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26 60 49 36 56

92 49 36 26

72

Essential contacts Want to get in touch with us? RiDE, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough PE2 6EA Tel: 01733 468 000 Fax: 01733 468 290 Email: ride@ride.co.uk Want to subscribe? Call 0845 601 2672 or go to www.greatmagazines.co.uk/ride Want to advertise? Call 01733 468892 Got an editorial enquiry? Call 01733 468081 Can’t find RiDE in the shops? Call 01733 555161 Need a back issue? Call 0845 601 1356 (UK) or 0044 1858 438828 (overseas)

In this issue

FEBRUARY 2012

NEWS & VIEWS

TOURING CANADA

What’s going on and why 4

Part 2: British Columbia 80

Q&A

NEW FIREBLADE

legal and technical solutions 22

We ride the new CBR1000RR 88

FLY-RIDE

100,000-MILE BMW

Our guide to escaping the winter 26

Original owner riders our bike 92

OUR REVIEW OF THE YEAR

NORMAN HYDE TRIUMPH

Our favourite bikes of 2011 32

Bolt-on maestro’s cruiser 102

23 BIKE BARGAINS

NEW KIT

The best value bikes out there now 36

Clothing and accessories on test 105

THE RiDE PRODUCT TEST

ESSENTIAL BIKES

Heated vests, jackets and grips 49

The best according to you 114

HOW TO BUY A HONDA HORNET

ESSENTIAL KIT

Detailed used buying guide 60

Test-winning gear round-up 119

HONDA NC700X

ESSENTIAL TOURING

Economical, practical and fun 72

Amazing routes for all budgets 124

S UBS CR IB E TO R ID E

GET YOUR MAG EARLY Claim your Keis heated grips worth more than £50, plus get RiDE delivered straight to your door every month for £46.99. Subscribe to RiDE. See page 24. FEBRUARY 2012

|3


Me and my uncle Vincent on his 250cc Sym Voyager scooter going out for a quick spin – Aidan Gorman

My wife Philly at Lac des Plagnes in France, on a sunny but chilly day during a tour on our trusty Divvy – Hugh Clarke

My stepdaughter on the 125cc Haotian Vixen she bought herself after passing her CBT at the third attempt – Roberta Our kid and me on our Suzuki GSX1400 at Laxey on the Isle of Man – John Hewitt Two men, two Honda Transalps, 32 days, 17 countries, 9000 miles around the Black Sea. This was shot in Russia – Paul Phillips

Sportsbikes, bit of dollar, one week off and Italian/French/Swiss passes. Bliss – Ryan Hyder

Geologist looks the wrong way – the Torridonian is behind you – Graham Rayner

We celebrated Adam’s 19th birthday by touring round Scotland. He was riding his 600 Bandit, while we were on our Honda Blackbird – Pamela Gardiner FEBRUARY 2012

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Wish

you were here? You could be. If the view from your window doesn’t make you want to ride the bike, it’s time to look out of a different window. RiDE investigates the fly-ride phenomenon Words Simon Weir Pictures Mark Manning


staggering panorama opens before me - grey-green hills dropping to a glistening blue lake, a serpentine ribbon of immaculate fresh tarmac snaking its way downwards invitingly. the road is so perfect in the way it loops and hairpins across the mountainside it's practically a cliché: you dream of roads like this, never expecting to actually find them. Barely 12 hours earlier this kind of road seemed like an impossible dream, as i shivered my way through a miserable november drizzle on a British motorway. Yet now here i am on one of the best roads i've ever ridden, bathed in warm spanish sunshine. i’m on a brilliant bike, drinking in staggering views, with two days on amazing, traffic-free roads in

A

front of me. riding a motorcycle simply doesn’t get any better than this… it's low-cost air travel that makes this experience practical. even the dreaded ryan air stansted to malaga flight (other airlines are available, remember) was fine: pack light, get on early, sit back. no frills, no fuss, no hanging about: take me to the sunshine, now. it’s not luxury travel but it’s all that’s needed to get a taste of summer riding even at the start of winter. in the past, i was always put off fly-ride trips as the hire options seem to be Harleys (not ideal for the kind of quick, cornerheavy riding i like) or silly little bikes i wouldn't want to ride. things have changed in recent years, with more diverse bikes available in many places –the most common alternative to Harleys seems to be

SPAIN

ANdAlucíA TEBA RONDA SAN PEDRO

MALAGA MARBELLA


HOW TO BUY A...

