Going touring? You need a big bike, panniers and a top box. Or do you? From full-on sports tool to fully laden mile eater, via adventure tourer and slick all-rounder, the choice is yours. Team Visordown packs its bags and heads south.
Go somewhere, go anywhere, get away, just get on your bike and get lost. You can go touring on anything - it just depends on how far you want to go and what you want to do when you get there. Does 'touring' mean heading somewhere to see sights and views and places? Or seeking out new roads to ride and old favourites to revisit? Or something in between?
For the sake of our purposes 'touring' is a convenient catch-all word that means escaping the real world and going somewhere far, far away. What you do when you get there is up to you.
So what kind of bike is best suited to the role? Full dresser, all hard luggage and comfy pillion armchair? Maybe, but not if that ain't your thing. What about a focused sports tool? Perhaps, but the other half won't like it on the back. Something else, then. But what? The type of roads you ride on or the kind of riding you plan on doing when you get there may determine the bike best suited to the role, but there's more than one way to boil an egg. And to prove the point we got four of them together and headed south.
We deliberately made this a test of contrasts, so rather than pitching like against like we instead brought together representatives from four different fields of two-wheeled excellence. All are new, or heavily revised, 2006 models, and all are pitched to excel in their chosen niche.
Heading up the serious continent-crushing contingent we have BMW's K1200GT SE, the luxuriously faired, fully-luggaged-up, mile-eating variant of the German firm's K1200S hypersports tourer. At the opposite end of the spectrum, waving the flag for sports bike hooligans everywhere, we've got Suzuki's sharp, screaming GSX-R600, which is pretty far removed from most people's idea of a tourer. Then padding out the middle ground is KTM's 990 Adventure monster trailie/adventure tourer, and finally Honda's Fireblade engined, soft-edged do-it-all rounder, the new, and bargain priced, CBF1000.
Waking up in a foreign land with nothing to do but ride bikes all day is a wonderful feeling. Breakfast eaten, hotel bill paid and we've got a day's jaunt south through France ahead of us. To get the job done in time we'll be mostly using autoroutes, but a route national detour at the end of the day will get us to our destination - the twists and turns of the Ardèche Gorge.
Tip-toeing out of the car park into St Omer's one-way system, light drizzle and cool morning air, I'm on KTM's lofty, lanky 990 Adventure. Now fuel injected and with a 40cc bigger motor, the Adventure is a much loved tool here at TWO. With serious off-road pedigree behind the name, the KTM has an edge to it that other monster trail tools lack. Its exhaust note has a sharp bark, the suspension moves with the refined control of serious off-road kit, and even the handlebar grips smack of proper rufty-tufty dirt bikes. And it's big, with a capital 'B'.
Being tall and lanky myself, I'm right at home on this type of machine, and the KTM quickly finds a place in my heart. With the carbs of old consigned to the bin, the motor has a new sharpness at very low revs and small throttle openings. Direct and responsive and with no nasty snatching, grabbing a handful at low speed is a genuinely enjoyable experience: the motor responds with a crisp rumble, the forks extend and the back end squats down. And we're off. In town, or down tight, blind back lanes, the KTM's saddle is a very entertaining place to be.
As we head to the autoroute it's easy to forget that Daryll, Oli and Rob may not be having such an easy time of it. The Adventure's advantage in town, in France, avoiding lazy rush hour traffic, on damp roads, while looking for few-and-far-between road signs, is considerable.
Out on the autoroute, settling into a day-long routine of fuel stops, bike swaps and speed trap spotting, the KTM's advantages start to fade. But it isn't half as bad as you'd think it might be. The motor has the guts to hold an easy ton - considerably more if your licence is up for it - and it's surprisingly comfortable.That high and wide riding position isn't as tiresome as it looks, with the stubby, upright and not too pretty screen doing a remarkably good job. Last year's 950 had a seat designed by the Marquis de Sade; the new 990's is wider, flatter and better padded - "a massive improvement over last year's," according to Rob. Oli is less impressed, accusing the screen of 'almost unbearable buffeting'. My only gripe is that the twin fuel tanks angle wind between my knees and the sidepanels, forcing my legs apart. Keeping them flat against the tank is a strain.
No such problems with the CBF1000. One fuel stop down the line - dictated at around 110 miles by the GSX-R600, the bike here with the shortest fuel range - we swap mounts and I'm on the Honda.The CBF oozes competence. Nothing about it jumps out to excite; it just gets on with the job of being a slick, efficient, well-executed all-rounder. The motor is silky smooth, and the chassis should be - that is 'should' be - well up to the job.
Continue reading Road Test: K1200GT v CBF1000F v KTM990 v GSX-R600 2/4
TYPE - TOURERPRODUCTION DATE - 2006PRICE NEW - £13,295ENGINE CAPACITY - 1157ccPOWER - 133.3bhp@8900rpmTORQUE - 85.3lb.ft@7500rpm WEIGHT - 249kgSEAT HEIGHT - 820mm FUEL CAPACITY - 24L TOP SPEED - 155.9mph0-60 - n/aTANK RANGE - 155miles
Have BMW called back the testmachine yet?
You probebly know about the rear linkeage problem, 80000 bikes to be recalled, that should be on the front page!
Posted: 27/01/2011 at 18:36
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