• Category Archives My bikes and reviews
  • The bikes I have owned &/or ridden over the years. My thoughts on how they performed, their handling and design, and how I rated them for reliability, desirability, and any issues with long term ownership.

  • BMW S1000XR

    Today is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The GT is in for a service (50,000 miles), and I’ve arranged a test ride on the new top of the range S1000XR to see whether BMW’s much lauded new steed is good enough to persuade me to part with “old faithful”.

    The sales guy isn’t sure initially how to set up the ESA for rider and pillion, or whether the quickshifter works on both up and downshifts, but a quick check of the users manual confirms which button to press, and now the suspension is showing the familiar two helmets for rider and pillion settings, which I need as my better half is along for the ride too, as no purchase of a bike will ever go through unless she’s comfortable on it!

    I don’t know the roads or area around by the dealer, but get lucky when I spot that the GPS mount is for BMW’s equivalent of my Zumo 660, and sure enough my GPS slots in perfectly. The only negative is that it isn’t operable via the thumb wheel on the left bar, but hey, at least I can find my way back now.

    Sitting on the XR for the first time I’m taken by how tall the seat height is, I’m on tiptoes to hold it upright. Next to hit me is the bar position,  it feels like riding a chopper in comparison to my GT. The bars seem high and wide, but the benefit of this position is soon evident in the ease with which nudging them drops the front into bends. The bike itself is quite slim, the seat slightly dished and very comfy, and my knees fit perfectly into the cut-outs on the tank, so ergonomically it’s ticking all the boxes.

    The ride starts with some 40mph limited town roads leading to a roundabout and onto a dual carriageway. Turning onto it, I’m shocked, and so is Sue, with the ferocity of the acceleration as it leaps forward, taking us both by surprise and forcing Sue to hang on for grim death. Taking it up through the gears the speed increases rapidly, but I’m surprised to see that although the red line starts at 11,000rpm, and the shift light starts flashing at around 8ish, at 9000 it’s banging into what must be a rev limiter.  I’m going to assume this is because the bike only has 993 miles on the clock and is still being run in, so perhaps limiting the revs during the running in process is the reason for this restriction?

    Tired of the limitations of 40mph A roads and lines of traffic, I’ve overshot a promising looking turnoff down a small country road. Signalling to pull over into a layby to turn round, I’m suddenly faced with a combination of seat height and high bars which make doing a turn back a somewhat less comfortable proposition than it would have been on my lower GT, back pedalling on tip toes doesn’t feel very reassuring!

    Once onto the small lane I’m immediately comfortable, entering unknown bends quickly but feeling in full control and comfortable with the excellent light handling. The bike turns in nicely and gives a lot of confidence, and it turns out it’s wearing the same Bridgestone T30’s as my GT, so perhaps this helps? What isn’t so great for me is the brakes, or rather the diving on the brakes. I’ve ridden for 7 years and over 100,000kms on BM’s tele and duolever forks which all but eradicate dive under braking, so suddenly finding the front dipping and Sues weight sliding forward is a bit of a shock.

    Deciding to switch from Road mode to Dynamic, I had the sensation that the power delivery was smoother, but for some reason the feel and handling seemed to change too, and not for the better. The confidence of throwing it into the bends I’d enjoyed a few minutes earlier had evaporated and I have no idea why, but I felt more at ease once I’d switched it back to Road.

    I was finding the suspension more compliant than my GT (which gives the impression of steamrollering over bumps), but it wasn’t the case for Sue, the ride translating into a choppy one for her on the back. She also wasn’t too comfortable on the seat either, which was digging into her inner thighs a little. Whilst higher speed road suspension for me as a rider is fine, the lower speed isn’t quite as good. Round town later on I find the front is crashing over manhole covers, giving another example of how the bike operates better at speed.

    The engine is the thing everyone will talk about. It is a little rough at tickover but will pull from as low as 2000rpm in top. I tried it down to 1500rpm and it didn’t like it, but add just 500rpm more and it pulls away cleanly. In fact it runs better at this artificially low 2000rpm in 6th than it does in 4th or 5th, which I reckon is because in the lower gears it just wants to rev its nuts off and disappear into the distance! Late in the ride I managed to set off onto a roundabout in second instead of first, only spotting it when I saw the gear indicator, so more proof it’s a smooth and flexible engine. I’d heard some complaints of  vibration, but I only felt this once at around 6000rpm but couldn’t replicate it.

    One slightly negative point is that at 70mph on the motorway, with the the rev counter showing 5000rpm, the motor feels as if its just coming onto the cam and wanting to pick up and go, so you either need to slow the pace a little or take it past this point to get a smooth ride, either way you’re not going to want to hold it at that speed.

    Whilst the engines growl and acceleration will keep you involved, there is another noise which intrudes a little. Round town I’m aware of a humming coming from the tank in front of me, which turns out to be the fan which seems to activate at around 90 degrees, which it will constantly run at, or higher, in traffic or moving slowly. In all honesty, town riding isn’t where this bike works best. It, and the quickshifter (which does work both ways up and down the gearbox), work better the faster you’re going. Using the clutch for downshifts confuses the gearbox, it just take a little getting used to to not use the clutch when going down into first! Generally the quickshifter is great, although I have to say the shifts were not always super crisp or consistent, but the fact you only need the clutch to pull away in first is a real boon, I need one for my R1 racebike NOW!

    Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the ever present wind noise. The low screen does a pretty good job deflecting wind, but it isn’t going to offer you a silent ride.

    So what are my final thoughts? Well if I were looking for a bike for myself only, I’d probably buy one, but I’m not, it needs to double up for two up riding, and this is where it drops a few demerit points. I have to say from my perspective it was ok, but Sue was less than impressed, a fact backed up by the sales guy who informed us that those who rode it solo raved about it, those who rode it two up universally didn’t rate it.

