Reviews

Tested – Suzuki SV650

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Suzuki’s new SV650 is everything the original bike was, and then some. The king of the middleweight’s is back, and gives more bang per buck than ever.

Suzuki launched the original SV650 back in 1999, and the mercurial middleweight V-twin quickly won us over with its eclectic blend of agility, punchy performance and low price. It was a successful formula and more than 410,000 units were produced. It’s no understatement to say this was a bike that revolutionised the middleweight class, but then Suzuki took its eye off the ball – the Gladius lost the SV’s agility, and Yamaha introduced the class-leading MT-07. The writing was on the wall, and brand new bikes were heavily discounted. We know of some brand-new bikes that were being sold for as little as £3900.

But this year Suzuki has seen sense and given the SV a thorough going over, and the result is the bike you see here – the SV650.

This bike isn’t just some made over and reworked Gladius, it’s an all-new bike, and it’s one that’s to look at – classically modern without being too fussy or cool. It’s full of neat touches; the digital dash, which now includes a gear indicator, oozes quality, and the attention to detail ­– back bars, sporty stripe on the tank, new exhaust – is exquisite.

However, Suzuki’s venerable 645cc V-twin powerplant is the real star of the show. The engine has received 60 changes including new pistons, electro-chemically coated bores, ten-hole fuel injectors. It also boasts a few electronic tweaks such as a new low rpm assist function. All of these changes mean the engine pumps out 75bhp and 47lb.ft of torque, and because it’s a V-twin, it has plenty of punch available when you need it. This is something worth pointing out, as it’s pretty much unique in this class – Kawasaki and Yamaha use parallel twins while Honda uses an inline four – and this is the ace up Suzuki’s sleeve.

Thumb the starter (the SV has Suzuki’s new ‘easy start’ system, which means you don’t have to pull the clutch in; if the bike is in neutral, hit the starter button once and the bike will automatically turn over until it fires into life) and you’ll be greeted by a pleasant, burbling rumble. The Suzuki sounds good, potent even. Suzuki’s engineers have worked on the airbox, ensuring it contributes to more power higher up in the rev range, and that, when combined with the induction noise, giving the SV an addictive sound.

It has the bite to match its bark too. That engine works well on UK roads, combining a useable linear spread of torque with a healthy dose of speed, and it’s just as happy crawling through town as it is hunting down corners on your favourite back roads.

Twist the throttle and the response is instant and smooth, lacking any the hesitation associated with twins of old. This is a bike that delivers and entertain, irrespective of your level of riding experience.

And that punchy performance is more than backed up by the SV’s handling. The chassis is excellent, and while the suspension may lack adjustment (only the dampers’ preload can be tweaked), it’s more than good enough most of the time. You can push it much further than you have any right to, and it will only start to complain when you start taking real liberties.

Its performance may be punching well above its weight, and price tag come to that, but Suzuki hasn’t forgot who this bike is aimed fat, and it retains a wealth of handy new-rider friendly features. The tank is narrow, for improved grip, and this narrowness also impacts on the eat height, which now sits at 785mm. Then there’s the low rpm assist, which has been designed to increase the revs slightly at the point the clutch starts to bite to help reduce the chances of a stall.

This is a bike that offers something to riders of all abilities, and it just as entertaining for new riders as it is for those with more miles under their belts, delivering more smiles per mile than its any of its competitors. And then there’s the price. The SV is back. With a bang, and may just be the biggest bargain in Britain at the moment.

 

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Tested – Drift Ghost-S

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There’s an awful lot to like about the Drift Ghost-S – it’s easy to use, it’s well-made, it’s well-specced and it shoots some pretty stunning footage.

It’s almost as if the Ghost-S has been designed with bikers in mind; it’s capable of shooting 1080p video at upwards of 60fps, and will also record 120fps video at 720p – a handy feature for any riders looking to shoot slow-motion footage.

This practicality extends to the camera itself. It has a generous-sized 2in LCD screen on the side, which can be used as a live video view and for playing back any recorded footage.

