Rambler chasing Windmills.

A nice day for a ramble on Suzie, and I made the best of it.

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A spin out on Suzie in the countryside.

I know it’s been a while since I have had anything to say here, but a change of career from “semi-retired” back to full time work, has put a stop to my gallop. My company vehicle has four wheels and a requirement to carry lots of the paraphernalia of work with me. During the late Summer and early Autumn, I had commuted to work on Suzie and that gave me the opportunity to ride almost everyday. A change of career direction put a damper on that pleasure for a while, but soon I will rectify that aberration and should have a lot more time to enjoy rambling around on Suzie again. Why do company vehicles invariably have four wheels? I will seriously consider any employment that offers two wheel transport. Two wheel powered transport of course.

Today I decided was a good day to take Suzie to the country. First stop, a visit to a young chap, whose name is IMG_1218 (2)a diminutive of Patrick. Páidí is not big on communicating through any recognisable language, but his approval is offered in relevant sound bites. His version of “Granddad, that’s a fine bike you have” is basically vocal offerings such as “vroom, vroom” and pointing his finger at Suzie and nodding in the affirmative that he recognises true beauty when he sees and hears it. A little climb up on Suzie to see it close up and touch all the bits attached to the handlebars was positively necessary too.

After Páidí had carried out his inspection, I took Suzie up the hills in the local area with a view to getting up close and personal with some windmills. IMG_1232 (2)Yes, I am aware that nowadays they are referred to as wind turbines, but my preference is to call them windmills. I know some people are not impressed with them and consider them a blight on the landscape. I suppose I don’t live near enough to hear them or suffer the “flicker” effect but I actually like them. It has been cold and frosty in recent weeks but today was mild and intermittently sunny, so it was a nice day to enjoy the views on some of the highest agricultural lands in County Wexford. Of course the day had to end with a good wash for Suzie because any sort of off-roading will result in a little muck flying up on Suzie, especially at this time of year. It was worth the trouble after such an enjoyable blast on a great bike.

 

Lunch in Luxembourg. Breakfast in Belgium.

Suzie has been so reliable and comfortable on this trip. We move on to Luxembourg city and then Namur in Belgium.

Suzie my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 takes another few countries in her stride.

It was time to move on from my cottage in the woods in Neunkirchen, Germany, so I packed my gear on my V-Strom and prepared to head into Luxembourg. I haven’t said much about my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 in my posts about this European trip. Why would I unless I was encountering problems? Apart from refilling the Scott oiler occasionally and a quick check over before another days riding, there was nothing to do but ride. This bike does what it’s supposed to do without a fuss. It’s a big comfortable bike that let’s you eat up the miles with ease. A fill of fuel for a little over twenty euros keeps you going for most days, about 400 kilometres. I found that was enough except for one or two days where I covered extra ground for a particular purpose. Of course if you drive it like you are on a race track you will have to pull in to fill more often. It’s well able for poor roads or even occasionally no roads, as I found when crossing into Hungary, where pools of water and rocky unpaved roads were the surprise order of the day. If you want to tackle canyons, rivers and mud pits, my advice is to buy a scrambler. Or a horse.  If you want the kitchen sink get a 113 cubic inch / 1800cc behemoth American tourer. Or a camper van. For most of what you’ll find on a regular motorcycle tour in Europe this bike is perfect and it doesn’t miss a beat. If I had to criticise it I would say that having come from a silky smooth inline four, I found that the throttle control is a bit “lumpy” at low speed but that’s not unusual for a two cylinder bike.  It’s an excellent all-round bike and I’m delighted to own it and I suspect I will get many kilometres or miles of reliable enjoyment with it.

Luxembourg is both a small country and very wealthy, busy and cosmopolitan city. A serious amount of damage could be done by a shopaholic with a flexible credit card in this city of wide DSC06837 (3)pedestrianised shopping streets. Every top designer brand I have heard of has an outlet close to the centre, and the city has a real air of wealth and history about it that I’m not going to dwell on. I parked Suzie in the shade  with a few companions, as you can see in the featured image, and went to explore. I had lunch under a shady umbrella watching the shoppers with their bags from top dollar designer outlets go by. While the temperatures were still relatively high, there were some ominous looking clouds in the sky. Clouds? I hadn’t seen much of those in recent weeks. At least the temperatures were back down in the twenties even if the humidity was still noticeable. After lunch, I left Luxembourg heading North towards Belgium, in light showers that weren’t going to cause any problems or discomfort.