    The engine is great, the quickshifter a useful addition, the GPS mount and luggage fittings well made, the plastics a touch thinner than perhaps you’d expect, but acceptable nonetheless, and it handles extremely well. I was very happy riding unknown roads at a fair old lick, which is indicative of the confidence the bike instills.  Overall I’d rate it as an   8 1/2 / 10, but if I hadn’t come from 8 years of riding a duo lever suspension bike without fork dive, it might have had a 9!

     

     

     


  • She’s finished-R1 rises like a phoenix from the ashes!

    Posted on by Paul

    For those who have read earlier posts, you’ll know I managed to have an off at Donington last year requiring some rebuild work on my R1 track bike . This is how the bike looked after being trailered back to the pits.

    I detailed the full costs and work required in an earlier post, but as she is now almost finished apart from a few logos/stickers, I thought I’d share how it now looks.

    The mechanical bits were finished first leaving just the cosmetics to finish. First job was to get the black track fairings with white sections resprayed to the original Yamaha blue, and I had the white sections changed to silver. The guy that did them used to do the HM plant Ducati fairings so knows his stuff and did a brilliant job.

    Next the first trial assembly on the bike.

    Then the new SC2 slicks were mounted to the wheels ready for it’s first outing sometime in June and doesn’t it look great?

    The JAP4 carbon swingarm covers look great and the Lightec adjusters are the business

     

    All that’s left now is to top up the coolant and I’m ready to go, can’t wait!

     


  • Over 5 years and 81,000kms with K1300GT

     

     

    It’s been a while since I posted up about the old warhorse, my K1300GT. Those who have been reading my blog posts for a while will know that I bought this bike back in 2009 after a disastrous year spent with its predecessor, a K1200GT. My last post gave an update after 3 ½ years and 72,000kms, so I thought it time to give an update now over 5 years have passed.

    The first thing that has happened is that annual mileages have dropped off massively, not because I don’t want to ride it, but due to a change of personal circumstances. This reduction in mileage has led to less exposure to issues, and the reality is that in the 10,000kms that have passed since my last review only a few things have required attention.

    TYRES

    Last time I mentioned I would probably make a change from the Bridgestone BT023GT’s I have seemingly been riding forever. Having gone through  8 pairs it was time for a change, so finally at  73,000 I changed the worn front over to the (then) new T30 GT and immediately found they changed the handling for the better. Speed of turn improved and now 8000kms later they are still showing good  tread depth remaining, so longevity has surpassed the average 7000kms I used to get from the BT023 fronts, and will clearly run on for a while yet! I changed the rear at 79,000kms and am very happy with the performance and handling they offer as a matched pair, they have definitely added a more sporting element to the handling.

    BRAKES

    Nothing new to report on the brakes other than the Brembo pads fitted at 57,653kms are still going strong.

     

    ENGINE

    I finally decided to have the bike de-restricted from it’s 100bhp state, and the difference the extra 60 unleashed bhp brings is startling. Whereas before at 8000rpm the engine would start to tail off in performance, now it just keeps revving eagerly through to the red line. Overtakes are now so much safer, and faster, it’s taking some time to recalibrate my mind to the “new ” performance and corner entry speeds, as it’s so much quicker than before, but boy, what a difference!

    GEARBOX/CLUTCH

    “Since the clutch adjustment only seems to have one “sweet” spot, I’m starting to wonder whether the clutch is on the way out but will have to wait and see on that one”

    The above was my comment in my last post about the clutch, and having de-restricted the engine I thought it would be a good idea to have the clutch changed at the same time to avoid it frying itself dealing with an extra 60bhp , so I had the two jobs done together at a cost of £567 and have been rewarded with a huge difference in engine performance and an accompanying massive improvement in the smoothness of the gear changes. It took a new clutch for me to realise how bad the old one had actually become, but as with most things you ride round the issue, and clearly I’d allowed it to go on too long, so with these two changes it almost feels like a new bike!

     

    BATTERY

    After growing tired of the hot starting issues mentioned in my last update and having stumped up €121 for an Odyssey battery, I’m happy to report that now it fires up beautifully whatever the temperature or however long it’s been left unridden. I’ve yet to have the BMW uprated cable from the battery installed but it might not be necessary now the Odyssey is doing such a great job, expensive, but well worth it.

    SEAT

    The €60 I spent having new seat foam added has proven a success. I’ve not done many all dayers since then, but it is now certainly better than the hour and a half the old seat was capable of before inflicting pain on my nether regions!

     

    BODYWORK

    Still in incredible condition , and polishes up like new.

     

    WARNING LIGHTS

    I had a phase where the front headlight bulb out warning light would appear on the dashboard despite there being no lights not working. One evening I rode home at dusk and found the headlight not working at all. Believing that the main bulb had finally died I was shocked to find the cost of a halogen bulb from BMW was around £150. To be fair to them they pointed me at the internet and a D1 bulb costing only £30 and told me they had only replaced one bulb, ever! Anyway, next day I rode and the headlight was working again! I read some forum comments and following advice there, removed and refitted the indicator bulbs, and lo and behold, the warning light disappeared and the main beam continues to work. Seems that the canbus system detected an issue and decided to shut a system down, in this case the headlight! This might be a logical step and OK during daylight hours but is a somewhat questionable action if you’re riding at night, surely there must be other circuits they can shut down first? Anyway, all good now!

     

    Here is a list of everything I’ve done or had to have fixed.

    ECU @ 9976kms after only 3 months (warranty)
    Lefthand switchgear @ 6 months (warranty)
    Final drive (complete assembly) at 27,000kms during first year (warranty)
    Suspension brace @ 35,000kms in year 2 (warranty)
    Brake pads @ 40,000kms in year 2
    Brake pads @ 57,000kms in year 2 (disliked SBS fitted previously)
    Lefthand switchgear, (second one, paid by self) during year 4
    Battery @  72,000kms during year 4
    New foam in seat @ 72,000kms during year 4
    Clutch @ 80,000kms during year 5

    I should mention that I have had it serviced religiously at main dealers at the prescribed intervals at a cost of close to €2800.

