Quick test: Honda CB500X

Photographer Michele Micoli (who rides a Kawasaki Versys 650 himself ) already treated us to photo galleries a couple of times. A while ago he surprised me with a text message: “Hi Jean, I’ve tested the CB500X and made a review.” As it turns out, he’s not only in his comfort zone behind the lens or handlebars, but also behind a writing desk. Check out his write-up:

The CB500X is Honda’s most unpretentious offering in the adventure category. Will 500cc do the trick to get some kicks? I took it out for a day of riding.

Real adventure bike, or just long-legged?

The offering in the lightweight and middleweight adventure class has grown immensely over the last few years. Honda’s CB500X is a prime example of this segment. Not only does it provide us with a complete package and all necessary features, but the front and back LED-lighting give it a very modern look while retaining the typical ‘trail bike’ appearance. Clever design by the Hamamatsu company, and with 47 hp, a 19-inch front wheel and longer suspension travel in the front, it’s set to go off on an adventure.

I’ve always had a thing for lightweight two-cilinder engines, mainly due to the fact that I can push them to the edge without scaring myself senseless in the process. They offer tons of fun without breaking any speed limits, even when you’re on a sporty ride with the tach needle bouncing off the rev limiter. The CB500X is no exception to that, even though my first impressions focused more on the riding comfort.

The seat height is much lower than expected. Standing 173 cm tall, I can easily touch the ground with both feet due to the very narrow seat and the neutral riding position. The wide handlebars offer plenty of leverage and within the first few wheelspins I’m already Continue reading

Travel test: BMW F 900 XR

When BMW announced the brand-new F 900 XR at the end of last year – at the same time as the updated S 1000 XR – several questions immediately popped up for me. Will the 900 be an adrenaline bomb like the 1000? Or will it be a kind of entry-level variant? Or a watered-down version?

The previous S 1000 XR was my favourite test motorcycle of the year in 2015. I loved that combination of performance and comfort. I have not tried the new 1000 yet and it is still at the top of my test wish list, but I did get the opportunity to try out the 900 in the meantime.

The original plan was to take it on a road trip to the Alps, but corona forced us to change our plans. We stayed home and toured around Belgium for a week, with little outings to the Eifel and northern France. Not always, but often with luggage on the back. We clocked some 2,500 km; that should suffice for an informed opinion.

Visually, the BMW F 900 XR has a lot in common with its big brother. The close family ties are clearly recognisable, so much so that the untrained eye might even mistake them for two identical bikes. The biggest give-away is possibly the rear end, which is cut off kind of clumsily right behind the seat. On the 1000 XR, the rear end has a more solid look, which is more pleasing to the eye. My test motorcycle, however, was equipped with a luggage rack, which turned out to be Continue reading

Review: BMW S 1000 RR

When I arrive home after picking up a test bike, and my 10-year-old son enthusiastically shouts “Wow dad, that’s one of those World Superbikes!”, then I know I brought home a special bike. Or you know my son and I watch too many races.

Let’s wind back a couple of hours. At the Belgian BMW headquarters, the all-new
S 1000 RR is waiting for me. It’s a stunner, in its Motorsport color scheme, which is only available with the optional M pack. It comes with very cool and superlight M carbon wheels and has a lighter M battery. An embroidered M graces the seat, just to show this is the sportiest RR one can buy. The letter M is mythical amongst car lovers, and from now on it’s also the way BMW brands their sportiest Motorräder.

It’s impossible to describe all the electronic aids on the new RR, there are simply too many. The most important are the riding modes: Rain, Road, Dynamic and Race. Choose either one, and all the other electronics are automatically optimally set.

With the optional Ride Mode Pro, specifically added for track racing, come the extra modes Race Pro 1, Race Pro 2 and Race Pro 3. In these modes every single parameter can be set manually. This can be done by scrolling through the intuitive menu on the 6,5 inch TFT display using the well-known BMW multi-controller. I still think this dash is the Continue reading

Long-distance test: KTM 790 Adventure

The longest Team Throttle test ever brought me from the Black Forest via the Dolomites to the French Alps. Then I circled the Gorges du Verdon and zigzagged through the Pyrenees. All together I covered 7042 km in 17 riding days.

I rode the most hyped bike of 2019: the KTM 790 Adventure. It turned into a story of love and hate, of rejection and attraction. But also a story of sheer ecstasy and high climaxes. And finally a story of regret. Regret that I had to say goodbye to this polarizing bike.

First impression

It didn’t start well, my relationship with this KTM. I had been eagerly looking forward to meet this new Austrian in person, but during our first rendezvous at the Brussels Motor Show early 2019, I was disappointed: I didn’t find it attractive and the bulging tank looked weird, like man-boobs. Was this the bike that would turn the adventure class upside down?

