• Something different-a ride I’m not leading!

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

    Variety is the spice of life so they say, but when it comes to riding, planning routes and setting destinations, there’s been very little variety involved as it’s always been me that’s done it. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, so when Mark suggested we go on a ride that he would lead and on roads I’d not been on, well, my interest was piqued. The route was planned to be scenic along several smaller level cols, and very much a “bimble” rather than a thrash, one to enjoy the sights on.

    This morning we’re back on the Thoiry bypass again, riding back through the covered orchards towards Clarafond I’d taken earlier in the week on my TT route ride, and from there dropping down to Seyssel and heading out towards Belley.

    At Culoz we head on over the roundabout instead of going right to Belley, and take the parallel road on the other side of the river before stopping for coffee in the picturesque villlage of Chanaz, which nestles below a hill alongside the river which had frequent pleasure boats on it even at this time of the morning.

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    The road winds alongside the river for a while before we start on a myriad of smaller cols such as the Col Mont Tournier; Col du Lievre and Col de Lattaz; before ending up at the Col de L’Epine and these fabulous views over Lac Aiguebelette.

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    Marks definition of the route as one to bimble on and enjoy was pretty accurate, impossible to go quickly on any of the small cols but with the occasional blast on some wider gorge roads, we were enjying ourselves and ar around 12.30 we arrived in Corbel and the Aubege Thimelet where we enjoyed an excellent Charolais steak on the terrace outside.

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    The view from the terrace outside where we were eating reminded us a lot of the Italian Dolomites

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    After lunch and more small cols and riding a winding gorge road in both directions, we decidied to visit the Cirque de Memes. There’s a €2 charge per bike to enter and shockingly we only had €2 between us in cash and they don’t take cards, so I ended up having to write a cheque for the €4 entry.

    Here’s what we found when we got there.

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    Marks interminable photo taking

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    But worth it for the result below.

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    Back to my pics from my trusty Lumix point and shoot

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    After spending an hour or so at the waterfalls we headed back towards Chambery where Mark led us over the Col du Chat, but in all honesty I was gettting a little tired by then and would have enjoyed coming back along the low level roads rather than the 14kms of ascent and descent we had along tight switchbacks and gravel strewn roads. Anyway, at the top of the Mont du Chat you’re rewarded with these great views. The runway at Chambery airport can clearly be seen in the middle of the picture.

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    We eventually got home after a long day having spent 7 hours 11 in the saddle and ridden 431 kms but yet again the bike had held up in 27C temps so looks like the cooling issue is ok, fingers crossed! Thanks to Mark for leading, although I have to say I found it weird to be following not in front setting the pace, but it was different, and as I started this piece by saying , variety is the spice of life.


  • True costs of running a K1300GT over 7 years

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Over the years I’ve posted several times about my K1300GT, it’s performance and issues, but given the recent costs and issues I’ve had with it and after an article recently published in MCN saying that the K BMW bikes are practically disposable items due to high cost of repairs and depreciating values, I thought it would be of value to share with others my experiences regarding running costs and residual values, ie the true monetary outlay required to keep it on the road. I’ve not included costs for insurance or petrol as these will vary massively dependant on the rider, their experience and where they live, neither have I included petrol expenses, although with the bike averaging 50mpg over 56,000 miles, a simple calculation shows that  I would have used around 1120 gallons.

    I’ve also not included around €725 of extras I chose to add (including derestricting it) as these are very specific to my bike and others will be unlikely to add the same parts.

     

    Here then are the figures:

    Purchase cost new in July 2009                        €19500

    Owned 2556 days    Current kms 89,678  = ave 35 kms per day

     

    TYRES

    15 pairs of tyres: ave life front 7484 kms, rear 6387 kms

    TOTAL                                                              €3329

     

    SERVICING every 10,000kms – 8 to date costing €3071

    but next service due NOW with likely cost of €500

    TOTAL  (incl. 90,000 service due now)         €3571

     

    REPAIRS             

    Switchgear (L) at 70,000kms                               €343

    Switchgear (R) at 87,000kms                              €161

    Radiator overheating & oil leak

    at 88,000kms                                                       €457

    TOTAL                                                               €961            

     

    CONSUMABLES

     Battery at 73,000kms                                           €121

    Brake pads ( originals plus 2 replacement sets)   €295

    Air filters (2) at 40,000 and 83,000                         €73

    Clutch at 80,000                                                    €739

    TOTAL                                                               €1228

     

     

     

    GRAND TOTAL                                                €9089 equiv 47% of purchase cost

    Current book value                                              €8780

     Remaining value in bike today                           €1631 equiv 4.1% of purchase cost

     

    Daily running cost equiv.                                        €3.56

    Running cost per km                                              €0.10

     

    Looking at the book resale values it would have been better had I sold it in 2012 after 3 years of ownership as at that time it would still have retained 75% of its value. After 4 years that drops to 68% then plummets after year 5 down to 55%, although in years 5,6 and 7, annual depreciation has droopped to just a few hundred euros per year compared to the €3000 it lost in year 4. I should also quantify my specific bikes value which is around €500 less than bikes which would have covered only 10000kms p.a, mine has done nearly 13,000 and is valued accordingly.

    Looking at the costs above it seems that the repair element is pretty low with the bulk of these costs taken up by switchgear replacements which BMW declined to assist me with despite me writing to them and complaining. They replied that the bike had been out of warranty since 2011 (only 2 years given in France) and had high miles, however should I choose to buy another new or used bike from their dealers within the next year they will look sympathetically towards the cost of that purchase or trade in.

    The bike has been run without extended warranty and has had the suspension relay brace recall, one set of switchgear, an ECU and two rear driveshaft bearings replaced under warranty.

    I leave you to make what you will of the above, clearly any future costs could potentially be high, the ESA suspension and driveshaft are a worry and I know others with lower mileage bikes have already had these replaced.

