Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Totally addicted to power

I’ve been hooked on speed from a young age and I was introduced to it via motorcycles.
I’ve had bikes for longer than I can remember, motorbikes and pushbikes and when I turned sixteen Dad got me a little Ford Cortina MkII Coupe.

I just like going really fast and I discovered it quite early on I guess you could say. It’s addictive and exhilarating, and naughty. What a great combo for a good time.
As a kid I tried everything with wheels, even racing skateboards downhill face first, fingers barely clutching the nose praying to the gods that I didn’t get the wobbles, snot slicking down my face, tears streaming out of the corner of my eyes.

Exhilarating stuff that lets you know you are alive.

Looking back on those days now and I wonder what happened. Now with MS constantly reminding me I’m not as young, or goddfuckingdammit as spritely/daring/able as I used to be, I am slowing down and it annoys me.

But I still like going batshit crazy fast. I don’t care for it in cars much anymore, unless I can be piloting said car, but even then it doesn’t have the same exhilaration factor as hitting 100kmhr in seconds on two wheels.

My current ride goes really fast. The S1000R is a detuned or retuned S1000RR, and I love how raw and ridiculous it accelerates up past 7,000RPM - it seriously throws you back in your chair and attempts to remove your arms from their sockets, screaming like a Belieber fangirl at volume levels equivalent to a jet taking off next to you.

Wrap it on hard down low and it matter of factly throws you backwards while it launches forward… it’s a complete road rocket that knows no boundary.

Now I know to tuck into a semi-crouch and squeeze the tank with my knees before attempting said speed manoeuvre. But here’s the thing about that. The damn racers crouch isn’t great over longer distances. My lanky legs get aches and pains. As I’ve said before I feel as if I have been in search of the perfect all rounder for many years now, yet I still haven’t found it.

When I say all rounder, I mean for me, not for every kind of biking situation you can come across, but a bike that has some poke, massive torque, reasonable top-end (ish) and comfort. I really need my main bike to be above all else, comfortable. Even the smallest of things exacerbates MS symptoms, and I have to be really wary of that stuff. Fatigue is my nightmare, so anything that reduces the chances of fatigue building up is a good thing.

I really thought that the new S1000XR was going to tick all of these boxes, and I know many a rider will say that it does, but I rode it in familiar surrounds and it just didn’t. Then finally, I figured out what it was.

Then I realised…..I miss that unmissable note and pull of a big twin. Inline fours go like a cut cat yes, but for me bumbling around back roads or touring interstate, the IL4 just lacks something. I think I might name it character. Sure it has speed in abundance, more than I’ve even been able to use or test in every day riding conditions, but it does it in such a bland kind of way compared to the thump of a twin. It zings, it roars and it goes into waters hitherto unchartered in terms of top end but when do I really ride like that? Once or twice a year maybe, following George :)

The S1000XR let me down, namely that vibration in the bars that one salesman noted as ‘the bikes harmonics’ which is all well and good for him, but for me it was right in the cruise zone in top gear, in other words there for lots of the time that I would be riding it.

If it was indeed the ‘bikes harmonics’ why the f*ck aren’t all bikes sent out of the shop with vibrating bars? Exactly Mr Salesman. When I hopped off and went to put the side stand down and thought that I had dropped the bloody thing. The side stand puts the bike so low down it feels unnatural. Not that that is a big deal but think about it some, and it starts to be.

You don’t always want to use the centre stand. Apart from those minor things I just didn't gel with it in my first test ride. It was about this time that the salesman said go take the GS out for a spin, you won’t regret it. Now, I have to admit that I fairly bagged the absolute shit out of the last GS I rode, which happened to be the last of the air cooled variety in 2012 when I rode it for some 1,000 Miles around the UK.

And so it was that I just completely discounted the Bavarian as a no-go from that day forward. But with a few years under my belt, a lot more riding, and a whole new water/air cooled GS added to the stable it really was time to give the big beast a solid second go. The first thing I noticed as I excited the dealer was the power at hand. It was so much more than my memory of the flat wet fart I rode back in bonnie wee Scotland aboard the air cooled boxer.

Next I thought something was broken because I couldn’t feel any wind. None. It was eerily silent as I floored it from first through to fourth on the merge lane into the freeway. What was this magical silence I was experiencing? I guess I just forget that riding naked bikes for so long I am used to being wind blasted and having frozen finger tips and a stiff neck from holding my head up against the roaring wind.

With the GS there was none of that. The screen was in the up position when I got on and there it stayed, the second I moved it down to see how that was I found the missing wind. That simple piece of finely engineered perspex (woteva) really does its job. So do the bark busters. My hands were fully shielded by the wind and it was a mild if not slightly miserable Melbourne 13 degrees Celsius. I came to realise that none of my bikes had ever offered evening the slightest bit of protection.

The Multistrada probably did but I never found it because I had a smaller sports screen installed on that from Day 1. All of my other bikes have been nakeds or motard-esque. It was a revelation when the phone rang and with a simple voice prompt ‘pickup’ I was talking to someone who didn’t even realise that I was hurtling through the time space continuum at 100kmhr aboard a thumping 1200 Twin.

Miraculous, I could hear every word they said and vice versa. Protection from the elements? Check. I warned the dealer that I may be out for more than an hour as I had a plan and I needed to execute this plan in my own time to really see if I liked this bike, and he said sure, fine, go for it. Excellent Smithers, so I did.

 I am a creature of habit really and I wanted to test it on familiar roads to me. Namely my personal sprint track and chicanes from hell out West a wee bit. I regularly practise backing it in on the motard out here because it’s not frequented that much, has clear vision from almost beginning to end and includes about 8 hard right/left handers up and down a valley.

It’s a perfect testing ground for how a bike feels, and I know my lines intimately. What happened next shook my foundations. I roared around the first RH corner paying not attention to the 45km warning sign and was shifting up clutchlessly (yeehaa for Shift Assist Pro!) and heading into the next at a rate more rapid than I ever thought I was capable of.

The telelever front end is what was happening here. Not used to such a front end, previously in the UK I found it torturous and hated it, but that was before I really knew or understood what it was doing. Being used to telescopic forks I WANTED nose dive to guide me into the corner, but the GS just stayed flat regardless of my ham fisted wrenching on the front lever.

Literally, no dive at all. Just point and roll it on. It was a revelation. Lacking feel you say? No, I say. It’s called superior handling providing awe inspiring confidence in my own abilities. I snuck a look at the clock and realised I just took my favourite series of tight bends faster than I had ever taken it on any bike I have owned, and didn't even raise an eyebrow.

No fanfare, no hooplah, just plain old fashioned motorradness. I stopped at the top to reflect on such things and took one pic because I felt obliged.

Now I've ridden one, I can see what the fuss is about! Then I rode straight back to the dealer and gave them a deposit for a 2016 Triple Black R1200GS. Until next time, stay upright.