While Karma (my Kawasaki Er-6f/Ninja 650r) was being repaired and I had the hire bike it gave me a couple of weeks to think about what if she had been written off? What would I consider as a next bike? So over the weeks I drew up a short list of what I considered to be viable options for a possible next bike, my requirements were pretty straight forward.
First, above all else, was seat height. Something sub 800mm would be perfect while Karma comes in at 790mm making her perfect. This is down to my short height and wanting to feel confident while manoeuvring at slow speed, two-up and fully loaded. Which leads to my other requirements, the bike would have to be able to carry a full 3 box luggage system (side cases & top box), be comfortable for two-up touring, weather protection from a screen and/or fairing. The engine would have to be versatile enough to be comfortable commuting in stop & go traffic, while also strong enough for touring duties. I prefer a 'sit-up & beg' seating position due to a damaged spine (another story) while also being easy to live with and ultimately well priced! On all of the bikes I would still have to fit an alarm, while on chain driven bikes a scottoiler would be fitted too. Of course my partners input was also highly valued...
From these requirements I drew up a short list of the following bikes (in no preferred order):
- Honda NT700V Deauville
- Suzuki Bandit 1250GT
- BMW F800ST
- Buell Ulysses XB12XT
- Triumph Sprint ST
First off, the Honda Deauville. Right I know the jibes will come thick and fast but this is something that does have reliability on its side and is tried and tested. Together with the built in luggage (26.7L right, 27.4L left) and the option of a top box. Honda has a substantial accessory list to go with this bike and you can make it into the effective little tourer. My issues with this are that the engine only makes 64bhp and seat height is 806mm. I have been on the bike and the seat height I can live with but two-up & loaded may pose issues, in fact in may be a regression from my current bike. Thus it may just barely meet my requirements.
Seat Height: 806mm
Engine: 680cc V-twin four-stroke / 64bhp
Fuel: 19.7L (3.5L reserve)
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 26.7L right/27.4 Left
Luggage Optional: Side Cases expandable to 35.1L right/36.2L left & 45L Top Case
The Suzuki Bandit 1250GT has been a favourite of mine since it came out. The side cases are the same as mine but with the much larger top-box. Even comes with a Garmin Zumo GPS included with the price. This is obviously an alternative to the standard GSF1250 Bandit series but for a complete package it seems to make superb sense and at a very reasonable price. The engine makes 97bhp and all that is mainly torque, thus making it an effective machine while two-up. While looking into this further I did come across some worrying owner reports HERE concerning the position of the top-box which effectively prevents two-up travel. This seems to be a major oversight and thus limits the bikes potential.
Seat Height: 790mm
Engine: 1255cc four-cylinder four-stroke / 97bhp
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 35L Each, Top Case 49L
This BMW F800ST has always appealed to me while this year BMW have introduced a package to lower the bike even further for shorter riders for a reasonable cost. The owner reviews and ride reports I have read all sing the praises of the BMW and I can not find fault with the bike itself. I find it a very comfortable fit with plenty of space for myself and pillion with an engine that is highly rated. Just to bare in mind though that the price covers just the bike, by time you add on accessories, luggage and so on you are looking at €14,000. My only complaint is about the panniers provided with the bike. They are made of a tough material but are not hard cases as such and are of limited size, they will not take my helmet, not even the top-box will! This is a shame as the luggage is the only aspect that hurts what is a very appealing package.
Seat Height: 820mm
Engine: 800cc parallel twin / 85bhp
Fuel: 16L (4L reserve)
Luggage Standard: None
Luggage Optional: Side Cases (Expandable) 17-25L & 28L Top Case
The Buell Ulysses XB12XT I covered recently in another post. Again, I was highly impressed with this bike. It meets all my requirements above while also having some very unique traits of its own. It did have its faults, but nothing that would rule it out as a serious contender. Though the price should be noted. You do have to pay for all this and when you look around the Hayabusa and ZZR1400 are not much more expensive. Then again, all of these cater for unique tastes. I admit to admiring those bikes, but they do not fit into my idea of being a biker. Anyway, this is certainly the motorcycle that I feel fits me with only a few minor niggles as spoken about in the previous post with the only thing to add being the included side cases have a capacity of some 42L each and a top-box of 40L.
Seat Height: 780mm (laden, with design rider)
Engine: 1203cc V-twin / 94bhp
Fuel: 16.7L (3.1L reserve)
Luggage Standard: Side Case 42L each & 40L Top Case
Finally the Triumph Sprint ST, since the original 'curvy' version to the new 'sleeker' model this bike has always made me grin. It is a highly rated sports tourer from critics and owners alike and over the last few years Triumph has continued to refine one of the best sport tourers available. Now the Sprint comes with side cases as standard so offers even more value for money. Though with 123bhp available it certainly lives up to its sporty credentials. For this category of motorcycle the Sprint is unique in that it has a chain final drive which obviously means a bit more care and attention while my only real complaint with this is similar to the BMW F800GS, in that the cases seem relatively small (at 24L per side) while the top-box is adequate (at 34L). Though these would be a regression to my current situation. Yet the design is understandable as it suits the bike perfectly.
Seat Height: 805mm
Engine: 1050cc in-line triple / 123bhp
Luggage Standard: Side Cases 24L each
Luggage Optional: 34L Top Case
Purchasing anything, especially at these figures, usually involves a careful weighing of needs versus wants. A vehicle is probably the next most expensive item one will spend money on after a house. Thus we try to make the best choice that we can live with, not wanting to go too far yet also not regretting not making a few sacrifices for something we really want. As someone once said, "If you can afford to do something, then it probably is not worth doing". I believe I am most accurately described as a motorcyclist, it is not a leisure item for me though I admit it is a lifestyle choice, as are most things in the world we live in. I can happily tell people it is better for the environment, cuts down on congestion, fuel efficient and so on...but before all that, for me, it means freedom from who we all are. No matter my destination, even if it is some maintenance in the yard, my motorcycle is an escape and in the end an extension of myself.
Which probably explains why a week after taking the Buell for a test ride I went back with a deposit & I am collecting from Dublin Harley Davidson today. It took several weeks to have the bike delivered since Buell is keeping very limited stock in Europe due to the credit crunch, thus the motorcycle is literally built to order, now is that in itself not worth the money...
Keep the rubber side down.