    My view is that the more you ride these bikes the better they perform and the less problems you have, keeping one as a weekend toy may keep daily running costs down but parts may not react well to being stood for long periods. I rode mine 1161kms within 3 days, 2090 within 7, 5140 in 28 days and 9091 within 60, not the norm by any means but its been ridden long and hard with huge amounts of time in the mountains in low gears driving out of hairpins so overall I reckon it’s not done too badly, trouble is I haven’t found anything I’d like to replace it with so maybe I just have to steel myself to potentially big future bills and run it into the ground, after all, don’t we buy these bikes expecting trouble free reliability and big mileages?


  • The TT route revisited

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Having survived a full days ride without bike issues, Mark and I started planning another days riding. A check on the forecast though showed that tomorrows weather was bringing potentially severe storms which put paid to the idea of a full days ride, so we agreed to postpone until later in the week. I reckoned though, that I could probably get round one of my favourite rides, the TT route in 4 hours, but with the storms which had been forecast as due at 14.00 now changed to midday and possibly even 11.00, I’d need to leave very early.

    The next morning mindful of the coming storms, I was up early, had breakfast, and was dressed and had fired up the GT and had set off at 06.21am. Within 50 metres the bike decided to play it’s occasional game of flashing up a lights out warning symbol. Knowing that the garage had just replaced a bulb I stopped, switched everything off, restarted the bike, checked the lights, and lo and behold all was working. Scare over, it was time to get going.

    The autoroute is less than one minute from the house, I joined it and 13 minutes later a bunch of sequential numbers appeared on the dash, all the 8’s, 88,888 marking advanced age and even more kms  on the battle bus.

    It’s 18C even this early in the morning but already commuters are heading into Geneva from Lausanne, and I’m amused how aggressively someone in a small red Honda is trying to overtake the small red Citroen in front of him, often times speeding up the inside lane trying to undertake it. Must be keen to get to work!

    Soon I’m passing through the unmanned douane at Ferney Voltaire and passing Prevessin en route to the roundabout near Cern, before joining the Thoiry bypass. I’m careful to keep to the 110 speed limit as there are often radars along this stretch of road, but not today, it’s too early for the police to be about and besides, most of the traffic is heading into Geneva not away from it as I’m doing. Many many years ago I maxxed out my Honda Blackbird on this stretch of road, but that was LONG before radars were placed on it. There are plenty of buzzards flying overhead this morning, shame Sue’s not with me this morning as she loves watching them, but she preferred to stay and catch upon some sleep, so I watch as they soar above.

    We had been diverted en route to Bellegarde on Saturdays ride, so today I take the diversion signs crossing the river, and then turn right through the rows of orchards beneath their gossamer like covers, and head toward the viewing point of Fort L’Ecluse, but today I’m taking pictures of the valley back towards Geneva not the fort.

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    The road has been resurfaced along some of this stretch and I’m enjoying the smooth tarmac until it ends and I’m faced with my least favourite obstacle, tar snakes. Superman had kryptonite, I have tar snakes. Faced with these demonic slivers of raised tarmac I become fixated by their positioning and take all sorts of bizarre lines to avoid them. Years ago I had a really bad ride on country roads where the whole surface seemed to be these snakes. The bike slipping and sliding so badly I thought I’d got a puncture. Stopping several times to check the tyre pressures, eventually I realised it was the tar snakes, and even though some years later a fellow rider tried to assuage my issues by deliberately accelerating over them to show it was safe, I have never got over been massively unnerved by them, maybe some therapy or hypnosis might help?

    Passing through Clarafond I join the main road dropping down into Bellegarde, skirt around the city and soon join the road out towards Chatillon en Michaille and the start of the my favourite stretch of road. This section to Nantua is the same as we’d ridden on Saturday, but as it has a sequence of some of my favourite bends I’m not complaining.

    In Nantua the diversions are still in place but this time I know the drill and am soon out the other side of town and passing alongside the lake out of town. At the roundabout I turn left, then it’s off to the Gorges du Cerdon around 10 minutes up the road  More great bends and well surfaced, it’s a blast to have the roads almost to myself, and descending the gorges I decide to go back and take some pictures, but not until I’ve taken this one at the bottom.

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    For probably 7 years I rode down this road passing the statue at the bottom, and one day when I asked my riding buddies about the statue, not one of them had noticed it!! A quick blast half way back up for these pictures then it’s off again.

     

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    The next stretch is a boring transition but only takes about 10 minutes before it’s back to the good stuff again and the amazing stretch from Les Hopiteaux to Piegeu. There’s a right hand bend nearing Belley that even at 160kph (alledgedly) goes on for 20 seconds. Once I was leading a group of 4 and we took this bend at 120 (alledgedly), only to be followed by a police motorcyclist who had been manning a radar on a layby on the other side of the road. Luckily as we’d been riding closely together he couldn’t register individual speeds so we got let off with a little “chat”, amazing bend though!!!.

    Knowing the storms were coming I resisted the option to stop at McDonalds near Belley and kept going, stopping only to take these shots. The first near Belley and the second two looking across to the Jura near Clarafond.

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    The return leg was uneventful and an hour and a half later I was back with the GPS showing EXACTLY four hours riding time. Skip back to the first paragraph and you’ll see my estimated time to get round had been 4 hours, am I good or what?!

    So another great circuit ridden and another 328kms covered without cooling problems. With just the faulty light out reading which I hope I can clear with a GS-911 tool, hopefully there will be some days to come where I’ll have a fuss free ride!

     


  • Tentative first ride after radiator problems

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

    15 or so years of riding Japanese bikes has shown me that it’s possible to turn the key in the ignition every day, have the engine start, and ride for tens of thousands of miles without breaking down, if faults existed they were relatively minor, and looking back on my riding history (perhaps through rose tinted glasses) I don’t remember too many issues with whichever Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Honda I’ve owned. I’ll admit that there was the well known regulator/rectifier fault on the Hondas, but they’re known for it and it’s almost an acceptable fault as nothing else goes wrong. My R1 had a TPS fault but didn’t actually break down, and only my beloved RC 45 left me needing a trailer ride home after its regulator failed, but these were all isolated incidences and NOTHING else ever went wrong, it’s only the BMW’s I’ve owned that have managed to leave me stranded, and on more than one occasion.

