As with over half the current Ducati motorcycle range, the Ducati Sport 1000 is driven by the worthy air-cooled, two-valve 1000 DS (for Dual Spark). It’s straightforward, classically Italian motorcycle and pleasing enough and, though no cutting edge powerhouse, the Ducati Sport 1000 is perfectly suited to this role delivering enough retro-roadster motorcycle go when it matters and pleasing, characterful flexibility the rest of the time.
Build quality of the Ducat Sport Classic motorcycles is a league above most previous Ducatis. New paint processes and attention to detail result in jewl like motorcycles worthy of museum display. On the downside, like most Ducatis, the Ducati Sport 1000 must be kept clean and pampered. Straight forward mechanicals mean no reliability worries yet.
Light weight, sharp steering and more than adequate brakes and suspension make a bike that hustles. The Ducati Sport 1000 is the best (the high barred Ducati GT 1000 gets flustered while the Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE seems heavier and more reluctant to turn) but all of these motorcycles are fun. The trade off is being a hard and cramped long-distance tool, but higher ST3 bars are a common mod.
Seven grand odd sounds a bargain for this motorcycle but it’s swings and roundabouts. The Ducati Sport Classics are basic, unsophisticated motorcycles gilded by style and polish. While still fashionable, they’re worth every penny, but if grubby, worn or out of style they’ll quickly seem nothing special.
The Ducati Sport 1000 is not so much about extras as the quality of the basic motorcycle – gorgeous: deep,molten paint, masses of polished and sculpted alloy and little design touches that echo inspirational 70s motorcycle forebears The Ducati Sport 1000 and Ducati Sport 1000 LE are plastered with them (the LE also gets Ohlins suspension) the more basic Ducati GT1000, though sweet, is the poor relation.
The Ducati ST3 has plenty of Ducati character from the 90 degree V-twin (Ducati call it an L-twin) and more than enough poke to waft rider, pillion and luggage along without any bother. A Single cam operates three desmodronic valves in each cylinder. The Ducati ST3′s 50mm throttle bodies inject fuel giving a power delivery with smoothness Honda can only dream of – fuel consumption’s good too with 50mpg very possible.
Could it be that the Ducati ST3 is a relatively new motorcycle or that owners are the sorts that look after their motorcycle – but this seems like a reliable Ducati. Finish is excellent too. Servicing still shouldn’t be ignored and maybe time will see problems develop with the Ducati ST3 but we’re hopeful it’s a sign the Italians have finally sorted their act out.
The Ducati ST3 is an easy motorcycle to ride in any conditions – the most versatile Ducati. It’s stable and neutral but nimble enough when you get to those mountain twisties. Brakes are strong.
Weight of 203kg is less than many competitor motorcycles and being a Ducati, it carries it well. Front forks only have preload adjustment and are quite soft. A re-build can firm them up or go for the Ducati ST3s model.
Cheaper to buy than a Honda VFR800 or a BMW R1200S.Unfortunately insurance is pricey and proper servicing is too (skimp at your own risk!). The ageing but extremely competent Aprilia SL1000 Falco aces it on price, especially when discounted but it’s more sporty and suffers niggles.
The Ducati ST3 has headlight aim which is electronically controllable from the instrument panel – Ford Focus cars have it but not many motorcycles. The Ducati ST3 does. Also a fuel consumption read out, fuel range as well as all the regular stuff. Seats, screen and riding positions are well thought out and panniers are available. A huge range of official accessories are available for the Ducati ST3 including lots of carbon bits, high flow air filters and more.
The Ducati Multistrada 620 houses the same engine as the Ducati M620 Monster but has considerably more weight to propel. In other words, whilst it’s good, it’s a bit lacking. The Ducati Multistrada 620 is revvy and fun, there’s plenty of low down and midrange power but the top end’s breathless. Power delivery via the fuel injection is as sharp as a knife: newbies, hold on!
The Big Daddy Ducati Multistrada 1000DS is a flash piece of kit and the Ducati M620 Monster is always popular so the Ducati Multistrada 620′s heritage bodes well for both its quality and lifespan. Be aware that Ducati parts and servicing veers towards the pricey side of reasonable.
The Ducati Multistrada has a low(ish), comfy seat, wide bars and effective screen combined with good brakes and handling, which makes for an enjoyable ride. There’s a slipper clutch to avoid gut-wrenching, slippery down changes and the gearbox is nice and slick. The Ducati Multistrada is comfortable enough for long journeys so why make the tank so small?
