Category Archives: Bikes

Why Honda’s CT125 makes a great adv (and why it doesn’t)

After showing up at the 2019 bike shows, Honda were due to launch the CT125 in March until you-know-what happened. Now it’s pitched as a 2021 model for later this year (or maybe that was always intended) but anyway, there’s enough out there to have a good old speculate. It’s expected to sell in Europe as the CT125 Trail Cub or the Hunter Cub in North America. Price unknown.

In AMH8 I write about Jap ~200-cc ag bikes as lightweight travel bikes. Most are based on prehistoric air-cooled mutts but Honda’s AG190 (above) leads the pack with EFI and a front disc brake! However, I’m not certain my enthusiasm has translated into widespread uptake, perhaps because you can only buy them in RSA (called an XR190 – less ag-featured) or Downunder.

The CT is based on the retrotastic C125 Super Cub (left), the reborn Honda step-thru which claims to be the world’s best selling two-wheeler. The machine your not-into-biking grandad once rode to the sorting office every morning now has ABS, cast TL wheels, EFI and a modern take on the old hack’s bodywork. No, I wouldn’t look twice at one either, but I would at Yamaha’s stillborn TW-based Ryoku (below) from 2013.

Your CT (Trail Cub?) dates back to fondly recalled CT90 and CT110 scoots produced from the mid-1960s to the mid 80s in America, Australia and maybe elsewhere. The legend goes that Honda USA noticed farmers buying easy-to-manage step-thrus for ranch duties, went to the drawing board and gave them what they wanted. Like Cubs, the centrifugal clutch means no clutch lever: drive engages as revs climb, like an auto car. Good for hill starts. To change up just back off the throttle as you stamp on the heel-toe shifter. Old school quickshifting ;-D Kickstart only according to the Jap specs bottom of the page, though the red bike graphic below has what could be a starter motor on top of the engine. It’s probably some emissions. breather canister.

Some old CTs had dual rear sprockets (not unlike a derailing pushbike), others had no less than a dual-range gearbox like a proper 4×4! Honda took this seriously, although swapping front sprockets (as I’ve done myself on various desert bikes with long approach rides) is easier than swapping rears as it eliminates faffing with chain lengths.
Hard to believe but from the Jap spec sheet (bottom of the page) and the image left (could be a prototype) it does appear their CT125 gets L <–> H dual range too (it’s common for Jap spec models to be higher-spec / more exotic than what we get).
From my 4×4 experience I know that low-range is mostly about control: carefully picking your way through rough terrain or pulling out of power-sapping conditions without stressing the clutch. As we all know, first gear on most regular bikes is too high – hence the spare small front sprocket idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if the EU/NA CT125s end up having the regular four speed boxes.
Enough chat; let’s speculate on the images below. Click for larger.

Later…
Having spent a few of hours putting all this together I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself a CT125 is for me. It’s just a spin-off from the Super Cub/Grom/Monkey Bike which I’d never consider contenders. The mpg is stunning but it’s a low-powered ONE TWO FIVE with poor standing eros which just doesn’t suit my size. It would make an easy-to-ride scoot for my Morocco tours and be loads more fun than the 310GSs we use, but if I’m going in this direction for my own bike I’d sooner import an AG190 which will probably end up costing the same. or just calm down and get a CRF-L like everyone else.

‘CRF800L’ Africa Twin

The engine pictured in this mock-up is a CB500, not the distinctive slopping NC.

See also
Africa Twin
Honda CB500X 5000 miles
Yamaha XScrambleR
BMW F750GS

MCN‘s recent claim of Honda’s plans to make an Africa Twin based on the NC750 motor was a rare instance of my wish coming true. When the popular CRF1000L (below) became an 1100L last year – in part to compensate for power losses due to Euro 5 regs – the cry went up for a mini-AT, not least following the popularity of the XT700 and the KTM 790 ‘middleweight’ adventure-styled bikes.

