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 CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports

In 2016 I tested the Africa Twin and I wasn’t exactly wild about it. Three years later I have to revise my opinion. But first, let’s look at the bigger picture.

In the late 1980s the Honda XRV650 started the Africa Twin story. The discontinuation of the XRV750 production in 2003 interrupted that story, but Honda breathed new life into the Africa Twin: in 2016 the CRF1000L saw the light of day, after a few years of rumors and speculation.

First update

In 2018, the CRF1000L Africa Twin got its first update and an adventure-oriented variant was revealed: the CRF1000L Africa Twin Adventure Sports.

That update made the Africa Twin 2 kg lighter. It got a ride-by-wire throttle and a new, more extensive LCD display. The engine gained mid-range torque thanks to a lighter balance shaft and a revised inlet and exhaust system. The DCT (automatic gearbox in normal human language) also got an update.

Even more than the Africa Twin, the Adventure Sports is built for long, adventurous journeys. It has a larger tank (24.2 liters compared to 18.8 on the Africa Twin), a higher windshield, a taller fairing, tough-looking crash bars, slightly higher positioned handlebars and 2 cm more ground clearance than the Africa Twin. The adjustable seat can be set at 900 or 920 mm (on the Africa Twin: 850 or 870 mm). There’s also a lower seat available (60 mm lower).

Oh no, DCT!

I spent a few days with the Africa Twin Adventure Sports in Germany’s Black Forest to find out if Honda’s big adventure bike really improved. I hoped to get one with a manual gearbox, because in 2016 my first experience with Honda’s DCT absolutely hadn’t convinced me. So I was slightly disappointed when I discovered that the Adventure Sports I got to test was one with automatic transmission.

I knew that I had to skip the D-mode of the gearbox (due to its sleep-inducing slow shift pattern) and immediately chose the S3 mode, the most extreme of the three sportive shift modes. Very quickly my initial disappointment Continue reading

Review: Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE

When Triumph announced the new Bonneville T120 and the new Thruxton at the end of 2015, that was just the beginning of the story of their all-new 1200 cc twin engine. In 2017 they introduced the Bobber, in 2018 the Speedmaster, and in 2019 they even released two new models with the parallel two-cylinder: the Scrambler 1200 and the Speed Twin. You can’t ignore that Triumph aims at a lot of different types of riders.

I was most curious about the Scrambler 1200. I had already met its smaller brother, the Street Scrambler, during an off-road training. A good-looking bike, but it had a hard time to convince me on unpaved tracks, which the “Street” in its name predicted. The Scrambler 1200 doesn’t have any “Street” in its name. Sounds promising.

So let’s hop on that seat of the Scrambler 1200 XE. With a height of 870 mm it’s even heigher than the Tiger 800 XCa. Not exactly the most exciting news for the short-legged.

Swag & high tech

Once you sit on the seat, the dashboard and the controls on the handlebars will make you realize very quickly that this isn’t a back-to-basics scrambler. The 1200 has a modern TFT display and lots of buttons.

Not only is this scrambler packed with technology, it doesn’t lack swag either. The classic look and the finish of the entire bike, including the engine, are topnotch: very detailed and stylish. At the same time, the Scrambler 1200 XE has a 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: Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

It’s hard to ignore the fact that in recent years Harley-Davidson has been broadening its range to seduce a wider audience. The most talked about models that Harley will soon launch are the electric LiveWire (already in September of this year!) and an adventure bike that will see daylight only next year but that’s already causing quite some stir. It’s safe to say both bikes belong in the “pretty particular” category.

Luckily, Harley doesn’t forget the beginner bikers. Proof of this is the 750 engine that was introduced in 2015, first in the Street 750 and later in the Street Rod.

Still, the lightest Harley isn’t always a novice’s first choice, which is why the Sportster range was expanded this year with the Iron 1200. Indeed, a big 1202 cc engine, but in the slender body of the Iron 883. Yet its price is just slightly higher than the 883’s: the Iron 1200 starts at £ 9,395 while you ride a new Iron 883 from £ 9,045.

So isn’t that bigger twin cylinder engine too much for a beginner? Well, I found the Iron 883 to have a nice engine but it lacked some excitement. The Iron 1200 wants to remedy that. The newcomer delivers 96 Nm and 67 hp while the 883 does 70 Nm and 52 hp. But other than a clear difference between the engines Continue reading