    The first breakdown came on a K1200GT demonstrator I bought from a dealer. BMW saw fit to create an electrically assisted braking system, which whilst being boosted by battery assistance, suffered the fate that if the battery started to discharge in stop start traffic with constant braking, it would fail, as happened to me on a trip to Luxembourg in motorway roadworks. Strike 1.

    Strike 2 came within 3moths of the purchase of a brand new K1300GT which replaced the K1200GT, when the ECU failed.

    In fact there have been several occasions over the past couple of years, notably at altitude and in very hot weather, when the bike has refused to start or needed bump starting, culminating in various changes of switchgear (at no small cost) and a lot of inconvenience. A booster plug helped the poor running, but combine this with driveshaft bearings which self destruct every 30,000kms, and you’re probably wondering why I’m still riding the GT, especially after the latest overheating problem?

    I guess it’s because I don’t actually know what I’d replace it with, and probably because after having ridden it for the past 7 years in restricted 100bhp mode I’d quite like to enjoy the full fat 160bhp it has now it has been derestricted. In truth I’m a little worried about the impact of suddenly having an extra 60bhp on an engine that has had such an easy life with only 100bhp for so long, but for now I’ve got a sickly machine that may or may not be ok after its overheating incident, so all I can do is ride it and find out, so here’s what happened after its first ride after having been side lined with radiator problems.

    It’s the day after I collected the bike from the dealer, and Mark and I have decided to do a relatively local ride on some of my favourite roads. The distance won’t be so great that if there are issues it will take a day to get trailered back home, but will be far enough to enjoy. Planning to arrive at Marks at 10.00am we arrive as the clock strikes the hour. Marks K1600GT is warming up and we’re soon off, stopping at the petrol station at the local supermarket. Signs warning of a diversion to Bellegarde suggest we take a different route, but we continued on past Fort L’Ecluse and the winding road to Bellegarde, which we can enjoy as it has very little traffic on it this morning. 5kms outside Bellegarde we reach the roadworks and diversion onto small backroads as a sign indicates the road ahead is closed for roadworks until April 2017!

    Eventually we end up on the outskirts of Bellegarde and joining the road we want to take towards Chatillon en Michaille, and from there onwards to Nantua. There are some great sequences of bends on this route, and overtaking any cars ahead of me I’m able to get maximum enjoyment of them.

    In Nantua there are yet more diversions. It’s summer so the French are digging up the roads and sending you on badly signposted diversions to wherever they think you might want to go. We stopped so I could mount the GoPro before climbing the TT hill coming out of Thoirette . This hill has a great surface, great bends, takes two minutes to ascend even flat out, and you only need to back off slightly for two corners until you reach the top and the great viewing point there.

    Strangely, given it’s mid season, our target restaurant at Pont Le Pyle is closed, but there are others close by, and after a jambon/fromage sandwich, coke and ice cream have been consumed, we’re off again, this time Mark leading, with the destination being the Source du Lison, which he tells me was full to overflowing last time he visited a couple of weeks earlier. I should have known better than to believe it when he told me he knew the way though, as 25 minutes later we are arriving at Lizon (spelt with a Z ) not in Salins where we should be to see the Lison, neverthless the sun is shining, we’ve got all day, and at the moment the GT isn’t showing any signs of repeating it’s overheating issues, despite the warm temperatures.

    An hour or so later and after some searching around due to poor signposting, we eventually arrived at our destination, where the source of the river Loue has it’s  origin. It’s hot though, so our first call is the cafe by the side of the river for a couple of refreshing drinks before the short walk to the water gushing from the hillside.

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    Here’s one of Marks shots using a “proper” camera

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    Here’s a picture of Mark and his super expensive camera which he spent forever composing shots with. Apparently he take lots of the same shots but on different settings, and then manipulates them in Photoshop. Check out picture 3 above

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    After seemingly hours waiting for Mark to compose his pictures, we decided that as it’s still only late afternoon, we’d take advantage of the opportunity of having Mark  show us somewhere we’d not been before, the Cascades du Tuf, which are on the way back anyway, so off we shouldn’t have any navigational problems getting there?

    Parking the bikes up later the 300m uphill walk is an efffort in the heat, but here’s the waterfalls at the top.

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    We couldn’t help noticing how much this tree stump looked like a rabbit

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    After cooling off in the shade whilst Marks 5 minutes of photo taking took 20, it was eventually time to head for home. Mark having realised that he was due at his neighbours at 20.00 might just about make it back in time, but we decided to stop off in Champagnole for a McDonalds and toilet break. Later we decided to descend via Arzier rather than the 73 hairpin bends of St Cergue, and as we headed back down it was pleasant to see the evening sun setting over the Alps and Lac Leman.

    Arrtiving back at 21.15 with 518kms having been ridden, it had been a long day, but the bike had behaved and never got beyond 2 bars on the temperature gauge, so now I’m wondering whether I do actually need the new radiator the dealer wanted to sell me? I guess for now I’ll just keep riding it and see how things develop.


  • Is it still broken or fixed now?

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

    Those of you who read my last post will know that the GT ended the day in disgrace after overheating and leaking oil during its last ride. With the following day being a Sunday and all bike shops being shut on Mondays, the earliest I was going to get it looked at by anyone would be Tuesday. Trying to get ahead of the game and salvage some riding time for the following week I sent an email to the garage I’d bought the bike from in Annecy, asking if I could take it in on the Tuesday. The shop there opened at 09.00 but I had a sceond option, which was to contact the local Swiss dealer in Crissier which was open at 08.00. Given the fact the Swiss shop was only 20 minutes away, I decided that I’d be better off paying higher Swiss labour prices than dragging the bike over an hour and a half away to the French dealer, so I phoned the Swiss shop as soon as they opened in the hope that they’d make a big effort to help a touring motorcyclist in trouble. Unfortunately when I rang the shop was full of riders booking in their bikes for services so I was asked to call back later. When I finally got through I managed to persuade them to take the bike in although they wouldn’t commit to when it might be looked at or returned. This turned out to have been the best option though, as by 11.00 the bike had been booked in, faults explained and left there, whilst the French dealer took until 14.15 that afternoon to write back saying bring it over and they’d look at it, but if it needed any work doing they didn’t have the time! No use whatsoever and a pretty poor response to an email which had been entitled URGENT, still, the bike was booked in now and all I could do was wait.