Honda seems to have heard the call and recognises the gap in their current 14-model Adventure category. At the moment, unless you fancy the old VFR 800X Crossrunner which must be close to getting Euro’d, it’s a huge jump from a CB500X (above) to the newest 1100AT at twice the price. Slotting the NC750X into that Adventure category (which also includes the CRF450L) was always is a bit of a reach. An 800L is much more like it.

Right from the start I’ve been a fan of the NC concept: a low-revving, high-economy, low-CoG, big capacity chugger with all the real-world power you need. Last year I ran a 2018 750X, partly to properly try out the DCT gearbox but also with a view to adapting it to an all-road travel bike, as I did with the XSR7 (below) with reasonable success.

The NC750X (below) was a great road bike which loved to corner, occasionally flashed up 100mpg and still seemingly plain suspension was a big improvement on earlier models. But for many obvious reasons it would have been too hard/costly to adapt. As I’ve found with the XSR, it takes more than a set of bar risers, suspension lift and wheel change to turn a road bike into a travel bike. An NC750 may have a low CoG compared to my current AT, but it’s still heavy (my NC-DCT weighed 232kg; my AT is 240kg before add-ons).

There is talk that the whole NC range may be getting an 800-cc makeover, probably for the same Euro-5 reasons. You do wonder it this may mean a more conventionally upright engine as in the mock up, losing the frunk ‘tankbox’ and putting the tank in the normal position, as BMW have done on the 750/850 GSs. Analysing patent designs (as below) may suggest something in that vein.
The Honda designer in the MCN article talks of a budget spec bike, like the CB500X, to appeal to learners with A2 licences. That will keep the price down and, with a good motor, as with the 500X, will be easy for owners or outfits like Rally Raid to offer suspension and wheel upgrades for those who want them. We watch and wait.

 

More Adventure Twins for 2020

In last year’s end-of-year preview I wrote ‘… the future looks bright – we’re gonna have twins.’ And twins we got: the long-awaited XT700, Guzzi’s 85TT, a ’19-er’ CB500X, and the KTM 790s. Only the Norton 650s remain stuck in the birth canal while the unplanned Enfield 650 twins popped out later.
It’s time to review what’s new or in store for 2020.


202-drstromSuzuki V-Strom 1050XT
As a travel bike, the one-litre DL dating from 2002 was always overshadowed by the 650. There was nothing wrong with big Strom but the 650 did it all as well for less cost, weight and fuel and, as is often the case, the smaller engine simply felt better.
Now, imitating Honda’s Africa Twin and a few others, Suzuki have clad some 80s-style Dakar livery on the DL thou’ in an attempt to recall Gaston Rahier’s 1988 750 desert racer (below) as well as 202-DR800the not-so-successful DR 800 S Big production bike (left) from the same era. The DR 800 may have failed to catch on (can you imagine the vibration?) but was the first big trail bike (as ‘adventure bikes’ were called back them) to feature the now-iconic beak.
They’re calling the new model the V-Strom 1050 (XT, above left), though capacity is the same 1037cc it’s been since the 2014 makeover. Y202-vstromou can see (below left) that it’s not hugely different in profile to the current DL1000: the motor has been lightly upgraded (mostly for emissions) and which now delivers (less) peak torque at a useful 2000rpm less. The headlamp is Katana-ish (another revived 80s classic) and, just like the new 1100 AT (below), it’s hadronbeen liberally wired up with more electronics than the Hadron Collider: “… the [V-Strom 1050] system incorporates the Motion Track Brake System, Hill Hold Control 202-vstrom1050System, Slope Dependent Control System, Load Dependent Control System, Cruise Control System, Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) and a Traction Control System plus a System Control System.” I made the last one up.
The 1050 XT version is spoked tubeless with bashplate, protection and other adv paraphernalia, plus a tool-free adjustable seat and screen, adding up to 246kg. The plain 1050 (above left) currently goes from under £10,000 in the UK and features cast TL wheels, less gear and 10 fewer kilos. Tanks on both are unchanged at 20 litres.
Of course what we’re all actually waiting for is a new,
injected DR650 or DRZ450. Not this time round.

