Category Archives: BMW F650GS SE long term test

New Adventure Twins for 2019

TW-BMW_F 750 GSWe’ve been expecting them for ages, but the recent announcement of a slew of what’s now called mid-sized adventure bikes for 2019 is still exciting. You’ll find a lot more on these bikes all over the web, but for the moment, here they all are on one page – with pictures. Here we have a bunch of functional, travel-friendly machines without gargantuan weights, ridiculous levels of horsepower or mind-boggling ‘because-we-can’ complexity.
Such flagships, exemplified by the latest R1250GS, will always be popular. BMW’s pre-eminent adventure tank is doubtless great to ride, but is ever less likely to be used by the real-world travellers, if for no other reason than the cost of one new could fund a lap of the planet.

Calls for lighter, simpler, smaller, cheaper and lower have been partly answered. Bikes not only able to take on epic, all-road global adventures which, if we’re honest, few of us can undertake more than once a lifetime, but which are also fun, do-it-all rides – something ‘adventure bikes’xt6-86 (like MTBs before them) have come to symbolise. It may all be a shallow, aspirational, SUV-like lifestyle trend but, just like the original Dakar clones: the 800G/S and XT600Z – it also happens to produce great machines for genuine overlanding.
Given that these new bikes must take years to develop, it was probably the manufacturers’ plan all along: offer the eye-catching OTT adv behemoths and once the ‘yes, but…’ backlash sets in, dish out the less flashy but still highly capable machines and capitalise on them.

tonyThe bikes listed here are all parallel twins, an engine configuration which I’ve long believed is ideal for motorcycles: it’s not long like a longitudinal V-twin, it’s not wide like a boxer or a transverse multi; it need not be top-heavy like a triple but it won’t vibrate like larger singles. A parallel twin of well under a litre is all the engine a bike needs in terms of torque, economy, weight plus dealing with motorways, hills, elevation and payloads – and yes, even that intangible quality: character: My first twin was a ’78 Bonneville and my most recent has been the 700GS rental I’m currently riding in Morocco. Both were and are satisfying machines for my sort of riding.


The current trend for a 270 degree firing order produces the pleasing off-beat throb of a Guzzi or Ducati with the ‘cross plane’ idea improving torque and smoothness
(even more once you add a balancer or two). It works because one piston is 2bikesswinging through its mid-stroke when the other stops dead, and was probably cooked up in a Black Country woodshed in 1905. Yamaha’s second-generation TDM was the first modern bike I know of to use this configuration. Now, just about all the bikes below as well as Royal Enfield’s new 650 roadsters and any other parallel twin you care to mention uses this ‘have-your-cake-and-eat-it’ offset.

So to recap: for the moment this under-represented selection of do-it-all adv P-twins in the 500-1000cc range include Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin, their CB500X and, dare I add the NC750X? OK, no I can’t. Plus BM’s old 700/800GS and the latest 850s mentioned below plus Suzuki’s ageing 650 V-Strom. I suppose you might add Ducati’s Desert Sled currently being overlanded by young Brit named Henry, although Triumph’s Scrambler and a Versys 650 would be pushing it. There’s a Benelli TRK too – can’t help thinking I’ve missed some. But anyway, by this time next year that list will double. The future looks bright – we’re gonna have twins.

