Escape the rat-race

Photos – Half Light Photographic

1 - dps opener

How do you review a Ural sidecar? Is it the same as reviewing an old 35mm film camera where ninety-five percent of the audience says “what’s a film?” And how do you convince someone that 120km/h is as fast as you dare go and it feels entirely sufficient, if not a touch scary, chasing Stuart on his Fireblade downhill on the M1 freeway travelling north? And the looks and comments which never abate! Why is it that my brother’s Ducati 1198 Panigale Tricolore garners less admiration than the Russian-built Sahara? And why is it ‘Sahara’ and not ‘Gobi’?
Why does cruising at a scenery-engaging eighty clicks feel almost as rewarding as belting along at 180 on a BMW GS in the NT? What about the fact that if it is dark you can always switch on the auxillary lights on the front of the chair for possum spotting or firewood hunting, taking advantage of its off-roading ability – climbing almost any rocky hill you can think off. And then the pièce de résistance is sitting around the camp-fire and rolling out the tool-kit, spade and tyre-pump and toasting the Bolsheviks.
The answer to the first question is ‘don’t know, just ride it’! So, with that in mind let’s combine some elements of what we like best. Riding, relaxing, sightseeing and grazing. After all, surely it is less about the tool used to capture the experience, than the experience itself? Well, unless you are piloting a Ural. Designed for the traveller, the 750cc boxer twin is out of its time in a modern world. The ability to ride a sidecar outfit is also a rare skill to have these days. But the average bod with a bit of ‘indoctrination’ can ride, tune and even repair the only sidecar outfit currently available for sale new on the Australian market.
The ride experience is somewhere between comfortable and rickety. The unit isn’t overly long so you will feel bumps that don’t worry a Harley-Davidson. But then you can ride along safely snapping video or photos one handed or in my case give a running commentary to my two kids, one in the chair and one on the seat behind me. For their safety and enjoyment, I take the quieter road full of eucalyptus and golden sandstone escapements anyway.
Only an hour or so north of the Sydney metro you can ride for a day or two and never feel pushed to exceed the magic eighty. Roads like the famed Old Road from Cowan to Peats Ridge or Gosford, or my favourites like the little loops taking in Yarramalong Valley, Kulnura and Central Mangrove and ducking off to Wollombi to the north or across to Spencer, St Albans and Wisemans Ferry to the west. If you are lucky and avoid the obvious busy weekends then the roads can give the impression of being remote and old-worldly. A few slow and deliberate gear-changes through the four speeder and top gear is where I leave the Sahara for most of the day, soaking up the northern sun warming on our faces and chests as the old-school boxer twin chugs along easily enough.
This model has had an update in the fuel-injection system which piles on a lot more torque than the last model while the gearing is lower to help tackle the extra weight of all the farnarkle fitted to this dress-up of the Ranger model. The spare wheel, tools and racks add weight and the third wheel doesn’t go flying all the time while you are solo, although it does make the engine work a little harder. This Sahara version we tested also had a tonneau cover, spotlight, shovel, sidecar bumper, leg guards, jerry can, sidecar 12V outlet, tyre pump, fuel tank glovebox, LED headlight, blacked out engine, Givi windscreen, LED dual sidecar lights and hand guards!
I have a sneaky little road which is a great test for every bike I want to put through its paces by exploring the limits of suspension, brakes and steering. Dog Trap Road from Somersby to Ourimbah serves a dose of bumps and tight corners and the Ural came through with seriously flying red, white and blue colours.
My arms were given a workout so there were lots of stops and look-sees.
Try the newly opened Wyong Milk Factory for great food, coffee and music. It is family orientated, too. On the way, you will find a string of eateries full of bikers in the district. Old favourites like The Pie in the Sky at Cowan is one of the usual starting points for a day-tripper. The pubs at Brooklyn, Wollombi, Wisemans Ferry and St Albans are popular too.
Our weeks on the Ural were proof that in this digital world there is still room for some slow lane mojo. It is a machine that challenges you ‘to live in the moment’.
You wouldn’t buy the Sahara to be a wallflower and you would buy one to try and bend the centrifugal forces acting on the planet. I would own a Ural to give me experiences like no other device could whether it had two, three or four wheels. I have a saying about the eighty odd bikes I’ve owned: ‘had the bike, took the photo, moved on’ was been my motto. I would be tempted to consider any Ural a ‘keeper’, not least for the price; you’re looking at well over $26,000 for this unique experience.
12 - specs

MODEL: Ural Ranger
PRICE: From $24,970, $27,190 (as tested) (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 5000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Air-cooled twin cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV
BORE x STROKE: 78 x 78mm
POWER: 30.5kW @ 5500rpm
TORQUE: 56.9Nm @ 4300rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed/1 reverse, dry double-disc clutch, shaft final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, leading link forks with twin-shocks, adjustable preload. Rear, twin-shock, adjustable preload. Adjustable lean-out of bike/chair.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 785mm, weight 332kg (dry), fuel capacity 19 litres, wheelbase 1470mm
TYRES: Front, 4.00/19. Side, 4.00/19. Rear, 4.00/19
FRAME: Tubular steel
BRAKES: Front, 295mm disc with four-piston caliper. Side, 245mm disc with dual-piston caliper. Rear, 256mm disc, dual-piston caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Bronze, Forest Fog, Sahara, Asphalt Grey, Sage Green, Urban Camo, Woodland Camo
VERDICT: You attention seeker you

Have the leopards changed their shorts? Let’s have a look…

Words – Stuart Woodbury. Photos – Jeff Crow

BMW’s F 800 R and R 1200 R have been around for ever, really. But this year sees them changing from the “traditional” look to a more modern and muscular appeal. Underneath, both bikes are still pretty similar to the outgoing models.

F 800 R

Powering the F 800 R is still the super smooth parallel twin engine designed for BMW by Rotax, which has been in existence now since 2005. Ten years later it has more power at 66kW (up by 2.2kW). Torque is the same as previously at 86Nm, making this year’s model a very punchy package to ride. I have said in other tests of this particular motor that it feels like two engines in one and this is even more true with a bit extra power at the top end.

The biggest visual change for the F 800 R is the change from the well-known asymmetrical headlight to a symmetrical version. Rather than its previous odd look, the bike now has a much more approachable look. It also offers the kind of muscle we now expect in the world of naked motorcycles.

As well as the headlight, the air and radiator intake covers have also been redesigned for this year. They look purposeful and make a real difference to the bike, especially in the two colour versions.

A change to upside down forks is a nice upgrade, but the F 800 R still retains its nice light and easy to manage rideability. Attached to the forks are radial mounted Brembo calipers. Again, the F 800 R has good levels of power and feel, just like the outgoing model, but with some more feel under hard braking from higher speeds.

