Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber – If Al Pacino was a motorbike… Review and riding impressions

The ‘Bobber’ style machine is a very American look with its origins in prewar racing in the USA where bikes were stripped back to help reduce weight and boost performance. It included cutting back the rear mudguard, a process called Bobbing the tail… hence the bikes became to be known as ‘Bobbers’ . In the immediate post World War 2 years customisation of demobbed military Harley Davidsons and Indians took off and look became popular on road bikes ridden by thousands of young veterans looking for excitement that many struggled to find in day to day life after their wartime experiences. It is a paired back minimalist look and in recent years has made a resurgence first in the custom world and latterly amongst the manufacturers themselves. Not only the American manufacturers have caught on but Europeans too. Moto Guzzi joined the fray a couple of years ago with their well received V9 Bobber. It adheres well to the genre; ‘balloon’ front tyres, simple clocks, jet black paint and anything not needed simply isn’t there. The Guzzi is a great looking bike, it’s V twin layout lends itself to the look well


Guzzi have always had strong links with American culture and their bikes were even used by the famous California Highway Patrol for many years. So the blend of American custom culture and an Italian bike works well on the V9…like a Pasta  restaurant in downtown New York. The Bobber is an attractive machine and I hopped on board revelling in the low seat height, kicked back the side stand and thumbed the starter button. The 850cc V twin bursts to life and gives the bike a little ‘shimmey as the torque reaction kicks in. I snicked the bike into first and it engaged with a healthy clunk…Guzzis are a mechanical experience, and pulled away. I checked out the roads that twist and turn around the Worcestershire/Herefordshire border countryside that surround Readspeed the dealer that provided me with the demo bike. I must admit to a degree of surprise at just how well the V9 goes….55bhp and 62Nm isn’t a huge amount of power and torque, but the ballsy delivery of the Euro 4 compliant V twin pushes the bike along at a pace that is a little surprising. However it does need some fruity pipes to prove a proper soundtrack…the European noise regulations have seen to that. I wasn’t sure I would like the way the bike cornered, but again the Guzzi was very capable and fun to throw about. The brakes could cope with the performance on offer and the ride was better than I expected too. Function had not been completely scarified for form, thank goodness. The riding position is upright and the controls are all logical and easy to use. A simple speedometer (no rev counter) gets over the required info well. The bike hides all the modern tech well, it has traction control and ABS, but they are unobtrusive and the Guzzi isn’t the type of bike to call them into action often, but its good to know they are there! Fit and finish was good too, especially the suede look seat and mean black paint. The bike has a quality, solid feel.





The Guzzi comes in at around £9k depending on how barmy you go in the accessories catalogue, this less than offerings from some of the rivals, so it isn’t bad for a bike from a brand with some real history behind it  Can an Italian bike bring home that American feel? I think it can yes, its a cool bike, looks great and performs well….I can see a brooding Al Pacino type character riding one in a film, cutting through the mean streets and rocking up outside a diner….the V9 is the real deal….

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

The MT07 first came on to my radar when I test rode an example not long after they came onto the market in early 2014. I was impressed; the bike was fun, could be flicked about with ease and with 74bhp on tap it was reasonably brisk too. Then a couple of years ago I was on a ride out led by none other than Nick Sanders and he was riding a MT-07 Tracer that he was about punt across the frozen wastes of Mongolia (never has been one for pootling to the shops has our Nick…). If he trusts one that much  they are undoubtedly a handy piece of kit.

Recently I have been  looking to get a more comfortable bike for longer trips and for my two up riding when the poor old Mrs gets dragged along with me. The new GT version of the Tracer comes complete with a set of colour matched side cases, a manageable seat height and on the demo I rode a comfort seat. All this on a bike for around £8k seems almost to good to be true

I took the little MT over one of my standard runs up over Clee Hill and covered around 40 miles or so. What a cracking bike…quick, cornered well and the brakes dealt with the available performance without any fuss or drama. It looked well built too and I really enjoyed myself for the hour so I was out. There are a few downsides however and I have to say the bike is a bit lacking in character…it is a bit like that quiet bloke in the office, but he good at his job, always on time, never off sick and never asks for a pay rise. This is the MT07 Tracer GT to a tee fortunately. There absolutely nothing wrong with it, the ONLY thing it lacks a little soul and ironically the ‘comfort’ seat wasn’t…not for me anyway and I come ‘pre-padded’ so to speak!