BMW F750 and F850GS

f750GSIn Europe BMW are already selling the all-new 853cc parallel twins replacing the old F700 and 800GS. Having spent a couple of weeks on Moroccan trails pushing a rentaltw-700 700GS rental past 110,000kms, I can vouch that this under-rated ‘beginner’s’ bike (tubeless alloys and 19-inch front) would make a great travel machine. More about that ride here.
The new F750GS and F850GS (same 853cc engine, different cams and ECU) have all had good reviews, though there was a recall on a batch of the Chinese-built engines due to a dodgy oil pump drive, but it’s said none of this bikes were sold in the UK. Even then, it’s hard to believe people are still saying ‘you’ll never get me buying a Chinese bike!’ even though BMW has been successfully using the Loncin engine assembly plant for the X- and GS 650s since 2005. Bikes are assembled in Germany.
One thing I really noticed on the old 700 was the low centre of gravity, helped by having the battery right near the headstock, the airbox where the tank usually is and the actual tank below the seat, like the 650 Xbikes
or a Honda NC. Combined with the low seat and great suspension, it made a real difference in the dirt. The new 850s carry the fuel conventionally, we’re told to improved front/rear balance, but of course it could just be price- and assembly related. Note how the new KTM below carries its fuel down low on the sides.
Screenshot-2018-11-05-15.31.39-750x482With the 19-inch front, lower stock seat, cheaper price and tubeless all round, I’d take the 750 over the 850.
Specs on the 750GS are: 76hp and 61 torques, an 813mm (32”) stock seat,  15-l tank, 224kg wet and still about 15% cheaper than the F850GS (94hp, 68 ft lbs, 860mm seat with two lower and two taller options), 15-l tank and 224kg wet – only a full jerrican less than a 1200). An 800/850GS comparison and my 2019 750GS review.



t7renderTrying to emulate Honda’s well-managed release of info of their new Africa Twin a couple of years back, Yamaha’s drawn-out feed on the new 700 Tenere feels less successful. It’s taken too long but it’s here it finally is – nearly. To look at it’s pretty much the same bike we saw a year ago.
Motor is the xt7006torquey 72hp/50 ft-lb 689cc CP2 unit I liked so much in my XSR700 and the MT-07. In a proper trail bike chassis, I’d say that puts the 700 Tenere at an instant advantage. People are already decrying the 16-litre tank, but haven’t they noticed that efi is 20% more efficient than carb and fuel stations have proliferated around the world as vehicle ownership booms? You don’t really need 20-litre plus tanks any more, and you rarely did anyway. If the 700 sips fuel at the same average of 73mpg of my XSR, the range will be good for up to 370 clicks. Nearly the 400-km ideal for a travel bike.
xt7003The key figure of weight is tententenstill unknown but some estimate it at 205kg wet which is as good as can be expected considering the old 660Z single was officially a kilo more. By comparison the KTM 790 Adventure is 189 dry, so will top out at about the same – and any KTM is always lighter than anything else from Europe or Asia. And BYO oxygen as the commendably flat seat still sits at 880mm or 34.6 inches. Keeping it Yamaha-Tenere-700-specs-c-768x512at around that level is adjustable suspension: a 43mm USD forks and one of my favourite gadgets: a shock with a preload adjustment knob.
The Tenere singles were never sold officially in North America much until the hefty XTZ1200Z Super Tenere (also 270°) got imported. But telling them they’re not getting a Japan-made XT700 until late 2020, while Europe gets French-built XT7s in 2019 won’t win many US buyers. But here there and everywhere, the latest incarnation of Yamaha’s iconic Tenere is sure to be a hit in a way the XT1200Z never was.



2019-honda-cb500xxjpg.pngThe only people who might not be thrilled by the announcement of Honda’s revamped 2019 CB500X are Northants engineering firm, Rally Raid.
For the last few years one of the most popular pages on this website has been the CB500X Rally Raid prototype I ran in 2015 – a 500X including a bigger front wheel, tubeless spoke rims, more and better suspension travel plus engine protection. Everything else about the bike, including the very economical if rather bland, cbsellxnon-270° motor, was Honda-perfect so for 2019 they have introduced CB500x19-dahsome of Rally Raid’s inspired mods. Up front you now get a road-and-trail optimised 19-inch front wheel and a little more suspension travel all round. A narrower seat helps shorter persons touch down plus there are some styling changes or an already great-looking bike, evoking the NC750s, plus a snazzy LCD dash, LED lights and a smidge more power. The new 500X will be the bike Honda should have made in the first place and if you want, RR will doubtless offer products to refine your machine for the rough road. Kerb weight is a claimed 197kg (mine was 195kg wet). The 2019 500X could be a bargain out-of-the-crate travel bike. If it had come with a two-seventy crank, I may well have kept mine.



