Passenger’s Point of View

Yamaha XT1200ZE Super Tenere versus Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin. A Passenger’s point of view.


Super Tenere versus Africa Twin

Last weekend we went up to Glenmalure, County Wicklow, to the Overlanders and Adventure Motorcycles Ireland Ltd. and Touratech Travel Event. A great event in beautiful surroundings and luckily, fantastic weather. It went from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August. On Saturday my brother-in-law, Declan and I, took up an offer to be driven up so we could have a beer with the great food on offer at the Glenmalure Lodge. I really liked the Lodge as did the others, and  I would be very surprised if we don’t book in there for future visits to Glenmalure, and all that this fantastic scenic area has to offer. We were very happy with our food and the selection of beer. My choice was a cold craft beer on tap which was great and very welcome in the heat. Thanks for doing the driving Laurie!

There were some very interesting displays, talks and demonstrations over the weekend, but my favourite aspect was the offer from the guys from AMI to take the Yamaha Super Tenere and the Honda Africa Twin out on a test drive. Glenmalure offers the kind of environment that these bikes are meant for and when I enquired, I was told there was no problem taking a pillion passenger out on the rides. The bikes in question are two fine examples of the genre, but pillion comfort is a very important issue if your “significant other” intends to travel with you regularly. I wanted to know what her verdict was on these two offerings, as this will make a big difference in relation to a decision I will have to make, not too long from now. So early on Friday, when it hadn’t gotten too busy, we took the opportunity to test out these two great bikes.

The XT1200ZE Super Tenere from Yamaha was first, in a mat grey colour. An impressive bike with a 1,199cc, liquid cooled, inline 2-cylinder engine, this bike definitely has all the bells and whistles: shaft drive, traction control, cruise control, ABS and electronically adjustable suspension, to name just a few of its goodies. We left the event compound, with Glenmalure Lodge on our right and turned right up a bumpy, narrow and twisty mountain road, up over the hill and back down to a T-junction and turned left towards Laragh. The Super Tenere is a big bike at 265kgs (584lbs) but with a maximum output of 82.4kw, there is power in abundance. DSC05116 (2)After a couple of minutes I found myself getting to grips with this bike and I was mightily impressed. We turned right in Laragh and tried out the smoother road, through Annamoe and on to Roundwood. We stopped in Roundwood to have a chance to discuss our first thoughts on the bike and I adjusted the riding mode from Sport to Touring, which is just the press of a button. We headed back, retracing the route to Glenmalure, where we were immediately offered the Honda for our next test ride.

The Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin was next and the one on offer was in the “Victory Red” livery and had HDSC05123 (2)onda side boxes and a top box. The Africa Twin is a 998cc parallel twin with a maximum output of 70kw weighing in at 228kgs (503lbs). This bike is offered with Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission but the bike we were test driving was the six speed manual version with ABS and traction control. We took off on the same route and within a couple of hundred yards /metres, I felt as if I was riding a bike I was very familiar with. The bike is light and nimble for a “litre” bike and it was hard to believe I had a passenger and luggage with me. The advantages of an adventure motorcycle include the upright seating position and the ability to soak up the bumps and wallows of less than ideal terrain. This bike has it in spades and together with its wide handle bars and longer leg space, I think I would have great fun on this bike, as well as the ability to do longer solo tours in comfort.

But we are not here to talk about solo tours. What matters is what the pillion passenger thinks. I asked Laurie what she thought of the comfort of each of the bikes. We had both agreed that the longer leg room you get is a big plus, and much easier on your back and knees in particular. It means you can go for a longer distance before you look like John Wayne when you dismount. While neither of us is particularly tall, we are not overly small either, but more to point, if we were to admit it, the sunnier side of fifty has drifted by, or whooshed by in my case. For both bikes she said: vision is great from the pillion seat and the extra leg room is so much more comfy than what she is used to.