Hmm… the Ducati Multistrada 620 is not cheap. Numerous rivals out gun it on horsepower as well as price: just look at the Yamaha FZ6 Fazer, or the Suzuki GSF650 Bandit or Suzuki DL650 V-Strom… But we all know you pay a premium for the Ducati badge on the tank; the thing is, would you consider it over the similarly entry-level, even cheaper and definitely more sexy Ducati M620 Monster?
The Ducati Multistrada 620 is nicely finished but for the price you’d at least expect a fuel gauge (rather than just a warning light). Sachs rear shock, Marzocchi forks and Brembo calipers are all good and there’s an impressive list of aftermarket parts available. How about an engine upgrade kit? It increases the Ducati Multistrada 620′s displacement to 750cc: bet that’s got some top end poke.
Ducati have once again pushed the limits of motorcycle design by adding Italian innovation to the elegance, style and technology which characterises the motorcycles that come out of its Bologna factory. All it needed was a heart, the perfect engine to realise the potential of this new design. The obvious starting point was the World Championship-winning engine, the Testastretta, used on the Superbike 1198 and work started to create the perfect power characteristics for the Multistrada 1200. Engineers in Bologna have succeeded in harnessing the immense power of this engine, making it smooth and adaptable to suit to any occasion. They have created the new Testastretta 11° engine, a significant step forward in balancing performance with usability.
MULTISTRADA 1200: FOUR-BIKES-IN-ONE!
The Sport Riding Mode provides the rider with an adrenalin-fuelled ride, where 150hp and incredible torque delivery are combined with a sports-oriented suspension set-up. To impart precise and focussed handling like a sportbike, it also slightly reduces Ducati Traction Control intervention to level 3 for expert riders whose ‘comfort zone’ is closer to the limit.
The Touring Riding Mode is still programmed to produce 150hp; however, the power characteristic is designed in a touring configuration with much smoother torque delivery, but ready to respond when needed. Safety is enhanced with the most advanced ABS technology and with the Ducati Traction Control system set to level 5 (intermediate intervention), specifically intended for a stable and relaxing ride. The suspension set-up is ideal for touring, ensuring maximum comfort for both the rider and passenger.
The four-bikes-in-one concept uses three technologies which interact to instantly change the chassis set-up and character of the Multistrada 1200. Fitted as standard equipment on all versions, the electronic ride-by-wire system administers three different engine mappings to change the character of the engine, while Ducati Traction Control (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control. For the ‘S’ version, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) instantly configures the suspension set-up to suit ‘rider only’, ‘rider with luggage’, ‘rider and passenger’ or ‘rider and passenger with luggage’.
RIDE BY WIRE
The ride-by-wire system is an electronic interface between the throttle grip and the engine which decides the ideal power delivery of the engine depending on the Riding Mode selected and the rider’s throttle input. The throttle grip no longer uses a throttle cable, but instead delivers a signal to the control unit, which in turn operates the throttle body butterflies.
The ride-by-wire system enables three different engine mappings to adjust the total power output and the way in which it is delivered. The three maps offer 150hp with a sports-type delivery, 150hp with a progressive delivery and 100hp also with progressive delivery.
DUCATI TRACTION CONTROL (DTC)
The racing-derived DTC is a highly intelligent system which acts as a filter between the rider’s right hand and the rear tyre. Within milliseconds, DTC is able to detect and then control rear wheel-spin, considerable increasing the bike’s safety and performance. The system offers eight ‘levels of sensitivity’, each programmed with a level of rear wheel-spin tolerance in line with progressive levels of riding skills classified from one to eight. Level one is programmed to offer the least amount of interaction while level eight uses the most amount of interaction. DTC is an integral part of the pre-programmed Riding Modes on the Multistrada 1200; however, its setting can be customised by the user.
SUSPENSION WITH DUCATI ELECTRONIC SUSPENSION (DES)
The ‘S’ versions of the Multistrada 1200 are equipped with the latest generation 48mm Öhlins suspension featuring the innovative Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES). The brand new fork technology enables spring pre-load and rebound and compression damping adjustments electronically controlled via the instrument panel. The Öhlins rear monoshock is also adjusted electronically in spring pre-load and rebound and compression damping.
The electronic suspension adjustment can either be made by using the pre-set riding modes, which have been developed by Ducati test riders, or in independent mode, which allows riders to use their own personal settings. Adjustments made via the instrumentation send a signal that initiates electronic actuators mounted on the suspension units.
