Tested

Tested – Continental Race Attack

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These tyres are mind blowingly good, so good in fact that I’m still struggling to get my head around just how exceptional they are.

The tyres you see here – a soft front and an endurance compound – have just come back from three hot days on track at Jerez, and their performance is simply staggering around the circuit’s 2.75 miles of gloriously fast straights, late apex technical twists and turns.

Scrubbing in takes just one lap, and they have so much grip I’m able to push hard straight away around every single one of the 13 corners. I don’t use tyre warmers, but these tyres allow me to stay with – and ride past – those riders who are.

Once they’re up to working temperature they’re superb; they’re stable and offer supreme levels of confidence inspiring grip. And the amount of heat they generate and retain is astounding.

What did become clear as the day progressed is that they’re sensitive to pressures, and will quickly tear if over or under inflated. I thought they were cold tearing initially, but the opposite was true, and once I’d adjusted the pressure they responded straight away and came back to me.

They’re also incredibly durable. I went faster than I’ve ever been and after three blisteringly hot days on track they’re still good, despite having covered some 450 hard miles.

Recommended.

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tested – Continental Sport Attacks

Continental Sports Attack

The Continental Sport Attacks you see here are shagged – they’re just on the right side of legal, but they’re fucked. And what am I replacing them with? Another set of Sport Attacks. Here’s why…

I got these fitted ahead of my annual pilgrimage to the TT, and on the ride over from Tamworth to Liverpool to catch the early morning boat they impressed straight from the off.

After the obligatory scrubbing in period it became clear they have impressive levels of grip, allowing you to carry some pretty big lean angles.

Their performance cannot be underestimated. During that week on the Isle of Man they dealt with the very best and worst conditions that the island could throw at us – rain, greasy damp conditions, gravel strewn roads and sticky, hot tarmac.

They’re really quick to warm up and give loads of feedback and feel, inspiring confidence and allowing me to ride hard in all weathers.

They’re pretty durable too. These have done 1800 hard miles, although when they did start to go they went after less than 200 miles. However, temperatures have been really high recently, and I put the tearing down in the carcass down to the heat, the huge amount grip the tarmac has been offering, the torque from my V-twin and my aggressive throttle inputs. This sounds like I’m moaning – I’m not. These tyres are stable, predictable and even now they feel good, allowing me to still lean the bike right over to the edge of the tyre.

If this comes across as some kind of love letter to the Continentals  then I make no apologies – they’re great. This isn’t some journo praising the latest company to give them a freebie. I’ve paid for these out of my own hard earned, and I like them so much I’m replacing like for like. Try some for yourself.

New metal – Yamaha MT-10 tested

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This is the eagerly-awaited MT-10 – Yamaha’s take on a naked R1, and the first Japanese supernaked to offer any serious competition to the Europeans in years.

However, this bike is far more than just an R1 with the plastics removed and straight bars fitted, it’s a fully reworked bike, one that’s been built for the roads.

There are no two ways about it, this bike’s looks are going to polarise opinion. Edgy, angular and very plasticky. At the NEC show last November, when the bike made its UK debut, it was its styling that sparked lively debate – that and the gaffer-taped indicators at the rear – and you’ll either love or hate the ‘Transformer’ aesthetics.

But look beyond the bike’s questionable lines and you’ll discover a machine that is defined by its engine. In this case the R1’s 998cc, 200bhp inline four powerplant has been reworked and features a new cylinder design, new pistons and a new combustion chamber. Essentially detuned to make 160bhp, a figure more appropriate for an unfaired machine, the redline now sits at 12,000rpm instead of the R1’s 14,000rpm, and the net result is a better spread of torque in the middle of the rev range which is more accessible to the rider more of the time.