Super Tenere

  • A bit jerky at the outset but overall it felt like there was less vibration on the Tenere;
  • Great vision forward and could see speedometer and rev counter;
  • Seat was great, the most comfortable of the two bikes;
  • Much smoother when touring mode was selected; and,
  • Scary because there was no top box which she is used to.

Africa Twin

  • Pillion seat is sloped,  causing her to occasionally slide forward;
  • The top box, with pad, was comfy to lean against and felt more secure;
  • Great vision forward on this bike too, can see the dials easily;
  • Side boxes position were fine but dismounting was a challenge; and,
  • The Honda seemed the “vibier” of the two bikes.

She is more accustomed to being a passenger on a street bike with an inline four cylinder engine. Most people agree that an inline four cylinder is a very smooth option, though twins have important advantages too. Too make matters worse, I was impressed with the pulling power of the bikes and intentionally delayed gear changes to see how well the bikes performed when not necessarily in the correct gear. As for the Tenere’s initial “jerkiness”, I forgot to check which mode the Tenere was in and it turns out it was in Sports mode. I shouldn’t have started out in Sports mode under the circumstances. The fact that the Yamaha had no luggage and the Honda was fully kitted also makes a difference to the test riding conditions. In relation to the passenger sliding forward on the Honda, the angle of the pillion seat is noticeably sloped forward. In other words it is high at the back, tending to cant the passenger forward towards the driver, if there is sudden deceleration. Which there was. A Landrover came to an abrupt stop in front of me for no apparent reason and I had to grab a lot of brakes. I noticed her weight shift forward suddenly, and while this might have been uncomfortable for her, it didn’t result in the usual sudden weight and pressure on me as the rider. It’s possible that this will reduce as the passenger becomes more accustomed to the bike.

So, what conclusions can we come to after this comparison? These are both damn good bikes. Both have a lot to offer and are very comfortable. Of course BMW and KTM, as well as some other noteworthy manufacturers have to be considered where adventure bikes are concerned, but that is not what we are about here. She has had her say and now for mine. I like both bikes and found them both very comfortable. I think the Tenere has a march on the  Africa Twin where technology is concerned and I have always thought cruise control is a great tool for any type of touring bike. It gets you to where you want to be, especially when you need to use motorways / highways. While the seat on the Honda seems very good for the rider, and I love the riding position on both bikes, it would appear that the Tenere is ahead for long distance passenger comfort. Derek Rynhart from Overlanders and Adventure Motorcycles Ireland Ltd. told me that he and his wife toured Spain on the Africa Twin and had no issues with comfort so I don’t think it is going to be a big problem.  If you and your passenger got on the ferry to Cherbourg and rode down to Northern Spain, then started popping in and out of all the small villages, bays and beaches along the coast, there is no doubt that both bikes would be well capable for both the ride down and the subsequent exploring. The Tenere would get you down there most comfortably, but the Africa Twin would be king, once you started tackling the little rough and sandy, local roads down to the beaches and bays.


Careful Now!

Be careful now… because if you go down to Glenmalure you might get your bike dirty… Great event going on down there this weekend. Tomorrow is your last chance to get down to Glenmalure, County Wicklow, where a great event is taking place this weekend, Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August 2016. Adventure Motorcycles Ireland & Overlanders, together with Touratech Ireland are hosting a weekend with local ride outs of varying difficulties & durations, evening presentations from renowned traveller(s) (Nick Sanders); free rider assessment by a local training school; weekend photo rally competitions; trade stands and Touratech Ireland equipment; and, bikes to try out. Right craic. The off-road training is proving very popular… as is the food and maybe a sneaky bevvie in the Glenmalure Lodge too!

