What every motorcycle rider should know about CE clothing… and doesn’t!

To find out how the most recent A, AA and AAA standard for motorcycle clothing compares against the old Level 1 / Level 2 standards, watch my video interview with personal protective clothing expert Paul Varnsverry.

BIKER BULLETIN FROM SURVIVAL SKILLS RIDER TRAINING
– advanced better biking skills for all motorcyclists – whatever your level!

To find out how the most recent A, AA and AAA standard for motorcycle clothing compares against the old Level 1 / Level 2 standards, watch my video interview with personal protective clothing expert Paul Varnsverry, who has sat on the standards committees since the beginning.

Find out how the manufacturers have pushed for the test requirements to be lowered, thus allow existing garments with barely any abrasion resistance to pass the A standard – a standard that can be achieved by ordinary Denim – and thus qualify as ‘protective’.

rst name removed textiles postcrash

Watch, learn and then SHARE this video around your circle of biking buddies. How much protective kit we choose to wear is an individual choice…

…but it’s only right we make an INFORMED choice.

LOG INTO THE SURVIVAL SKILLS YOUTUBE CHANNEL FOR MORE VIDEOS!

FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN GET BIKING SURVIVAL SKILLS

A day out on Honda’s NC750X

A while ago, I tested the original NC700 just after it was released, riding both the DCT automatic version and the conventional bike with the manual gearshift. It’s hard to believe it was almost eight years ago that I wrote the original article. I titled it:
Fun, functional, frugal… or flawed? Honda’s NC700X tested
Although I subsequently got a lot of flak from happy owners telling me that my criticisms were ‘wrong’ and how good the bike was, I felt those four words really summed up the bike from MY perspective as a potential owner. Obviously, what I want out of a bike isn’t what everyone wants and the machine obviously hit the spot for those owners who gave me a hard time. Nevertheless, my comments were valid, and the fact is, there are also plenty of experienced riders who’ve tried the original NC700 and found it lacking.
DSCF7993
Over the hills and far away with Honda’s NC750X
What turned me off about the original? To start with, Honda made a feature of the car-based motor being low revving. But a car engine is designed to haul two tonnes of vehicle away from a standing start, for which low gearing is actually necessary. And with a wheel at each corner, a car is inherently stable, and so changing gear halfway round a bend isn’t an issue if it’s reasonable smooth. But a powered two-wheeler driven by chain is a very different beast. My impression was that the motor was TOO low revving for a bike, with the auto version changing gear so early that it usually caused the chain to chatter when accelerating. Rather bizarrely, the dealer had already advised me that the bike would be better off in the higher-revving sport mode around town. The DCT bike also had a bad habit of changing up a gear halfway out of junctions, just where the bike is leaned over and the rider wants smooth drive for stability. Yes, the DCT is ultra-smooth but it cannot completely eliminate the jerk. I also found it hanging onto a high gear for too long when slowing down which not only offered little in the way of engine braking, but could leave the rider a bit stuck for drive if the traffic started moving again before the bike came to a halt. True, switching to manual mode and riding it on the flippers meant I could change gear when I liked but if we’re going to be overriding the auto box, I couldn’t really see the point of DCT for normal riding so having handed the auto version back, I took the manual gearbox bike out for a spin too. Even with full control over gear shifts, I still found the low red line and the ultra-low gearing a pain. Almost as soon as the bike was moving, it needed shifting up through the box. And in terms of get up and go, it performed almost exactly the same as the auto because both versions of the old bike lacked power – pulling out to overtake a truck uphill on a dual carriageway, there was near-zero acceleration in top @ 60-odd and not much more when it shifted down a gear in response to me cracking the throttle wide open. There were ergonomic issues. The tank was too wide at the rear, pushing my knees out into the breeze. And the indicator switch, moved to where the horn usually sits, was a PITA to operate. Yes, you could (and would) get used to the new, lower, position if you only ever ride the one machine. But it wasn’t ergonomic to reach, and if you swap bikes regularly (as I do) it makes sense to put an important switch like this in the same place as all the other bikes.
DSCF7958
Downtown LA – the perfect environment for a DCT bike?
So the NC700 was definitely a Marmite bike. Overall, I DID like the bike – it handled well and on back roads, both versions were fun to ride – but the pluses were not enough to consider one as a work machine. To my surprise, Honda released an updated 750 version almost immediately, with a slightly bigger engine, a higher rev limit and a bit more power. Although I was intrigued to see how they had addressed the issues, I had to wait a while to get my ride on one and that chance came when my brother bought a 2019 DCT model late last year. And he loves it. Just to put his experience into context, he’s owns a modern WR250 and a classic Honda CB350. He’s ridden everything from an AR80 to a fire-breathing TL1000R, and his riding experience encompasses everything from working as a courier in London to riding from the UK across the Sahara and down the length of Africa to the borders of South Africa on a lightly-modified CB250RSA long before overlanding was ‘a thing’. So what were my impressions of the revised model? Almost the first thing I noticed was that the indicator switch seems to have moved. It’s still under the horn button but now it’s more or less back in line with the thumb joint as opposed to below it, so it works cleanly. Now it’s the horn that is harder to hit, although as a result I hooted rather less often when trying to signal than on the older bike. Frankly, Honda would be better off admitting that this arrangement is a mistake, and going back to putting the buttons back in the conventional positions. As soon as I pulled away in the standard ‘drive’ mode, I noticed that the revised motor changes up a little later which partially solves the chain chatter issue. It also seems to downshift a bit sooner, which offers more engine braking. However, as you pull to a halt, and the revs drop ever lower, you still get the machine ‘chugging’ on the chain, which upsets the bike just as it stops. You can live with it, but it’s definitely a good idea to get this bike upright as it comes to a halt. On the move, you can select between drive and one of the sport modes. As I mentioned, sport mode on the old machine paradoxically worked better in town than the drive mode, yet now the new drive mode seems far more usable and although I did experiment, I saw no real need to switch away from it in the heavy LA traffic. Having escaped the urban sprawl at last, we headed up into the canyon roads north-east of Los Angeles. They make for challenging riding, with a mix of short straights, fairly steep slopes and sharp bends. Whilst drive mode coped, it was also a chance to try out the new multiple sport modes. This new feature gives the option of pre-setting the bike in one of three sport modes, although you can only switch between them at a standstill. Once selected, that mode can be swapped in and out with drive on the move as needed. Something I love about my 600-fours is the long, flexible rev range which allows most twisty roads to be ridden in just one or two gears. It’s not just avoiding the need to shift, it’s all about getting a good mix of drive and engine braking too. On the new NC, the combination of the revised sport modes and higher red line gives a bit more flexibility, and the motor seems to be less busy shifting gear. Stopping every now and again to change the sport modes and trying to get the best results, after much back and forth between the modes, I settled on S2 as a good compromise downhill, although it still had a tendency to change up a gear as I started to open the throttle just as I arrived at a bend. [Edit – I’ve been corrected by owner David Gibson, who tells me you don’t have to come to a standstill to switch sport modes, but just close the throttle completely.  The correction on the sport mode is appreciated, though on a purely practical basis the idea of having to close the throttle completely to change mode on the move is a less-than-appealing one. It would have been better to do something like flip from D to S with a short press, then cycle through S1, S2, S3 with a long press of the button. That would make far more sense than having to shut the throttle on the move.] Once again, I could avoid this by selecting manual mode and changing gear via the ‘flipper’ system – my brother said that he either rides it in S2 or on the flippers – but quite honestly, if I it were me, and the canyons were going to be my regular riding environment, I’d just buy the foot shift version saving the weight and cost of the DCT system.
DSCF7980
The incredibly useful storage space is still under the tank, but the filler is still not-so-usefully (if you have throw-over luggage) under the seat. Meanwhile, the plastic catch on the tank doesn’t look too robust either.
However, I suspect that most people won’t be buying this bike for canyon carving, but instead for town and general commuting use. I certainly concede twist-n-go is nice in city traffic and there is plenty of that in LA. In terms of get up and go, the 750 feels as if it’s gained a bit of power too (although it’s a long time since I rode a 700) but it’s still not a fast-accelerating machine. It’s good enough for the traffic light GP, and it pulls well from bend to bend on twisty roads, just like the old bike. It’s when you twist the throttle hard you notice not much happens – even my pretty tame XJ6 has more zip. In normal riding, it’s not really an issue, but there’s still not much in reserve. Fully laden with luggage and passenger, it would tour but I wouldn’t want to be planning too many overtakes without plenty of room to make them. On paper, the bike’s quite heavy but the weight is carried low and on the move the machine changes direction quickly. The suspension may be basic but it’s well-controlled – whilst it may not suit the quickest sporting riders the NC handled some seriously bumpy surfaces with ease. In other words, it’s a suspension system that copes perfectly well with what 95% of riders will need 95% of the time. Likewise, the brakes are good enough without being startling. The bars are well-angled for the upright riding position and the seat was comfortable for the journey on a hot 80F day. Interestingly, I didn’t notice the ‘knees stuck out in the breeze’ effect of the earlier bike either – has the tank been re-profiled at the rear?
DSCF7985
Beak, skinny screen, high-ish bars – all the adventure bike styling cues. The 17″ front wheel works fine on the road and the ‘much more road than off’ Bridgestone Battle Wings give plenty of grip on tarmac. I didn’t test them further off-road than the packed dirt though.
One problem my brother reports is poor lighting from the dual LED headlamp on low beam. Just one of the pair of beams is lit, the other joins in when using high beam. Having ridden behind this kind of set-up before, it’s often like someone turns out the lights when low beam is selected. And what about fuel consumption? It was hard to read on the too-small, too-cluttered and too-reflective LCD display (what is this current trend for shrinking all the instruments into a tiny binnacle – give me something bigger and instantly readable any day!) but when I was able to stop at the end of the ride and put my reading glasses on, the dash panel was showing an average 84 mpg at the end of our 175 mile ride in the mountains. That’ll be the short-change US gallons of course, and when converted to the chunkier UK measurement, that is a quite remarkable 101 mpg. And we weren’t hanging around either. My final comments? The improvements are small but make a real difference. It’s still not a choice for everyone but for me personally, the bike’s gone from being one I crossed off the list of possible work bikes to one I’d consider. when I retire the Hornet, I’ll have a long and very hard look at the NC750X. Fun, functional and frugal.

