Bike review

MotoGP – ‘racy’ Lorenzo takes gritty win in Austria

fileDucati’s Jorge Lorenzo deep to take a gritty  victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at thee Red Bull Ring.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from the front row of the grid following yesterday’s third place in qualifying, opted to begin the race with ‘soft’ tyres both front and rear, and after leading over the line at the end of the opening lap, he was then passed by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso looked to be falling behind, but on Lap 18 the race sprang into life.

After Lorenzo reclaimed the lead on the next lap, both he and Marquez battled it out until the end, with Lorenzo eventually crossing the line with an advantage of just 130 thousandths of a second.

Lorenzo said: “It was an incredible race, maybe one of the best of my career, quite simply spectacular! Winning with Ducati on this circuit, where I had never won before, after a close quarters battle with Marquez, has a really special taste. Before the race I had thought about which strategy to use, and I decided to do like Brno, administering the tyre wear well and then attacking in the final part of the race, especially because I was one of the few riders who had chosen ‘soft’ tyres and my riding style allowed me to conserve them until the end.

“When I found myself fighting against Marquez I knew that it was going to be difficult to pass him, so I decided to improvise by making the best use of the Desmosedici GP’s acceleration and it worked perfectly. Now we’re third in the championship standings, but above all I’m proud and very pleased with the way we’re working because the feeling with the bike is better and better all the time and I believe we can fight for the win in many other races.”

The next round of the championship will be the British Grand Prix, scheduled for the Silverstone circuit from 24th to 26th August.
 

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MotoGP – Lorenzo dominates to claim second win in a row

Lorenzo

Two weeks after his Mugello triumph, Jorge Lorenzo made it two in a row by winning the Catalan GP at the Montmeló circuit.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from pole, moved into the lead of the race onLap 2 when he passed Honda’s Marc Marquez, and then firmly held onto that position right until the chequered flag, finishing more than four seconds ahead of his Honda rival.

Lorenzo has now moved up to seventh place in the overall standings on 66 points, followed by Dovizioso with the same haul, while Ducati now lie second overall in the Constructors’ championship with 132 points.

Lorenzo said: “Today’s win was really fantastic! We showed that we can win not only by entering the first turn in first place, but also by recovering and overtaking the others. It was actually a complicated race because I got off to a bad start and lost a lot of metres to Marquez, but I told myself that the race was long and I had to keep calm.

“It wasn’t too difficult to take Marquez, because I had that little bit extra under braking, but he stayed pretty close to me right down to the flag.

“Now we’ve got a very competitive package and I think that this is the most complete Ducati bike of all time:  We must capitalise on this situation because the Desmosedici works well at virtually every track, it doesn’t consume the tyres too much, and this is a big advantage. Now let’s enjoy this win and then we’ll think about the next race.”

The next race of the MotoGP championship will be in the Netherlands, in two weeks time, at the Assen circuit for the Dutch TT from June 29  to July1.

Road riding – ten things I’ve learnt from riding a 2011 Yamaha Diversion 600F

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01) The Diversion 600F is tiny, really tiny for my 6’2in frame

02) OEM tyres from 2011 don’t age well…

03) The state of the roads in Lincolnshire is shocking – potholes everywhere

04) The standard of drivers isn’t much better; everyone seems glued to their phone or sat nav…the telltale weave is a giveaway

05) The temperature may be warm during the day right now but at twilight it’s still too early in the year for vented leathers and boots

06) The bugs are much bigger riding after 8pm too

07) The engine may be small, but it’s still lively and has enough poke to put a smile on your face

08) It’s crying out for an aftermarket can though…sounds like a washing machine

09) It begins to weave once you get it singing

10) The 600F may just be the perfect post-test bike to cut your teeth on

WSBK – Rea win at Assen equal’s King Carl’s record

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Kawasaki rider Jonny Rea won his 12th WSBK race at Assen, extending his championship lead and closing in on the all-time win total by taking his 57th career victory. 

In uncharacteristically warm and dry conditions, Rea showed his affinity with the historic Assen circuit by leading across the line for all but two laps. 

He won the race by an eventual 0.981 seconds from local hero Michael van der Mark, who led for two laps on his Yamaha. But while Van der Mark was fast, he was also ragged, allowing Rea to control the race.

Rea’s third race victory of the year came after some good work in practice and qualifying, and being able to improve the pace in warm conditions, making a gap that he could control in the final few laps of the 4.542km long circuit.

