Review: Benelli TRK 502

The history of Benelli is an eventful one. In 1911, Mamma Benelli opened a workshop for her six sons in Pesaro, Italy, so they could earn a living doing car and motorbike repairs. They often made parts themselves, so in 1921 they took it a step further and built the first Benelli motorcycle from the ground up.

The factory was bombed during WWII but the brothers didn’t give up. In the 1950s Benelli gained a name thanks to several racing successes, highlighted by winning the 250 cc world championship with pilot Dario Ambrosini.

In the 60s and 70s, Benelli did well, but the strong Japanese competition brought the brand to its knees in 1988. In the 90s, Benelli came into the hands of the Merloni group and released legendary bikes such as the Tornado and the TnT 1130. But again the success didn’t last.

The Chinese group Qianjiang took over Benelli in 2005 and the brand disappeared off the radar. At least, in Europe. Benelli focused on growth markets such as India and even Iran. At EICMA 2015, Benelli unveiled the Leoncini and the TRK 502. The beginning of Continue reading

Review: Honda X-ADV

It was on a drizzly winter’s day that I was reflecting on the coming motorcycle season. I wanted to try something different, something special. So I got in touch with Jean.
“I want to test a maxi scooter,” I said.
Silence. Then, with a hint of disbelief: “You want to test a scooter?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“A scooter?”
“Yes.”
Silence again.
“Which one?”

I know nothing about maxi or mini scooters, except that they’re highly popular in big cities. Just join the daily traffic jams on the Brussels Ring and you’ll see many of them lane-splitting. So I became curious about those maxi scooters. But which one should I test?

Soon I bumped into the Honda X-ADV. Not just “a scooter”, but one that claims to be in a class of its own: a motorcycle with the sitting position and the comfort of a scooter.

The X-ADV is part of Honda’s adventure range, which is justified by giving the X-ADV some adventure characteristics: a larger front wheel than on traditional scooters, adjustable front and rear suspension, switchable traction control, hand guards and a beautiful digital dashboard similar to the one of the CRF450 Rallye. Combined with tough “armored” colors and rugged Bridgestone tires, the X-ADV just looks cool.

Motorcycle or scooter?

Right from the very first meters I notice how agile the X-ADV is. Ideal for city traffic, where it really plays out its scooter nature. The sitting posture takes some getting used to. It’s upright, with wide handlebars, and feels a bit like an adventure bike. But my feet in front of me and nothing between my legs, that’s new to me. Yet, it doesn’t take long before I throw the scooter from one corner into another. When I stop at a pub, I can easily store my helmet in the 21-liter compartment under the seat.

When I leave the city and can pick up the pace, the X-ADV’s stability Continue reading

Review: BMW R 1250 R

Can you imagine a BMW line-up without boxer engines? The emblematic image of the two bulging cylinders is inextricably linked to the brand. So probably BMW won’t bury their flat-twin any time soon. In any case, they continue developing it. Because the competition doesn’t stand still either of course.

One hundred years after the birth of the very first BMW boxer engine, the M2B15, BMW adds another chapter to its boxer book with the introduction of the brand-new 1250 two-cylinder. The new engine is available in four flavors: GS, RT, RS and R. With the latter you experience the flat-twin in its purest form.

All aboard the VVT train

The last 1200 boxer engine dated from 2013. With the development of the new 1250, BMW focused first and foremost on more muscle in low rpms. The engine displacement increased from 1,170 to 1,254 cc, the horse stable was expanded from 125 to 136 stallions, and the peak torque climbed from 125 Nm (at 6,500 rpm) to 143 Nm (at 6,250 rpm).

Next to those boosted figures, BMW makes its debut with the ShiftCam technology, also referred to as variable valve timing. While some brands have already been using this technique for years, the Bayern Boys are only now boarding the VVT train. The Euro5 standard seems to Continue reading

Review: Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory

The Aprilia Tuono has a lot in common with its donor bike, the RSV4. It still looks a lot like the hypersport, even if it’s a naked bike. It has more body panels than other fat naked bikes on the market. Especially the windscreen is taller than what we are used to. It seems to invite you to tug yourself behind it at higher speeds. A mere sign on the horizon?

Equipment

The Tuono comes in two versions: the RR and the Factory. The Factory has everything what the RR has and adds a racy rear end, Öhlins everywhere and sportier shoes: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa’s in a wider 200/55 rear tyre are standard on the Factory, while the RR gets 190/55 Diablo Rosso III’s. The Superpole Graphics are exclusive to the Factory. Besides that both models boast a very complete equipment level.

The electronics on this bike are impressive. Don’t say “traction control”, say “Aprilia Performance Ride Control”. It doesn’t just regulate a few thingies but computes real “assistance strategies”: ATC (traction control, adjustable in 8 positions on the go through flippers on the handlebars), AWC (wheelie control, adjustable during riding and softening contacts with the road), ALC (launch control, recommended only for the track), APL (pitlimiter, very practical in city traffic) and ACC (cruise control).

