My opinions haven’t changed too much from that previous review, although I did get to take it down to Wollongong for the Wings Over Illawarra Air Show.
That’s 84 kms each way…
…my butt is still hurting. Seriously I shifted all over the seat. The further back I got, the easier on my knees and the harder on the gluteus maximus.
This is simply not designed for highways, or long distances.
Added to the stiff suspension is the ‘parachute’ effect. Not only is the bike naked (no fairing), but also has an upright seating position with wide set handlebars. This gets pretty, um, pronounced above ~100 kph. You have to hang on on like a limpet in a hurricane.
Having said that, this is a great ride for a learner. The 400cc air-cooled engine is uncomplicated, with little to go wrong. And surprisingly nippy. At speed you’re not accelerating anywhere fast, but you have plenty of go off the lights. Good for keeping in a ‘vehicle exclusion zone.’
Let's face it, there's little that beats German engineering. For reliability, efficiency, value, sheer robustness, you know that straddling a 1200GS you can't go wrong. You can scramble across deserts, bash through forests, and climb mountains. When you want to cross a continent, or circle the globe, the GS is the poster machine. Helped more than a little by Charlie Boorman and Ewen McGregor, this machine has spawned a lucrative middle-aged market. (KTM are still kicking themselves)
And believe me, I love the GS. I had the 650 for 9 months, and have about 20,000 kms on the 1200 traversing the USA. Down the PCH, along Interstates, through Death Valley, and over Yosemite to name a few.
But words like passion, excitement, and innovation are not those that come to mind when you look at the “Hummer” of motorbikes. And in recent years other European marques: Ducati, KTM, even Triumph, have been creating, or re-creating entirely new markets.
And BMW is pissed.
They don't want to lose marketshare to the Italians, Austrians, and definitely not the Brits.
Since 2010, Ducati has built an entirely new genre, now called the Adenture Tourer, with the Multistrada. (Translated: Many Roads – sounds better in Italian). This ultimate versatile, '4-in-1', has captured the heart of that middle aged, lucrative market. Those riders who know that, frankly, they're unlikely to be riding the “Road of Bones” any time soon. In fact most of their riding is in the city, so lightness is key. On the week-end they're likely to crank it through the twisties. Occasionally they'll load up the panniers and tour for a week-end or a week. And very rarely they'll negotiate a graded dirt road in a National Park.
The Multi (like most bikes) is perfectly fine in the dirt. Put decent tyres on it, switch off the ABS, and you can consistently win the Pikes Peak race that until recently was half dirt, half tar. 156 turns on a 20km course up to 14,000'. And people have used it to scale high mountains, and traverse continents.
So successful is this bike that BMW have responded, with the S1000XR. This is an inline-4 (same as the S1000R), with a chain final drive, and it even looks like the Multi, especially with the panniers on. By all reports the BMW is faster, has better handling, and some reviewers found it more comfortable than the Ducati. But every single review (and I found this myself) on the XR finds a handlebar buzz at motorway speeds. Which is kind've a killer for touring, or long commutes.
Also every review but one reckoned they'd buy the Ducati over the BMW. I'm sure BMW will get there, but they still have a little way to go.
And this at a time when Ducati is threatening the almighty GS with the Multistrada Enduro
Last year Ducati came out with the ultimate hipster bike, the Scrambler
And now, not to be outdone, BMW have come out with their version of the Scrambler. To my eye this has more of a cafe racer look than a scrambler, but hey, what do I know. What I do know is that this is no longer about trail riding (now subsumed by the Dual Sport bikes). These Scramblers are all about looking hip, with retro gear on, riding about town.
Admittedly, both the Multi Enduro, and the Ducati Scrambler are hardly novel ideas. More evolution than revolution.
They are also all very expensive. These bikes are about status, an identity, a pretension.
The worst reason to every buy a bike imho. Although the worst reason to buy a bike is still a great reason to buy a bike.
But yeah, in the derivative space that is 21st century Product Design, BMW is now officially a “me too” company. Watch this space, I reckon they'll be copying the Diavel next 🙂
Recently I took the new “retro” styled Ducati Scrambler for a test ride. This bike is aimed squarely at the hipster crowd. Sure it’s a ‘dangerous’ motorbike, but it’s also hip, colourful, and reminiscent of Europe in the 60’s.
The styling is that of the old Triumph Scrambler that Steve McQueen used to ride (barechested and helmetless no less), mashed with technology and colour to make it relevant. I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted one of these since their global launch. They just look like so much fun!
And for sure, this is a fun ride. Like the Monster, this machine lacks any complications. Where there is pretension, this is all cosmetic. The bike itself is very basic.
It rides well, although I found the handle bars too high on the Scrambler. After the Monster I felt a little like Goldilocks: This one is too low, this one is too high… …and so on. You do get a lot of leverage in the corners though and flicking the bike around is a lot of fun.
Despite it’s off-road livery, you’re not going to do any serious off-roading or even touring (even for a week-end) with the Scrambler. For one thing the seat is way too hard. After 20 mins I was missing the Monster’s saddle let alone the Multi’s. From a ride and reliability perspective, I reckon this may enjoy a beach (certainly Instagram seems to indicate) but I don’t see anyone contemplating the Long Way Down or anything beyond about 30 minutes in the saddle.
It’s an 800, so not suited to the learner crowd. Which is a shame, because it is so reminiscent of the Suzuki Scrambler 50cc that was my first ever motorcycle. And it has all the hallmarks of a great learner bike. Light, uncomplicated, forgiving, easy to ride at low speeds, unlikely to get to (serious) high speeds. Great in traffic, and a good looker. (Always important when you start riding.)
Would I buy one? Um, no. Just not my style. My hair is too long, and beard too short. I don’t drink coffee at all, let along a single origin, soy, vanilla latte, my man. But mostly, I ride wa-a-a-y too much for a bike like this. If I was to get something just for pottering around the city, it would probably be the Sachs MadAss 😂😂