Review: Ducati Scramber 1100 Special

Intermot 2014. Ducati unveils its 800 cc Scrambler in four variations. Soon followed by three extra variations and a 400 cc version. Their lifestyle-oriented approach apparently caught on, because at EICMA 2017 Ducati introduced the Scrambler 1100.

A move that gives the Italians a head start over the British, because Triumph’s bigger Scrambler will see daylight in 2019. So for now, the only direct competitor of the Scrambler 1100 is the BMW R nineT Scrambler.

The Scrambler 1100’s design doesn’t differ that much from the 800, which – with its compact, narrow built – seems to be a noobie bike, although it doesn’t ride like that at all. The 1100 appears more mature, because everything is just a bit bigger. It comes in three variations: “regular“, the stylish Special and the racy Sport. Together with the equipment level, the price rises: $12,995, $14,295 and $14,995. I got my hands on a Special.

Sexy and graceful

The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Special clearly targets those who prefer scramblers with a classic appearance. The spoke wheels, the aluminum fenders and the brown leather seat combined with the gray tank create a timeless look. The finishing is as expected from a Ducati bike: done with care and eye for detail. Even the brake cable curves gracefully.

The gorgeous headlight and the Born Free inscription on the fuel cap are eye-catchers we already saw on the 800 cc Scrambler. There’s also the typical Ducatian, beautifully bending exhaust piping, an elegant display and that sexy rear, thanks to the dual exhausts and the stylish mudguard. Don’t take the word mudguard to literal: it’s so short it won’t guard you from much mud.

Balancing act

In comparison with the design, the engine Continue reading

Quick test: Yamaha Niken

A few weeks ago, Maxxmoto sent me a message. “Jean, Niken test. What do you say?” The Yamaha Niken? That three-wheeled creature that got labelled “the Multipla of motorcycles” online? What do I say? Yes, of course! Because I really doubted Yamaha would release such a controversial machine if they didn’t believe in it for 200%. On top of that, the reactions, photos and videos after the first press introduction were very promising. So off I went, together with a dozen of other curious helmet heads, for a speed date with the Niken.

Whichever way you look at it, the Niken has an odd appearance. It’s not easy to get used to those three wheels. So it makes (sort of) sense that people dislike it, based on looks alone. And if you have a motorcycle license, why would you want two front wheels!? Plenty of prejudices, so it’s time to ride!

The first few meters leaving the parking lot feel weird. There’s no doubt that you’re manipulating two front wheels that are guided by a bulky construction including two forks per wheel (which makes four in total!). It’s not just getting used to, you really have to steer that thing in the direction you want.

But as soon as the speed slightly increases, everything changes. And a new Continue reading

Review: Yamaha XT1200ZE Super Ténéré

Travel back in time to 1983 and there it is: the very first Ténéré. After impressive Paris-Dakar participations in the late 1970s, Yamaha decided to commercialize their rally bike as an all-round kind of touring model: the XT600Z Ténéré. 43 hp, 595 cc and one single cylinder.

Thirty-five years later and there’s no longer a monocylinder bike in Yamaha’s adventure range. In 2016 we said goodbye to the last one, the XT660Z Ténéré, and with the brand new Ténéré 700 coming soon (we hope), a new twin will be added to the range. The other twin in the Yamaha’s allroad line: the Super Ténéré.

The Super Ténéré was introduced in 2010 as a direct competitor of that other 1200 cc shaft-driven adventure bike: the 1200 GS. I took the XT1200ZE Super Ténéré to the Vosges (travel report here). 2000 km should be enough to tell something meaningful about it.

The ZE has better specs than the basic Super Ténéré: adjustable electronic suspension, centerstand, cruise control and heated grips. There’s also a substantial price difference: 13.495 euro for the XT1200Z Super Ténéré, 15.895 euro for the XT1200ZE Super Ténéré (German pricing).

Still, the basic Ténéré’s configuration isn’t very basic: adjustable seat height (845 – 870 mm), two mappings, adjustable traction control, integral brake system, shaft drive, spoked wheels and adjustable windscreen. My demo bike also got crashbars, skid plate, LED fog lights and side cases.

