March 8, 2015

Test Day

Today I had the chance to test ride a large variety of bikes thanks to a bike event at Mega Bang Na, a big shopping centre on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Present were BMW, Ducati, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha. Due to the fact that the test 'track' was a small parking lot and testing each brand involved going back and forth to the respective shop boots at the entrance of the shopping mall (under the scorching hot sun), I could only do that 4 times before risking to pass out.
Like I said, I could only test ride the bikes in a small enclosure in the parking lot, just long enough to red line the first gear or cruise around in second gear.

I started with Yamaha, who had the new SR, the Bolt and the FZ09 (aka MT09). I love the SR (my SR) to bits, so it was quite disappointing to ride the fuel injected version. To me it seemed far too quiet, powerless and all together not very inspiring. Definitely not a bike to keep stock.
Next was the Bolt. It was very difficult for me to get used to the riding position. I don't like to have my feet pointing forwards. It handled well for being a cruiser, brakes were good too and the engine sound was not bad either. I didn't like the clunky gearbox.
Lastly, the FZ09: great feeling, smooth engine, excellent handling and brakes. Seating position ok. Looks like a very good fun bike. For me, only the very modern styling is a negative point.

Next in line was Ducati. I first tested the Scrambler of course. Been waiting for that for the past 2 years, when the first rumours about it emerged. I was afraid to be disappointed after all the anticipation, but hey...nothing further from the truth!! It's great! The engine is super smooth and gives off a very satisfying growl when pushed. Just imagine what it will sound like with a Termignoni...
Excellent brakes, fantastic inspires confidence from the first few meters. LOVE IT!
After such a high, the rest of Ducati's offerings were less than fun to ride.
The Hypermotard was still a good ride with good handling, but definitely not as intuitive as the Scrambler.
The Monster seemed to have a fueling problem, stuttering at very low revs. Seating position was cramped and to me it seemed there was the front of the bike missing. It looked like the bike finished abruptly at the front forks. All in all it felt stiff.
The worst for me was the Panigale 899. Granted, a small parking lot is just not fair towards a pure breed racer like her, but that is what I had. The pretty stiff clutch was a killer and combined with the riding position, must be a nightmare to ride in normal road conditions, let alone in busy Bangkok traffic. She looks great though...

After that I went to Suzuki.
The Gladius 650 is a good bike and to me looks great with its rounded design. It feels lighter and smaller than my ER6n. Good handling, but overall it doesn't feel like a 650, more like a 500. I think I prefer the ER6n. The V-Strom 650 felt good, but a bit too tall for me (170cm). Very good handling, decent brakes. More so the 1000cc version of the V-Strom. Again, too high for me, but once it runs you forget all about it. Very smooth engine and intuitive handling. Right after the 1000cc I went down to the VanVan 125. Finally I could touch ground again! The VanVan was super fun regarding cornering and very comfortable, open the throttle and there's nothing happening. Even my Suzuki Shogun 125 has more power. A pity could be so much better.

Honda has never been big in my dream bike list, but I got quite a reality check after riding the CB650F. WOW, what a bike. The handling was superb and I felt in tune with it as soon as I mounted it. And the engine just added to the riding pleasure, being 'there' whenever you need it. Sorry Honda, for years I've looked down on you, but with this bike you changed my mind. (I still think you should fire all your design department though, and employ some Italians).
The last bike I tested was the new Goldwing...what can I say...big, heavy...a bit ugly.

So, for me there were 2 bikes that clearly stood apart from all the others. They are similar in riding position, handling and for the fun factor, but very different in the 'soul' department. While the 4 in line Honda CB650F gives off a symphony of whining, wizzing and buzzing (sorry, I'm not an inline4 type of rider), the Ducati Scrambler (Icon) seems to go deeper inside me and temptingly lures out the bad boy in me. Yessss!!
For 285.000Baht you certainly can't go wrong with the Honda. Throw in almost 100.000 more (375.000 Baht) and you can get the basic Scrambler Icon in yellow.

I better start saving....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those incredibly fat tyres probably make that suzuki van van stick to the ground a bit too much for the little 125 engine. It's remarkably comfortable, but that saddle-on-the-tank look doesn't work for me.