Tag Archives: Impressions

Ducati Multistrada Ride Review

To me, this is the bike that invented the segment of the market I was interested in. This was the bike that promised that one bike could comfortably travel all roads, be as sporting as you could want on public roads capable of touring, and handle the odd unpaved (dirt) road as well. Put simply, it had built a big reputation, spawned a subclass of bikes and had a lot to live up to!

Ducati Multistrada

Photo courtesy of Werner Bayer.

What surprised me the most about this bike, was that after I rode it, I believed the hype! Unfortunately, the local Ducati dealer has to have someone accompany you on the ride (in other words: they lead the way). The previous test-rides were more in the vain of: throw you the keys and point you in the direction of fun roads. This turned out to be a requirement of their insurance policy, but did rather control the test environment as a result. Despite their location, they had an admirable “test-loop” which encompassed some twisty roads, some inner-city and a brief burst of highway.

My first surprise on this bike, was how low the seat height felt. I could comfortably flat-foot both feet at stand-still. The accompanying sales-guy was adamant that the adjustable seat was in the highest position, so I do wonder if taller riders would find the position a little cramped, but at 5”10, with 33” in-seam, it seemed both comfortable, and natural.

I have mentioned on numerous occasions, that I’m not a mechanic. I am also not a bike journalist! I suspect they become quite desensitised to the constant stream of new motorcycles they get to ride. It allows them to be not so “caught up in the moment” when riding new bikes as to notice subtleties of the bikes they test. Me, I was too busy idiotically grinning as to how cool the Ducati sounded as I blatted it through the city streets. The base model I rode did not feature a quick-shifter. Much like the Aprilia this allowed a liberal dosage of blipping the throttle on down shifts to complement the wonderful noise the bike made on the overrun. The V-Twin (or L-Twin as Ducati call it) also gave a slight pulse through the frame. It was not buzzy, like the BMW, just a gentle reminder of the engine layout (in case you were deaf)

Also not featured on this particular model, was the adaptive electronic suspension. The front end felt a little soft. Again, that overly long travel was noticeable to me, but really, it gave good feedback through the bars. I guess to describe it, it just felt “a long way away”. Judging by the speeds I was doing on an unfamiliar bike, it must have been pretty good… With familiarity, it would be a real weapon and give the average sports bike rider a real hurry-up on the roads.

Next part of the test-ride involved a brief highway stint – during which I tested the cruise control and adjustable windscreen. I found the cruise control intuitive and easy to use although I’ve heard the button layout is harder to control with thick winter gloves. The screen adjustability too was easy to manipulate on the move, but I have really yet to appreciate the difference this makes on any bike. One thing I have always admired was how good the wind protection is on the VFR. None of the potential candidates for the role of “my next bike” could really compare favourably against it. Anyway, it was easy to adjust allowing for long highway trips to allow plenty of contemplation and comparison between screen heights. If I had to guess, I would suggest that the bar-width on the Multistrada was slightly narrower than on the S1000XR. It seemed to be a more competent lane-splitter and commuter bike, if such things are important to you.

Overall, this is a seriously impressive bike. It lives up to the hype surrounding it. In a game of top-trumps, it loses out to a similarly specced version of the BMW S1000XR in almost every category. But, I agree with a lot of the reviews I have seen on it – somehow it ends up being a more desirable bike than the BMW. The new styling with the colour matched beak doesn’t look as good as the older black-beaked bikes to me, but I would never argue with someone if they felt otherwise. That’s always going to be a subjective opinion. In my eyes, the new “Enduro” Multistrada, with its 19 inch front wheel and wire spokes falls into the “ruggedly handsome” territory, but somehow the styling of the normal Multistrada just left me feeling disappointed. If you disagree with me on that, then this might seriously be your dream bike. It really is as good as that!

Aprilia Caponord Touring Review

Aprilia Caponord Touring
If I am honest, the Aprilia Caponord didn’t stand much of a chance.  While I suggested I wouldn’t make direct price comparisons between the bikes I reviewed, the reason this bike was on the shortlist to test-ride was that it was priced competitively against the other bikes I was interested in.  When I arrived at the dealership, they informed me that the current pricing was a “special running out the 2015 plated models” price.  All well and good, but they were extremely sketchy on whether they could get me one of those models anymore.  Apart from the demonstrator, the shop I went to certainly didn’t have any on the floor. On top of that, there seemed to be some doubt that the 2016 model would make it to Australia.