Why Survival Skills?

…because it’s a jungle out there

Since 1997, Kevin Williams MSc and Survival Skills Rider Training have led the way in making high quality rider training courses and advanced motorcycling skills accessible to all riders. The goal of Survival Skills has always been to help motorcyclists at all levels – newly-qualified, intermediate, and advanced – to develop skills and ride with more confidence and enjoyment, not just by offering practical training courses but by offering books, online advice and even working on numerous rider safety projects – often for free!
“Ordinary training? No, extra-ordinary training” Barbara Alam

BMW’s G650GS – feel the vibes

Sometimes you ride a bike and just fall in love. My first Honda CB400-F was like that. I loved it at first sight, rode it all over Europe, and never fell out of love with it till the day – crashed, bashed and despatched – it was stolen 80,000 miles later.

Some you appreciate for what they do. That describes the CX500. I bought it for a job – to carry two people and luggage around Europe – and it did it to perfection. It was a cold-hearted purchase, and I sold it just as cold-heartedly 20,000 miles later.

Some you’re not sure if you’re going to like but grow on you despite their faults. The NC700X was rather like that, a pleasant if uninspired ride.

Others you spend half the time cursing and that other half giggling stupidly. My Jawa 350 fell into that category. It was slow, the speedo never worked, broke down all the time and had about as much charisma as the Berlin Wall. Yet it constantly made me in fits of laughter.

And then there’s that rare beast, a bike that I simply don’t like and for which I can find no redeeming features.

2016-08-04 14.43.08

And so to the G650GS. If I’m perfectly honest with you, I have ‘previous’ with BMW’s 650 single in the form of the BMW Funduro 650. I first rode one over twenty years ago, as a wet-behind-the-ears instructor, just starting his first job at CSM in Catford, London.

CSM had a mish-mash of instructor bikes and as the newest instructor, I got last pick. There was the Triumph 750 Trident that head office had bought in bulk and which was far too big, heavy and cumbersome for following learners at 28mph, and was either used as the boss’s private transport or to be found languishing lonely at the bike of the lock-up. There were a couple of GPZ500S’s (the later, 17″ front wheel model) which I loved but rarely managed to blag, because the other instructors always nabbed ’em, some others I can’t remember, plus the Funduro.

Now, I’ve done a lot of miles on big singles – getting on for 200,000 miles on various Hondas, including an XBR500 and the NX650 Dominator which at the time was probably the Funduro’s nearest competitor as a road-oriented dual sport. Both were smooth, flexible engines that delivered reasonable power over a decent rev range. I’ve also put some miles on other machines including Yamaha’s XT660 and KTM’s 690 Duke, as well as a Husqvarna 610TE which certainly represents the less-civilised end of the spectrum.

