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The Longest Test: Visordown Long-termers Review

Six very different bikes with one thing in common – an identical 2,500 miles to cover through France in less than five days. Visordown takes our long-term test fleet out of the comfort zone to find out more about the bikes we thought we knew so well…

Blessed with all manner of bikes to ride during the summer months, it’s very easy to get a bit complacent. With Rob using his GSX-R1000 mainly as a commuter, James’ taking the XR1200 on long motorway stints en route to various commentary booths and Ben threading the GTR through rush hour London, it hardly gives the bikes a chance to shine, the opportunity to truly shout about their strengths.

Similarly, Niall’s prolific track day tutelage only ever sees the R6 in its very best light while the hugely versatile R1200GS spends most of its time being hammered through leafy Surrey lanes and zoned up and down the A3 into and out of London. And then there’s Barry’s Bonny. A bike much teased by all in the office as a classic designer’s choice of form over function, a real posing tool for the city, we were all sure that our esteemed Art Director would breakdown long before the Triumph did.

There are so many questions that remain unanswered in a typical magazine multi-bike test. Naturally, here at Visordown we do our utmost to put in the miles, find out as much as we can about the bikes and conclude our opinions in a fair and balanced way. But having a quick fling with a bike for a couple of weeks can never compare to a long-term affair. Like any relationship, there are highs and lows; times you can’t live without it, times when you wish it would fit in a little more with what you want to do and times when the grass seems so much greener, you wonder if you made the right choice in the first place.

We decided that the only way to mix things up enough to get all the answers was to take a blast down to the south of France, a vast country with an equally vast range of roads and riding scenarios.

With a tight schedule and a whole country to explore, each and every bike was put to the test. In fact, as the title suggests, this became the longest test, in every conceivable way…

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Long term Verdict

VERDICT

You see them on the roads of Britain every Sunday, packs of guys riding together on a complete mix-up of bikes. The days of everyone riding the same kinda of motorcycle are over - we like to mix it up. We all learned something new about these bikes (and perhaps about each other) that only ever comes during an intense week of riding. Covering huge distances, riding every kind of road imaginable and not being elitist about who’s riding what made this test so much different from the usual group test of similar machinery. Those tests are about analysing performance to the nth degree and, quite often, splitting hairs.

Here, in France there’s none of that. No willy-waving about horsepower, no pub bullshit about tyre pressures or suspension set-up. Here, it’s not all about taking the bikes to the limit (after all, we did that on the first day) it’s about the joie de vivre of exploring a foreign country with a bunch of mates.

The motorway stints aren’t particularly pleasant. Unless of course, you’re on the BMW or GTR, in which case they’re bearable. Despite the Harley and Triumph’s modest fuel ranges, they still arrived at Calais just 20 minutes after Tim on the GS, who’d set off after the first fill-up claiming it wasn’t fair to expect him to hang about when he could make one fuel stop to every three of ours. Fair play to Barry and Ian for putting up with ten hours of chin-on-the-tank windblast. The Suzuki was surprising - it may be a red-blooded sportsbike but it’s also extremely useable for a mission like this.

Ben was the lucky one, having the excuse of a wedding to attend in France the following weekend to keep him and the GTR in the manner to which they were both rapidly becoming accustomed. Niall, meanwhile wasn’t so fortunate. Having dropped his bike a week earlier, the Yamaha had clearly had enough by the time we’d finished, leaving him with no choice but to return home by plane.

Can we pick a winner from such an eclectic mix of bikes on a trip like this? Given that we did everything from backroad scratching to motorway crunching and everything in between, is there in fact one bike here that was the best at it all?

Sort of. While the BMW is quite brilliant at covering long distances and remarkably pushable through corners, it’s not what you’d call ‘fun’. And France just isn’t far enough away for it. The Kawasaki boasts the most when it comes to comfort and capacity but was outgunned by the little Yamaha on the mountain roads. The Harley and the Triumph both shared the award for the coolest audio/visual package in Cannes, but nobody would pretend they were fun to get there.

There was only one bike with just one drawback. Fast enough to be scary, torquey enough to be lazy, the GSX-R’s engine is as flexible as a rubber gymnast. On the mountain roads it was pin-sharp and on the way down, rapid and comfortable. The Suzuki’s only drawback? Total lack of storage. Add soft panniers or a bigger backpack, and a large-capacity sportsbike is a surprisingly brilliant way of getting from here to over there.