To Buy, Or Not To Buy…

I’ve mentioned previously on my Triumph Sprint GT blog that the problem with so-called “Adventure Bikes” is that the manufacturers make them and then add a few thousand to the cost of the bike and then charge you extra for the luggage that anyone who buys one of these things will want to fit anyway!

Back in 2013, my Sprint GT with all the luggage, heated grips and a comfort gel seat, etc. came in at £8,500 whilst the then Triumph Tiger was £11,000+ and the Ducati Multistrada was £17,000, or twice the price of the Sprint.

Over the past 5½ years, I’ve only done a little under 10,000 miles on the Sprint, mainly on “Eurothrashes” as we call them. After my last one to France, Spain and Andorra, my right hand index finger was numb for a number of weeks which I put down to a combination of vibration and all my weight being on my wrists.

The latter was largely resolved by fitting bar risers but that then shifted more weight to my bum, so a Corbin seat was sourced from the USA at great expense and it seems pretty good.

I’m still left riding an older bike with good luggage capacity, nice looks and a good engine, but with dated and fairly awkward trip computer and no cruise control which is a real issue given that most of the Death Star’s mileage is done in big hits and hundreds of motorway miles to get to the fun roads.  All of these issues are resolved in the latest Adventure Bikes, like the latest BMW R1250GS Adventure – aka the Clitoris (“because every c**t’s got one”) – and the updated 2019 Triumph Tiger 1200.  Talking of the GS, a mate has finally changed from his venerable Kawasaki Versys to a BMW R1200GS Adventure because the 1200 stock was being shifted before the new model came out and he grabbed a bargain.  Being the Adventure, the BMW comes with a massive 30 litre tank capacity giving it a 350 mile tank range unlike the ‘normal’ R1200GS and its 20 litre tank (the same size as the Tiger 1200 and indeed my Sprint GT), so a 200+ mile range. Frankly, that’s not really an issue for me as I usually like to stop and stretch my legs every 100-150 miles anyway.

As I wrote last summer, when the Death Star was in for a service, I borrowed a Tiger 1200 and reported that:

“I test rode the new Tiger 1200 XRt at the same time. Good power, much more upright riding position and all of the toys, including cruise control and heated rider and passenger seats as well as automagic suspension adjustment. On the minus side, after not too long riding it, I had a numb bum so how it would cope with a Eurothrash, I didn’t know.”

At the London bike show at the ExCel last weekend, Mrs Me and I sat on a Tiger 1200 XRt and thought it felt OK, but that the luggage space seems much smaller than the Death Star’s. I’ve just checked and the Death Star has 117 litres of luggage space (standard panniers and top box) and the Tiger 1200 accessory Expedition luggage space totals 116 litres, but that top box looks tiny by comparison.

Looking at my Sprint blog, I’ve been umming and ahhing about a Tiger 1200 (or Tiger 1200 Explorer, as it was known previously) for a couple of years now.  The upright riding position – especially coupled with cruise control – means that my old and decrepit wrists should fare much better, so it’s all down to the seat. The best way to find out whether the (heated) seats are any good on longer runs is to try one out properly and Jack Lilley at Romford (or East London Triumph) have kindly offered me one in a couple of weeks for an extended ride. I intend using one of Ride magazine’s routes around the South Coast (GPX file) and stay over at a mate’s house (he’s a great chef…).

The bonus is the bike they may be letting me try is in the white that we like:

We shall see…

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Saturday morning found me heading out on the bus with a leather jacket and clutching my open helmet to head to Metropolis Motorcycles to pick up the Sprint. And so it was that I got off the train at Vauxhall and wandered over just as they were opening … which was just as well as it was filling up for “Crash a Triumph Day” aka Triumph Open Day with test rides aplenty.

After we’d done the paperwork and I’d laughed at the stupid warning label on the pannier liner bags (have I got to take a Triumph Technician everywhere with me?), I fired up GT with its 3.1 mile mileometer (or odometer as Triumph refer to it) reading and headed home via a petrol station to fill the tank right up. It was handy having the top box as well because I could put all my paperwork – in a neat Triumph pouch – and a Triumph T-shirt and mug in the cavernous boot.