A new front and rear wheel design looks similar to the outgoing model’s, while the exhaust bracket has been given a more racy appeal.

A new seat height of 790 mm (instead of the previous 800 mm), combined with new a  handlebar and rider foot pegs (10mm lower and 10mm further forward), creates even better ergonomics for you. I was very comfortable during my time on the F 800 R, and there is even a low seat (770mm) and a taller “Comfort” seat which raises the seat height up to 820mm.

New for the F 800 R is ASC. BMW’s Automatic Stability Control (or traction control) is available in the optional accessory traction package, which also includes ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) and RDC (tyre pressure monitors). Two other packages are available for the F 800 R. One is the Dynamic package with LED rear light, engine spoiler and pillion seat cover; and the Touring package, which includes a centre stand, luggage grid, pannier fittings and 12V socket. Other accessories worth noting are the option for either hard or the “clamshell” type sport panniers, touring windshield, top box, tank bag and neat looking Akrapovic slip on muffler.

After a day on the new F 800 R I am impressed with the way it has retained its character, mainly due to the engine, but also been moved into the future as a great looking mid-sized naked that should have broad appeal.

3 - f800r - place with f800r piece

R 1200 R

I remember putting up a photo of the new R 1200 R on our Facebook page and there were mixed comments about the change from the “traditional” round headlight, to the now, modern triangular LED light. I think it looks the business, giving the R 1200 R a fresh face to move forward into the future. Some will like it, some won’t. But I think those who don’t will just need time to get used to the change.

Three versions of the R 1200 R are available – Standard ($21,950), Sport ($22,350) and Exclusive Sport ($22,350). The differences are that the Standard gets black front brake calipers, a black frame and a contrasting tank centre cover. The Sport has gold calipers, Racing Red frame, engine spoiler, small windscreen and a stainless steel tank centre cover. Meanwhile the Exclusive Sport has an even more classy appeal with gold calipers, metallic grey matt frame and a stainless steel tank centre cover.

Like almost all of the BMW boxer range, the R 1200 R gets the water-cooled 1200 boxer. It is fitted with the heavier crank of the R 1200 GSA. Performance is strong in any gear and in any of the riding modes, which include Rain, Road, Dynamic and now a “User” mode. The great thing about the User mode is that you can set up the specific power mode you like, along with the specific traction control setting you like. So if you like the Dynamic power mode but want more traction control, program it in and enjoy!

A major change is the move from the Telelever front suspension, to a traditional upside down twin fork setup. Fitted with Dynamic ESA as standard I found that the USD forks felt better on turn in, with a little bit less muscle required to punch the bike into a corner. Again, some will like it, some won’t. But once you’ve ridden it, you will love it.

A very cool, new instrument panel is fitted to the R 1200 R. It features three different types of interface: Style 0, which has a small bar tacho, Style 1, which has a larger bar tacho and Style 2, which displays a large digital speed reading.

To round off the coolness, the R 1200 R now gets keyless technology. You have the fob which you can put safely in your pocket and all you need to do is press the ignition button to turn the bike on, then press the starter as normal to fire it up. And, when it comes time to fill up with fuel, all you need to do is press the ignition button to turn the bike off, then within a certain time flip the fuel cap flap up, which opens the fuel cap for filling – I love it!

As a bike that can suit any sized rider, BMW has four different seat height options available. Standard is 790mm, then you can get a 760mm low seat, 820mm high seat, or the 840mm Sport seat. The pillion in a million hasn’t been left out either, with a comfort seat available.

Unlike the F 800 R, the R 1200 R is already optioned up off the showroom floor. You get Dynamic ESA and the Comfort and Dynamic packages standard. Optional accessories are the keyless ride, the wondrous gear shift pro – which allows clutchless up and down shifting – and a Touring package for $600, which gives you an On Board Computer Pro, prep for GPS, centre stand, luggage grid and pannier fasteners. Of course there are stacks of other genuine accessories available like panniers, top box, tank bag, windscreen, exhaust, fog lights, engine bars and all sorts of goodies.

The new R 1200 R is a muscular naked bike that is jam packed with technology. One that you can do just about anything with. A previously highly underrated machine now has the modern look to match its greatness.



PRICE: $13,100 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 10,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled parallel twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 82 x 75.6mm
POWER: 66kW @ 8000rpm
TORQUE: 86Nm @ 5800rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, mm inverted fork, non-adjustable, travel 125mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound (optional ESA), travel 125mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 790mm, weight 202kg (wet), fuel capacity 15 litres, wheelbase 1526mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 180/55/ZR17
FRAME: Aluminium alloy
BRAKES: Front, twin 320mm discs with four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, 265mm disc, single-piston ABS caliper.
COLOURS: Light White, Light White/Black Silk Shining, Racing Blue Metallic Matt/Light White, Racing Blue Metallic Matt/Black Silk Shining
VERDICT: Wide appeal


PRICE: $21,950-$22,350 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 10,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled boxer twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 101 x 73mm
POWER: 92kW @ 7750rpm
TORQUE: 125Nm @ 6500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate slipper clutch, shaft final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 45mm inverted fork, electronically adjustable, travel 140mm. Rear, monoshock, electronically adjustable, travel 140mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 790mm, weight 231kg (wet), fuel capacity 18 litres, wheelbase 1515mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 180/55/ZR17
FRAME: Tubular steel
BRAKES: Front, twin 320mm discs with four-piston switchable ABS calipers. Rear, 276mm disc, dual-piston switchable ABS caliper.
COLOURS: Cordoba Blue, Light White (Sport), Thunder Grey Metallic Matt (Exclusive Sport)
VERDICT: Modern muscle


