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MV Agusta’s F3 800

It’s not long since we were in Italy testing MV Agusta’s Brutale 800RR so when the chance came to have their latest F3 800 for a week back in Scotland it was an opportunity too good to miss.

Amongst some groups of bikers the MV brand isn’t too well known but has been around since 1945 and as far as their sportsbikes and racing go they have been GP winners in the past including the prestigious Isle of Man, before quitting racing in 1976.

That racing heritage is having somewhat of a revival as MV are now back at the TT and are running bikes in championships around the world with riders like the always entertaining Jordi Torres in the World Superbike Championship, and Raffaele De Rosa (4 podiums in 2018) and Ayrton Badovini in the World Supersport Championship.

Sitting between the Superbike 1000cc and Supersport 600’s MV Agusta took the very popular F3 675 platform to developed a superb machine for riders looking for a bit more power but that is no slouch when compared to 1000cc bikes with a very well delivered 148hp available at your right wrist.

First impressions of the F3 800 are of a compact and light bike. Read more…

 

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Brutale Enjoyment

When MV Agusta call and invite you to go to the factory in Varese, Italy to speak with the team and test ride the new Brutale 800RR, you clear your diary!

The MV Agusta brand is steeped in heritage, with origins going back to 1945, when it was spun off from Agusta Aviation, which is better known for building helicopters. MV would go on to win GP after GP, including the prestigious Isle of Man, before quitting racing in 1976.

The brand officially returned to the circuit as a manufacturer in 2014, after a long dormant period, and is now a regular on the racing scene, and popular on the street, thanks to a range of exotic sports bikes and unfaired street bikes.

The Brutale itself as far as MV’s bike genealogy goes has been around for a while, first hitting the market in 2006 with the 909cc inline-4 configuration. In 2012 the manufacturer moved to a three cylinder 675, before bumping up the CC’s and power with the release of the first 800 in 2015.

For 2018, the new Brutale 800RR comes with some nice design features adding to its perfect symmetry from front to rear and its smoothly styled tank. As with all of the MV three-cylinder range the standout on these machines would have to be the short triple exhaust pipes protruding from the right side of the bike, alongside the crisp looking single sided swingarm.

Read more…

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Kawasaki ZX10-R

We were meant to have tested the ZX10-R a couple of months ago but someone (not one of us) managed to write-off the test bike the day before we should have picked it up, clever boy!

It’s a very fitting time to be reviewing the ZX10-R as Jonathan Rea takes his bike to a record breaking third work title in World Superbikes. The ZX10’s racing heritage is well founded and provides the basis for everything that goes on the street bike. Development is on the track and there is little if anything that makes it onto the production bike that isn’t meant to make it faster, stop quicker and handle better.

Assisting the rider is a whole suite of electronic rider aids. You get Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), Kawasaki Engine Brake Control (KEBC), Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) and Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF).
The KLCM offers three levels of adjustment, with riders able to take off with full throttle, with the system limiting engine speed and regulating wheel spin and lift. It is disengaged at over 93mph or from third gear onwards, as well as when engine temperature exceeds 100°C.

The Engine Brake Control allows engine braking to be reduced from that normally offered by the slipper clutch, with the setting saved until changed, including when the bike is turned off. 

Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS) uses front and rear wheel sensors and also includes links with the ECU assessing throttle position, engine speed, clutch and gear position.

The Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF) uses advanced modeling software and feedback from a compact Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that gives an even clearer real-time picture of chassis orientation, KCMF monitors engine and chassis parameters throughout the corner – from entry, through the apex, to corner exit – modulating brake force and engine power to facilitate smooth transition from acceleration to braking and back again, and to assist riders in tracing their intended line through the corner.

What the ZX10-R takes to the street is a highly capable track and race bike that won’t threaten to kill everyone that sits on it. One of the most noticeable enhancements on the bike, direct from the race track, is the use of Showa’s Balance Free Forks and Balance Free Rear Cushion shock. On both systems damping is generated in an external chamber and compression and rebound are independent circuits.

