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Great build quality, outstanding handling and sparkling performance make for a hedonist’s dream bike Words Kev Raymond


Because one wheel is enough Track-sharp but still practical Thumping power delivery

hoW oWnERS RAtE thE


Scores (out of five) Brakes


Build quality






Engine performance












Passenger comfort




Rider comfort


Running costs


2.45 OveRall SCORe 79.75%

Wind protection


Month 2011




Has the K1600 made the Goldwing redundant? Or are these two six-cylinder touring bikes playing slightly different games? Words Stuart Barker Pictures Mark Manning


n anyone’s book £17,000 is a lot of money to pay for a motorcycle but compared to the £24,000 asking price for a 2012 Goldwing, bMW’s k1600GTL seems like a bit of a bargain. Despite the German firm claiming their inline six-cylinder tourer isn’t really a rival to the Wing, the two machines do have a lot in common. From built-in satellite navigation systems to cruise control functions, they’re packed with gadgets. They both munch up serious miles in the greatest comfort you could possibly have on a motorcycle. so what really sets them apart? and is it really worth paying an extra £7000 for the ultimate tourer, or would you manage just as well – and arguably have more fun – on a k1600?

Both the Goldwing and the K1600GTL excel at covering big miles in total comfort |

MONTH 2012

There’s no doubting that Honda’s Goldwing is an extraordinary beast. Just casting an eye down the spec sheet is an adventure in itself: airbag, sat nav system, radio, heated seats, heated grips, intercom capabilities, cruise control, reverse gear, adjustable windshield, integrated iPod doc (new for 2012) and enough luggage space to shame some small cars. you could argue that some of those things have no business being on a motorcycle but they sure are fun to play with. I still can’t quite get my head around being able to listen to Radio 2 while I’m actually riding a bike, and following sat nav instructions is even more bizarre (the audio and sat nav systems have been upgraded on the 2012 Goldwing).

sitting behind a police car on a dual carriageway, I discover an excellent use for the cruise control function: set it at the same speed as the cops and sit back and wait for them to branch off – no regulation of the throttle required to make sure you stay at legal speeds. The heated seats come in handy too when I stop for lunch and come out to find there’s been a massive downpour and the bike is soaked. no problem. switch the heated seats to ‘on’ and simply wait for them to dry. but all that gadgetry can be a distraction too. sure, you’re supposed to pull over to adjust anything, but the temptation to



. K C I L C


our tart. Is y h s ’t n o ur bike w it is dead, whic o y d n a orning it be saved? If m do you y w a o d h n n o d a n M c a dead or place it, battery u choose to re en again? o p should y e it doesn’t haarkpManning r res M nd Pictu make su o

ev Raym Words K


MONTH 2012


obody knows more about batteries and charging than the people at Tecmate, which makes the legendary optimate chargers, so we asked general manager emmanuel donati and technical expert robert demonty to spill the beans.

TYPES OF BATTERY no matter how new and technologically advanced it is, your bike probably relies on a bit of Victorian technology to churn it into life. Lead/acid batteries are heavy, potentially explosive and not terribly efficient, but they are relatively cheap and easy to make, so they’re going to be around for a while yet. Here are the main types.