To be fitted by a trained technician

To be fitted by a trained technician

Top Box Inner Bag. Really?

Top Box Inner Bag. Really?

So home, arriving with a little over 6 miles on the clock.

It was then that I noticed the scratches on the massive OEM silencer – the “Hoover” – which had been effectively hidden in the showroom and not showing up when I climbed onto the bike from the other side:

Scratched End Cap

Scratched End Cap

Scratched Silencer

Scratched Silencer

Now while I have told the dealer about them, it’s only important for when/if I sell the bike, because I’d already decided that I wouldn’t be happy with this profile:

Before...

Before…

… and I’d much prefer this one instead:

...and After

…and After

This has the added benefit – having removed the baffle – of releasing a lovely, deep growl from the triple engine without being too noisy, thanks to the catalytic converter in the headers/collector box (I only swapped out the silencer). Start to finish, it took me 10 minutes to fit this carbon fibre Remus Hexacone silencer. Lighter weight, smaller, shorter and better looking. And it makes the popping and banging on the overrun even better!

I then spent another 5 minutes taking off all the warning stickers from the tank before they get a chance to harden and take hold on the tank. Marvelous!

The next job was to fit the RAM mount for the satnav to the fork tops and then wire up a power lead to plug into the accessory socket. Sadly, this wasn’t actually putting out any power (and neither were the heated grips which share the same circuit) so that’s another job for the dealer to sort. I wired up another lead direct from the battery to the new powered satnav cradle from Amazon… which is also DOA! So the morning had taken a slight turn for the worse … which got much, much worse when I scraped the left pannier going into the garage due to my misjudging the width at the rear – the bike’s wider at the back than the front, even with the wide mirrors. Arse! Out with the T-Cut paste.

Finally, it was time to change into my black race leathers and matt black Arai for the full stealth effect. High viz? Schmy viz! Then off to Egham to drop off some apartment keys for Amy and then on to Epsom and the other GT for dinner.

Sunday morning and I was up and out of the house by 8.00am as I was heading down to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu to meet up with friends for breakfast and a natter. I chose the A3 as it was a nice mixture of roads and off I went, keeping the revs and throttle openings to a modest amount as I’m running the bike in. Playing with the trip computer showed that the GT was giving over 50mpg at 90mph – on closed roads, obv! – and even with all the town riding was averaging 46mpg with a range of a little over 200 miles.

Some slight tingling through the bars at around 90 as well, so I will need to keep it just under or just over on Eurothrashes.

After a lovely time with mates, I headed back to Epsom where the other GT had finished a difficult half-marathon – “demanding”, said the website – especially in the heatwave. I was pleased to have avoided it on doctor’s orders after my GP and Consultant had told me to rest my duff knee until it’s fixed.

On the way back up the M3, a crash had slowed traffic to a halt so I was able to see what it was like to filter with the additional width. It was OK: I just had to be a little more careful and filter with less extreme prejudice than usual.

Then in the evening it was back home through more heavy traffic up to Wandsworth and a weekend of around 250 miles.

Excellent!

Ear-Popping Pyrenees

Eurothrash…

So it was holiday time again and despite working until late on the Friday and hence only doing last minute packing, I found myself heading off at Oh Dark Hundred on Saturday, 1st June to the Eurotunnel to meet up with Yox and Purge.

Yox had organised the crossing tickets as well as working out a route that linked up a number of great biking roads in and around the Pyrenees, so we were heading off there with a view to getting all the way down to the Pyrenees by nightfall. The benefit of travelling off-peak as far as the French are concerned should have been that we wouldn’t need to book any hotels in advance and hence we wouldn’t have any pressure to be at a pre-determined destination on any day.

They both took the mick out of the lack of tread on my sporty tyres which I’d though would be fine for the trip … without realising I’d done the 2,100 mile Ardèche trip on the same tyres before… And so we turned out onto the motorways and headed South. As it transpired, the motorways were a leeeetle bit abrasive and by the time we’d lost and found Purge around Paris and made our way down to Clermont-Ferrand, the tyres were well and truly shagged and wouldn’t make it home. Ah!