Rea said: “I enjoyed that race. I had two or three small attempts to break the group but it just wasn’t happening. I preferred to be at the front of the race anyway, to manage things in the places I was strong. I knocked back a little bit in case I was not able to make a gap in the last laps. 

“I think with four to go I started to make a couple of strong lap times and that just broke the gap to the others. I was quite lucky because on the last lap I made a little mistake at T8 but by that stage I had already made the gap. I was super-happy because we arrived here with the bike that was quite strong at the start. With consistent weather on Friday I was able to do two race simulations to understand how the tyres would be at the end today.”

Rea’s win takes him to within two victories of the outright record of 59, held by WSBK legend Carl Fogarty. This was Rea’s 75th podium for Kawasaki – he is now the second rider, in his own right, in terms of career podiums, with 117.

Tested – Ducati Panigale V4S

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Ducati’s breathtaking Panigale V4S redefines the sportsbike market. But what makes it so special? And why is it such a gamechanger? We got our hands on one to find out…

Ducati’s Panigale V4S is a real game changer for Ducati – it’s the Italian marque’s first mainstream four-cylinder machine to enter production. Yes, the Desmosedici RR was a V4, but that was a strictly-limited production bike and only 1,500 were ever made. It as much a marketing exercise in profiting from the company’s participation in MotoGP as it was an exercise in engineering excellence.

So how did we get here? What has made Ducati turn its back on the booming V-twins that have defined the brand? The answer is that Ducati had simply reached the limits of technology needed to build a twin that is both dynamic and useable.

The centrepiece of the new bike is undoubtedly the Desmosedici Stradale engine, complete with its ‘twin pulse’ crankshaft and firing order. The twin pulse firing order (1 – 0 degrees, 2 – 90 degrees, 3 – 290 degrees, 4 – 380 degrees) resembles the working cycle of a twin cylinder engine and provides the rider-friendly torque delivery which is at its peak from 9000 – 11,750rpm. This give the Desmosedici Stradale engine a really linear feeling with its power, and it’s a motor that revs. Ducati quotes peak power is at 13,000 rpm, but the bike goes well up to 14,500 redline. It’s sublime, and has the perfect balance between peak power and mid-range torque, between raw delivery and smooth operation.

It’s brutal, but so easy to use. It’s intimidating but still holds your hand when you want it to. The power is tractable and smooth, it can be brutally violent when you want it to be, but can also be quite docile too, if you choose. It just depends how brave or committed you are in twisting the throttle. As the revs rise, the engine spins freer and delivers a truly astonishing punch of acceleration. It’s addictive.

It’s very agile too, and this is down to another trick up the Ducati’s sleeve – its counter rotating crank, which is a direct result of the company’s years of campaigning in MotoGP. The theory is that by having the shaft rotating in the opposite direction to the wheels, the gyroscopic effect of the wheels is partially compensated by the crank. This in turn gives the bike more agility and makes it feel more nimble. The theory works. And then some. It tips in like a 600 and requires very little muscling, a feeling totally different to the Panigale 1199m and 1299, which were bikes which were very physical to ride.

It’s next trick is the Öhlins electronic suspension, which rips up the rulebook in an attempt to make the dark art of suspension tuning more accessible to mere mortal riders like me. Instead of having to get your head around suspension settings in terms of rebound, compression, and preload, Ducati has adopted a new approach which breaks the suspension first down into duties – e.g. braking, mid-corner, acceleration, etc – and then offers adjustments on a scale that describes riding behaviour and goals – e.g. more grip vs. more stability. The whole process is very intuitive, which makes it very quick, and easy, to get the bike handling exactly as you want it to. It’s the way all electronic suspension interfaces should operate.

Then there are the rider aids, including slide control, which allows you to drift through corners like a MotoGP god, ABS cornering for the front wheel, traction control, power launch and engine brake control. There are also three riding modes – Race, Sport and Track, and these are all adjustable by the stunning 5in TFT display.

All of this means the Panigale V4S has all the attributes to excel on track, but what’s it like on the road?

Admittedly, the potholed roads are covered in salt and grime, but it’s immediately clear that the bike is good. The temperatures may barely be hovering above freezing, but the bike is shining, and one of the first things you notice is that the front feels good. It feels very ‘weighty’ and provides a lot feedback, and this in turn inspires a lot of confidence.

