Quest For The Perfect Ride–Take 2–King of the Road

As you’ll remember for last week, I’ve shortlisted my next bike to one of 3 or 4. Last week I got to take the Triumph Tiger 800 XC for a test. Today I continued the quest looking to ride one or two of the of the rest of the list.

Because of the Tiger test, and my previous experience at Frasers, I thought to pop down to Northside Motorcycles who are dealers for both Triumph and Ducati. The idea was to take the Tiger for a(nother) test, then the Multistrada for a comparative ride.

Unfortunately Northside had sold both of their demo Multistrada’s. There wasn’t a point taking the Tiger for another ride. So I rode over to Fraser’s in Concorde, despite my misgivings. Of course there are a couple of advantages to Frasers: because of their size they always have a number of demo bikes, they run scheduled test rides, and of course I’m a valued customer from when I bought Liesl Smile

Frasers are both a BMW and Ducati dealer, so I got to test the R1200 GS and the Multistrada.

BMW R1200GS

IMG_6296

As there were no new demo GS’s, I got to take out a “pre-loved” one. As you can see it’s in great nick, despite only having a “single” cam. Rather than the DOHC, which apparently smooths out the power at the low end. To be honest, coming off the 650, I never noticed the lumpy or lack of power at the low end. Hot smile

First Blush

First impressions, this bike is BIG! I mean really big. When you get your leg over, you really notice the bulk, and weight of the GS. Then there’s the confusion with controls. Unlike every other bike I’ve ridden, the GS has an indicator switch on each handlebar. If you want to turn right, push the button on the right. Push the left for left. But! The cancel switch is on the right (for both indicators).

I know it seems like I’m making a big deal out of such a small thing. But the first half of my test ride I’m coping with a much bigger and heavier bike than normal, much more power, staying behind the test leader, and worrying about highway traffic. Let alone working indicators in the wrong place and try to get a  feel for the bike.

Smooth to the Top

The ride is pretty amazing though. Like the Tiger, this bike wears its power with quiet smoothness. If anything the gears aren’t as quiet as the Triumph. But you can see why they call this bike “King of the Road.”

Once you’re moving, the feeling of bulk dissipates, and the ride is light and responsive. Still I wouldn’t like to have to lift it out of the gravel. Or slide onto my ankle round a roundabout Winking smile

The shaft drive is really noticeable when shifting through the gears, and adds to the smoothness of the ride. Still, despite the weight. Despite the sound, and the smoothness, the boxer engine is incredibly powerful.

Gizmos

Then, there’s the dashboard…IMG_6300

Both Tacho and Speedo are analogue, and really visible. Just to the right of the dash is the electronic display of all of the various gizmos.

ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) is controllable for whatever riding style you choose, from “Sport” through to “Comfort” to “Double Mountain!!” In other words from racetrack to the “Roof of Africa” to “Parramatta Road”

With everything else that was going on, I left it on Sport. Hot smile

Is this the One?

There is no doubt that this bike ticks a lot of the boxes.

Power, Comfort, and Stability. It certainly exudes permanence. The bike that will take you beyond the end of the earth, back again, and be with you for life.

IMG_6301I really could see myself in the saddle, and being happy for a very long time to come.

Then there’s the size.

80% of my riding is commuting, and whilst I’m happy filtering with wide handlebars, it’s easy to move handlebars out of the way of car mirrors. But how do you avoid scratching cars with that wide engine, and bash bars down below?

At $28K new, optioned up, or $24k for the base model this is no cheap bike. But then you never need to worry about chains, or sprockets. Ammortised over a lifetime, cheap at twice the price.

Certainly a contender. Even if not for now, for my next bike…

The Quest for the Perfect Ride–Take 1–The Tiger

So on the 1st of Feb I got my full motorbike licence. For readers out of Australia, this means I can now ride a motorbike more powerful than 38 Kw (50 BHP), bigger than 660 cc, take a pillion, ride faster than (cough) 90 km/h, & am subject to the same blood alcohol limit as motorists (0.05).

For some reason, I have a Versatile Gene spliced to my DNA. I like 4WD’s & my boat (for sale) is a RIB. Both vehicles with the maximum versatility. This is probably why I’m most attracted to the Dual-Sport Bikes. Also known as Adventure Tourers. The bike that takes you to the wilds on the road, and keeps going when the tar finishes.

My current ride is a BMW G650GS. And whilst I love my bike, I am looking forward to getting something a little more powerful, that will take myself and a passenger across this great land of ours. As it turns out, I’ve not yet had the opportunity to take my bike off-road. This in 15 months of riding again, and 8 months of owning the GS. So 100% of my riding is on tar, and 80% is commuting.

