These are my own views and impressions of the motorcycles I have ridden and products I've owned. They are not intended to be an authoritative statement.
Harley Davidson Vs R1
Aprilia Mille RSV Mille
Metzeler Rennsport Tyres
What could possibly be better than Yamaha’s YZF-R1, the daddy, the King, the hooligan machine? How can you improve on perfection, it’s impossible, or so I thought.
My previous bike was an R1 and before that I owned a 1997 Fireblade, the one with the 16" front wheel. I thought the Blade was a great bike, powerful(ish) fast and agile and reviews in the press only served to confirm to me that there was very little to choose between the top sportsbikes. So what changed my views? Simple, I had a test ride on the R1 and was astounded that it was miles better than the Blade then after a quick chat with my accountant I decided to buy it.
During my six months of riding the R1 I fell in love with it, it forgave my “bum-out-hang-off” style of riding and allowed me to get away with impossible situations. The impossible became the norm with my R1. The only real fault with it was it’s front suspension, it wasn’t that stable. Or, as my friend put when she tried out the pillion seat. “There’s something wrong with that (bleep) bike, take it back, I’m sure the front wheel should be on the ground at least some of the time”.
What could possibly be better than the R1? When I saw the specs of the GSX-R1000 I noticed that it had a decent front end, was very light, had lot’s of power but a higher seat height. :-(
I quite like Gixer 600's they’re great tools on the track and I thought that if the new Gixer was as good as “they” said it was I should investigate it further. After all the R1 is just awesome, isn’t it? However, nothing prepared me for the shock I had when I test rode the Gixer Thou, it was simply better almost everywhere than the R1.
I turned up at Colin Collins on a dry and sunny Saturday afternoon. The salesman said “see you in about an hour ” At first the steering felt a little heavy because of the steering damper but within a mile I had forgotten it was there. The gearbox, is so slick (compared to both the R1 and the Blade) it encourages you to change gear, however, the intake noise and exhaust note is defying you to hold it just a little bit longer.
The power delivery is unbelievable. It will pull cleanly away in 3rd (and probably 4th). The injection system makes the throttle very sensitive but also very, very, instant. As you twist the throttle your speed increases at the same rate you twist the throttle, so what you may say...but this was in any gear.
Wheelies, yes the Gixer Thou can wheelie and wheelie and wheelie. But in a much more controlled way than the R1.
R1 riders will know what I mean about the uncertainty and wobbles when you land. The Gixer just remains planted and in a straight line. In fact I lofted a pleasing wheelie when I pulled away from the dealers (it would have been bad manners if I didn’t).
The best part of the Gixxer is its chassis, it’s just brilliant and is more flick-able than the R1, I found myself completing a series of tight twisties about 10-15 mph quicker than I could on the R1 and still felt I could have done better. I hammered the Gixxer through the lanes on some bumpy surfaces, whereas the R1 would waggle about at 120(ish) the Gixxer remained planted at far higher speeds (allegedly).
I took one roundabout at high speed (no knee-sliders) and cranked the bike over and thought, there’s plenty more so I did it again and thought, there’s still plenty more even though I could feel the peg moving.
The bends and twisties are where the GSX-R1000 takes things to another league, with the balanced chassis and superb spread of torque from the engine it allowed me to hold a gear and just drive.
If I went into a bend too quickly and all it took was a slight squeeze of the brake to reduce forward momentum enough to let me make the bend. On one bend I allowed the bike to drift over to the right-hand side of the road as I exit the turn, I went over a bump while still leaned way over and applied power, the front wheel started to go light. But the fabulous suspension and that steering damper keep the shakes down to a panic-free level.
At the top I said that the Gixxer Thou, it's better than the R1 almost everywhere, where the R1 score over the Gixxer is below 2500rpm, the Gixer tends to be a bit twitchy.
