If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Horses for courses

This post may read like a statement of the bleedin' obvious, but bear with me. I've had a kind of revelation.

On Saturday, I took the XT out for probably the longest day's ride I have ever done on it - 268 miles.  For the last 50 miles, I was alternately standing on the pegs and than leaning forward with my feet out behind doing a Superman impression, all to relieve the stiffness in my back and the aches in my legs.  Much as I love the XT, I have to confess that by the time I got home I was suffering and cursing the head-up, knees-out riding position.

On Sunday, I took the Sprint out for what was planned as a morning's outing, to grab a serious biking breakfast and do a few miles to scrub in some new tyres.  I met some of the Triumph Club in Llandovery and we partook of the West End Cafe's All Day Breakfasts.  No-one seemed keen on moving on (having third and even fourth cups of coffee) and I had to get to work that night, so I took my leave of them and, on the spur of the moment, decided to take the long way home. For reasons which I won't go into, but which involved a dodgy free iPhone Satnav app, an upside-down paper map, and some very poor signage on the Brecon by-pass, I got home several hours later, having visited Brecon (three times), Lampeter, Newcastle Emlyn and Cardigan.  Total distance 191 miles.

Now, after I got home from the Saturday ride (and curiously about 30 seconds after I had pressed Publish on the earlier post) I had a bout of cramp in my left leg which lasted about 15 minutes and was incredibly painful, leaving me sweating and limping pathetically.  I assumed this was at least partially as a result of the day's exertions, and was a little anxious that Sunday's ride might bring a return of the cramp, so I was very alert to any symptoms while I was riding.

Not a bit of it.  When I got home on Sunday afternoon, I could have turned round and done it all again. The Sprint makes riding fast and far so easy it's almost wicked.  The riding position is part of it - leaning forward, but not too much weight on the wrists, and the legs tucked up but not uncomfortably so - meaning that at any speed from walking pace to three figures the body is balanced and relaxed.  The other factor is the engine.  Plenty of power, enough to be relaxed at any reasonable speed, but always eager and willing.  At 65, the XT is working and lets you know it.  At the same speed, the Sprint is polishing its nails and whistling a jaunty tune while wondering what to have for tea. 

Logically, of course, this is completely predictable, and only goes to show that things which are designed to a purpose are better at doing the thing they are designed for than things which are designed for something completely different.  So far, so obvious.  Of course a sports tourer will munch distances in a way that a dirt bike cannot.  Equally, if the day had consisted of some green laning and forest tracks I would be saying how clumsy the Sprint was where the XT was smooth and adept.

What has rather taken me aback is how much the difference really is.  It's almost like they were different modes of transport altogether - like a passenger jet compared to a pogo stick.  This is the kind of knowledge that is always there in the brain (after all, the concept is hardly difficult), but which takes a practical demonstration to make 'real'.  I don't think I have ever done two substantial rides on such different bikes back-to-back in this way ever before, and I am still quite amazed at just how different they were.  I imagine readers who drive very fast cars will know what I mean.  100 miles changes from a distant goal to a mere waypoint on a longer journey.

Horses for courses: the XT is still the best commuter and shopping hack.


  1. Despite stresses & strains on other parts of your anatomy, no mention of arseache?

    A testament to the upholsterers' skills.

  2. To each bike there is a purpose. It's when we try and cross-purpose them we get a wee bit sore.

    Oh, and though I haven't tried the trick, me mum swears by drinking pickle juice for bad leg cramps. She says they go away almost instantly if you can handle a few swallows out of the pickle jar.

  3. No, Joe, the arse was fine, thanks. I suppose the last bit is dependent upon which upholsterer you mean - the one employed by Yamaha, or the slightly more senior One who gave me the bum I have today?

    (Serious point - the Yam seat is actually pretty good. For a trailbike, it's astonishingly good.)

    Trobairitz - thanks for the tip, although I suspect that your Mum's cure is a bit like banging your head on a wall to take the attention from a stubbed toe. I've heard bananas are good, so I will have to audit my banana intake and see if there is a negative corelation.

  4. *correlation. I can spel, realy.

  5. Had a recent similar experience of my own. Recently traded the Road King for an R1200R. I was without my other bike (1150GS) for 6 months and missed it. 12 years on the Harley was fine but I'm a motorcyclist first who happened to own a Harley, not the other way round. The BM has a riding position much as you've described for the Sprint, is a mega mile crucher with a stonking motor and is a wonderful 220lbs lighter than the Hog. I feel like I'm on a 250 (but with a jet engine).

  6. There's a lot to be said for big, heavy bikes - mainly that they make middleweight bikes feel lithe and nimble in comparison. When I step on the XT after a ride on the Sprint, I feel as if I am riding a bicycle.

    Funnily enough, the RxxxxR and RxxxxGS are the only Beemers that interest me. One as a good old-fashioned road bike, and one as a capable mild off-roader and long-distance tool. Don't care for the looks of the 1200, but the 1100 and 1150GS could tempt me. Best of all would be a R100GS P/D, but they are like hen's teeth.

    Never had any hint of desire for a Harley, though.

  7. I had a GS alongside the Harley for 5 yrs. A very good ride indeed. The looks of the 1200R are growing on me, fast.

  8. Spent almost 2hours on the KDX250 to run it on motogymkhana day and then another two hours back last month.

    Whilst the old girl ran rings around the competition (literally) and made me look almost like I knew what I was doing, the journey there and back was agony :-) I was hankering after the ZZR every second!


    p.s. had a go on a Kwak VN900 at the weekend (custom type thing). Sat on it and thought, hmmm, another twenty years maybe and it was really growing on me. Second roundabout touched the floorboard down, panic induced straightening of the bike followed and almost hit the kerb...no, not quite ready for this then...


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