The Ghost-S is designed to be mounted horizontally, so that it sits flat against most surfaces. This is an important design feature as it keeps the camera’s centre of gravity low, which reduces vibrations and camera wobble. The camera uses Drift’s standard 1/4in-20 tripod mount in the base of the camera, which is a neat touch as it means you can also use third-party mounts. It also comes with a few mounts to get you started including a universal clip, goggle mount and some handy adhesive mounts for curved or flat surfaces. This stuff really works, and has allowed me to mount a rear facing camera on the bike’s tail section and a forward facing camera at the top of the lower fairing. And it’s not budged in the slightest.

The camera itself couldn’t be easier, or more intuitive, to operate. The controls are chunky and simple to use, and all the buttons are positioned on the camera’s side – power, to start and stop recording and to navigate the menu.

The back of the camera features Drift’s trademark removable screw-in panel that protects the Mini USB charging port as well as the Mini HDMI output, a function which allows you to connect the camera directly to an external display for playback. There’s also a 3.5mm connection for an external microphone. With the rear cover securely attached, the camera is waterproof to 3m, which keeps the camera dry, even in the grimmest of downpours.

Another neat feature is the rotating lens, which can spin through 300 degrees. This effectively allows you to mount the camera in any orientation and still have the video come out in the correct visual format. It’s worth pointing out here that the lens’ default position, when all sides are flush to the camera’s body, is oriented for when the camera is stood on its side instead of mounted with the screw on its base. This means you’ll need to remember to rotate the lens when the camera is mounted on top of something, such as a fuel tank, or a helmet.

We tested the Ghost-S over a four-week period in a variety of conditions, including a nine-hour round trip to Bristol, and we’re impressed. It feels secure when mounted, and its sleek, aerodynamic profile helps reduce any vertical camera wobble.

It will record for around three hours, and the footage is pin sharp, capturing beautifully rich colours and a high level of detail in the background, even at high speeds.

The camera’s apps are available for iOS and Android, and make the camera even easier to use. The apps allow you to adjust settings such as field of view, exposure and frame rate as well as triggering recording. The app also provides a live view of the camera’s sensor, and the camera’s Bluetooth capability mean it’s possible to copy photos and videos to your smartphone.

Yes, it’s more expensive than the already excellent Drift Stealth 2, but you’re paying for added functionality. That large screen is really useful for setting-up and previewing footage, and there is a greater choice of video recording modes.

We’ll be shooting some footage when we head over to the Isle of Man for the TT, both on-board and hedge side race footage on our YouTube channel. See for yourself why we rate it so highly.

Five stars

www.driftinnovation.com

£250

Tested – Ducati 848 Evo Corse SE

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The bike you see here is far more than just a standard 848 with a fancy paint job, it’s the 848 Evo Corse SE, and stunning colour scheme aside, it comes with an Öhlins rear shock, a quickshifter, larger front discs and traction control.

The Evo looks beautiful in the flesh, and the Corse paintjob suits the 848’s purposeful lines.

Throw a leg over the bike and everything’s where it should be, though the riding position won’t suit everyone – the seat is canted forward and there’s a long reach to the bars. And shorter riders might find their knees getting caught on the end of the fairing scoops.

Turn the key and the clear and uncluttered dash springs into life. Thumb the starter and you’re greeted by the bassy sound of the 848’s V-twin rumbling into life. Twist the throttle and listen to it cackle on the overrun. It stirs something deep inside you.

Pull away and the throttle is smooth, with little of the traditional V-twin snatchiness. Snick a gear using the quickshifter, increase speed and tuck in behind the doublebubble screen. Chest flat against the tank, snick another gear and the engine effortlessly makes progress. The fuelling is spot on – it delivers loads of torque but also loves to be revved to its 11,000rpm redline. The delivery is smooth and progressive and gloriously elastic.

Drop a gear and tip into a corner and the front gives loads of feedback and masses of confidence. it feels planted, though it’s hesitant and reluctant to turn in on the tighter bends.