The engine is phenomenal. Even on a constant throttle when drudging slowly through towns, the throttle feels smooth. Yes, it’s a bit lumpy really low down, a bit fluffy, but that’s as much down to the new Euro 4 emissions as anything, and it disappears quickly as the revs rise. It’s definitely not as noticeable as big Ducati V-Twins of old, but manages to feel very much like a twin. On the move the engine springs into life with explosive power. The 1103cc engine produces 198bhp at the back wheel, but it’s so useable, pulling cleanly from as low down the rev range as 4,000rpm. Acceleration is effortless, but brutal, and you can’t feed it the gears quickly enough. Yet despite this fierce shove forward there’s absolutely no hint of weave, and it feels very stable. And the noise from the exhaust is intoxicating.

It’s also very agile. The bike narrowness lets you feel in control, and this, when combined with the counter rotating crank really lets you tip into corners with ease. It feels proper fluid and is a lot more forgiving, and this makes it a lot easier to ride than the old Panigale too.

The ride feels less harsh than the outgoing model and the suspension feels very plush. The whole bike feels more cushioned without losing any off its edge, and it deals with the bumps and ruts with ease.

And it’s remarkably comfortable. Yes the pegs may be higher, but after a couple of hours riding I have no aches and pains. The tank feels grippy, the bars aren’t too low and the seat is comfortable, but that soon gets hot thanks to the sheer amount of heat the exhaust generates. This is a godsend today, but I can imagine it would get really hot in summer. Could I live with this fact? Good yeah…

The only thing I’m not sold on is the styling. It looks too much like the bike it replaces, and the front, complete with that funny snub nose, looks like an afterthought.

Tested – 2017 Honda CBR1000RR

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This is the bike many fans have been waiting for, and its debut has certainly generated a lot of headlines. Lagging badly behind in WSBK, the 2017 Fireblade has also had a shocker on the road racing front – a stuck throttle saw John McGuinness lose control of his Fireblade at the NW200, with the veteran crashing out of the Superbike practice session and breaking his leg in the process. And then team-mate Guy Martin suffered a fast crash at the TT after finding a ‘box full of neutrals’ on the racebike, an incident which ultimately led to the Lincolnshire maverick quitting the team. Yet Motorcycle News awarded it best in class in its litre bike review earlier in the year, so it can’t be that bad surely? We spent a week with one to see how bad – or good – it really is.

This is the stock Fireblade, a bike which costs some £4,000 less than the SP.

The bike has the same engine, the same electronics and a similar chassis to its more expensive sibling, but there are some crucial differences – the standard Blade gets a steel tank, Showa Big Piston Forks, Tokico monoblocks and there’s also an optional quickshifter.

The big news is that the Fireblade has finally been dragged into the digital age and now features a ride by wire throttle, ride lean sensitive traction control, power modes, engine brake assist, wheelie control and cornering ABS as standard.

Twist the key and you’re greeted with a trick full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash which looks exactly the same as that used on the exotic and ultra-rare RCV. It’s right up there with the best and automatically adjusts to ambient light. There are three display modes; Street, Circuit and Mechanic. Street mode displays riding modes and the settings for power, traction control, selectable engine braking and suspension. Circuit mode adds a lap timer, number of laps and difference from the best lap, while Mechanic mode displays the digital tacho, gear position, grip angle, coolant temperature and battery voltage. Then there’s the other information such as instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and it even shows the amount of fuel still remaining after the reserve light comes on. Like we said, it’s very trick and oozes quality, giving the Blade that proper ‘factory’ feel.

On the move it becomes obvious that the tweaks made to the engine have resulted in the bike lacking useful, potent grunt where you need it most – low down and in the midrange. Yes, it’s quick, without boasting the outright speed of its rivals, but you have to make the engine sing to make any progress. You’ll have to work the throttle much harder to compensate for the lack of midrange, and you’ll either love that or hate it. Either way, it’s a more involving ride than the older Blades and the linear delivery means you can now you can use all of the Blade’s power.

Unfortunately, the Euro 4 compliant exhaust doesn’t help the dynamic riding experience. It sounds muted at low speeds. Yes, it’s still got that Honda roar when feed her gears, but the tone doesn’t tug at your heart strings and urge you to open her up.