BMW S 1000 R
I cannot remember riding a motorcycle that had me stumped (in a good way) as much as the new BMW S 1000 R has. For me, it is the quintessential perfect motorcycle. It’s fast, it stops fast, it handles like a dream, it’s comfortable and it looks the business. Not to mention that it is jam packed with the latest technology. It is the motorcycle that has given me the most satisfaction in every area of anything I’ve ridden.
As a track bike I already love the BMW S 1000 RR sports bike, which provides the basis for the S 1000R. However there are some major differences that make the R a much faster road bike than the RR can ever be. It’s all down to the characteristics of the engine.
On paper, the R may not have as much power as you think, but it is the torque and where the power curve sits in relation to riding on the road that makes this such an insane bike to ride.
Maximum power of 118 kW arrives at 11,000 rpm and peak torque of 112 Nm at 9250 rpm. Up to 7500 rpm, the engine develops ten Newton metres more torque than the RR. If you’ve ridden an RR, you’ll know how insanely fast that makes this thing. The change provides punchy low-end response that is ideal on twisty roads, as we found out during the launch. To achieve this characteristic the cylinder head ducts were redesigned, along with modified cam profiles and appropriately altered engine management.
Standard on the R is DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), ASC (Automatic Stability Control), Race ABS and a choice of four riding modes. The “Rain” and “Road” modes cater to different road surface conditions using different power and torque curves, and apply different levels of Race ABS and DTC intervention. This provides an important safety bonus, particularly under changeable road conditions – which is exactly what we had during the launch. Sometimes it was wet, sometimes dry but for the first time I had the confidence to nail the throttle while leant over exiting a corner in Rain mode to see what would happen. The electronics are just so good: they just neutered the power and basically stood the bike up. There was not even the smallest spin of the rear tyre to upset the handling, just lightning fast interaction.
The “Dynamic” and “Dynamic Pro” riding modes allows you to make the most of the R’s sporty performance potential both on the road and on the race track. Dynamic Traction Control, which includes a banking angle sensor, offers safe and dynamic acceleration which is currently state-of-the-art for a production motorcycle.
To accommodate such a powerful engine, the handling is sublime, especially the electronic suspension version.
Based on the S 1000 RR, the bike uses the proven aluminium alloy perimeter frame, in which the engine forms part of the load-bearing structure. As on the RR, an adjustable upside-down fork and a dual swingarm with adjustable central spring strut guide the wheels front and rear. “Roadster”-specific suspension requirements are met by a slight change in geometry. Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), available as an ex-factory optional extra (as part of the Dynamic Package), offers the benefits of electronic damping control. For further enhanced performance, in combination with the enhanced active safety, this system dynamically adapts the damping to the current riding situation within a split-second.
I got to ride both versions – standard suspension and the DDC version. As much as the DDC version is superb to ride and does anything and everything you could ever wish for, the standard suspension version is still a great handling motorcycle. It is set a little firmer than the “Normal” setting of the DDC, but you still have loads of feel and fast, stable turn in. If you were thinking about the dollar factor the DDC adds to the price tag, I can tell you, you will be happy with the standard suspension, which basically came off the RR anyway and can be adjusted with the ignition key. The DDC is derived from the HP4, with different settings. Although when saying that, I have to note that the Dynamic Package is only $1150 extra, and that includes DDC, heated grips, white LED indicators and an engine spoiler.
Taken straight from the RR, the supremely powerful, stable and above all safe braking package that is fitted to the R offers partially integral Race ABS, which can be adjusted via the button on the left bar and via the riding modes. These automatically change the interaction of the ABS.
The sports roadster personality is also mirrored in the styling. With its “tail up – nose down” stance, the R’s appearance immediately suggests aggressive performance and dynamism. Like the RR, the R, too, is distinctive and instantly recognisable with its “split face”. It certainly stands out in a crowd and I love the quirkiness of its look. Very much like the endurance racer look of the RR.
The riding position is sporty, yet reasonably comfortable. The seat is pretty good for most distances, but it is the position of the handlebar that makes the R such a natural feeling bike to ride.
Not only have I happily been “infected” by the new BMW S 1000 R, I am injected with life every time I see one and when I ride one, oh boy, I am over the moon. I now know the feeling of finally finding the perfect motorcycle for me… and of course, you!

At a glance
PRICE: $18,990 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 10,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 80 x 49.7mm
POWER: 118kW @ 11,000rpm
TORQUE: 112Nm @ 9250rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate slipper clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 46mm inverted fork, adjustable preload, compression and rebound (DDC optional), travel 120mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, compression and rebound (DDC optional), travel 120mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 814mm, weight 207kg (wet), fuel capacity 17.5 litres, wheelbase 1439mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 190/55/ZR17
FRAME: Aluminium bridge
BRAKES: Front, twin 320mm discs with four-piston radial mount adjustable ABS calipers. Rear, 220mm disc, single-piston adjustable ABS caliper.
COLOURS: Racing Red, Frozen Dark Blue Metallic, Light White

Honda VFR800F
The prefix “VFR” has been around in the Honda range for many moons now. You will find riders who prefer any one of them over any of the others. Some love the old 750, while many prefer the increase to 800 in the late ’90s to early ’00s.
But, one thing has remained true to form with the various VFR sports touring models throughout all these years – they have never strayed far from the tree – they have always felt like a VFR, no matter what year model you’re riding.
The latest version, the heavily revised 2014 VFR800F, seems more than ever to echo the under-stated self-assurance of early models.
Honda engineers faced a tough job when it came to developing the 2014 Honda VFR800F – how could they make one of the most acclaimed motorcycles of all time even better?
What they did was to keep the same 90-degree V-four engine configuration, but update its design with the lessons learned while developing a host of road bikes and grand prix racers.
Honda significantly revised the VTEC valve system to boost low and mid-range power for a smoother ride without compromising flexibility or fuel economy. The full power “change” comes in a little later now too – where the VTEC switches from two, to four valves and is a little smoother than before. It used to be around the 6000rpm mark, now it is up around 6500rpm. This makes things a little easier when punting through corners with a few revs in your right hand. Before, it would seem to cut in and out making the bike unsettled, now the revs are sitting just above this point so that when you accelerate out of corners you get full power to blast away.
Honda added TCS (Traction Control System) to make the Viffer safer to use. I found it to be too interactive, so luckily you can turn it off quickly via the right handle bar mounted box (even on the fly).
The diamond triple-box section aluminium twin-spar frame is unchanged; however a revised die-cast aluminium sub-frame is three kilograms lighter than the previous model’s. In total, kerb weight is reduced by ten kilos, thanks also to the five kilo reduction in weight from getting rid of the two underseat exhausts. The resulting feel you get riding the new Viffer is a much more stable one and better balanced package, yet still with that oh so familiar VFR feel.
Bolted to the front forks are radial mount calipers and a sophisticated 2-channel ABS is standard. A very competent setup no matter what type of riding you’re doing at the time you squeeze the lever.
Styling is fresh and very modern – elegant sport is the phrase I would use. Every piece of bodywork fits together – feeling very much like a Honda, with the utmost in quality. The gaps between the panels are thin and uniform. The new Viffer even looks like a VFR whether you see it from a distance or up close.
The headlight is now an LED unit, which is brighter and more energy-efficient than older designs. So is the rear light, which integrates the stop light and indicators into one unit.
In the instrument panel, the usual digital arrangement of black-on-grey is inverted to make grey digits on black, a simple change that nevertheless adds to the impression that this is special.
Even factory-fitted heated grips are integrated, where the instrument panel tells you what heating level they are set to. It also tells you your fuel consumption, average speed and what gear you’re in.
One innovation on the new Viffer is a seat height adjustment of 20mm. 789mm is the low setting and 809mm the high. That’s great for those with shorter legs and for taller riders. You do need a spanner to adjust it, so it’s not a ten second job, as it is on many other bikes with an adjustable seat height.
The seating position may be a bit sporty for some. You do have a medium amount of weight on your wrists. At last, Honda now has accessory bar risers available, raising the bars 15mm, which will be a great addition for the majority of owners.
Another good idea is the self-cancelling indicators. They use the front and rear wheel speed to detect when you’ve finished taking a corner, but I found they can turn off too early at times and then stay on some times when you expect them to turn off.
Apart from the bar risers, genuine Honda accessories for the new Viffer include colour-coded panniers, 31 or 45 litre colour-coded topboxes, rear hugger, 12V socket and one of the best new things for a Honda – a quick shifter!
Another great thing Honda has done, is to give the VFR800F only a $500 price increase. For $14,599 plus on roads you get one of the best sports tourers available on the market.
The new VFR feels grown up but still exciting; sophisticated, accomplished, exhilarating, sporty and elegant. If you’re an early VFR purist, this could be the upgrade you’ve been waiting for, and for those that have always wanted to ride/own a VFR, this is the one to get. To see the new VFR in action, just visit our videos page.

