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cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

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cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by trevor machine on Sun 23 Jul 2017, 3:10 pm

Focused Events organised a BMW bike demo day at Squires yesterday. Me and a good friend decided to take advantage and set out at 11 o'clock, just as the worst of the weather had passed.

Personally I wasn't that keen, but was persuaded to tag along. I don't plan on buying another bike really, and certainly not a new one. And absolutely NOT a new BMW. Yet somehow I found myself cueing for test rides.

These were undertaken in groups (of about 20), with a guide up front, one tail ending, and a third in the middle. The route was one I personally am very familiar with - really quite technical in places. Thus one that I thought less experienced, and non-local riders would find a bit of a handful at times. In the event, this proved to be the case because the pace was a bit too slow. 

In case anyone's interested we came left out of Squires, left at the church in Sherburn, down to Lotherton, right up to Towton, down towards Tadcaster, right towards Ryther and Ulleskelf, into Cawood and right back to Sherburn. Takes about 30-45 minutes.

First the F800GS. Quite an intimidating size at first glance - looks almost as big as the infamous 1200GS. Just about flat-footing at 5'11", I was. Bars felt stupidly wide. Filtering would be hard. Chain driven parallel twin. Seat was immediately comfortable. Set off from Squires, bike felt instantly manageable even at slower-than-walking-pace off the car park. Wound it on, once underway, and though the power wasn't immediate, it pulled readily enough. Quiet, refined and comfortable. Steered properly all the way. Brakes were fine, gearbox good, tyres on it were road-orientated and did their job properly. Summarily, a fairly enjoyable bike I thought. Seat quickly became not quite as comfy as first impressions promised and I was actually surprised to find myself up on the pegs at times to relieve the buttock fatigue and leg muscle pangs. Would take considerably longer on my more cramped, less sumptuous and comparatively very, very old CB500. So perhaps there's a bit of truth in the renown of Honda's ergonomics after all.

Summarily - the F800GS is a decent enough bike, but I wasn't hugely impressed. Six out of ten, maybe seven at a push. Seat let it down, as did the general blandness.

Then the R1200RT - a much bigger bike yet one that somehow neither looked nor felt it! By this stage my nerves at riding very expensive machinery that didn't belong to me were totally banished and I was quite eager to crack on. Seating, bars, pegs etc. all felt more like the 500. Although this RT is by far the heaviest and highest capacity bike I've ever ridden, it didn't feel difficult to manage - was easy to creep out of the car park on, and willing to be ridden away.

The big boxer did twitch to the left with a blip of the throttle at stand still - but I couldn't feel any of this when riding. Nor any snatch or lash from the shaft drive either. Everything was refined, but not to the point of being characterless. By letting the group move on ahead somewhat, me and my friend (also on an RT) managed to create enough space to test acceleration and higher gear performance. For a few short bursts we made very good progress!! As you'd imagine, they're quite long-legged bikes, and happy to move on apace. Whilst they mightn't be the quickest off the mark, they'll hitch their skirts up and have a little go when asked.

And, for such a relatively long and heavy bike, they don't seem to mind being asked to tackle tight bends and the twistier bits of road either. Yes you have to be a bit smoother and anticipate adding a bit more steering input, etc., but for all that they're more compliant than they look.

I was surprised to find that the seat side of things was actually considerably more comfortable than the F800.

In short, I much preferred the RT - despite it being heavier and longer.

This went against my expectations somewhat. The switch gear on both bikes seemed overly complicated to me and the indicator cancel too far from the left grip, thanks to the presence of a toggling mechanism thingy separating switches from grip. I also couldn't suss out how to get the tacho to show on the RT's screen which was pissing me off a bit. But the gear display was interesting - although I was always in the gear I thought I was, if that makes sense. So not really necessary, I suppose.

Although the entire process was somewhat bureaucratic (and the rides a bit slow and ponderous), Focused Events did a decent enough job - and it was surprisingly entertaining to take bikes out for test rides. Something I'd not done before - nor ever wanted to either, for that matter. For this reason I was glad me mate had exercised all his powers of persuasion and basically forced me to go through with it. So much so that I quickly regretted having not taken advantage of the Honda, KTM, Yamaha and Suzuki demo days earlier in the season.