     

    SUMMARY

    So close to another 10,000kms has passed, and other than the clutch (which I think lasted well to get to 80,000kms), all has been tickety boo. I should have changed it earlier but there you go, should be good for a few thousand more kms now. So in summation, the old warhorse keeps going and remains a solid and excellent performer. The longer I keep it the more I feel the initial expense and value to have been worth it, at the moment, and for the foreseeable future it remains a keeper.


  • Daytona 955i test ride

    In past weeks I’ve been thinking about an addition to the fleet. Whilst the R1 is great for the track (now its rebuilt), and the GT is a real wide open roads and mountain passes all day tourer, the major part of my riding these days is short evening or half day rides.

    I decided to look around and see what might be more suitable, and narrowed the choices down to two options.

    Option 1, another GSXR1000K2 . I found one in mint condition with low miles that was even the same colour as the one I’d had before (and been knocked off in Germany), and having a few body panels left in the garage that would have been a smart move, on paper.

    Option 2, something completely different, a Triumph Daytona 955i. For the same money I found a couple of them, but 2006 and 2007 vintage.  With the added bonus being they were both at the same dealers, and both low mileage, I decided to go and have a test ride and find out what the skinny is on a Brit triple.

    The pic above was the 2006 bike I thought would be the more interesting of the two, having a high rise carbon can, crash bungs, passenger grab rail and double bubble screen, The lack of pillion foot pegs was an issue that ebay would doubtless help resolve, but when I got to see it in the flesh it wasn’t anywhere near as nice as the bog standard 07 bike, and although the 07 was £200 more expensive, it looked as if it might be a better buy, even though the OE exhaust looks like a flame thrower it is so long, and I’d definetely need to buy a grab rail for the better half.

    After much faffing around signing insurance papers to be allowed a ride (due to me having an EU licence), I nearly didn’t bother after being told I couldn’t take Sue as pillion, as 95% of the reason for the test was to see would be comfortable on it. Eventually she persuaded me to test it on my own and I set off for the test, which lasted all of half a mile. Arriving  at a roundabout, I changed down a gear and when I came to pull away got a lot of drive line shunt. I changed down thinking I was in too high a gear, but at the next roundabout a hundred yards further on the same thing happened, and the bike didn’t want to go forward and the chain sounded as if it was flailing around underneath the swingarm, which it turned out it was.

    Now having been charged £20 for the privilege of having a test ride, I was not best pleased at this situation and called the garage to come and collect their piece of junk bike. 5 minutes later a van arrived and it was recovered back to the dealer with the driver saying he’d never seen that happen in 20 years of working there.

    WAITING FOR A RECOVERY VAN TO ARRIVE!

     

    An extremely embarrased salesman  immediately offered a refund if I didn’t want to hang around and try  it again, but knowing it was likely only the pinch nut not having been tightened (which turned out to have been the fault), and having driven an hour and a half to get there, I waited the 15 minutes it took to fix, before setting off again hoping it would be second time lucky?

    So, to set the scene, here is a mint Daytona that the write ups say has a great torquey engine, is British, is a bike I’ve never ridden (ignore previous test attempt) and which I’m hoping will be a revelation and the answer to my desires for a great road bike, AND, it’s a triple not a four.

    Full of expectation but wary of the damp conditions, I set off again. The engine had started off on the button and the gears changed smoothly, so far so good. The engine note surprisingly is nothing special, but I was in a built up area and not able to rev it too high.  At the first roundabout I notice (again) that turning seems a bit laboured, same at the following one 100 yards further on, and in fact at every junction and turn I make, it’s a bit reluctant to turn. The engine has some grunt but nothing that special, and although the ergos of forward vision and visibility of the clocks are good, and the seating position comfortable, it’s already feeling a bit heavy on the wrist. I clock the amount of thread showing through the fork tops and wonder how the suspension is set up,  as it even seems to be resisting me on gentle turns, almost feeling as if there was not enough air in the front tyre. The last bike I rode that gave this sensation was a Ducati 851 which hated bends and had to be forcibly wrestled around them. I can’t do that on these damp roads and wouldn’t want to. A brief blat on a stretch of straight road does nothing to persuade me the engine will be a joy to use, and I gingerly turned it round and returned to the garage.

    After recounting my thoughts to the dealer I left, wondering whether the fact I’ve ridden a BMW for so many years with it’s upright stance and huge leverage through wide set bars, has made this sports bike ride difficult, and whether I’ll find the same with whatever bike I try? I’ve discounted trying the Gixxer though as the engine is mental and it’s a big old bus, so I’m going to try a Blackbird again. Having had two for close to 100,000kms and with no issues on either apart from the regulator/rectifier failing on both, I’m hoping for better luck on the next test ride!

    I’ll keep you posted how that one goes!

     

     

     

     

     


  • My bike history

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I wrote a post a while ago about the way that the bikes we ride shape us as riders, we may favour sports bikes rather than touring, or twins over  fours, but in any case over the years I imagine like me, people will have quite a number of bikes which have shaped  their riding and memories, so I thought I’d delve back into the sands of time and put pen to paper on the bikes I’ve owned and ridden.

     

    Puch Maxi

     

    This barely qualifies as a bike but it had an engine, all of 50cc and was my first foray into the world of two wheels. It was the single speed version (read slow!) and was bought brand new for the princely sum of £105. It had pedals which had to be turned to get it started, and returned miserly consumption of close to 120mpg, which as a teenager with little income was a real plus. I think mine was the N version which didn’t even had a speedo, probably because it was capable of speeds only marginally faster than running! I used to have to carry around a plastic bottle with two stroke oil to mix each time I filled up. As a riding experience it can be summed up easily, it wasn’t one!, but as a cost effective form of transport for a skint youth, then it was ideal and served it’s purpose admirably, till I got fed up of it and bought a proper bike!

    Honda CB125T-

     

     

    The first of many Honda’s I was to own over the years.