Their innovative design is well integrated with the motorcycle’s overall shape and positioned so as to improve overall weight distribution. The tailpipes are short so they do not impinge on the space needed for the large panniers. The internal structure of the silencer is designed to achieve the characteristic Ducati sound without compromising compliance with sound and hydrocarbon emission standards (Euro3).
The frontal air intakes, which are carbon fibre on the ‘S’ Sport version, are not just a characteristic design aesthetic, but carry out the important function of acting as air flow conveyors, one to the oil coolers and the other to the airbox to feed the engine.
The single-sided rear swingarm is also a good example of Ducati’s blend of design and functional engineering. It is made using a single piece casting, with fabricated and welded sections creating a strong, hollow and lightweight component that contributes considerably to the Multistrada’s surefooted handling.
The headlight is a characteristic feature of the face of the Multistrada 1200; its symmetrical layout uses four halogen lamps, two for low and two for high beam to provide excellent illumination. In addition, the front and rear side lights use LEDs, and feature a special shape of intense white light guidance, which both improves road illumination and makes the motorcycle more visible to other road users.
The Ducati signature Trellis frame uses large diameter, light gauge tubing with two central cast aluminium sections and a Trellis rear subframe. The frame has 19% more torsional rigidity than the Multistrada 1100. The high pressure, die casted, magnesium front subframe reduces the high, frontal weight and contributes to chassis feel and control. Even if the front subframe is hidden below the fairing, it is precious and beautiful designed: why? Because we want our bikes to be beautiful inside as they are outside.
Pirelli worked alongside Ducati as its technical partner throughout the project, developing the new Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres specifically for the Multistrada 1200. They represent the first dual compound tyre for on/off road use with the central section of the tyre a harder compound than the outer sections. Combined with a special tread design and carcass structure, their 190/55 section delivers racing performance on the road in terms of grip and lean angles, while ensuring high mileage for touring and good off-road performance. The new generation tyres are purposely designed for the four-bikes-in-one concept.
The front brakes use twin radially mounted Brembo four piston, two pad callipers actuated by a master cylinder with an adjustable lever. The front is fitted with 320mm discs, while a single 245mm disc on the rear is gripped by a single Brembo calliper. Typical of all Ducatis, these components ensure high performance braking and set the standard in this segment. The Multistrada 1200 is also equipped with a Bosch-Brembo ABS system, optional for the standard version and fitted as original equipment on the ‘S’ version. It delivers outstanding braking performance in all conditions and provides a major contribution towards performance safety. An option to disable the ABS is available via the instrumentation, but is automatically reactivated at the next ignition-on.
The BMW R1200GS’ trusty oil/air-cooled SOHC Boxer motor is flexible, punchy and revvy all at the same time. The motorcycle’s throttle is light, the response is instant and the power is all you could hopefully use in the real world. There are pleasantly few vibes, too, thanks to new-for-BMW balance shaft fitted to the BMW R1200GS.
BMW motorcycle reliability is legendary, but it’s as much down to the comparatively gentle use the BMW R1200GS tends to get and the meticulous attention to the service schedule of BMW R1200GS owners . Avoid any motorcycle that can’t back up its history with a full, dealer-stamped, motorcycle service book.
The BMW R1200GS exudes perennially unflustered excellence. The chassis is superb. The Telelever front end initially feels remote, but once you’re dialled in to the motorcycle and confident the BMW R1200GS can be leant and leant and leant. It’s 30kg lighter than the preceding model, the BMW R1150GS, and the servo-assisted brakes and (optional) ABS help haul the BMW R1200GS up with ease.
BMW R1200GS typically command top dollar for either new or secondhand motorcycles. But the good news is that you get back much more of your money when you sell the motorcycle than virtually any other motorcycle brand. Mileage is normally the bugbear of residuals, but BMW R1200GS buyers are much more tolerant, with only motorcycles showing over 50,000 considered high mileage.
A man could beggar himself lavishing kit on his BMW R1200GS. Heated grips, ABS, crash bars, hard and soft luggage…but at least you get an ignition-based immobiliser and a height adjustable seat as standard on the BMW R1200GS.
After decades of obstinance, the BMW K1200S has BMW’s first across-the-frame four motorcycle engine – the layout the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers have used to dominate motorcycling. And it works. Low down torque is plentiful, midrange and top end power are excessive in the BMW K1200S. You’ll need an autobahn and big balls to get the BMW K1200S’ throttle on the stop. The motorcycle’s gearbox is awkward when hot.