The MT10 retains the R1’s aluminium Deltabox main frame, swingarm and fully-adjustable KYB front and rear suspension, but it feels a lot smaller than its faired sibling. It looks tiny and compact, much smaller than the already tiny R1, and even when sat on the bike it belies its 210kg wet weight.
But small can be beautiful, and the MT10 proves this is true with every blip of the throttle. It doesn’t have the edgy, rorty boom of the R1, but the rumble from the cross-plane crank engine is still pleasant enough, though it has a rougher, coarser tone.

First gear is still tall ­– 70mph – but the rear sprocket now has 43 teeth instead of the 41 as found on the R1, and that makes this a far more usable tool on real roads. Power delivery is silky smooth, and while it lacks the rapid acceleration low down of its rivals, that works in the bike’s favour as this lack of arm-snapping allows you to exploit its potential higher up in the range. Keep the throttle open and you’ll see the white light flash of the gear shift indicator at 10,000rpm, a useful addition to the full-colour dash.

This real-world performance is backed up by a suite of rider aids including traction control, cruise control and three riding modes – A, B and Standard. The reality here is that there is little difference between the modes, apart from the initial response in the first degrees of the throttle twist, and B mode, the most aggressive, is probably the one that most riders will use, and it’s a delight – punchy and responsive, giving the bike a more dynamic, edgier ride.

This is a bike which enjoys being hustled through the corners, those wide bars making countersteering fingertip easy, encouraging the bike into the turn with the lightest of pressure. It’s stable, predicable and accurate too, allowing to carve corners with pinpoint accuracy.

And thanks to the riding position, this is a bike you’ll enjoy for mile after mile. The riding position itself feels natural and comfortable, with the bars falling easily to hand and the pegs sitting directly below the seats. It’s a position which reminds me of a naked Ducati – you’re very much over the front wheel, and as well as making you feel really connected with every movement the bike makes, this natural crouch also allows you to better exploit the bike’s acceleration. There’s no wrist ache, no knee ache, and the small plastic cowl actually does a good job of keeping the worst of the wind at bay.

This cowl is worthy of praise, as naked bikes normally result in a lot of buffeting and neck strain. Not so here. And it’s this well-designed, well-crafted feature which turns the MT10 into a bike you could ride all weekend. And it still works, even when speeds rise, and by tucking into a racing crouch as you would on a sportsbike you’ll lower the noise considerably.

The more time I spend with the bike, the more I begin to notice the less obvious things, like the slipper-clutch which is effective at keeping the bike settled on downshifts by reducing back-torque, the beautiful colour dash, and the brakes, which are powerful without being ferocious. The only thing it’s really missing is a quickshifter, which is a noticeable omission.

This is a great all-rounder. It’s fun, agile and entertaining and it will wheelie for England. This is the machine that finally sees the Japanese create a bike to threaten the European stranglehold on this sector of the market – it’s definitely on a par with the BMW S1000R, if lacking the sheer performance of the Aprilia Tuono V4. Try one…

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.

 

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

Used bike test – 2012 Kawasaki Versys 1000

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Let’s start off with the elephant in the room – the Versys is one ugly bike, and I mean fugly. It looks a mess – there’s just too much strangely sculpted bodywork. Every single one of my friends were blunt about its styling. “It’s hideous”, “it’s ugly”, and “it’s a poor man’s Street Hawk” were some of the kinder comments. There’s no getting away from it – the Kawasaki’s looks divide opinion, with some saying the appearance puts them off considering the bike as a road-only alternative to the leading adventure bikes, the BMW R1200GS, the Honda Crosstourer and the Triumph Explorer. Which is a shame, because beneath all that plastic is a solid, if unspectacular, bike.

The first thing to say is that it’s a very physically tall bike. I’m 6ft 2in tall, with long limbs, and it was a struggle for me to swing a leg over the bike when wearing bulky textiles. It feels heavy too, especially when moving it around and at low speeds. However, once aboard it’s really comfy – the seat’s wide, thick and it’s spacious enough to let you find the right position.