202-GastonRahier88

202-nordnHusqvarna Norden 901
Just as the KTM 690 begat a barely different Husky 701, it’s no great surprise to see the 790 or now 890 KTM parallel-twin motor reappearing under a Husqvarna badge (owned by KTM’s CEO).
That’s your Norden (left and below) – only a concept right now but you can see it looks both functional and quite good valvemarker(the two are probably related). Note the virtual sidestand – a first in motorcycling – and what look like nifty fluo tyre valve markers – a smart idea we used to use back in the day (right). Wheels don’t look tubeless but you’d hope they will be, and there’s lots of protection and cladding to keep that motor snug and warm. Feel free to add your own speculations.
Two days later… it’s coming for 2020.
https://www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com/gb/news/int/norden-confirmed/

Harley Pan America 1250

202-revmaxIt’s nearly 2020 and Harley have decided it’s high time to clamber aboard the adv bandwagon with the Trail-Glide Pan Am 1250. Details are scant but the ‘new’ DOHC, liquid-cooled Revolution Max engine claims no less than 145hp, putting it up there with Multistradas and the like, but with oddly less torque than a 1250GS. By current H-D standards it’s hard to think it will weigh less, cost less or go anywhere near as well, but the bloke in the vid below seems to manage OK. It all seems a bit incongruous but who knows, stick some deafening pipes on it and it could be a trans-continental hit.

Honda Africa Twin 1100

202-at11Twenty sixteen’s CRF1000L Africa Twin was a deserved hit for Honda, selling nearly 90,000 units and even tempting a few GS12 riders away from their BMWs.
The new CRF1100L gains some capacity to cover power lost to new emissions standards while, like the 1050 Strom, getting a fuller suite of electronic riding aids and modes. I suspect what some might call gimmickry has now become a relatively cheap way to add value and safety claims to a new model. If any of them were serious about such things, TPMS would be a standard fitting, especially on a so-called adventure or travel bike. The new dash is TFT, it’s lighter by 1.5% and the frame is new.
The jacked-up Adventure Sport version gets a 28-litre tank (up from 19), a better screen, protection, electronic suspension, cornering lights, Christmas lights and best of all: tubeless tyres. And like the 1000L, it’s still a great-looking machine and available in have-your-cake DCT.
Stock screen notwithstanding, all this underlines how good the original CRF1000L was all along. Soon after writing this, I bought one. With discounts and so many around, hopefully used prices will put one of the best, big-capacity all-road travel bikes in reach of more riders. Some even hope it may give rise to a smaller 750 AT or – even less likely – an adventured NC750X. Is that the alarm waking me up?

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Ducati DesertX 1100

Terruzzi-Cagiva-1989-3The well-sprung 800-ccc Desert Sled is the best of Ducati’s retro Scrambler range, and now the 19-er shod Scrambler 1100 202-scram1100(right) has been thoroughly jazzed up into the Desert X concept based on – you guessed it – Cagiva’s 900cc  Elefant Dakar desert racers of the 80s and 90s (left or click the link for more Elefant porn) ridden by Serge Bacou, among others. Back then iirc, Ducati owned the Cagiva brand. The suspension is yellow, the front’s a 21″ and the tank is said to be a serious 30 litres. Bring it on!

202-dezx

Yamaha Tracer 700

ScramlogoHaving liked my XScrambleR 700, I can’t help thinking the same-engined Tracer could make a faintly better travel tracer700-2020.jpgbike if you don’t want, need, like or can’t afford the XT700. Yes, the front is still a 17 (a 19 can fit, I found) but a Tracer has more weather protection and a 20% bigger tank. I’ve spotted the still pretty fit-looking original model (left), going for just 6000 quid new.
Now there’s a 2020 version with a bold new look, much improved adjustable suspension (the 700 CP2 range’s weak point) including USDs, an adjustable screen but with a wet weight still under 200kg.