    I don’t remember the technical details, but Wikipedia shows it had an OHC engine and a top speed of around 65mph, which after the Puch was mega fast.  I do remember having to learn how to use previously unknown bike parts such as a clutch and gears, and mashing them badly for the first few days as I learnt how to ride. It carried me and my tent from the Midlands down to Devon for a rally so can be officially recognised as being my first touring bike.

    Yamaha RD250C-

     

    This was my first NEW bike and made an amazing impression on me. The colour was my favourite shade of blue, and the engine howled and emitted plumes of smoke from it’s twin exhausts. It’s 247cc oil cooled twin it made a massive 30bhp, returned 50mpg and had a top speed of 95mph. If those stats weren’t enough to get you excited, then how about it’s power band, something new to me after coming from a linear four stroke. The RD was not as exciting or dramatic as the hooligan LC models which came later, but had enough oomph  to catch out the unwary, and it did catch me out, twice! I sold it soon after those two offs, but it’s always held a strong place in my formative memories, and now that I’ve got an R1 in the same shade of blue it’s like I’ve gone full circle and returned to the Yamaha fold.

     

    Honda CB250N Superdream

     

    This was a “sensible” buy. We lived on one side of a river and my wife worked on the other. Public transport wasn’t easy or convenient and we couldn’t afford two cars, so the bike was bought as a commuter tool and worked exceptionally well. I bought it off a work colleague who taught me the pleasures of oil baths for the chain, and I upgraded the worn suspension for a pair of air shocks, which although far superior in performance looked a bit naff in red on a blue bike, as you can tell on the photo above. The bike wasn’t particularly exciting and I remember being shocked at having to pay £40 for an exhaust box, which back then was a huge amount of money, BUT, it was safe, reliable, and an ideal choice to have bought to get back in to biking after a few years sabbatical.

     

    Honda CB400N Superdream

     

    As always with bikers, a bigger engine means more fun, and the 250 soon wasn’t cutting it for the things we wanted to do. The 400 was a logical step up, with the same Honda reliability and was effectively the same bike as the 250 but with a bigger engine. We took it to the channel islands touring, rode with the local bike club, going farther afield and riding harder and faster, still not a bike to get the pulse rate soaring but it started, stopped, and ran like a dream (sic) and proved a great buy.

     

    ZZR600- May 1997-May 1998 ridden 9,600 kms

     

    The birth of my two children pretty much forced the sale of the 400, but 12 years later and the bug had resurfaced, so I did some research, found a good compromise for price and performance, and bought a ZZR600. Renowned for not having the best suspension, the saving grace for this bike was it’s engine. Like many Kwaks it accelerated like the world was coming to an end and it was always a rush letting it rip. It ended up costing me way too much in parts, so using male logic to confuse my better half I “persuaded” her the best thing to do would be to offload it and upgrade!

     

    VFR800-May1998- May 2000 ridden 25,600 kms

     

     

    Officially this was my reward for passing the IAM Advanced test, but it had been ordered before I took it so I was going to have it come rain or shine! I bought it without having taken a test ride as none were available, and it had been a toss up, between the VFR and the CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird. If I’d have ridden the Bird I’d have bought it, but the VFR was a “sensible” choice ratified by the wife, so it ended up in my garage.

    The trend I notice as I am writing this is that the bikes I’ve bought have all been “sensible” choices, with perhaps the exception of the RD250 a decade previously. The VFR followed that trend. It was a wonderfully efficient machine, the noise of the V4 engine was improved tenfold with the addition of an open Remus exhaust, it was powerful enough to tour on with luggage and a passenger, and when dirty always cleaned up like new. It ran perfectly, never missed a beat, handling improved with the addition of a made to measure  Maxton shock, and looked as good the day I sold it, as the day I took it from the showroom floor.  And why did I sell it? Because I’d moved to Switzerland and found the engine a little lacking at altitude, so something bigger was required of course!

     

    CBR1100XX- March 2000- March 2004 ridden 63,111 kms

     

     

    OMG! I knew within 10 yards of leaving the dealer I had to have this bike. The smoothness of the engine, the whispering exhausts, and unbelievable acceleration had me hooked instantly. I loved the stealth black, the paint quality was exceptional, the ride superb, I put the reworked shock from the VFR on it and improved its handling, and never looked back. Sue (the wife) loved it, we toured Europe on it. It ran and ran and ran, overtook lines of cars as if they were stationary, and all I ever did to it was change the tyres, brake pads and have it serviced, often! It only failed me once at around 55,000kms when the regulator stator failed, but that’s a common Honda problem and I’ll forgive it that one off failure. As a bike it ticked every box I had, it was a dream purchase, and if I hadn’t been forced to sell it when I moved to France I would likely still be on it today, what a bike!!

     

    Laverda 750s- March 2002-June 2002 ridden 3,205 kms

     

     

    From one extreme to another. I wanted a toy to go on track with or do some more sporty riding, but unfortunately this wasn’t it! Lots of nice parts like  Marchesini wheels and  Paoli forks, but the most agricultural POS parrallel twin engine known to man. It stalled, had gutless acceleration, and when friends who rode it confirmed my assertions that it was a pile of poo, it had to go. The only upside was I had bought it heavily discounted as Laverda had just gone bust, again, and I managed to sell it for what I had paid for it!

     

    Honda RVF750 RC45- July 2002-Feb 2012 ridden 21,854kms

     

     

    The Laverda was gone and thankfully the MV Agusta I had wanted to buy turned out not to be such a good idea so I bought this instead.No comparison. It’s true what the bike press wrote about this bike, it’s so much better than you’ll ever be. On the road it goads you into going round corners faster. The low seating position meant your knees decked everywhere, you became a riding god. It laughed at your best efforts on the road, 100mph, hah! All of this accompanied by a wonderful V4 soundtrack which could deafen you if you used the Micron open pipe and forgot your earplugs.

