ease.  It’s very smooth and really easy to use. Going down the box is not quite as smooth and takes a bit of getting used to.  I tend to use the clutch on anything from 4th down. The system can feel a bit clunky. On the plus side it’s great for dropping down 2 gears coming into roundabouts!

The cruise control is fairly simple to use: One button to switch it on. Then up and down to adjust the speed by a mile per hour at a time.  Close the throttle or touch the brake and its switches off.  Very handy on long motorway stints or speed restricted areas but not used it much on normal road use.

Traction Control system has 4 settings, Rain, Road, Sport and a rider choice option.  I tend to leave it in Road. I have used Rain (when it’s been wet obviously!!)  and tried the Sport option too. The later you have to try! Overall though, being honest it’s difficult to really notice the difference under normal road use.  I guess it’s doing its job without being obvious. It’s a nice comfort blanket I suppose!

Out on the Road

So what’s it like to own& ride? In short it’s excellent: The best bike I’ve ever owned and ridden.  Power is smooth and smile inducing, handling is solid and predicable, corners brilliantly on the OE fit Bridgestone S22 Tyres. I’ve just replaced them after 3500 miles with a new set of Bridgestone T32’s. Hopefully these will be as good but last considerably longer.

The fruity pipe just adds to the fun!

Grinning from Ear to Ear

So In summary: If you’re looking for a good all-around bike that’s fun for scratching on a Sunday morning, or a tourer to ride all day long with the practicality of the panniers and cruise control etc. then I can highly recommend it.  It brings a smile to my face every time I ride it and in my opinion it’s a looker too, particular in the black and white colour option.

Words and Pictures: Richard Hale

The rivals:

Suzuki GSXS1000GT

https://bikemeet.net/suzuki-gsxs1000-gt-is-this-the-one/

BMW R1200RS

https://bikemeet.net/bmw-r1200rs-so-is-still-better-than-a-gs/

BMW S1000XR

https://bikemeet.net/bmw-s1000xr-sensibly-stupid-is-it-just-too-good/

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

https://bikemeet.net/yamaha-900-tracer-gt-review/


KTM 1290 Adventure – Outrageously Orange!

For the latest of our Real Rider Reviews, we’re back with Stuart Holliday. He persuaded the good people at KTM to let him out to play on a shiny new demo bike!

Out on a new Adventure

So, there I was casually scrolling through Facebook as you do. I was looking at motorbikes, old cars, scuba gear, watches. Then I spot an advert for the “KTM Adventure Tour”. With my interest suitably piqued, I click the link and have a scroll through the venues. Ooh, there’s one locally and only 15miles away! Even better, it’s at end of a nice twiddly road that boasts a café!

I’d best hit the “book” button and hope that I get selected!! I didn’t read any more blurb because I didn’t think there was much chance of getting a slot. I assumed that it would be a trial of either the new 21MY KTM 1290 Super Adventure S with its new fuel tank strategy and longer swing arm, the Super Adventure R which would be an interesting comparison between the semi active suspension verse the off-road biased suspension or perhaps maybe the 890 Adventure. In the case of the latter, it would hopefully give me a chance to have a positive road test instead of the disappointing one previously.

I got the road test!

So, the July day arrives: The weather is slightly over-cast and a bit damp underfoot. With a little trepidation and off I trundle in the early morning. I was being a little more attentive to the features of my current 1290 SAS so that I can make a more informed comparison: I might have tried a little harder than usual in the bends instead of my usual steady commuting style. However, it was clearly for comparison purposes only rather than me being a bit more of a hooligan and enjoying myself! I arrive at the café to a sight of two rows of brand spanking new 1290 SAS’s glistening in the morning sun in either black or orange flavours. A variety of customer bikes parked opposite. To my surprise not many were KTM models.

Your carriage awaits…

 Whilst waiting for the rest of the invitees, there’s a chance to look over the new model and see where its different/similar to my current bike. Clearly, the tank has changed, it has adopted the “saddle bags” design from the 890 where the tank extends lower for better weight distribution. It will be interesting to if I can tell the difference. The new ACC module underneath the lamps, new switches (thankfully, the current ones I’d first seen previously on the 15MY SAS I test rode before buying my GS) and a 1 piece exhaust can. This is an improvement over my current example where the end caps start to rust!

Carry on, carry on

Other than that, there’s clearly a large amount of carryover content. I don’t see this as a bad thing to be honest.  With a full contingent of test riders, the event starts with a quick briefing: A run-through of the basic controls of the bikes, the improved LCD screen and menus (ooh fancy) and clearly what for KTM is a massive USP – the Automatic Cruise Control. Once this was completed, it’s a restrained Le Mans style departure behind the event lead rider off into a fine mist of drizzle.