1998-2011 Honda Hornet 600 Plenty of buzz, and no nasty sting in the tail – Honda’s perennial budget middleweight is fun and functional Words Kev Raymond

3 REASONS YOU WANT ONE

This is a bike that’s just as at home on B-roads as it is in congested city centres

Lightweight, easy handling - equally appealing to beginners and experts Easy to work on, excellent parts availability, low running costs Based on reliable CBR600 engine

HOW OWNERS RATE THE

hORNET 600 Scores (out of five) Brakes

3.81

Build quality

4.42

Controls

3.82

Dealer

3.84

Engine performance

4.18

Gearbox

3.72

Handling/suspension

3.74

Headlights

3.45

Maintenance

3.88

Mirrors

2.96

Passenger comfort

3.05

Reliability

4.64

Rider comfort

3.80

Running costs

3.97

2.34 OveRall SCORe 76.98%

Wind

Note: the data above refers to the 2007-on Hornet. earlier model scores are slightly lower overall (76.37%), with better marks for wind protection and mirrors but slightly worse on headlight, handling and dealer support. 60 |

FEBRUARY 2012

ake one obsolete sportsbike motor, give it a new set of clothes and some budget suspension and brakes, and you’ve got a potential success on your hands. It had worked for suzuki with 1995’s bandit 600, and for 1998 it was Honda’s turn. the engine came from the original jellymould CbR600, and offered a genuine 80bhp with a smooth spread of power. the tyre sizes came from the early Fireblade, with a 16in front wheel and a fat rear. and the fresh looks and steel spine chassis came from the Japan-only Hornet 250. the result was light, sweet-handling and beautifully balanced, and with minor revisions (a 17in front wheel in late 1999, a slightly larger fuel tank in 2003, upside down forks and new clocks in 2005) it was recognisably the same bike all the way through to the end of 2006. From 2000 to 2003 a half faired version - the Cb600Fs - was available, but it was never as popular as the naked bike and it was quietly phased out during 2003 to be replaced in the line-up by the softer, more sedate half-faired CbF600. For 2007 an all-new Hornet hit the

T

showrooms. based on the fuel injected CbR600RR motor, it offered an extra 10bhp (a claimed 101bhp equated to a real 90-odd at the rear wheel), without losing the old engine’s smooth delivery. Upside down forks, an aluminium version of the familar spine frame, better brakes and a restyle all moved things on while keeping the Hornet’s intrinsic balance and ease of use, although the slabby underslung exhaust attracted a fair bit of criticism. the new model was available with abs and Honda’s linked brakes as an option. as usual, road testers disliked the linked brakes but owners loved them. everyone could agree that the abs system was excellent though – unobtrusive in normal use, but there to bail you out when needed. a slight update came in 2009 with (finally) adjustable suspension and new instruments, and this kept the Hornet at the top of the middleweight naked pile, followed by another subtle tweak to the styling in 2011. We also saw a new fully faired version called the CbR600F, but that’s another story.


Download the Digimarc Discover app for your iPhone or Android smartphone and scan the main photo to see a the 2012 Fireblade in action. No smartphone? Watch the video online at www.youtube.com/RiDEMagazine

FIRST RIDE

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade Honda’s flagship shuns electronic wizardry in favour of new suspension and some subtle improvements Words Matt Hull

Nothing gives you as much confidence mid-corner as the Blade

Showa rear shock offers loads of feedback


www.facebook.com/RiDEMagazine

H

onda have sold 445,000 Fireblades since it was first introduced to an unsuspecting public 20 years ago, and in that time it’s developed through a process of evolution, not revolution, with each new model building on the strengths of the former. and for 2012 it’s very much a case of more of the same. What this means is that instead of being loaded with the latest electronic aids, the new Blade makes do with a new nose, new suspension and new wheels. But are these tweaks enough to keep it touch with its rivals? The new fairing is in answer to those who didn’t fall for the snub-nosed look of the outgoing bike. The lights are sleeker, the nose is more aggressive and the rear has been given a very subtle makeover, though you’d have to park it next to an older bike to notice the difference. The big change is the totally new suspension. showa 43mm Big Piston Forks, first seen on Kawasaki’s 2008 ZX6-R, now grace the front end. These give better damping qualities on the initial part of the stroke, a smoother transition from unloaded to loaded and from compression to rebound, all of which helps give better feedback and more control when braking. at the rear there’s showa’s new Balance Free Rear Cushion shock, a twin-tube shock similar to the Öhlins TTX36 unit so favoured by racers. The showa unit gives the same benfits as the BPF forks with the addition of better traction by keeping the rear tyre more evenly loaded under acceleration.