Looking very cool in blue

Perhaps a few miles to add some scrapes and marks and an exhaust with a bit more of bark might help, but even as it stands though the bike is good to ride, offers the comfort and luggage space I am after and is great value for money. It could just ‘talk’ to me a bit me.

There is only one thing for it….I am going to have try ‘big brother’ the 900cc triple Tracer GT….

Yamaha 900 Tracer GT – Just really, really good

Fantic 500 Caballero – An impressive comeback for a famous name – brief impressions

About a year ago I tried the 125 Caballero and whilst it is an impressive machine being well built, good looking and very capable it was clear that the cycle parts could easily cope with more power. The 125 while suitable for learners was not really up to exploiting the full capability of the frame and cycle parts

It’s a great looking bike

Well now the clever people at Fantic have shoved in a 43 bhp 500cc single into what looks like essentially the same frame and cycle parts. The UK based consultancy Ricardo designed the engine apparently and they have a pedigree that includes working on engines for the like of McLaren for use in their epic road cars! A few changes were apparent, for example the lower engine mounts look different and I think that there is some additional bracing on the frame to allow for the increase and power and weight. Speaking of which the weight of the Caballero is up by 20kgs when compared to the 125. However it still only 145kg overall, which is pretty light, especially in modern biking terms. The new engine looks perfectly at home in there and I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to ride a demonstrator last week.

500cc gives so much more omph than the 125

Well what a cracking piece of kit: Now that it has the balls to match its brawn the Fantic hacked across the Worcestershire A and B roads around the hills surrounding the famous Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb circuit with real aplomb. I was taking it easy as the motor still had less than one hundred miles on it, but even so the bike is now transformed. I can imagine the Caballero would be great fun for an experienced rider. The rural roads I tried the Caballero on matched it’s character perfectly and the suspension felt taut and controlled and the brakes powerful. It was fun to hustle along and the extra grunt really transformed the whole experience. I didn’t try it on any unmade roads or green lanes but I would expect it would be a hoot. The 500cc single is muscular in its power delivery and would be ideal in these conditions. The extra power has only meant a small increase in weight, but eh jump in performance is considerable. Off road this would be much better than so many of the larger retro scramblers from the likes of Ducati and Triumph. Whilst both of these rivals are more powerful, with their much larger twin cylinder engines they also have to lug around much more weight.

So what we have here is a good looking, light and relatively simple fun bike, which at £6399 is significantly cheaper than the likes of the offerings from Triumph and Ducati. I think the engine has still more to offer too, and an aftermarket exhaust would liberate it from some of the emissions restrictions all bikes are hampered with now. Mind you it would be a shame to junk that lovely looking stock exhaust.

My advice is going a check out the new Fantic, try one if you can….I really think you will be impressed based on my brief ride

125 Review for those of you still on L plates: Is in the Italian section ere

Fantic 125 Cabellero – Review and Pictures

Thanks to these guys for the loan of the demo bike:


Ducati 1200 Multistrada DVT – The Power and the Comfort, Impressive Italian Tested