At a glance
MODEL: Honda VFR800F
PRICE: $14,599 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 12,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled V4 cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 72 x 48mm
POWER: 77.2kW @ 10,250rpm
TORQUE: 74.5Nm @ 8500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 43mm telescopic fork, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 108mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 120mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 789-809mm, weight 239kg (wet), fuel capacity 21.5 litres, wheelbase 1460mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 180/55/ZR17
FRAME: Twin-spar
BRAKES: Front, twin 310mm discs with radial four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, 256mm disc, dual-piston ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 5.9 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Red, Black
Mc col #911

Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS (in the dirt)
On the Australasian launch of the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS in New Zealand some months ago, only a handful of kilometres were ridden off-road on very road biased tyres and it was not enough of an indication of how useful the new V-Strom 1000 ABS would handle dirt roads.
So Suzuki Australia sent a V-Strom 1000 fitted with knobby tyres, and they kindly equipped it with (most of) their accessory Grand Tourer pack as well.
The GT accessory pack includes a tank pad protector, knuckle guards, V-Strom 1000 decal set, lower cowling, accessory bar (crash bars), integrated 39L pannier set, centre stand, large touring screen, integrated 25L topbox, LED indicators and GT decal set. In total $3399 worth of kit, a saving of $447 off normal retail price. Our bike also had a set of PIAA, LED fog lamps fitted that cost $610 – also available through Suzuki Genuine Parts & Accessories.
The panniers handled rough fire trails well and after venturing through lots of water, they didn’t leak one bit – just what you want!
The timing of the off-road test was perfect: just as Sydney was pelted by heavy rain. This turned the dirt route chosen west of Sydney into a water-filled mud pit with lots of slippery sand. I think my boots are still full of water. So really, it was perfect to fully test the limits of what the ‘He-Strom’ can and can’t do. It did itself proud; the bike excelled in all areas, and it was only when there was deep sticky mud filled with lots of sticks fallen from trees that the long front guard became a bit of a pain. For me, this would be an easy fix with a hacksaw and a file to clean up the edges, but I’m sure someone will make an aftermarket job if you didn’t want to go to this extent.
Apart from that the ‘He-Strom’ needs a decent bash plate and some grippy aluminium pegs – Pivot Pegz would be the go. The rubber standard pegs do get a little slippery in wet conditions. You can get a “skid plate” as an accessory, which would be okay for lighter work, but a proper solid aluminium one is what’s called for if you anticipate serious work.
Handling is very neutral out in the dirt; in fact it reminds me a lot of the Triumph Explorer, with the Suzuki having a tighter feeling frame. On its standard suspension settings the He-Strom is a little firm for fire trails and the like, it is more set up for the bitumen. Luckily the front (especially) and rear have plenty of adjustment, so spend a bit of time to get it right and you’ll enjoy the dirt even more. Both front and rear have 160mm of travel and I never had any issues with bottoming out.
The ‘He-Strom’ is also quite light for such a “big” adventure tourer. 228kg wet makes the ‘He-Strom’ easy to move around, even when the time comes to walk it over a log or such.
I would like a set of wire wheels as an accessory option (maybe a future model?). I didn’t have any troubles with the alloy rims, but then again I wasn’t doing as high a speed as I normally would. About 70km/h was the max on rough fire trails before you might risk bending a rim, so a set of wire wheels would make the ‘He-Strom’ an awesome adventure bike.
I never had the traction control switched on in the dirt, but if you’re not super confident in slippery conditions, then level 1 is great to have.
An addition to the electronics I would like on the ‘He-Strom’ is an ABS on/off switch, mainly to provide a bit more control over the rear brake coming into tight U-turns, but if you ride to the bike’s setup, you won’t have a problem and might actually find the ABS saves your butt on occasion!
Power from the big V-twin is sublime. It is very smooth and you can feed the power in progressively to get maximum drive – it doesn’t behave like a 2-stroke if you get my drift. If you want to hang the rear out there is plenty of power on tap, you just need to be a bit more aggressive with the throttle – a great all-round adventure tourer package!
Of the other accessories fitted, I really liked the fog lamps, they lit up some darker trails just nicely and worked well to give you that “triangle” of light out on the bitumen.
Comfort is excellent. The seating position sitting down or standing up even for tall units like myself gives an excellent range of control. The seat to peg height will suit many sized riders; the actual seat height of 850mm may rule some shorter riders out, but generally suits a wide variety of riders and the seat to bar reach is very comfortable over long distances.
Well, I’m super impressed with what the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS can do of off-road, especially for the base price of $15,490 plus the extra three or four grand to get it fully kitted out as tested here. After the launch some months ago I wasn’t so sure it would be as good off-road as I have now found it to be. Kit it out with a bash plate, grippy footpegs and the knobby tyres and you’ll be able to explore all of the wonders of this beautiful country.

MODEL: Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS
PRICE: $15,490 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 12,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled V-twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 100 x 66mm
POWER: 74kW @ 8000rpm
TORQUE: 103Nm @ 4000rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate slipper clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 43mm inverted fork, adjustable preload, compression and rebound, travel 160mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, travel 160mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 850mm, weight 228kg (wet), fuel capacity 20 litres, wheelbase 1555mm
TYRES: Front, 110/80/R19. Rear, 150/70/R17
FRAME: Aluminium twin-spar
BRAKES: Front, twin 310mm discs with four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, 260mm disc, single-piston ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.54 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Candy Daring Red, Pearl Glacier White

