Sunday, 13 January 2013
I tried, I really tried.
I had the BMW for six months. I wanted to like it. It had everything going for it - a full set of luggage, an economical and reliable engine, lots of expensive accessories, and it looked pretty good too. But last week I sold it. And yesterday I rode home on a new bike - the rather pretty Yamaha pictured above.
What was wrong with the Beemer? In a word, it was dull. In another word, it was the wrong shape. And in a third word, it was built so far down to a price that it reached Australia.
Dull, first. Whatever a bike does, whatever you use it for, however much it cost you, it must be fun. It must light a fire somewhere in your soul. If I want utility, I will use my car. The engine was reasonably powerful (50 bhp) and yet managed to make that power in such a somnolent way that it seemed like half that. The exhaust note was (and I mean this literally) less engaging than my lawnmower. There was a mild duff-duff from the back end, and an annoying pockety-pock from the induction, and that was it. It gave no sense of excitement whatsoever. At least the mower sounds businesslike. Yes, this could have been cured with an aftermarket system, but only at a cost of several hundred pounds - and I didn't love it enough to sink that kind of cash into it.
It was the wrong shape for me. Even with a higher seat (at a cost of £160) it was too low. I felt like I was riding a cruiser, all feet forward and arms in the air. I exaggerate, but that's how it felt. And it wobbled round slow corners. Great for a shorty, but for this almost-six-footer (5' 11⅞" to be precise) it was like riding a roller-skate.
And the build quality was depressing. Perhaps I had high expectations of a Bavarian product, but it was disappointingly poorly-made. The fork lowers were starting to pit, the engine had lost most of its paint, and the quality of the fasteners holding it all together was dire. Many chassis bolts were simply rusty (and looked awful), and several times I had to resort to cobalt-tipped drills and witchcraft to get seized bolts out. Electrolytic corrosion between dissimilar metals and a complete lack of anti-seize compounds during manufacture made it a DIY nightmare. It had a full BMW main dealer service history, and from the amount of paperwork that came with it the previous owners must have been anally retentive to the point of solidity, so I don't think any of it was owner neglect. Nope, BMW build these as entry-level bikes to the BMW 'family', and my guess is they are not built to last more than a few years, just long enough for the first owner to trade up to a £12k monster. I know I bang on ad nauseam about how good the XT600 is, but seriously - a 19-year-old Yamaha with eleventy-six owners, evidence of neglect and abuse throughout its life, and which lives out in all weathers and is rarely cleaned, has less rust and is easier to take apart than an 8-year-old 'premium product' from one of the world's most famous bike makers.
When I got back into riding in 2007 after a break of nearly ten years, I bought a Yamaha XT660R - partly because it was the right price, I liked the look of it, and I had owned two smaller XTs in a former life. I sold it on after a year (for reasons which were entirely incorrect, I now learn) and subsequently had everything from 800 to 1300 cc, straight fours, parallel and V-twins, a V-four and even a triple. But all that time, guess what? My hyper-secure password that I use for all critical internet logins is a cleverly-scrambled mix of characters based on that Yamaha. It was in 2007 and it is today. And my desktop backgound? Yes, that's right. Still. It's a bit like that number that you never quite manage to delete from your phone, the photo you can't bear to throw away.
I rode it home from 'up the line' yesterday and had a total blast. It's got 2 bhp less than the GS, and with the lack of wind protection it's probably as comfy at 70 as the GS was at 80. But it jumps off the line like a terrier, grunts and snarls on the throttle, and has a tall and commanding riding position that puts you where you want to be - in charge. In other words, it's just like the older XT, but better. And coming from me, that is high recommendation.
Needless to say, I am in lurve all over again.
Posted by Richard at 21:48