On a recent 200 mile run back from Cornwall  to my beloved Midlands riding my trusty Yamaha Thundercat only one thing was on my mind. It wasn’t how great it is to be on a 600 sports bike with a full tank of juice and an open road stretching out in front of me. No, I was just thinking ‘Christ my neck is killing me!’ and ‘when can I get off?’. The crouched forward sports riding position was the problem. Oh God, this is it: ‘The moment’; the one when you realise that a sports bike might not be your thing anymore. Time for a ‘sit-up-and-beg’ adventure bike? No!! In a world where I seem to surrounded by folk riding BMW GS1200s and Triumph Explorers etc gleefully engaging ‘Smug’ mode via their multi function handlebar controls as they glide serenely into the distance. Their buttocks gently warmed by a heated seat, dressed from head to foot in a ‘Ewan and Charlie’ romper suits whilst being cosseted from the pot holed surface by computer controlled suspension that makes it all feel like glass smooth, virginal tarmac. It’s a bit like that moment you tune your radio way from Radio 1 to Radio 2….it feels like you are giving up

But there is hope! While I might have to go ‘sensible’ it doesn’t mean the fun has to stop…say hello to the Ducati 1200 Multistrada 1200S DVT. Here is a machine that combines the power of sports bike with the character of a V twin and the riding position and conveniences of an adventure bike. It looks so comfy, the only person who wouldn’t approve is my chiropractic! Even for a stumpy like me the post 2015 DVT models have a surprisingly low seat height, especially on the lowest of the three settings available. Although getting on board was still a bit of a fandango once aboard I was amazed how low and manageable the big Duke felt.

Imposing, but the seat height is surprisingly low

I was up in Scottish border country for this ride and had a joyous thirty mile stint attacking the glorious A708 as it twists, rises and falls as it follows the course of the River Yarrow Water. Immediately I felt at home the  Multistrada and was soon going at a pace that I would not of managed on my Thundercat, a bike that I have owned for years. The suspension is longer travel than I am used to and more compliant than my MV Agusta Brutale, but I think better suited to pot hole strewn British roads. 3rd and 4th gears were ratios of choice on this kind of narrow, twisting and bumpy A road. With 160bhp on offer any overtaking opportunity can be taken with dismissive ease. I found myself tucking and leaning forward slightly when pressing on as it seemed to help the feel of the bike through a bend. However when I wound back a little and just sat back the comfort level and ability to just waft along was sublime and impressive. The Multistrada does offer a variety of riding and traction control modes but I just left it set on ‘Touring’ which I am certain will be fine for 90% of most people’s riding.


Colour, comprehensive, clear

The engine was a peach , the six-speed gear box slick, the controls logical, although a bit of a fiddle with so many functions to control. The colour TFT display was easy to read and I liked the prominent gear indicator too. In fact I liked this bike so much that was supposed to be a quick 10 minute try out developed into a full on 30 mile loop across a challenging A road with a backdrop that you would be hard pressed to better. So much was I enjoying myself that actually took the same road back to base! What a glorious bike…my wife remarked as I returned ‘It looks like it could be an expensive day’. I am not sure about that, but I am sure the Ducati 1200 Multistrada is one cracking motorcycle.

Big thank you to Dave for letting me out on his pride and joy

KTM 790 road test and review

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

My friend Stu’s fun insight to the KTM790

One of the joys of running a new bike and getting it serviced by the dealer is the option of a loan bike and when the 1290 went in for its 650 mile first service, rather than taking out their 1290 or 1090 demonstrator (both of which I’d ridden previously) I thought it would only be right that I borrowed their barely run-in 790 demo bike for the woefully short run back to work (all of 5 miles across the picturesque city of culture that is Coventry!)
So wearing my usual get up of very worn textiles and a slightly dingy high-vis jacket I hopped aboard what seemed like a learner 125 and instantly felt conspicuous….I imagine that these bikes would be ridden by fully matched and branded would-be 1290 Super-Duke owning 20-somethings who can quite cover the heart stopping insurance premiums…not some middle-aged courier looky-likey (who has just realised the level of heart stopping premiums for a 1290 SAS). Now the last time I sat on a bike this small was a Street Triple and then I felt like a gorilla on a clown bike…so now, I was having flashbacks about losing such a small bike with a Brazilian width saddle in my butt crack. However, I put the key in the ignition (novel…haven’t had to do that for 600 odd miles), switched on the bike and let the LCD screen run thru its start-up routine (yes…….I’m ready to race !) and hit the starter button. I was expecting a muted little sewing machine with a bit of twin lumpiness (bit like the ER5 I road on my DAS training)…but no….this things got some character and when you blip the throttle..there’s a rasp and some fizzing going on….oh, this should be fun.