Complimented the Brembo brakes and with the rider assists in play, the ZX10-R is one of the best handling litre sports bikes we’ve ridden. It felt bulkier that others including BMW’s S1000RR but the ZX10 handles better. Unlike some previous models, inputs to steering are quick and smooth and although we were initially cautious and were keen not to be the next one sliding down the road or trashing the bike in an ego-ending crash it wasn’t long before the sheer pleasure of riding the Ninja kicked in and limits were getting closer to being found.

There is undoubtedly plenty of power on tap and its available throughout the rev range. If you’re a bit wary of getting on the gas the bikes also has power modes that allows cutting back on the power to 80% (mid-power) and a lower power setting at around 50-60% of the available 210 Bhp.

Although we didn’t try the power modes they could be a good way for riders new to litre sportsbikes to get used to the ride before unleashing the full potential. The full potential of the ZX10-R is only ever likely to be reached on a race track but on the road its an adrenalin pumping beast, the kind you would expect to threaten your existence at every turn but with the rider aids working their mechanical and technological magic everything stays in place and the bike remains planted firmly on the road. The feel through the bars and the confidence the Showa suspension and Bridgestone tyres provide give the feeling of a smaller capacity bike with with big bike capacity.

The ZX10-R also comes with a up-only quickshifter but has an optional race ECU that will give clutchless downshifts too. Changing up and down the quickshifter is almost seamless. As you’d expect with a bike with the stature and racing heritage of the Ninja getting through the gears and up to top speed can be a very rapid affair!
Stopping the bike in a hurry isn’t for the faint hearted either. Get hard on the brakes and the ZX10 dives to a stop as you feel the electronics maintain control of the writhing beast beneath you.

If there was anything we would consider changing of the ZX10-R we might adjust the position of the footrests (maybe a result of us getting older) but that is merely a personal preference and doesn’t detract from the bike whatsoever.

It’s clear that Kawasaki have taken a wealth of track development and their racing experience and built one of the best litre series sportsbikes available today. Whether it is the best of them all of subjective but if we were to make a choice right now we’ve take it before all others in its class.

For 2018 there aren’t going to be too many changes to the bike so for now its Kawasaki’s ZX10-R for us!

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Kawasaki ZX-6R

Ninjas have been around for a long time, we’re talking about the two-wheeled Kawasaki type although admittedly the two-legged Ninjas have been around even longer. Both have a reputation as fighters. Both have an aura of strength and power, and both command respect wherever they are.

Kawasaki first developed the Ninja range of sportbikes back in 1984 with the GPZ900R and they had a fierce reputation. They were powerful, well-built and manageable rides despite the power and lack of riders aids at that time.

This was the era when riders had to ride the bike and control it through feel and experience (seat of their pants) not reliant on electronics.

Fast forward to 2017 and the modern day Ninja’s have evolved with technology and their experience dominating the World Superbike and Supersport series. The current ZX-6R is a direct result of the experience Kawasaki gained from the likes of Kenan Sofuoglu, 5 times World Supersport Champion, on the Kawasaki. In such an intensely competitive championship Sofuoglu has shown that the Kawasaki has its place at the top of the table whilst in the Superbike series Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes continue to dominate with the ZX-10R.

We put in about 600 miles on the 2017 ZX-6R over a weekend test session. First impressions, judging this book by its cover is spot on. It’s a good-looking bike and looks are not deceiving in this case.

Day one was spent in the city streets and motorways where the Ninja felt superbly planted on the road and well balanced. The riding position, power delivery and braking are all at the top of the game in the 600 range of bikes and for tricky conditions the bike of loaded with a range of rider assist controls.

Seat of the pants riding is still possible with the ZX-6R because it comes with switchable 3-Mode KTRC Traction Control, Power Mode selection and ABS giving a wider range of control over the bike and power that allows riders of varying experience enjoy the bike without cause to worry.

Power is switchable from Full to Low and with variable levels of Traction Control available the ZX-6R can be setup as a full power ride for sports riders or a lower and more manageable ride for newcomers, those just getting into sportbikes and for wet/ slippery conditions.

Overall handling is well-balanced and rock steady. In a straight line there is enough wind deflection from the fairing and visor at all speeds to maintain a comfortable ride and in the corners.

The rest of the weekend was spent on twisty mountain and out of town roads. The bike had already proven itself in straight lines and city traffic and it was time to hit some twisties and for more technical riding.