Thumb the starter, twist the throttle and you’re confronted with a reassuring bark from the bike’s outstanding feature – its engine. The detuned ZX-10R four is an absolute hoot, full of grunt in all gears, and it responds well to being revved.

The riding position soon feels natural – the pegs are in the right place, my right foot doesn’t feel impeded by the large aftermarket Akrapovic can, my knees don’t feel cramped and the switchgear is reassuringly clunky and easy to use. The screen is easy and very quick to adjust, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s too short for me, meaning it generates a lot of turbulence and noise. That said, it does a good job of keeping the weather off; the rear hugger is effective too. The headlight is also really good, projecting a strong, even beam.

Another thing that quickly becomes apparent is that despite its looks, this bike is definitely a road bike and has no off-road ability at all. It is just too heavy and ungainly for that. Yes, it may have long-travel suspension, and all the characteristics associated with adventure touring bikes, but its sheer bulk mean you really wouldn’t want to take it anywhere off road.

Riding the Versys on my favourite B-roads is an odd experience. Yes, the engine is powerful,

but all the power seems to be at the top end of the rev range and forces you to ride it like a sportsbike to get the most from it, which is at odds with its unsporting suspension. The front just isn’t up to being pushed hard, feeling vague and remote.

The problem is compounded by the rear suspension, which is too soft, sapping confidence in every bend. The brakes are superb, though, with loads of power and feel, and if things do feel like they’re getting out of control they stop you quickly, predictably and safely. it’s easy enough to fix the front – stop pushing so hard or bump the preload at the back – but if you do this the back becomes bouncier.

That short stretch of B-road heaven sums up the quandary presented by the Versys 1000. Its lack of clear identity isn’t merely about marketing or image – it goes to the very heart of what’s good, what’s bad and what’s frustrating about the bike.

Where it really excels is an everyday workhorse. It just gets on with everything, performing faultlessly – no dramas, nothing untoward, just business as usual. Unfortunately, there’s also no no excitement either.

What’s also good about the bike is the amount of equipment it comes with – traction control, ABS, and this bike has the optional heated grips fitted. The traction control is effective, but the riding modes are disappointing and I couldn’t detect any difference between the modes when the weather changed – for the better or worse – and so I simply left it in Sport mode.

The bike’s ABS was much more impressive, and allowed me to keep riding even when the conditions hinted that it might be wise not to.

But I wasn’t so happy with the performance of the heated grips – they have three settings, but to all intents and purposes they only have one (full on) as the other two as so ineffectual as to be pointless. Instead I got a pair of inner gloves in an effort to keep some feeling in my fingertips.

It’s practical too. That big, wide tank means you can fit a really large tank bag if you need to, and those big, wide bars have a lot of room for mounts for your sat nav, action camera etc. And that massive rack is ideal for strapping stuff too –– I managed to get two sets of tyres on the back with no issues at all. As always, the bike just got on with it in its own fuss-free way. It’ll easily take all the luggage you’d ever need for a fortnight away, with no effects on its handling. Impressive.

However, crack on and you’ll be filling up an awful lot. The Versys 1000 costs £26 to fill up and I only averaged 130 miles to a tank. And to make matters worse the trip computer doesn’t work. The dash says you have a full tank before it plummets like a stone at the last minute. On one trip I ran out of petrol, even though the display said I had 53 miles worth of fuel left. Nobody needs a trip computer, but for whatever reason this bike has one, and it’s a liability.

What is commendable is the finish. This bike has some 13,000 miles on the clocks, and the finish is holding up well. Only one fastener on the radiator has started to rust, and there is some discolouration on the header pipes and collector box, and a bit of paint had begun flaking off on the outside of the left-hand side of that massive rack, but that’s it – no scuffed paint and plastics, no stone chips and no scratches on the tank.

So, during the week in my tenure it’s proven itself as a capable, if uninspiring and thirsty, jack of all trades, It’s good two-up, it handles the daily commute in its stride and I even managed to do a trackday, although in all honesty I wish I hadn’t bothered – it wasn’t enjoyable in any way at Cadwell Park, but what did I expect? It’s not a sportsbike.