Adventure in Glenmalure

A great event is taking place this weekend in Glenmalure, Co.Wicklow, Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August 2016. Adventure Motorcycles Ireland & Overlanders, together with Touratech Ireland are hosting a weekend with local ride outs of varying difficulties & durations, evening presentations from renowned traveller(s) (Nick Sanders); free rider assessment by a local training school; weekend photo rally competitions; trade stands and Touratech Ireland equipment; and, bikes to try out. It started this morning (Friday) and goes on all weekend. Herself and I have already taken the Yamaha Super Tenere and the Honda Africa Twin out on the roads this morning, and they are both fantastic bikes.

We were warmly greeted by Derek, David and Gary from AMI & Overlanders, Gorey, and they offered us lots of helpful tips and information on both bikes that we tested. The weather is set to stay sunny and warm and the craic will be mighty. Food and drink at the Glenmalure Lodge, and lots more to enjoy, so get down to this great event. A fantastic setting with super views of the Wicklow hills and challenging routes to try out. No doubt there will be some great tales of adventures, both on and off the road.


Mixing with Monks in Graignamanagh


Last week Laurie and I packed the saddlebags and headed to Lismore in County Waterford. The unwritten plan was a break in Lismore and then maybe west and south towards Ardmore. We only got to Lismore. This week we headed out on the bike. No saddlebags and nothing packed so there was little doubt we wereDSC04909 coming home in the evening. A short spin from base and we found ourselves in Borris, the ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanaghs. One option from the Capital: take the M11 / N11 to Enniscorthy. From Enniscorthy take the R702 to Borris. The views from Borris of the Blackstairs and Mount Leinster are great, and the town itself is quaint and picturesque. The tudor style mansion, Borris House, is open to the public by prior arrangement and for special occasions such as weddings or concerts. At the bottom of the town there isDSC04929 a 16 arch viaduct which was built in 1860 for the Great Southern and Western railway. The railway line closed completely in the 1960s but the viaduct is still there. After a walk around Borris we saddled up again to travel about 10 kilometres or 6 miles to Graignamanagh (or Graiguenamanagh: Gráig na Manach, village of the monks) in County Kilkenny.

The most striking building in Graignamanagh is the national monument, Duiske Abbey. A 13th century Cistercian Monastery, founded by William Marshall, in 1204. It is the largest of the 34 medieval Cistercian Monasteries in Ireland and in 1228 it was occupied by 35 monks and 50 lay brothers. The name Duiske comes from Douskey or An Dubh Uisce, The Black Water, a tributary which runs into the Barrow River in Graignamanagh. The abbey is well worth a visit, with 13th century stonework still visible, some of the original medieval floor tiles, Gothic and Romanesque architecture and an effigy of a Roman Knight on display. We spent some time wandering around the Abbey, appreciating its beauty and Laurie said a few prayers for my salvation. Probably entirely wasted because the next thing that caught my eye was a small grocery store opposite the Abbey. A grocery store, oh, and did I mention it was also a bar. Of course we weren’t going in because remember, we didn’t pack the saddle bags and therefore it was definite we were going home. We just went in to have a look at the grocery. The grocery that happened to be a bar as well.DSC05008 There were a few chaps there sampling the wares of course. One man was from Dundalk, a fact that was correctly guessed by Laurie, after just a few utterances by him. Another man was drinking a very nice looking pint of Guinness and eating slices of cooked ham from a brown paper bag. As you do. There was a very varied selection of goods for sale. Everything from mackerel lures, garden implements, tins of beans and did I mention, pints of Guinness. Of course we weren’t staying. One pint of Guinness, and then a look around for a suitable venue for food, before we set off home again.

The next morning, when we woke up in the B&B, we were very impressed with the view from our room. We were looking out over the quay, with barges and river boats tied up and the attractive looDSC04944king bridge over the Barrow River just a few yards down from the Waterside Restaurant and B&B. The bridge crosses the Barrow and Herself wasn’t slow to point out that it was County Carlow on the other side. She is from Carlow and that is why that was relevant. We had another wander around picturesque Graignamanagh. Historically it was an important town because it was a main base for barge traffic, which were the articulated truck, tractor / trailer units of their day, from the 1700s on.  In the town theDSC04953re is a concerted effort to grow and develop, through a scheme supported by a European rural development plan and Graignamanagh Local Development Company Ltd. The renewal is making a big difference to the town and there is a massive floral effort being made by the local people. The most impressive is the Kebab House, which is weighed down with flowers. The florist located directly across from it has a lot to do with the flowers, I fancy, but lots of other buildings are well decorated with flowers too. There are attractive shop and pub fronts and some very interesting life size statues of the Cistercian Monks depicting their lives.