 

 

 

 

 

Still, I’m not interested in getting a cruiser (too big to commute, and I’m not that old yet), a sportsbike (my 200+ km/h days are long over, too uncomfortable on the long road), so it’s either a road bike, naked, or a dual-sport. And although I haven’t yet gone off-road, I like the idea that I can and likely shall.

Contenders

At this stage I’m looking at the:

  • Triumph Tiger 800 XC
  • Triumph Tiger Explorer (not released until May, so this might be out of the picture)
  • BMW R1200GS
  • Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring

Save, Save, Save

Now I’ve committed to not financing (lending/leasing) items that depreciate, so I have to save the purchase price of my next ride. And until then I’m narrowing down my choice with test rides Hot smile

Today, I kicked off the tests. On my way back from an Epic Ride this morning, I rode through Hornsby, and stopped off at Procycles for the first trial ride.

Triumph Tiger 800 XC

Chances are I won’t afford a new bike, but perhaps I’ll get an ex-demo, or a year old used one. Serendipitously Procycles Hornsby have a Demo Tiger XC specced up and they threw me the keys. Or rather, they took a copy of my drivers licence and corporate AMEX card1, got me to sign a form, and wheeled said machine out to the top of a scary steep ramp.

The seat was lowered, but even so was a comfortable 845cm (650GS is 780 – I reckon mine sits at about 760). It took a while getting used to the high ride, but once you are it’s great. Especially in traffic. You pose an intimidating 6’ of man & machine to the drivers, and you can see over the traffic. If you want it higher, this is bike adjustable.

Still my Senses

My overwhelming impression was one of refined silence. My BMW clacks into, & through, gears. The Tiger was silent. The single cylinder of my bike roars a comparatively rough, lumpy clatter. The Tiger purrs like a kitten. My bike jumps forward, no matter how I release the clutch. The Tiger accelerates smoothly away, with no discernible pull on the clutch.

I rode through the streets of Hornsby getting used to the bike at low speeds, whilst I figured out a test route. Then I popped up the Old Pacific to the Bobbin Head F3 entrance, headed back down the motorway, and came up the Pacific back to Procycles.

Like Rails on Tar, Less so at Speed

In the streets, the Triumph sticks to the road. Despite the massive 21” front wheel, it turns in responsively and is really confident in the corners. At least, I’m more confident in the corners. This could be just the tyres, but I think the low slung, heavier engine, and wide back wheel help this too.

On the motorway less stable. I mean the F3 is hardly the epitome of decent tarmac. Especially on that last stretch. Still the Tiger felt skittish, and getting her faster didn’t increase the confidence. At night in the rain, I’d be relatively concerned with this skittishness.

The Less Great

Also, at speeds over 90 km/h the bike had a noticeable parachute effect. Admittedly not as severe as the 650GS with its original fairing. I’ve since fixed that by getting a tall, tourer fairing for my bike, and I’m pleased to see you can get a similar taller windshield for the Tiger. It does get there really quickly though.

Apart from that, the only other riding comment was ache in my forearms. It seems the peg-seat-handlebar triangle needs a bit of tweaking. That said, this is adjustable on the bike, and shouldn’t be an issue. And let’s not forget I’d just come off the back of being on my bike for over 3 hours.

The 411

The dash on the Tiger is great. Even luxuries like Temp, Fuel & current gear. The clock was wrong, which may’ve accounted for a slightly longer test ride than agreed Smile but the bike even gives average fuel consumption. Good for those long Aussie roads.

With the new digital displays, I do like the speed in the LCD, with the Tacho as an analogue dial. The 2011 G650 has this the other way round, and you can never figure out what the revs are doing.

Sublime

Once I had my confidence up, I found the acceleration incredible. I was only ever giving it about 3/4 throttle, still I had to check to ensure I wasn’t in licence eating mode. And changing down, the purring kitten becomes a snarling tiger.

So is this the one?

Well of course I won’t know until I’ve ridden my other test bikes. But I can say the Tiger is a real contender. It’s a smooth, quick (and I mean super quick), light bike I could easily commute on, and happily ride for hours with a pillion & panniers.

At $18k new, the Tiger comes in at the lower end of the contender retail price range.

Things I’d add include ABS. My GS has switchable ABS as standard, and it’s pretty handy when things get slidy, which they do given the slightest gravel on the road, or your recent Sydney summer.

Other than that…

…Perfect!

1. This is the 1st time not having a personal credit card almost found me unstuck