Cornering the ZX-6R around the tight, twisty mountain backroads was a blast!

The ZX-6R sits rock steady like its on rails and mid-corner adjustments to steering and braking are immediate and easily managed.

Twice we came around corners to face oncoming traffic in our lane. On both occasions getting on the brakes whilst still in the corner and the steering adjustments needed didn’t unsettle the bike.

Hitting bumps and different road surfaces didn’t phase the Ninja in the slightest either. What went from being a gentle ride around the backroads became a blast hitting the corners and the Ninja fought on in style.

Pushing harder into corners the Ninja took all the punishment we threw at it and it was clearly capable of more but that’s not something we’re going to be doing in public roads.

Kawasaki have proven themselves capable to championship winning performance and have taken that experience to develop the latest ZX-6R. It’s a compact, lightweight and highly capable package that had us talking to ourselves the entire day inside our helmets.

“A sign of madness? Maybe, but the message was clear. When you have to keep telling yourself “don’t do anything stupid” over and over again you know you’re on a bike that most definitely has the ability to get you in a lot of trouble whilst having an immense amount of fun doing it!”

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2017 Ducati Desert Sled

The bike world is awash with retro styling these days and whilst some of these are muted and modernised versions that the cool crowd ride chasing past dreams Ducati have come up with the Desert Sled based on their popular Scrambler.

When Ducati launched the Scrambler in 2014 it was a massive PR and sales success for the Italian company. The brief for the Desert Sled was simple. Take the Scrambler, keep the general styling and lifestyle but make it more offroad capable.

Now, if you’re going to call your bike a Desert Sled, harking back to the lifestyling of ripping through Southern California’s deserts on customised street bikes and the first dirt bikes, you better make sure it can be taken in the desert and survive.

First problem, there aren’t many deserts in Scotland.

We’re not weather of geology experts but we’d guess that it might just rain a bit too much here for deserts to form. That’s not an expert opinion, just a passing comment based on how wet we got riding in to work today. If we’d set up a water collection systems on ourselves we could probably irrigate a small country in Africa for a month in what we’d collect riding the 45 to work. But we still love it.

So, where to go? Easy choice, we hit the streets, mountains and deserts of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and yes, it is a little warmer that Scotland these days (44C and more). Apparently that sort of weather is better for the deserts. This was going to be a test of riders and the bike.

The Desert Sled has hints of the old Yamaha XT500 styling and that was a very capable bike but the Desert Sled is very much Ducati’s Scrambler at heart, well the engine anyway, because that is about all that hasn’t seen revisions and redesigns.
The air-cooled, 803cc V-twin engine is unchanged, and is held in a strengthened version of the original steel-tube frame. The original Scrambler frame used the engine as a stressed member, but the Desert Sled gets extra frame bracing that allows you to thrash it to your heart’s content with confidence that it can take the beating.

There is also a lengthened swingarm for added stability, spoked wheels 19 inch up front and 17 rear, with excellent Pirelli Scorpion STR tyres. There’s additional ground clearance with the adjustable KYB front and a lower seat option for shorter riders.

Protection is added to the headlight and oil cooler in addition to a skid plate to keep the underside side of the engine intact for the anticipation of a thrashing offroad.

Time to see if these things work.

We spent a few days on the Desert Sled putting over 1,200 miles on it commuting and touring taking in the city, mountains and coastal roads.

The Desert Sled clearly isn’t a purely street bike and with any bike fitted with dual-use tyres there’s usually a comprise when it comes to road handling and comfort depending on the depth of the tread.

However the Pirelli’s don’t give as much vibration as you might expect and are actually pretty well planted on the road giving good feedback to the rider even under heavy braking and in tight twisties.

With the smooth power from the Scrambler engine commuting, touring and generally hooning around is a blast! You can push the bike with the confidence that the power is there when needed and that the tyres and adjustable ABS are going to keep you right-side-up in the process.

There’s also a level of comfort that is difficult to match in this category of bikes. Even after a 10-hour day on the bike there weren’t so many of the usual aches and pains – and that’s good going for us not so young anymore riders with the slight adjustments to the seating and footpeg position adding to the seated comfort. The Sled is a little taller than the standard Scrambler model but there is the option of a lower seat for shorter riders.

