Review: BMW R 1250 RT

When BMW traded in its 1200 RT for the 1250 RT in 2019, the main change was the renewed engine. ShiftCam technology, more horses and Newton meters, remember? But no design update at all, and the dashboard with the two analogue counters and the small digital display also remained unchanged (while that combo had already been replaced by a full-color TFT display on other models). I thought it was a missed opportunity. Now we are two years further down the road. Enough time for BMW to overhaul its touring bike for model year 2021.

The first thing you notice is of course the new muzzle of the R 1250 RT. The two round headlights have given way to a more angular design, with the fairing around the LEDs now painted in body color. It gives the RT a more refined look. Too bad that the rear end remained untouched. Another missed opportunity. Or a reason for an update in two years?

The fairing has been made more aerodynamic, which doesn’t detract from the still overwhelming width of this beast. 985mm to be exact. Certainly in front view, the RT looks like a mastodon. You would almost be afraid to jump on it, because “Can I handle such a big bike?!”

However, I already experienced the opposite during previous RT encounters. Maneuvering at walking pace or pushing the bike out of the garage … it required some effort. But once Continue reading

Review: KTM 390 Adventure

For years, KTM has been building the most offroad-worthy bikes. They make use of the knowledge they’ve gained in the rally world to build a production bike with – just like any brand nowadays – the pieces they have in stock.

This way they’ve constructed a full 1290 line-up: from The Beast all the way up to the Super Adventure. The engine of the 790 Duke was the base for one of the most praised adventure bikes of recent years, the KTM 790 Adventure. Recently they repeated the trick with the 890 Duke.

Downsizing is a popular trend in the motorcycling world as well, because not everyone can afford an expensive motorcycle. Especially European constructors want to get a piece of the cake that we know as ‘growth markets’. When you’re present in one of those BRIC-countries, you’ll want to have the bike built over there to reduce costs. So KTM took the engine and the frame of the Duke 390 platform to India where the Bajaj factories gave birth to the KTM 390 Adventure.

For the last test ride of this year, I went out for a ride on this smallest adventurer from Mattighofen. During a staycation I travelled from the Ardennes to the coast, wondering how much of an adventure one could experience on this Indian Austrian. After all it’s “but a four hundred”.

I’m pretty confused when I stand next to it for the first time: is this the 390 or the 790? The 390 isn’t at all as small as I expected. The standard seat height measures 855 mm, half a centimeter higher than the 790 Adventure. The bodywork looks just as Continue reading

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: 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

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

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