The world of motorcycling is full of reviews and articles about amazing motorbikes, their differences and which one you should be lusting after next. Yet, most of those articles ignore one important aspect: the missus (henceforth referred to as pillion). This review is different. We wrote it for you, if you're in the market for an "adventure bike" that will carry you and your significant other. It is a review mostly devoid of objective measurement, but is highly opinionated instead. Ioana the pillion's and Chris the rider's opinion, that is, each coming from our own view and experience. If you just want to know which bike we liked the most: here you go.
During last weeks Touratech Travel Event, we were sneaking around the colourful vendor stalls looking at equally colourful motorcycles. At the Suzuki stand a chap approached Ioana, asking her opinion about the two-wheelers on display. He was looking to get a bike to tour on together with his lady. It's guys like him this review is for. Many times in life we must be pragmatic and get only one machine that which has to satisfy all our needs (commute and travel). Maybe your lady doesn't want a license but she definitely wants to join you. It's amazing to share your travel. While riding two up will limit the way you ride or make it more difficult from the maneuvers point of view, there is nothing like sharing the road with someone you hold dear.
Maybe your lady doesn't want a license but she definitely wants to join you.
It is not often that one gets to try four highly desirable, brand spanking new bikes in one day. Last Saturday was such a happy day. We got to spend half an hour with a black BMW R1200GS, a red Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS, a silver Yamaha Super Ténéré 1200Z and a gorgeous white/red/blue 2016 Honda Africa Twin. All of those ride-outs were guided tours, except for the Africa Twin (at which point we had ridden around the area for 1.5 hours already, so we knew where to go).
Disclaimer: Christian wanted to ride a 1200GS for about a year now. Excitement doesn't quite describe how he felt when taking a seat on that black beauty. That said, ever since the Africa Twin came out, both of us have been looking forward to spend some time with this Japanese beauty. Of course, with Vroomi's big sister - the V-Strom 1000 - in the group that was something we were looking forward to. Lastly, the legendary Super Ténéré: shaft drive, offroadable and a 1200cc engine should make for good fun, too.
All of those bikes are big, and as such we expected them to be comfortable for a pillion ride. We were in for a surprise. But let's dive in and find out.
Suzuki V-Strom 1000
We may have mentioned a few times by now that that we have a V-Strom 650 and love it. It's a torquey, comfortable and very capable bike - alone or two up. It is amazing how this "little" 650cc engine moves a fully loaded two-wheeler forward, and how the suspension copes with all the crap we carry with us.
Comparing the 650 and 1000 Stroms, we didn't really see a positive difference for the bigger sister. Of course it has more more power. But all that means is that you might be shifting a bit less or that your overtake is a bit quicker. At the end of the day, it didn't feel all that different however. The big V-Strom is not wildly more powerful than it's little sister.
Unfortunately the 1000 does not carry some of 650's finer qualities. The pillion seat (the whole seat, really) is hard and uncomfortable - definitely something we would replace. Ioana also sat lower behind me than on Vroomie; a definite no-go. The rear grab bars are in the wrong place and their plastic feels cheap. Those are all things you could change of course (we were at a Touratech event after all). But considering the big one costs three grand more than the Wee-Strom we'll happily stick with what we got. If you're in the market for a new one: look at the 650, it's just so much more bike for your money. And should you choose to invest the price difference back into your latest acquisition, you'll have one heck of a touring machine.
Yamaha Super Ténéré
Her name inspires awe and conjures pictures of endless beautiful sand glimmering in the sunset: Ténéré. Named after a desert region in the Saharah and hailing from an off-road lineage, it is a hot candidate for anyone with an interest in two-wheeled travel. Technically it is an attractive device, with its low-maintenance shaft drive, cruise control and electronic suspension (on the 1200ZE) - if you're into these kind of gizmos. Christian liked the engine, which has as much torque as you would expect from a 1200cc bike.
For riding with a pillion, the touring mode is somewhat handy. Being the sluggish one of the two riding modes, it let's the bike go easy on the throttle which can help to reduce head-bumps from the fellow traveler behind you. Not that you would get to enjoy this clash-free ride for long though. The seat is terrible, front and rear. Sitting on it feels hard and uncomfortable. We both wanted to get out of it after just 30 minutes. Ioana, sitting in the rear, was in additional discomfort due to the awful knee angles and wind buffeting. Also neither of us could read the speedometer well.