As a single cylinder fan, I was keen to try the Funduro, with an eye on buying one myself – after all, it was reputed to have BMW build quality at a very reasonable price, complete with a decent frame-mounted fairing.

When it appeared in 1993, the F650 was BMW’s first single for ages, and a marriage of convenience between the Bavarian company, Italian manufacturer Aprilia (the F650 was based on their Pegaso 650 dual sport), and Austrian engine builder Rotax who built a version of their engine specifically for BMW.
A revised version of the engine appeared in 2000 and the machine in various guises was in production until 2007, when the F650GS parallel twin replaced it.

So I wondered why it was that the Funduro that was left by the others. I soon found out.

First impressions was that it was built for six-footers and over. The seat was high. Add in a lot of weight, carried high. It was over 25kgs heavier than my Dominator, and rather bizarrely considerably heavier than the equivalent Pegaso. Being tippy-toe everywhere, I had to be careful where I put my feet down – not something I really wanted to be distracted by when following some unpredictable learners in south London rush-hour traffic – and a mission to get on and off with the CSM-standard topbox on the rear carrier. So I ended up learning where I could step off onto a high curb on the training routes.

But once we got moving, the second impression was dominated by the god-awful motor. It made reasonable power but vibrated more than the similar performance Hondas I was familiar with, particularly as the revs rose towards the low red line.

But worse that that, it had absolutely no flexibility. Between the chain snatch which set in below 3000rpm and the vibes and red line, there never seemed to be a comfortable gear in the five speed gearbox – at any particular speed, I was either getting into the uncomfortably buzzy end of the rev range, or shifting up and dropping the revs back to the snatchy end. In particular, trying to hold 50 behind the learners just happened to coincide with one of those neither / nor speeds and I inevitably ended up speeding up and slowing down whilst shuttling between two gears, rather than try to match speed with the trainees.

At the end of the first day, I was puzzled how BMW could have designed-in so many problems. By the end of the week, I disliked it. After a couple of months (when I left CSM) I never wanted to ride one again – it was anything but fun. No doubt there were good features but twenty years on, I can’t remember any.

Now, fast-forward to the present day and BMW’s G650GS.

In 2008, the original single was brought back with new G650GS name, to prevent confusion (there’d been enough already!) with the F650GS twin. In essence, the bike is the 2007 single-cylinder F650GS with some minor modifications but with the engine assembled by Loncin in China instead of by Rotax in Austria, but using Rotax parts. The finished engines are apparently shipped back to BMW and assembled into complete machines in Germany. The model reached the UK market in 2010, slightly downrated to 47hp, just in time for the new A2 licence laws.

2016-08-04 14.43.20

This particular machine is a 2014 model, and spent its early life at an off-road riding school, hence it’s cosmetically untidy, but very low mileage.

Looks-wise, it’s nice enough. The fuel tank mounted under the rear seat contributes to a much less bulky looking profile than the original machine, and front on, it does have something of the R1200GS / F700GS family look, thanks to the beak and asymmetric lights.

Turn the key, press the start button – positioned top of the switch cluster – and it quietly duff-duffs into life. Climbing on and I notice the seat’s not as high as the old one, though it could be a lowered version – I don’t know and forgot to check. I can get on and off easily enough despite the huge and obligatory aluminium box on the rack, and once astride, I can get both feet flat on the floor. It doesn’t feel as heavy either although the stat sheet doesn’t agree. Maybe moving the fuel lower has helped.

Putting it back on the sidestand proves a trial though. The stand swings sideways rather than down, and for the life of me, I couldn’t lower it sat on the machine.

Easing the light clutch out and moving away confirms that the revised engine pulls from just off idle. There’s nothing like the chain snatch of the old Funduro. And because it pulls from low revs, the motor is far more flexible, even though it has no more ratios than the original five speed box.

That’s a relief, but there’s a downside. Blipping the throttle at a standstill sends a ripple of vibration through the seat. As the revs rise, so does the buzzing through the seat. Although the seat’s broad, well-padded and very comfortable (at least for my test ride), as soon as the machine’s moving, the vibes come straight through the foam. Although the footpegs and bars are fairly well isolated – there’s no problem seeing a clear image in the too small, awkwardly shaped mirrors – try to grip the tank with your knees and the vibes come through the tank too.

This isn’t just the typical thudding power delivery you get with a single or a big twin. The bike vibrates. A lot.

2016-08-04 14.44.25

Getting out onto the open road, I opened the bike up, hoping that away from the 2500-3000rpm I was using in town, the machine would smooth out. It doesn’t. If anything it gets worse. Trying to hold a steady 70 on a stretch of motorway had my teeth rattling against each other unless I deliberately shut my jaws. Only if I dropped down to 55mph or below, did it smooth out a bit, but nothing short of turning the motor off got rid of the massage cushion effect through the seat.

Frankly, the last time I rode a bike with vibration this obtrusive, it would have been Yamaha’s truly awful SRZ660, a bike I was desperate to like and also ended up hating.

Positives? There’s decent acceleration on tap from accelerating from a lorry-chasing 55mph on the motorway to the 75mph required to go with the flow in the middle lane. It’s plush-feeling, stable and reasonably nimble, and rides the potholes and bumps well. And the small blade of a screen does a surprisingly efficient job of keeping the wind off the chest.

Negatives: the G650GS joins the growing list of bikes with the horn button where the indicators should be, with the result that it’s almost impossible for someone with small hands (me!) to slip the clutch and push or cancel the indicator at the same time. The digital instruments are washed out and faded, with a tiny and far-too-small-to-read vertical bar for a rev counter. I kept finding neutral between 1st and 2nd because the shift’s flabby-feeling. And some dangling wires have rubbed the paint off the bodywork on the fake plastic ‘tank’, which also meant my magnetic tankbag was useless.

2016-08-04 14.44.43

But it’s that engine I’m going to have to come back to, and not in a good way. I’m afraid that despite the stable handling, the predictable braking, and the fuel economy which easily hits mid-60s, that motor intrudes all the time. Even on country lanes where it’s difficult to reach much more than 60mph, all I could feel was that buzzing engine.

By the time I handed the bike back and rode off with a sigh of relief on my creamy-smooth XJ6, I realised that the G650GS has done something very rare and managed to add itself to that short list of machines for which I can find no redeeming features.

With a decent engine, it would be a pleasant if uninspired, ride. But instead it has that horrible single motor that BMW buried ten years ago. And in this case, sleeping dogs should have been left well and truly alone.

Quick Spin – Yamaha’s MT-07

Motorcycles are – obviously enough – the sum of their parts. You need an engine, a chassis, some suspension and wheels to connect them to the road, and the ergonomic package that allows the rider to control the bike itself.