What do you mean I skipped a bit? Oh, how we got from a quaint grocery store to waking up in a B&B? A grocery store that happens to be a pub too. Well, as I said we decided to sample the Guinness because it looked so nice and creamy and while we were enjoying it, Pat, the owner of Doyle’s explained a little about the premises. DSC05011 (2)It was originally a hotel and a stop for the Bianconi coaches. Carlo Bianconi was an Italian refugee from the Napoleonic Wars. He moved to Ireland, changed his name to Charles, and became a successful business man, inventing the first public transport system in Ireland: horse drawn coaches. The coaches required regular stops in various towns where the horses were changed. The man with the ham in the brown paper bag was telling a story about a father who had been a very hard working farmer all his life. When he died he left the thriving farm to his only son. Everyone remarked how much hard work this man had done in his lifetime. The son replied that he had left a lot of it behind him too… The man from Dundalk was telling how he had come down from Kildare in his river boat. Another customer told how he had been working in Australia for seven years and was back home for his first visit. Obviously we weren’t going home.

When I went back to the bike to get something I spotted the Waterside B&B and Restaurant and decided to book us in.  After one or two more in Doyle’s we adjourned to the restaurant in the Waterside and had a delicious salmon dinner. There had been a discussion about returning to hear more about the history of Doyle’s after the meal, but tiredness won out and we retired for tDSC04932 (2)he night. The staff of Waterside B&B and Restaurant were so friendly and helpful, and the next morning we had a great breakfast of cereal, tea and coffee as well as the obligatory full Irish. The motorbike was safely stored away in a building to the rear where they keep the bikes and electric bikes they have for hire. The tow-paths beside the waterway were once used for the horses that towed the barges. Now bike hire businesses can take full advantage of them as ready made routes for their customers. The tow-paths are great for walkers too as the paths are flat and scenic and the next beautiful village, to the south, Saint Mullins, is only four miles along the path or Barrow Way, as it is known. In the other direction the Barrow Way is accessible all the way to the Grand Canal in County Kildare. DSC05105Before we headed back out on the road, we walked down to look at the sports and rowing facility. The rowing club, unlike a lot of older, established rowing and boat clubs, is relatively new, having been founded in 2001. There are lots of sports and water activities here, swimming, canoeing and rowing as well as field sports. We were well impressed with the new poster over the rowing club. The O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen won silver in rowing in Rio but they also made a big impression at the Olympics and are now known for some famous statements they made while being interviewed. The rowing club have harnessed this popularity with a large sign of the two heroes on the clubhouse wall.




A visit to Lismore, County Waterford


Herself and I decided to fill the saddlebags and head to County Waterford on the Southern Coast of Ireland. Lismore is a beautiful village, some miles inland, and that wDSC04848as the first port of call that we decided on. Take the M9 motorway south from the capital and in less than two hours you will make Waterford City and then take the N25, in the direction of Cork, until you reach the outskirts of Dungarvan. You turn right onto the N72 and after a half an hour you pass through Cappoquin. A few miles (or kilometres) further on, on the N72, you will approach the town of Lismore. As you approach Lismore, the castle comes into view, and it is very impressive. It belonged to the Earls of Desmond and then the Dukes of Devonshire. Famous people associated with the castle include Sir Walter Raleigh; William Cavendish, a British Prime Minister; and, Charles Cavendish (9th Duke) who married Adele Astaire, sister of Fred Astaire. Part of the castle is now open as an art gallery and the castle gardens are also open to the public. But Lismore offers a lot more than the castle, impressive as it may be. It is a very picturesque town and there is an abundance of interesting buildings and a beautiful park to visit. When we arrived we were a little peckish and I remembered a pub / restaurant where I had eaten on a previous occasion that I had rode down on the bike.