Luggage

My purpose during the trip was to camp as often as possible and cook myself on a regular basis. So I needed to take quite a bit of luggage.

KTM had equipped the 790 with plastic panniers. They look quite slick and are easy to install on the nicely integrated pannier racks. Unfortunately they open from the side and have a weirdly shaped interior, making it difficult to use their full capacity (35 liters on the left and 27 liters on the right).

Aluminum cases that open from the top may need a separate rack, but they’re much more convenient to use and you can tie stuff to the rack too. If you tie things to the passenger grips of the 790, it better be your lucky day. They’re open on one side, so a stretcher or strap slips off easily. Apart from that, they’re well designed and made of a pleasant non-slip material. Perfect for your duo or to maneuver the bike.

After some puzzling, three roll bags with camping material ended up on top of the passenger seat and the panniers were filled with lighter things.

Second impression

I got my second impression of the 790 Adventure during 400 kilometers of highway that marked the start of my trip. Together with Jean I rode from Luxembourg to the Black Forest in Germany. Biker buddy Tony joined us there for four riding days.

That stretch of highway didn’t make my second impression Continue reading

Quick test: BMW R 1250 GS Adventure

BMW’s biggest GS and its even bigger brother, the GSA, always do extremely well in the sales charts. Which surprises me every time. Not in the least because of the steep price, but also because of the dimensions of both bikes. The R 1250 GS Adventure in particular seems colossal. It’s high, wide and has a wet weight of 268 kg: that’s a lot of motorcycle for someone with an average physique.

When BMW unexpectedly asked if I wanted to test a 1250 GSA, I didn’t hesitate for a second and replied, “Of course!” It was only afterwards that I realized that I was about to ride that mastodon of a GSA. Exciting!

The GS Adventure which BMW provided was one in beautiful Style HP set-up. In addition to golden cross-spoked wheels and a rally seat, it has the BMW Motorsport colors which in my opinion is the nicest version there is.

Before hopping on the seat, the explanation of all setting possibilities took a while: BMW had equipped the bike with just about every possible optional pack. The Comfort pack consists of a chrome exhaust, heated grips and tire pressure control. In the Touring pack you’ll find Dynamic ESA suspension, keyless ride, navigation preparation, cruise control, fog lights and the luggage rack. The Dynamic pack includes a quickshifter (up and down), Pro riding modes, DRL and white direction indicators.

Changing the settings is easy thanks to a few buttons on the handlebars and the well-known rotary wheel. The beautiful (and standard) 6.5” full-color TFT display tells you which settings you’ve selected. There was also an Continue reading

Review: Ducati Diavel 1260

Without a doubt, the Ducati Diavel 1260 is the most polarizing motorcycle that I ever rode. Never before I got so many reactions to the design of a test bike. “Ugliest Ducati ever,” I heard. But the haters were easily outnumbered by the fans. I saw a lot of love for the Diavel. One driver even payed more attention to my bike than to the road.

The Diavel’s distinct design is a real eye-catcher. A long and low body, with a muscular front and a striking rear: no fender, just a license plate holder which fortunately prevents a wet back during rain rides. Thanks to the single-sided swing arm on the left and the short exhaust, you have a good view of the impressive rear wheel.

On photo the Diavel couldn’t really convince me, but in real life its design won my heart easily. The finish is outstanding. Even if its looks aren’t for you, you can’t deny that the designers from Bologna put a lot of love into them. Just look at fine details such as the panels in brushed steel, the beautiful indicator lights on the front or the backlit buttons on the handlebars (just a pity that Continue reading

Review: Triumph Speed Twin

In 1937, Triumph launched the Speed Twin 5T, the first series-produced 500 cc parallel twin. It would become an example for many other twins that followed. And now Triumph reintroduces one of the most glorious names of its history, with the 2019 Speed Twin.

On Triumph’s list of modern classics, the “new” Speed Twin sits nicely between the Street Twin and the Thruxton. Its looks are clearly copied from the Street Twin while the Thruxton set the standard for its performance level. The result of this combination had to be a retro-styled motorcycle with modern technology and the handling qualities of a naked. So did Triumph achieve this?

The design is more than good. What a beauty! The Speed Twin looks as classic as the Street Twin but can’t hide its sporty ambitions: weight on the nose, the tank tilted slightly forward, the rear set high. I hope you don’t mind I’m drooling a bit.

The beautiful engine, with the cylinders nicely visible from all sides, the uninterrupted exhausts, the brushed aluminum parts, and that paint job! Continue reading