WP_20150923_17_43_29_Pro

The weird thing is that sometimes manufacturers put a bike together in a way where the sums don’t add up. Take Yamaha’s SRZ660. The lovely 660cc single from the trail bike was squeezed into the exquisite deltabox chassis from the sweet-handling TZR250 two stroke, then wrapped up with dropped bars, alloy wheels and a half-fairing, assembled in Italy. The result should have been a lightweight, sharp-handling, punchy and inexpensive sports bike. In fact what we got was an overpriced, crudely finished, dubiously-handling, ill-tempered beast with dysfunctional trail bike gearing that made it complete PITA to ride on the road. Of all the bikes I’ve ever ridden the SRZ was the biggest let-down.

Ducati attempted the same parts-bin trick with their Monster 600. The v-twin engine lifted from an uninspiring model when wrapped in a low-tech steel frame and topped off with a chunky fuel tank and minimalist bodywork produced a motorcycle that was surprisingly tiny and agile. When I rode Ducati’s 620 Monster a few years later, I was fully prepared not to like it. I suppose quirky looks and a reputation for dodgy electrics and expensive servicing meant I was just a little prejudiced against the bike, particularly coming from my background of courier and motorcycle instructor where ease of use and reliability are all-important.

In fact, I had a blast – it was not only easy to ride, it was enormous fun to ride. And though I would never have bought one for my job, the ear to ear grin in my lid explained just why the baby Monster appealed to the first time rider and went on to be a huge sales success. Nevertheless, the fact that the Monster wasn’t a horrible lash-up like the SRZ was almost certainly more luck than judgment. The results – and sales – almost certainly wildly exceeded the cash-strapped factory’s expectations.

In theory, a bike that’s been designed from scratch should enable the manufacturer to avoid the parts-bin mismatch trap and the ‘ground up’ route Yamaha is therefore what have gone down with the MT-07. But one glance shows they have also taken a leaf out of Ducati’s book of Minimalist Motorcycle Design.

WP_20150923_17_43_17_ProThe overwhelming impression looking at the bike is that there’s not much of it. It looks small, it’s got a humpy tank, not a lot of seat, and there’s a lot of open space either side of the compact motor. Colour me red and it wouldn’t look dissimilar to the Monster at all.

The all-new chassis is – like the Monster – steel and tubular. The press information pack talks of the use of different types of high tensile steel in different locations, which means a saving of 6kg over the steel frame wrapping up the middleweight XJ6 from the same manufacturer. Mind you, the XJ6 frame is cradling a much heavier four cylinder motor. No expensive alloy for the swing arm either, it is also low-tech steel.

The suspension similarly budget. There’s no rising-rate linkage at the rear, the single shock is straight push and un-adjustable other than for preload. At the front, the right way up forks are basic too, without even preload adjustment. Presumably for styling reasons rather than any need for traction, Yamaha have plumped for the near-universal 180 section rear tyre on the ten spoke alloy wheel. The XJ6 with a similar power output copes perfectly well with a narrower 160 section.

The heart of the beast, visually and practically, is the all-new 689cc inline twin cylinder engine which according to Yamaha “benefits from our special ‘crossplane philosophy’ which enables it to develop linear torque for outstanding acceleration”. I won’t bore you with yet another explanation of what the 270 degree crossplane crank design is all about, suffice to say that the double overhead cam motor punts out a maximum of 55.0 kW (74.8PS) up near the red line at 9,000 rpm and you can find peak torque of 68.0 Nm (6.9 kg-m) at 6,500 rpm. The four valve bores are oversquare at 80.0mm x 68.6mm and the motor drives though a six speed gearbox.

OK, so that’s the specs? What’s it like on the road? I got a chance to test-ride one on my latest training session to Wales and compare it with Yamaha’s other current offering, the four cylinder XJ6 which I own in Diversion format.

My first thought was “blimey it’s light”. Rather than heaving it off the side stand, something you have to do with the fairly porky XJ6, it lifts upright with barely any effort. The twin cylinder engine undoubtedly helps with the light weight – no less than 30kgs less than the XJ6 – but it feels like the 179 kilos are carried quite low, too.

WP_20150923_17_47_34_ProThe second thought was “blimey, the seat’s high!”. That was a shocker, as I’ve read elsewhere about the 07’s low seat. It’s not. It’s actually actually 805mm off the ground – compare that with the 785mm height of the XJ’s seat. I’m a fairly average 5’9″ (or 1.75m if you prefer) and wasn’t quite able to get my feet flat on the floor on the twin, something I can do easily on the Divvie.

The rider’s seat itself looks like a modern interpretation of the huge buckets seats you’d find on an old between-the-wars Indian or similar. Incredibly narrow at the front – which probably accounts for the low seat reports – and incredibly broad at the rear, it could be incredibly comfortable. The jury is out on that one, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect. There were two hard ridges towards the front of the seat that dug into the insides of my thighs right from the very first. I can’t say I was squirming after my test ride but I can also see a reason to produce an aftermarket seat to fit the MT. Passenger accommodation is predictably sparse and two-up touring isn’t going to be this bike’s forte.

For me, the footpegs are about 10cm too far forward. I could live with them but instinctively wanted to put my feet further back to have a bit more weight on my feet and rather less on my bum. The bars seem very close to the rider, with a strange pull-back angle built into them. You seem to be sitting well over the front Monster-style, but a look at the side profile of the bike shows that you’re actually quite a long way to the rear, thanks in part to the short wheelbase. Although the bars seem quite flat the riding position is rather upright. I’m not sure I wouldn’t want to lean into the bars a little more.

On the move, there were moments at low speed when the bike seemed a little keener to tip into a corner than I was expecting. It may have something to do with the front end geometry (24.5º caster angle compared with 26º for the Divvie) or it may be the Michelin Pilot Road 3s fitted to this machine. I recall similar behaviour on them before on other machines. It never felt uncontrollable, but it wasn’t entirely predictable either.

Once rolling the steering is oh-so-light. Blink and it’ll change direction. It makes my XJ6 feel like a lumbering wildebeest by comparison. But it also pulls off the trick of remaining stable. I tried upsetting the MT by firing it hard over bumps and crests. Not even a hint of a wobble as the front went light. The suspension felt a bit wooden over the same bumps, though. A bit too firm and unyielding, it transmitted road shocks directly to my spine. It’s better than too-soft suspension, to be sure and perfectly adequate for normal riding but you can feel the difference between the budget suspension on this bike and something adjustable on a more upmarket 600 supersport.

