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

- George Washington

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Why Bikes Rock

I'm sending you over to Oscar India's place, where he has an excellent post on why bikes are so great. It's just a ride between shops, but it shows how much better a bike is than a car at dealing with traffic, and how a mundane utility trip can be turned into something life-enhancing.

Watching the clip, and especially the way that the BMW dismisses lines of slower traffic, makes me miss the arrogant power of the Honda (Pan European 1300, sold a year ago) and the way it could chew off and spit out whole lines of trucks and Sunday gawpers. The Bonnie is a great bike, but the performance is much closer to a fast car than a fast bike, and to ride like Oscar does in the clip would mean wringing its neck and taking a few risks on the way. I suppose this is why people end up with whole sheds full of bikes: none is perfect for every occasion or mood, so why not have several?

Go for a ride ...


  1. From OscarIndia/MotoClark
    Thanks for the link Richard. Very kind.
    I know what you mean about a stable full of bikes but - and I say this knowing it is early days with the new machine - I think the R1200 GS Adv may just BE a stable of bikes on its own....

  2. Oops, forgot you had changed moniker.

    I've heard terrific things about the GS Adv. From what I hear, about the only thing it isn't is a proper trailbike :) I'd like to try one, though, and I could be very easily persuaded by a nice R80GS or R100GS, especially the P-D version. Doubt if they would have the oceans of power, though.

  3. I've had more fun on the A420 from Swindon to Oxford than I think is strictly allowed - great road, especially when there's not much traffic. New BM looks rapid but relaxed and comfy, bit different to the litre sports bikes I used to "commute" on, might give one a go some day.

  4. Not sure about that Richard. I've seen people do some pretty impressive things with them off-road. Think it relies on huge amounts of courage, skill and physical strength - the bike itself will do it, if the rider can (I, for example, can't).
    You should look up Mark McArthur-Christie on Twitter (@markchristie) or on the UKGSer website (MMC). He's a friend of mine and a huge advocate of the old 1000cc GS. Also writes a very lovely blog, here http://mmcmusings.wordpress.com/

    Giant Bee

    A week ago I'd have been on a 170bhp K1200S - video of that would have had the TVP chopper landing in my garden....

  5. I wondered if you knew MMC, as you are both in the same part of the world. Agreed, good blog (I don't do Twitter, not yet anyway).

    I think you've said it - the bike is capable, but for real-world situations there are few riders big and strong enough to manhandle it in the rough. Even rufty-tufty actors needed a truck full of muscle 100m behind them to do the serious off-road bits. FWIW, I regard my XT as too big and heavy for serious off-road work. Light trails and green lanes, but anything more than that and you want <250 cc and <130 kg.

  6. @ giant bee - the trouble with commuting on a sportsbike is that it is too involving. You want something relaxed and reliable. My XT is relaxed, at least :P I did commute for a while on the Ducati, and I arrived at work far more excited than I should be. It was lunchtime before I had calmed down. There's a lot to be said for 'moderate progress' - you see a lot more, for one thing.

    Damn, that video's got me thinking ...

  7. I won't let you start me off on the LWR/LWD thing, but I'm a big defender of those two. FIrstly it's not their fault one of them's famous (when they set of Boorman was working as a painter and decorator and had £1500 in the bank, with two kids) and second, and more importantly, support by the legion or not they rode every single mile of both of those trips, which I call impressive even if one of them did ruin Star Wars.

  8. Oh, I dunno. Free bikes, everything paid for by the film rights, massive technical and logistical support ... the bit they did was the bit everyone would love to do - the riding. I don't know if you have read Lois Pryce, but there is a girl doing it completely alone, on a small trail bike she bought herself, and without a satphone or even GPS.

    Yes, they rode every single mile, but that's the bit we would all sell our grandmothers to do, isn't it? I'm afraid they lost it with me when they were in the middle of some fabulous exotic scenery, far from civilisation, and they started to have a cry about how miserable they felt. To a biker, they were just about the luckiest people on the planet, and all they could do was mope. Sorry, no sympathy.

    Yes, I'm an old cynic. :)

  9. I used to have the R100GS, a yeller/black 'un, ultimately it was a bit 'remote' for my tastes. Great gobs of torque low down but anything above 85mph and it would shake your fillings loose. It was known as 'the camel' and taking on a rain soaked roundabout on semis was pretty freaky, to say the least.

    I used to go to the BMF rally on it and the thing that drew all the attention was the Billet 6 pot on the front.