    Wednesday passed with no news, so when I’d still heard nothing by 10.00 on Thursday I figured they must at least know by now what was wrong regardless of whether it had been fixed or not, so I rang again. The radiator had been diagnosed as being clogged internally and I was quoted a price for fitting a new one of 750chf. Add to that the oil leak repair and the total bill was looking to be around 1300chf, not exactly a cheap fix. I was told if I confirmed the order within the hour there was a chance the part would be delivered and fitted for Saturday but I had to make a quick decision. I hopped in the car, drove to the garage and interrogated the service guy as to whether flushing the system would clear the issue, but he was less than positive about the success of that option. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have the cash immediately available for such a big repair, so I decided to get them to refill the system so that I could at least ride it back to the house and then trailer it back home to get it repaired at some future date. Although the oil leak hadn’t been fully diagnosed it was likely to be a simple fix, so it was agreed that on Friday I would return to collect it and take it away in the best condition it could be returned in, without the fitment of a new radiator.

    Friday came along with a bill for 497chf. The oil leak had been traced to a bolt which seemed not to have been tightened properly when the clutch had been replaced, although this had been almost two years earlier at 80,000 kms.  Perhaps the overheating had exacerbated the problem and caused the gasket to leak some 8000kms later, who knows?

    The radiator had been pressure tested, purged, and refilled with coolant. I was told it was unlikely to blow up but to watch how it performed under load as they couldn’t guarantee the problem wouldn’t resurface again and for sure it wouldn’t get any better, so I had the bike back but with no idea how reliable it may be in the future.

    The 20 minute ride back showed the coolant level at the “normal” levels, but as it was getting motorway speed air blasting through to keep it cool and wasn’t under any load in slow moving traffic or at altitude, it wasn’t really any indicator of how it might perform in the future, so I’m left with no option other then to take it for a “proper” ride later in the week and see what happens, so as per the ending of the last post, watch this space for the latest.


  • And it all started so well!

     

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

    Since moving to the Dordogne from the Geneva area in Switzerland, one of the things that I’ve missed the most has been the mountains. One year I rode 28,000kms researching and leading my tours there, and there is nothing like the thrill of riding at altitude and enjoying hundreds of switchback hairpins and taking in the magnificent views.

    An opportunity arose to return and ride in the area for a few days, but rather than ride 7 hours back to the region, I cheated and trailered the bike there with a plan to ride a few big passes and lots of the smaller local ones I’d ridden in the 12 years I’d lived there. Surviving the traumas of loading a 285kg bike onto a trailer the journey had been hassle free, other than finding the tie down strap I use on the rear wheel wouldn’t fit around the bazooka of an exhaust, so I had to swing it out and bolt it in an outward hanging position to allow me to secure the wheel in place.

    Andy was to be my partner on the first of my planned rides, a very full days ride from Geneva to Grenoble, down the famous route Napoleon to Gap, across to Briancon, then over the Col du Mt Cenis (2081m) and then back via the Col D’Iseran ( 2770m) in France. It’s a big day with big distance and altitudes, but with a forecast showing at least 22C, the 6.00am wake up was an acceptable necessity, and at 07.25 we were at Andys and ready to go. Leaving his house takes us immediately past a view across Lac Leman where Mt Blanc was beautifully lit by the early morning sun. It may only have been 12.5C but the view was magnificent and a great start to the day.

    Next a stop off in Divonne for petrol and then we’re off onto the first leg of the journey via the peage down to Grenoble. It’s circa two hours down to the services we always stop at to break the journey, and despite it being all autoroute there is plenty to see and sights to take in, especially as we near Grenoble and the mountainous terrain begins. Low clouds shrouding the hills is always atmospheric, buzzards circled above, riders on road bikes were out in their early morning Tour de France  peletons, and runners jogging through the countryside were all interesting diversions.

    The temperature raised to a balmy 18C as we got further south although it was windy, the occasional wind sock blowing at 90 degrees showing how breezy it was. The GT has a big screen to hide behind though and other than the wind hitting the topbox and wagging the tail from time to time, it was no big deal. Andy is able to fly through the peage booths with his prepaid toll badge whereas we continue our “normal” routine of always managing to choose the lane where someone either has no money, or hasn’t driven on peage motorways and doesn’t know what to do, or is just slow. Nevertheless we arrived at our first stop off, the Aire du Bois Claret without any drama and filled up for the next leg down the Route Napoleon to Gap.

    I don’t often take the N85, much preferring the far prettier and more flowing (in my opinion) N75 which runs parallel to it, but taking this route would have meant riding back East to Gap which would have added unnecessary time and mileage. Being a Sunday the road wasn’t too busy so we made good progress and in Gap took the road to Briancon which crosses the gorgeous Lac de Serre Poncon. Today the lake was nothing short of magnificent, it’s water levels at  close to maximum and a stunning turquoise blue in the sunshine. There is a  little church on a tiny island there which reminded me of a much bigger version in Lake Bled in Slovenia. Crossing the bridge and passing the restaurant we often stopped at, today we are continuing on instead of turning right and taking the lakeside road, signposts showing Briancon is  77kms from here.

    As we crawled though the town of Briancon and up the steep hill out of it, I noticed that the water temperature suddenly went sky high. Cursing the slow moving traffic I had grave concerns the bike would overheat, and as soon as we got to open roads had to speed up to try and get some fresh air through the radiator to cool it down. That was fine when the roads were flat, but as we started to climb the steep ascent towards Montgenevre we got caught behind cars now and again and the bar graph temperature gauge started its inexorable trip upwards towards the danger zone. There was nothing I could do, we weren’t moving fast enough to get enough air through to cool it, and rounding a bend the red warning triangle illuminated and there was no option other than to pull over and hope it would cool down. I couldn’t hear the fan running whether the engine was switched on or not, so it was looking like there was an issue which would doubtless continue throughout the day. After a 10 minute break the temperature had dropped a little, and with the town just 2 minutes up the road we decided to stop for lunch, leaving the bike parked in the shade and hoping it would cool down sufficiently to allow a trouble free afternoon, although deep down I knew that was going to be unlikely.