Specs are in for KTM’s new 790 Adventure based on the 790 Duke which was Bike mag’s Bike of the Year. You get 95hp, 65 ft lbs, a breathless 880mm/34-inch seat height on the R, 850mm on the non-R, and a dry weight of 189kg plus 20-litre tanks giving a range of 450km at 22kpl or 52mpg. It bet I could get 30% more out of it at a steady 59mph!
And although they don’t make it clear tubeless spokes wheels are stock on both models. Hoo-bloody-ray. You can spec DID tubed rims, but why you’d do that is anyone’s guess. Very low-pressure running like sand dunes, perhaps? On a 200-kilo bike? Good luck with that,
tw-KTM-791Also not obvious are the ingenious low-slung pannier tanks either side of the engine where they also act as bash plate and crash bars. You can be pretty sure that plastic will be thick and repairable. With fuel pumps the norm with efi, it’s surprising more bikes don’t do this because, as mentioned above, it can make a real difference to handling off-road as well as picking a bike up with full tanks. Tanked up you’re over the 200-kilo mark – a vague benchmark for a functional, all-terrain travel bike. But the sort of minority who’ll be riding the KTM anywhere near its limit will take that all in their stride.
The rest of us will just appreciate the quality stock suspension. The 20% more expensive R model gets fully adjustable 48mm Ø WP-USDs (5mm fatter than the regular model) and a WP PDS shock. It all gives about 40mm (1.5″) more travel than the base model. Service intervals are a very generous 15,000km. Stick that in your 450L or Himalayan  and smoke it.

In skilled hands the Adventure will fly over the dirt, but for you and me it does almost seem a waste spec’ing all that quality WP when most won’t be able to use it for long before stopping for a breather. Still, it’s good to know it’s out there, it looks flash and the low tanks are the way things should go. We all gave up on roadside spark plug access years ago, didn’t we?

MOTO GUZZI V85 TT2018-Moto-Guzzi-V85c-1024x885

The very first story I had published in the early 80s was featured alongside a plucky woman who rode a Guzzi Le Mans across Africa.
But the fact is, Italian bikes have never been big in on the travel scene; probably down to perceptions of reliability despite characterful good looks. Guzzi’s latest take on the adventure look is unlikely to 2019-moto-guzzi-v85-tt-first-look-4change that even if the blurb you’ll find drones on about former Dakar contenders. Still, the V85 TT’s supposedly new 80-hp engine could be a step forward. Specs are lean for the moment, but last year’s concept has become a 2019 showroom hit. Nice paintwork.



Atlas ranger 3Announced just ahead of the forthcoming Motorcycle Live Show in the UK, Norton’s parallel twin relieves the name from its Sixties twin which, iirc, was not one of their iconic models. The looks of the off-roady Ranger version are still more street scrambler than adv, with impractical hipster touches like suede on the seat. So it’s not really a contender as a travel bike for the trail to Kathmandu, Timbuktu or Macchu Pichu, but like the Guzzi, having ‘Norton’ on the tank sure looks cool and will kick off rosy-spec’d roadside chats with old timers.
Power is claimed at 84hp at 11,000 rpm which if true, makes it even less suited to docile overlanding, but the dry weight is 178kg so well under 200kg wet ought to be possible. Seat on the Ranger is a tall 867mm (34″) and the tank holds 15 litres.
They expect to deliver it by the end of 2019 – hopefully that will be less of the drama than the earlier Commando models of a few years back. Good luck to Norton.

Atlas ranger 4


XSR 700 Scrambler – some Morocco pics

• XSR 700 Scrambler index page

Tender - 6A few shots of my XSR700 Scrambler after a month in Morocco, leading three tours. I’m impressed with how it’s shrugged it all off, just like my old Teneres in fact. But then, why wouldn’t it?
All I do is turn off the Tutoro chain oiler for the piste, then wipe it down and turn it on again for the highway.

Tender - 23The engine is just right. I keep forgetting it’s restricted to ~48hp (bought it like that and liked it). The Heidenau K60 tyres are just right too; letting a couple of seconds out makes a big difference on the piste where I’m glad the ABS is disabled. Could do with a bit more and better suspension at times, and standing up is like pushing a wheelbarrow, but it’s a Scrambler, not a trail or enduro bike. Within it’s limitations, I can now sling it about on the dirt and on road. It turned out well. Riding it home in a week or so.
Full 6000-mile report shortly.

