Sunday, May 31, 2015

Test Ride: Yamaha FJ-09

I honestly wasn't expecting much from this bike. I had read some reviews that said the FJ-09 was fun and torquey, but I didn't expect that to be so true. Hopping onboard, the bike felt a little small, especially after riding the KTM. But, when I put my feet up on the pegs, the bike just fit.

The salesman at YCH encouraged me to ride around the building a time or two, just to get a feel for the bike under me. After the first lap I was ready to ride; the FJ just felt so good under me.

I accelerated out of the parking lot, and immediately started grinning. The get-up-and-go of the bike reminded me of my SV1000, instantly powering up and with great power through the entire rev range. Steering, the bike glides effortlessly, going exactly where you want it. The brakes slow the bike down, stopping it quickly and without fussiness.

The instrument cluster is easy to read. I am not a fan of the windscreen, as the air hit me in the throat or the top of my helmet, depending on the adjustment. Still, that would be an easy fix, I am sure. Another neat little design item is the exhaust, whick is just a little port off the starboard side (watch out for x-wing fighters!).
All in all, this was a FUN bike to ride. I am not sure how it would perform on longer, multi-day rides, because of its size, but for a daily commuter or canyon carver, the FJ-09 would be tough to beat for all around performance and torquey fun. Throw in traction control at this price point and you have a real winner.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Test Ride: KTM 1190 Adventure

What a great looking bike! I have always been partial to orange, since my first bike was the burnt copper penny Suzuki SV1000. 
The bike comes with ABS Brembo brakes and traction control, plus multiple throttle settings, including one for wet pavement, which dampens the "enthusiasm" of the throttle control. Starting the bike brings the 1190 to life, and a healthy growl comes from under the seat, like a bear that's been woken up juuuuust a little too early from hibernation. The KTM's cockpit is well thought out, and everything is VERY readable and also customizable. One niggle - this thing has the tiniest handgrips ever. Fatter grips would be a must.

The KTM is a bigger bike, and you know it immediately. While the Moto Guzzi Stelvio was heavy, it didn't feel like it; the tall stature  of the KTM makes this size and weight immediately apparent. I was able to put the balls of my feet down, but could not flat-foot the bike. It would be interesting and  necessary to ride the bike with a full tank of gas to get a feel for just how important this is. 

Rolling, the larger feel of the KTM  is apparent at low speeds, and parking lot maneuvering at low speed operation would feel like work. But, once you get the revs up, the weight magically disappears. I only rode in standard mode, as opposed to sport (which offers a more spirited ride), and the bike responded very well. 

YCH only has a very short test ride area, and getting out farther would be a good test of how good this bike truly is. I found it above adequate for the ride I was taking, but a quick hustle through some twisties in sport mode would be a must for me. Still, I got the sense this bike can do it all, without complaint, and, indeed, would be a fun ride. 

There are ongoing questions about KTM's reliability (sounds funny coming from a guy who is considering a Ducati) and that might be enough to put me off, and, at the very least, are worthy of further investigation.

Still, this one makes the list for consideration

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Test Ride: Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

I sold the Triumph Tiger 800 and have begun my quest for the new steed. I am looking for something that is sporty for the twisties and comfortable for longer, multi-day rides. I went over to Europa Macchina in Lewisberry. They are, quite honestly, some of the nicest people I have met, passionate about heir business, but also genuinely interested in what I was looking for. They answered all of my questions about the brand and the bike.

Sitting Down
Sitting on the bike, I had a really nice surprise. Most reviews will tell you the bike feels heavy, almost obscenely so, but I didn't feel that at all. The bike felt extremely well-balanced at rest, and was easily manhandled to where I needed it. I am 6 feet tall, and can easily flat foot the bike. I did find the position almost a little tight in leg space, and I would wonder if there is a higher seat position. That was weird. The dash is very well laid out and attractive, with everything right where you want it.

The mirrors are adequate (though they shake at speed, again, something that is documented in many reports. A lot of people get the European package on the mirrors, which increases size and decreases shaking). The bike is very well outfitted, with Trax bags, high-power auxiliary lights, bash guard under the bike, and hand guards standard. It's everything you need for a proper adventure!

Starting Up

A simple twist of the key and push of the starter and the oil-cooled 1151cc engine comes to life. It's mounted across the bike, rather than in a straight line, so it feels a little funny as the pistons fire across the bike. People will say you either love it or hate it - I loved it. A twist of the throttle and you realize there is something alive under the seat. I LOVED the sound of this bike. 

The Ride
Europa has a good situation, with a quick flat road to get the bike under you, then a bunch of twisties, so you can stretch it out. I said the weight of the bike wasn't a big deal for me, but it immediately disappears when the wheels start turning. The bike has quick pickup, but not raucously so, and it is a linear acceleration that is predictable. One of the strange things is the feel of the engine at 3500RPM. It has a vaguely unnatural side to side pull you can feel. 

Out in the curves, the bike rolls right through. It is predictable and easy to throw around. There is a point in this part of the experience where people usually fall in love with a bike. Or not. For me, it was a not. The bike starts to get "interesting" around 6000 RPM and redlines at about 8000. That means that as soon as I entered the "fun zone" I had to start thinking about shifting back out of it. The bike does not have a lot of grunt/torque (having had a Suzuki SV1000, I suspect I was more than a little spoiled), and it's that missing piece that really makes it a no for me. 

My goal is to do a lot of mixed riding, touring and hitting the twisties around the rural roads of southcentral Pennsylvania. If all I were doing was touring, heading cross country, especially if it was on and off road, this bike would definitely be on the list. But, the Stelvio's lack of enthusiasm, especially in the curves, takes it off the list.