Few motorcycles shrug off winter better than a BMW motorcycle. That said a BMW K1200S will still need regular attention to keep it looking shiny. Shaft drive means less maintenance and expense. A few used motorcycles seemed to have suffered from vibration and quite high oil consumption. Thoughtful ownership of the BMW K1200S and to-the-book servicing may prevent this.
Never one to shy away from innovation, the BMW K1200S uses another new system for front suspension. A single shock does the work which linkages transfer the forces. The theory is it separates braking and cornering forces – which is does. It’s brilliant everywhere except a racetrack and the motorcycle is still acceptable there.
The BMW K1200S is not cheap, especially with ABS fitted (£795 extra). Rival motorcycles RRPs are lower plus they can be bought at a discount – BMW K1200S’ are rarely sold new under list price. Depreciation is quite low.
The BMW K1200S’ comfort is better than many touring motorcycles and the electric screen is superb at making autobahn wasting totally relaxing. BMW’s panniers are quite small but don’t affect high speed handing like some larger aftermarket ones. Factory extras for the BMW K1200S include the excellent Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), low seat, heated grips, on-board computer and an alarm.
With the BMW R1200R famed reliability meets the tuning fingers of a joker. There’s a fair wallop of bottom end grunt and top end kick – more than any naked bike has a right to have. Even though the old flat-twin is very old design-wise, modern internals, electronics and injected fuelling ensure the Boxer motor lives on for a while longer to keep BMW purists happy. Shaft drive is a god-send for the less mechanically minded.
With an engine design that can be traced back to before most of us were born, and a rolling chassis that has tried and trusted components, the reliability of the BMW R1200R is never going to be an issue. However, modern electronics suffer on all bikes because of vibrations and hostile weather, so no one can guarantee a bike to be free from problems. If it helps, BMW has one of the strongest ‘faithful’ group of riders because it seems its motorcycles just keep going and BMW aftercare is a committed one.
Telever front suspension (relies on a single main spring under the steering head) is unique to BMW, as is the Paralever shaft arm. Used on its touring models the whole system is a testament to stability and a role model for coping with UK roads. Now lighten the steel-based frame, add sports-like steering and you get a bike, the BMW R1200R, that rolls over quicker than a nervous spaniel. Traffic dodging and A-road blasts are simple and fun, which sums the motorcycle up completely.
If the Japanese manufacturers produced an £8300 bum-basic naked with the R1200R’s performance then sales-wise it’d fall flat on its arse. So how comes BMW can get away with it? Simple really, because it is a BMW and with BMW motorcycles comes high resale values. Value for money? Not if you’re into bikes like Kawasaki’s Z1000, or Bandit Suzukis, but then they don’t have shaft drive and will never command a good resale value.
With the exception of a three-way height adjustable seat as standard, the R1200R is bum-basic for a BMW, and that’s why the price is kept low (for a BMW). But as it is a BMW the list of optional riding equipment is long (and pricey): Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), ABS, tyre pressure monitoring, soon-to-come traction control etc.
The CBR1000RR design utilized an innovative long-swingarm, weight-forward configuration that allowed the machine to get more power to the ground sooner when exiting corners—thereby creating a remarkably well-balanced and rider-friendly package that simultaneously wielded the kind of awe-inspiring power that only a modern-day liter-bike could generate. The 1000RR’s credentials seemed never-ending: gravity die-cast aluminum frame, extraordinarily compact high-output engine with Dual Sequential Fuel Injection (DSFI), Unit Pro-LinkTM rear suspension, radial-mount front brakes, and the unique Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD).
The new CBR1000RR appeared, its 2004 rollout provided scarcely a pause for Honda’s engineers because life in the 1000cc sportbike class revolves around a single, relentless quest: more performance. This unquenchable drive for additional development and more performance continued virtually unabated. So now, only two years later, 2006 brings the next evolutionary step in the life of the 1000RR. To that end, the 2006 CBR1000RR offers advancements in every parameter, with more power, better handling and less weight.
In the ultra-competitive liter-class sportbike wars there’s no time to rest, no free lunch, no easy path to improvement. Which is to say the CBR1000RR’s improvement in power output was achieved not with any single change, but rather with a collection of carefully developed modifications that add up to a significant boost in performance. To start, the cylinder-head’s intake and exhaust ports were refined in shape and size to yield a straighter path for higher flow—and a resulting significant improvement in power feel.