    I used it on track, a lot, but it was completely outclassed by just about every other bike out there.  Sure no one else had one and people would come to see what it was and to listen to the awesome sound, but other than it’s outstanding handling and rock solid road holding in bends, it became a real disappointment to me, and after 10 years of campaigning it I eventually sold it when I decided nostalgia wasn’t a good enough reason to hang on to it. I miss it but am glad I had one, something most people won’t be able to say!

     

    CBR1100XX – March 2004-March 2010 ridden 36,597 kms

     

    The original Blackbird was replaced by another one, why try anything else? But sometimes things aren’t the same. This was a French bike, originally restricted to 100bhp then derestricted, but it never made it’s power the same way as it’s Swiss predecessor had. It didn’t have cats in the exhausts, the paint was nowhere near as deep or the same quality as the black model, and although ridiculously fast, there was always something that you couldn’t put your finger on that made it slightly less good than the old one. It too had the regulator fault, but again it ran forever and only ended up being sold after we were knocked off a GSXR1000 and Sue ended up with a hip problem which meant the seating position became uncomfortable for her whatever we did to try and fix it.

     

    Suzuki GSXR1000K2 -Oct 2005-April 2008 ridden 5,588 kms

     

     

    A monster engine in a frame and with handling that never seemed to quite be in synch. Torque everywhere, but I was always uneasy with it. A big comfortable bike with a great pillion seat, but it was destined not to stay with us for long after some German lady decided that turning across a junction was a good idea, even though we were on the road in front of her. I repaired it but it had already been replaced by the bike below.

     

    Kawasaki ZX-10R (05) Sept. 2006-Nov. 2007 ridden 4,087 kms

     

    Polar opposites. A bike that handled telepathically. I don’t know what the previous owner did to it but it worked like a dream for me, and combined with that famous top end Kwak rush I had some great times with this bike. The howling top end was insane, made even more potent with an aftermarket Shark exhaust. I found myself riding like a maniac every time the road opened up ahead just to listen to the exhaust scream and to feel that huge rush of acceleration. It looked the dogs too in black, although as a pillion bike it sucked big style.  I loved it and was gutted when after trying to take it back into France, after having bought it in Germany whilst working there, found there was no way I could import it. What a shame, great bike and worthy of the future classic status the mags tout it as having.

     

    BMW K1200GT July 2008-July 2009 ridden 23,234 kms

    2008-07-12 001 026

    Back to sensible again and the only bike Sue was able to get comfortable on. It’s built like a bus but handles ridiculously well for such a large machine. ABS, heated seats and grips, cruise control, trip computer, ESA etc etc, it’s all there and is a great bike to tour on, as luggage and pillions seem to make no difference whatsoever . BUT, it was a POS. Riddled with problems it was always at the garage, was the first bike that stranded me (due to it’s crazy electrical servo assisted brakes), and I was only too glad to do a deal with the dealer to take it back against the purchase of another BM.

    BMW K1300GT -July 2009 to date ridden 70,953 kms

    K1300GT

    You might wonder what possessed me to buy the same bike again? Well this is the 1300 which supposedly corrected all the faults of the 1200 and improved it in many areas, and I have to say by and large its been a good buy. I’ve written several posts about it here on the blog, so if you want to find out more about long term and long distance ownership, it’s all here. I’ll summarise by stating I still have it and it’s a great tourer, but I’m wary of potential big bills in the future.

     

    Yamaha R1-Feb. 2012 to date- ridden 3,314 kms

     

    Full circle and I’m back in the Yamaha fold with my favourite shade of blue and 182bhp! A long way from the 30bhp of the RD250 back in the 70’s but I’m loving it. Bought for the track I’m still learning how to get the best out of it after 10 years on the RC45, but it’s coming. I’m consistently 8 seconds a lap faster on this than I ever managed on the RC, which makes me happy, as does having it wide open in fifth at Aragon. I’m hoping for great things and a long life together with this bike!

     

     


  • 4 years and 72,000kms with BMW K1300GT

    Continuing with my regular posts on life with my BMW K1300GT, I’ve just passed the 4 year ownership mark, so here’s an update on what’s happened in the past year.

    Well, the first thing is that I rode it less than in previous years, mostly due to a house move and a couple of operations which kept me out of the saddle for a few months. Nevertheless, since June 2012 I’ve ridden another 8000kms with basically two problems requiring fixing in that time, plus one comfort issue.

     

    PROBLEMS

    Switchgear-The left hand switchgear started to play up at 70,000kms. Originally replaced at 11,000kms, it seems that 60,000kms of use had worn it out, with new replacement requiring a not insubstantial €343 payment to the local dealer to supply and fit.

    Battery- I replaced the OE battery at 72,000kms, subject covered in detail in the previous post. The Odyssey PC680 replacement has brought renewed vigour to starting and an improvement in performance, so a good result!

    Saddle- At 72,000kms I decided that the pain the saddle was inflicting on my nether regions was no longer tolerable. Originally it was all day comfortable, but after so many kms it was becoming uncomfortable within a couple of hours, so I found a local company to fit new foam for the bargain price of €60, instead of the €400 required from BMW for a complete new unit, and although I’m still wearing it in, it seems to be pretty comfortable

     

    TYRES

    I am continuing to use Bridgestone BT023GT’s but will switch to their new T30 for the front tyre which needs replacement now. I did once manage to eke 10,000kms out of a front and 7500 out of a rear, not especially high kms given they are supposed to be high mileage tyres, so I will be very interested to see if the T30’s last a little longer.

    FUEL CONSUMPTION

    Remaining more or less constant at around the 5.6l/100kms mark so I’m more than happy with that!

    OIL CONSUMPTION

    Sometimes it uses oil, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s a mystery I’ve given up trying to figure out, Whatever it uses isn’t excessive so I just remember to check it frequently.

    SERVICING

    Always serviced at main dealers I got hit with a huge bill of just over €900 at the 60,000 service which included the valve clearance check , oil and fluid changes, spark plugs, air filter, and fitting the chain jump guard, an item which BMW now fit free as a safety modification. At 70,000 I paid another €300 for an interim service which included changing the brake fluid.

