Friday, July 11, 2014

Why I traded Ducati for a BMW

I've done a back flip. Not one of those real back flips in freestyle motocross, more like a metaphorical back flip. I've traded Ducati for a BMW. You see I've been a bit of a Ducati fanboy in the past. Like those annoying Apple fan-boys that line up for the next iPhone, wait...uh-oh I've done that once too. I'm not liking where this story is going but I'll continue.

I bought my first Ducati in December of 2012 in the form of a Hypermotard EVO SP 2012 and I was smitten. I was gone for all money. I wrote about it being cult status stuff back then, I bought the t-shirts and the jacket to prove my love.

Hell I was so gone I created a blog dedicated to it. Jump forward to April of 2013 and I decided I'd upgrade to a Multistrada, and do some serious touring. Jump forward another year to April 2014 and my journey with Ducati had started to become something of a burden.

Every visit to the garage ended in triple figures and those trips had become too frequent. The touring I did was fun, but not frequent enough and little things just kept going wrong. Some of those things were my fault, others were not.

The Multistrada is a hell of bike, as anyone who has ever ridden one can attest to; that engine is the most intoxicating thing to ride. But unless this is you:

then you'd better buy brand new, with a 24mth warranty, and then sell it at a loss before that warranty runs out. That's my advice and what I should have done.

Oh, and never buy a bike that has keyless ignition. Rather than diarise my expensive journey with the Multi let me just say in full transparency that I easily poured ten grand into owning it for one year, and rode it for not much more than 12,000kms in that year.

They were all great kilometres and I never had an off, or really came that close (except that one time on the way back from Qld in Enduro mode) call, and I have no complaints for just how awesome my time with it was. Hell I broke a PB on the Multi: 265km down a back straight.

That's the fastest I've ever piloted anything on land and it was awesome, comfortable and felt safe. The Multi was planted on the road, powerful beyond imagination and rips in the twisties like a bike much smaller than it is. But - ten grand. $10K. $10,000. Ten fat ones. That's a shit load of money right? That's a little under a dollar a kilometre. It's an entire kick arse Yamaha MT-09. It's also a complete Royal Enfield Continental GT including on road costs. I think I just got a lemonato.
And so I back flipped. If you have been following along you'll know that I've been looking around, I've tested and ridden a few different bikes, I've considered every big twin that is available here in Australia (that I could see myself riding). Earlier I bought the commutard which has brought me more joy in a short space of time than the accumulated time and ownership of Ducati. Okay, that might be exaggerating, but I do really love my DRZ, and it means I have work, commuting and go-kart track days covered.

Maxing out at around the $20k price point give or take a few bucks, the search for a new bike shifted from Naked, to Streetfighter, to big Supermoto and Adventure Touring up and down the ranks. What I found though was many big bikes these days come with every piece of technology ever created, bolted to them.

 I wanted to shy away from electronic and keep it simple. I like ABS because I can be ham fisted, prone to panic-breaking which has thrown me off a few bikes without ABS. Something I have to work on technique wise. Grabbing too much break with ABS however just means stopping faster. I likey. ABS can stay.

Here's a short run down of a few bikes I seriously considered.

The Benelli TreK was really interesting and although it never earned a stand-alone review from me, because I only rode it briefly in the city, I entertained the thought thoroughly and could actually see myself owning one quite easily, but it never really stuck. I ended up steering clear because it was another exotic Italian, and my fingers had just been burnt to a crisp by one.

The Super Duke 1290 was awesome, but too orange, and it didn't blow my mind like I expected it to. I couldn't see myself owning one. I've had a love hate relationship with KTM for years, I've owned a 2T 300GS dirt bike that was face shreddingly fast... when it worked. I drooled over the Super Dukes from a distance and test rode the previous year model prior to getting the Hypermotard, and for me something lacks in their road going bikes. Brutal yes, refined, not so much.

The Ducati Monster 1200S lost appeal after a quick sit on it in the shop, probably mostly due to my overall current feelings about Ducati ownership (amazing to ride, crap to own, excellent donor bikes).

The Aprilia Dorsoduro and Caponord 1200s both lacked appeal for whatever reason. The Dorso in particular because I had ridden that bike on first release and was very impressed, but another exotic European motorcycle? Nah...