The GSX-R1000, Suzuki has come very close to a 1bhp per kilo power-to-weight ratio. Weighing a paltry 4kg more than the 750, but producing in excess of 160 crankshaft horsepower, this equates to 0.94bhp/kg. That comfortably beats the R1’’s ratio of 0.84bhp/kg and for me anyway the Suzuki is quite simply the best superbike in the world. We are talking about near BSB performance here with 0.95bhp per Kg and a sub 10sec quarter mile. All wrapped up in a sexy user-friendly package that’s way ahead of anything else......for now.
Another advantage is that the GSX R1000 looks the same as the 600 and 750 whereas the R1 was unmistakably an R1 this means I can operate the Thou in “stealth mode”. The best way to identify the GSX-R1000 is by the front forks. Gold titanium nitride coatings cover the 46mm fork legs for reduced stiction, and the upside-down stanchions are also gold anodised. Differential bore six-pot calipers grip the twin 320mm discs. The rear wheel also grows in width to 6-in and wears a 190-section tyre.
When I arrived back at a very worried dealer three hours later, I was hooked, a quick chat with my accountant and the order was placed. I took delivery on March 14th 2001 and have loved every minute of it since. My riding position (when I getting it on) has always been, crotch against tank, knees gripping the sides of the tank and my full 138lbs over the front. Yes, it still comes up. The early R1's did this (although it was tamed on the Y2K bikes). But not as much as the Gixxer. The Gxixer lifts the front very easily but so manageable and stable but I think quite a few will be crashed though. The throttle is so sensitive a fraction of a movement will deliver lots of power.
So what’s next?
I'm convinced that the Gixxer could do with a bit more power. The chassis could certainly handle it. It has started to loosen up nicely now and has become very strong. However, the engine isn't the best part of the bike, the dynamics are. You can have loads of fun without using all the power. For the first 1000 miles I was limited to 9000rpm and but still managed to make a bit of a mess of my tyres, they didn't last another 1000 miles.
I have seen a dyno printout of a bog standard one showing just under 150bhp at the back wheel which would equate to around 165 at the crank. I've contacted dynojet and a few race specialists and they reckon that by just modifying the end can (re-packing) and re-mapping will release about 15-20bhp at the back wheel and you could get another 10bhp by going to a straight through race can. So, 160-170bhp at the back wheel is feasible for about a grand. There's a 3000rpm power band from 9000 where it develops almost full power, it then dips dramatically to the red line at 12500. It would be nice to extend the power band to 13,000.
 The only way to see if a bike suits you is to get on it and ride it. Forget about on-paper specifications and what people tell you get on it. It’s a bit like the riding theorist who go on about lean angle this or centre of gravity that all explaining why a bike should behave in such a way, there’s no substitute like experiencing it.
<-- Versus -->
To be fair, I quite enjoy riding the Harley in a completely different way than how I enjoyed the R1. Perversely, the R1 was far more relaxing and comfortable to ride than the Harley. The Harley is very heavy and not that maneuverable, it's difficult to take bends without getting your pegs down (which I've done a few times), the clutch is also very heavy and when you change gear it does so with a loud CLUNK. However, after a few miles you start to relax a bit, your legs tend to open a bit and you stop gripping the tank with your knees. You start to flow through corners rather than ride through them, unlike the R1, you must plan way ahead for any maneuver. This actually improves your observation skills and probably did make me a better rider on the R1 (I appreciated it more). I even wave at cruiser riders because I know that they must be going through.
When I parked the R1 people say "nice bike; what is it". When I park the Harley people say WOW a Harley, that's a "real" bike. Crowds gather and people even take pictures of their family and friends standing by it. Men (and some women) offer me sex. The older ladies in my village all want to ride on the back, a sort of Nell's Angels in a blue rinse.
The Harley is also very, very loud if the R1 was half as loud the police would have booked me, but on the Harley they just wave. It's the same when you ride through villages, when the zippy sports bikes go through the villages the villagers shake their fists at them, when the Harley thunders through they wave.
Why did I buy the R1 in the first place? Simple I had a test ride for an hour and brought it back three hours later with an empty tank and the back tyre a bit messed up. The dealer said, Madam had a good time then, bloody right I did. I also tried a Hayabusa and a 12R but I had to have the R1. I know they were common and also have a bad image but I didn't care and that's probably the true measure of love. But then there was a new kid on the block.