The clutch is light, the gearbox precise. As for the brakes, they stopped the machine but were less powerful than I expected. Having failed to notice the twin discs and four-piston Monobloc caliper set-up before I jumped on and went riding, I genuinely thought I was riding a bike with a single disc. Having spotted the twin discs, I would have suggested that they needed properly bedding in but other reviews have made the same observation. The rear works fine and offers plenty of control for slow riding and awkward turns. Rather disappointingly on a new model, ABS is only an option on current models and will set you back £400 extra. So expect to see the on-the-road price climb when it becomes compulsory.

WP_20150923_17_42_42_ProYou get a 14 litre tank (just over 3 gallons to imperial thinkers like me) and although that might seem small, with the MT’s fuel consumption on the trip averaging over 60mph, that’s going to give a to-empty range approaching 200 miles, which is probably more than your backside will manage. This particular machine had a small fly screen fitted, which kept off more wind than it had a right to, plus bark busters on the bars. Both would aid rider comfort on longer runs, although they can’t match the Diversion’s half fairing for protection.

I really didn’t like the switch gear. It looks and feels a bit Micky Mouse, reminding me very much of the kind of equipment you find on an off-roader that’s been made vaguely road legal as an afterthought. It works, but the indicator was a bit fiddly even with summer gloves.

WP_20150923_17_42_49_ProThe less said about the instrument panel, the better. The information it provides is basic, but there’s no need for it to be displayed in so ridiculously small a unit. Crammed in with a digital speedo and fuel gauge and the standard idiot lights is a truly nasty digital linear rev counter. I’m long-sighted and the scale on the rev counter is invisible without reading glasses – this is unforgivable and Yamaha should realise not everyone riding this bike will have the eyesight of a 20 year old. Worse, the red line is so faint as to be next to useless. The digital speedo is legible, but the whole assemblage is so low down and tucked so far back towards the rider – the ignition switch is ahead of it -as to require a deliberate dip of the head to read it. The XJ6 instruments are barely any bigger but far easier to read thanks to the analogue rev counter and more sensible positioning.

Another fail are the mirrors. They are a trendy diamond shaped and unbelievably hopeless for their primary job of seeing what’s around. The widest part of the mirrors, just where you can see most, tapers to a narrow point. Set them up so you can see behind and you can’t see to the sides.

WP_20150923_17_43_42_Pro

I haven’t mentioned the motor yet, have I? That’s because I’ve saved the best till last. On paper the engine’s nothing special. 70-odd horsepower from a 700cc twin cylinder engine is nothing new. Sure, the MT-07 will out-perform Honda’s CB500 / NC750 twins but Triumph’s Bonneville produces much the same power, as does Kawasaki’s ER-6 and the venerable SV650. Heck, the CX650 of the 80s was only a few hp down on this all-new bike. They all – MT included – have a top speed somewhere in the 115 – 125mph bracket.

But it’s not the power so much as the feel. To my mind, Yamaha’s internal jiggery pokery has managed to replicate the sensation and delivery of my favourite engine design, the single cylinder. Unlike Honda’s old Superdream where the balance shafts smoothed the engine out, or Suzuki’s GS500 which felt a bit buzzy, this motor ‘thuds’ when you open the throttle; there’s an immediate visceral sensation that there’s some serious work being done down below. And there is – there’s enough immediate thrust even at relatively low revs to push you back on the seat. Following the 07 on my XJ earlier that day, it had proven capable of a surprising turn of acceleration when overtaking.

But unlike a big single it’s flexible too. Yes, drop the revs too low – somewhere below 2500rpm as best as I could make out from the illegible rev counter – and the twin cylinder shudder sets in. You can’t get a twin to pull from tickover like the four cylinder machines will do but make your take off with just a little clutch then keep the revs up above 3000 and it pulls lustily all the way to the red line which is well above where you would find it on a big single. I’d like to see a torque curve because I suspect it will turn out to back up Yamaha’s claim that it’s flat. As a result, the motor is surprisingly capable of being ridden in just a couple of gears on twisty roads just like a four cylinder engine. Rather than constantly snicking up and down the box constantly in hunt for peak power, using the rev range in each gear delivers more than adequate drive. It’s far easier to ride that way and you won’t lose any ground on a real road.

So let’s sum up. To my mind that motor helps the bike exceed the sum of its parts. No, it’s not perfect. The mirrors and instruments are awful and the seat and switchgear iffy. Yes, the suspension is budget and would ultimately be a limiting factor but it’s bolted to a competent and lightweight chassis. Certainly the motor’s not producing anything outrageous in terms of power and apparently it often stalls just off the idle, but when revving it delivers its power perfectly for real road riding, all with plenty of added grin factor. Like the Monster I rode all those years ago, Yamaha have pulled off the same ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ trick.

Add in a competitive price, Yamaha reliability (one hopes) and decent-looking build quality, what you get is not just a total hoot of a bike to ride, it’s a bargain buy that will make sense to a lot of riders looking for a go-anywhere, do-anything solo road bike.

Triumph’s Tiger 800 – tested

Although it was launched late in 2010 and appeared in Blighty in 2011, it wasn’t until a month ago that I got the chance of an extended test ride on Triumph’s Tiger 800. The machine’s an important one for Triumph because along with its cousin, the Tiger 800XC, it allows the British company to tap into the middleweight adventure bike market.

Whilst both of the Tigers share the same frame and much of the bodywork, the XC has longer travel supension, a 21″ wire wheel up front, tubed tyres both ends, a longer wheelbase (achieved by moving the rear axle backwards in the slot and fitting a longer chain) and details such as a ‘beak’ and handguards. The more road oriented Tiger has alloy 19″ front wheel, tubeless tyres, slightly less trail and lacks the off-road cosmetics, though they are simple bolt-on extras.

The natural competition for the road-oriented Tiger is BMW’s 800cc engined F650GS and newer F700GS, bikes like Honda’s CB500X and NC700X, the 650 Versys from Kawasaki and Suzuki’s 650 VStrom, all of which feature the tall, upright seating position that makes for Continue reading “Triumph’s Tiger 800 – tested”

Fun, functional, frugal… or flawed? Honda’s NC700X tested

Let’s start with Honda’s own PR:

“The NC700X redefines the multi-role motorcycle by uniting a strong, fuel-efficient engine with a comfortable riding position and a versatile chassis. Ideally suited to commuting during the working week, the bike also inspires an adventurous spirit at the weekend. A long tour, a leisurely ride into the countryside or a trip into the city with a passenger to meet friends – the NC700X is ready for anything.”