So, not bothering with any of the suspension or mode settings, I adjust the mirrors (remember…middle aged rider…gotta be safe….or at least see which local Mensa student is going to try and knock me off), thus giving the bike a full 30sec warm up, stamp it into gear and I’m off across the car park and short shift into second so that the service guy thinks I’m a responsible adult.
Around the two junctions (now out of sight of the service guy) and onto the Coventry ring road, I decide that 6k would be a reasonable limit for a bike that I hadn’t sat on until 1 min ago and proceeded to apply the normal loan bike rules….ride it like you stole it ! Suffice to say that 6k doesn’t take long to show on the LCD tacho and once you’re in 4th you’re saying goodbye to NSL…the bike let you slice through the traffic like a scalpel, taking every opportunity for a half gap and a little bit of clear road….it’s like riding a 125 but with speed !! The bike is so thin and light in comparison to the Adventure that it bought the inner “yoof” out in me….shutting the throttle for the up-coming roundabout prompted more rasping and fizzing on the over-run didn’t help either…good job the brakes were good as the aforementioned roundabout was approaching fast and I was carrying way too much speed and at the approach the “scalpel” allowed me to I employ a bit of faster filtering so I could avoid the stationary cars and get back on the power.

A quick detour to show off the bike to the forums resident wordsmith gave me a chance to look over the quality of the bike….looked on par the Adventure (which is good) with solid looking plastics and engine and some nice detailing on the mid-level raspy exhaust.
The last two mile run to work was on dual carriage ways, which gave an indication of what the bike would be like for my commute….very quick up to 70 at which point the wind pressure starts to build….bike would happily do 85 but the wind was getting a bit too much as there was no screen and riding position meant visibility wasn’t as good as the Adventure (ok…I accept riding the Adventure gives you a great view that can’t be matched by a naked bike), I’d need a top box (which would spoil the lines). However, if you could put this peppy engine and drive-train into an adventure style bike….the KTM would be onto a winner…….anyone for a  KTM 790 Adventure?? Bet you can’t guess what my next loan bike is going to be !!

However, as a fun bike… would be epic…makes a whole heap of sense with its rapid acceleration, nimble handling, engaging engine and exhaust notes. I would need a new suit of gear to get the appropriate look (well, at least ditch the calf length adventure boots that was making gear shifting entertaining for some racy looking sidi’s) and I would have to do my usual market place sweep for the alternatives (The MT-07 would be first on the list) just to make sure there was nothing better out there, but it would definitely be an option.



BMW F850GS – It’s a bit Tom Daley…Review and Road Test

Our new bike tester Stu has been out playing again…

So last summer on my umpteenth (I kid you not !) visit to Wolverhampton to get the brakes sorted on my BMWR1200GS at the dealers, my usual loan bike steed of either their R1200GS Rallye or Exclusive demonstrator wasn’t available….”don’t worry Sir, we have a great alternative for you to enjoy…it’s the new F850GS”. Hmmm…was my reaction, I’ve had to endure BMW parallel twins before (a F800R) and I wasn’t exactly enamoured with their lack of power or the cramped riding position…the general instruction to the dealer was not to put me on one unless it’s absolutely the last resort…heyho…beggars can’t be choosers.

I wandered out into the summer sunshine and there it was glinting away, looking terribly spangly and new. Well, maybe I should give it the benefit of the doubt…it looked alright…proper sized, red,white and blue…LED headlight, gold rims…..I am such a tart !!