All this sounds like I’m picking fault with the Versys, but I’m not. Instead I’m telling you that it’s a capable, but flawed bike which allows you to ride big miles quickly, confidently and in total comfort. It will even hustle along nicely, if pushed. You just need to be prepared to ride around its shortcomings. And that sums up the bike – you get an awful lot of bike for your money, you just have to be prepared to compromise.

Used bike test – 2012 Kawasaki ZX-10R

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Kawasaki’s litre bike may lack the desirability and looks of its rivals, but look beyond its bland styling and you’ll see a very capable weapon guaranteed to entertain.

This was the first Japanese bike to be fitted with a proper racing-type traction control system, and this one also has the optional high-performance ABS. But that’s not all – this 2012 bike is rammed full of rider aids including wheelie control and three power modes, although in reality the lowest mode is all but redundant.

Swing a leg over the bike and it feels tiny, mainly because it is, and although it’s very compact the ergonomics are surprisingly good – the low seat is comfortable, the controls fall easily to hand, and the adjustable pegs feel right in their standard position for my gangly legs. Even the low slung mirrors work, offering a decent view behind.

Twist the key, prod the starter button and the Kawasaki’s distinctive clocks spring into life. This is very much a digital affair, and the LED bars indicating the revs rise across the screen in chunky graphics, colour changing from orange to red as the revs rise.

And you’ll watch those bars race across the screen very very rapidly, thanks to the ZX-10R’s blistering performance. Kawasaki claim the engine produces 197bhp, some 7bhp more than the BMW S1000RR, and it feels like it. This is one very quick bike.

The bike sounds angry, and the power is usable and available from low down in the range. The real power first makes an appearance at 8,000rpm, then comes on stronger after 10,000rpm before peaking at 13,000rpm (although it could spin on to 14,500rpm).

On the move the gearbox feels slick, and in the 1800 miles we covered in our week together I never got a false neutral. In fact the engine feels bulletproof, and while it lacks the dizzying top end rush of the BMW, it’s still more than plenty quick enough without feeling intimidating.

Out on the road and the fully adjustable Öhlins steering damper, the

‘horizontally’ mounted single shock and Showa BPF forks do a good job of soaking up the worst of the bumps, although the front feels a little lively when really pressing on, and I mean really pressing on. On a smooth track surface it should be fine, and 95 per cent of the time on the road everything behave impeccably. But on the A169 across the North Yorkshie Moors it felt skittish at higher speeds, the front shaking its head, almost as a reminder not to get complacent as much as anything.

What is also clear on these glorious roads is that the Kawasaki’s traction control system is stunning. It relies on front and rear wheel speeds matched to rpm, throttle position, gear selected and other sensors to predict tyre slippage and alter ignition/fuel settings to balance acceleration against loss of traction.

The traction control system has three modes with Level One being the least obtrusive. Level Three sees the machine render wheelspin non-existent, while Level Two allows a comfortable amount of slip or slide without intervening too harshly. Level one permits some seriously sideways attitude and allows for throttle modulation of a slide, intervening only when things get alarmingly lurid. The three modes, which are mounted on the bars, can be selected on the move, and the power interruptions, when made, are much more subtle and smoother than the system on an equivalent S1000RR.

The ZX-10R is happy on its ear, gracefully carving lines through corner after corner as we tear through the stunning countryside, traction control occasionally cutting in to wrap a comforting arm around me as mud covers one deceptively tight corner. And the brakes are phenomenal, offering immensely powerful stopping power and plenty of feel. And despite what many riders say, the ABS allows me to brake much harder and smoother – it’s a refined system, and another tool in the ZX-10R’s impressively-equipped armoury.

The ZX-10R is equally happy cruising through town, that tall first gear being smooth and tractable, effortlessly coping with the stop-start flow of traffic. And it’s practical too…that wide tank is perfect for a tankbag and there are plenty of bungee points on its rear to strap a tailpack.