As you tip in, you’re overloaded with signals from the bike other changes include a revised electronic steering damper, which now boasts better low-speed characteristics, and new 12-spoke wheels, which are more rigid than the old ones and hold Bridgestone’s new sports tyre, the s20. The C-aBs braking system is the same as the previous model’s, but with a new operating program. honda’s engineers have obviously taken on board feedback from racers as using the rear brake now brings the front brakes on less, which really helps if you’re using the rear brake to steady or slow the bike in a corner. although the engine itself is unchanged, the fuel mapping has been given a tweak. The power curve in the lower rev range has been smoothed out, giving you more accessible grunt for everyday riding. The new instrument panel features a gear indicator, lap timer and shift lights, which can be programmed to all come on from 4000 to 13,000rpm, or one at a time in 200rpm increments. If you want to you can also change the rev counter to one of four different styles. The riding position is classic Fireblade – sporty but not extreme – and you instantly feel at home. honda decided to launch the bike at the complex circuit of Portimao, with its blind corners, elevation changes and slightly slippy

surface at this time of year. It’s a techincal track and speaks volumes about their confidence. Braking into the first turn is done at the end of the start-finish straight at around 170mph, just before the track drops away in front and descends 15 metres to reveal the third gear right-hander. It takes time to build up to where you can leave your braking, as the hill is covered in ripples from the sportscars that race here. The Fireblade helps to find your braking marker quickly by being totally predictable. Yes, the aBs helps confidence and the slipper clutch helps control as you drop from sixth gear to third, but it’s the whole package – from brake pressure feedback to a riding position that seems to welcome all shapes and sizes – that does it. The fact this bike has aBs is totally unnoticeable. as you exit turn one there’s a dip where the tunnel that goes under the track is collapsing. It’s not massive, just enough to upset the front end and, if you’re hard on the throttle, upset the rear end. The new suspension lets you know the dip is there, the bike squirrels slightly, but you’re on your way without any drama. and it goes on. adverse-camber corners give the road-based tyres any excuse to spin up and possibly highside. But all the Fireblade’s components work together like a commune, each part complementing the other and giving just enough feedback about what’s going on. The last corner is a third-gear entry, blind and downhill before it leads on to the start-finish straight. It’s important to get a good exit. as you tip in, your hands, feet and bum are overloaded with signals from the bike as to what exactly is going on underneath: tyres transmitting to suspension, feeding through the chassis to the ergonomically perfect riding position, to you, the rider. I’ve been lucky enough to ride Portimao on a ducati 1198 and BMW’s s1000RR and neither gave me the self-confidence the honda does. With the opposition dripping in electronic controls and masses of outright horsepower, the improvements to the new honda could look like too little, too late. But hirofumi Fukunaga, the Fireblade project leader, says:“We are not of the opinion that we would never need a traction control system; we are studying and researching this. But the Fireblade makes the rider the hero. When the rider has everything under their control then their sense of achievement is that much greater.” The Fireblade has evolved into one of the most balanced, easy-to-ride superbikes ever. It may have just had a nip here and a tuck there but after 20 years it’s still an astonishing motorcycle.

S PECIF ICATIO N Price £11,300 OTR, £12000 OTR with ABS Engine 99.8cc 16v dohc inline four, l/c Power 175bhp @ 12,000rpm Torque 82.6lb.ft @ 11,000rpm Transmission 6spd, chain drive Seat height 820mm Kerb weight 200kg Fuel capacity 17.7 litres

IN SId E STO ry

Hirofumi Fukunaga CBR1000RR project leader Fukunaga San has been involved with the Fireblade for all but two of its 20-year history. Are the improvements for road riders or race teams? This bike is mainly for road riders and the improvements are to give them more enjoyment from the bike. This is why we have improved fuelling low down instead of outright power. Were the ABS system improvements helped by the Honda TT Legends race team? When Honda Japan found out about Honda Europe’s idea of the TT Legends team they thought it would be a useful testbed for the combined ABS system. They used ABS on their bikes at the races in Le Mans and Qatar with the same hardware as the road bike but with revised software. The competition have gone for outright power and traction control to harness it. Why have Honda opted against it? We are not of the opinion that we would never need traction control, we recognise the necessity and are studying and researching. However, with the new suspension system we are giving the rider far more control. Did you want to do more with the new bike? On occasions I thought it would be nice to give it more of a radical change to mark its 20th anniversary. But we also have to keep in mind the customer and the depth of their pockets. We don’t want to make it out of range for most people. Do you think there will be a completely new model soon? I think so yes. At the moment though it is in here (points to his head).