    Total servicing costs now amount to €2771 which is more than double the price incurred up to the 60,000 mark. This calculates to €0.04 per km over the four years of ownership.

    GEARBOX

    No change here, it clunks, it’s inconsistent, I’ve got used to it although Sue constantly complains about the poor shifting, seems there’s little can be done to fix it, unless it’s the clutch?, but with a new one costing in excess of €800 I’ll live with it for the time being!

    HANDLING/SUSPENSION

    No change, it works, and handles well. I use the comfort setting a lot more as the roads near my new home aren’t that great in places, and I can appreciate how this setting is working well in dampening out the poor surfaces.

    SUMMARY

    If I look at the issues I’ve had I guess I’d have to say that overall it’s not been too problematic, fingers crossed!!!. In 4 hard years of predominantly mountain and frequent two up use, it’s had two sets of left hand switchgears, two driveshafts (at 30k and 60k kms), broken down once, had one puncture, a new battery, and a re-upholstered saddle, reasonable? Probably?  


  • A new bike for €120!

    Bet that got your attention?

    In my last post I was bemoaning the hot weather performance of my BMW K1300GT.  Having been stuck in a car park for half an hour when it wouldn’t start last week due to a combination of a “weak battery” and 32C heat, I made the decision to change the battery, in the hope that the Odyssey PC680 I had chosen (based on rave forum reviews) would be the solution to my starting and hot weather issues.

    €120 of credit card expenditure later and with a next day delivery promise, the PC680 duly arrived 24 hours later and was eagerly fitted to see if there really was a difference. Out of the box it had 12.89 volts vs my OE 12.6 and the bike burst into life on the button, but then the battery was new and it wasn’t that hot, so I took it a ride and then left it in the heat of a car park unattended for half an hour, and waited to see if it would start . Again, it did. I left it outside my house when I returned home for over an hour, and same result, so starting issues and heat problems seemed cured, BUT, there has been another huge and unexpected side benefit, the performance has improved massively!!!

    How so you ask? Well, when I first set off I became aware that the engine seemed to be pulling much harder than usual, and when I found I was able to redline it in the first three gears, I started to realise something had changed. Final vindication came on yesterdays ride, when Sue noted that it really was accelerating VERY hard. Despite having a top box to lean against , she was having to hang on too, saying it felt as if we were back on our old full power Blackbird!

    So, a new battery has seemingly resolved the heat and starting issues and given a  huge performance increase. Considering I was ready to offload the bike I would say this is perhaps the best €120 I’ve spent on the bike, shame then that I’ve put up with the starting and lower performance for so long when a simple battery could have solved everything,  still, we live and learn as they say!


  • BMW K1300GT update- 3 years and 71,000kms

     

    Back in October 2011 I posted a review entitled 2 years and almost 60,000kms with a BMW K1300GT, which itself was a follow on from an original review I did in September 2010 about life with BMWs’ K1200 and 1300GT’s. Here we are now in a yet another new year, and the GT is still with me, so I thought I’d post up again about what has happened in the past year and another 10,000kms.

     

    As of today, the GT turned 71,000kms, co-incidentally as I took it into the garage for another replacement of the left hand side switchgear. As with most bikes, the bulk of the controls are located on the left hand switchgear, and for the past 600kms or so I’ve been living with intermittent operation of every function controlled by the left hand side. Having a screen that doesn’t always rise and fall, and being able to adjust suspension settings and cruise control are arguably items you can live without, but having indicators and hazard warning flashers that don’t work is a little more serious. The problem had started just prior to the 70,000 service but annoyingly everything chose to work the day it was booked in and then promptly all failed again a week later. Eventually enough was enough and tired of hand signalling turns I booked it in for a replacement, but lo and behold, after a week of not riding  it, everything worked again this morning as I headed off to the garage. Still, true to form, 20 minutes later it had all stopped functioning again.

    Cost of replacing the switchgear was a not inconsiderable €343, and I had hoped that the faulty “bulb out” warning light problem would have disappeared, but as I left the garage I checked the lights and they were still working, UNTIL I got home and found that the dip beam had finally given up the ghost. Next trip to the garage will be to buy an expensive halogen replacement, although on reflection (no pun intended),  3 ½ years and 71,000kms is probably not a bad life for a bulb, especially considering how many running hours it’s been on for!

    ENGINE

    I decided not to gamble on having the engine explode due to a jumped timing chain,so I paid to have the new design guard fitted, only to find that now BMW are prepared to pay for these. Sods law of course, but better to have paid €100 or so to avoid a blown engine, than try and argue about having to fit a new one if it had gone pop!

    TYRES

    I’ve continued to stick with BT023GT’s and am now on my 8th set. I did once manage to eke 10,000 out of a front and 7,500 out of a rear, but generally at around the 6000 mark they start to go “off” a bit. I’d love to try Continentals Road Attack tyres, but having ridden so far on the BT023’s now, and knowing their character so well, I’m not really prepared to gamble on something I might not like.

    BRAKES

    The Brembo pads fitted at 57,653kms are still going strong, proving that OE fitment really is best!

    FUEL CONSUMPTION 

    Fuel consumption improved very marginally after fitment of the Boosterplug and remains more than acceptable at just under 5.4l/100kms. (see Blog post entitled “Boosterplug” from October 2011 for details)

     

    OIL CONSUMPTION

    Still a bit haphazard but continuing as I noted last time, the harder and more revs I use, less oil is consumed, using the torque and high gears for acceleration does use it.

    SERVICING

    Costs are starting to mount having now had 7 major 10,000km interval services. I’ve had it serviced regularly as per the maintenance schedule and the “reasonable “ cost of €1,122 for the first 5 major services (includes 1000km service at no charge, negotiated when I bought it), has risen to a rather shocking €2771 for 8 services, up to and including the last one at 70,000kms. The killer was at 60,000kms which cost close to a €1000 and included the valve clearance check. No adjustments were required so the engine is seemingly ok, although the garage screwed up refilling the radiator afterwards and the bike overheated 5kms after leaving the garage!

