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

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