The new telly

Anybody off to Dakar?

First impression is that the low speed fuelling is much improved, not lurching between ignition strokes that my current one suffers with if you don’t slip the clutch at low rpm and the shock horror!! The standard seat is reasonably comfortable, unlike the ‘wooden plank’ the 18MY comes with from the factory. The engine still remains strong and bike feels similarly manoeuvrable to my current bike, but as we are heading through some of darkest bits of Warwickshire’s smaller back roads I’m very mindful that a slippery road, 160bhp and newish tyres aren’t the best combo, so a little restraint is required.

Is it orange with black bits or black with orange bits?

Time for a cruise

At the 20min mark, the lead rider pulls over into a large garage forecourt for a quick check over with everyone. He also reminds us that the next 20mins is the chance to try out the ACC. To be honest, I have Cruise Control on my current bike and I rarely use it (apart when I’m on a road with Average Speed Camera’s) and I try not to use ACC on the cars I’ve driven: I always end up dawdling. So the thought of it on a motorbike seems a bit pointless. However, I suppose if you’re doing trans-continental trips (rather than a daily commute) then ACC must be a real benefit. Nevertheless, I give it a whirl whilst on the bigger more sweeping roads that we’re being lead on. I try increasing and decreasing the gaps with the handlebar mounted buttons even though the pack of test riders were travelling in a very conservative style. In fact even more restrained than I was anticipating.

Back to base

All too soon, we’re back at the café. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity to do a back-to-back ride with a Super Adventure R with its non-adjusting suspension and bigger front wheel. This was one of my reasons for going. This is something that will elude me for 12 months despite of trying a number of local dealers. Sadly no opportunity for the 890 Adventure to redeem itself either. Oh well, perhaps another day.

Verdict

Big question – Is it enough for me to part with my cash for the update?

Following my feedback to the event manager of the bike and the ride (over a traditional “light-salad” sandwich), I had a ponder on whether the new model was a significant step change over my current bike. In truth, it does ride a little better than mine whilst retaining the characteristics of the dominating engine. The handling may well be better but I’m not really good enough of a rider to tell. The conditions really didn’t give a chance to investigate that further either.

The ergonomics have definitely improved with the new switchgear. The introduction of the “preference” switch that allows you to select two features quickly is a real benefit, even though you can catch it with your glove accidentally. The tedious current process where you have to trawl through 3 screens to select a feature, such as the heated grips, is very long-winded.

However, it’s not such a leap in riding experience for the money, but you need to balance that against my current bike that has set a very high benchmark. I might have to stick with my awesome 18MY bike for the moment until something special comes up.

Words and Pictures: Stuart Holliday

The KTM 890:

https://bikemeet.net/ktm-890-adventure-aint-no-love-in-the-heart-of-the-city/

 


Suzuki GSXS1000 GT – Is This the One?

I have been running my BMW R1200RS for over two years now and have really enjoyed the experience overall. The RS is great to ride, surprisingly swift for a big lump and fleet of foot in the bends. For a relatively hefty bike it can be chucked about with aplomb. However it is nearly seven years old now and my thoughts have started to turn to potential replacements

One of those on my radar is the Suzuki GSXS1000GT. Launched to much media fanfare about a year ago I have been trying to get hold of demonstrator ever since. Only now has my local dealership had one on their fleet. So I leapt at the chance to finally ride the GT, even though I may not change bikes right now

Positive First Impressions

Initial impressions as favourable: It’s a modern, good looking bike. The front-end styling might split opinions, but I like the aggressive, purposeful stance it projects. More sports than touring, which is a good thing!

Modern, clean, handsome

Climbing aboard the first big thing for a stumpy such as me is can I get on easily and put a least a bit of my foot down. Big fat tick for both.  All positive so far. The side stand is easy to reach and retract too.  I am a happy boy! It is surprising how often such basic ergonomic issues get forgotten

The Suzuki fires up sweetly as you would expect for a new four cylinder bike. The TFT screen, with the tachometer  function dominating the display is crisp and easy to read. Really excellent.  My current bike, a 2016 BMW R1200RS has a terrible dash pack and the TFT would be a major upgrade

Crisp, clear…textbook

I took off and was immediately struck by how smooth the engine is and by the quiet, slick operation of the gearbox. Again booth areas where the GSXS is superior to my BMW. On the down side there would be a chain to maintain and eventually replace I suppose

Fast and Assured

So how does it go? Well it is essentially a GSX-R for old fatties, so the answer is pretty well! With 152bhp how could it be anything other than pretty potent!? To be honest I never revved the bike past 8000rpm on my ride and never felt the need to. The power delivery was smooth and clean right through the rev range. That smooth gear change, a bit of a Suzuki character trait in my experience, helps make that storming performance really easy to access. The bike was fitted with a quick shifter, but 42 years of riding using the clutch means I just didn’t use it. I am sure it’s really good, but I was covering ground really briskly pretty much straight away as it was

Great day to be out on a bike

There are three engine maps to choose from A, B and C. Dynamic, Normal and Peeing down respectively. I left it B. You could also change the level of the traction control over five settings. I went for level four and left it there as I’m not one for constantly phaffing with settings to be honest. So overall the power train off the GSXS provides a fast, revvy and responsive fun package. Top marks!