But as the road deteriorates the Ducati’s suspension makes itself known. To say it’s on the hard side is an understatement. As the bike bounces over a bump I get a severe punch in the kidney, leaving me in pain and turning the air blue inside my helmet. That harshness is only an issue on the really bumpy stuff, but it can catch you off guard when it happens.

If things do ever threaten to get out of hand, a squeeze on the Brembos quickly gets things under control. They’ve got great feel and power but they need treating with respect – they’re ferocious and it’s very easy to lock up the front.

So what’s it like to live with? Well, in the three weeks we spent together the Corse SE feels planted on open, flowing bends. It’s a machine that turns every ride into an occasion and it gets a lot of attention. It never misbehaved or did something to sap my confidence. And even though the weather was miserable during the majority of my custodianship, the traction control meant things never got hairy. It’s also deceptively quick. Crack the throttle, snick a gear and the bike launches itself forward, front wheel pawing the air, speed building in unison with the feral roar booming from the cans. It feels aggressive and relentless, more like an inline four than a twin.

Those same underseat cans do, however, get very, very hot and I managed to melt my rucksack during an ad hoc roadside stop to change into waterproofs.

So are the trinkets worth £1000 more than standard 848 Evo? That depends on the riding you do. it takes a while to dial into just how the 848 needs to be ridden, and if you’re going to get the most from it you need to be riding it hard, which for many of us has to mean riding it on the track. And if that’s the kind of riding you do, then it’s worth every penny as you’ll never be able to upgrade the standard bike for the same amount of money.

However, if your riding is primarily limited to the occasional Sunday blast, then you might be better off with the standard version, which is still a magnificent sportsbike that’s far less intimidating – and expensive – than the Panigale.

 

Tested – BMW Rallye Suit

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The BMW Rallye suit receives the same attention to detail as the manufacturer’s bikes and it shows – it’s full of useful and practical features.

The Rallye is essentially a rugged and versatile textile suit designed to withstand the rigors of adventure/enduro riding and touring – the outer shell is made of water-repellent, breathable ProTech Wool, a new material which dries quickly and has superior thermal conduction properties, and this is mated to a carbon fibre finish which compresses the fabric for enhanced abrasion resistance.

The pants also have leather panels inside the knees for added grip for stand-up riding, as well as Kevlar stretch panels for a wide range of movement.

The inside also boasts many neat touches – there is a stretchy athletic mesh with spacer fabric to promote airflow, and the removable waterproof liners have three zones – Flow, Comfort and Shield – with different levels of breathability and waterproofing, as well as thin fleece in key areas (knees, seat, shoulders, neck).

Another key feature of the Rallye is CE-approved armor in the elbows, shoulders, back, hips and knees. There’s also a back protector, one of the biggest and thickest we’ve come across in a jacket, and the knee armor wraps fully around the sides and is height-adjustable. All of the armor is easily removable for those who prefer to wear an armored jersey under the jacket and/or knee braces.

As is usual with this style of suit, there is a huge range of vents, fit-adjustment straps and pockets, as well as two waterproof outer pockets and a back pocket for the optional two-litre water reservoir. And if the temperatures rises quickly the jacket can be converted into a vest by simply unzipping the sleeves – simple but effective.

Other neat touches include the plethora of reflective material, the easy-to-use 16-inch zip which connects the jacket to the pants, the rubber-covered buttons and the broken-in feel of the Cordura fabric.

4.5 stars

www.bmwmotorrad.co.uk

Jacket £550

Pants £435

New – Sidi Roarr

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These new boots are Sidi’s mid-range offering and have been designed as the prefect combination of a road and a race boot.

The Roarr is packed full of features that were previously only available on the company’s top-of-the-range Mag 1 race boots, including fixed, hard plastic shin plates, thick plastic anti-twist ankle braces which run half the length of the boots and replaceable toesliders.

The Roarr features Sidi’s Techno 3 ratchet closure system for a truly snug and reassuringly secure fit, stretch panels and a Teflon-coated lining to make getting them on and off easier and quicker.