Some pics by Jim B and Jim L.

Tested: Trail Tech Vapor and Voyager

(Voyager, see below)

crfarea58IN A LINE
For my sort of use, better than the more complex and expensive Voyager.

Around SW USA for a few weeks on a Honda CRF250-L.

• Easy to fit.
• Looks well made and waterproof so far
• Tells you many things you’re bike or satnav may not
• Accurate and calibratable speedo and distance readings
• Air and engine temp readings

• Cannot be easily unmounted against theft
• The old eyes are going; would prefer some readings to be easier to read on the move

Now $130 but still a bargain compared to the Voyager at twice the price.
Trail Tech supplied me with the Vapor in return for advertising in AMH6.

trailtekTrail Tech market themselves as selling ‘Aftermarket off-road powersport products’ including digital gauges for enduro bikes and quads which may have no instrumentation at all. They don’t claim to produce units suited to motorcycle overlanding, but many of the features their digital gauges display are handy on the long road and will be a useful back up if your GPS/satnav packs up. The Vapor users’ manual is here.

The screen is a mono 400 x 240 LCD screen and can display the following data:
• GPS-derived speed/distance
• Wheel-derived speed/distance (more accurate)
• Odometre (adjustable)
• GPS compass
• GPS altitude
• Air and engine temperature
• Engine RPM
• Time
• Other racey stuff like stopwatch, ride time, ‘shift now!’ (over-reving) warning lights, accumulated ride time and max speed

Using the three buttons it also has a customisable User Screen to display various sets of data plus a back light for night-time use when wired to the 12-v bike battery. The Vapor will also run off a CR2 watch battery for a while.

I used the Voyager (see below) before I tried the Vapor but this unit is much more suited to my sort of riding which may involve a proper GPS or satnav for navigation. The Vapor provided data for things which the basic Honda didn’t cover, including RPM, though this did fluctuate a bit like an old Triumph rev gauge and to me was comparatively not that useful.

Fitting it to the bars was easy, if not so secure against theft or vandalism. They do offer a more metal cowling to make it less nick able but I’d much prefer to remove the pocket-sized unit in dodgy areas. A couple of wires go to the battery but the fact that the unit is always live (or ‘sleeping’) and the display stays on for a 15 minutes after coming to rest can attract unwanted attention. Making your own q/d mount with a grouped connector  plug would be worthwhile on a long trip; out of sight is out of mind. As it was, in outback Southwest US I was never worried about it getting pinched or messed about with.

Other attachments to enable the unit include easily wrapping a wire around the HT lead to provide a pulse for the RPM read out. They advise that modifying the number of HT coils can minimise the fluctuation of the RPM read-out which varied over 2000rpm at times. Nut I never bothered trying to get it smoothed out as RPM proved not so important to me.

ttvapwheelsizeThere are two was of getting a speed and distance reading; off the in-built GPS signal or off the wheel. You may be surprised to learn that the old-fashioned geometric method off the wheel is  more accurate. Replace one of your disc rotor bolts with a magnetic item supplied in the kit, then zip tie a pick up (sensor) cable to the fork leg. Now accurately measure the diameter of your tyre, program it in as the instructions explain (all easy) and you have an accurate distance and speed measurement that can be modified as the tyre wears or gets changed.
nv-04As you may have read in my CRF-L review the Vapor revealed how widely inaccurate the Honda’s speedo – and therefore odometer – were. Click on the photo right and you’ll see how the true speed on the Vapor is 10% faster than on the Honda, and the more important odometer is even more out. Relying on the Honda’s readings, this would have given falsely pessimistic fuel consumption readings and therefore an inaccurate fuel range when compared to roadside distance markers. In truth you actually travel 10% further than the Honda shows. My CRF-L fuel records were all taken from the Vapor backed up by the GPS. The Honda uses an electronic speedo sensor somewhere in the gearbox so once you mess about with gearing and tyre sizes, it goes off. My gearing and tyres were all normal; raısıng the gearing by 10% may bring the Honda speedo reading back in line, or there’s an inline electronic gadget called a SpeedoDRD you can fit to recalibrate the OE speedo, but it looks pretty fiddly.