More punch please

The 1199 cc parallel twin delivers 112 hp at 7,250 rpm and 117 Nm at 6,000 rpm, which certainly aren’t the highest peaks in the segment. If you keep close to those peaks, the power delivery is quite alright, yet it’s hard to deny that the XT1200ZE misses some punch. This becomes even more striking with the T (of Touring) mapping. In S (of Sport) the bike reacts more snappy without being too on-off.

The exhaust too could use some more punch. Stationary and full throttle sound good, but otherwise: meh. Sometimes the Super Ténéré is so quiet that you hold your breath, just to hear if the engine is still running.

Superb suspension

The S10 (the Super Ténéré abbreviation often used by S10 fans) counters its lack of balls with Continue reading

Review: Suzuki GSX-R1000R

If you want to rule the land of superbikes, you won’t crown yourself king with just horsepower galore and a good chassis. Without electronics you won’t get there, so it was high time Suzuki reinvented its flagship bike. Last year the completely updated GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R appeared on the battlefield. I took the latter out for a week.

The Suzuki GSX-R1000 is “the basic model”. Its 999,8 cc four-cylinder engine has an output of 202 hp and 118 Nm at 10,800 rpm. Variable valve timing? Check. Ride-by-wire with three riding modes? Check. ABS and cornering traction control? Check. To list but a few points of its entire checklist.

The checklist of the GSX-R1000R is slightly longer, including cornering ABS, launch control, quickshifter, LED strips above the air intakes and Showa Balance Free front and rear suspensions. Which lifts the price rather displeasing: $15,099 for the GSX-R1000, $17,199 to add that extra R. If you drop ABS on the R-less Gixxer, the price tag is lowered to $14,699 (US prices).

So is that extra R worth the extra cost? Time for a ride to find out. And then you’ll notice immediately that here’s another manufacturer who nowadays thinks it’s not done to scare riders away. Suzuki’s racer is ultra-controllable and will never surprise you with a bad temper.

The ride-by-wire has three settings, and Suzuki has done it again: instead of naming them Race, Road and Rain for example, they’re called A, B and C. Although in this case OK, Not OK and Even Less OK would’ve been better. Let me explain. The A setting has the most linear power delivery. In B and C the power curve shifts to the right a lot (B) and a lot more (C), postponing the fun. Which is pointless because the A setting can be used under every condition, making the B and C settings completely useless. As an aside, the ride-by-wire does not affect ABS nor traction control.

That traction control!

Fortunately the traction control is better. A lot better. It has 10 levels (called 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, with 1 intervening minimally and 10 maximally). Levels 1 to 4 are intended for the racetrack and allow some rear wheel spin. 5 to 8 are for the road. From a certain angle of inclination, they will make the throttle response and power delivery react more gently on the throttle impulse. Numbers 9 and 10 are the rain levels. The horsepower is never influenced by the traction control and – should you be tired of your life – there’s also a level 0: traction control off.

I started my week’s test with level 5 traction control and Continue reading

Review: Moto Guzzi V7 III Special

Moto Guzzi isn’t really the most top-of-mind motorcycle brand. Nonetheless, the Italian brand covers quite a few pages in the history books. It’s the European motorcycle manufacturer with the longest continuous production, it has a rich racing past and it pioneered in many areas. Think of the integral brake system, the centerstand and the eight-cylinder engine.

Last year, the Moto Guzzi V7 celebrated its fiftieth birthday and got an update. The Roman three in its name indicates it’s the third update of the V7 generation that was introduced in 2012. The V7 III comes in a handful of variations. The Rough for example has scrambler accents, while the Racer has the sportiest look.

Garage Chris Smeyers lent me a demo V7 III Special for a week. In their showroom I also spotted a limited edition V7 III Anniversario with a beautiful chrome fuel tank, of which 750 are produced for the occasion of that fifty-year anniversary.

The Special has the most vintage-inspired style of the V7 range. The orange and gray lines on the fuel tank and flank panels nod to its ancestors, the Blu Zaffiro paint has a wonderful retro look, and the well-considered harmony between chrome and matte black powder coated parts proves that the North Italian designers don’t lack taste. The slightly upward bended double exhaust gives a sporty touch. And there’s also the nicely ribbed saddle, the passenger handgrip that twists beautifully around the back of the saddle and the (well, that’s been a while) unvarnished spoke wheels. Base price of the Special: $ 8,990 (USA) or 8.540 euro (Italy).