“The NC700X crossover offers the long-travel suspension, agility and commanding riding position of an off-road bike in an overall package with high standards of stability, braking and engine performance. It promises a fun, engaging riding experience together with the practicality and ease of use that make it a machine eminently suitable for daily commuting.”

And a couple of press articles:

“[Honda] came at the project from such a left-field angle, this has the potential to be the most significant motorcycle engine of recent times.” (Kevin Ash, Ash on Bikes)

“Just about every aspect of the NC700X is unconventional, but the heart of this adventure bike-styled machine is different from anything Honda has offered to date, in a motorcycle at least.” (Justin Dawes, MotorcycleUSA.com)

When I saw the Honda NC700X at the NEC last year, as well as the ‘adventure bike’ styling I took notice of three figures:

  • 47hp*
    215kg / 474lbs*
    78mpg

(*51hp and 505lbs with the auto transmission and ABS combo)

And I would imagine that like a lot of riders, my first thought was:

“How little power? How much weight?”

So is the bike really so incredibly different? Or is it just a re-tread of old ideas?

The idea of using car technology in a motorcycle isn’t new, for all the excitement about the NC700 engine being half a Honda Jazz. The original Continue reading “Fun, functional, frugal… or flawed? Honda’s NC700X tested”

Open Source Mapping for Garmin

We’re continuing Garmin week here on Survival Skillls by looking at some alternative GPS technology that can be used on a motorcycle and today’s topic is how to get hold of some top quality maps for free.

Yesterday we looked at one of the cheapest ways of getting GPS-enabled on a bike, getting a Garmin Dakota 10 or 20, with the 10 available online for just £111.99 (The Dakota 20 is £160 online). As I mentioned yesterday, what these devices don’t come equipped with is a map other than the included basemap which is more or less useless.

So we need to get hold of some maps. The most obvious (and most expensive way) is to buy them.

For example, it’s possible to purchase the Garmin GB Discoverer (All of Great Britain) maps at 1:50,000 scale for £200. What you get for your money with the £200 package is the full Ordnance Survey landranger map coverage for the whole of Great Britain equivalent to around £1000-worth of over 200 paper maps showing detailed topographic data includes terrain contours, elevations, summits, footpaths, bridleways, byways, roads and geographical points. Smaller sections of GB are offered too.

Once installed, you also get turn-by-turn directions to your destinations with addresses and points of interest, including lodging, food and drink, car parks, banks, petrol stations, attractions, campsites, and more. Supplied on miniSD card, you can plug and play on the Dakota 20 – I’ll explain how you install the maps on the Dakota 10 later on. One thing to watch out for with these maps is that they are not updatable, and of course, they don’t cover anything outside Great Britain.

A rather cheaper option is to buy the Garmin City Navigator NT Maps. The full UK/Ireland 2012 version is currently around £26 online and offers the more usual “in-car” GPS navigation maps – ie, turn-by-turn routing but without the topographic data and the footpath and byway mapping that the Discover series offers. Supplied on miniSD card, you can again plug and play on the Dakota 20 and when you go abroad you can swap European maps in and out easily, but the downside is that each section of Europe has to be bought separately. If you want more than just one or two cards the costs start to mount, so you’d be better off looking at full Europe coverage for around £60.

Of course, you could also take a look on eBay and see if you can locate a Continue reading “Open Source Mapping for Garmin”

Sport-touring tyres on road and track – Conti Motions

Continental’s tyre range somehow isn’t as ‘sexy’ as the other major manufacturers, but I’ve been familiar with their range since the late 70’s, when I first fitted their tyres to replace the truly awful tyres on my Honda 400-four.

Through the 80’s, I often used their grippy (for the time!) TKV11 front tyre, pairing it on various bikes with the long life Avon Roadrunner mkIII rear. The TKV is still available as a “classic” tyre, incidentally.

But by the mid-90’s I’d switched to Michelin radials and continued to use them where possible until quite recently, when I found it increasingly difficult to get Hi-Sport pairs for the Hornet.

Having seen good write-ups of the Contiforce radials, I tried a couple of pairs and they were OK in the dry, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by their winter wet weather grip, particularly at the rear, but the longevity was comparable with something like the Pilot Road or the sport touring Bridgestones, and their economical price was a definite selling point!

Then in mid-2008 Conti released their new “Motion” range. It’s not a tyre that’s appeared in any tyre test that I know of, but the price was right, I needed a pair of tyres and so I gave into temptation and ordered some up for the Hornet.

Results were better than I’d hoped for. The Conti Motions behave impeccably on the road in all conditions from hot and dry to cold and sopping wet, with good grip under braking and stable with progressive steering. They are a distinct improvement on the Contiforce radials.

So I’ve stuck with them on the Hornet, and I’m more than happy with them as an all-round road tyre.

As it happens, I had another chance to do a short track session last week, and this time I was on the trusty Hornet 600, rather than the XJ6 Diversion I rode back in May.

The first thing that showed up was the extra power of the Hornet. Now, according to the spec sheets, they are only 4hp or so apart, but suffice to say the Hornet was 15mph faster down the back straight at Castle Combe, reaching a top speed of around 115 by the time I was rolling off over Avon Rise for the sharper right of Quarry. (And don’t bother to tell me how slow I am, I’m well aware of it from the speed the Castle Combe instructors come past!)

The second obvious difference was that the new suspension on the XJ clearly out-performed the rather tired suspension on the Hornet, with the XJ handling the bumps much better.

The Hornet suspension probably didn’t help the tyres out but the third thing I noticed was the difference between the way the tyres on the two bikes reacted to the day.

On the first session back in May on the Diversion, the nearly-new Dunlop Roadsmarts had started to produce little balls of rubber across the entire tread surface, and over the course of the next two trips out on the track, that continued and the tyre behaved consistently.

By contrast, on the first session, the Conti Motion on the rear just looked “cleaned” right to the edge of the tread. No marking up of any kind, no balled-up rubber, just no chicken strip left.

On my return from the second half dozen laps, it was interesting to see that the edges of some of the tread blocks were starting to tear off. Still no balled-up rubber though, the rubber was still nice, clean and smooth, and the bike still handled fine (up to the limits of the suspension).

On the third and final session, I had a couple of minor twitches from the rear. Whether this was down to me trying to ride a bit faster I’m not sure, but I took the hint and slowed down a touch and completed the session without further drama.

Looking at the tyre back in the pit area was interesting though; the scrubbed area was still clean and smooth, but it now had a sticky, oily looking deposit on the last couple of mms of the extreme edge of the tyre where I hadn’t scrubbed it over on that particular session. It did cross my mind that it was this oily looking stuff that caused the twitches till I backed off a touch.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera to hand to snap a pic, which would have been useful.