Unfortunately I didn’t get time to put the ZX-10R through its paces on track, but it’s won titles at BSB and WSBK level, and it’s proved a weapon in the hands of Ian Hutchinson on the roads, so I’d expect it to be a weapon at somewhere like Silverstone or Donington, where that engine would come into its own.

The only chink in the ZX-10R’s armour is the styling – this isn’t a pretty bike. It’s a bike borne of form over function, and if you can live with that you’ll discover a very, very capable bike at a very reasonable price. Try one, it might just win you over.

 

 

Used test: BMW S1000RR

BMW’s litre bike took the class by storm when it was introduced in 2009, effectively reinvigorating sportsbikes and moving the game on substantially.

The bike was updated in 2012, and this is the bike we’re testing here. It’s well specced – Race ABS, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Gear Shift Assist comes as standard, and this one even has heated grips. Heated grips on a sportsbike? Yes, don’t knock them until you’ve tried them– toasty hands make a huge difference to your comfort and concentration levels this time of year.

The original bike was launched in a range of colours, including a very pale yellow and a lurid ‘piss’ green, but BMW reigned back the colour palette and this bike looks stunning in its red, white and black paint. Other subtle changes that show this is the ‘updated’ bike include minor changes to the asymmetrical side panels, the two winglets on the top part of the panels and the side aperture grills on the centre airbox cover.

This is a bike that looks rapid, even stood still, and it has a menacing, purposeful edge to its styling. Yes, it’s a rocketship on the move, but it’s also a comfortable bike you could ride every day.

The sophisticated electronics and rider aids mean it has never been easier to ride a 193bhp sportsbike. The engine is silky smooth, but accelerates rapidly, brutally even, with the twist of the throttle. And the dynamic traction control (DTC) works faultlessly, seamlessly adjusting engine torque to the current level of grip for optimum traction out of every corner.

This bike feels fresher than the first generation bike, and this is because BMW’s engineers tweaked its powerplant to provide a punchier power buildup and a more sensitive response. This, when combined with changes to the handling have created a bike that is even more precise and agile than its predecessor. A lot of this is down to the new suspension – the upside down fork and the spring strut feature a new internal structure, which provide an even wider range of damping forces from comfort to performance. This, when combined with changes to the suspension’s geometry – steering head angle, offset, position of the swingarm pivot, fork projection, and spring strut length – allow this RR to steer accurately, predictably holding a line through corners, time after time.

But the changes don’t stop there, and on the move your eyes will be drawn to the updated clocks, which are intuitive and easy to read. There’s now a “Best lap in progress” function, and if required, “Speedwarning” can inform the rider when he exceeds a particular speed.

Living with this bike for a week has proved just what a capable all-rounder it is. The fairing is effective at keeping the elements at bay, and it’s all-day comfortable. This BMW has that Honda feeling about it – everything fits and falls to hand easily and it just feels right.
It will happily sit on the motorway all day, grinding out the miles, and you know full well that the electronics will be working overtime to keep you safe. Yet, get to your destination, leave the motorway and hit the good stuff and it will suddenly come alive, urging you to attack the bends with ever greater confidence. It’s so easy to tip in, and it’s so precise, that it feels like the bike is part of you, and that it’s being guided by your thoughts alone. It’s awe-inspiring.

And the build quality seems flawless. This has been ridden hard in some shitty conditions – rain, snow, mud strewn roads – and has covered 1200 miles in our short time together, but after a thorough going over with the jetwash it’s come up as good as new.

In fact the only downside to any potential buyer is that it seems to be holding its price well. Try one for yourself and you’ll quickly discover why. This may be the greatest all-rounder ever. Fact.

 

 

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 – California Superbike School Level Two

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The California Superbike School exists for one reason, and one reason only – to help riders master the art of cornering. Their step-by-step approach to training splits each Level into different drills, starting with the basics and adding elements on in simple but challenging exercises, all done under the expert eye of your own personal coach.