It’s not as comfortable as the model it replaces either. I’m 6’2in tall, quite lanky, and the bike feels small. It may share the same ergonomics as its predecessor, but it feels really thin. It feels more like a 600 than a thou’, and the small fairing is pretty ineffective at keeping the elements away from me.

That narrowness works in the bike’s favour once you get to the twisties. It’s so easy to ride, effortless even, and carves its way through corners with impunity. The front gives lots of feedback, and it feels planted. This feeling of control is enhanced by the full Showa suspension set-up, which does a good job of dealing with the worst the county’s roads can throw at us. And if you do need to bring things to a halt, the brakes work – they’re not savage or sharp, but they’re good enough.

And what of the dreaded false neutrals? I’m not going to lie, I experienced a few in our time together. What’s more disconcerting is the iffy throttle response – it’s hard to gauge. Sometimes it’s silky smooth, other times it’s hesitant. There’s no rhyme nor reason either – it is what it is.

Parked up at Cadwell Park I remove my helmet, grab a drink at the café, and come back to the bike and reflect on the last five days with the bike. It’s pretty enough to look at, and as you’d expect there’s plenty of the quality you’d expect of a Honda. The panels fit, the paint looks gorgeous and it really suits the bike’s lines. So it’s a looker, and it very much looks like the finished article.

But on the road, it doesn’t feel so polished. Yes, the ride is good, and yes it turns in nicely, really nicely, but it’s missing any real ‘wow’ factor. The word I keep coming back to is ‘alright’. It feels alright. Nice. Yes, it’s capable, but it lacks the sense of occasion of its rivals. It feels very much like a work in progress, which in turns makes this an expensive bike. A bike which promises much, but ultimately flatters to deceive. And that’s a shame.

Tested – 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000

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Meet the Suzuki GSX-R1000, the bike Suzuki hopes will restore their brand image and see them return to the top of the sportsbike tree.

It has already got off to a good start – it made a winning debut in this year’s superstock class at the hands of Richard Cooper while Michael Dunlop piloted it to a win in this year’s Senior TT race. So, the package works, but just how good is it on Britain’s roads?

Looking at the bike in the flesh and the bike’s styling is dominated by THAT exhaust. Yes, the MotoGP paint is well finished, and the clocks look neat, if unspectacular, but there’s no getting away from that end can. It’s massive. Bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope. And it’s hideous too. Unfortunately, the official line from Suzuki is that they’d rather you didn’t ditch it in favour of a tasty, sleeker aftermarket item. Bummer. And then there’s the plastics. They’re very samey. Think evolution, not revolution. Shame.

Now we’ve addressed the elephants in the room, let’s get back to the bike itself. Swing a leg over the bike and the first the first thing you’ll notice is that everything feels ‘just so’. Everything fits – bars and pegs easily accommodate my 6ft 2in frame – yet the bike feels really small and compact. It feels very much like a 600 and makes you feel properly in control. It’s a neat trick.

Turn the key, watch the weirdly retro clocks do their thing, twist the throttle and the next thing you’ll notice is the exhaust note. Suzuki claims this is the most powerful, hardest-accelerating, cleanest-running GSX-R to date, and it sounds menacing. Angry even. As well as shorter-stroke dimensions, a higher compression ratio, a new valve operating system (finger followers instead of bucket tappets), this GSX-R features the MotoGP-developed SR-VVT (Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing). This centrifugally operated system, built into the intake cam sprocket, uses 12 steel balls and slanted grooves to rotate the sprocket and retard the intake valve timing at 10,000rpm.

A new, ride-by-wire intake system and revised ram-air system also help. The result of all that is a 14,500rpm rev limit and 199bhp peak power at 13,200rpm.

Sounds impressive enough, but words cannot do justice to just how rampant this combination feels on the open road. The bike has plenty of grunt on tap from 5,000rpm, but get the needle dancing above 10,000 rpm and the VVT system starts rotating the position of the cam sprocket on the camshaft – then you’ll feel the bike take off and accelerate like a locked-on heat seeking missile. It feels fast, really fast, so fast that you’ll have to recalibrate your mind to deal with the violent acceleration. Delivery is smooth, linear and instant – hedges fly past in blur as you scream your way to the limiter, seamlessly snicking gears thanks to the optional bi-directional quickshifter and autoblipper. It’s a pure assault on the senses – intoxicating and addictive – everything biking should be.