The reduced volume in the combustion chamber provides a distinct increase in the compression ratio, from 11.9:1 to 12.2:1, although this alteration was achieved in a slightly unusual fashion. Rather than change only the shape of the combustion chamber proper, Honda’s engineers also reshaped the surfaces of the intake valves that face each combustion chamber; shallower dished-out areas essentially add material to the chamber to reduce volume and help raise the compression ratio. To nullify any weight gain to the intake valves, each valve had a corresponding amount of material removed on the opposite side of the valve head, in the area near where the valves rest in their seats. Other performance-up measures include new valve timing and more lift (from 8.9mm to 9.1mm) on the intake side to help boost power, and a new double-spring design for the intake valves replaces the single-spring setup previously used—all the better for enhanced power output and reliable operation at higher engine speeds.
Specifically, torque now peaks at 10,000 rpm, 1500 revs higher than before, and engine redline increases from 11,650 rpm to 12,200 rpm with the 2006 model. In conjunction with a larger rear sprocket (from 41 to 42 teeth) these changes enhance acceleration while top speed can remain unchanged. Usually, gains made in a larger rear sprocket’s sharper acceleration must be paid back in reduced top speeds, but this new engine’s taller redline and stronger high-end power output maintain the CBR’s high top-speed ceiling for performance.
To build in even greater durability during extended high-speed operation, a new crankshaft made of a stronger steel alloy provides enhanced stiffness and strength to meet the demands of high performance without adding extra weight. In addition, the camshafts have been lightened via thinner shaft wall thicknesses to trim weight from the drivetrain. The net result of all these changes is an approximate 3% increase in peak power output, with fully 75% of the improvement credited to the changes in the cylinder head and porting. These refinements also help achieve an improved power-to-weight ratio, resulting in sharper acceleration and noticeably stronger rush through the entire powerband.
A new, more simplified internal design for the electronic control unit (ECU) results in a modest reduction in its weight, making yet another small but significant contribution to the overall weight loss. A new magnesium ACG cover further contributes to reduced engine and overall machine weight; previously, only the head cover and oil pan had been constructed of magnesium. Other detail improvements abound. A revised internal crankcase venting system reduces power loss due to crankcase pressurization. A lighter cam chain tensioner slices weight from the engine, as does a new cooling system impeller, which also improves flow for enhanced engine cooling and reduced heat-induced power loss. A larger-diameter thrust washer in the clutch provides more surface area and a wider needle bearing in the clutch basket adds strength and durability. The result is greater durability and smoother clutch engagement action as well.
The shift drum shaft has been changed to reduce weight, and the transmission engagement dogs are undercut more for more positive shifting and less driveline lash. On the intake side, the internal shape of the ram-air intake ducts have been altered to improve airflow and the grill covering the intake system now features a larger grid pattern for enhanced flow. The upper “showerhead” fuel injectors in the DSFI system now feature a revised spray pattern for greater efficiency as well. The CBR1000RR burst onto the streets and Superbike racing scene in 2004 with an all-new gravity die-cast aluminum frame and advanced Unit Pro-Link rear suspension layout taken directly from Honda’s famed RC211V MotoGP racer. Cradling the potent engine is a stressed-member diamond configuration that contributes to the big CBR’s exceptional handling stability. This frame is light weight and has a relatively simple, organic form.
The 1000RR chassis and frame receive a host of refinements that add up to a significant improvement in overall handling ease and smoother response to rider input. First, the inverted, fully adjustable cartridge-type front fork now features fork springs made of a different material with an increased rate, and more spring preload is used. The steering head’s caster angle is reduced slightly—a quarter of a degree from 23 degrees, 45 minutes to 23 degrees, 25 minutes. Together with a reduction in trail from 102mm to 100mm (3.9 inches), these alterations help sharpen steering response and overall handling. In another change to the chassis, the swingarm is reduced fractionally in length by 4mm. Overall these chassis changes have decreased the CBR1000RR’s wheelbase from 55.6 inches to 55.3 inches for quicker steering.
The CBR1000RR’s superb radial-mount front disc brakes increase in diameter from 310mm to 320mm in 2006, and this change yields a readily apparent increase in braking power and a greatly enhanced feel. In order to minimize unsprung weight, the thickness of the rotors is reduced from 5mm to 4.5mm, resulting in a total weight reduction of 300g. Also lightening the chassis unsprung weight is a new smaller and lighter rear-brake caliper. And the rear wheel and sprocket are now fitted with a new set of dampers that better absorb the shocks of quick clutch operation and sudden jolts of power to driveline during hard acceleration and deceleration.