    The lunch break over, we attached cameras, and now it’s really clear we’re in Italy, as from here on in the Italians started to appear in numbers, always riding fast and in smart leathers, even a group of 4 riders on Yamaha T Max scooters were riding quickly in formation ignoring the 70 speed limits, so as they say, when in…….

    Arriving at the outskirts of Oulx we got diverted around the town due to some river event but soon found the correct route and passed a huge old abbey en route to Susa. The temperature gauge had been hovering around the 2 bar mark for most of the time. One and a half bars is “normal” but with temperatures at 22-24C I wasn’t too worried until we arrived at Susa and had to wait at traffic lights and then ride slowly through the town centre. Starting the climb out of the town and looking forward to the climb up the Col du Mt Cenis it wasn’t long until I realised things weren’t going well. Just a few minutes later and the gauge was at the top of the scale and the red warning light was back on again, leaving me no choice other than to pull over and let it cool down again. At this stage I’m feeling like Basil Faulty when he thrashed his car with a branch, the best I can do however is throw my gloves at it in disgust as clearly today isn’t going to go as planned, and just to make matters worse, there is oil leaking from the clutch cover seal. Crap!!!

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    Another enforced cooling down period and the plan is to ride on keeping speeds and rpms low and then head back for home via the motorway, where at least higher speeds will keep the engine cool. The Col du Mt Cenis isn’t as much fun at lower speeds, but other than getting stuck behind a few cars towards the top I’m able to keep the temperature down, and soon there is just the descent towards Lanslebourg to manage, although I’m not particularly keen on this bit of road and the gauge is firmly on the two bar mark, so what with concentrating on that I’m not actually riding too well.

    At Modane we fill up again, join the peage and start the journey back towards Chambery where the promise of a McFlurrys incentivises. Andy spotted the turn off into the centre commercial but we didn’t didn’t, necessitating a U turn through the parking at the peage toll a kilometre up the road to get back to him. Parking up I found that there was oil on both mine and Sues right side boots, on the frame and exhaust, and even the rear wheel and edge of the tyre, not good! The leak was clearly getting worse and later on I could actually see oil weeping from the seal. Luckily I always carry oil with me as the GT has had a habit of using oil every niow and then, so I topped up and hoped the leak wouldn’t get any worse.

    The peage back was covered circumspectly as I worried about both the oil and water temperature, but we made it back ok in the end after 728kms and just over 8 hours riding which had provided a mix of enjoyment of riding great roads, but also frustration at the bikes issues. It was a shame to have had to cut the route short and that Andy had ended up having to ride shotgun for an ailing GT, but at least we’d had a runout.

    In an odd co-incidence, a few days earlier a guy had written to me asking for my opinion on the long term reliability of the K1300GT as he had been thinking of buying one. I’m not sure what to tell him, I guess it will depend on what the problem is and how much it costs to fix it!

    Watch this space for an update.

     


  • The end of the 100bhp law in France and insurers profiteering

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    Since the advent of time, or in the context of this article, since the creation of the motorcycle, for every product invented, there have always been companies and individuals who have striven to improve upon the standard item. In the case of motorbikes this has generally been by way of performance in either handling, weight loss, or power output. The goal of making a good thing better isn’t unique to motorbikes of course, it’s a methodology applied to virtually everything you care to mention, and is the driver for the world and how its technology advances. Take an idea and improve it, and over time we get better and better machines (motorbikes in this case), and our life becomes easier and better as we take advantage of these advances, but in France, there has been a limit to how far that advancement has been allowed to progress. I’m talking here about how the French government has stifled the motorcycle industry for over three decades through the imposition and enforcement of its iniquitous 100bhp limit for motorcycles.

    For those of you who don’t live in La Belle France and have been riding for years on machines of ever increasing horsepower, you may not be aware that up until this year, those of us who do live in France, have been deprived of the “right” to ride a motorbike with a bhp figure greater than 100.  The H2 Kawasaki and it’s 220bhp has been but a dream for us. IF we could buy one here it would only have 100bhp. Imagine that if you can? Buying a rocketship but only being allowed to ride it with less than half its power. Take that back a step and it gets worse when you consider that we can’t even have a full power relatively small engined 600 like an R6, as its 120bhp has been verboten. We can buy one and will pay the full retail price for it (another bugbear as the French don’t seem to understand the concept of discounts), but it will have been restricted in performance by any number of mechanical or electrical means. “Why would you pay full price for a castrated bike you ask?”  Well simply put, there hasn’t been any option. Back in 1984 the French decided that speed was a major influence in accidents, deeming that the more powerful the bike and the faster it went, the more likely you would be to be involved in an accident, so they decided that if they restricted power to 100bhp, and consequently speed, this would help prevent accidents.

    In the UK if you’re old enough, you may remember MAG lobbying Brussels to ensure that the UK didn’t implement the same policy? They were successful in halting the implementation of this hated legislation and you should be grateful to them, as for the past 32 years the French have been forced to ride bikes that might on paper make 160bhp, will cost them the same as your identical bike with 160bhp, but are only allowed to have acceess to 62.5% of that power, because somebody decided long ago that it was good for you and the French accident statistics. The Swiss for a time also had restrictions on power but later revoked the limits, an action that unfortunately wasn’t replicated across the border here.