Handling on the countryside A&B roads I tried was very assured and the twists and turns were despatched without undue drama. Undulating twisting bends and passing through some lovely Worcestershire countryside, this is typical sports-tourer terrain and the big Suzy felt very much at home.

Comfortable

Riding position itself is upright and really comfortable, only a slightly hard seat undermined things a little. But that just might be me.

The bike is well equipped, but there are some omissions that I find a little odd. No heated grips for example. They are a very expensive option (over £400!). I would happily trade the quick shifter for them personally

Is it the One?

In summary over my couple of hours on the bike I confirmed what I was expecting. Nicely made, comfortable and quick. It really is a excellent bike for the price. £11999 for the base model, and around £13000 if you want the higher spec model with the integrated side cases and tall screen.

However it didn’t get me on an emotional level. So despite being a really excellent bike, I decided it’s not for me overall. The hunt goes on.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

Thanks to the Mootorcycle Mart of Kidderminster for the use of their demonstrator:

https://motorcyclemart.co.uk/

My current ride

https://bikemeet.net/bmw-r1200rs-so-is-still-better-than-a-gs/

The key opposition

https://bikemeet.net/kawasaki-ninja-1000sx-review-top-gun-tourer/


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.

R1200RS – The positives first

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 to this BMW

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 comes 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 Euro Cents 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

My 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.

Underwhelming

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 SE 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.

Since sharing this review online we’ve had some cracking, informative feedback from F800 owners: Here’s three great examples: 

Olle Viktorsson (Sweden):
I owned a BMW F 800ST -07 2012-2016 and did 60.000 km on it including Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbours, riding two-up to Tuscany and alone to Georgia and back to Sweden.
2021 I bought a BMW R 1200RS -16 and have covered 18.000 km on it so far including two-up to Croatia.
I also recommend both bikes even though I think the RS is my best bike ever. A joy to ride and the comfort is slightly better than on the ST. The RS have much better suspension (no ESA), the fork on the ST feels cheap. The RS uses roughly 10% more fuel than the ST.
Power is a difference but my ST never felt underpowered.
Going on gravel I prefer the ST, less weight at least 25 kg according to bike Magazines and also less weight at the front that is appreciated on gravel.
I would never trade my RS for an ST/GT. The RS is prime my ST was not
Clive Armitage (Germany):
Fair enough, but…..“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. “
I moved from a Fazer 600, to a Triumph TT600 to a F800S (with ST handlebars and full hard luggage), and I prefer the exhaust note of the BMW twin (bbbrrrraaaaaappppp) to that of a 4 cylinder (rrrrrrrrrhhhheeeeeee!) – it’s an very individual view, I suppose. The power delivery is better for me, not worse, because it is linear. Torque to spare, relaxed engine (not revvingthe pants off it or having to dance around the gearbox) and a great Sports Tourer.
Exhaust can be changed, but ok. I did once get stopped by another F800 rider at a junction in town because my exhaust note had a different sound to his bike.
Relating a 800cc twin motorcycle’s “grunt” to a 1200cc seems nonsensical (it has less, shock horror).
But, the gearbox on mine is shocking (1, N, 2, 3, 4, N, 5, N, 6 – although I’m going to try a different engine oil next season), and forks were built to a budget and need progressive springs.
Good to read someone talking about the F800 family
Dan Jackson (UK):
I have put well over 50k on an ST and it has been a great tourer, the stator has been the only breakdown and replaced on route by myself so never recovered. The only thing lacking for me is a little soul. The engine is built to mimic the feel of the flat twin and it achieves this but with a higher frequency of vibration. I also found the flat twins lack an engaging power delivery, but that’s what makes them such good tourers, smooth linear power. Dull but good.
Olle, Clive and Dan are all members of the F800 Facebook group and their comments were originally posted there. Reproduced with the author’s permission

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:

 


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 ride a Niken?

The first time I saw the Yamah Niken 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.

Flickable, 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).

 Pros                                                                       

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

Cons

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

I 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?