Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Rusty Rider

I’ve been thinking of getting back into bikes for a while - although I have to say I get the itch every spring. However, this season the absence of an ‘interesting’ car in the garage makes it a lot more possible, particularly as I can make a case for needing transport into London (the business is taking off but any work is very likely to be within the M25).

As its been a while since I slung my leg over anything with two wheels and an engine, I thought I’d better get some practise in. A quick bit of internet research and I signed up for a ½ day’s refresher course with a local bike training outfit. The ride followed the usual format; the instructor had the radio mike and I had an earphone, he then followed on his own machine issuing instructions and advice, while I did as I was told. My bike was a Honda CB500 with 50k miles up, but the day was dry and after an hour or so it slowly started to come back. We’re blessed with some great roads over the downs, and after a while I was able to start to make some progress - although I have to say it was still pianissimo through the corners.

With those few miles (plus some nice positive feedback) under my belt I felt more confident about test riding some bikes, and the following week I headed up to the BMW bike dealership in Alton, with the intention of trying one of the 800cc parallel twins. I’d read good test reports, and it seemed to tick the boxes as a ‘sensible’ machine (alas I'm far too old for power-ranger suits and 180bhp hyperbikes) that could be used for everyday transport. My impressions were probably muddied by my lack of miles and the fact that I’d forgotten earplugs, but it was a nice little bike- quick enough, comfortable and confidence inspiring.

One thing the experience brought back from my early biking days was how just big and intimidating big bikes can be to a novice, so when the sales guy asked if I’d like a quick spin on a nice clean R1200R that had just arrived I was in two minds – the thing looked as big as a bungalow! But within 100m of setting off it had shrunk under me; the ride (which as a concept doesn’t seem to figure at all in bike journalism) was great with good tight ‘body’ control and little wallow and float. I’ve read that the parralever suspension can make the steering feel detached, but after years of cars it felt pretty good to me.

Thinking about it, the lack of pitch and dive, that slight lack of feedback, and the feeling of solidity was pretty car-like. Perhaps why I loved it so much. In fact enough to turn around after only a couple of miles, head back to the dealership and risk asking the current Mrs SS7 (who was waiting impatiently for me to finish) if I could buy it. At just over £6k for a 2 1/2 year old 9k miles example it seemed like good value.

Needless to say, her reaction was as if I’d suggested selling the kids, but it at least put the idea on the battlefield!

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