We walked up the street to where the pub was. It is called Eamonn’s Place but when we went in, there was just one gentleman at the bar reading his newspaper. He told us that there is a full menu there Monday to Friday only, and not on weekends. This man was possibly Eamonn himself, and a little later when we got food in the Hotel, we noticed quite a crowd eating there, and we wondered if Eamonn might reconsider not doing a full menu at the weekend. As we left I decided to snap a pic of the outside of the pub. Herself jumped into the shot and when you consider she was just wearing her underwear, far be it from her husband not to go ahead and publish the snap. DSC04850What do you mean underwear? Thermal underwear for the motorcycle and not sports top and leggings like she would say. Now, lingerie (another word for underwear) models are usually on the sunnier side of fifty, and not imminently about to become grandmothers, but if she throws herself in front of a husband, known for publishing images, acquired during motorcycle rambles, well then, I am afraid she has become fair game. I have no doubt that there are thanks due to me for making her a lingerie model, even if she didn’t necessarily see that as her career path…

Just down from Eamonn’s place was an interesting old shop front with a lot of old packaging and products from years gone by. DSC04856The name over the door was Greehy. The products on display included Aladdin’s Blue flame Heater Wicks and Imp Washing Powder, amongst many more products from an older era. The shop front brought Ireland in the fifties and sixties to mind, though it was well cared for. The old enamel signs displayed on the wall outside the premises for Gold Flake and Coca-Cola gave it the air of authenticity as did the meticulously painted doors and old style windows.

I also spotted a Motto Guzzi from the late seventies parked on the street between Eamonn’s place and Greehy’s shop. It was a Moto Guzzi 850 T3, which I think was a forerunner of the first Moto Guzzi California. DSC04853This bike might be just a display piece, pushed out on the street everyday. I rather like to think though, that instead, it is somebody’s everyday ride. It was not in perfect condition, but it had that look of a bike that is being used, and cared for, because it is someone’s everyday bike. Maintained is the word. Yes, it is maintained because it is in everyday use. I hope I am right. In any event it was nice to see such a handsome bike there on the street and in fact, every time I have been to Lismore, there always seem to be interesting bikes there to see. On this occasion we also saw a collection of old Kawasaki Z1s and Z900s. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the Z900 in particular. This group of vintage Kawasaki bikes were being lead by a big GS, and they stopped for a little rest in Lismore, for about 20 minutes or so, before getting back on the road, after their break.

I mentioned earlier that Lismore is a beautiful town with bountiful flowers. There is also a great park called Millennium Park. The townspeople obviously put a big effort to have such a great display of flowers. There is a plaque on the park wall indicating it won a European competition for towns and villages in bloom in 2005. The park has a fountain and a waterfall as well as a fantastic wood carving on the trunk of an old tree.

We went to the Lismore House Hotel for food, which was standard fare for pub grub, in the bar. A very nice meal, after which the staff graciously agreed to allow us to leave our jackets and helmets in a secure area, while we wandered around the town for another hour or so. We discussed going on to Ardmore, a lovely seaside and fishing village, about a half an hour from Lismore. Instead we decided to watch the hurling semi-final between the teams from Waterford and Kilkenny, in  her sisters house, half way between Waterford City and the seaside resort of Tramore.

If you are looking for a great place to visit, Lismore should definitely be on your list of possible destinations. Good quality motorway, or highway, gets you quickly to within striking distance of the destination, and then the roadways to the town are interesting, picturesque and nicely challenging. You wont be disappointed with the town of Lismore when you get there. Well worth a visit.