Enough yammering, this is a very capable motorcycle. Nice gearbox, good engine and wide handlebars. Or as Ioana summed it up: "it is a nice bike, but something is missing". Oh, and the design looks like it got lost somewhere in the 70s.
I don't know how much BMW is paying their sales guys, but I hope they pay them well. The rustic yet funny Bavarian chap who introduced us to the world of "I need to take up a second mortgage to run my bike" R1200GS did a brilliant job. He knew what he was doing, and so did the rest of the folks at the BMW stall. How you treat your potential customer is important if you want to sell them something (particularly if it's north of 12 grand). But those guys managed to even impress Ioana with their service - and that says something.
Within five minutes in the seat it became it became apparent why it is Europe's best selling motorcycle: the new Africa twin was released just this year. Jokes aside: what an incredible machine. "Our" test-ride had the electronic suspension system (ESA) which, at the push of a button was setup for taking a passenger. That said, next to the button you have to press, there are about 200 others so we were grateful for the prior introduction.
On the road the Beemer rides like on rails. In bend number three there were some happy sounds coming from the pillion seat, attributable to the lean angle. There is no effort involved whatsoever. I can not believe how easy this thing is to ride. No trace of anyone sitting in the back, and given the spacious seat at times I wondered if Ioana was still sitting behind me.
Speaking of the seat: like a sofa that one, front and rear. The passenger deck is raised, providing Ioana with a great overview of the landscape whizzing by. Grab bars are where they should be, and pegs place everyone's knees at comfortable angles. The GS is no a small machine by any stretch of imagination. Compared to a V-Strom 650 though, it's also not excessive in size.
Long story short: if you are looking for a two-up bike that is extremely comfortable, capable and refined, but that will cost you about 11000 km worth of petrol more than the next bike: the R1200GS is for you (as it is for everyone else and their dog ... there are just so many of those GS').
Honda 2016 Africa Twin
The new Africa Twin is probably one of the most anticipated bikes of the year. As such many words have been written about it, and we are not going to repeat them all. But, much like many others we were eager to swing a leg over and take it for a ride. Now, you would expect that if you're selling a bike that's in more demand than sliced bread, you'd be prepared for people who want to try it out. Honda didn't think so and garnering some time with the golden-rimmed beauty was difficult. Eventually though, we took seat on a brand new Africa Twin with "Dual Clutch Transmission" (DCT).
We both love this bike.
Not counting the missing clutch lever (DCT mind you), the first thing we noticed was the sweet exhaust note. Sweet purring coming from the rear. Unlike the V-Strom front and rear rider get the same auditory experience.
Next thing to notice is how low-rev the DCT switches gears. Going 50 km/h and we're in fourth, yet the Africa Twin trots along just fine. Only when you open up the throttle it starts to shudder until it gets back in higher revs or the DCT decides to shift down. Sounds like a nuisance, but is actually quite enjoyable due to the ample low-end torque produced by the 1000cc power plant.
This bike offers several niceties for a pillion. By virtue of the dual clutch, shifting gears is as smooth as it could ever be. Compared to the 1200GS with Gear Shift Assist, which still feels clunky and agricultural, these gear shifts are smooth like butter. Next up: ergonomics. The seat is hard but not uncomfortable due to its rounded off shape. Rider and pillion take a towering position resulting in a good overview all around. Knee angles are comfortable for both, as is the lack of wind buffeting.
The main reason we both love this bike though is: it got our hearts racing. Compared to all the other machines we've sat on that day, this is the one that resulted in the most cheerful screams and laughter. When we had to get off it, our hearts were pumping, our eyes were glowing, and our legs slightly shaking. To us, this machine enables two-wheeled traveling on all levels. Unlike the well refined (maybe too refined) 1200GS, the lackluster Ténéré or the V-Strom 1000, this bike is for the heart. Ioana would buy one in an instance, if she were 10 cm taller.
|V-Strom 1000||Super Ténéré||R1200GS||Africa Twin|
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