Hopping on and things are looking up, comfy seat, familiar back-lit GS switch gear and BMW’s new TFT screen, so I thumb the starter and I’m treated to a bassy parallel twin exhaust note. Adjust the mirrors, snick it into gear and we’re off across the dealers car park and into the Black Countries road network. Initial impression is that the engine has plenty of torque (unlike the weedy feeling F800) and acceleration pleasantly brisk. The handling seems to be fine whilst negotiating the pot-holed/man-hole cover strewn surface and in the corners there is grip (but no knee down heroics though). Even better, the brakes work which made for a pleasant change after my GS!
All was going well until I approached a set of lights at my normal pace, I apply the brakes expecting to stop but I am caught out totally by the rapid disappearance of the handle bars towards the floor. Wow, this thing dives under braking ! Ok…maybe I am being over critical, I’d been riding all year on my GS magic carpet with its ‘Paralever’ suspension set-up with anti-dive geometry. Let’s try this again when riding like a normal person…Next set of lights, roll-off in a timely manner and firm braking…the same thing happens again, thankfully it doesn’t try to pitch me off like a bucking bronco this time! Man, this thing dives so much it could give Tom Daley a run for a medal. Perhaps these bikes aren’t designed for 14 stone blokes with an overly stuffed rucky…but I don’t think I’m that lardy to cause this sort of reaction, I’m pretty sure my Triumph Tiger never reacted like this. Right, next set of lights, same drill but add back brake first before apply the front…results in a slight improvement but still loads of fork travel. Looks like I need to either;
A: Use the brakes from a long way out or
B: Not use the brakes!!
Thankfully the ride to my next meeting is all on motorways and dual carriageways meaning a combination of both gets me there safely. The slightly nervous run home in the tail end of the M42 rush hour was entertaining but gave me a chance to reflect on the fact that when I was in the showroom after the launch G350, the BMW service tech and myself were laughing at how soggy the front shocks were on their demo model, maybe these are fitted to the F850 GS too? If so, I think this could be a bit short-sighted of the part of BMW. I have to say that the dive under braking is such an overwhelming feature of the bike that it actually overshadows all the other good points.
In my opinion the Yamaha MT-07 Tracer would deliver everything that the F850GS does and more with a couple of grand savings thrown in and without the need to buy into the GS culture of buying trinkets (sorry essential extras) that should really be included in any case! If you can live with budget creep (who said 1290 Adventure at the back!), in this price range I’d have a look at the MT-09 Tracer


Energica E90 01 Review road test

Energica E90 – Vision of the Future? Review and Road Test of an Electric Superbike – Literally!

Well that was certainly different! Today I experienced what well may be the future of motorcycling…an electrically powered superbike. The Energica E90 is no tree hugging commuter bike, or green ‘alternative transport solution’. What it is first and foremost is a sports-bike that just happens to have a different means of being propelled. The manufacture have serious credentials too having worked with NASA for example.

Compact and mean in black….The E90 is a good looking bike

When you first approach the E90 you are greeted with  a machine of classic sports bike size and proportions. The bike has a compact, muscular look, fully faired, with a typically sports bike couched riding position. It isn’t until you look closely you notice that tucked away in the figure hugging fairing is a substantial electric motor and battery pack. Then you walk around the bike and notice the lack of gear-lever and clutch lever….no need with this bike…you just have to twist and go…like you would on a humble moped. But this isn’t a moped, oh no. The first serious twist of the throttle (controller) swiftly dispels this motion. I rode the bike in sports mode. This reduces range to about 70 miles, but the performance is amazing.

That meaty electric motor means the rear suspension had to be cleverly packaged

That neat dash pack…yes I know you can see me reflected in the picture, I am not a pro photographer you know!

The first thing I noticed as I got on the bike that despite that compact appearance, it carries some weight…it was quite an effort to get the bike off the side-stand. The motor and battery pack account for much of this mass, and the E90 comes in at 280kg, some way north of conventional superbikes. However the bike is a  doddle to operate and once the stand is retracted the bike is ready to go on the turn of the key. The colour screen lights up and the word ‘GO’ pops up in green, very quaint. A twist of the throttle and out onto the bumpy Herefordshire lanes that were to be my playground for the next few miles. This bike was the Energica demo and it been used at some big events, it felt cool to be riding the very bike that has been up the hill at Goodwood, and is made in the home town of Ferrari no less!