    Over the years French bikers protested against this restriction and had a strong legal case, as it was in effect a restriction on the passage and sale of goods within the EU, and contrary to one of the supposedly fundamental benefits of EU membership. The motorcycle manufacturers argued that there were additional costs incurred in restricting the power of bikes sold in France and that those bikes would be unable to be sold outside that country, as no-one would buy something inferior to the same item sold elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, such was the furore that Brussels told France to drop the restriction, but the French government  basically said screw you, and happily paid the fines Brussels subsequently imposed on them, in order to keep the law on their statutes. Despite countless studies done throughout the world showing that speed was NOT the main cause of accidents, and that there was no correlation in the power of a motorbike and speed related accident statistics, they buried their heads in the sand and ignored everyone and everything and continued paying the fines, whilst the public continued to lobby for equality and legality in application of a supposedly Europeanwide law,which would have rid them of the unjustified horsepower shackles.

    The whole situation is made even less understandable when you realise that in France it’s legal to ride a moped from the age of 14. This creates a youth who become mobile at an extremely early age, but whom also become accomplished riders very early in life compared to other nationalities. Ride or drive in France, and you will find car drivers move over to let bikers pass. This is something seen in very few countries as elsewhere bikers seem to have developed an unwarranted bad boy image, perhaps harking back to the bad press of  the mods and rockers days in the UK, and the gang activities of the Hells Angels. The likelihood in France though, is that this courtesy comes from drivers having started their own mobility as a youth on a moped and knowing what it takes to ride bikes and to stay alive, so they look after their own, and it’s something that ought to be recognised, applauded, and copied worldwide, in order to promote better understanding and safety on our roads.

    Back to restricted power outputs, and here’s a great example of how crazy things used to be. I worked in Germany for a couple of years and owned a ZX10R which I loved. Knowing I was returning to France and wanting to keep my prized low mileage bike, I went to the Kawasaki dealer and asked him to restrict it so it conformed to French law. He thought I was crazy but nevertheless purchased the relevant restriction kit, fitted it, charged me €300, and off I went back to France where I expected to be allowed to ride my restricted bike without any problems. In France I went to the sous prefecture, which is I guess the equivalent of the DVLA in the UK, and presented the paperwork from the German dealer which showed the cost of the kit, the invoice for fitting it, and a re-registration document from the German TUV confirming it was now a 100 bhp machine. After some head scratching the lady says “your frame and engine numbers aren’t on our database”, unsurprising since it was a German machine. After hunting round for 10 minutes she called someone higher up the ladder whom she passed to me and who informed me “you cannot register your bike in France.”  No I can I replied, the bike has a Kawasaki supplied and fitted restriction kit, has been re-registered in Germany as 100bhp, and I have all the documentation. “It doesn’t matter” the guy told me. “We don’t know what kit they fitted?. You have to take it to a French Kawasaki dealer, they will review the bike and fit their restriction kit ”. Knowing this is likely to mean the replacement of the ECU at a cost of several hundred euros, it’s difficult to comprehend that this guy expects that I will now pay several hundred euros more to basically do exactly the same job the German dealer did, but this time they will keep my parts and refuse to return them to me ” in case I refit them as soon as I have regisitered the bike” . Surely this is banditry under any other name and all done in the interests of safety, allegedly!

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    A few years ago it was rumoured that the French would be forced to backtrack and allow the sale of full power machines. Originally slated for 2014 they managed to hold out until 2016, but as of Jan 1st 2016 it has been possible to buy a full power bike, if it were new. That of course is great news, but what about the millions of used bikes that are restricted? How can you have new bikes full power and not allow all bikes to be full power? So the next great idea was that if a used bike conformed to Euro 3 it would be allowed to be derestricted, but since a good part of the Euro ruling is pollution based, that got dropped in favour of a bike having ABS, good news you would think? Of course there was even more prevarication and the March deadline for the legislation to have been agreed soon passed with its eventual approveal coming in April 2016, and two weeks after that agreement I was at the BMW dealer having my K1300GT derestricted, so am I a happy bunny now? The answer is both yes and no.

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    Yes, the power increase from 100 to 160bhp is fantastic, the bike has come alive and I now see what all the fuss was about. My perception of my 285kg behemoth as a workhorse with its lowly 100bhp, has changed to a fun bike which elicits whoops and hollers as I have found new and powerful acceleration which has introduced the missing fun element I’ve not had for the past 7 years and 87,000kms, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s been worth it, BUT.

    There’s always a but. The process to have my 60bhp liberated is not without issue. I had to take the bike to the BMW dealer and then hand over €250 for them to spend 20 minutes, tops, loading a new engine map to the ECU, sending the details of my bike to BMW France, who will create a new European certificate of conformity, in order that I can go to the Sous Prefecture with this document and get the bike registered as a full power machine. This will entail an hour and a half round trip and circa €36 in their admin fees. OK, so at least it’s all legal and above board and there is no risk of the insurance company dobbing out of their liabilities because it’s all legit, BUT, and here we go again, they’re not so keen on the idea of us now having access to all this power and it seems they’re not going to make it easy for us.

    I had asked my insurers as far back as October last year (2015) what they would do when all their customers came to them advising them their bikes were now full power, and I was told there had been no word from the top as to their response, so clearly there was little advance planning being done here.

    I duly advised my insurers by mail once the work had been done, and that I would forward them the new certificate of conformity and registration when I have it. I told them the dealer had told me to expect a delay of up to 5 weeks for the paperwork as everyone is getting their bike derestricted and they’re swamped, in fact my BMW dealer had done 28 bikes in 2 weeks, not a bad little earner at €250 a pop!

    I hadn’t heard back from the insurers until this week when I spoke to them on another matter, and this time they demanded the paperwork. I told them it would be forwarded to them as soon as I had it, and I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I informed her that the power had increased from 100 to 160bhp. I was stunned when she told me that the company had no tariff for full power bikes, would likely decline to insure them, and even if they did the premium would likely increase. This was like a red rag to a bull, and I told her that since 1984 the insurers had based their tariffs on the full power output figure of non restricted bikes regardless of the fact French machines could never exceed 100bhp. The reality being that for 30+ years they had charged premiums assessed on the risk of theoretical outputs (160bhp on my bike as an example) and now that the bike is actually legally able to be ridden with that figure, they want to charge more??? Outrageous!

