Road Test: I am not a number

If only bikes were available on prescription to combat the misery of the Great British Winter

Posted: 19 April 2008
by Bertie Simmonds

Because if they were you could forget 'take two daily internally,' to fight off the winter blues and, instead use an alternative medicine for which you take 'two-wheels externally' to any warm winter destination you can find. Me, ad-man Mark Shippey and snapper Jason Critchell, are already fed-up of the ravages of the coming winter, and so decide to head south. Our plans are soon scuppered though when Alex tells us to pack our passports away and dig out a map of Wales.

So now it's pissing down with rain, and I'm leaving the office and heading in the complete opposite of the magnetic compass direction I desire to be following. One thing we do have are bikes that should work almost as well in the rain as they should in the shine: the BMW K1200LT, Honda GL1800 GoldWing and the Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Ultra Classic.

As I slithered home up the wet and uninviting M25 and M1 on the BMW, I was a little alarmed. The front end of just felt so vague. Hit raised white lines, overbanding or the odd rut and the thing just glides and wobbles as if you're not really in full control, or at least not until you get off the offending surface. As I got used to the physical size and weight of the K12, I started to filter through the heavy M25 traffic.

As I was now hitting raised white lines more frequently, it simply compounded my woes. Then, as I hit a cat's eye, those long, stalky swan-necked handlebars kicked in my hands. It didn't feel inherently dangerous, just un-nerving and uncomfortable.

As I arrived home in the rain and darkness, hardly lit by the small headlight. I decided I'd give the BeeEm the benefit of the doubt. After all, everything is better in the morning, right?

Day two and it was still pissing down. As I loaded my stuff up into the BMW, I thanked my lucky stars (for the first and only time) that I chose it, as I could get my whole Givi Traveller roll pack in the back and still pack an extra pair of boots in one pannier (waterproof boots are by their very nature, not) and a spare pair of waterproof trousers (ditto) and - in perhaps the greatest display of autumnal optimism ever - an open face lid. All told you've got 120 litres of lockable space. And it's easy enough to get into, too. Turn the key on each individual lock, press the lock and out pops a handle, pull the handle and the box will open. Nice.

I had to meet Jason at Corely Services on the M6 and sadly found the morning's motorway riding had brought no difference to my hastily formed opinion on the LT. Twenty minutes late (as usual) and Critch rolled up on the GoldWing, sparked up a Marlboro and nodded to the BM.

"Not so sure about those bikes. I had to ride one over the Pyrennees in sub-zero temperatures a year ago and I thought that its handling was weird."


He had a smug grin on his mush, as if he'd piclocked the winner already...

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