RiDE First up, what’s gone wrong with the old battery? Emmanuel Donati “batteries have a hard life – heat, vibration, neglect, old age - but by far the most common killer is sulphation. your battery is made from lead plates suspended in a mix of StanDaRD (aka FillER Cap, oR WEt CEll) sulphuric acid and water. As the battery discharges, ions from the This is the old-fashioned battery we know and love. delivered dry acid fix to the plates, forming molecules of lead sulphate. This and then filled with sulphuric acid and water at a ratio of 1:4 (25% reduces the effective surface of the plate – and also reduces the acid) or thereabouts before refitting the filler caps. The advantage is strength of the acid – so it reduces the battery’s power and life. In you can top up the electrolyte as required; the disadvantage is it extremes, it can build up and cause a short circuit between plates, needs more topping up anyway due to evaporation. at which point you have a dead cell and your battery’s scrap.” RiDE How do you avoid sulphation? VRla (aka MaintEnanCE-FREE) ED “you don’t. you can’t - it’s an integral byproduct of the way the This is the most common type found on bikes. VrLA stands for battery works. but what you can do is manage it. Just recharging Valve regulated Lead Acid. Internally the same as a standard starts to reverse the process, as the molecules battery, but almost all the evaporated break down and recombine into their original electrolyte is recirculated within the battery, forms. but it’s an incomplete process: you can with only a small amount vented to the never get rid of all the sulphation in one outside in extreme conditions. That means charge, so there’s still a build-up over time. you lose less electrolyte to evaporation but if what you need to do is break the chemical it does boil away, there’s no way to replace it. bond that holds the lead sulphate to the plates, and you can do this by delivering GEl pulses of high voltage, but at a very low Like an mF battery but the acid is combined current. If you do it right, then you can with a gel rather than water. That makes it a EMManuEl Donati, recover even batteries that will hardly hold a bit more flexible in terms of positioning and tECMatE charge at all – the original optimate could reduces sulphation, but it’s not as good at rescue batteries that had dropped to 2 Volts, resisting dead shorts as an AGm battery. but the latest ones work from 0.5 Volts. so long as the problem is sulphation, it can be reversed. but that doesn’t mean you can aGM rescue any battery. If there’s physical damage such as warped AGm stands for Absorbed Glass mat - the acid is held in a glassplates or a dead short, there’s nothing you can do.” fibre layer that stops it slopping about and reduces the chance of a RiDE If my bike’s current battery is genuinely dead, what’s the dead short between the plates. It can still happen though. The best type of battery to replace it with? advantage is you can have the plates closer together so you can ED “For most bike use, an Absorbed Glass mat (AGm) battery is the have higher power for a given size, but needs careful maintenance. best solution, offering better power output for a given size than traditional filler cap batteries and normal maintenance-Free types. SpiRal CEllS but even a basic battery will give good service if looked after.” A different way of making a cell, used on some odyssey batteries RiDE “How do I make sure my new battery lasts forever? for example. The very first lead/acid batteries had spiral cells. ED “no matter how well you look after it, no battery lasts forever, but it’s easy to double or treble its ‘normal’ life. Avoid flattening it li-ion too much, definitely avoid leaving it in a discharged state, avoid Actually Li-Ion is a generic term for Lithium-based batteries - the over-charging, and make sure you desulphate it regularly.” cells used for bike batteries are based on LiFe-Po4, standing for

No matter how well you look after it, no battery lasts forever, but it’s easy to double its ‘normal’ life

battERiES: youR quEStionS anSWERED by thE MEn Who knoW

Who aRE tECMatE?

plates, the upper parts are still providing voltage, but over a vastly reduced area, so only a fraction of the original cranking power is produced. The only way to test for this is a proper load test.” RD

In the 1980s, Honda Europe had huge warranty problems with the first Maintenance-Free sealed batteries and needed a workshop tool to make sure the initial charge was done properly. Tim Wisdom and Martin Human, from a company just down the road from Honda’s Belgium headquarters, came up with the BatteryMate. It was such a success it grew into a business of its own, called TecMate. In the 1990s they launched OptiMate – the first desulphating charger available to the public. These days TecMate sell over 200,000 chargers a year.

TecMate technical expert Robert Demonty and general manager Emmanuel Donati answer some frequently asked questions. My charger says the battery’s charged, but it still won’t turn the bike over. Why? “An OptiMate or any other A home charger can only measure the battery voltage and resistance and base its program on that. Usually that’s fine, but in the case of irreparable sulphation on the lower part of the


Should I remove the battery from the bike for desulphating? “Ideally yes, or at least A disconnect it, because there may be a problem with the bike’s electrical system – a dead short maybe – and it’s best to be sure there’s no draw on the battery.


If the ignition is on, an OptiMate will sense that and go into maintenance mode rather than delivering the high voltage pulses for desulphation.” RD How long does the desulphation process take to complete? “It depends on the size of the A battery and how bad it is. A big car or truck battery can take days or even weeks, but a motorcycle battery should desulphate in a couple of days. If it doesn’t show a green light in that time, disconnect it and start the


NOveMber MONTH 2012


ON THE ROAD: yOuR TRips, OuR TRips, big EvENTs, cHARiTy cORNER…

Great north run

When you’re riding a KTM 990 Adventure through the Baltic you don’t need to chase the sun to get a warm glow Name: Mark Hill The bike: KTM 990 Adventure The route: 8500 miles through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway to Nordkapp. Then down through Finland, Sweden, Finland (again), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and France I set off early on my trip to Nordkapp, the most northern point you can access by bike on this continent, heading for the Channel tunnel. I made my way across France and Belgium, into Holland, then rode Above Admiring through northern the view on Germany and Denmark Nordkapp to Fredrikshaven, where Right Nordkapp’s tunnel is 6870m I caught the ferry across long and reaches to Oslo. From there I a depth of 212m below sea level headed west towards Stavanger as I wanted to climb Preikestollen, which is a rock plateau with a 604m sheer drop to the fjord below. It was magical. To head up the western Norwegian coast you have two choices: you either take the main E6 or you can take the more westerly route which means you have to take ferries across the fjords. These cost about £5 a time and keep you on a route where the roads and scenery are fantastic. So, on good days I took the scenic route; on rainy days, I stuck mostly to the E6. My next destination was the Lofoten islands, so I headed to Bodo to get the four-and-a-half hour ferry across to A (pronounced oar). The Lofotens take 108 |