The V7 isn’t very generous on technology. ABS and (adjustable and disengageable) traction control are standard, and Continue reading

Review: Harley-Davidson Street Rod

Choppers and bulky bikes with a chrome overdose. If those are the first associations people make when they hear your brand name, it might be time to take action. Especially if you want to target a larger, younger audience.

That’s why Harley-Davidson introduced the Street 750 in 2015. Less heavy, less expensive and less of a Harley cliché. This new approach apparently gained traction, because in 2017 Harley presented the Street Rod. Based on the Street 750, but with a more lively, sportier attitude. I rode the Street Rod for a week.

Baby Harley?

The Harley-Davidson Street Rod has the smallest lung capacity of the entire Harley stable. After the Street 750, it’s also the cheapest Harley out there (starting at $8,699 in the US and € 8.225 in Germany).

Nevertheless, you can’t say the Street Rod is a Baby Harley. Absolutely not. This is a genuine Harley which can pull up next to its bigger brothers without a blush. The built quality leaves little to be desired (the tie-wraps look a bit cheap, and the cabling could be done a bit more decent here and there), there are plenty of Harley logos (up to the Michelin Scorcher tires), and I can’t imagine non-Harley fans loathing things like the beautiful, wide tank and red rear shock absorbers.

So it’s an all-classic Harley? Well no, not entirely. The Street Rod wants to be sportier than the average Milwaukee creation. So the Street 750 got some seriously slogging. Starting with the V-Twin. The 749 cc engine got pumped up considerably, making it climb from 59 Nm and 57 hp to 65 Nm and 68 hp. Harley even dares to put a High Output label on it.

Compared to the 750, the Rod also gets more ground clearance (from 145 mm / 5.7 in. to 205 mm / 8.1 in.), a higher saddle (from 720 mm / 28.3 in. to 765 mm / 30.1 in.), a bigger lean angle (from 28.5 to 37.3 degrees before the left footpeg touches the asphalt) and a sharper rake (from 32 to 27 degrees). Sounds promising? Start your engines!

And then you find yourself not being thrown back to your childhood, when you loudly raced your bike through the streets, a bunch of playing cards in the spokes. Nope, in contrast to earlier Harleys that I tested, the Street Rod sounds rather tame. So be it. Open the throttle and … try to find a good spot to put your feet.


As Harley tradition dictates, it’s almost impossible to Continue reading

Review: Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Touring

The first thing I notice when standing next to the Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Touring is what an impressive bike this is, with its tall shoulders, slim waist and broad hips. It’s almost intimidating. Some say it’s the prettiest Ducati ever built. I wanted to know if it’s also the best Ducati ever built. So I took it on a 3 day blast to the Eifel region in Germany.

Getting a taste of it

A first walkaround shows plenty of typical Multistrada elements: the pointy lights, the air inlets that look like nostrils in a beak, the beautiful LED rear light, the sophisticated single sided swing arm.

The grey color of my test bike almost looks, well, boring. I like the red version much more and the Pikes Peak version really makes me drool.

On top of the standard 1260, the S version comes with Skyhook Evo suspension, a quickshifter, a TFT display, LED lights and cornering lights. Albeit for an extra, obviously. US price: $ 20.995, Italian price: € 20.390. And if you want the Touring suffix (consisting of the Touring and Urban pack), you’re looking at an even larger extra.

That Dash

When I switch on the Multi a deep red Ducati logo appears on the 5” TFT screen. The crystal clear dash shows a lot of information. Current speed and chosen gear are indicated in big numbers while the rpm’s are shown on top of the dash. All clear so far. The rest of the information is shown only in the bottom third and it takes some getting used to to find what you are looking for immediately. You can find trip data, temperature, mileage, the menu entry, fuel level and all suspension settings. And more.

When hitting the start button, the first split second nothing seems to happen. Then the fat Testastretta DVT twin shakes itself awake. This shaking will always be present, be it more or less depending on the situation.

A modest deep sound rolls out of the double exhaust pipes when I start riding. Already after the few first meters Continue reading