Namur is a fantastic Belgian city with street dining and beautiful little squares full of cafés and restaurants. It’s most prominent building is a citadel, or fortress, that overlooks the convergence of two rivers that meet at the city. It’s well worth visiting and is a fine viewing point to see this interesting little city. I sat in a leafy square, DSC06903 (2)Place du Marché Aux Légumes, and ordered a glass of wine surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of university students from the university of Namur or the Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, to give it it’s proper title. The tables were shoved so close together to make room for the big crowd that it was easy to talk to the people next to you. I spoke to some students of medicine and law sitting close by. A pretty young student called Roman, a student of medicine, advised me to go a little tapas restaurant in the next street. I took her advice and had a smashing meal in La Cantina, or rather sitting outside La Cantina, on Rue de la Halle. I strongly recommend it as the food was great.

Namur is well worth a visit. I choose it because it’s not one of those cities that you can take a cheap and cheerful flight to, for a weekend away. When you travel by bike you can stray off the beaten path. DSC07001 (2)It’s got everything. A very cosmopolitan and vibrant feel with interesting and historic places to visit such as the magnificent citadel and beautiful churches, one of which, the renowned Saint Aubin’s Cathedral, has many pieces of art, extraordinary bells, and a belfry dating back to the 12th century. DSC07004 (2)Amazing, considering how badly damaged the city was during both world wars. It is a shopping city of considerable note even if not at the standard of Luxembourg. Sunday morning is market day and many of the streets are full of stalls selling everything from books to clothes and anything else you can imagine. Try to experience Namur yourself if you ever get the opportunity.

Next for Suzie and I will be to continue our journey, from Belgium into France, and up to the coast at the historic and interesting port city of Dieppe, on the English channel at the Eastern end of the Normandy coast.

Happiness is a girl called…Suzuki.

Getting in some trips on the new V-Strom 1000. Laurie loves the comfort…

The new V-Strom exceeding expectations.

My wife Laurie was not a fan of the seat on my Yamaha Fazer. It was a reliable bike and brought me on some long trips and back, safely without and issues, breakdowns or fuss. dsc05573-2When I decided to change, Laurie’s comfort was one of the highest priorities, and the V-Strom Adventure I got from the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcyles of Ireland) to test ride, came first in her rating. It got an immediate thumbs up with a special reference to how comfortable the seat was. So, we picked the Suzuki V-Strom up, all shiny and new, in Gorey Business Park in the first week of January. To say the least, she is loving it. I think the number of miles we covered on it together has probably already exceeded the number covered on the Fazer.

Last weekend we did some nice miles, heading to Duncannon beach in Wexford, in the dsc05574South East corner of Ireland. It’s a lovely beach with great views of the Hook Pennisula and the Waterford coastline. It’s one of Laurie’s favourites, having spent all her childhood summers there. Duncannon has some great pubs and restaurants and we hookstopped on the beach, which is firm enough to drive on. The “Ta-Dah” moment in the featured photo is when Laurie found a suitable piece of driftwood to put under the side-stand so we could park up for a little while. We headed for the Hook which is another of our favourite stops. Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. After a visit to the Lighthouse restaurant we were off again. Waterford City and The Copper Coast was next on our agenda.

We got new Scott jackets and pants along with Schubert helmets that are very comfortable and we are very happy with them. I am particularly happy with the communication system because I can’t hear a word she says. Probably down to my bad hearing. Perfect.

seaview

Review of 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure.

Rider and Passenger’s viewpoint.

Whoever invented heated grips deserves a medal. My hands were cold when I got to the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) Overlanders shop in the Business Park in Gorey, Wexford, Ireland. My own bike doesn’t have such luxuries and the mercury had been down at -2 Celsius (about 28 fahrenheit) when I was putting on the warmest gear to ride to Gorey to trial a demo bike. When I swung my leg over the bike that Gary had kindly provided me with I was delighted when I felt the warmth of the grips. Incidentally it was a guy called Jim Hollander that developed heated grips for bikes in 1976, which he used when he became the top American rider at the International Six Days Trial (now enduro: ISDE) . He developed the potential of his idea into a business at a later stage and the product is now widely used for bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles.

Gary had told me a few days before that there was a demonstration Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure available to test drive at the AMI shop. I had been looking forward to twisting the throttle on this bike since he told me about it. The first thing I noticed as I was pulling away was the instrument cluster. It’s big and clear in terms of the “clock” type rev counter and digital speed reading. It also gives you time, air temperature, engine temperature as well as clear indicator lights and information about the traction control and ABS. Directly under the instrument paneldsc05433 is a power outlet which is perfectly positioned for a GPS system. Another power outlet elsewhere on the bike for phones or other devices might be a useful addition, but if you needed one, they are usually not difficult to install. I did one on my bike in about half an hour. It takes a couple of minutes to find the right seating position on this bike but that is because the seat is big and comfy and so roomy you have to see what suits you best.  After a few minutes I was really comfortable and that lasted the couple of hours I had the bike out for. At the first stop I put my feet down and immediately realised that this is a tall machine. Apparently the seat is just over 33 inches (about 85 centimetres) high, it was almost tippy toe territory for me at about 5’11 inches. I don’t have a problem with being up on my toes but what I did worry about though, was that I felt that the pegs were sticking into my legs when I was stopped. I thought about this for a few minutes and at the next stop I tried something different. I have found before that if you stand up completely, your legs straighten out better and you get a better reach. Standing up at the stop on the V-Strom and consciously getting my legs behind the pegs, I could get my feet totally flat on the street. I realised that I could sit back down comfortably on the seat and my feet were still flat on the ground and the pegs weren’t interfering with my lower calves any more. So for me anyway it was just a matter of remembering to position my legs behind the pegs when I stopped. I got used to doing this in a matter of a few stops and had no difficulties after that.