I've ridden and raced lots of bikes all my life, most illegally (allegedly) some in the USA and some in Europe. But I felt I needed a bigish bike of my own for the road. So I decided to do some research.
I researched the bikes available and decided that:
1) My wheelbarrow is more fun than a Harley and probably handles better too and is more reliable.
2) It had to be a sportsbike after all I want to show off don't I, DON'T I?
3) The seat height must be less than my inside leg plus say 3 inches for my extended toes. (I'm 5' 3 and a bit inches).
4) It had to have "yellow" in the colour because my spare leathers were yellow and black.
5) For some reason, I can't explain it I don't like Yamaha's. Oh yes I remember now. I saw a complete pratt on a shinny new R1 with matching leathers, gloves and helmet on Boxing Day. He looked scared absolutely out of his skin and was wobbling around a corner at about 10MPH.
6) I liked the spec on the Hayabusa and tried one out, but they are a bit ugly.
7) I thought about a Ducati but remembered my mate telling me how much fun she has every weekend fixing hers.
8) The choice was narrowed down to the Kawasaki ZX9R or the Honda CBR900. A few of my friends had a ZX9R and I have seen some pretty entertaining review. Also, I was slightly put off by reading about carb icing and some reliability problems. The Honda appeared to be reliable and probably easier to ride and live with than the ZX9R. The Honda was also cheaper.
I went to the showroom to collect the bike during lunch on Monday, oh dear, I thought, its bigger than I remember, its heavier than I remember, I hope I can still reach the floor? Why on earth did some demented, deranged salesman, park it at an angle and on a hill in such a way that I had to swing my bottom off the seat to touch the floor and in full view of everyone? Was it some kind of sick joke? Or was it a test? Nuts to you all I thought, here goes nothing. I started the engine, selected first gear, clunk, in it went and the engine died, oooops, forgot about the stand (Race bikes don't have side stands). Selected neutral again and pretended to adjust my helmet, it seemed to have worked as no one noticed the stand I think they were all waiting for me to fall off. I lifted the stand, selected first gear.
The moment of truth had arrived, my legal road riding dawn had arrived, or had it? I looked down that long wide petrol tank with my toes straining to touch the ground, I breathed in, then let out the clutch v.slowly, the bike tensed up, my belly tensed up even more. Eased off the back brake, the blade inched forward very slowly but incredibly stable, picked the toe I'd managed to get down and gradually increased the speed. Hell, this bike is a pussycat. I thought to myself, everyone who said get a small bike for the road because you're a small woman, Bollards to you.
I took it easy for the first few yards and around the town then got onto the A1 slip road and twisted the throttle, Sheeeeeeet WoW, Wahay. This is fun (allegedly 150MPH can come up very quickly indeed). I Got off the A1 and decided to ride through the lanes. This bike eats the twisty bits it's so damn stable and well balanced and that engine. As well as getting you into trouble can also get you out of it. The brakes are great and progressive but my boobs would hit the tank if I'm a little too aggressive.
Riding on the road is so different to riding on the track and the blade seemed a lot easier to ride than my Aprilia RS125, slow speed manoeuvring was unbelievable, I mean you could almost let a snail or scooter overtake you and still keep balance. The difficult bit about the bike is using restraint. Believe me it goes, I mean it really goes. You just dial in the speed you want on the throttle, give it a twist and you're there.
The only small complaint I have about the bike, (apart from my boobs that us is) it's a bit twitchy when cornering slowly, it seems to dive into a bend, probably due to that 16" wheel.
My grin got wider and I couldn't wait to get back on the blade at every opportunity. So a CBR900RR as a first big(ish) bike? You can't go wrong providing you use restraint. It's a sensible bike and pussycat most of the time but a Tiger when you need it to be.
"The Beast of the 60's is back but not so much of a attitude"
I actually remember the original Bonnie and also how much I was intimidated by it. After all this thing was a huge 100mph monster.