BMW F900XR

202-90rBMW have done a clever thing: they’ve bored out the 853-cc F750/850GS motor to 895 and given it the ‘sports adventure’ XR look from the ballistic fours. Behold the F900XR. Being a grunty, 270-degree twin, not a migraine-inducing five-figure redlining four makes it a whole it more desirable and accessible. Yes, like a Tracer it’s got a 17 on the front but call me shallow, it sure looks good. The electronics package looks identical to the 750GS I recently rode, which is more than enough. Perhaps I’m just having a confused Pablovian reaction to the red paint job and XR suffix.

202-900xr


 

Husqvarna 701 Enduro LR

202-701g2The Husky 701 is amazingly economical for what it is but has now gone Long Range with a 12-litre tank up front adding up to 25 litres with a potential range of 600km. All it needs is a fairing and a seat you can sit on.
As it happens I had a quick spin on a friend’s radically lowered 701 out in Morocco last month (left) and can confirm the current, second-generation model is much smoother than the 701 piledriver I rode a couple of years back.
You’d wish they’d go all the way and make a mini Norden out of a 701, like the old KTM 640 Adventure. I suspect I’m not the first person to have this thought.

202-7011lr

 

KTM 390 Adventure

202-3390Here, at last, is the 390 Adventure, with a motor based on the unchanged 373-cc, 43hp Indian-built Duke right down to the claimed 15/45 final drive. The rebound-adjustable suspension gives it a lift and adds up to a 170-kilo wet weight with the 14.5-litre tank  – all up 202-390-Engineabout the same as the G310GS I know well. You’d hope the 390 will ride better on the dirt and, being KTM, surely they’ll offer a 21-inch ‘Adventure R’ option alongside the 19-er pictured below.

202-KTM-391

See you at the back end of 2021.

BMW GS310s still in Morocco

More about Morocco tours

See also:
G310GS 2200km review
G310GS first ride in Morocco

T2019---68Three groups did a similar 1200-km loop, mostly on G310Gs all with around 30,000 rental kms on the clock. The 310 engines and finish are still great in mostly dry Morocco, gearboxes work fine, but neutral is hard to select (as it was on the old Tornados) and the shock damping is not what it was (which was never that much). There are no leaks from the USDs and for wear and tear, that’s about it. The worse mpg was 75, best was an amazing 112 or 39kpl. We got 12 litres into the supposed 11-litre tank with ‘1km’ indicated on the range.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABike problems over a cumulative ‘21,000km’ (1200 x 3 x 6) included a persistent flat battery on the same bike which we deduced must be down to an intermittent electrical fault somewhere, probably as a result of vibration from rough tracks. There were no punctures on the Mitas Terra Force TL tyres and one smashed front wheel from an unlucky fall which smacked into a square-edged rock. Oh, and another sidestand failure (a known 310 weak point and new frame warranty) literally coming to a halt back in the garage and even though they’ve been strengthened.
So at this rate the 310s seem to be keeping up well with the old XR250 Tornados, but perhaps that’s because renters don’t take them onto the tracks the which Honda could manage easily.

Honda NC750X DCT – 1100-mile review

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
dct-wopri

See also NC750

Africa Twin 800

I tried an NC a few weeks back, liked it as I knew I would, so bought a low-mileage current XA/XD model with an idea of converting it into a budget but high-economy ‘Africa Twain’. Plus I wanted to properly get to grips with this DCT malarkey. Judging by Google search results (right), I’m not the only one.
I picked it up near Leamington, rode straight down to Cornwall, then over a couple of days headed back to London via the Dorset Coast. Here’s what I found.