Every rider, regardless of ability, starts at Level One and there are four levels to the syllabus – the school’s riding system which is based on the radical A Twist of the Wrist manuals penned by Keith Code in the 1980s and 1990s. The system works – riders including James Toseland and Leon Camier have passed through the school’s doors on their way to racing success.

If Level One is all about throttle control and keeping the bike stable, and we covered this in depth in Issue 6, then Level Two is all about vision and the effect it has on your riding. As with Level One, the day will be split into five technical briefings and five track sessions, with each level building on the previous one. We’re at Silverstone, the UK School’s spiritual home, and will be riding the rapid National Circuit configuration complete with iconic corners such as Maggots, Luffield, Woodcote and the very fast Copse – the very same corners MotoGP legends Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo will be racing on in just five days. We’re based in the old garages, not the new and unpopular wing complex, and it’s inspiring to think our bikes are in the very same buildings that will house racing’s elite in just a few days. The day’s not even begun yet and it feels like we’re winning.

After completing the necessary paperwork and getting our kit checked over, we head to the back of the café for a safety briefing. This will also be our classroom for the day, and will be our second home when we’re not on track.

Glen Rothwell, California Superbike School riding coach and classroom guru, will be the man challenging our preconceptions and pushing us to push ourselves, and after explaining the day’s schedule and what he expects of us, we’re assigned our coach. I’ve lucked out today – I’m under the expert tutelage of Richard Brown, AKA Badger, the school’s general manager and coach, and the school’s coach of the year in 2006. He’s quick, knowledgeable, calming, enthusiastic and patient – everything a good coach should be.

Session One – Reference Points.

When it comes to cornering, we’ve all experienced the same problems at one point or another, although it’s fair to say some experience the problems more frequently than others. We’ve all come to a corner, panicked, braked, then realized we could’ve ridden it much, much quicker. Or we’ve found our eyes drawn to a particular part of the road, or something near our piece of the road, focused on it, found ourselves riding towards it, panicked, grabbed the brakes and found ourselves drifting wide, horribly off line and in all sorts of trouble. The issue here is target fixation, that moment when our brains focus on what we want to avoid at the expense of everything else. It’s partly down to evolution – our eyes have developed to for three things; food, danger and sex – but it’s also down to poor skills and lack of vision. By raising your vision and fully understanding what’s approaching you’ll give yourself more space and a slower sense of speed, effectively buying yourself more time which allows your eyes help you ride better.

We’re encouraged to use our eyes to scan the track for any distinguishing features – track furniture, marks on the asphalt, kerbs, drain covers, changes in the surface, rubber marks – to help us identify when to turn in and where the apex is. This is essentially a navigation exercise, and as well as allowing us to learn the track, we’ll only be allowed to ride in one gear and with no brakes, essentially allowing us to revisit the fundamentals of Level One – throttle control, turn-in points and two-step turning.
As we head out on to the track, the first thing that strikes we is just how wide Silverstone is. It’s at least 15m wide, and is as far removed from Cadwell as it gets. It’s really bumy too, especially in Luffield. The second is just how ingrained road riding is in my brain. I know I’m on track, but I can’t get used to overtaking on the left, and at the end of my first lap badger pulls me in. “This is a really wide track, so why aren’t you giving yourself more space. You’ve just passed a Triumph, far too close, and I’m not having it. Calm down and use the track. We’re all hear to enjoy ourselves. And we’ve got all day. Now, behave.”

It’s a valuable lesson and one I take on board. The lack of brakes makes Copse tricky and I’m turning in too soon. I’m also struggling to gel with Luffield. I’m entering the first left too wide, which is pulling me too far right for the next part.

We pull into the pits and Badger has already spotted an issue; my throttle control. “You’re struggling to hold a line, and that’s down to your throttle control. Smooth that out and the bike will stop feeling nervous and you’ll start to feel happier. Stick with it, it will come.”