And that quickshifter is also worthy of praise. It’s as good as faultless. In the 1200 miles we spent together I never missed a shift or snicked a false neutral. It’s easily the best in class and far superior to the systems used by BMW, Aprilia and the likes. The fuelling is spot on too, allowing you to mete out all that power as you see fit. In fact, it’s so good that I never felt the need to try either of the two softer riding modes, both of which give a less immediate throttle response while still giving you access to all of those 199 ponies.

And then there’s the sophisticated suite of rider aids which do a good job of enhancing the riding experience. The traction control system is unobtrusive and works well. It’s divided into three categories, with levels 1 to 4 designed for the track, 5 to 8 for street riding, and 9 and 10 for wet riding conditions.

There’s no wheelie control as such, although the traction control cuts  naturally bring the front wheel down. You can even adjust the traction control on the move, but you have to roll off to select the different settings. It’s not a major inconvenience, but it’s worth pointing out.

The ride is decent too, thanks to the suspension, which is still from Showa. The Big Piston Forks are proven, while the revised, multi-adjustable shock does a good job of smoothing out the worst bumps while letting you feel exactly what is happening beneath you.

Show the GSX-R a bend and the big Suzuki’s chassis shines. Suzuki’s engineers have again turned to MotoGP for the frame design, and to this end it is 20 per cent lighter than that used in the outgoing model. And rotating the engine back in the frame by six degrees has allowed its centre of mass to be moved forward by 20mm, and this, when combined with a 20mm extended swingarm, has resulted in more weight over the front wheel. This change inspires huge levels of confidence, allowing you to enjoy the  accurate and predictable steering as you motor through the twisties.

Even the brakes – the traditional Achilles heel of every GSX-R – work. Yes, lack the savagery of a BMW S1000RR, but they’re a vast improvement on Gixxer’s of old. They’re consistent, progressive and have good ultimate stopping power.

A Gixxer has always been the weapon of choice for sporty road riders, but as the litre class moved on bikes like Aprilia’s RSV4, BMW’s S1000RR and Ducati’s Panigale meant the Gixxer suddenly felt very analogue in an age dominated by digital bikes. However, this bike is good enough to return Suzuki to the very pinnacle of the species. It really is that good, and even now, a week after I rode the bike, I’m still grinning like a loon in exactly the same way I did after my first ride. It may not be the most powerful, the fastest or the most agile, but it’s a supremely capable and confidence-inspiring motorcycle, one which has the perfect balance of rider-friendliness and blistering, exhilarating performance. Ride one and discover that intoxicating acceleration for yourself. I guarantee you’ll be smiling from ear to ear if you do.

Tested – BMW RnineT Racer

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There are now five bikes bearing the R nine T moniker, and this is the latest addition to the family – the Racer.

Essentially the sporty version of the range, the Racer S definitely looks the part. Long and low, the Racer comes with a fairing complete with BMW Motorsport paint, a steel fuel tank, a set of clip-on bars, new rearsets and a single seat. The rest – the headlight, clocks, the tail – has already been seen on the original R nineT. Yes, it may be a spare parts lash-up, but the overall effect is stunning – this looks every inch the carefully crafted cafe racer. This is in no small part down to the fact that Boxer motor looks perfectly so at home in a café-racer, especially one as sleekly proportioned as the Racer.

The first thing that makes itself known when sitting on the bike’s comfortable and beautifully sculpted solo seat is the long reach to the bars. It’s really, really long and effectively forces you to lean forward across the long petrol tank, putting pressure on your wrists, forearms and neck.

Trundling through town this splayed riding position feels counter intuitive, but leave town, head for the open roads and wind the throttle on and you’ll notice that that low fairing does a good job of directing some of the wind from your chest, allowing you to take some weight off your wrists.

On the move, the dohc, 1170cc eight-valve Boxer engine, which is based on the unit which previously powered bikes such as the R1200GS, has a broad spread of torque and enough power for very lively and engaging ride. The fuelling is crisp and the mid-range acceleration is strong, meaning that the Racer pulls cleanly at low speed, surges past traffic with a twist of the throttle, and sits smoothly and effortlessly at the legal limit.

It’s vibey though – its unique configuration, whereby both pistons go in and out at the same time, means you’re always aware of the engine thumping furiously below you. Admittedly, it’s never that intrusive, but it’s still there nonetheless. No doubt BMW owners would refer to this as ‘character’.

