Today I test rode four bikes at the local BMW/Triumph emporium after work. I wanted to test a fifth, but ran out of time. Then I started looking at ride test reports. The results were shocking: They were all the best bikes ever! That can’t be right.
So I’m donning my flameproof motorcycle suit and helmet and going through the ones I rode today. Also, I had no photographer, so Google Image Search is my photographer (Because I could do a 10 minute test ride to Alaska and back to Georgia...yeah right)
First up - BMW F800GS
Coming from a much heavier sport tourer (Triumph Sprint ST), I immediately noticed the lack of weight and how much darn fun it is to ride this thing. Has a lot of character too.
Things that I didn’t like about it: the rear brake pedal is too low (can’t just flex your right foot in my case) and there is basically no wind protection at all, so it would get tiring after about 45 minutes.
Second Up - Triumph Tiger 800 XCx
Trade the BMW parallel twin in for an 800cc triple, add a little more mass and wind protection and you have the Tiger 800. It didn’t bring an immediate smile to my face the way the GS did, but it’s more practical and still very fun. It inspired me to lean further into the roundabout on the test route (I may have done a few laps of that), and I ended up liking it more than the GS.
Downsides - It could still use a little more punch in the midrange, although if you wind it out to license losing speeds, you still have plenty of go. Stopping could be a teensy bit better, in my opinion.
Third Up - Triumph Tiger Explorer XCa
Now we move up to the big boys - 1215cc triple and more everything. This solved the power problem of the Tiger 800. Triumph also has more modes for their semi-active suspension on the Explorer (they are optional on the Tiger 800 I rode), and the brakes are better.
Downsides - Holy moly is it expensive. With options, the as-tested price was $21,000. That’s Ducati Multistrada money! It’s also wide with the panniers on, so if width is a problem in your area (think lane splitting), you might have to think about aftermarket cases or leaving them off.
Fourth Up - BMW S1000XR
This one is going to rile up some of the Beemer fans out there. Every ride test I read online was glowing about how wonderful this bike is...
OK, I confess, the 999cc four cylinder from the S1000RR is an outstanding engine. If you put it in a superbike chassis, it’s amazing. Retune it and put it in the XR, which adds an upright seating position, and you get a recipe for something that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a sport bike? Does it want to be a tourer? Does it want to be an ADV? Does it want to be a roadster/naked?
I hadn’t looked or sat on an XR before today, so when I put my leg over it, my first thought was simple: “This is really uncomfortable”. My thighs were getting spread out by the petrol tank moreso than on the others. The seat shape also did not agree with my butt.
I also did not like the BMW quick shifter that allows for clutchless shifting *at all*, as it had no feel for gear engagement when using the clutch (no detent that you can feel with your foot). Couple this with the vibration in the bars and the droning from the intake at about 3500-5500 RPM, and it and I really didn’t get along.
Engine - Good, Brakes - Great, Handling - Excellent. Refinement - Needs a dollop of that.
I wanted to like this bike, because it looked different enough to let me give it a chance. I felt it was a let-down, especially since it wasn’t what I was looking for, and I had just ridden the Tiger Explorer.
What’s next on the list?
Well, I need to ride the BMW R1200GS and a Ducati Multistrada. I’d also like to ride the Honda Africa Twin as well, because that may just be the pleasant surprise. More to follow as I ride them.