tik
  • High 80s/low 90s mpg without really trying. Back off a bit – say 60mph – and it will register a live 26.4mpl or 100mpg. With the 14.1-litre tank, at 88mpg/31.1kpl that would give a range of  438km or 272 miles.
  • Plenty of real-world power to get the job done. Fifty-four hp really is all you need
  • Thumb/finger manual changes slicker than my MTB 
  • I like the manual override on auto
  • And the auto downshift override when in manual. They thought it through
  • Suspension – what a surprise! I assumed it would be poor, like a CB-X or XSR7. Far from it. I rode an RE Interceptor recently; it’s better than that, too
  • Corners really well. Not had such a planted road bike for years
  • Right-engle tyre valves. No more struggles with inflation nozzles
  • Tubeless tyres
  • TFT dash – also new on me and the way to go
  • Despite low-speed lugging, day to day preferred the smoother D mode. Settled OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoccasionally on S1. Higher S levels felt more jerky.
  • Tank box (but even open-face lids can be a squeeze; right)
  • Seat was actually pretty good; sore over 4 slow hours, but not in outright agony
  • For a modern bike, the slabby space ship look is less bad than some
  • Nice crobba-crobba thudding noise as the 270° mill pulls away.
  • Average mpl display was pretty accurate – 5% under at fill up
  • You pull in, flick down the sidestand and it switches off. Remove the key and walk away.
  • It’s a Honda; peace of mind on a long trip
dctt.jpg
cros
  • Heavy – on the home scales it came very close to the claimed 232kg wet. Holds you back on some rough bends.
  • Lumpy pulling away at town speeds. That was my impression hopping back on the bike after a couple of weeks. A bit more lumpy than you’d assume is good for the engine, but it’s only a 750, not a huge Harley. It may well smooth out when warm.
  • Harshness – noticed this as soon as I pulled away from the seller’s place. Could be part engine, part transmission (on the move). The test bike I rode a month earlier felt notably smoother, but this wouldn’t be the first time a Honda-sourced (not dealer) test bike felt better than what you buy. It mostly cleared after 1000 miles – maybe old fuel stood for months and needed a good blast? But it’s not as smooth as modern injected twins can be, cf: Interceptor.
  • The engine on my XSR700 was much nicer – and it was 47hp restricted, not the full 72hp. But the XSR only averaged 74mpg over 4000 miles. Can’t see an NC ever dropping below 80. I do wonder if extreme leanness – either to gain economy or pass emissions regs – can spoil an engine’s feel.
  • Still a bit auto-clunky at low speeds, not seamless like an auto car despite the so-called Adaptive Clutch Capability Control.
  • Rode mostly in D but felt like it lugged at times, especially up steep hills and despite ‘a control system in AT mode for gauging the angle of ascent or descent and adapting shift pattern accordingly’. Got into manual downshifting. Auto downshifted better on downhills. Maybe it would have adapted for uphills in time?
  • Maxed it out but the TFT dash was still a bit dim in daylight. Plus would have liked engine/ambient temp info on there, too
  • No 12-v power outlet. I thought there was one in the tank box?
  • I know it’s how we fill up in the UK, but would have preferred other metrics besides Miles per Litre – a new one on me but you’d learn soon enough. (I assume it shows kpl or L/100km if you flip the speedo to kph). Older models had mpg – maybe I didn’t RTFM enough.
  • Like other bikes I’ve had lately, trip distance total (for true mpg calcs) is annoyingly lost when it resets to reserve towards E (or I didn’t work out how to dig it out)
  • Screen is of course too small
  • No centre stand. I bought one before I even picked it up
  • Traction control was a new game for me. I played with it on mid-road gravel patches and the steep track down to my Cornish mate’s house. But unlike ABS, I can’t really see a real-world use for it on a fat-tyred, 54-hp bike like this, assuming you ride alert and sensibly. Corner too fast in the wet or hit oil and the front might go just as fast. TC just seems to be a brake on applying so much power you lose traction. How often do you do that on the road ?
  • The TC switch on the left bars is a clumsy afterthought. Same could be said for the parking brake, tbh.

