New bike review

New metal – BMW R nineT tested

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BMW’s funky R nineT was launched by the Bavarians in 2014 as gift to themselves to celebrate 90 years of building motorcycles, and the result is a good looking bike with retro styling which is bang on for the hipster trend which was, and still is, sweeping the country.

The bike is powered by the German’s venerable 1,170cc air-cooled Boxer engine, which used to power the mighty GS. It’s a perfectly capable motor, and its 110bhp feels spot on for UK roads. It’s a proven unit, and the smooth spread of power and torque will keep you entertained for mile after intoxicating mile.

It’s not just the engine that delivers a lot of smiles per mile, the noise it makes is just as entertaining, the bark from the twin Akrapovic megaphone silencers creating an addictive, deep bark with booming pops and bangs on the overrun.

On the move the fuelling feels crisp and accurate, and there’s a pleasant dollop of grunt when you hit the middle of the rev range, which is perfect for motorway overtakes. This isn’t a speed machine by any means, this is a machine which is more suited to enjoying the ride and the scenery, but it still has plenty of top end grunt which will propel it to a datalogged 132mh, on private roads obviously.

The handling also reflects this more relaxed take on life. It struggles with the tight and really twisty stuff, initially feeling reluctant to turn in, but it’s perfectly happy on the slower, more sweeping bends, feeling stable and predictable. I guess that’s down to the front forks, which is taken from the company’s mighty S1000RR.
It’s a very pure experience – there is no sophisticated suite of electronic riders aids here, just ABS, and this a bike which rewards smooth, accurate riders.

This is a bike which demands to be ridden, and if you can tear yourself away from the saddle for any length of time, you’ll be greeted by a machine which has been beautifully finished. Everywhere you look you’ll notice the attention to detail and quality materials – the tank and accessory seat hump are fashioned from hand-brushed aluminium, and this finish is also applied to the fork yokes, handlebar clamp and intake ducts. Then there’s the small BMW roundel at the centre of the headlight lens, the way the clocks have been taken from the R1200R but reworked to give them a classic, timeless feel while still being contemporary. It’s a hard trick to pull off, but BMW has got it just right with this bike. It passes the garage test with ease, and you could while away many an hour simply bathing in its beauty.

But the really clever thing about the R nineT is that BMW have recognised that owners will want to add their own touches to the bike, and to this end the headlight, exhaust and pillion seat can all be unbolted and replaced with other parts, allowing quick and easy customisation.

The R nineT is a bike which combines the looks and ethos of yesteryear with the reliability of today, and it’s well-built, it’s a joy to ride and it’s easy to add your personal touch to get the bike ‘just so’. BMW may well have crated the ultimate retro-stylesd riding machine.

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New metal – Aprilia RSV4 RF

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Ten things I’ve learnt about the Aprilia RSV4 RF:

01) The bike is a technophile’s wet dream – launch and wheelie control, quickshifter, three riding modes, optional datalogger
02) I NEED a quickshifter…the noise as you bang through the box is addictive
03) It may look small but it’s perfectly formed. Narrow, light but roomy. Soooooooo comfortable 
04) That lightness means it’s supremely nimble
05) The back brake is fierce
06) The front brakes are phenomenal
07) Superpole graphics look great from a distance…not so sharp up close
08) The stock can is hideous
09) And the screen’s not great for anyone over 5’10.
10) The niggles are just that….niggles. I WANT/ NEED 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.