The dirt tracks linking the villages with the main roads were a lot of fun scenery to the next level. Again, my advice is simply: just go. The next point to head for was Nordkapp itself. I reached the tunnel across to the island in good weather, but as I approached the cloud came in and that was the end of me seeing the midnight sun. The forecast was really bad so I started my journey south and headed for Finland. Finland, especially Finnish Lapland, has very straight roads for hundreds of miles, lined with pine trees that get taller as you head further south, which is not good for scenic travel. On the other hand, there are dirt tracks that link the villages with the main roads and they were a lot fun on the KTM as it was made for this terrain. By this time my back tyre was probably not legal but a bike shop in Vilnius put me in touch with KTM Rally in Warsaw where I

Above You can go days without seeing another vehicle on the road Left Stood next to the Globe artic circle monument

booked a new tyre and a service. So two days later I arrived in Warsaw, was really well treated by total professionals, then set off to get to Krakow for the evening. I stayed in Krakow for four days as there is so much to see and do. My next stop was in eastern Slovakia at the Valley of Death, the location of a big tank battle at the end of the Second World War. There are tanks everywhere left as monuments to the fallen soldiers. From the village of Kurimka, it took me two days to ride across Slovakia and the Czech Republic to a friend’s house in Roth, an hour south of Nuremberg. I stayed with him for a few days before the long ride home, 560 miles to Calais, then the tunnel and another three hours to home. My kit is all Hein Gericke Gore-Tex stuff, but a few years old now. It was superb and never leaked even in torrential rain. I have an Arai Tour-X lid. I wouldn’t have changed any of my kit but I wish I had taken my one-piece rain suit for the extra warmth.

One of the many memorials in the Dukla Pass

Tell us about your trips Dicky and Jon soak up some rays in the desert

Swapping the Street triple for a local ride

‘‘We had the most amazing time and didn’t meet a bad person’’ Reader Dicky Magrin’s memorable trip to the Middle East on naked bikes I wanted to send you a few pics of a trip my best mate Jon Moxey and I did. We started off in London and ended up in Syria. We took four months and covered most countries in Europe and a huge chunk of the Middle East. Everybody told us that a Triumph Street Triple and a Moto Guzzi Griso were not the most practical of bikes, but we proved them all wrong. It was brilliant – we had the most amazing time and didn’t meet a bad person. It was an awesome trip: two completely

impractical bikes covering 24 countries in four months with one tent and a basic map. We’d previously done a two-week trip to Croatia and had so much fun we quit our jobs the next summer and set off for Israel. We got the ferry to Santander and then zigzagged right across Europe, south to Italy, north to the Czech Republic, across to the black sea and down to Istanbul. We crossed into Turkey (on the first day of Ramadan, making it hard to find food and water), and then into Syria, Lebanon and down to the Israeli border – where we got

Far left Keith’s Triumph Tiger 800 flies through the Highlands Left Taking a well earned breather on the banks of Loch Lomond

HigHlAND fliNg The rider: Keith Barker The bike: 2012 Triumph Tiger 800 The luggage: Givi 46-litre top box, expandable magnetic 25-litre tankbag, 30-litre roll-top bag The trip: 560-mile loop from Kendal, Cumbria and through Scotland I set off up the M6 on a showery Sunday morning and, unusually, the further north I travelled the better the weather became. Sunny and 190C all along the banks of Loch Lomond was a revelation. After a stop at Luss for food and a leg stretch I was soon off up the Rest and be Thankful Pass on the A83. With only 800 miles on the Tiger from new, I thought it

turned away because there had been a drive-by shooting from a motorbike the day before). We stayed with homeless people in a derelict castle in Slovakia, with Bedouins in in Syria and on a rooftop in Beirut watching the Israeli air force performing flybys. The only mechanical issues were a dead battery on my bike and a few flying bits of hardware coming off the Griso. So, in short: A) We had so much fun we are going to do Vietnam next B) 99.9% of the people in the world are ace and friendly C) Annoyingly everybody loves the Griso D) There is no toilet paper anywhere in the Middle East E) Ewan and Charley cheated

wise to take it easy up the pass. But with a tail wind helping me along, I was soon at Inverary. I parked at the very impressive Solway House B&B and was soon strolling to the George Hotel, the only pub in town – what a perfect finish to a day. The next day dawned with bright sunshine, so after a full Scottish breakfast I was off on the planned 100-mile circuit of

Argyll’s Secret Coast. The roads ranged from billiard smooth tarmac alongside Loch Eck to the gravel-strewn single track from Tighnabruaich. The versatile Tiger could have been made for this trip. All too soon the four-day break was over and I was back home. But I was soon prepping the bike and planning another visit to the Highlands and Islands. DECEMBER 2012

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