I arrived at my dealer to get my Thunderbird serviced and he said "fancy taking the Bonnie out as a courtesy bike"? I said OK. So I trundled outside with the keys in readiness for an experience.
The first impression was disappointment, I was not intimidated not even a little, the bike felt small and light, a bit like an ER500. It did look right though, with most of the correct bits in the proper place but with indicators. I was a tad worried by the signs of corrosion on the bolts and other fittings.
If the first impression was disappointment the second impression was frustration, when I started it up it didn't sound like a propabike like the old Bonnie, it was way too quiet, heck it didn't even vibrate or backfire. It definitely need the after-market cans
The seat was firm, correction, it was very hard the riding position seemed to be just right though for a period bike. The controls felt light and easy but perhaps a bit too light and easy but it all worked fine. The engine felt a little tame a bit too sanitised for my tastes but it did its job and with a little bit of practice I could probably get it to wheelie just fine. The brakes were OK but the best part was the handling, not in the sportsbike class but safe and secure, again sanitised. You could crank it over a bit but that's isn't the point on a bike like this is it?
The best way to describe the Bonnie is "a safe and pleasant bike", it's ideally suited to the born again market it's clearly aimed at. As far as I'm concerned it would take a lot more than misted up nostalgic glasses for me to buy one, I didn't get any "bad-arsed-rocker" thoughts as I was riding it, indeed my thoughts were "it would make an ideal training bike". For me Triumph missed a golden marketing opportunity but there again they may just have got it right.
A mini review: Aprilia RSV Mille R (June 2004)
This is one seriously tall bike with quite a wide seat so being just 5'3½" it was always going to be a tad difficult. But it was a lovely warm day and the roads were warm and dry, it looks like this could be fun
I arrived at my dealers and I must admit to being a little nervous, not because of riding the bike but actually paddling it around the forecourt. The salesman said "Hi Molly I'll get the bike out for you". As I was getting my helmet on he started the bike up. It sounded wonderful and I swear I could feel the pulsed vibrations as I walked up to it. A brief familiarisation of the controls then it was time to swing my leg over. I couldn't touch the ground whilst sitting on the seat, not even a tip toe. I had to swing my bum right over so my thigh was resting on the seat. Side stand up, select first gear and away we went. As I pulled away I opened the throttle, wow is that sensitive or what? The front came up and I pulled a wheelie as I passed the showroom.
The plan was to take things easy until I got used to the power deliver and the sheer bulk of the beast. So I headed out to my favourite country lanes. It took about a mile before I got intoxicated with the sound from those big twin exhausts and the rev limiter and I became well acquainted. A little red light comes on when you're about to hit the rev limiter. The power delivery is simply amazing, completely different to my Gixxer. Somehow it feels more brutal but that may be down to the symphony of the exhausts going on behind me. By now I was wheelying unintentionally off the throttle in first second and also third with the help of the little crests in the road. The power was just great and by now the bike had shrunk and felt like a small race bike. I was "maxing" the throttle in all gears changing up just for the hell of it. It was now time to explore the handling. The first roundabout approached and I thought I would just feel my way around it. I approached it fairly rapidly and just flicked it into the roundabout and before I knew I was scraping my knee along the tarmac. So much for my carefully laid plan and the salesman words of "behave yourself Molly". This bike flicks from side to side so easily I can see why its lap times in reviews are so good.
By now I was in the country lanes and started pushing the bike harder and harder, the power delivery is so good I was lifting the front out of the bends. It felt absolutely planted unlike my Gixxer which can feel a little flighty at times (perhaps it's time to change the steering damper). When exiting bends I got on the throttle and the front suspension was starting to lift while my knee was still on the deck. It was an absolutely awesome and addictive experience. I was really giving it some through the twisties. I know this particular road very well. It has a clear view for a few mile so you can use the width of the road just like a race track. It just flew.