FEBRUARY 2012

| 89


Kev points out his botched attempt at fitting a voltage monitor light to original owner Clive Fletcher

n the first of May 1997, Clive fletcher walked into his local BMW dealers and rode away happy on a brand spanking new r1100rs. now, 100,000 miles and nearly 15 years later, it’s déja vu all over again. But does his old bike still make him happy? it was a bit of a long shot, trying to track down the rs’s first owner, but in the end it was as easy as phoning long-established dealers roy Pidcock BMW at Long eaton, and asking if by chance they had a record of who had bought it from them back in 1997. naturally they weren’t prepared to hand out customers’ phone numbers but the ever-helpful Pat Pidcock agreed to have a look through the files – if they had an address, she would forward a letter asking

O

15 YEARS IN THE MAKING

chilly, drizzly november day but that couldn’t dampen Clive’s enthusiasm. “Bloody hell!” he said as we grabbed a coffee and walked out to the bike park. “it really is my old bike! it shouldn’t come as a surprise, i know, but somehow it does – i’ve never seen one of my old bikes again once i’ve sold it. the daft thing is, i’ve seen it in riDe and didn’t recognise it.” he spends a few minutes looking round: “she looks well, doesn’t she? You’d never know just by looking that it’s done all those miles. it’s coming back to me – i remember fitting the long front mudguard, and the carbon yoke and fuel cap covers. What’s happened here though?” Ah, he’s noticed the aftermath of my ‘measure once, cut three times’ policy

him to contact me if he fancied a ride on his old bike. i didn’t hold out much hope, but what i didn’t realise was that Pat knew before she’d put the phone down exactly who i was trying to contact, and she also knew she didn’t need to dig out his address – he’d be popping into the showroom the following day. so having settled down for a long wait, i was amazed to get an email from Clive a couple of days later. One phone call later we’d agreed to meet back at Pidcock’s as soon as possible. that turned out to be immediately after the rs came back from its stripdown. in fact, i picked it up from Vines on a saturday morning and was in Long eaton a couple of hours later. it was a

BMW R1100RS SE rolls off the production line in Spandau, Germany. Options include ABS, full fairing with fork protectors, panniers, top box and fittings, metallic paint. But no heated grips...

Uncrated for PDI check, then onto the showroom floor.

07 Feb 1997

23 Apr 1997

12 Mar 1997

Arrives at Roy Pidcock BMW, Long Eaton.

First service at 658 miles.

01 May 1997

17 May 1997

Sold! Clive Fletcher signs on the line and rides away on P599 GVO.

Up to 5322 miles and first major service.

06 Nov 1997

May 1998

Warranty claim at 2724 miles – fuel sender problem.

Jul 1999

12,420 miles, main service. Clive trades it in against a new R1100S. Unfortunately we don’t know who subsequently bought it.

FEBRUARY 2012

| 93


SPOTLIGHT ON

Lourdes, France Home of miracles, perhaps, but it’s the amazing mountain roads that would tempt us to make the pilgrimage to the French Pyrenees Where is it? The famous pilgrimage town of Lourdes FrAnCE in nestled in the foothills Lourdes of the Pyrenees, shaded by The pyrenees the Aneto, Montaigu and Vignemale mountains. It’s BarCeLona SPAIn the mountains that are the big draw for bikers, especially the famous Cols that feature in the Tour de France: Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aubisque and Col du Soulor. Great for motorcyclists… as long as you don’t try to get on them when the Tour is there… Bordeaux

Best way there: The obvious route is overland – try a St Malo crossing then take quiet roads down the west coast of France, avoiding autoroutes… but that takes two days. Alternatively, take a 48-hour ferry to Bilbao and nip over the mountains from Spain. Or get radical: ride to Paris and put yourself and the bike on an overnight Motorail train to Biarritz. Where to stay: With so many tourists coming to the Catholic pilgrimage sites, Lourdes has hotels for every budget. We’d stay in the affordable, bike-friendly Lourdes Hotel du Centre, bang in the middle of town. See www.hotelducentre-lourdes.com for details. The site’s in English, which is spoken in the hotel.