    The bike magazines had speculated that the insurers would wait a year to see if the accident rate increased dramatically before hiking their premiums. If the rate doesn’t go up in that first year  the government will have been proved wrong, but it seems the insurers aren’t prepared to take the risk and want to hike the prices immediately. I find this morally reprehensible. The motorcycle forums are awash with bikers claiming their premiums have increased by up to 40%, and my dealer says all the insurance companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are increasing prices, which just goes to show that insurers are the leeches we always knew they were, onto a good thing in the past 30 years and now a chance to increase profits even more. If the accident rates don’t increase you can bet they won’t drop their prices, they never do, instead French bikers find themselves royally screwed yet again.

    To those of you riding around on your full power bikes with half way decent insurance costs, I envy you, enjoy your bikes and the simplicity of doing so, over here it wasn’t simple before, and it seems it won’t be simple in the future, and we’re undoubtedly going to paying a lot more than you for the privilege of being on two wheels.

    C’est la vie!

     

    UPDATE 3/6/2016 – My insurers MAAF have now quoted a new premium 38.6% higher now the bike is derestricted so they’ve lost my custom and that of my car too when that comes up for renewal

     


  • Riding in the Dordogne and unleashing a derestricted GT

    Posted on by Paul

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    Living down in the Dordogne is a great pleasure in many ways. Beautiful scenery, good weather (although it’s been as wet down here as most places in Europe this year), cheap wine, and sparsely populated roads out of tourist season. We’d not had visitors for a while, so when Andy asked if we were free last week and did I fancy showing him some of the local roads, it was a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy the local area, especially given the weather forecast was promising sun and up to 27C.

    Andy has recently bought a new S1000XR, and after a six and a half hour ride down the mileage had doubled to the stage where the first service was now due. Realising that by the time we’d ridden for a week and he’d returned back home the bike would have more than doubled the miles on it again, we looked to try and get it in for a first service at the local dealer in Perigueux, and luckily they were able to squeeze not only his first service, but also the derestriction of my K1300GT, anyway, more on that later.

    During the week we visited the martyr village of Ouradour sur Glane, and after swapping bikes for a brief 15 minutes I was reminded how much “get up and go” the S1000XR has, with almost instant acceleration sweeping the rev counter swiftly round to the  7500rpm rev limit (imposed during the running in period), and it’s relatively high feeling seating position. My GT felt really low in comparison, but the biggest difference between the two clearly being the lines that can be chosen/taken in a bend. The XR being light and flickable affords the luxury of making changes mid bend, whilst the GT requires a considered entry, after which it holds it’s line well but moving off it is harder work.

    A couple of 300+ km days allowed us to explore the regions roads, passing by many chateaux and castles using the smaller side roads as links to the well surfaced and largely empty main roads and their well tarmaced surfaces which make the UK roads look shabby in comparison.

    On the final riding day we awoke to find damp roads after some unexpected overnight rain. The route to the BMW dealer for the service for Andys bike was drying out, but at that state of semi-dampness where you’re never sure how huch grip there is, so we had a slightly less spirited ride to Perigueuex than normal, but one that allowed us to enjoy the scenery more. Arriving just before our 10.00am appointments, the bikes were booked in and soon they were being ridden round to the garages at the rear of the premises, leaving us to have a look around the dealer showroom which they share with a Honda dealership, an open corridor allowing passage from one side to the other. 40 minutes later the GT was back in the car park and my carte grise was copied and will be sent to BMW for them to send documentation with the new COC (certificate of conformity) showing the bike is now 160bhp not 100. After 30 years of being forced to ride castrated power motorcycles in France there is now a mad rush as people seek to get them derestricted (legally). The dealer tells us that in the two weeks since the law was changed they have already derestricted 28 bikes, which at €250 a time is a nice little earner for them. The next stage is for the owners to take their new COC document to the equivalent of the DVLA to get a new carte grise (V5 equiv.), but it seems that BMW is overwhelmed with the work this is creating, because as yet none of the 28 bike owners have received their new documentation.

    Within the hour Andys bike reappears, he pays and we ride two minutes round the corner to visit Dafy Moto and the Yamaha dealer that it shares the premises with. Here are some pics from the Yamaha side, anniversary speed block yellow being a popular colour for the R1 and VMax, whilst the grey bike is from their Faster Sons Yard built range.

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    Once we’d wandered round the shop it was time to head off and for me to see how much difference having an extra 60bhp would make. Leaving Perigueux I opened it up climbing a hill only to hear Andy on the intercom telling me it was smoking. Ok, “stop winding me up” I said, but he assured me it had smoked a little, but as it didn’t do it again despite severe provocation during the rest of the day, we decided it was just evacuating a little surplus oil from the airbox.

    I have to say that the new engine map they loaded combined with removing some excess play in the throttle has turned the bike into a competely different animal. Gone was the utilitarian two up plus luggage bus, here was a highly responsive motor which literally had me hollering inside my helmet as I revelled in the instant acceleration and throttle response, no longer boring but a real smile inducer. We found some fantastic roads that morning and even managed to plan the ride so we were back in time to watch the MotoGP race.

    So the week ended having ridden 862kms in mostly glorious sunshine. Sharing riding experiences on great roads with your friends is a great combination and I had a great week, the only downside for Andy was that he then had that 6 1/2 hour ride home to do the next day in what turned out to be blustery conditions, and it turns out that despite removing the rev limiter being the second item on the service list for his bike, it hadn’t been done, which means he’ll have to drag to his home dealer and ask them to remove it.

    I’m really looking forward to riding the GT a lot more now that it’s character has changed, what a shame I’ve had to wait 7 years and 86,000kms before I can appreciate it fully!


  • BMW R1200RS

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    I have a confession to make, I don’t much like twin cylinder bikes!