When I got back to the dealers there were a group of blokes standing around their pristine ZX 6R's and R6's one came up to me and said "can you ride that" The silly arse I had just got off it. He then pointed to the rubber nodules on the tyres and said did you do that. His mate chirped up and said look at her kneesliders. Men eh? Would I buy one? Well actually I might. Is it better than my Gixxer, no, it's just different but fabulously different. I loved it but it's probably not practical for me. I'd love to own one though but I couldn't really justify it at the moment. Or could I.
"The handling is rather entertaining and the bike feels like it has shed about 50kgs."
When I collected my Gixer Thou after the service I thought they had removed the steering damper, it tipped into the first roundabout very, very quickly, in fact it almost "slammed" into the first roundabout and I had to slam it back over the other way to exit. Hmmmm, I thought, this is not good I'd better get them tyres *well and truly* scrubbed in.
I found a quiet car park and did a few enthusiastic figures of eight until the tyres were worn right to the edges and yet they were still slippery and I was sliding out of corners (without even trying).
This evening I decided to get the better of the tyres and selected a few *really* twisty lanes and canned the bastard mercilessly, after about 30 minutes the tyres were transformed from a slippery fish to a very sticky thing.
Initially I thought that I had made a big mistake , especially with the much increased speed of steering on a bike that already steers very quickly anyway. However, now they're scrubbed in they are brilliant. I took this one bend rather hastily and had to crank the bike over a lot and got my pegs down and I was *really* hanging off, I even had to lift my nearly worn out knee sliders off the tarmac. Do those tyres stick, they feel like slicks.
Road legal slicks.
Very, very quick steering.
They need a lot of scrubbing in.
The bike feels different
Cornering grip is fantastic.
The bike feels like it's shed about 50kgs.
What Metzeler say.
"These tyres are designed with Metzeler's patented 0 degree steel design. The susposed to give incredible grip wet or dry due to the enhanced use of silica. The steel belt should handle "shimmy" or "kickback" tendencies. In short they should provide stable cornering, easy handling and precise steering. "Race look tyres with street performance".
"A neat little tool that takes the guesswork out of checking your chain."
If you ride a bike with a chain it makes real good sense to keep a check on it and that's one reason why I haven't bought a snot-oiler.
I've heard horror stories about chains snapping and seizing with disastrous effect on the rider, sadly sometimes resulting in death and that's why I like to clean, lubricate and inspect my chain every week-end.
My riding style (lots of wheelies) places quite a lot of "strain and the chain" so it makes sense to keep in top condition. As well as checking for tight spots and any obvious damage the chain tension if vitally important, this normally requires the use of some card to mark off the top and bottom of the chain slack then measuring the distance.
In the M+P catalogue they advertised a "Chain-Checker" for 39ukp so I decided to give it a try.
It's very well made with good quality plastic moulding and an aluminium body. A clear L.C.D. window which displays the measurement in mm.
A joke written in very poor Engrish. They over-complicate the entire procedure. It's a waste of time reading it. For example, "Chain tension is checked on a stationary motorbike".
1) Set the Chain-Checker under the chain at the mid-point between the driven and driver sprockets.
2) Adjust the Chain-Checker until the lower point of the slack is reached; you have to put some tension on the chain.
3) Press the red button.
4) Twist the hand grip until the chain is place under tension at the top of its travel.
5) Read the measurement from the LCD window.
It's as simple as that. I've checked the measurement using the "old fashioned" method and it's very accurate.
Philips Blue Vision H7 .|
Light is light right? These new fangled Blue Vision supposed to:
"Stimulates driver concentration resulting in less fatigue for your safety and comfort."
Well if you believe that you believe anything.
Fitting was very straight forward, just make sure you don't hold the glass bit with your fingers.
With my newly fitted light bulbs I decided to test them by taking my GSX R1000 out for a ride. I was genuinely surprised that they actually made a difference, a much cleaner light that appeared to be brighter. They are excellent at picking out objects at the side of the road and generally producing much better contrast than the standard lights.
In general, well worth the effort and being blue they match the colour of the Gixxer. 8/10