Just back from HUBB UK (read feedback here) and having just returned from the Overland Expo in Arizona – also pitched at all wheeled overlanders, not just motos – it was interesting to note the differences in the bikes in attendance.
In the US the range of bikes seemed more narrowly focussed towards big BMWs (left), including GS12s of course, as well as F800s such as the fully laden example on the right. Meanwhile at HUBB UK the bikes were about as diverse as you could imagine considering the similar theme; everything from C90s up to the 1200s and beyond.
Some might scoff at the Americans and their XXXL tastes, at least when judged by European standards, but it is a big country and unless you live in an area like the West where domestic ‘adventure motorcycling’ (aka: off-highway touring) offers near-infinite possibilities, getting to the good spots in a short amount of time is better done on a big, comfy machine, and one that might have some off-roading pretentions once you get to the sharp end. Even then, you hear of people on the other side of the country getting their big GSs trailered over to Utah by the poor sod who drew the short straw, while the rest fly in after them for just a few days. So perhaps they do really have a thing for big machines to go with big everything else. Anything else might be classified as regular ‘dirt biking’.
Brits might be classified as more experimental and eccentric. The picture on the left in the camping area shows a Tenere 660, a Guzzi Griso (a great looking machine!) and the venerable Africa Twin. Just out of shot is a Varadero (‘XXL Africa Twin’) and lined up at the back is a GS12, possibly a Suzuki DR-Z, maybe a Katana, a Serow-like small trail bike and a BMW F800GS. We have to remember of course that many of the bikes just mentioned are not even sold in the US, and many of these are not necessarily travel bikes. Elsewhere at HU I saw Huskys, twin-lamp Teneres, X-Countrys, Bonnies, but definitely a dearth of the big bikes that we are told define adventure bikes (I didn’t see one NC700X or Crosstourer *but perhaps I should have gone to SpecSavers). There was even an old airhead BM (right) done up like my old late-70s black and gold 900SS, right down to the full clip-on and rear-sets treatment. Can’t be many of those to the pound.
Other bikes that caught my eye at the show were several KTM690s. I wonder if I missed a trick not listing the 690 more prominently in the book among the ‘Ten Overlanders’ from p44 (not the 10 best overlanders). I still think people are buying them not because they’re a super duper Tenere, ideally suited to overlanding, but because they fill the gap left by the 640 Adventure, while the current 660 Tenere is too heavy. With cars I’d compare the gap between your average Land Rover/Land Cruiser and Unimog type vehicles – there is precious little in between. Out of the crate a 690 is indubitably a well-built machine that’s brilliant in the dirt, but requires a fair expenditure to set up like a 640 or an XTZ (as the Rally Raid stand at HU showed). I’ve never ridden one but I view the 690 as a rather highly strung machine that like many KTMs is too good to waste on long-range travel.
The 690 is of course light and that’s the direction you’d hope travel bikes are taking, now that power and economy are well covered. So not surprisingly there was a lot of interest in the imminent CCM GP450 previously mentioned here.
I must say in the flesh just as in the promo pics it looks more of a KTMish rally racer than a travel bike to me, though as a flashier rally bike will probably attract more attention and presumably greater sales. It’s said that Rally Raid (also at the show) had a hand in designing the bike and there’s even talk of Dakar entries in a year or two. Many commented on the fuel filler (17-litre tank) beyond the back of the seat which would get obscured by luggage. That, along with the £8k asking price and the one-litre engine oil capacity were what other onlookers questioned from an overlanding PoV, though I believe fully synthetic oil would last the recommended 5000-mile oil changes and if you can’t do that then change sooner. Plus, as someone observed, one litre of good oil is not so much to carry. If that’s the worst criticisms garnered from looking at the GP450 then it’s a pretty short list. The CCM guy told me the gearing had three close and low ratios, with 4th and 5th more stretched out. Seems like agood plan on paper as once you’re in 4th or more you’re rolling along.
The square beam alloy rear subframe (above right) certainly looks more substantial than my last bike and the frame itself uses literally ‘cutting edge’ technology for a production machine as demonstrated on this video. Short sections with complex joints are finely cut from billet and are then bonded and bolted together (left). No welding required. I noted the other day some Jap frame used a similar arrangement.
In fact the overall build quality and attention to detail appears far better than your average Jap bike. All that remains is to find out how the GP450 performs and more significantly, what it is like to actually live with.
There was another CCM at the show, the SR40 which I admit slipped under my adv radar. Apparently CCM only built some 80 of these twin-shocked DRZ-engined ‘street scramblers’ a few years ago and Zen Overland had a couple prepared for an imminent big trip (left). Don’t quite know what they have been doing in the meantime but for CCM the jump from an SR40 to the snazzy GP450 in just a few years is nothing short of a Neolithic Revolution out of the Stone Age. Has some secretive but patriotic oligarch invested in the Bolton-based company?
The SR40 was nice and low but looked a bit short for me and had a few design compromises for overlanding – all easily got around as far as I could see. Nevertheless I suggested to the bloke on the CCM 450 stand that a bike like this was more of a real world adventure bike than the flashy 450 and it would be great to see something like this again – a simple, low-saddled overlander harking back to the XT500 era, but with a modern efi engine and all the rest. Have to say I’m not convinced CCM get ‘adventure overlanding’ as I understand and define it, but then neither do most other manufacturers. Quite rightly they all have their eyes and aspirations on what might actually sell to the majority of bikers who have no intention of crossing a continent, but like biking and ‘the adv look’ all the same.
All that remains is to say thanks to Iain H. and Sam M. for organising a great HUBB event at the new venue.