Indian Chief Vintage
It has long been a dream of mine to ride an Indian motorcycle. I salivate over the early Scout models and especially some of the board tracker race bikes of many years gone by. And to ride the new Indian Chief Vintage is something special. I was at the Sydney Indian/Victory store for the worldwide simultaneous launch last year and instantly loved the tan leather and vintage styled, Vintage. So to finally get to ride one after all of you lucky owners got your order filled, meant that I too felt privileged to get my backside cosy on that tan leather seat.
I also wanted to experience that huge 111 cube V-twin motor. I was impressed; huge amounts of torque mean you can lazily thump along out on the highways and back roads and twist the right wrist without changing gears. And quiet: I am amazed at just how quiet this motor is, so you certainly need to get either the fish tail or six shooter accessory exhausts fitted. I personally like the fish tails, to go with the vintage theme. I am also glad the engineers at Polaris gave the V-twin its own sonic tune. By that I mean it doesn’t sound like a Harley, a Japanese V-twin or even like any of its sister bikes from Victory. The Indian sounds different to all of them and, thanks to the capacity, has a deeper, heart pounding beat, too.
Handling is excellent as well. You can see the huge head stock when you look over the Vintage, but what this means is the chassis feels tight, no flexing or walking around at speed through corners and with plenty of ground clearance you can actually enjoy yourself if you like to play in the twisties.
Comfort is good, the seat is plush and the long footboards mean you have loads of room to move around depending on your mood. The reach to the bar is just out in front and nicely level.
The leather panniers are easily detachable, but just remember to put them back on properly (as I was told by the Indian staff). Space in them is enough for a couple of days away, just remember to have your leather conditioner in the garage from day one. I’d hate to see that exquisite tan disappearing.
Cruise control is standard on the Vintage, and when you’re out touring this is one of the most welcome features to have. The Indian system works seamlessly and adds to the relaxation this bike offers you.
Whenever you stop for a coffee, lunch, fuel or even to scratch your bum, you will find the Vintage attracts onlookers from nowhere. So be ready to draw your talking guns and keep those chaps done up ready for an early exit if it all becomes too much. But I’d say this will not faze any Vintage owners; they will appreciate the huge amount of attention they’ll get riding this piece of American history around. I even had truck drivers shouting at me, “Cor yea mate. That is awesome, how’s she go”?
A personal thing, but I didn’t like the screen on the Vintage. Luckily it is a two second job to detach it and leave in the garage.
Accessories are well thought out and tasteful, not over the top. It is nice to see and you can really get the Vintage to become something even more special than it already is.
Touring on the Indian Chief Vintage has been a delight, even a dream come true. The name Indian means so much in the history of American motorcycles and the world for that matter and it is a bike I feel many cruiser riders will aspire to get onto. This test was delightful and the bike is the perfect mix between purposeful machine and artwork to look at. The price is reasonable at $31,495; get on one as soon as you can!
Want to find your local Indian Motorcycle Dealer? Here is the current list:

Here are details of the current shops and the people to talk to, for Juan and anyone else who would like to buy (or even just see) an Indian:

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Melbourne
544-554 Elizabeth St, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9342 3888

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Sydney
554 Parramatta Road, Ashfield
Phone: (02) 9275 2000

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Brisbane
632 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley
Phone: (07) 3363 5400

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Newcastle
Trading as Brisan Motorcycles
250 Maitland Road, Islington
Phone: (02) 4940 8777

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Darwin
Trading as Motorcycle Territory
Corner Stuart Hwy & Hickman St, Winnellie
Phone: (08) 8947 0042

Victory & Indian Motorcycle Adelaide
29-31 Magill Road, Stepney
Phone: (08) 8130 0777

Victory Motorcycles Mackay
Trading as Redline Motosports
4-26 Grandview Drive, Mt Pleasant
Phone: (07) 4963 4500

Victory Perth
Unit 3/115 Albany Highway, Victoria Park
Phone: 1800 639 491

At a glance
MODEL: Indian Chief Vintage
PRICE: $31,495 (ride away)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 8000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Air/oil-cooled V-twin cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 101 x 113mm
TORQUE: 138.9Nm @ 2600rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, belt final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 46mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable, travel 119mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, travel 94mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 736.6mm, weight 379kg (wet), fuel capacity 20.8 litres, wheelbase 1729.7mm
TYRES: Front, 130/90/B16. Rear, 180/65/B16
FRAME: Aluminium alloy
BRAKES: Front, twin 300mm discs with four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, 300mm disc, dual-piston ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.64 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Thunder Black, Indian Motorcycle Red, Springfield Blue
MY2014 Indian Motorcycle PR

Yamaha MT-09
Exciting things are happening at Yamaha and the latest of those is the release of the all-new MT-09. The initials “MT” stand for “Massive Torque” and the MT-09 is all about torque – and huge amounts of fun for your riding.
Yamaha has gone into three-cylinder territory, which up until now has been mostly associated with the Triumph brand of motorcycles, but the MT-09 looks to take Triumph’s Street and Speed Triple head on. And it’s priced at only $11,999 ride away! Yes, you are reading that correctly, this is the biggest amount of bang for your buck you can get in the market place.
The MT-09 is the third member of the MT family to be released here in Australia. Everyone will know of the grunty MT-01 and we will soon be riding the smaller MT-03, but Yamaha also has an MT-07 with a twin cylinder engine coming soon. This family of bikes is all about having a good time and enjoying what motorcycling has to offer.
To this effect Yamaha has introduced a number of accessory packages for the MT-09. Firstly there is a Sport pack, comprising a full Akrapovic exhaust, billet rearsets, flyscreen and a number of other sporty items. The most interesting pack available (I think) is the Touring pack. This lets you have a mental bike to play on when you want, then load it up and see the sights. The Touring pack features panniers, tank bag, top box, comfort seat and a couple of other items.
If however you wanted the craziest bike to commute with (sign me up!), Yamaha offer a Commuter pack too. You get a tank bag, GPS holder, USB adaptor, 12v socket, iPhone holder, rear carrier and panniers. Never will you be lost again in the big smoke!
Now let’s get on to the most exciting piece of the MT-09: the in-line three cylinder engine.
It is a liquid-cooled crossplane crank 850cc motor with 5mm offset cylinders, variable intake funnels for the fuel injection, ride by wire throttle and D-Mode variable throttle mapping mated to a slick changing 6-speed gearbox. This is an exciting engine to use; although it may not have a huge amount of peak power (84.6kW) it does have a lot of torque at 87.5Nm, which makes this such a fun bike to ride. It pulls strongly from a standstill and is very linear all the way up to the rev limit.
The engine has what Yamaha calls “clean torque”. This is thanks to the offset cylinders which result in the conrod being as straight as possible on the exhaust side on its way to the top of the stroke. This gives better fuel economy, less wear and less friction.
To get all the gases out of the engine the exhaust is mass centralised with a short stubby muffler poking out on the right hand side. The exhaust note is bang on and the induction roar is sweet music to your ears. Yamaha has a resonator in the airbox for the perfect triple sound.
D-Mode is Yamaha’s power modes feature: “Std” comes up when you turn the ignition on, then you can used the mode button on the right hand switch block to scroll through Mode B (less power than Std mode) to Mode A (full power).
I started off in Mode B as the launch took place in wet conditions. I found the on/off throttle response to be a bit too jerky, so I switched to Std mode. The throttle response improved but was still a bit too ‘on/off’, not seamless as you would want it to be. So the next session I used Mode A and this brought the smoothness I was after. Of course this means you get full power, but I didn’t have any issues in the wet.
Braking is excellent, the radially mounted front calipers offer great amounts of power and heaps of feel. There is no ABS version available, but nor would you expect it for the low price. While Yamaha may have not fitted ABS to the MT-09 to get the price down, it does not mean they have skimped on quality. Build quality is top notch as per any other of Yamaha’s line of motorcycles.
The frame on the MT-09 is very slim. Yamaha has done this by fitting the swingarm to the outside of the frame. This gives you more room to put your feet down and allows for a greater lean angle: 51 degrees.
Suspension is adjustable for preload and rebound front and rear and the MT-09 features long suspension travel: 130mm rear, 138mm front, giving the MT-09 the ability to soak up rough roads. I found the suspension to be a bit soft, but during the launch we were on a private road and could treat it like a racetrack, so relating this to the real world: out on public roads, I think the suspension is going to be excellent. For a personal setup, a touch more preload front and rear would be bang on. Overall the handling is very light and really easy to manage for any sized rider.
The riding position is roomy and the width of the bar gives plenty of leverage for easy manoeuvring. The seat height is set at 815mm, but it felt lower than that thanks to how slim the bike is. Wet weight is the big winner with the MT-09: 188kg full of fuel, ready to ride; this translates to a bike that anyone will be able to handle.
A neat and compact LCD instrument panel houses all the essential information and the handy gear indicator will quickly tell you what gear you’ve selected.
Australia gets three colours: Blazing Orange, Race Blue and Matt Grey. I personally like the Race Blue. It is understated, yet classy.
For the money, I think Yamaha is onto a winner with the new MT-09. It’s fun and does all you could ask of it.