Push on and you’ll notice just how much mass there is over the Racer’s front wheel. This, when combined with the narrow clip-ons, means that the Racer struggles with the tight and really twisty stuff, initially feeling reluctant to turn in, but it’s perfectly happy on the more flowing, sweeping bends. It’s very much a bike which responds to firm rider input and feels stable and predictable, allowing you to push it to the limit of its modest ground clearance.

As you’d expect from BMW, there are a wide range of accessories for the bike with everything from a brushed aluminium petrol tank to a pillion seat available. And if customising your Racer feels too much like hard work, there’s even a Racer S version, complete wire wheels and heated grips.

So, the Racer is a very good looking bike which is perfect for short Sunday blast and popping down to the local bike meet for a drink and a blether. Try one, you may just like it.

 

 

Tested – Suzuki V-Strom 1000

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This is the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000, a bike which looks very similar to the outgoing model it replaces. But looks can be deceiving.

The biggest changes are that the new bike is now Euro4 emission compliant, as witnessed by that massive can, and to this end the breathed-on 1037cc liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin engine has lost just one lb.ft of torque.

There’s also a subtle tweak to the styling – the new nose beak now faithfully mimics the look of the 1990 DR-Z desert racer and DR-Big models, and there are now hand guards and an under-engine cowl as standard equipment. The windscreen has also been updated making it a little wider and 9mm higher. The height can still only be adjusted with an Allen key, but that doesn’t come in the toolkit. However, you can still change the angle with a one-handed push.

All of these changes have clearly been designed to emphasise Suzuki’s heritage in the category, but make no mistake, this isn’t a full-blown adventure machine. Instead it’s a sports-tourer with a comfy, upright riding position and a sticker on the beak that says ‘Adventure’.

Aside from the changes to the engine, the biggest ehancement to the bike is the addition of a cornering-aware ABS system and linked brakes. It’s based on the system used on the 2017 GSX-R and uses a new inertial measurement unit (IMU) to add lean data to the information collected by the existing wheel speed sensors to judge whether you’re braking too much at the wrong time. The brakes are also linked, which means the system adds a measured amount of “stability enhancing” rear brake when the front is applied. Unfortunately, the TC system hasn’t been changed to reap the benefits from the onboard IMU.

Turn the key and you’ll notice another new feature – the Suzuki Easy Start System. This enables you to start the engine with only a single push of the starter button. Is it lifechanging? No. But it’s a neat trick. And once you’re on the move you’ll notice the Low RPM Assist feature, a rider aid which automatically raises idle revs when pulling away from stops or crawling through town at low rpm. It’s been designed to prevent the bike from stalling, but it feels more like a gimmick than anything else. Whatever happened to entrusting bike control to the rider’s right hand?

Out of town and on the move, and the V-Strom 1000 feels like a decent enough bike, with the gearing on open roads feeling especially good. At first, gears five and six feel tall, but the V-Twin engine is infinitely comfortable hauling from low revs and pulling you forward. In fact, riding the bike at low revs is where it is most comfortable, and it handles better and rides smoother when you keep a gear high and roll through the meat of the torque curve. Yes, the V-Strom is capable of being a revver, but Suzuki has made the torque curve fat and juicy low down and it’s a much more enjoyable bike when kept down there.

The handling characteristics are typical Suzuki – it tips into corners in a linear, non-dramatic fashion, and while the handling isn’t sharp, it’s not lazy either. It’s a bike which will roll onto its side predictably and comfortably, inspiring confidence.

It’s comfortable too. The redesigned screen does a good job of protecting the rider from the elements, and that big comfy seat allows you to cover big miles with ease.

The more time I spend with the bike, the more it becomes clear that this would make a brilliant weekend tourer. It dispatches motorways with ease, and still has enough about it to make the twisties fun, if not spectacular.

And there is a decent selection of official accessories available to allow you to bespoke the bike to tailor it exactly to your needs – low and high saddles, centrestand, taller touring screen, heated grips, crash bars, fog lamps and a very practical 55-litre topbox capable of swallowing two helmets.

So, there’s an awful lot to like about the new V-Strom, especially when it can be yours for less than £10K. But for me, by far the biggest strength of the bike is that it’s not trying to be a rival to the ubiquitous BMW GS. Result.

Kit advice – one-piece leathers buying guide

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Motorcycle race suits are the very best form of riding protection. They’re constructed with abrasion resistant materials, have generous impact protection and are designed to keep you as safe as possible in the event of a crash.

