East to West across Germany.

From Czech Republic across Germany in heavy traffic on the V-Strom.


After Czech Republic it was time to travel across Germany.

Germany is a beautiful country but after visiting Český Krumlov, the beautiful old city in the Czech Republic, DSC06754 (2)I wanted to make progress westwards. Ultimately I wanted to be in Northern France for a certain event that happens there every year, but I will give you details of that later. There are so many beautiful cities in Germany but I had to do the hard kilometres in one day to make it back to Neunkirchen in Saarland. And hard kilometres they were. Germany is like one big road works site when you are trying to traverse it on the autobahn. The autobahn itself can be an experience. When I crossed the border into the Bundesrepublik Deutschland it was a little confusing. As you approach the border of course you are hitting ever decreasing speed limits until eventually its down to 30 km/h as you are at the point of crossing. A friendly police officer waved me through and it seems I held no interest for the customs officers either. I was in the Bundesrepublik and keeping a watchful eye on the GPS. It normally let me know what the speed limit was on the road I was travelling. Now it had disappeared and I was at a bit of loss. A truck began overtaking me while I tried to figure out if I was still at 30 km/h for the border crossing, before the penny finally dropped. A lot of the autobahns have no speed limit. I had experienced this many times before and have no idea why it took so long for me to figure it out but of course it’s something every driver wants to experience at least once. Unlimited use of the throttle. I have on occasion, made total use of this and exercised the throttle wrist fully. The novelty wears off quickly though and you have to settle into the rhythm to make the most of the highway system. Boring, but at least it gets you where you want to go efficiently. Or so I thought.  Not this time. Every time I thought I was beginning to make good progress the traffic slowed. Inevitably it was more roadworks and in some cases it caused the traffic to bottleneck for up to half an hour. it seemed evenimg_0300 worse on the east bound side of the autobahn where the traffic was regularly at a complete standstill. Kilometre after kilometre of trucks at a standstill or at best at a crawl. The temperature was well into the thirties (celsius) and I hoped for their sakes the truck drivers had air-conditioning because even I was sweltering when the traffic slowed on my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc. It was a long day even though I and the hundreds of other bikers travelling, had the added benefit of being able to filter between lanes in heavy traffic. Eventually though I made it to my little cottage in the woods near Neunkirchen and after a shower I headed to my favourite bar and restaurant called “Zum Landesknecht”, about five minutes walk away. A fine feast and a few beers later to was time to call it a night.

The next day I did a little exploring in the nearby small cities of Homburg and Saarlouis, both of which are well worth a visit. Both are historic cities and marked nowadays by the beautiful little “platz” or squares and streets with shaded café and restaurant seating where you can get a coffee or food while relaxing in the ambience of these little German cities. A feature of both cities is the large number of third level or university students and Saarlouis IMG_0505 (2)in particular has a very lively atmosphere with lots of students gathering in the late evening and early night to socialise, mostly outside the cafés and bars and it gives the place a real buzz. It has changed hands so many times because of war, as it borders Germany and France and this of course increases the degree to which this little city has a cosmopolitan feel to it. The city was originally a hexagonal fortress, built by Louis XIV to defend his empire. Another very interesting aspect of Saarlouis is the old stables and shelters built from red brick in a line, which are now being used as quaint little restaurants and bars. One of it’s famous sons, Marshall Michel Ney IMG_0515 (2)fought with Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He was executed after Napoleon’s defeat even though he had a chance to save himself but he refused to renounce France in favour of Prussia. He requested and was given the right to command his own firing squad to fire with the following command: “Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her … Soldiers, fire!” Too much history, I know, but I am just trying to give you a feel for the place.

The next day I was up bright and early and it was time to head north towards Luxembourg on the V-Strom. I topped up the Scott oiler and gave the bike a good check over and set out northwards. Thanks to my friends in Neunkirchen IPA, particularly Thomas and Jürgen, both avid bikers of course. It’s always a pleasure to meet and renew our friendships. I will visit you there again in the future, I have no doubt.

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.