    GEARBOX

    Still extremely variable as to smoothness of engagement of gears. Since the clutch adjustment only seems to have one “sweet” spot, I’m starting to wonder whether the clutch is on the way out but will have to wait and see on that one.

    HANDLING/SUSPENSION

    Still impressed how a barge like this handles so well, especially two up, but it is heavy to manoeuvre when moving into or out of the garage, and I’m sure if it ever gets beyond a certain degree of lean, gravity will take over and it will end in a crumpled heap on the floor. Not done it yet and it’s not an issue when riding, just manhandling with the engine off worries me at times.

    BODYWORK

    Still in incredible condition, although it does get waxed and polished to within an inch of it’s life. There are small rust traces in some of the nuts, a legacy of the garage leaving it outside for a week, but otherwise no issues. I’ll include the seat in this section, as after 70,000kms I’m starting to find it uncomfortable for anything over 3 hours. Initially I could ride all day and never suffer the shuffling butt syndrome, but these days I’m finding less and less support from the seat and will be looking for another to replace it before the season starts!

     

    SUMMARY

    So another 10,000kms has passed and the only “real” issues are the fact I’ve had to change the switchgear (again), and I need to change a headlight bulb. I worry in the future that the shaft drive bearing may give up or that the chain tensioner or switchgear may fail again, but who knows? Overall though,given the way it’s ridden and performed, the GT is proving to have been an ok purchase.


  • Out with the old, in with the new

    Life and technology have moved on at a frightening pace in recent times in virtually every aspect of life, and this presents you with two very different choices; the first, stick with the tried and tested, things you know work and are comfortable with, the second; embrace change and the new, and learn how far things have moved on from what you previously thought was more than acceptable.

    Nowadays we all use PC’s, but wouldn’t accept the slow processing speed and small memories of the original machines we started with. Today we want huge processor power and terabytes of memory. Cars that once were top of the range have long been superseded by lighter, faster, and safer vehicles, with aids to cosset and support the driver, traction control, air con, GPS, Bluetooth, parking beepers, cruise control, the list is endless. The world of the motorcycle has moved on tremendously too. Bikes are now technological masterpieces, smaller, lighter, faster, and if you buy the latest sports bikes, you’ll probably get traction control, different engine maps, anti wheelie, etc. etc.

    Despite brief ownership of a GSXR1000K2 and a Kawasaki ZX-10R, I had singularly managed to resist full acceptance of the onset of technology (as far as my sports bike ownership is concerned) for almost 10 years , taking great pleasure in ownership of an HRC race/road homologated RC45.

     

    As the years wore on though, I noticed I had started to become envious of those on track days with faster bikes (in fact virtually everyone else’s bike was faster than the RC), and although I hardly ever saw another one, and it garnered a lot of admiring glances whenever or wherever I rode it, and the unique engine note turned heads ( especially through it’s open Micron pipe), it just didn’t cut it on the track.

    As time passed I enjoyed my track forays less and less, after all, what’s the fun of riding when everyone passes you on the straight and you don’t have the power to overtake anyone else? My 122bhp 750 was outclassed by pretty much every modern 600 too. At Magny Cours Club circuit, even as far back as 2004, I was at 200kph on the RC at the end of a straight, but easily managed 190kph with the wife as pillion, on a CBR600RR!

    My friends frequently badgered me to sell it, but I didn’t want to, clinging to the fact that there were only 1000 of these bikes worldwide and I had one. My wife was convinced I’d be buried with it, such was my desire to hold onto it!

    Fast forward to early 2012, and I was in a bike shop with Andy and came across a 2006 R1 in Yamaha’s yellow speed block colours.

     

    I thought back to a test ride I’d taken on one in 2006 when I was in Germany, but back then I decided to buy a ZX-10R instead as I enjoyed the engine character more, but this R1 in yellow started the questioning as to whether it might not be different, fast, and “interesting” enough to persuade me to sell the RC?

    Andy continued to pressure me and asked why I kept the RC, and when the only answer I could come up with was nostalgia, I knew the game was up and I had to move on, so two days later the RC was up for sale, and was snapped up by a Brit almost immediately, thereby giving me the funds to actively look for it’s replacement.

    I identified my purchase criteria knowing that as its primary use would be on track, it had to be fast, a relatively new model, have a slipper clutch, be low mileage, AND, had to be reliable and comfortable enough (within reason), to be used as a backup for my tours (if necessary) The biggest thing though, was that it had to be a bike I looked at and WANTED to ride, and above all, put a smile on my face every time I rode it.

    I guess I knew it was an R1 I wanted, and I quickly narrowed the search down to a 2007/8 model, the last of the truly sorted original R1’s before they switched to the new and much more expensive cross plane version. This model year had the slipper clutch I wanted, and with nothing but favourable write ups, I set off in search for a blue one, which handily would match my Arlen Ness leathers! I found the bike I was to buy almost immediately, but bad weather meant it couldn’t be test ridden, and after looking at a couple more, one which looked mint but turned out to have a dented frame, I went back to the first bike and bought it.

    A 2008 bike with only 11,000kms on the clock, it had the low mileage  I wanted, and it was clear the previous owner had maintained it fastidiously. Immaculate in blue with a double bubble screen, and with a reduction in price for new front brake pads and tyres negotiated off the price, the only remaining point was the purchase of some crash protectors to prepare it for the track. So, at the end of February I became the proud owner of an R1.

     

    Last month I posted on here the tale of its first track day at Dijon. Finally I had a bike that had a blistering top speed, handled well, and one on which I could now not only pass people, but which allowed me to run at the same pace as the others in my group. Running side by side with other bikes up the main straight at Dijon at 260kph knowing its still accelerating was fantastic, and overtaking became a new found pleasure.