It’s the mountains that are the big draw, with the famous cols of the Tour de France

Col du Tourmalet: it’d be wasted on pushbikes, surely

128 |

february 2012


route one: The Tour de France climbs

route tWo: Both sides of the mountains

Total distance: 149 miles Allow: 4-5 hours

Total distance: 233 miles Allow: 6-6.5 hours

From

On

Towards

Miles Total

From

On

Towards

Miles Total

Elf, Rue de

D914

Lourdes centre

-

-

Elf, Rue de

D914

Lourdes centre

-

-

Railway bridge

D914

Pau / A64

1

1

Railway bridge

D914

Pau/A64

1

1

Lourdes

D937

Peyrouse

11

12

Lourdes

D937

Peyrouse

11

12

Montaut

D54

Asson

13

25

Montaut

D54

Asson

13

25

Louvie-Juzon

D240

Castet

9

34

Louvie-Juzon

D934

Oloron

-

25

T-junction

D918

Eaux Bonnes

25

59

After bridge

D920

Iseste

0.5

26

Louvie-Juzon

D920

Oloron

-

26

Arudy

D918

St Christau

12

38

Asasp-Arros

N134

Saragose

1

39

Asasp-Arros

D918

Issor

6

45

Arette

D918

Vic de Baight

2

47

T-junction

D918

Lanne

6

53

Funerarium

D726

Restoue

1

54

T-junction

D26

Laguinge

3

57

Roundabout

D26

Larrau

20

77

T-juntion

NA140

Oztarroz

9

86

Isaba

NA137

Roncal

21

107

T-junction

N240

Huesca

15

122

Argeles-Gazost

Rue St Orens

Cauterets

0.5

60

Argeles-Gazost

D921

Lau Balagnas

11

71

Stop at the garage on the road into Luz St Sauveur, fill up and zero the trip Luz fuel

D921

Supermarket

-

-

Luz St Sauveur

D918

Esterre

22

22

St Marie de Campan

D918

La Seoube

15

37

Areau

D929

Sarrancolin / A64

9

46

Heches

D26

Labastide

19

65

Haut de la Cote

D938

Bagneres de Bigorre

-

65

Haut de la Cote

D26

Golf de la Bigorre

2

76

Pouzac

D8

Tarbes

-

76

Pouzac

D26

Pouzac

-

76

Pouzac

D935

Trebon

3

79

Montgailard

D937

Loucrup

8

87

Roundabout

D937

Centre Ville

-

87

Roundabout

Av Victor Hugo

Centre Ville

0.5

88

The route finishes in central Lourdes

A fabulous day’s ride, taking in the famous Cols of the Tour de France: Tourmalet, Aspin, Soular, Aubisque. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to lunch and coffee stops, as most of the passes have cafes on them. Where you break the ride depends on what pace you’re carrying. We’d be inclined to have an early coffee on the Col d’Aubisque, then have lunch in La Mongie, the ski resort on the eastern side of the Col du Tourmalet. The final leg on the D26 and D937 are tight rural roads: if you’re tired after riding all the Cols and don’t fancy more twisty roads, carrying on along the D929 and joining the A64 to Tarbes and the N21 back to Lourdes will get you to the hotel faster. Empty hairpins, fresh tarmac…

Dir

Stop at the petrol station in Puenta la Reina de Jaca, fill up and zero the trip La Reina petrol

N240

Jaca

0.5

0.5

After bridge

N250

Jaca

12

13

Jaca

N330

Huesca

1

14

Jaca

E1

Huesca

9

23

Sabinanigo

N260

Biescas

8

31

Biesecas

A136

Sallent

34

65

Laruns

D918

Eaux Bonnes

16

81

Restaraunts

D126

Arbeost

17

98

Prat

D226

Lestelle Betharram

2

101

Lestelle

D937

Lourdes

10

111

Route finishes in central Lourdes. Turn left before the railway crossing to return to the petrol station where the day’s ride started

This is a full day’s ride, crossing from France into Spain and back again. We haven’t programmed in a specific lunch stop, though there are plenty of cafes along the way. However, taking plenty of water and sandwiches for a quick, impromptu picnic in a scenic layby might be better – leisurely restaurant service might slow you up too much and you’ll enjoy the challenging final leg more if you’re not rushing it to get back to base before dark.

february 2012

| 129

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