Liquid-cooled 998cc inline four-cylinder engine.
Aluminum frame patterned after the RC211V MotoGP machine.
Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) for optimum steering effort and stability.
Cassette-type close-ratio six-speed transmission.
Centrally located fuel tank increases mass centralization and allows more compact frame design.
Radial-mounted front brakes.
Center-up exhaust system.
Unit Pro-Link rear suspension and swingarm design inspired by RC211V.
Line Beam Headlight features three-piece reflector design.
Dual Stage Fuel Injection System (DSFI) features two injectors per cylinder.
Aggressive styling based on the championship-winning RC211V MotoGP machine.
Liquid-cooled DOHC 16-valve 998cc four-stroke inline four-cylinder engine features bore and stroke dimensions of 75mm x 56.5mm.
Sixteen-valve cylinder head features 29mm intake and 24mm exhaust valves with an 12.2:1 compression ratio for efficient combustion and high horsepower.
Lightweight nutless connecting rods.
Direct shim-under-bucket valve actuation system ensures high-rpm durability and allows 16,000-mile valve maintenance intervals.
Iridium-tip spark plugs improve fuel combustion and performance.
Dual Stage Fuel Injection (DSFI) system features two injectors per cylinder—one upper and one lower—controlled by an ECU that senses rpm and throttle opening. Lower injector enhances rideability while upper injector improves top-end horsepower. At lower rpm only the lower injector is working. At higher rpm, both injectors are activated. The system uses 44mm throttle bodies.
Denso injectors with lightweight valving for faster reaction time and 12 holes per injector improve atomization of fuel mixture for optimum combustion efficiency and power.
Auto-enriching system is integrated into PGM-FI module, eliminating the need for a manual choke.
Forged aluminum pistons with moly surface treatment for reduced friction.
Aluminum composite cylinder sleeves are high-pressure-formed from sintered aluminum powder impregnated with ceramic and graphite. The lightweight composite sleeves provide better wear resistance and superior heat dissipation compared to conventional sleeves.
Electronic ECU provides two digital 3-D fuel injection maps for each cylinder and two digital 3-D ignition maps for cylinder pairs, creating ideal fuel mixture and spark advance settings for superb rideability.
Newly designed ram-air system allows higher volume of cool air to the 8.35-liter airbox for linear power delivery and incredible engine performance.
Stainless steel four-into-two-into-one center-up exhaust with twin outlets and titanium core increases lean angle and reduces wind drag.
Liquid-cooled aluminum oil cooler is lightweight and efficient.
Maintenance-free automatic cam-chain tensioner.
Starter gears located on the right side to produce narrow engine and increased lean angle.
Eight-plate clutch is compact and tough, featuring durable friction plate material. Cassette-type, close-ratio six-speed transmission is easily accessible for rapid gear ratio changes and maintenance at the race track.
After riding an 2004 R1 for the previous couple of weeks in all sorts of conditions and types of traffic I had an opportunity to swap over for a while onto the new Yamaha XT660X Supermoto. So with some reservations I headed off on a sunny day to Brooklands in Surrey to change bikes. Now Brooklands is just off the M25 so it’s inevitable that you will have to use some of this horrible motorway to get there, but with traffic the way it was and the road repairs on the main motorway I was glad in a way that I used it as all the smaller roads seemed to be in a state of gridlock!
I collected the XT and was reliably informed ‘No don’t use it on the motorway, take the twisties!’, but with what I had just ridden through I decided to take the M25 back for a short way. After checking over the bike and the controls I headed off through the town and back toward the motorway, and with just 5 miles under my belt a switch went on in my brain – I had just turned into another type of hooligan – this bike is great, it’s the kind of bike that every motorcyclist should own, a bike for all weathers and it just makes you smile.
Riding through the traffic is so easy, and as I passed yet another supersports bike with the rider all hunched up painfully over the bars I though of myself a short while before! Riding the same route on the R1 was not nice, but on this XT it was fantastic, let’s see how it goes on the motorway coming up next.
The Yamaha XT660X seems to eat up most types of traffic and roads, it’s versatile and easy to ride, you can have as much fun as you can possible have on any bike riding at normal speed limits and keeping your licence safe. For 2004, the XT660 has been completely redesigned and now features a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder motor with a 100mm bore and 84mm stroke. The motor also features a forged piston running a compression ratio of 10:1 in a ceramic-composite plated bore. A new fuel injection system with a 44mm throttle body feeds the all new SOHC, four-valve cylinder-head, and twin big-bore exhausts let the engine breathe nicely.