Purge and I were both using Tom-Tom Rider satnavs – mine a more recent model after my other one was stolen by my psycho ex-girlfriend – and both had been updated to the latest maps … which showed the hotel we selected as being halfway up a hill in a residential area. It wasn’t there, of course, but we went back to where Yox’s Co-Pilot Android software (the same I use on my iPhone) had guided him. I then went in and negotiated a decent room rate for the three of us with use of their own garage for the first overnight stay. Then shower, change, beers and a huge evening meal before bed.

Day Two and we were heading off via Millau towards Perpignan. The twisting roads of the Haute-Pyrenees were fabulous but tiring so as we rode into Quillan, we found a traditional-looking hotel, the Hotel La Chaumiere, to check into. As it was Yox’s birthday, the beers, the wine and the food were on Purge and I.

The view from my balcony

The view from my balcony

The meal also included the heaviest wine bottle I’ve ever seen: truly bizarre (but tasty)!

The heaviest wine bottle ever

The heaviest wine bottle ever

After dinner, it was up to our rooms … and I discovered that my carefully-arranged base layers had flown off the balcony and were laying in front of the restaurant. Ah!

Day Three and it was time to sort out my racing slicks. We delayed breakfast and I then spent the next half an hour ringing around all the motorcycle dealers and tyre depots to see if I could get sorted. They were all shut, despite it being a Monday, as they’d been open on the Saturday. Oh to be French! So I decided to press on into Andorra alone – our planned destination – to try to find tyres and let Yox and Purge head off into Spain to play on the roads. This included my first real view of some of the passes and cols and snow-capped peaks.

Note racing slicks...

Note racing slicks…

Instagram version!

Instagram version!

Some epic twisty roads towards Andorra then saw me going through the 2.8km long Túnel d’Envalira which was like going through a refrigerator!

Emerged from the Túnel d'Envalira

Emerged from the Túnel d’Envalira

Then it was down into Andorra. As I came close to Andorra la Vella, I passed by a KTM dealer and popped inside to see if they could sort me out with tyres using my best Spanglish. They were really helpful and directed me to a car/bike dealer nearby that happened to be a Kawasaki franchise. So in I went, agreed a deal to get new tyres fitted that afternoon and then went off to find us a hotel, the Novotel. While the tyres were being fitted – a process that took the entire afternoon… – I went out scouting for dinner and found an excellent tapas restaurant.

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

...in with the new

…in with the new

When Purge and Yox arrived after enjoying what they said were some of the best roads they’d seen, it was off to eat.

Allow me to explain through the medium of interpretive dance

Allow me to explain through the medium of interpretive dance

Day Four and we were heading off to Bagnères-de-Luchon via the twisties. Epic roads out of Andorra – back the way I’d come – and this time, I’d set up my helmet camera to capture some of the footage:

It was warm and sunny … and snowy at the top of the Pyrenees which meant the scenery was spectacular.

Once we were into the Haute-Pyrenees again, we went up a few of the Cols that feature in the Tour de France as well as a few others:

Col du Port

Col du Port

On one descent, I was able to coast for over 3 miles, overtaking cars and lorries with the engine off! Yox also did the reveal on his luxury item: he’d brought some fine coffee and a little fold-up stove to brew it on, so we had coffee at the Col du Port … and he set fire to a picnic table by mistake.

Finally we made it into Bagnères-de-Luchon where we pulled up in the square next to the Hôtel Panoramic where I did the usual and we checked in.

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Bagnères-de-Luchon

Day Five and we were headed off to Spain via a few more peaks which were covered in snow … which we duly played in. Obviously.

IMG_3331

I'm snow angel

I’m snow angel

2013-06-05 11.12.12

Eejit dance

Eejit dance

Talking of playing, Yox had rigged up his camera and followed me off down one of the descents:

After a day’s bend-swinging (including a visit to our spiritual home, a village called Perves), we were tired and decided to cut our intended journey short, so we checked in to the fabulous Hotel Cotori in El Pont de Suert.