Secondly, I made the mistake of test-riding this bike on a weekday and managed to time my ride with the “pick the kids up from school” time, congesting the local roads to the point where true testing of handling was going to be difficult.

On a comfort and ergonomics stand-point, this bike was as comfortable as your favourite arm-chair (more figuratively than literally).  I’m unsure on whether the demo bike had the normal seat height, but it was far easier for me to put both feet flat on the ground than the two previous bikes I rode.  Despite this, the seat-to-pegs distance made it comfortable when on the move and somehow magically didn’t leave you feeling like you were going to “deck” the pegs when riding in a sporting manner.  Although untested, the pillion seat also looked large and inviting and sported large comfortable grab rails.

The large V-twin motor was a real double edged sword.  It had truck-loads of torque, almost making the gearbox feel like an irrelevant detail!  Around town, I never felt the need to progress beyond second gear.  Whether or not you consider the gearbox irrelevant, it certainly wasn’t an afterthought!  Gear changes were smooth and trouble free.  Although it lacked the quick-shifter found on the BMW and MV, the clutch was progressive and light enough not to be a burden.  Not having the quick shifter allowed a more liberal blip on the down shifts – not a bad thing when you have the glorious sound of a big V twin emanating from the exhaust. They were the good bits about the engine.

The bad bits related to the abruptness of the throttle when riding it in “Sports” mode.  The obvious solution was to use one of the other engine-maps, which helped the bike’s mannerisms to a fair degree, but never quite eliminated all the issues.  It was nigh on impossible to hold a steady speed in “Sports”.  In the “Road” mode, it was a bit easier, but still required more concentration than I would like to dedicate to that particular task.  You may think of this as a minor criticism, but when combined with the “instant power” of a V Twin, it made for a unpleasant arm-stretching / head-bobbling ride.  Maybe a owner would become adept at holding a steady throttle, maybe “Sports” mode would only be employed when riding “sportingly”, but it didn’t endear me to the bike…

Styling of these “pseudo-adventure” bikes is a bit hit and miss.  In my eyes, the MV Agusta was by far the prettiest bike and the BMW was quite “handsome” with its purposeful looks.  The Enduro version of the Aprilia Caponord shares this same handsome purposeful look, but unfortunately, the Touring model just looks dated. Badly… I’ve certainly seen plenty of reviews where they raved about the appearance of the Touring model, so I’ll respect your opinion if you disagree with me there…

The Aprilia shared the same indicator switch block as the MV Agusta.  As a result, the indicators felt vague under the thumb in exactly the same way. The other irritating control was the cruise control button.  You would think that one thumb activated button near the throttle would be simpler than the myriad of controls on the BMW but somehow reality didn’t reflect this!   You have to hold a steady speed, which combined with a really snatchy throttle is difficult to do.  I actually had more success, by using my left hand index finger on the button, than the thumb conveniently located next to the button!  (Even when I wasn’t in “Sports” mode)

Overall, I felt as though the Aprilia was a budget imitation version of the BMW.  Sure, it had a glorious sounding engine with instant grunt whenever you wanted it (and often when you didn’t) but that was its main party trick.  I could see how that V-Twin sound and power, combined with the comfortable relaxed riding position and easy to manage seat-height could well be very appealing to some riders.  It certainly wasn’t a bad bike, but I just don’t think it’s the bike for me.