     

    I changed the gearing quite quickly though as the 15 tooth front sprocket (original is 17 tooth) meant the engine was always screaming and noisy around the 4000rpm mark, and I prefer the acceleration and less noise that the 16 tooth sprocket now gives. I’m learning to get used to the steering going light under hard acceleration, something it does in each gear blasting up the Dijon main straight!. The handling from the front end is dialled in almost to perfection, but the rear still has a tweak here or there needed to be 100% right, but it’s not far off. On the road it’s actually too fast, as is virtually every litre bike these days, self-restraint is a valued commodity if I want to keep my licence!

    There is a blotch on this happy tale though. After a few rides and after changing the front sprocket, I started to notice that the ride had developed what I can only call a pogoing effect. Initially I thought this must be down to the chain having a tight spot, but it was particularly noticeable at 3000rpm and after the bike had been ridden for half an hour. I started to worry that it was a coil, spark plug lead or plug breaking down. Rides over any distance or time over 30 minutes became problematic and uncomfortable as I pogoed up the road unable to hold a constant throttle. Eventually after a ride out on my own one day, I turned back early because it had got so bad. 20kms from home the engine management warning light came on and the bike ground to a halt. Great!  The dashboard was now displaying a fault code, 15. From reading numerous forum reports, I knew this to be the throttle position sensor, so I switched the bike off, turned the throttle several times from fully closed to open and back, and was able to limp home afterwards.

    The previous owner had already had the TPS part replaced six months and 2000kms earlier, so very kindly he is contacting the fitting garage to get them to replace it again for me under warranty. Other than this small glitch I’d have to say the bike has met all the criteria I looked for. It’s good looking, is VERY fast, handles well, is surprisingly comfortable, and it makes me smile each time I ride it. I never thought that I’d sell the RC45, but having embraced new technology I’m glad I did, I’m having a blast, and hopefully will continue to have one for a long while to come!


  • Laverda

     

    If you’re into motorcycle history or biking, you’ll more than likely know of or have heard of the original fire breathing 1000cc Jota from 1976. When it was launched it’s top speed in excess of 140mph was awesome and made it the fastest production motorcycle of it’s time.

     

    Fast forward 35 years and the name Laverda is all but forgotten, having been purchased by Aprilia in 2000. There was a plan to create a new range of bikes with the Laverda brand, with the idea to market them as a range and with pricing above that of Aprila models, in the same way that Lexus is sold as an the upmarket brand of Toyota. The first stumbling block was that Aprilia also bought Moto Guzzi at the same time and decided to channel their efforts into Guzzi not Laverda, which meant the Laverda range was effectively stillborn, although seeing how Guzzi is performing today, you have to say that decision seems well justifed! When Aprilia fell on hard times and were themselves bought by Piaggio, the brand got shelved and all that remains was a concept bike Aprilia created, which featured the Aprilia RSV-R engine and was called the 750SFC. This bike appeared all too briefly in shows in 2003 but never made it into production.

    All of this brings me to a recollection of my own experiences with Laverda motorbikes. More years ago than I care to remember, I bought a Laverda 750S. I had been looking for a “sports” motorbike for solo riding to run alongside the Blackbird I used predominantly for touring with my wife. My search for a smaller, lighter and sportier bike didn’t have a real direction, so it was with an open mind that I listened to my friend Karel’s suggestion that I take a look at  Laverda. At that time Laverda were going through yet another financial crisis and were either for sale or in liquidation, so their bikes were being sold at stupidly low discount prices, but you had to take some uncertainty about the future availability of spare parts if you bought one.

    The local dealer was a couple of hours away, and Karel and I rode over to have a look and for me to take a test ride. There were half and full faired versions of the 750S, with interesting looking specs: multi adjustable Paioli forks, Marchesini wheels, Brembo brakes, aluminium beam frame, fuel injection, water cooled parallel twin making 92bhp, 185kg weight, and a top speed of 140mph. On paper not too bad, although not exactly earth shattering bhp figures, but hey, with a 6000chf discount off the normal price, it seemed a reasonable buy.

    The test ride threw up a couple of odd things which I put down to character and me not knowing the machine, but in hindsight should have taken as warning signs. The engine stalled a few times, needed to be revved hard with all the power above 7000rpm, but it was very light and flickable. It juddered a little being a twin, but as it was the first time I’d ridden a parallel twin I probably thought they all did that?

    A week later I’d bought the bike and rode it back home via St Cergue, which is a pass with 73 bends in 9kms,. All was going well except that by the time I arrived at the notoriously tricky pass, it had started snowing! Normally an unknown bike and snow would put the fear of god into a person, but the bike handled so well, and gave such great feedback in it’s handling that I felt super confident and got down safely and in one piece.

    Time passed, the first service was reached, and I made the forum recommended cable adjuster fitment which improved throttle response. I loved the handling, but the more I rode, the more cracks started appearing in my appreciation of the bike. It stalled, a lot! The engine was without doubt, after BMW’s K1200 offering, the worst pile of junk fitted to any bike I’ve ever thrown my leg over and ridden. Strange then that a race team in the UK seemed to be doing well in a production series with a similar model, but I guess theirs was hugely modified as it was impossible to imagine anyone riding this model and being anywhere other than at the back of the pack!

     

     

    I think the final straw came when my R6 riding buddy Ian took it for a ride and very quickly gave it me back declaring himself to be less than impressed and stating it wasn’t really very good (politely worded). Soon after it was sold, having been in my possession for a mere 3 months and 3205kms. Still, I sold it for the same price I’d paid for it, so other than the cost of a service and the throttle mod, I’d had 3 months of free biking, but it has the stigma of being the worst bike that I’ve ever owned and for the shortest period of time.

    As an aside to this story, Karel was the proud possessor of 750SFC which he loved, equally agricultural in performance and with parts harder to find than rocking horse manure, he loved it’s recalcitrant nature and difficult handling, only letting it go when he moved to the US and found it impossible to export it there.