Hotel Cotori

Hotel Cotori

That’s a pedestrian square… We were recommended a decent tapas restaurant where, despite the protestations of the owner, I went ahead and ordered us a whole selection of dishes that just kept on coming. Delicious! And all finished off by us.

Day Six and it was breakfast with two grumpy buggers. Something about a blue ZRX’s alarm going off at 3.15am. I was unaware of this, given I was sound asleep at the back of the hotel…

So the plan for the day was to head back into France, but we hadn’t reckoned on the nature of the route being so twisty and covering a large vertical variance: up and down like a whore’s drawers! This wasn’t helped by finding out when we were there that the famous Col du Tormalet was shut due to there being 6-9m of snow on the road at the summit!

More epic roads and scenery though. Tired and getting late, we diverted into Lourdes to find a hotel for the night … and we found one: a €29 a night one that we christened “Hotel Paradiso” that probably charged the rooms out by the hour too… What a dive! Lourdes in general – and our hotel in particular – was full of gangs of schoolkids with various coloured beanie hats and scarves being led around by Catholic priests. What a strange place!

I woke up quite hot at around 3am and my body heat had ‘refreshed’ the mattress such that there was a smell of urine from the depths of the mattress (itself on a plastic-covered bed base). I couldn’t wait to get a shower in the morning! Purge had the evening before found a dead insect in his sheets!

Day Seven. Keen to get a move on and put the Hotel Paradiso behind us, we headed back into Spain via a whole load more passes, peaks and valleys.

979944_10200275674348681_1449750426_o

Photo!

Photo!

IMG_3381 IMG_3371 IMG_3350

We got as far as Jaca in Aragon and after filling up we headed to the Hotel & Spa Real Jaca which did us a great deal for the rooms and underground parking with breakfast. The only downside was the Saga louts that checked in later: a whole coachload of OAPs that swooped on the restaurant to scoff the food.

Day Eight and I woke up to the “shh” of car tyres on wet roads. Looking out of the window, I could see it was absolutely tipping down: not good considering we were hoping to get to Le Mans by the evening. So we had breakfast, checked out and headed out into torrential rain at around 9.00am, up and up into the Pyrenees towards France. My vented race boots started leaking after 16 miles but fortunately the rest of my riding gear was keeping me dry. Stupidly, I’d not worn a base layer under my T-shirt and hadn’t zipped-in the liner to my riding gear either, so the combination of rain storms and altitude meant I was getting really cold. By the time of our first fuel stop into France, I was grateful to be able to put on some more clothes before we headed off back into the worst riding conditions any of us had ever seen (in my case, in 35 years of riding).

The autoroute around Bordeaux was more like a canal and at one point it felt like I was sitting on a chair while someone directed a fire hose at me, the rain was so heavy.

Towards Paris it stopped raining and near Tours at another fuel stop, we decided to pin it and win it: we wouldn’t bother stopping for the night near Le Mans; we’d just keep going for the other 300 miles to the Eurotunnel station and see if we could get on a day early, ratther than getting changed out of our wet gear and potentially facing another day’s wet riding on the Sunday.

We arrived at around 10.15pm, some 780 miles later and were pleased to be put onto the 11.45pm crossing, so we finally had something to eat and drink and on we went.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound

Back onto English soil at around 11.45pm UK time, we went our separate ways and I blasted back towards London and my apartment, which I reached at around 12.30am.

Roughly 2,100 miles again. Another epic Euroblast.

So yes, I’d ummed and ahhed about getting a new bike for the trip before I left and more or less settled on a new Triumph Sprint GT 1050 but knew I’d not be able to get it run in and sorted before the off. Blue Rex was epic in the twisties and looks the bollocks too, but on the motorways above 90mph for mile after mile and hour after hour it’s a bit of an effort plus some fixed luggage makes sense. So I’m test riding a Sprint next weekend and will probably place an order there and then so I can have it properly sorted before next year’s planned Eurothrash two-up with GT to the Alps.

Or maybe a late summer long weekend sortie across the Channel just to get a feel for it… ;)