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: Moto Guzzi V85 TT

The midweight adventure bike segment is getting pretty crowded lately. We already double-tested the new BMW F 850 GS and the Triumph Tiger 800 last year, and this year the KTM 790 Adventure and the Yamaha Ténéré 700 are causing quite some buzz. You’d almost overlook an Italian bike that mingled in quietly: the Moto Guzzi V85 TT. A brand-new model with a brand-new engine.

I wouldn’t say the Guzzi is a direct competitor of the aforementioned four. For that, it lacks the off-road capabilities. Just look at its 19″ front wheel and the 170 mm suspension travel. The other four have a 21″ in the front and at least 30 mm more travel.

Nor does the V85 TT compete with the less off-road oriented Kawasaki Versys 650, Honda NC750X or Suzuki V-Strom 650. No, the Guzzi has something that these bikes don’t have, and that’s a good portion of emotion and a distinct look which also characterize the BMW R nineT Urban G/S and the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled. These aren’t typical adventure bikes, but motorcycles that combine the sturdy looks of an adventure bike with a classic design and a distinctive engine.

Off to the Pyrenees!

I took the Moto Guzzi V85 TT for a trip to the Pyrenees (still working on the report). On that 4,464 km trip it regularly 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: Yamaha Tracer 700 GT

The “sport tourer” moniker probably brings big muscular bikes to mind, like the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT or the BMW S 1000 XR, or rather bulky long-distance runners such as the FJR1300 or the GSX1250FA.

Going fast is easy with those bikes but if you look for light-footedness in a sport tourer, you need to look somewhere else. Enter the Yamaha Tracer 700 GT.

For a few years now, the Yamaha MT-07 has been a popular model from which Yamaha smartly derives other models. The XSR700 already stole my heart in 2016 and now the (already reasonably touring-oriented) Tracer 700 gets an (even more) touring-oriented relative: the Tracer 700 GT.

The Japanese kept it simple and drafted an easy upgrade: take a stock Tracer 700, exchange the windshield for a bigger one, replace the seat with a comfort seat and mount color-matched 20-liter side cases. There you go: the Yamaha Tracer 700 GT. Price for that suffix: £600, bringing the total to £7,999. That’s an attractive price tag. But isn’t the GT label too promising?

Hop on the comfort seat and you’ll immediately notice that the Tracer 700 GT doesn’t make an overwhelming first impression like the big sport tourers mentioned in the intro do. The Tracer feels compact and very manageable. At 835 mm the seat isn’t Continue reading

Review: BMW R nineT

The sexiest bike of the entire BMW Motorrad range is the BMW R nineT. That’s my conclusion after testing one for a week. Praising words from (mostly non-motorcycling) colleagues, a big thumbs up from a car driver at a traffic light, a spontaneous chat at the gas station. I got more feedback with the R nineT than with any test bike I ever rode.

The R nineT was launched in 2014 on the occasion of 90th anniversary of BMW Motorrad. So it comes as no surprise the nineT has classic looks. Though not as classic as, say, a Triumph Bonneville T100 Black. The Beemer has a modern twist to it and tries to charm café racer and custom fans with its extensive personalization possibilities.

Back to the basics

The essence of riding is what the R9T is all about. Everything that’s not essential went overboard. No frills. While other BMW models are crammed with traction control, mappings, tire pressure control, electronically adjustable suspension and other techno shizzle, the nineT only got a non-switchable ABS. On the other hand it has a stylish design, finished with sweet details such as the BMW logo in the headlight or the embossed nineT logo on the air intake.

The 1,170 cc boxer comes from the previous R 1200 generation, and is the last of the Beemers with this type of engine. It’s not the newest of the newest but has proven its qualities with a long track record. Air-cooled, in contrast to the liquid-cooled flat twins that BMW currently assembles. The gears are a little shorter than on the previous RT and GS, for a more lively riding behavior.

A flat twin also means you’ll experience Continue reading