MODEL: Yamaha MT-09
PRICE: $11,999 (ride away)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 10,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled in-line three cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 78 x 59.1mm
POWER: 84.6kW @ 10,000rpm
TORQUE: 87.5Nm @ 8500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 41mm inverted fork, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 138mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 130mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 815mm, weight 188kg (wet), fuel capacity 14 litres, wheelbase 1440mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 180/55/ZR17
FRAME: Diamond controlled fill aluminium
BRAKES: Front, twin 298mm discs with radial mount four-piston calipers. Rear, 245mm disc, single-piston caliper.
COLOURS: Blazing Orange, Race Blue, Matte Grey

Triumph Explorer 1200 Wire Wheel Version
Just on 18 months ago was the original Australian launch of the Triumph Explorer 1200. The trip was five days from Adelaide to Uluru: an epic and unforgettable trip which really showed how good the Explorer is as an adventure tourer.
Roll on to this current version with wire wheels and some other improvements and it was five days through the Victorian high country: another epic ride, not to be forgotten.
So obviously the main difference you will notice on this new model are the “Saxess” wire wheels, but that is not the only change. There have already been some engineering changes over the original model launched a year and a half ago.
A newly designed head which gives much smoother performance and less noise is now fitted to both mag and wire wheel versions. The suspension has been tuned for a bit more firmness and even though Triumph didn’t mention it, the build quality feels as though it has been taken another notch higher.
The wire wheels are a tubeless design, but not in the tradition of say, BMW which has the spokes on the outer edge of the rim, or KTM with the traditional spoked rim with special liner inside. Triumph has gone for a dual rib in the middle of the rim. It’s like having two halves of a rim and joining them in the middle, and I guess if you were to see the rim with no tyre on it, that is the way they have been made, with a seam weld around the middle.
The amount of extra strength the Saxess rims give the Explorer is worth noting. Due to the speeds the bike can easily carry, you approach potholes, rocks and the like very quickly, sometimes too quickly, smashing the front wheel into the obstacle. Now normally, with a mag wheel, you will bend it or have a flat tyre at the least; with the Saxess wire wheels none of this happened and unless you were to ride the Explorer only on bitumen, I would say you must opt for the wire wheel version: it is that much better!
Not only that but the wire wheels change the handling of the Explorer, so much in fact that an initial concern with the original model, namely being a bit too flexible in the middle part of the frame, has gone. It is a much tighter package now and this relates to much more feel in the dirt and on the bitumen.
The extra firmness in the suspension is excellent. It is still a super comfortable ride, just without that chance of bottoming out the front forks more easily.
The 1215cc of triple cylinder goodness are just great to ride with on any adventure, whether it be long distance or tight, rough trails. The ride-by-wire throttle is responsive and the super tough shaft drive feels like a chain setup. With the improvements made to the head, the Explorer is now somewhat more connected to the rider.
The bike features long service intervals: 16,000km for economical ownership.
All the other standard features of the original Explorer are there. The adjustable screen, cruise control, switchable traction control, switchable ABS, adjustable seat height, adjustable bar, high output generator, tough design, 20 litre fuel tank, centre stand, under seat storage, rear rack, 12V socket, quick adjust headlamp and self-cancelling indicators.
A comprehensive range of accessories is available, from panniers and top box to heated seats and handgrips. For the more hardcore adventurer, the headlight protector, hand guards, bash plate and engine bars are essential.
Do you have adventures planned? Well, Triumph’s Explorer 1200 wire wheel version is your friend. After five days away I felt so comfortable and in tune with everything the Explorer has to offer, and this, really is what you want to look for in a motorcycle: one that brings a huge smile to your adventures.

At a glance
MODEL: Triumph Explorer 1200 Wire Wheel
PRICE: $20,990 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 16,000 km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled in-line three cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 85 x 71.4mm
POWER: 100.7kW @ 9300rpm
TORQUE: 121Nm @ 6400rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, shaft final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 46mm inverted fork, adjustable preload, travel 190mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 194mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 840-860mm, weight 259kg (wet), fuel capacity 20 litres, wheelbase 1530mm
TYRES: Front, 110/80/R19. Rear, 150/70/R17
FRAME: Tubular steel trellis
BRAKES: Front, twin 305mm discs with four-piston switchable ABS calipers. Rear, 282mm disc, dual-piston switchable ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.33 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Sapphire Blue, Black Graphite, Crystal White
1 - exp - dps opener

