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with the two analogue counters and the small digital display also remained unchanged (while that combo had already been replaced by a full-color TFT display on other models).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: Yamaha Tracer 7

Do you smell that? The scent of incense? Yes, your nose already guessed it: you’re reading a review in which Yamaha’s universally praised CP2 twin plays a role. This time it’s spooned in between the legs of a sports touring model: the Tracer 7. But that incense of praise, does it apply to just the engine or the whole bike? Let’s find out.

Never change a winning team, they say. That is, until someone commands you to “Apply Euro5 standards, now!” which forced Yamaha to work on their two-cilinder engine (year of birth: 2014). The air intake, injection system and exhaust got reworked among other things. Yamaha claims a more linear power curve, but at the same time they also lost some power: the Tracer 7 has 73.5 hp, while its predecessor (that went by the name of Tracer 700) had 74.8 horses shining on its passport. Newton meters stayed the same at 68 units.

Yamaha didn’t just do an engine update: it’s impossible to miss the new face of the Tracer 7. It looks a lot more modern, sportier, yes, even more aggressive than the previous generation that all of a sudden seems to be boring and dated. The position of the two headlights, the frowning light strips, the tight lines of the bodywork: great design.

The rather plump indicators of the previous model were replaced by slimmer ones, but apart from that the design department Continue reading

Review: Yamaha Ténéré 700

It was the year 2016 and as the first pictures of the Yamaha T7 Concept came in, I couldn’t stop drooling over them. It was a long wait until the Ténéré 700 finally arrived in 2019 and an even longer wait until I could finally swing my leg over it mid-2020. Enough with the drooling, shall we go for a ride?

Before I turn over the key, let’s have a look at what I’m dealing with. A middleweight adventure bike. That’s a very crowded segment with all the usual suspects and mavericks. It’s not hard to find some ten competitors once you start listing them up. BMW F 850 GS, Triumph Tiger 900, KTM 790 Adventure, Suzuki V-Strom 650, Moto Guzzi V85 TT, Ducati Multistrada 950, Kawasaki Versys 650, Benelli TRK 502, Royal Enfield Himalayan, Honda CB500X … almost all brands have got one in their model range. What added value can Yamaha offer?

The looks and equipment clearly state which side the Ténéré 700 is choosing. Offroad? Yes, please! It turns its back on more road-focused adventure bikes, thereby shortening the list of competitors.

The high, slim figure, the rally-inspired face, the long suspension travel (8.3 inch front and 7.9 inch rear), block pattern Pirelli’s, aluminum engine guard: it all looks pretty tough. The seat matches the adventurous appearance: 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

Travel test: BMW F 900 XR

When BMW announced the brand-new F 900 XR at the end of last year – at the same time as the updated S 1000 XR – several questions immediately popped up for me. Will the 900 be an adrenaline bomb like the 1000? Or will it be a kind of entry-level variant? Or a watered-down version?

The previous S 1000 XR was my favourite test motorcycle of the year in 2015. I loved that combination of performance and comfort. I have not tried the new 1000 yet and it is still at the top of my test wish list, but I did get the opportunity to try out the 900 in the meantime.

The original plan was to take it on a road trip to the Alps, but corona forced us to change our plans. We stayed home and toured around Belgium for a week, with little outings to the Eifel and northern France. Not always, but often with luggage on the back. We clocked some 2,500 km; that should suffice for an informed opinion.

Visually, the BMW F 900 XR has a lot in common with its big brother. The close family ties are clearly recognisable, so much so that the untrained eye might even mistake them for two identical bikes. The biggest give-away is possibly the rear end, which is cut off kind of clumsily right behind the seat. On the 1000 XR, the rear end has a more solid look, which is more pleasing to the eye. My test motorcycle, however, was equipped with a luggage rack, which turned out to be Continue reading

Review: Ducati Diavel 1260

Without a doubt, the Ducati Diavel 1260 is the most polarizing motorcycle that I ever rode. Never before I got so many reactions to the design of a test bike. “Ugliest Ducati ever,” I heard. But the haters were easily outnumbered by the fans. I saw a lot of love for the Diavel. One driver even payed more attention to my bike than to the road.

The Diavel’s distinct design is a real eye-catcher. A long and low body, with a muscular front and a striking rear: no fender, just a license plate holder which fortunately prevents a wet back during rain rides. Thanks to the single-sided swing arm on the left and the short exhaust, you have a good view of the impressive rear wheel.

On photo the Diavel couldn’t really convince me, but in real life its design won my heart easily. The finish is outstanding. Even if its looks aren’t for you, you can’t deny that the designers from Bologna put a lot of love into them. Just look at fine details such as the panels in brushed steel, the beautiful indicator lights on the front or the backlit buttons on the handlebars (just a pity that Continue reading