I’m no tyre expect but I suspect what I was looking at was a tyre beginning to overheat.

I have to say I had no complaints with the Roadsmarts on the track, and they were fine on the road, at least when they were new, but the payback for the track performance is that they don’t last on the road.

The rear Dunlop was totally squared off to the point where it affected the bike’s handling from about 3,500 miles and by 4,500 miles the rear was worn out down to the wear limit. However, the front still had quite a lot of tread. Very few of the on-road miles were motorway use – in fact, the best part of 1000 were fast and twisty N and D roads on the way to the Dordogne and back – so I can’t point the finger at dull motorway miles as the cause of the squaring off.

By contrast, the previous two pairs of Conti Motions on the Hornet have handled twisty roads as fast as I wanted to ride them in the Ardeche last year, coped with mid-summer deluges in Wales, and offered excellent feel in all conditions right into the freezing weather last December.

The icing on the cake was that they lasted just on 10,000 miles each. Considering that mileage including a fair amount of M25 work, they retained their profile well, and they wore out as a pair.

Now that’s what I call a sport touring tyre!

If you’re in the market for a tyre which you don’t have to change every couple of months for a middleweight, do a lot of fairly upright miles in mixed conditions, and can cope with more spirited riding from time to time in the twisties, then the Conti Motions are definitely recommended by me.

But I’d say they are not a tyre that can cope with the demands of the track, even with a not particularly quick track rider on board! It may well be that if you are very quick on the road, you might find they struggle too.

Personally though, given what I need a bike for, I’ve now fitted Conti Motions on both the Hornet and the Diversion.

Yamaha XJ6 Diversion – 3000 miles on

There’s a word that sums up Yamaha’s XJ6 Diversion – competent.

I did a write up of one I test rode back in October on my blog here and I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed… you can definitely see it’s built down to a price – steel parts like the rear brake lever where sports bikes have alloy.

But the engine on this one seems rather stronger than the test bike (even thought that one was nearly new too – perhaps it’s now ‘run in’?) and it’s a bike where “re-tuning for midrange” doesn’t just mean chopping the top end off – it does actually seem to pull well 40-80, which is ideal for overtaking on B roads. If there is a criticism it tends to encourage you to leave it in top gear rather than use an intermediate gear for better response.

I even had the opportunity to get the Divvie out on the track for an hour at Castle Combe some weeks ago. It gets to three figures with no trouble but runs out of puff beyond as you enter licence-losing land though.

Totally out of its natural environment, I was amazed at how well it handled out on the circuit. Whilst I wasn’t going absolutely flat out (I’ve never ridden there before and whilst the braking points were marked I never felt totally comfortable their braking points were mine!), I did manage to get the pegs down in a couple of the corners.

The steering was delightfully neutral – on the few occasions I overcooked it into the bus-stop chicanes and was off the ideal line, modding the line was easy.

The high speed bump damping is a bit too hard and the rebound probably a bit too soft which led to a bit of harshness over bumps and slight wallows in the fast bends, but let’s remember this is very much a non-sports bike.

Whilst the high bars weren’t an impediment (I actually like the old ‘Eddie Lawson’ style bars – loads of leverage!), the position of the footpegs and gear shift were. I found it almost impossible to change gear because they were just too far forward and I couldn’t get my toe over the lever to shift down again! Fortunately the motor is so flexible it handled most of the circuit in second gear, with 3rd only really needed on the run along the straight up through Quarry to the tight right hander.

With better use of the box I dare say I could have carried rather more speed up the main straight through Quarry, but even so I was able to hang onto the coat tails of a guy on a GSX-R750 who, like me, was feeling his way round the circuit, and no-one got past me from behind in the group I was in. But it was all put into perspective when one of the instructors flew past on a 999 on the last lap to make sure we’d spotted the chequered “end of session” flag!

If you’re not going to run in the fast group at trackdays, the XJ6 might make a pretty good bike for a trackday newbie to start learning how to ride on tracks, simply because you can forget about the bike and get on with learning lines, braking points, steering, hard braking and the rest.

One thing it did show me was that the brakes weren’t anything like bedded in after what I would have said was some reasonably vigorous use on the road during a ride with a mate on Sunday – a few squeezes on the braking exercises we did before we got out on circuit showed there was loads more power than I realised – so brakes have gone from controllable and a bit soft, to controllable with more than enough!! The ABS incidentally is surprisingly subtle when it cuts in – no pulsing through the levers.

———————————————-

IF YOU’VE ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, WHY NOT TAKE A LOOK AT OUR BOOKS?
The MAG Columns: this popular column has been running for nearly a decade in the Motorcycle Action Groups magazines, and are now available for the first time as a collection, updated and expanded, in one collection in either paperback or ebook format.
Over 40 articles deal with topics as diverse as recovering from a cornering mistake to safer overtaking, from overcoming tenseness to riding abroad, from riding in bad weather to coping with poor road surfaces. 
Fascinating topics include the development and improvement of the mental skills we learn as we ride a bike. 
Order ‘The MAG Columns’ direct from our publishers!
———————————————-

Interestingly it will run clear to the far end of the red zone on the rev counter with no problem at all in the lower gears. It’s clearly undergeared in the lower gears, as first is only good for around 48mph, and even in top I keep reaching for seventh. Despite the fact first gear is very low, I doubt it will wheelie off the throttle in first like the Hornet does (even after 85,000 miles!).

I can confirm that the GPS-certified top speed is 118mph. A bit disappointing perhaps but whilst it hasn’t got the high revs kick of the Hornet, that wasn’t the problem – it simply ran out of revs and into the red line.

I might try a one tooth over front sprocket at some point soon (as I’m not bothered about the wheelies!) which would likely give it more mph in the first to stop take-offs sounding so busy, more flexible intermediate gears without affecting drive and overtaking ability, a higher top speed and a few less gear changes. My guess is that it might improve the top speed to around 125mph.

Away from the track and back on the road, fuel consumption is running at mid-50s with low 60s on a steady drone at motorway speeds. The tank turns out to be 17 litres which is 3.7 imperial gallons. The fuel gauge is reasonably progressive and ticks down in little LCD blocks, till the final block starts flashing. At this point, the trip resets itself to show ‘F TRIP’ and starts counting up from zero. There’s about 30 miles in the “reserve” but not a lot more – it took 16.5 litres at that point! I like to know how far reserve will go.

