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

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