At the Overland show, organiser Paddy Tyson told me he’d covered 38,000 miles on a manual NC and wondered ‘why isn’t everyone using these for overlanding?’ It was a good question. Manual or auto, an NC is a practical and exceedingly economical machine which carries it’s weight low while easily keeping up on fast highways. I’m pretty sure even in stock form it could cover the tracks on my Morocco tours, and with tyres to suit would have easily managed what I rode on the Himalayan in spring, but without the need to be truck to Malaga. And it would have used 15% less fuel too. CRF250-like mpg but with the grunt to tackle headwinds and hills and the power to sit comfortably at 70+ is not something you get on most bikes. That makes the NC sound like a pretty versatile machine but as is often the case, some bikes fail to catch the buying public’s imagination. The NC is a big seller among commuters, but I’ve barely heard of travellers using them. If DCT is so fabulous, it seems the much flashier Africa Twin is the bike of choice from what I’ve seen at shows lately. Just like BMW’s F800GS trounced the 650/700 version, despite my avowed pronouncements to the latter two’s superiority!

africatime

To me an AT (left) is going a bit far. Yes, it would eat all the dirt I was able to feed it but it’s the same weight as an NC with a higher CoG, costs more and has inferior economy. I’d like to see DCT in a lighter bike like the CB500X, but maybe that just cannot be achieved, yet. Or a sub 200-kg 750 Africa Twin as has been mooted now the 1000L is becoming an 1100.
Low-speed clunks apart, it’s great not have to concentrate on stalling or heavy clutches or agricultural gearboxes or miss-shifts while still having manual control for slowing down into fast bends or steep hills. It allows you to concentrate on other things, and that includes gnarly climbs with steep, clutch-stressing hairpins which in auto or manual 1st would be easy work on the DCT.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Behind a plastic cowling the electro-hydraulic gear shifters look a bit vulnerable. Get a crash bar.

I’d bought an unusually nice (for me) late model which would be easy to shift – at ~£5k the most I’ve ever spent on a bike. In the end, I decided the 750X was too nice a road machine to meddle with weight-adding protection, longer travel suspension, higher-profile tyres and maybe a 19er front (I suspect the front wheel from a 2019 CB500X would fit). At over 230kg it was too heavy for my sort of gravel roading and the lack of smoothness compared to similar motors was surprisingly off-putting. How spoiled we’ve become!
I lost 100 quid selling it back on ebay; a reasonable sum for a fortnight’s rental. While selling the NC I took Enfield’s 650 Interceptor out for a quickie. Read what I thought about that one here.

Quick Ride: Enfield Interceptor review

egg-Steve-McQ78-bonnie140While working on next year’s AMH I’ve contrived a new category for my expanded section on overlanding contenders: Feel-good Retro Twins. Doing a trip a la Ted Simon or Steve McQueen’s brief tour of the Swiss border could add a certain old-school frisson to the journey. Or maybe it’s just that this was how the twins that I liked looked in my influential teenage years.
It’s not all down to rosey-hued nostalgia. One dk-fittingsgood thing about retro style (or plain motorbikes) is that a tank is a tank, not a plastic cover held on by 12 zillion screws and fittings, like the Africa Twin (right). It greatly eases maintenance or fault diagnosis on the road and ought to reduce labour costs. Plastic cladding has become a cheap way of snazzily styling bikes or adapting the look across a model range.
Enfield’s new 650 roadster twin – the Interceptor is one such machine; what you see is what you get: a low-saddled, low-revving plodder which is light and low enough to handle off-highway excursions across alpine meadows while pulling its weight elsewhere and looking good as only modern classics can. There’s a 650 Continental cafe racer too and they say a taller Scrambler may be in the pipeline.
The twins were largely designed at RE’s UK Technology Centre south of Leicester, assisted by many former Triumph engineers who know a thing or two about twins. It shows, and according to re650motorthose who know, internally Enfield’s 650 engine is a very close copy of Bonnevilles and the like, but rides better in many ways, has six gears and costs about a third less.
Talk of a 650 Scrambler would make sense, given the popularity of the Ducatis and success of the Guzzi’s V85TT. The Himalayan was a big step up from the Bullets but was still recognisably an RE. On the 650 there are a few cheap components which could easily be replaced, but from the look and the feel, the new twin puts RE even closer if not right among its competitors in western markets. That’s a pretty amazing achievement.