The power delivery from the XT is very snappy indeed, the torque delivery is pretty flat and that just encourages you to get aggressive on the acceleration out of corners. You can get all the power available down onto the ground without any real fear, in fact I had the rear sliding out of corners after a while (which I don’t usually do!) under full control and had no worry about Mr Highside paying me a visit. This bike seems to handle all types of roads and every type of road surface you care to throw at it, it stable on fast roads and will tackle motorways for reasonable distances at well more than the legal limits. Not only that but as far as motorway riding is concerned I did discover that it is pretty resistant to buffeting from trucks and buses making it an easy bike to commute on. I did do a bit of commuting with it into London for a few days, and as a test I only used the M40 motorway from Oxfordshire to get into the city, it was easy and comfortable. The XT 660X is definitely the sort of bike you could ride every day, and you could have your dream bike sitting in the garage for those other special days.
The XT660 gives you the feeling that it is unbreakable when you ride it, it’s an undemanding bike to ride but it has a very distinct road presence, but as always you will really have to ride one to understand what I’m talking about. On country roads and twisting ‘A’ roads it can be pushed as hard as you like into corners and leaned as far over as any current sportsbike without any fear, I did actually manage to touch a peg down at one stage which can’t be bad from a bike derived from a dirt bike. There are a lot of lightweight dirt bikes that feel very nervous and skittish on the road, but the XT660X feels more like a normal middleweight naked road bike in reality, you don’t get that feeling of vagueness from the steering and with the seating position and footpegs being as they are it gives you a much more sporting position than the usual dirtbike style layout. As I said before the power delivery comes in a way that plants the rear wheel on the road from very low revs right up through the range, it’s much smoother and crisper than the normal big-bore enduro and very exhilarating in the mid range.
The XT uses a tubular steel frame with two upper frame tubes, the engine is utilised as a stressed member, this results in a chassis some 60% stiffer than its predecessor, so Yamaha say. Both the XT660 and the X have the same 43mm front forks, but the 660X is by far better on the road due to being less soft and better damped. To complete the road package the X has some excellent Excel road rims fitted, the front and rear 17″ rims run sticky 120/70 and 160/60 radial tyres. In the braking dept the front is fitted with a huge 320mm floating disc and a Brembo four-piston caliper, the combination certainly works well and will haul you and the rear wheel up very quickly indeed! Yamaha have tuned the suspension for the XT660X and it works well, It’s not just a dirtbike with road wheels and tyres fitted, it’s a total package. With the right rider on it you will definitely surprise a lot of supersports bike riders on any country road pursuit, not bad for a 48bhp bike!
If you take a look at the Yamaha XT660X on the spec sheet then I doubt very much whether you would consider it. On paper the XT factory supermotard doesn’t look that good, it weighs pretty much the same as the current R1 and has between 1/4 and 1/3rd of the power!! The single cylinder motor develops a meager 48bhp and has to pull along a mass of 170kg (dry), it all looks like a bike that will never thrill and have no performance at all. But ride one and think again..the XT660X will change your opinion of this type of bike, after a few minutes riding it you will soon realise that the fun factor is high and the reason for this is…you just ride it on the stop everywhere you go, corners become a thing of the past and you just grin like a maniac!
The XTX is a really easy bike to ride through traffic and the city, and it’s serious fun winding country lanes, in fact the narrower the roads the better the XT gets! With the super sticky sports road tyres, which are incidentally designed for much more power, you can put down all the power and lay it over as far as you like. Ride the XT at any corner and keep the throttle open like you would on the dirt, it will steer quickly and precisely around and accelerate hard out, it great fun and I don’t know of many other bikes that you can actually do that with! The suspension soaks up all of the bumps and undulations in a nice way without throwing the bike off-line, and when you brake a little hard it doesn’t dive excessively. It’s a different sensation completely to that of riding a middleweight bike hard, a lot of this is due to the relatively high seating position. Never think you will overstretch this bike, keep the throttle open and keep your weight over the bars, if you think you are going too fast or are over committed into a corner then back it off a bit, the XT won’t bite back, then try again and lean it into the corner as much as you like, it will take it believe me!