The V-Strom is a great looking bike and while there is probably no need for the beaked front on adventure bikes, it does let you know immediately what the manufacturers intentions are. The wide handlebars and upright sitting position contribute to the great feeling of control and the 1037cc water cooled v-twin engine moves you along quietly img_7379and effortlessly. I am not going to attempt to tell you about the frame and the engine except to say it all works very well and by some magic the engineers at Suzuki have shaved 13% off the weight of the old V-Strom. It weighs in at 503lbs or 228kgs which is very acceptable and it is nice and narrow in the middle, even if the tank does seem very wide. The V-Strom feels smooth and planted and there is an extra sense of security on a bike with ABS and two stage traction control, especially on a frosty day like this day. The screen doesn’t appear that big, but it is easily adjustable on the fly, with a ratchet system, and it is quite effective, at least for someone of my height. I didn’t feel any buffeting at all, but the day was extremely calm. It might be different on a windy day. The adventure model I was test riding had side cases, heated grips, hand guards and engine bars where two spotlights are positioned as well as a cowl guard, rather than a bash plate. A bash plate is really only required on a bike where the intention is to take on serious off-roading, but this bike, I would suggest, is intended for touring and trail riding, rather than serious bashing about, though it is very light and agile, which is always a big help in the mucky stuff. And just to test it’s off-road qualities I drove across a field with a green cover crop (with the owner’s permission) with a soft enough surface to make the traction control and ABS lights come on a few times. No problems arose and the traction control wasn’t intrusive. I thought I’d have to turn it down a notch or even turn it off because the field was slippy enough after the heavy frost, but it was fine. Really for that kind of surface, knobblies would be necessary, but it was just curiosity to see how the electronic aids felt in action.

Anyone who has read an earlier article on Motorcycle Rambler, “Passenger’s Point of View”, which was a review of the Honda Africa Twin and the Yamaha Super Ten, will know that Mrs. Rambler is interested in the comfort levels available on any bike I test ride, for the obvious reason that she is in no doubt that one day, one of these demonstration rides will result in an increase or a change in the Rambler stable. So the instruction to take it home for close inspection had been issued. On the day in question, Mrs. Rambler and I were celebrating our 31st year since tying the proverbial knot and on that auspicious occasion we went for a spin on the V-Strom Adventure, to see what she made of it. It got an immediate thumbs up for comfort but there were two little queries. A small but noticeable degree of vibration when the throttle is opened wide and a slight issue with space between the pillion’s peg and the side case. The boots being worn weren’t the biggest boots she has ever worn on a bike spin and there was a worry that a bigger boot might make it difficult to get the heel to fit at the back of the peg. As for the vibration, I am happy to say that it is there when you push on strongly, but not noticeably more than what you would expect on any V-Twin.

So, in conclusion, this is a great bike for someone who wants a strong touring bike with some off-road potential. The saddle and sitting position are great for the rider and pillion passenger too. There should be no problem to comfortably cover a lot of miles in a day with the rider and a passenger and lots of luggage on board. A top box along with the cases that come with the adventure model would take a ton of stuff for longer tours. It has about 20 litres or 4.4 gallons (5.3 U.S.) of fuel capacity which should keep you rolling for 180 to 200 miles, if the fuel mileage that is attributed to the bike on various web-sites is accepted. I am not going to hazard any more of a precise guess as I didn’t test the fuel mileage myself. It’s a beautiful looking bike and the adventure model comes in a great matt and silver-grey livery (I don’t think there is any choice in the colour offered for the adventure bike). It’s light and nimble and seems fairly frugal on fuel. I covered about a hundred kilometres and the fuel gauge didn’t seem to move much. Another very interesting factor is the price. The base model is priced at 13, 950 euro and the Adventure model comes in at 14,950 with 500 euro cashback in 2017, I believe. In my opinion, this is a very well priced machine, particularly the Adventure option. It gives you a whole lot of bike with some important extras, for a great price. Thanks very much to the guys at AMI and particularly Gary for a great day on a fine example of an Adventure Bike I will be very happy to own.

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.

 Gallery

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.

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