BMW S1000XR Ride Review

BMW S1000XRRuthlessly efficient. Those two words effectively sum up the BMW. I rode this bike straight after riding the MV Agusta and the contrast between the two could not have been any more striking! Whereas the MV was all about passion and soul, the BMW just got on with it. I rode this bike with no preconceived notions about what it would be like, unbiased by internet forums and reviewers opinions. I hadn’t been particularly interested in it as I have a bias against inline four cylinder motors. I have owned three bikes with this style of motor and compared to a large capacity V-twin, they just seem… kind of “dull”. That’s not too say they aren’t powerful, they just lack the urgency of other engine formats. They sound great when they wind out to redline, but they just drone on when holding a constant speed. Even at a steady pace a V-twin sounds good! On the plus side, the engine does allow you to behave yourself when you need to – it doesn’t encourage you to constantly misbehave. Its seat height is enough to be an issue for the vertically challenged and I couldn’t really detect much difference in a bike that supposedly had the lower seat option fitted. The shape of the seat somehow encourages you to have one foot flat on the ground, but when going two feet down, I found myself to be in a similar predicament as when on the MV Agusta. There is something completely natural about riding this bike. It instantly felt familiar, inspiring confidence to push on in the corners. Fitted with the dynamic suspension, it offered a plush ride. The longer travel suspension of these bikes takes a little too get used to.  Compared to regular sports bikes, the suspension can soak up more. Unaware of any scaremongering internet forum topics, I did note how buzzy the bike was.  From around 4 to 5,500 RPM, the bike gets a fair amount of vibrations.  I have since seen that this is the major criticism of the bike, although most people complain about it most in the handlebars.  It would appear that the severity differs from bike to bike, and then how much that bothers you will be a matter of personal opinion.  To help ease the sensation of numb hands, the BMW is equiped with an excellent cruise control.  Controlling the cruise control was similar to most cars, with on/off, set/resume/cancel functionality and incremental and decremental speed adjustments all possible by buttons.  The control blocks actually featured a staggering amount of buttons.  I am not sure whether that is a good thing…  Still, it does reduce the number of times you go “diving” through menu options to get to the feature you want.  One button may work for an iPhone, but the level of user involvement required to make use of limited buttons costs the rider far too much in attention that is better spent on looking where they are going. Unlike the MV Agusta, I found adjusting the screen on the BMW while travelling an altogether more difficult proposition.  It only has two positions and no immediately obvious way to adjust it.  This led to a rather “interesting” moment where I managed to trap my thumb in the mouse-trap mechanism used to alter the screen height.  After the initial pain caused by the sudden clamping of the trap subsided, I was left with the predicament of having the glove (and hence my hand) caught.  After briefly worrying about it all going terribly pear-shaped, I managed to free myself from the dastardly contraption.  Apparently, the store had heard of similar stories where the rider had managed to engage the cruise control with the wrong hand, before freeing themselves.  Later I discovered it is possible to adjust the screen safely with one hand, by grasping the top of the screen and either pushing away or pulling it toward you.  Regardless, I didn’t really notice much difference in screen position – the wind levels seemed about the same at both levels.  When one was “motoring along” in the corners the raised position caused the top of the screen  to be right in my eye-line and somewhat distracting.   My selfies need work...

Overall, the BMW is one seriously impressive motorbike.  It handles exceptionally well and the brakes can put out a serious amount of stopping power.  The engine is happy to let you pootle along at sedate around town pace, but just as happy to tear your arms out of their sockets with the sort of ferocity that you’d expect from a Wookie losing a game of chess. Some may find the vibrations a “deal breaker” and others may call it “character”.  I would call them neither.  Really my only criticism of the bike is it felt quite soulless after riding the Turismo Veloce. It’s easy to see why the BMW riders I know stick with their bikes for years.  There’s something not quite as “whirlwind romance” about them.  More like they inspire a “lifetime partnership”.  They’re almost Honda-like…


Test Ride Impressions: MV Agusta Turismo Veloce

MV Agusta Turismo Veloce

Let me start by saying that the rear wheel hugger with integrated number plate and indicators does look a bit naff.  Not completely ugly, but it does have a degree of “well, we have to do something to make it road-legal”  It is a concession to the fact that someone, somewhere dragged out some technical document which stated something about having the rear wheel covered at a  certain point and declared that if you didn’t – you weren’t on a street-legal motorcycle.  There’s no way that it will look good, so this is the best compromise the MV Agusta designers could come up with.

Now that I have stated that caveat, let me state: I think that MV Agustas have to be amongst the prettiest motorcycles ever made.  The Turismo Veloce is no exception.  Whatever angle you view it at, it is just gorgeous.  I was lucky enough to spend a bit over an hour on the bike, hooning around the local hills and backroads, plus a bit of time in regular Saturday morning traffic. So, I took off from the store, down the road – quick U Turn and back past the shop and straight into my first false neutral!  This is the first bike I’ve ever ridden with a quick-shifter. Twenty years of muscle memory argued with computer controlled fuelling and ignition – the result of which was a short, noisey and embarrassing argument as the engine shot to redline and I clunked the bike into the next gear.  After that momentary faux-pas and wondering how many people had seen/heard the commotion, I noticed how much of my jacket sleeves I was looking at in the mirrors.  Much to my amazement, despite how close the mirrors are to your hands, it is possible to get a reasonable rear-view out of them.

