Review: Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro

Last year we said farewell to the Triumph Tiger 800 because Triumph unveiled a completely new Tiger 900. Completely new indeed, because there’s a new engine, a new frame, new brakes and suspension, and a new dashboard …

When the press release came in I must say it wasn’t love at first sight. The 800 looked good with its double headlights but the 900 tried something else which I didn’t fancy right away. But hey, a test could maybe change my mind. So I decided to head out on the Tiger 900 Rally Pro, five days in the Moselle region (of which you can find the travel report right here).

Love at second sight?

Pictures don’t always tell the whole story so I was curious to see if sparks would fly on our first real life meeting. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Something about the proportions. The headlight seems a little small and looks less ballsy than the previous model. The rear light is okay, but is mounted into a plump construction. And even though the fuel tank with its sloping frontside doesn’t deviate that much from its predecessor’s looks and the finish is right up to Triumph’s standards (read: very high), the 900 just doesn’t do the trick for me design-wise. A shame, because the 800 was one of the best looking adventure bikes if you ask me.

In our last Tiger 800 review (the XCa in 2018) we suggested a few improvements. We missed a quick shifter in the options list, the tire choice was dated, it was impossible to mount tubeless tires and wasn’t it time for lean-angle technology to make its way onto this bike? Triumph went to work and added all of it to the new Tiger, or at least Continue reading

Review: BMW S 1000 XR

With the arrival of the 2020 BMW S 1000 XR, we say goodbye to the first generation XR. That bike received very nice reviews and Jean even named it his favorite test bike in 2015. But when I got to ride it last year, I wasn’t really convinced. OK, the engine was awesome and the suspension very good, but the bike felt aged due to its outdated dash, it vibrated a lot and a stubborn quickshifter spoiled all the fun. Curious to see if they fixed this for the 2020-version. I was very eagerly looking forward to this test.

BMW puts the S 1000 XR in their Adventure family. Strange, because the ’S’ in its name clearly points out the sporty DNA. The extensive standard equipment shows that touring is definitely within the possibilities. So in which category does this powerhouse really belong? Adventure, Sport or Touring?

Equipment

First let’s start with the dull part of this review: all the bells and whistles you can find on this top of the line machine. Dynamic ESA, lightweight cast wheels, adjustable windscreen, small storage compartment, LED-lighting, TFT-display, Connectivity, integrated pannier attachment points, Pro riding modes, ABS Pro, hill start control, traction control, engine brake settings: it all comes as standard.

Our test bike was further equipped with some of the well-known – and actually indispensable – BMW option packages that make that this S 1000 XR basically has anything you could want on a motorcycle. Quickshifter, automatic height setting, cruise-control, keyless ride, heated grips, center stand, GPS-holder, USB-port … The list continues for a while and – another BMW habit – adds up to the price until you’re well over budget.

Sport?

The solid pricetag luckily offers a lot of motorcycle in return. The XR is rightfully Continue reading

Review: Yamaha Ténéré 700

It was the year 2016 and as the first pictures of the Yamaha T7 Concept came in, I couldn’t stop drooling over them. It was a long wait until the Ténéré 700 finally arrived in 2019 and an even longer wait until I could finally swing my leg over it mid-2020. Enough with the drooling, shall we go for a ride?

Before I turn over the key, let’s have a look at what I’m dealing with. A middleweight adventure bike. That’s a very crowded segment with all the usual suspects and mavericks. It’s not hard to find some ten competitors once you start listing them up. BMW F 850 GS, Triumph Tiger 900, KTM 790 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom 650, Moto Guzzi V85 TT, Ducati Multistrada 950, Kawasaki Versys 650, Benelli TRK 502, Royal Enfield Himalayan, Honda CB500X … almost all brands have got one in their model range. What added value can Yamaha offer?

The looks and equipment clearly state which side the Ténéré 700 is choosing. Offroad? Yes, please! It turns its back on more road-focused adventure bikes, thereby shortening the list of competitors.

The high, slim figure, the rally-inspired face, the long suspension travel (8.3 inch front and 7.9 inch rear), block pattern Pirelli’s, aluminum engine guard: it all looks pretty tough. The seat matches the adventurous appearance: Continue reading

Review: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

KTM has been producing one of the most radical supernakeds on the market for a couple of years now. The 1290 Super Duke R, nicknamed The Beast, received a complete make-over for 2020. A few years earlier though, someone at KTM must have seen some touring potential in the Super Duke: mount a windscreen, add a larger fuel tank, stick on some panniers and there you have it: the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was born. At any other manufacturer you would be fired on the spot, but not at KTM. Over there even the touring machines are Ready to Race.

The GT’s 2020 model is still based on the previous generation Super Duke. The engineers merely pinched off some top-end power of the original beastly engine: it still delivers 175 bhp and 141 Newton meters of torque. More than enough to turn the GT into a proper rocket. One that is fit to travel in style. Even though the Kiska design is not everybody’s cup of tea, the GT stands out with its aggressive headlights that are flanked by LED cornering lights and blinkers that are integrated into the fuel tank. The wide shoulders and narrow hips are Continue reading

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

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