tik
• Great price
• Three-year warranty includes roadside recoveryreintspex
• Looks good, so is the fit and finish
• Very slick gearbox with no drivetrain lash
• Low saddle is comfy enough (and easy to re-foam)
• Engine fuels and pulls smoothly
• Twin shocks easy to adjust or modify. Means no rack needed for throwovers, too
• No complaints about the brakes

cros
For a 270°, motor a bit lacking in character compared to a CP2. A little less silencing may help
Suspension a bit soft (shocks on lowest setting)
Clocks are a bit too retro for me
There are better-looking paint schemes than orange
Felt a bit small for me; taller bars may help

Forum link to a detailed 875mb service manual pdf download (it’s safe).

 

The first thing that struck me pulling away on the 1300-mile-old Interceptor was how uncannily smooth the motor was. It was almost disappointing that the 270° mill’s character had been so well disguised. The other observation was how exceedingly heavy the steering was. Surely not normal. The front Pirelli looked OK, but I know tyres can appear fine and even feel firm but be down by 10psi.
The seat height of 804mm (31.6″) is nice and low but the bike felt quite small which made me feel a bit exposed after a fortnight riding a plastic-clad NC750X. The motor ticks over steadily (no ineffective Himalayan-style cold-start aids here, just proper efi). It revs freely and the gearbox is amazingly slick with zero slack or lash in the drivetrain, something that spoils so many bikes. It means once rolling, clutchless upshifts take just the merest nudge from the foot. I’ve never ridden a bike which does this so easily.

Coming down some steep, shady lanes off the North Downs, the bike really didn’t feel that safe, so in Reigate I pulled into a Shell and put 32psi in the front. Aired up from who knows what pressure and with the sun now out, this was much more like it, at least when I got a chance to let the RE run on between clumps of traffic or cameras. As always, you can’t help comparing a test bike to what you’ve been riding recently and the lighter 650 didn’t feel as planted at my NC, nor was the suspension anywhere as good. Up Chipstead Way the bike (about 211 kilos with the 13.7-litre tank brimmed) was bouncing all over the place. But the motor was much smoother, if lacking the NC’s punchbag-thumping torque, and the light clutch and gearbox as unintrusive as they get.

reint-redLooks-wise, the orange tank with an RE badge and liberal chrome/alloy elsewhere doesn’t do it for me. I’ll take the more recently available batch of pinstriped and painted tanks, especially the black and red with added noire (left). And those bars look like something off my old TS185. One journalist reviewer parroted how the 650s go through no less than a ‘1007-point post-assembly inspection’ to make sure everything is absolutely in order and aligned. Maybe it’s just me, but you’d think they could take a couple of minutes to align the handlebar brace correctly (below). Luckily other bars are available and Triumph twin specialists, TEC have produced a range of 650 accessories, some useful, others just cosmetic but including shocks for just £150.

You’re going to enjoy this.‘ said the bloke at the bike shop as he handed me the keys. It should have been my type of machine but, unlike my Himalayan, I was disappointed to find myself under-awed by the Interceptor. Less quiet pipes may help but it feels like they’ve erased much of the character from the twin and reminds me yet again what a great thing Yamaha’s CP2 is – just the right blend of torque, sound and mutted throbbing – but never any harsh vibration. My XSR Scrambler could be a Feel Good Retro contender too.
These days there’s so much good stuff out there that, along with your wallet and looks, all you’ve left to help you decide is your gut instinct. I look forward to seeing how the 650 Scrambler turns out; it might be worth a second look.

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Eeesh! Sort out that crossbar brace!

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Chunky footrest mounts stick out a bit and, as TEC observed, on the left aren’t squared up.