There is also Continue reading

Review: Yamaha FJR1300AS

FJR. What do these three letters stand for? Fast Joy Ride? Furiously Jumping Rhino? For Jackass Racers? Nope. The correct (and official) answer is Fast Journey & Ride.

Since many years the Yamaha FJR1300 has a permanent spot in the sports tourer segment. Yamaha introduced this model in 2001. Today it exists in three versions: the FJR1300A (the basic version), the FJR1300AE (with electronically adjustable suspension) and the FJR1300AS (everything from the AE plus a semi-automatic transmission). I had a date with the latter.

The AS, the most complete FJR model, costs £17,099. In return for that pile of pounds you receive a bulky package: generous fairing, electrically adjustable windscreen, two mappings, ABS, switchable traction control, height-adjustable seat, sidecases, electronically adjustable suspension, semi-automatic transmission, cruise control, heated grips, LED lights with front cornering lights, 12v socket, shaft drive. In other words, everything you need and more.

The FJR is perfect for long journeys. The sitting position on the wide seat is comfortable yet slightly bowed towards the handlebars. Yamaha sells the FJR1300 as a sports tourer and not as a pure touring machine, so that forward bend seems legit.

With the windscreen down, only your head’s in the wind. If you raise the screen, there’s minor turbulence around the helmet, depending notably on the traffic in front of you: behind a truck, your head will shudder more than when you’re flying down an empty highway. Also a minor (but subtle) Continue reading

Review: BMW F 850 GS versus Triumph Tiger 800 XCa

This is Team Throttle’s very first comparison test and we couldn’t have picked a more appropriate duo than the Triumph Tiger 800 XCa and the BMW F 850 GS. Because both Jean and Jan F have a past with the predecessors of these two newcomers.

In 2015 Jan F bought a Tiger 800 XCa, which now has 37,000 km. The bike did an all-road trip to the Alps, a muddy weekend in the Ardennes and a week in the Sierra Nevada.

In 2016 Jean traded his BMW F 650 GS for a second-hand 800 GS. He added about 60,000 km to the odometer, during – amongst others, of course – that same dirty Ardennes weekend and more recently during Endurofun’s Midsummer Ride.

It’s safe to say that Jan and Jean are hands-on experts. So below you can not only read a comparison between the British and the German bike, we also looked at the progress that this duo makes on their predecessors.

Pain points

Jean: “BMW could certainly make progress. Don’t get me wrong. I like my 800 GS – I find it an excellent all-rounder – but it has some points that can be improved:

– Brakes: On uneven surfaces such as cobblestones they often don’t know whether they should bite or let the ABS do its thing.
– Suspension: Too soft overall. Especially hard braking leads to dramatic front-diving.
– Sound: Not exciting at all.
– Power: Okay-ish but you feel that it’s not a recently developed engine.
– Throttle response: Slight on-off effect. Combined with the suspension it results in a rather jumpy character.”

Jan: “The splendid engine, perfect gearbox and great WP suspension make my Tiger a wonderful bike. Only the wind protection has been annoying me for three years. Turbulence galore! An aftermarket solution helped a bit, but there’s still room for improvement. The brakes can also be enhanced, they are rather spongy. Some complained that in first gear the Tiger dares to stall, especially offroad. Isn’t it, Jean?

To discover if these pain points were gone, we took both new models on a trip to Luxembourg. There we were treated to a wide range of road and weather conditions. Sun and rain, boring highway and great curves. No offroad unfortunately, because one of the manufacturers said “nein”.

BMW gave us an almost full-option 850 GS, while from Triumph we got an XCa in standard fit.

Jan: “For those who are not familiar with the Tiger 800 range: it’s divided into two lines, the street-oriented XR models and the offroad oriented XC models. Each line has a number of equipment levels, of which the XCa has the highest (and the most expensive) level. In other words: with the XCa, the option list becomes pointless.”

Traffic light sprints

Jean: “While at first sight the Tiger barely changed, BMW clearly unveiled a completely new model. The design leaves no doubt about that.”

Jan: “But let’s focus on the engine first. The 850 GS has a brand new 853 cc two-cylinder engine. With 95 hp it has ten ponies more than the 800 GS. There’s also more torque: 92 Nm at 6.250 rpm. An increase of nine compared to its predecessor, but more importantly: the Tiger 800 peaks later and less high: 79 Nm at 8.050 rpm.”

Jean: “That difference doesn’t go unnoticed. The 850 GS is a lot snappier than the 800 GS. More vivid in low revs, stronger in the middle zone and more power in the higher rev range. As a result, it feels al lot less small GS than the 800. The Tiger too seems less energetic in comparison.”

Jan: “You probably need thorough Tiger knowledge to notice it, but the Tiger 800 has a new windshield, new lights, a new dashboard and control buttons, new mirrors and a new sound. As a result, to me the new Tiger seemed like a totally different bike than my own Tiger: if you ride it, everything you see and hear is different.”

Jean: “The engine also got an update. Triumph claims that it has a more responsive power delivery. Are they telling the truth, Jan?” 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