Engine and ambient temperatures were another very useful feature. I’m staggered that some bikes have no overheating warning and know of at least one KTM engine that blew in the desert for not having a water temp warning. On the Honda it required cutting an inch out of a rad hose to install the sensor. The ambient air temp sensor is somewhere on the body of the unit. I suppose it may get hot and over-read if parked in the sun for a while.
On a little 250 engine plugging up a rough incline with a tail wind, I found it very useful to keep track of the engine water temp. Both air and engine water readings may not have been absolutely accurate but I assume they were consistent. As my water temp reached 100°C and the fan came on I could choose to pull over and turn the bike into the breeze with the engine running. It’s possible to set one of the Vapor’s warning lights to come on at the water temp reaches a certain level, but they’re quite small. I found it easier to watch the temp figures climbing and react appropriately. The temp read-outs were something I’d like to be bigger on the screen as often I’d ride ‘on the temperature’ (s well as the terrain), rather than on the speedo.

allunitsThe other read-outs like time, elevation and compass overlapped with the GPS/satnav but were handy back-ups. Overall I found the Vapor indispensable on my ride, even though I used a satnav and a GPS, both of which proved essential route finding aids out in the hills. The accurate speed/distance enabled me to accurately calculate the potential fuel range and the temperature read outs stopped me running the engine too hot for too long and reminded me that I need a drink too. At the other extreme they say the unit may not operate or display properly below freezing.
I included a lot of stuff when I sold the CRF but I kept the Barkbusters and the Trail Tech Vapor for my next bike.


A nifty and versatile trip computer with basic GPS capability.

Riding around Britain on a GS500R for a few months.

• Easy to fit.
• Looks well made and waterproof so far
• Tells you many things you’re bike or satnav may not

• Cannot be easily removed against theft
• It can’t replace a proper sat nav

About £180
Trail Tech supplied me with the Vapor in return for advertising in AMH6.

The Voyager is the sort of computer that’s now commonly integrated on CANBus bikes such as the BMW F650GS I rode in March. That one was linked to the engine and so could accurately give fuel tank and even mpg values.

The Voyager has a small 400 x 240 mono LCD screen an on/menu button, a 4-way toggle button, an ‘enter’ button and a next page button. The screen displays the following: GPS speed/distance, Wheel speed/distance (more accurate), GPS compass, GPS altitude, Air and engine temperature, Time, non-routable GPS maps. It also has a customisable User Screen giving a pick up to six sets if data to display and a back light for night time. To me they include: time; ambient and engine temps; a very accurate wheel-based odometer and a compass. There are six screens you can toggle across: Main (pictured), Map, Air/Engine Temperature graph, Altitude record, the customisable User Screen, Nav Screen and a Satellite status Screen, as on a GPS.

I took a long ride up to Scotland in June with the Voyager (until it went flat after a couple of hours due to a loose bike battery connection), and a ride back a few months later, including three hours of pelting rain.

On both occasions, using the main screen, I found the Voyager a very useful gadget. On my air-cooled GS it was good to have an engine temperature (spark plug) reference point, same with air temperature, especially when combined with the altitude. The clock is also handy of course and I found the compass very useful when trying to unravel cross-country short cuts while riding without the aid of a paper map or satnav.

I did try at one point to load an OSM map via the mini-SD card but didn’t have any luck and having spent hours before with GPSs I didn’t persevere too much. A Voyager’s memory is limited: you’re not going to be able to load an OSM country map – the unit is designed  to carry mapping for relatively short-range day rides; it won’t replace a proper satnav.

voy-otrThe main flaw is that it can’t be removed quickly, as you would any aftermarket satnav or GPS. It’s intended for mounting to your quad you wheel off your pickup. Leave it on around town and someone will try to nick it for sure (with tools they’ll succeed). You could adapt it with a quick plug for the three or more wires and use some sort of butterfly nut to fit it to the handlebar clamp.