The sensation and sound are totally unlike anything else that I have ever ridden, the bike emits a guttural wail as you accelerate and the ‘pick-up’ is pretty much instant. The E90 is seriously quick and the speed builds deceptively as you are robbed of usual reference points, no screaming engine or going for gears here…the speed just builds and builds and builds. Luckily the E90 disguises the weight well in the corners and the braking effect when you shut off is pretty marked too. You can feel the weight, but the bike corners well and given time to get used to how the bike performs and how best to apply that performance, I am pretty sure it would be right at the pointy end of the sports bike class. I rode for about 20 miles and it put a smile on my face, surely that is job one for any bike?
I tried riding the bike at a variety of speeds too and took it through the local small town of Bromyard to see how the low speed response was. I have to say the bike was docile at low speed, I did wonder if the pick would be snatchy but it wasn’t. As for recharging the E90 has a neatly packaged twin charging port under the easily removed seat. One of them takes a connection identical that used on the Tesla Model S car. This allows for quick charging and using this hook up and the appropriate Tesla charging point, the bike can be ready for action in as little as 9 minutes
So we what have here is a foretaste of the future of motorcycling. Like it or not the internal combustion engine is on the wane and something will have to come and take over. I had feared that electric bikes would be dull, but when I first saw the TT zero bikes at the IoM in 2015 I began to have hope that biking would still be fun in the years to come. The Energica E90 confirmed that…it is not perfect. The engineering challenge will be to reduce weight, to increase range and battery life. The reduction in weight will boost performance still further and will also help improve the handling. Cost is a challenge too. The E90 costs £25,000 and that is a whole hill of cash. However you do get a £1500 kick back from the government and there are some innovative trade in deals being offered by the manufacturer when the time comes to replace the bike. Plus when you roll up to a bike meet you will be only one there on one these…

Look closely, no clutch lever or gearshifter


The Energica reminds me of the Tesla Model S, an electric car that has thrived for being a cool car, not just because of the way it is powered. That is a big compliment. This is a cracking bike and in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changing! Or is that charging?

Benelli TNT125 road test

Benelli TNT125 – The Baby Brutale! Review of this little stick of dynamite!

Well I have finally achieved a biking dream: I have ridden a Benelli!  So was it a fabulous 750 or 900 Sei…a six cylinder bike years before the CBX or Z1300? No. OK, Ok was it the snappy, nippy  2-stroke 2C? The Italian take on the Yamaha RD air-cooled, Errr…no. Oh alright then was it the Tornado? The glorious wailing triple featuring super cool twin fans sticking out the back? Errr…no. So iy must have been the explosive 1130cc TNT? Again no, but you are getting warmer! It was in fact the little 125 TNT, and here is the crucial bit…was it fun? Oh yes!

A strange mix of later day Monkey bike meets modern day Super naked…but it kinda works!

A friend of mine, who generally ride a HD or Duke has decided it was time he had a little contrast in his bike fleet, so as a counterpoint to his mighty V twins he has treated himself to a brand new little 125 TNT and was good enough to give me a go. I was smiling before I even got on…the styling is a scaled down tribute to a MV Agusta 1090 Brutale, down to the twin, stacked single-sided  pipes! I leapt aboard and revealed in the fact I wasn’t on tip-toes for once and roared off around Stourport-on-Severn to enjoy myself. What a little ‘fun-bus’…surprisingly comfortable, it goes as well as any modern four stroke 125cc bike can do and all the controls were slick and light to use as you’d expect. You could chuck it about with aplomb and really brings out the naughty teenager in you. The cornering is good for the performance as are the brakes and I have to say I loved my little jaunt on ‘The Baby Brutale’. At £2400 they are not stupidly expensive either….they would make a cracking second bike!

I before you moan about it being in the Italian section, I know it was made in China…so was your iPhone!

If you want one try Readspeed in Stourport on Severn….

Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor review

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

Back in the midst’s of time (1990) I wobbled out into the Suffolk countryside to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet. Not one built in sunny Redditch but one from the Raj where production had continued since 1950’s utterly oblivious to the collapse of the famous British marque in 1971. The one I rode was the 500cc ‘big bore’….most of those built were the cooking 350cc model. The gentle plodding four stroke single was a stark contrast to the bike I was riding at the time a frenetic two stroke Yamaha RD350F2 YPVS. But despite the modest performance of he Enfield, a seeming absence of brakes and somewhat vibratory nature I really liked the old tub. It was very much a 1950’s bike caught in some sort of weird time loop. Remarkably you can still get 500 Bullets brand new today and while they have been thoroughly re-engineered over the years and now boast features such as electric starters, fuel injection and disc brakes the bloodline remains very clear.

A proud name with a long history

Recently though there have been big changes at RE and they have even opened a state of the art R&D centre in the UK. The first really significantly model to emerge from there is the 650 Interceptor. Hence why you can consider this bike as more than a little ‘British Beef’ . Interceptor is a proud name with a long history from RE’s past and the bike is very traditional in style. However appearances can be deceptive; the Interceptor is in fact brand new from stem to stern and boasts such modern tech as ABS. The new machine has been receiving rave reviews all over the web, including a lengthy piece from Jay Leno of all people, who seemed to absolutely love it.  So it was understandable anticipation I hopped aboard QB Motorcycles demo bike and headed off into the countryside to see what all the fuss was about. I was also keen to see if I had potential replacement for my 550 Kawasaki on my hands

The Royal Enfield in a suitably Regal Setting

Initial impressions are positive and while looks are subjective I think the Interceptor is a good looking beast, especially in the bronze finish of my demonstrator.  OK, it is clearly harking back to the 50’s and 60’s, but it does it damn well! Up close the positives continue with the fit and finish looking pretty good and the paint deep an lustrous. Once aboard the narrow, firm seat immediately makes an impression, but the low seat height is welcome and the riding positions feels comfortable and ‘natural’. Thumbing the starter button brings the 650 air-cooled engine to life accompanied by a throaty roar from the exhausts. The 270º crank angle of the parallel twin gives the engine a note more akin to a pulsing v twin and is all the better for that.  Then in with the very light clutch, snick into first and away we go

Initially I battled through the traffic in the ‘Black Country’ and here the RE was nimble and easy to punt through traffic and negotiate junctions and tight islands that characterise the area. Then you break out into open countryside as the A458 carries us towards Bridgnorth. This is a surprisingly decent little road with a mix of bends and long plunging straights to challenge the bike. I have to say the RE is very well matched to this sort of running, it feels like its natural environment….not super fast, but fun to ride briskly riding on the bikes surprisingly ample torque. Don’t get me wrong this is not a fast bike, with only 47bhp how could it be? But it is fun and when you just want to stoke the bike along and enjoy your surroundings it is just about perfect. The clutch is super light, the six speed box slick and the suspension is ok if you don’t ask too much of it and just enjoy the bike for what it is. The simple clocks keep track of revs and speed and the bike harks back to simpler, possibly happier days. As you can tell I really liked it. I pulled up on the local bike cafe on the outskirts of Bridgnorth and ordered a big mug of tea and a bacon buttie…it just seemed the natural thing to do. The bike drew a lot of admiring glances and I think that I could have sold it twice on the spot!

Quality and attention to detail seems very good and incredible for the money

The bike in what could be it’s natural environment…a cafe next to a rural A road. The Blue Continental GT in the background is the sportier sister model to the Interceptor…the bloke had just picked it from QB and absolutely was absolutely loving it so far

The smile says it all…

Tea drunk and bacon consumed I headed back to the dealers back along the A458 this time in company with a couple of friends on a BMW R1200GS . The next few miles were simply a lovely ride on a stylish, fun motorbike. The only real negative for me was the narrow hard seat. Were all the positive reviews right…I have to say they were. Have I found a replacement for my 550 Kwak? At £5400 it is a hell a lot of bike for the money and a 3 year warranty too. I have some thinking to do….