I try and ride bikes on a test-ride, the way I would ride them if I owned them.  This can be summarised as: “sedately – most of the time.”  It took me half an hour or more on the MV, before I discovered it could be ridden sedately!  The engine is such a hoot – it just encourages you to behave badly on it!  The acceleration is instant and the throttle response is “precise”.  Fuel injection has come along way since my model VFR…

There were a couple of little things that weren’t the way I would like them to be.  These may have been characteristics of the particular demo model I rode.  Firstly, there was a lot of rear-brake lever travel before you got any real response.  I trail-brake using the rear brake a lot – especially in slow commuting or car park manoeuvres.  It didn’t bother me at other times and it may just be that the demo required a brake bleed, but I noted it at the time.  The other thing was with the switch gear:  The mode selector has the same motion as the indicators. In both cases, you can push them left-right, or “in”.  (i.e. the “cancel” motion on the indicator, is the same as the “OK” motion for the mode selector)  These feel natural to reach with the left thumb and despite their proximity, I didn’t confuse the two.  But, neither the “OK” nor the indicator cancel gave any real haptic feedback.  The OK selection didn’t appear to work terribly well and was too distracting to really bother with on  a test ride of an unfamiliar bike.  Back in the shop, I tried the indicators on a Brutale model and was surprised by how much more feedback it gave.  (I was also surprised by the fact it had different switch gear! )   There was evidence that the demo model sat out in the rain, so maybe a quick squirt of WD40 on the switch gear would improve matters.

I have seen various discussions on the web, wondering if the seat height is too tall.  For the record, I’m 178cm (according to my driver’s licence) and have a measured in-seam of 88cm when wearing my bike boots. When stopped, I could comfortably have both feet “two-thirds” on the ground, with just the heels not touching.  If I went for *ahem* an “uncomfortably forward and upright stance in close proximity with the fuel-tank”, both feet were flat on the ground.  Given the light weight and wide bars of the bike, I didn’t once feel in danger of an embarrassing car-park style tumble…

At first, I positioned myself a long way forward on the bike.  Seated like this, I found my knees were too low, gripping the tubular frame of the bike, rather than the tank.  This was uncomfortable for me.  Once I settled down, I was seated slightly further back and the whole seating position made a lot more sense.  The tank was easy to grip with my knees, the reach to the ‘bars felt natural and the view in the mirrors was good (and not of me!)  It was superbly comfortable –

I could easily imagine riding for hours in this posture without tiring. The more I rode this bike, the more excited I was about it.  So what if it doesn’t have 150 rear-wheel horse power?  The power and torque were such that it just got on with it…  Make no mistake – it is not slow!  It would do small controlled power-wheelies out of the traffic lights and would overtake traffic with just a quick blat on the throttle.  It left me cackling like the wicked witch and my helmet was only just strong enough to contain the ludicrous grin the bike gave me.  The brakes were superb and it would change direction with just the slightest input on the bars.  The long-travel suspension dealt with the worst of crappy back-road bumps and delivered a clear indication of the grip levels you had available to you.

Where I live, the authorities take such a dim view of people who dare to speed, it makes sense to have a bike that’s more capable on back-roads away from public scrutiny.  This bike definitely ticks all the boxes there. Niceties such as cruise-control and up-right seating position  meant that the unavoidable straight-line drone that riding in Australia entails would be handled with a minimum of fuss.

Speaking of such, I didn’t spend any time sitting at length on the open-road speed limit, so can’t really comment much on the wind/weather protection the adjustable screen affords – either up or down.  I can tell you, it’s beautifully easy to adjust while you’re going along. Overall, I loved this bike.  Despite being a “sports-tourer” it feels vastly different from bikes I have previously owned.  I find it difficult to express, but it would take me some time to feel truly comfortable riding it at speed.  Maybe it did everything I asked of it so easily, I felt like I was wobbling around on it?  It didn’t do anything untoward and put up with any ham-fisted gear shifts and dodgy lines in corners that I threw at it.  I’m sure with more time, or in more competent hands it would be an amazing bike.

MV Agusta Turismo Veloce
The biggest problem I would have if I owned this bike is: “Would I ever get out of the garage, or would I just get stuck admiring it?”  In the red/silver combination, it is just so gorgeous to look at… even with a naff rear hugger…