I looked at the MV August Brutale 800 Dragster seriously for a while there too, but after speaking with the local dealer and finding it would be a question of paying a substantial deposit on a guaranteed purchase before I even got to sit on one let alone ride one, that idea flew out the window with the cuckoos nest. Plus, it's an 800. Meh.

I also rode a mate's Triumph Speed Triple R not that long ago, ok a year ago but still the current model, and while it was pretty awesome, many would argue better bang for buck than most, it just didn't light a fire under my arse. Triples are strange like that, somewhere in between the boner inducing torque of a twin and titillating thunderous rev carnage of a four cylinder, they kind of go super fast but not in a way that grabs me for some inexplicable reason.

As for Sportsbikes, or liter bikes, whatever you want to call them - and there are many - my days or striving for a 300km/hr bike are over. End of that story.

Then I read a review from Stuart Woodbury at AMM on a bike I had completely overlooked. The BMW nineT. Perhaps because I am not 50 yet? :D

Perhaps because I thought it was a 900 based on its name? How stupid can I get? Stuart gave it such a good wrap, and wrote with an enthusiasm that I recognised right off the page, I thought I better take a second look. One lunch break later and I was on way to suss one out. I never really though much about BMW before despite being surrounded by mates who swear by them.

As ridiculous as this may sound, I've never liked the look of the cylinders sticking out ala boxer style. I rode a 2012 1200 GS around bonny Scotland and wasn't that impressed by the Bavarian in comparison to the Multi (true adventure riding aside which I don't do that much of, ok, any of). But one test ride on the nineT later...

And I'm gone for all money. Like a right twat, after everything I've learned, after all the above whining about exotics and European this and Italian that, I've gone and ordered a brand new BMW R nineT at $22k. In that sense I'm worse than the worst patina polishing hipster in purple pants going for a German manafactured motorcycle (but at least I will ride the wheels off it). This BMW spoke to me. I owned its odd left-to-right vibrating donk beneath me right from the get go (it disappears as soon as you take off). It is possibly, easily, the smoothest motorcycle I have ever ridden and the gnarly bark from the stock fitted Akra on roll-off is intoxicating all by itself.

A Roadster (more than a 'Cafe Racer' I'd say) it's simple without any technology overkill. No traction control, no electronic suspension, no crazy cantilever front end even. Instead, gold-anodized upside down Ohlins forks up front and a piss elegant 180/55 spoke wheel attached to a Paralever back-end. I've always marveled at the shaft drive Paralever on the BMW, I love the look of a rear wheel from the left side - just floating there, suspended as if by nothing (first step will be to get that pipe up and out of the way so you can see me rollin)....

And you know what? It's super quiet, comfortable and as reliable as they come. No more chain slap! (oh, hang on dizzy has a chain...)

The 1170cc air/oil cooled boxer is right out of 1930 which is apt as this bike pays homage to BMWs 90th anniversary of the R32 of 1923. Embarrassingly that history is lost on me as I just started my journey with BMW ownership, followed by a long wait for one to be delivered. Nonetheless I'm stoked with the decision because this bike is a combination of engineering excellence and simplicity. One close look and you will agree I promise.

Right down to every last detail this motorcycle screams excellence. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. October I am told. Four months from down payment which yup, you guessed it came in the form of a traded in Multistrada 1200 S. No doubt it will cost me a few pennies to make it just right, and this bike is begging to be customised which appeals to me. My research on Wunderlich has already revealed some choice parts that will be acquired (and probably delivered) before the bike arrives. The possibilities are endless.

So there is my back flip folks, from one flagship brand to another. Ducati to BMW. Multistrada to R NineT or as I dubbed it Tiny T. I can feel the subscribers leaving as they finish this post...haters gonna hate. Maybe I'll come back for another look at Ducati one day as a project bike or if the Scrambler really floats my boat, we'll see. But for now... It's time to practice my terrible patience skills while I sit out 90+ days with only the commutard to ride in Melbourne's bitter Winter.

**31 December 2016 Update**
For what it's worth another backflip took place before the R nine T arrived and I got the BMW S1000R - a naked inline four sportsbikes. Sometimes I just make no sense at all.

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