Harley-Davidson FLHTK Electra Glide Ultra Limited
Project Rushmore – Harley-Davidson’s consultation with owners for guidance to what they wanted – has succeeded in producing a massive leap forward in overall rider satisfaction. The changes we’ve noticed from the 2013 to the 2014 model FLHTK Electra Glide Ultra Limited are a perfect example.
After taking this latest luxury tourer from H-D on a “rush no more” tour I instantly noticed the huge improvement in build quality. Lots of little things have been cleaned up and fine improvements applied so that this Project Rushmore bike feels like it has come into “this era”, no longer a bike that felt like it was modern-but-old-school in technology.
For my tour test, I couldn’t think of a better route than to ride this piece of luxury along the beaches north of Sydney to The Entrance and back via Wisemans Ferry. A mixture of open freeway, suburban and back country roads to get a good feel for what this tourer can do. I also decided to take Alana along for the day so she could let me know what the pillion facilities were like.
The first change you feel on the FLHTK is wind flow. The venturi that’s set into the front of the fairing produces an air flow up and out just behind the screen. It makes you cooler while riding and also reduces buffeting around your helmet.
Second are the side winglets: angle them towards you and you have a huge flow of air rushing towards you, making what was a hot bike to ride, a much cooler affair. Third are the doors that open on the side pods which house the new radiators. On the previous model it didn’t matter if they were open or closed – it was hot. Now you really notice the cool air flowing through.
The instrument panel and the way that operates is a much more modern approach than before, even the self-cancelling indicators work properly now whereas once upon a time you never knew whether they would turn off, or stay on. The bar switches have been redesigned and they fall naturally to your fingers.
Styling has seen some subtle improvements, but having the previous model side by side to this one, you really do get a sense that H-D has invested a lot of time to bring this bike into the modern era. Little shape changes, especially around the pillion area, are instantly noticeable side by side, but not so much without the old model sitting there.
Engine power from the 103 cube V-Twin feels very similar to last year’s 103 cube, albeit with a couple more kilowatts now. The major change I noticed is the way the exhausts operate. Before, the exhaust felt choked and it wasn’t until you really wrung its neck that it felt “open”. Now it feels much freer, it makes the engine operate smoothly throughout the entire rev range and the sound is much better. It now sounds like “a Harley” and I wouldn’t see the need to put accessory pipes on. It sounds loud enough (for a tourer) when you really crack the throttle. At touring speeds with constant light throttle the exhausts are quiet, giving you a relaxed ride.
Comfort is better too. To me, the bike felt less cramped than previously. Although H-D says that the rider’s seat is unchanged, it feels better. Maybe it has something to do with the pillion seat being heavily revised, and that some changes have been made to the back of the rider’s seat? So, rider comfort was good, the seat plush and a decent amount of seat to footboard leg room is there.
As most of us know, the passenger calls the shots (most of the time), so a successful tour depends on passenger comfort. Project Rushmore worked to address almost every aspect of the passenger seating area on models equipped with a Tour-Pak. The surface of the pillion seat is one inch wider and one inch longer, and the rear speaker pods are shifted outboard by one inch on each side. The height, width, angle and shape of the backrest have been changed to provide optimal comfort and more lumbar support for a wide variety of pillions. The shape and angle of the armrests has been adjusted to keep passenger arms from slipping forward. The saddlebag guards are further down and back to minimise contact with the passenger’s calves and to create more legroom.
Alana was more than happy to be sitting on the back and she felt the improvements were a big step forward. She was not a big fan of the seat on the previous model. So there is a big tick that should help to get your better half onto the bike!
Handling is much the same as before, if not slightly more precise with some minor improvements over the previous model. For such a big bike it is relatively easy to manoeuvrer at all speeds, but be aware that this is a heavy bike and getting it off centre at a standstill will require some muscle to control!
At $38,250 ride away this is the most expensive Harley-Davidson apart from the CVO (Custom Vehicle) range. The Project Rushmore improvements bring this bike into the modern era, while retaining Harley-Davidson heritage and as a luxury tourer for one or two-up riding it is an excellent choice.

At a glance
MODEL: Harley-Davidson FLHTK Electra Glide Ultra Limited
PRICE: $38,250 (ride away)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 8000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid/air-cooled V-twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder
TORQUE: 138m @ 3750rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, belt final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, telescopic fork, non-adjustable. Rear, twin-shock, air adjustable preload.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 740mm, weight 414kg (wet), fuel capacity 22.7 litres, wheelbase 1625mm
TYRES: Front, 130/80/B17. Rear, 180/65/B16
BRAKES: Front, twin discs with four-piston ABS calipers. Rear, single disc, four-piston ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 5.92 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Vivid Black, Daytona Blue Pearl, Sand Pearl/Canyon Brown Pearl, Amber Whiskey/Brilliant Silver, Amber Whiskey/Vivid Black, Charcoal Pearl/Vivid Black, Charcoal Pearl/Brilliant Silver Pearl, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Blackened Cayenne Sunglo.

Ducati Monster 1200 S
You will remember The Bear attending the world launch of the new Ducati Monster 1200 and the “joy” he had with the airline losing his riding gear/luggage. I’m sure you’ll agree that the accompanying wet weather would have made him feel only too happy in Urban mode, even though he didn’t get a chance to enjoy the others.
Well, I managed to get a whirl on the Ohlins fitted S version on Aussie soil, and in the dry I might add, so I could explore all three of the riding modes in all their glory.
Ducati’s riding modes effectively offer optimised settings appropriate to you and the environment at the time you’re riding by selecting from a choice of three pre-set modes: “Sport”, “Touring” and “Urban”. Each riding mode is pre-programmed to instantly change engine character, ABS and DTC intervention – even while riding. The modes are made possible by combining a number of class-leading technologies. An electronic Ride-by-Wire (RbW) system uses Ducati’s innovative e-Grip throttle to administer different mappings to regulate power delivery, while the Ducati Traction Control system (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control by reducing rear wheel-spin and the ABS processor provides pre-programmed three levels of anti-lock braking.
I found Sport mode gives you a very direct throttle response. I would leave this only for those times when you get hard on the gas, because in traffic or while sitting at the speed limit, it can be a touch too direct. Touring mode was my favourite. It makes the bottom end a bit smoother and you still have full power available from around halfway through the rev range. Urban mode, which The Bear used at the world launch is okay if it’s raining, but that’s about all. The Monster family of bikes is about having fun, and unleashing those many wild horses contained in the 1198cc L-twin engine is what produces the fun factor – not reducing power and responsiveness.
One thing we did find out about the new Monster which wasn’t emphasised at the world launch is the massive range of seat height adjustment available for the Monster. Standard seat height is two position adjustable at 785 or 810mm. But, you can get a low and high seat option, taking the seat height down as low as 745mm and as high as 840mm! Almost a full 100mm of adjustability. Ducati is onto the right plan here, which makes this bike suitable for anyone who would consider riding a motorcycle.
I had the seat height on the standard 810mm setting and found it to be quite good for my 195cm frame, however having the option to get some more leg room is always welcome.
It is also the most comfortable (non-touring) Ducati I’ve ever ridden. The curvature of the seat is delightful and the position of the pegs gives your lower half nice support. Reach to the bar is just forward and feels very natural. This gives the Monster an easy to ride feel.
As you would expect the Ohlins suspension is top class. The valving is so good, it soaks up bumps in the road, rather than “banging” them up to you through the chassis.
One feature I also like about the new Monster 1200 is the large (almost half wheel) hugger. This will help to make keeping your Monster clean an easy task.
Braking is immensely powerful thanks to the latest spec Brembo monobloc calipers, matching to the latest Bosch 3-level ABS system. I liked Level 2 for the road, which has the same interaction on the front as Level 1 (sporty feel), just with rear lift-up prevention activated in the rear. A good all-round safe package.
A full range of accessories is available for the Monster and a set of dedicated luggage is to be released, which opens up the versatility of the bike even further.
Having spent a lot of time with this new Monster I have also noticed the attention to detail Ducati has put into this bike. It is a step above the usual Ducati standard, and things just seem to fit better and look better. Maybe the Audi influence is starting to come in here?
If you have wanted a naked Italian in the past, but have been a bit too shy to make the move, then now is the time to get that Monster 1200 S – naked Italian pleasure. It is a bike that has opened up its parameters for all sized riders to enjoy that “Italian” feeling and is a barrel of fun to ride.