We had considered adventure and dual-use bikes in the past for our daily rides but this one may just have won us over and from the look on faces as we passed and when parked it’s clear that the Desert Sled has a growing fan base out there.

With the road test done it was time to dust up the Sled. Cue the desert scene. We head out of the city and onto some hard mountain tracks with loose gravel and the Desert Sled is unphased. It’s no motocross bike but it handles a lot better for its weight that you’d imagine.

It is also a lot easier to manage than many of the more popular large adventure bikes and is no less capable than these monsters. It’s also a lot easier to lift after being dropped in the sand.

As soon as you have the balance on the Desert Sled there is very little to stop you. This bike takes a beating and keeps on asking for more. Riding stood up, sliding and steering with the rear is easy as the bike responds to every input of power, shifting weight and steering.

Throwing into the sand dunes came next, some proper desert riding for the Desert Sled. We’ve tested many bikes in desert dunes, not just MX bikes but also BMW’s GS’s, KTM’s Adventures, Triumph’s Tigers and the Ducati proved itself equally capable and better than some.

To the amazement of the MX riders in our group the Sled took to the dunes with easy and got to the top of one of the most challenging dunes beating a few of the MX riders in a drag to the top!

So, did Ducati’s designers and engineers hit the brief? We’d say so!

The Desert Sled is well balanced, has good power delivery and the looks to match. This isn’t a bike that you’d buy just to look hip, this is a seriously capable on and offroad machine.

It will do a lot more than most riders can ask of it on the roads and anywhere offroad whilst still being a blast as a daily commuter and tourer.

 

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The Power of Balance

Despite all the features and clever bits bike manufacturers seem to be able to come up with, almost all bikes can be defined by one particular trait. That may be the engine, an especially smooth gearbox or great handling. Never has this been truer than with the launch of the new KTM Adventure range, which recently took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

This is a bike that’s so well known in the adventure bike market that it almost defines the category. Along with the BMW GS this really is the defacto choice depending on if you prefer German or Austrian engineering.

The bike comes in five guises, depending on what you use it mostly for. There’s two 1090 models and three versions of the 1290 model. The 1090 in both standard and R trim tends to run out of legs fairly quickly, as the bike is so well set up it pushes you to ride faster than the engine is happy with. But the 1290 is sublime, with the rider’s limits far closer than the engines. The three versions are the R, S and T, with the R and S sporting spoked rims for off-road riding and the T more focused at long distance road riding.

By far the pick of the bunch, depending on what you plan to use it for, is the R, which is the most extreme version of the bike. Importantly, the difference between the R and T is tiny, so by buying the R you don’t really have to compromise on off-road ability.

But the blanket you can throw over all three is without a shadow of doubt, balance. Yes, the bigger engine is amazingly smooth and the suspension sublime, but the total balance of the bike is what really grabs you.

Any weight melts away from under you and you soon forget you’re riding a bike that weighs 217 kgs, which by the way is 46 kgs lighter than the rival BMW R 1200 GS. Get out onto a gravel path or hard packed sand and it handles like a motocross bike. Stand up on the pegs and suddenly you’re a Dakar rider, steering with your hips and throwing it around like it’s an extension of your body. KTM always make bikes that feel race ready and they pride themselves on that, but this really does feel like you could if you wanted to.

Of course, it’s actually built for adventures (the clue is in the name), so buyers can equip it with all the pre-requisite add-ons adventure riders seem to love so much. Panniers, crash bars and all the usual items are already available via the KTM Powerparts range.

With this new version KTM has managed to meld together stunning on-road prowess with frankly astounding off-road ability. It’s hard to find anything to pick apart. Will the TFT dash screen and software put up with serious off-roading at the dark end of an Asian gravel road? Time will tell, as there aren’t many KTM dealerships where the serious off-roaders want to explore. But KTM have probably tested it to destruction already, so it’s not something to lose sleep over.

Regardless, with the balance of a yoga master and an engine like a gas turbine, there’s a lot to love with the new KTM Adventure. Go for the 1290, throw your bags on the back and point it East. Just remember to stop when you get to the sea.