The RE Himalayan is also an excellent bike…read about it here….

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

Honda NC750 road test

Honda NC750 Review – Beware the Peruvian Killer Zombie Guinea Pig!

Stu, our new roving reporter had the keys to a NC750 last week, this is his humorous take on the super sensible Honda…

It’s funny how things in life circle back to you…8 years ago I was sat in a Honda dealers with my freshly signed Mod 2 pass cert (no going home to the wife and kids to celebrate my new found skill…straight to the dealers like any sane person!) trying to organise a test ride. Disappointingly but not unsurprisingly, they don’t let newbies out on demo bikes and by the time the date of the arranged escorted test ride had come round I’d already had a pillion ride on a Triumph Tiger, order was made, deposit placed and bike on its way, so I never got to ride one.

So, when a mid-schedule  preventative oil change plan was made for the KTM  the only loan bike the dealer could offer was a NC750 from their sister Honda franchise. This gave me my first opportunity to ride one and to see whether I made the right choice all those years ago.

Beware the Peruvian Killer Zombie Guinea Pig

Now, I had to manage my expectations of this bike..its half the price of the KTM, its designed for commuting, being sensible and practical…the polar opposite to the KTM. The KTM is like riding a ferocious tiger..whilst twisting his know its going to be a hell of a ride but as long as you keep a tight hold you “should” be ok, loosen your grip and you know that you’re going to be flung off and mauled savagely. The Honda…well, its like riding a guinea pig…even if its a Peruvian Killer Zombie Guinea Pig…its still a guinea pig. So, I am standing there looking down on the restrained burgundy fuel tank,  massive key and the tiny LCD screen, I thumb the starter and awaiting the roar of my Peruvian friend. I am greeted by a quiet thrum and as I push it back from its parking spot notice its smooth running and light weight. I hop on (its low, but the saddle is a sensible shape), kick up the stand, stamp it into gear and I’m off across the car-park. Now snicking second takes some effort, turns out I cant get my adventure style boot between the peg and the lever (well , either the boot or my ankle isn’t flexible enough) so I move the lever with the inside edge of the toe of my boot and I waft along on a wave of torque (only a small wave…think of one that laps at your ankles) out into the traffic of Coventry “City of Culture” (no…I still cant get over that statement!). The next obstacle is a busy roundabout, turns out there isn’t much grip as the front end washes out as I try to keep the power on and then I’m off down the dual carriage way back to work. Progress is acceptable, we’re doing the NSL without any bother chugging along in 6th. LCD screen is clear, as is the view from the mirrors, seat’s comfy, brakes work too when required…its all very uneventful. Back at work, I park-up, engage the steering lock (its a £500 excess on the dealers insurance) and walk to my desk without looking back…I think that says enough !

The run back to the dealers in spring afternoon sunshine is similar event, I notice that LCD screen is actually colour and its got a mpg read out as default. I did take the opportunity to open it up on the dual carriage way…it reached a heady 77mph with a bit of pushing (the KTM was going much quicker on the way to the dealers in the morning o the same stretch…without any effort)…..60 seems to be its natural speed.

At this speed, I had time to ponder on the market this bike is aimed for….obviously commuters with its great mpg and the tank that is actually a storage compartment but its all a little characterless…. I think I would sacrifice a bit of mpg for some soul/style…I suppose there is the challenge of trying to make a slow bike ride fast or you could indulge your masochistic tendencies and see how you could continually improve the mpg but that’s not for me ! Perhaps, its for those guys who need their daily bike fix but have a garage full of exciting bikes for their adrenaline fix or to keep as garage queens…again not for me….I’ll stick with my angry tiger.

In summary, I am sure that this is a very competent machine for a very specific market/user, that will give many years of faultless service…it’s just not for me. I’ll stick with my over-priced, low mpg, slightly fragile european products that raise a smile every time I ride it.