The fairing works better than my Hornet’s, but the bars are too wide and not so comfortably angled. They are too flat and not pulled back enough at the grips and on the long run to the Dordogne gave me aching thumbs that meant I had to rest them on top of the grips. I might do something about that too.

My first thoughts about the mirrors were right – they are too wide too, and I have pulled them back on the stems as far as they will go. I also notice the extra weight over the Hornet when moving the two bikes around – it’s a shame Yamaha didn’t make an effort to keep the weight down.

Whilst the suspension is better than the Hornet on smooth roads, on the road the characteristics I noted on the track means it kicks back a bit on bumps. I suspect the too-hard compression damping disguises a too-soft spring, which would appear to be confirmed by the amount it sags when carrying a passenger. Whilst it never threatens to get out of hand, a better rear shock would be a definite upgrade.

I suspect the rear Dunlop Roadsmart might also have a hand in the suspension harshness as I don’t remember the problem being so pronounced on the Bridgestone-shod version I rode last year.

However, unlike the bike fitted with Bridgestones I rode last year, this particular machine works far better on the Dunlops with a nice smooth, progressive roll into corners and easy to ride at low speed, whilst the Bridgestones were nasty and tippy. The Dunlop downsides are that they have worn disappointingly fast and the rear tyre tramlines badly too.

Apparently the Americans get a funky split seat with height-adjustable front section on their US-market version whilst we have to make do with a boring (and heavy!) dual seat.

There’s a nice alloy rack from Yamaha that complements the styling too, and I’ve found a german company supplying a rather nice metal bracket that replaces the rear plastic gubbins the number plate hangs on with something just as functional but more aesthetically pleasing.

So is it worth spending cash on?

Well, if you accept that three figure speeds on the road are a no-no, and if you can live with the stigma of a “girlie bike”, it’s actually got a lot going for it. It would make a very good commuter that’s still fun to ride, and it would make an excellent budget tourer with some hard luggage.

Dunlop Roadsmart – sport touring tyres that struggle to tour

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 12 October 2011

I had an interesting conversation about the Dunlop Roadsmarts fitted as original fitment to Yamaha XJ6 Diversions on a forum the other day. Mine wore out in under 4,500 miles, and other XJ6 owners report the same.

Yet riders who’ve fitted their bikes with the Roadsmarts are reporting 10,000 …miles plus! In some cases much more powerful and heavy bikes like VFR800s! So why the difference?

It seems that the OE Roadsmarts on the Divvie aren’t dual compound after all.

On tyres fitted as replacements, the difference between the two compounds is clearly visible on refits but the OE tyres on the Yamaha are a single colour and thus almost certainly single compound all the way across.

That would also account for the way my OE tyre squared off so badly and the total mismatch between front and rear wear – I’m still on the OE front after 10k!!

Seems a bizarre decision by Dunlop if that is the case – the rapid wear prevented me fitting another, and most other XJ6 owners have gone with something different too.

UPDATE 2 September 2010

After a 150 mile day-long ride round France two weeks ago plus a couple of training courses last week, the rear Dunlop Roadsmart on the Yamaha XJ6 was down to the wear marker, so it’s now been replaced.

As I guessed 1000 miles ago, it didn’t make the 5000 mile mark. In fact, total mileage from new was a very disappointing 4448.

That’s pretty miserable for a sport touring tyre.

Total motorway mileage was around 900 miles, and given the bike’s been used for instructing most of the time, it’s not lived on the throttle and brakes either; the rear tyre’s really not had a particularly hard life.

Dunlop have really got the dual compound construction wrong on this tyre, if my experience is anything to go by. Despite the claimed dual compound with a hard centre section, it’s squared off really badly, and that’s affected the handling negatively.

Partworn, the rear tyre tramlines badly over surface ridges. In the dry it’s manageable, if not particularly pleasant. But in the wet it’s very disconcerting (to say the least!) when the rear tyre refuses to follow the front. I really thought the back had let go at one point.

Rather bizarrely in these days of matched pairs, the front still has 3mm of tread left on the shoulders, where I usually wear out a front. So I suspect the front would probably do around 50% more mileage than the rear. However, I’ll be dropping the front wheel round to the tyre fitters in a day or two to get a ContiMotion fitted to match the one I’ve put on the rear wheel.

Original Review (12 July 2010)

Dunlop launched the Roadsmart range back at the end of 2007, so they’ve been around for over two years now.

Replacing the D220ST, the Roadsmart shares a triple tread construction with the Qualifier RR tyre. Like many modern tyres, this offers a softer compound on the shoulders and a harder, more lasting compound in the centre of the tyre.

As usual, there’s a new tread pattern which is claimed to offer improved water dispersal, and the profile and carcass are also new.

The XJ6 Diversion I’ve been riding this summer came fitted with them and I’ve had a chance to try them out in a variety of situations from mild trackday use to twisty mountain roads, and urban riding to motorway.

How does it handle on them? Well, the tyres definitely suit the Diversion. The original bike I rode was fitted with Bridgestones which really did not work on the bike at all, making slow turns a clumsy affair as the bike suddenly pitched over. There’s no problem like that with the Roadsmarts.

They also offer enough grip for this trackday slowcoach to have enough fun, and they are reassuring at decent lean angles out on the open road, with plenty of feedback from the front. They are not fazed by wet surfaces either.

Photo 052610 002

Rear Roadsmart close up after a short track session

However, the rear in particular doesn’t handle bumps particularly well, feeling quite harsh over the bigger bumps, and as it’s worn so it has begun to tramline badly, causing the bike to weave rather disconcertingly over surface irregularities like road repairs that run in the direction of travel.

The very same irregularities wouldn’t upset the less-than-stable Hornet on its Conti Motions even when the tread was right down to the legal limit.

And worse, for a tyre that’s supposed to have a touring ability, they just don’t go the distance.

In just 3,500 miles the rear has squared off really badly, which is very disappointing considering I’ve not done that many miles on motorway – I estimate around 700 out of the total 3,500 has been motorway but of the rest, many have been twisty road miles.

Photo 052610 001

The tyre was as-new before the track session

Having a read round the various forums seems to suggest I’m not the only one who has noticed this. I doubt the rear will make 5k which isn’t good at all for a sports touring tyre on a modestly powered machine. Someone I know has noticed the same wear characteristics after 3,000 miles on an ER-6.

Unusually, the front/rear wear isn’t matched so there is ample tread on the front, something another user flagged up on a forum just the other day. It seems to me they’ve just got the centre compound horribly wrong.

So, there’s a set of replacements waiting in the garage for the moment the tread gets too low. But they aren’t Dunlop Roadsmarts. A pair of Conti Motions will be going on next.