£199

www.sidiselect.co.uk

Tested – Aprilia’s new Tuono V4 1100 Factory (beauty and the beast)

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Put quite simply this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden by a country mile…and I’m still grinning now. I make no apologies if this review comes across as a gushing love letter to this bike…the V4 1100 Factory has moved me and got under my skin like no other bike has to date. But what makes this £14,635 sublime blend of beauty and the beast just so good?

Well, for starters there’s the way this mixes state-of-the-art technology derived from Aprilia’s participation in WSBK with blistering performance in a package that never fails to entertain.

This bike costs £1500 more than the standard RR version, but for that you get a fully-adjustable Öhlins rear shock, forks and steering damper and the simply stunning ‘Superpole’ paint scheme, which really suits the bike and is exquisitely finished in the metal.

Swing a leg over this narrow bundle of fun, turn the key, thumb the starter and the new 2015 V4 1077cc engine barks into life with a deep, throaty roar. The soundtrack delivered by the standard exhaust is ear bleedingly loud and each blip of the throttle is greeted with an aggressive snarl. It feels comfortable too – the riding position feels low and the reach to the flat, tapered bars is spot on, as are the pegs, and they easily accommodate my long limbs.

A quick glance towards the bike’s clock show a dash dominated by a sleek and easy-to-read rev counter that goes all the way to 15,000rpm. There’s no TFT display here, instead you get Aprilia’s traditional square unit showing speed, gear position, traction control setting and range.

On the move and the V4 1100 factory makes light work of town work. The engine feels civilised, with the ride-by-wire throttle meting out power predictably and smoothly with no discernible snatch, although you’re always aware of the sheer brute force available on tap with a twist of your right hand. The steering feels light, and while the steering lock isn’t great, it’s not so bad as to be restrictive.

Heading out of town and the first thing that becomes noticeable is just how effective the new nose fairing and cowl is at cosseting the rider from the wind. It’s really efficient and provides much more more protection than a naked bike has any right to offer.

As speed and revs rise, the second thing that grabs your attention is the new engine. Aprilia has added 3mm to the bores and given the 1077cc V4 an additional five bhp peak power, and these changes allow the Factory to explode into life with every twist of the throttle. It’s savage, and as the revs rise the surge is so ferocious that the front wheel will be pawing the air with every gear change. And get the engine howling above 9000rpm and the bike changes from a beauty into a beast as all that power propels the bike forward with a time warping urgency. The acceleration is savage, the quick-revving engine delivering huge amounts of rapid grunt, giving the bike superbike levels of performance with every touch of the quickshifter. And that quickshifter is good, really good, seamlessly building speed and adding a satisfying pop to the V4’s booming feral soundtrack with every upshift.

This is a bike that’s mind numbingly fast, but it’s agile too and is just as happy on its ear. It turns in predictably and accurately with the lightest of touches, and the Swedish suspension offers loads of feedback, taking the Tuono’s cornering brilliance to another level, inspiring huge levels of confidence and urging you to brake later and get on the throttle earlier in every corner.

But all this performance is easy to control, thanks to that throttle and the sophisticated WSBK-derived APRC electronics package which includes on-the-move traction control, launch control, wheelie control and Race ABS. There are also three riding modes – Track, Sport and Road – and although the power output always remains the same, the throttle response and delivery is adjusted depending on the mode.

And should things ever threaten to get out of control – which they won’t – the Brembo M432 monoblocs rapidly and effortlessly scrub speed with retina bleeding efficiency.

The only weakness in the Factory’s impressive armoury is the price – there’s no getting away from the fact that £14,635 is a huge price tag. But for me personally, it’s worth every penny. I’ve tested some 300 bikes and covered some 250,000 miles over the years and no bike has moved me like this. It’s by far the best road-going performance bike I’ve ever tested and the blend of WSBK-derived rider aids, the V4’s performance and the distinctive soundtrack delivered by that phenomenal engine mean I’m still grinning now, a week after I rode it. Everyone should ride one at least once in their lives…