For maximum safety, a one-piece race suit is what you want. One of the drawbacks of a two-piece suit is the vulnerability of the connection between the pants and jacket, an issue that isn’t present with a single-piece set. They’re comprised primarily of high-quality leather (both cow and kangaroo hides), with stretch panels strategically placed in areas to improve fit, flexibility and comfort. Internal armor is often complimented by external protection.

WHAT IS BEST – COW HIDE OR KANGAROO?

When it comes to materials – there are two main choices; cow hide and kangaroo. Kangaroo is lighter, stronger and more supple, but it’s also thinner, which means it’s unlikely to survive more than one spill.

There’s a reason why most suits are made of cow hide – leather is more durable and wears better. Leather slides incredibly well, and in most cases it won’t hole – you’re more likely to suffer heat burns from your skin rubbing against the leather than damage from cuts and the likes. Speed causes a lot of injuries but the injuries caused by friction are far greater.

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN IT COMES TO ARMOUR?

When it comes to leathers fit is incredibly important. Armour that doesn’t stay in place and moves is dangerous. Most suits have a mixture of soft internal armour and heavy-duty exterior armour. The armour is designed to disperse force at a certain point, whether it’s the shoulder, elbow, knees or wherever. If it moves, then it can’t dissipate the force away from the area it’s supposed to be protecting.

Look for suits which have CE-approved armour. These suits will have protective external features which have been designed to slide rather than grip, and will thus offer more protection.

WHAT ABOUT STITCHING?

Look for double and triple stitching. This is proven to offer the best protection in the case of a spill – double and triple stitching means the seams are less prone to bursting in an impact.

WHAT OTHER FEATURES SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?

This mainly comes down to ease of use. An inner suit will make the leathers easier to get on and off, as well as more comfortable on the bike. The same is true with neoprene cuffs and collars – no more chafing.

Zips are another often overlooked feature. They need to be sturdy and easy to operate with a gloved hand. And they need to stay closed – there’s nothing worse than a zip working its way loose.

HOW IMPORTANT IS FIT?

As with all areas of motorcycle clothing, fit is crucial. Leathers are always a compromise between fit and protection. Too snug and they’ll restrict movement, too loose and all the armour won’t be in the right place.

For a one-piece, fit will be snug, bordering on tight if you’re aiming to get a race-appropriate fit. You don’t want material or protective elements shifting in the event of a crash.

One-piece suits are also designed to be comfortable in the tucked riding position, so may not be all that comfortable when standing or sitting. Stretch panels on the arms, legs and lower back aid movement and flexibility, and thus comfort.

There’s also the option of choosing a size above the race-fit if your plans are to wear the suit while carving canyons or looking for a more spacious fit. Follow the standard fitment instructions for jackets and pants when choosing a two-piece suit.

It’s best to visit your local bike shop, get measured and try on a variety of suits from a range of manufacturers. Try them on with your normal kit – back protector, chest protector, helmet – and make sure everything works together. Bin any that restrict movement.

DO I NEED A SUIT WITH AN AERO HUMP?

Speed humps have been getter smaller over recent years, and apart from the aerodynamic benefits, some manufacturers are using the humps to house airbag systems or hydration packs.

However, there is also a school of thought which says to avoid them where possible. the late Doc John Hinds advised against leathers with a speed hump as he’d noticed that if a rider was unconscious and on their back, the head tended to roll back against the speed hump, which made it difficult to treat them – you can’t keep airways clear when the head’s tilted back as it narrows the airways.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR BEDDING A NEW SUIT IN?

Leathers bed in a lot, sometimes by as much as 10%. I know that double TT winner Ivan Lintin has a little trick he uses to expand a specific part of the suit. He had an issue around his knees at the TT one year and put a motorcycle inner tube into the problem area, blew it up and left overnight.

That may well work for him, but the only real way to bed a new suit in is to wear it, whether that be wearing it round the house, or out on the bike.

CAN I GET AWAY WITH BUYING SECONDHAND LEATHERS?

I’d advise against buying secondhand gear. With leathers they may well be the right size for you on paper, but the leather itself will have stretched to whoever had them before, and they’ll have a different body shape and size to you. So that means they won’t fit you as well as they should, and if they don’t fit then they aren’t going to be of much use in a spill.