At a glance
MODEL: Ducati Monster 1200 S
PRICE: $23,990 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 12,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled L-twin cylinder, 4-stroke, Desmodromic, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 106 x 67.9mm
POWER: 106.6kW @ 8750rpm
TORQUE: 124.7Nm @ 7250rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 48mm inverted fork, adjustable preload, compression and rebound, travel 130mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, compression and rebound, travel 152mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 785-810mm, weight 209kg (wet), fuel capacity 17.5 litres, wheelbase 1511mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 190/55/ZR17
FRAME: Tubular steel trellis
BRAKES: Front, twin 330mm discs with radial mounted four-piston adjustable ABS calipers. Rear, 245mm disc, dual-piston adjustable ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 7.66 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Red, Star White

KTM 1290 SuperDuke R
The cage doors clanged open and it was released with much hype from all around the world; and now we’ve finally got our backside onto this wild beast – the KTM 1290 SuperDuke R. It provides the most fun you’ll ever have on a motorcycle, provided just three things. You must love power, demand sweet handling, and prefer a rocket pack to a “set of wings” like the ones a well-known canned drink promises.
The engine is what makes this bike such an animal. As a baseline the KTM engineers chose the highly potent LC8 V-twin engine from the 1190 RC8 R superbike. They then placed the focus of development not so much on increasing maximum power, which is plentiful anyway, but on achieving matchless torque delivery and maximum usability of the engine output. In doing so, they managed to raise the elasticity to previously unattained levels without even slightly impairing its almost proverbial spontaneity and response. It brings breathtaking and eye rolling performance, yet is easy enough to ride for real-world practicality. It’s just as happy commuting as blasting around a race track, where it has all the makings of a potential superbike terror.
Beside the ultra-lightweight but extremely rigid chrome-molybdenum steel trellis frame with geometry which makes it easy to ride at any speed on the road, a lot of the credit for just how well the 1290 handles goes to the top quality and widely adjustable WP suspension components. The front wheel is guided by a pair of 48mm upside-down forks with separate damping circuits. Mounted within an extremely solid and ravishingly beautiful single-sided aluminium swing arm, the rear wheel is controlled by a central pressurised monoshock with manually adjustable spring pre-load.
The 1290 handles so well that most of the time you forget the insane speeds you’re doing. Not good for the licence, but it’s certainly good for the mind. I guarantee you’ll be smiling every time you ride the 1290, just like I was!
The forks and monoshock offer wide ranges of adjustment so you can set it up for anything from comfort to extremely sporty, suiting all riders’ individual preferences.
Electronics play a big part on the 1290. You have three power modes – Sport, Street and Rain. Sport is what I loved. Why neuter the power, that’s what you want the bike for! You also get lean-angle sensing traction control, which will be good in the rain, but I preferred it turned off in the dry. You also get ABS brakes with different levels. For normal riding, I like the Road (or standard) setting, but when it’s time to play, the Super Motard (ABS front, no ABS rear) was quite enjoyable. You can turn the ABS off entirely if you like it that way, too.
Anti-wheelie is fitted and cannot be turned off, however when you turn the traction control off, the front tyre will head skywards. For extreme power junkies – in 4th gear the electronics bring you back down to earth gently.
Dunlop developed new SportSmart2 tyres but get ready to buy rear tyres quite frequently for the 1290. After my short blast of a couple of hundred kilometres, the day we did the photos, the rear tyre was feeling it. So expect a life, I’d say, of around 2000km if you get on the gas hard, often. One day is all you’ll see if you take them to the track. Thankfully the front tyre will get quite good life, only because it will be reaching for the sun more than on any other bike you’ve ridden. Also not good for the licence, but great for the smile on the dial.
Brembo radial mounted front calipers give you good levels of power. I would like a touch more initial bite, but once you get a bit of heat into them they stop with the feel I was after – so, good for the track.
Comfort is surprisingly good. I was expecting a very sporty riding position, but no, you get a nice amount of room from the seat to pegs, the seat itself is quite comfy and the bar width and reach is set for all sized riders and with just the right (and still comfy) amount of weight on the wrists. You also don’t get wind blasted as much as most other naked bikes. Who knows if this has something to do with the headlight cutting a path through the wind, but riding at concrete dungeon speeds you don’t feel like you’ll be rolling off the back.
Styling is no doubt as close to the prototype shown last year as legalities would allow. The angular headlight really sets the 1290 apart from anything else on the road. I personally would get the wheels powder-coated orange to really say, “HELLO”!
KTM offers a large range of accessories through the Power Parts ‘cattledog’. I could spend another ten large to get it “personalised” just how I’d like it. To see the 1290 in action jsut see our videos page.

At a glance
MODEL: KTM 1290 SuperDuke R
PRICE: $23,490 (plus on-road charges)
WARRANTY: Two years, unlimited distance
SERVICING INTERVALS: Every 15,000km or 12 months
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled V-twin cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
BORE x STROKE: 108 x 71mm
POWER: 132kW @ 8870rpm
TORQUE: 144Nm @ 6500rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed, wet multi-plate slipper clutch, chain final drive
SUSPENSION: Front, 48mm inverted fork, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 125mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, travel 156mm.
DIMENSIONS: Seat height 835mm, weight 189kg (no fuel), fuel capacity 18 litres, wheelbase 1482mm
TYRES: Front, 120/70/ZR17. Rear, 190/55/ZR17
FRAME: Tubular steel trellis
BRAKES: Front, twin 320mm discs with radial mount four-piston switchable ABS calipers. Rear, 240mm disc, dual-piston switchable ABS caliper.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.18 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
COLOURS: Orange, Black
3 - ktm

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