Lots of sump clearance for protection, though header undersides might get a beating.

A classic mid-Seventies rear end.

Easy-to-adjust shocks got a bit bouncy. Only 3.5″ of travel too, but easily lengthened, with about 10mm of fork-top protruding too.

Tools and battery behind a keyed sidepanel. Just off camera top left is a knob to release the seat (I read later).

Ultrabasic clocks true to the era: odo or trip + fuel gauge.

Plastic indicators on rubber stalks and a headlamp right off my ’78 Bonnie.

Big oil cooler, plus double-skinned pipes stops them turning blue.

One big front disc does the job, with an ABS safety net.

Some pre-unit ‘homaging’ going on here. But at least no faux carb bodies.

Not much plastic at all. Honest bare metal castings with nothing to hide.

Get yer motor runnin’. Head out on the highway. Interceptor overlanding could be fun.

 

 

 

 

Quick ride: AJP PR7 review

ajp1

Updated December 2019

ajp2I took a short road blat on an AJP PR7 at the Overland show in August and must say, I was impressed. Like many, I’ve been aware of these bikes for a couple of years but it looks like 2019 was the year they officially hit the shops in the UK.
It looks exceptionally well put together and finished, exuding an air of toughness, quality and design integrity which I found lacking in the similar SWM SuperDual 650X I also tried (same red top, six-speed, ex-Husky TE630 motor). However, the ~184-kilo SWM (below) costs £1500 less so it’s still a contender.
The ajppSamsung tablet idea could be interesting. It wasn’t hooked up online but I think the idea is you plug in your Garmin navigator to display big via the screen – or it has built-in GPS and you load maps on it, plus it must hook up with mobile signals to run online maps. There’s a USB or two on there too. The main dash pod looks like a clone of a Trail Tech Voyager, a bit small and fiddly but some of that info will display on the screen.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 600-cc engine has loads of smooth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApower for the claimed 48hp (some say 58; which must be the fierce  ’60-hp’ version), but it and the gearbox were much less harsh than I expected. I got up to 60 before I realised I was still in 4th (been riding an auto lately) and I briefly saw 80 in top where I noted the screen worked very well.  By comparison, the thick but too steeply raked 650X screen (below) felt like a wind hose.
swm650x.jpgThough it’s 920mm high and narrow, I also preferred the flat seat to the stepped one Superdual X, even if it was 30mm lower. Amazingly, I can’t say vibration was at all intrusive on either bike, but then it did all pass by in a bit of a blur.
The PR7 feels light too for the claimed 165kg wet (again, been riding a 235-kilo NC)The fuel OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfiller is now in a more conventional position compared to the 250 AJPs, but the 17-litre tank remains low and out of the way under the seat, like 650 and 800 BMWs (and an NC, as it happens).
ajp3With only 1.8 litres of oil in the engine, service intervals are 5000km (5500 on the SWM) which include valve checks (same as a Himalayan), but aajjjps you can see on the right (click to enlarge) a few people have already done long trans-continental trips on PR7s.
Price is a hefty £8500 (alongside the SuperDual’s £7k). It’s the same as an XT700, true, but this bike would ajjpbe a whole lot more fun and much easier to ride in the desert or Far Eastern Russia, for example. I wonder if it will be as amazingly economical as the 690/701s because I suspect part of the engine’s smoothness is down to rich running, but I’m told it’s in the 20-25kpl range.
Consider it an alternative to the two Austrian bikes which take more to be adventure-travel ready. It sure looks better.

In November I came across Belgian eric in Morocco who did one of my tours a few years back and was now back on his year-old PR7 with about 20,000km. he mentioned a fuel-pump or filter meltdown in the Pyrenees one time when he ran low. Mpg was no so good – about 20kpl or 330km to a tank. he needed a Rotopax. His Samsung tablet did not agree with the rain. But other than that he was very happy with it.

The latest iteration: the 2020 model was announced in November. See video below.