    Comfortable though and through really twisty roads/country lanes in the dry would seriously piss off the accompanying sportsbike riders. Whilst they were going up and down the box in a staccato frenzy I was doing the old roll on/roll off, riding the torque crest with nary a gear change to upset my serene progress.

    Happy days.

    Btw I did enjoy the movie and if I could afford one I'd get one, GS12 that is. That's if I was still biking of course, which I'm not.


    Yesterday I took the SO for an appointment and whilst waiting I decided to have a look in the bike shop around the corner. First time in any bike shop for nearly six years.

    Aah, the smell... took me back so it did. What I wasn't prepared for was the price of some of these things. A Ducati M1200 (or something like that) £14000!! WTF!! £14000? You Ities are 'avin' a larff.

    Unless of course it's fitted with machine guns that pop out of the front and laser guided missiles to take out idiot car drivers.

    Maybe I should've asked.

  10. Italian bike? That would be the one with the machine guns coming out of the back, surely?

  11. I must have one of the rarest R100GS! A Paris-Asthrakan model, only 1 of 10 made for a trip to (funny that!) asthrakan organised by BMW in 1990 which my parents did. My dad bought 1 of the bikes when they returned and I've had it ever since. Nicely tucked up in a garage in France.

    The difference with a PD? The sticker on the tank...

    Only let me down once, in torrential rain in January somewhere south of Lyon, courtesy of a cracked coil.

    I ride it once a year, and the torque always surprises me. It does feel old though :)

  12. Obviously, I had to misspell Astrakhan...:(

  13. You were understood, no worries :)

    "I ride it once a year ..."


  14. @Richard - you are an old cynic, shame on you... ;-)
    I'll tell you this, whilst I'd love to do what they did (and I agree about the moping) anyone who can manhandle a GS for 14 hours a day off-road deserves a pint of my money at least.

    @ monoi - what Richard said "*cries*"

    @ Xen347 £14/£15k is about average for top end big trailies now. Even the new Super Tenere is that! I'm with you on the torque wave thing - it's like flying a C17, huge but once it's going, it's going.

  15. Put it this way, if I was still riding it to commute in London, it would have been written off in a little spill I had last year. Instead, it was my trusty Aprilia Caponord which coped it.

    And as good a bike as it was, it was no match for an old GS in the "bikes you want to keep department".

    Now I ride a Buell Ulysses, which I originally got for my wife, and I'm starting to like it. The reason I got it is that going from driveshaft to chain drive made me realise that I really didn't like chains. Your story about the scottoiler made me smile (got myself a pro-oiler for the aprilia) and realise I really do not miss the mess and associated maintenance.

  16. I've ha a couple of shafties - my old Guzzi and the Pan - and I can see the appeal. The thing most people don't like about shaft drive, the torque reaction, was one of the things that endeared me to the V50. Honda, of course, had it licked with contra-rotating balance shafts. But they are not maintenance-free by any means - try not keeping them lobe an the oil level checked and see how expensive they can get :) I don't really mind the hassle of a chain, especially with an automatic oiler, and I appreciate the flexibility. I'm probably going to put a larger gearbox sprocket on the Triumph to give it longer legs at some point, and it will cost ~£15 and an hour's work. With a shaft, you get what you are given.

    I understand why you are happy that the accident happened to the Aprilia rather than the GS. I was just the 'once a year' that brought a lump to my throat. A bike like that deserves better, you cruel man.

  17. lobe = lubed
    an = and

    Bloody mini-keyboards!

  18. Believe it or not, I do not recall ever checking the shaft drive oil level on the GS...

    I understand your point about chain drive but the mess left by the oil on the rear wheel just annoyed me. That said, I would still have that bike were it not for the spill but its eventual replacement would have been shaft or belt.

    The Buell was supposed to replace my wife's old aprilia pegaso whose chain broke once on the north circular, locking the rear wheel. Thankfully, she managed to stay upright and nobody crashed into her, but the experience left me a bit suspicious to say the least. That said, she still uses that bike as the Buell felt too powerful for her. It's no looker (it went down a few times, one surprisingly tough bike I tell you!) but it gets the commuting job done and I don't care much what happens to it!

    Fear not though, the GS is well tucked up and lovingly maintained.

    That said, it will soon be time to get my other old girl out (even if its a fat boy!), polish some chrome and upset the neighbourhood's car alarms...

  19. "the GS is well tucked up and lovingly maintained"

    Without my puter specs on, I read that as 'marinated'.

    I think with the chain/shaft debate there is good on both sides, and one or the other certainly wouldn't be a deal-breaker in any bike purchase of mine.

    I'm glad the GS is 'tucked up' (specs again) and well looked-after.


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