Session Two – Changing Lines.

We’re back in the classroom and Glen is explaining the mechanics behind our riding. “The track you’re riding is 15m wide and consists of just seven corners. This means you’ll need 21 reference points, three for each corner. How many have you got?”
Trust be told I’ve managed to find about six at the minute. Which means I’m 15 short, and will explain why I’m struggling to ride the same line on consecutive laps.

The solution is to use the next session to explore new lines and different parts of the track. “During the early MotoGP, Sete Gibernau used to finetune his set-up by riding the same line lap while Valentino Rossi would use the practice sessions to explore all sorts of different lines to give himself as much information as possible to exploit any potential overtaking opportunities during the race. Different lines means it essentially becomes a different and brand new corner – a new turn-in point affects your apex and exit speed. Riding on the very right of the track for one lap, then the very left for the next lap will give you a new appreciation of the track and will allow you to notice details you’ve missed on your ‘normal’ lines.”

We head out again, ducks and drakes style, trying to absorb as much knowledge about the track as we can. It’s eye-opening, and makes me realise just how many lines there are through the corners, and just how wide, and late, some corners should be taken.

At the debrief Badger’s noticed another issue. “You’re missing Step One in Two-Step Turning. You’re moving your head but you’re not looking at the apex. You’re fixing your gaze on the exit, and that’s compromising your lines. Remember to look at the apex, and you’ll find things start flowing again.”

Session Three – Three-Step Turnin

This drill builds on Two-Step Turning and adds the exit to turn-in points and the apex. “Try and use the furniture and reference points, and link them together. For example, at Woodcote, hug the bollards and then look for the gantry on the right. This will stop you running wide and will let you get on the gas quicker.”

It’s a lot to take on board and out on track I start running wider lines, using more of the track as I start identifying more reference points, my confidence growing with each lap.

Badger notices a difference too. “You’re starting to run some nice, wide lines, which is making the track open up, which is allowing you to gain some speed. It’s coming together nicely.”

Session Four – Wide View

This session is all about using your peripheral vision. Making a conscious effort to use this in turn-in points prevents target fixation and gives a greater sense of space by slowing everything down.

It sounds simple and it is, and it’s also brilliantly effective – it really does give you a heightened sense of space and time, slowing everything down and giving you more options. It’s also very tiring initially, but it’s a skill you can practice during your normal drive/ ride.

Session Five – Picking The Bike Up

The day’s final session is all about getting the bike as upright out of a corner as quickly as possible. The sooner the bike is upright, the sooner the rider can get on the throttle. Glen explains: “Dani Pedrosa is the expert at this. If you watch him, he stands the bike up as early as he can. With the bike on the fatter part of its tyre it will have more grip, and the suspension works better when the bike is upright too. It’s a particularly useful skill to have in the wet.

“Some of you will be doing this anyway, and for some of you it will be new. Basically, you pick the bike up by countersteering the opposite way you did to turn in, so pushing on the outside bar instead of the inside, and keeping your body right off to the inside. By combining this with the throttle roll, you can be very early with full throttle and very fast out of the corner.”

We spend five minutes riding chairs in the classroom trying to emulate Dani Pedrosa, pushing our chair back to make our ‘bike’ stand up.

On track it seems to work well at Woodcote and Copse, allowing me to get on the gas much quicker, while also making me feel safer.

Away from the classroom:

I spent three days on track at Jerez and the effects of my time at the school were noticeable. I was riding with much more confidence, picking reference points to help me string together corners and ride with consistency. And by having the confidence to explore different lines, I was able to work out which corners would benefit from later, wider lines. And wide view enabled me to avoid target fixation, even when the rider in front of me panicked, grabbed a handful and ran on. The system is proven, the system works. So if you want to make yourself a safer, smoother and more confident rider, see what the California Superbike School can do for you.