The XT660X is a bike you can live with every day. It’s not some highly strung supermoto that needs servicing daily, it doesn’t vibrate you off the bike on every ride either, you can actually see through the mirrors at speed, and it’s comfortable for reasonable distances. It has all the benefits of a normal road bike including (a bit of overkill in reality) hazard warning lights! On a Supermoto!! No it really is a bike for everyone, you can ride it to work and you can take on the big boys at weekends, and that says it all in a nutshell.
The Honda CBR125 was Britain’s top-selling motorcycle in 2005 – and it’s easy to see why. It’s styled like its CBR600RR and CBR1000RR stablemates, from its crisp-edged full fairing and dual “cat’s eyes” headlights to the stepped seat and split tail light. It’s aimed at the “sixteener” market, most of whom are astonishingly knowledgable about top sports bikes and MotoGP racing machines – which is why it’s also available, like the bike in our pictures, in the Repsol colours of double World champion Dani Pedrosa who is, let me remind you, little more than a schoolboy himself.
As far as image is concerned, Honda has pushed all the right buttons on this oneI would have given my eyeteeth for a fully-faired sports bike when I was sixteen.. I would have given my eye teeth for a fully faired sports bike when I was 16. But what of the bike behind the hype; what’s under the razor-sharp Baby ‘Blade clothes? Well, a fairly low-tech, 124.7cc single with a carburettor rather than fuel-injection, one camshaft and only two valves, that’s what.
The trouble is, most of it is concentrated at the top of the rev range. The bike pulls away nicely with about 3500rpm on the clock but once you make the huge jump to second you need a lot of revs just to stay ahead of the traffic. The CBR also doesn’t like pulling up steep hills or into a sgtrong winds – both of which are in plentiful supply in here Cape Town. A couple of times I found myself going up Eastern Boulevard into the South-Easter with the engine buzzing at 8000 in third at around 70km/h; the bike simply wouldn’t pull fourth under those conditionsIt keeps the plot under control even when going faster downhill than the bike’s top speed on the flat.
For what it’s worth, I coaxed the little ‘Blade up to 109km/h at 10 500rpm in cool, still air on the flat; I could probably have got a little more by revving it out in fifth before popping it into top gear but mechanical sympathy intervened. The little single begins to vibrate at the peak torque; the shakes continue through to peak revs, encouraging the rider to change up soon after 10. Probably deliberate, that. The clutch feels like it came off a motocross bike, light but firm, with plenty of feedback and a solid hook-up at the end of its travel. It’s easy to learn and lends itself to fuss-free take offs even in relatively inexperienced hands.
The six-speed gearebox is notchy at low revs but agreeably slick when all the shafts are spinning properly; lever travel is positive and commendably short – I’d have some scathing things to say if it weren’t, on a single making less than 10kW. I soon dispensed with the clutch when changing up except when going from first to second (the big gap made it very jerky) and got better results than with it. I was also pleasantly surprised by the absence of driveline lash.
The non-adjustable front suspension (31mm conventional forks) is firm without being harsh, controlling the front wheel even on bad roads and delivering light, accurate steering at any speed the bike is capable of. The rear wheel is monitored by a straight monoshock set-up without any linkages that seemed, as so often on small Oriental machines, a little underdamped for South African conditions (big rider, bad roads). Nevertheless, it keeps the plot under control even when going faster downhill than the bike’s top speed on the flat.
The brakes are also a little basic, with floating callipers at both ends; the front brake, however, works very well although it demands a firm squeeze to get the most out of it.The back brake is very good indeed; strong but not grabby, with plenty of feedback, well suited to an inexperienced 16-year-old hoof. The seating position is not as radical as it looks; the rider sits fairly upright although his/her hands are a little close to the hip point, thanks to the bike’s dinky 1294mm wheelebase.
Despite the under-par rear suspension you can throw the CBR around on tight corners; at 115kg dry it lends itself to seriously late braking and it has enough ground clearance for impressive mid-corner speeds. It certainly earns its family credentials in terms of rideability. Am I describing a hooligan tool? Ultimately, no. The CBR125 lacks the power to get really naughty unless you rev the nuts off it and even then any of the 125cc two-stroke race replicas will make it look like a moped.
What it has going for it is its looks, Honda build quality and durability, grown-up features such as electric start and a complete instrument panel with analogue dials for speed, revs, fuel level and coolant temperature – and at R22 500, price. But only a schoolboy would enjoy commuting on a bike this intense, that’s this much hard work to ride. The CBR is pointed with typical Honda accuracy right at its target market, which is why it’s the UK’s biggest seller.