    Although I’ve ridden some rather fine ones such as Ducati’s 851, 748, 916, 996, 998 and Multistrada, the BMW HP2, an Aprilia RSV Mille, and the Guzzi Stelvio and 1100 Sport, I have to confess I’m not a fan. Of the 65 bikes I’ve ridden only 17 have been twins, so what’s the problem? Well for some reason I don’t seem to have mastered downshifting on twins, and the resulting wheel locking didn’t do my confidence much good. Combine that with some Ducati rides where the bikes stood up on the brakes when I really wanted them to turn into the upcoming bend, has meant that my overriding impressions have been less than favourable, and so, like most things in life that haven’t proven enjoyable, I’ve chosen not to revist them, hence for the past 20 years I’ve owned and ridden 4 cylinder machines, with only a three month interlude on a Laverda 750 S (parallel twin) and a VFR800 and my beloved RC45 (both V4’s) breaking up my long term multi cylinder love affair.

    Other than the occasions where the BMW servicing dealer has offered a twin as a loan bike, and some very brief bike swops where I tried out Marks R1100RT and Andys GS, I’ve shied away from them, with one notable exception, the BMW HP2 which was available for a test ride on a BMW open day, and I just couldn’t turn down a chance to ride such an interesting bike.

    So given my stated inability to “get on” with twins, and knowing that the subject of this post is the BMW R1200RS, a bike with only two cylinders, you might be wondering what has changed? Well, an hour or so to occupy whilst my GT has a new wheel carrier fitted at the BMW dealer is what. I’ve ridden quite a few of BMW’s range, in fact 11 different models, the most recent having been the new S1000XR, and looking at the current range I’m strangely drawn to the R1200RS which looks rather fetching in blue and white, so with the GT booked in at 14.00 and having some time to kill, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to see what’s changed in the world of half my favoured number of cylinders, and booked a test ride for the afternoon, read on for what I thought……..

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    Arriving just before my 14.00 appointment I spot the RS outside and it’s in my favourite blue and white colourway. After booking the GT in, I then go through the formalities of signing the test ride forms before being given a demonstration of the controls which are pretty much the same as on my GT, and my Zumo 660 even fits into the fittted GPS cradle which is useful.

    With the engine running I mount the bike and immediately am struck by the fact I’m sitting in rather than perched on the seat. The cold engine  is lumpy but the gear snicks in like a knife through butter, first is engaged and I’m off. The first few kms pass gently as I acclimatise myself to the bikes idiosyncrasies. Firstly the gearbox is super smooth, unlike the cliunky affair on my GT. No major clunks or bangs, and the quickshifter pro assist means that upward shifts are really smooth, although I’ll add the caveat which seems to apply to any quickshifter, it works better the higher the revs and speed. Using the clutch a couple of times to upshift at speed only disrupted the gearchanges and upset the balance of the bike.

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    The motor got less lumpy once warmed up and it will pull comfortably from as low as 2000rpm in 5th which surprised me. Down changing wasn’t the unsettling affair I remembered of old, but it was a little strange to find the forks dive on the brakes, nothing too dramatic but there’s no duolever front suspension here, just good old telescopic forks.

    The brakes were very strong and although I adjusted the lever span all the way out I found the lever travel to still be more than I would have expected, and I’ve got small hands! Nevertheless, they worked well enough.

    The seat was comfy, the riding position very natural, and the handling quick and intuitive. The Pliot Road 4’s did an excellent job and enabled effortless and confident bend swinging on the unknown roads I was riding. I  do wonder though whether this was down to the tyres, the fact the bike weights a mere 231kg (which is a massive 54kgs less than my GT), because the roads were billiard table smooth with predictable bends, or because on this occasion I was riding without my better half, so the suspension was having an easier time? Normally Sue comes with me when I take test rides but today she had abstained, so if I want to try one again it’s important that she comes with me so I can get a better picture, and as I’ve ridden only and not on any height at all, I’ve got no idea how it would perform at the alpine altitudes I like to ride at.

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    The mirrors whilst small, are easily adjustable and give a good view of what’s behind, so can’t quibble too much on that score, and since I’m unable to recall any issues with the adjustable screen and wind noise or flow, I’m going to have to say that it worked well enough. I can’t recall too much about the exhaust noise, although it does increase nicely when the speeds increase, but it’s pretty quiet as per the euro norms these days, maybe a slightly louder pipe would add to the experience even more?

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    One thing I did notice was that there are a lot less revs to play with than I’m used to. It’s all too easy to hit the rev limiter if you’re not paying attention, and the clocks, whilst containing a lot of info tend to have you focusing on the massive sized gear indicator rather than the much smaller speedo which is actually slightly out of eye line and to the left of centre.

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    What didn’t I like? Well there is always something that doesn’t quite gell. In this case it was the quality of the plastics and the luggage which comes with it. Flicking the plastics reveals they are super light and although not flimsy, they aren’t a patch on the super quality items on my GT. The available luggage is the same quality as the fairing and appears to be much smaller in capacity than the GT  with the top box looking at least half the size. This is all well and good if you don’t tour much, but I’ve not yet hung up my touring spurs and I’m sure we’d never get a weeks worth of stuff in the RS luggage, two days would be about it!

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    After an all too brief test ride I returned the bike and on the way home started to garner my thoughts and then put them into the words you’re reading here.

    From my perspective I’ve done a massive about turn on my thoughts on twins, I loved the ride, the experience, and riding something different. The major thing here is that I’d like to ride one again as I actually had a blast riding this bike. I loved the drive out of the corners,  the consumate bend swinging ability, the gearbox that didn’t clunk, and the overall experience had me grinning and thinking that light bikes must be the way to gain maximum pleasure? I also like the looks and the colour scheme, understated but smart. My only hope is that the experience is equally enjoyable two up, we’ll have to wait and see!

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  • An oldie but goodie?

    Seen today in my local bike shop this highly polished GSXR1100 Slingshot .

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    Seems this model which was produced from 1986-1998 developed a reputation as a poor handler, and some internet research (Wikipedia) shows that it had a major claim to infamy, which is that after two crashes at the Isle of Man in 1989, one resulting in the death of Phil Mellor,  led to the banning of large capacity bikes racing at the TT for a number of years.

    No doubting though that the older bikes make an impression, especially with it’s trademark frame. Other than a faded top yoke, this particular example was a beauty.