I also had to partly revise my prejudice against BMW. The big boxer engine does actually make a kind of sense, and I could begin to see why it has its ardent supporters. It's a powerful lump that seems to combine character with refinement. Ideally I'd have liked to have ridden the R1200GS, but at least the RT gave me a taste of the way such a bike makes its power, and - in the F800 - I got a sense of the GS's ergos.

One other point - it's strange how quickly you can acclimatise to a totally unfamiliar bike. Climbing back on my CB500 I felt small and somewhat insignificant. As we lidded up for the ride home my mate commented that it was like coming home. I said yeah, if you live in a damp shed on the outskirts of Doncaster maybe. Bereft of refinement, gadgets and that lovely feeling of freshness which new bikes seem to have, my tiny little aging pensioner of a Honda was a very poor relative of the expensive Beemers.

A mile later I was, of course, content as ever. With all its noise, buffeting and lively ease of handling, the Honda was beavering away - proving again that its work-rate and willingness are all the better for knowing. I liked both the BMWs, particularly the RT, but they lacked the immediacy of the CB. I suppose this is the difference between biking in the '90s and the way manufacturers choose to (and indeed are forced to, in part) design and make contemporary machines. Although I think I could easily get on with a bike as big and bargey as the RT, the test ride didn't really affect my allegiance to a somewhat contrary kind of ethos - i.e. one favouring small, comparatively light machinery.


Last edited by trevor machine on Wed 26 Jul 2017, 3:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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John_B
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Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by John_B on Sun 23 Jul 2017, 6:29 pm

Thanks for the writeup!

A good mate has just bought a F700GS so I will be trying that soon. And I have just bought a CB500, which I am expecting to like more than the BMW, becuase if the immediacy you mentioned.

sullivj
the 900
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Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by sullivj on Sun 23 Jul 2017, 7:13 pm

An interesting write up Trevor. 

I have a fairly new RT.  It lacks the character of the CB, but it is very good at distance touring. I'm not long back from a 1,400 mile tour of Ireland on it. Fantastic wet weather protection with that gigantic fairing.

For a big bike, I agree that it is fairly nimble in the twisties.
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ratatooie
Running out of unique names
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Location : Isle of Man

Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by ratatooie on Mon 24 Jul 2017, 11:01 am

Thanks Trev. Always an interesting read. I know a few people who are coverts to the Mororrad and love the big GS's. Last week I was talking to one of the mechanics at my local Triumph dealer who had just done my 12,000 mile service (not cheap!) and had a BMW G450X enduro machine, which I had never heard of before. 

Must admit, the only BM that attracts me is the S1000R.
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wornsprokets
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Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by wornsprokets on Mon 24 Jul 2017, 8:01 pm

I know a few guys with bmers and they all has problems with them that are costly to fix... s1000rr an amazing bike with so much power...with a lot of rider safety aids....what does that say about the rider... is it too much for average rider...
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Jameshambleton
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Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by Jameshambleton on Mon 24 Jul 2017, 8:21 pm

Should have gone to the Honda one a while back, test rides were lead by the people demoing the bike are 3 figures were reported
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ratatooie
Running out of unique names
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Posts : 180
Location : Isle of Man

Re: cb500 after new F800GS and new R1200RT

Post by ratatooie on Tue 25 Jul 2017, 11:24 am

wornsprokets wrote:I know a few guys with bmers and they all has problems with them that are costly to fix... s1000rr an amazing bike with so much power...with a lot of rider safety aids....what does that say about the rider... is it too much for average rider...

I'm more interested in just the single R S1000, so the naked version, (just as the Tuono is to the Aprilia's RSV4).

I'd be interested to try a bike long term with all the rider aids, bells and whistles. I've never even had ABS before on a bike I have owned, let alone multi stage traction control, wheelie control, launch control etc. and only ever tried bikes with ABS on a short loan.

I just don't like the idea of riding a bike that thinks it knows better than I do, because if it is constantly saving your arse and holding your hand, you will surely develop bad habits? I get the argument for ABS from a safety point of view, but have not yet needed it myself.

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