Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Tiger Conquers All: Two-Up to Rosslyn

Forte est vinum fortior est rex fortiores sunt mulieres super omnia vincit veritas
"Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all" (1 Esdras, chapters 3 & 4).

I liked The Da Vinci Code. There, I said it. I know I am not the only one, my better half is proof of that. Like all things that any of us enjoy, especially from afar, our thoughts and conversations often lead us to wishing we could visit these places we so often hear and read about. Of course because of a book like The Da Vinci Code these locations become massively weighed down by preconceptions. But that just stokes the fires of interest that bit more, and that often repeated phrase of "we should visit there...sometime" evolves to "how would we do it?", then when you see just how achievable the goal really is time off work is arranged, tickets booked, and bags get packed. For us the destination is Rosslyn Chapel, just south of Edinburgh and while I am sure most of you know the broad strokes of the Dan Brown novel I will not get into spoilers here.

Not just a place in a book. Rosslyn Chapel


This was also going to be my first proper trip on our trusty new Triumph Tiger 800 XRx. We had already racked up 7,000KM but the vast majority of that has been commuting. The only trips of leisure have been brief coffee excursions on Sunday afternoons. There really was not much to think about in terms of packing or preparing the bike. It was going to be a 3 day round-trip from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland up to Dalkeith, Scotland. Over the course of the trip we would cover over 1,100KM, basically broken down into 1 day travelling to our destination. A day to enjoy and discover the area. Then a day coming back. The pace was going to be relaxed, with rest-stops approx every 1.5 hours. The only real deadlines were the ferry crossing between Larne and Cairnryan which we had to make. But again, a bit of forward planning and allowing enough time kept the pace unhurried and relaxed. Even given the Tuesday morning traffic on the way back through Scotland.

Inside the visitor centre. Loads to watch, and play with!


If you are any way familiar with The Da Vinci Code, then you know all about Rosslyn Chapel. And Rosslyn knows all about Dan Brown! As a result of his little book the annual visitors to the site went from 30,000 per year, to almost 200,000 per year now. Due to this explosion in foot traffic there has been extensive investment in the site which boasts a very impressive visitor centre, much of the literature on site is available in multiple languages (including Polish). However that is not why we went up there, rather it is the Chapel, and needless to say it does not disappoint. The outside gives little indication as to what awaits inside and it outstanding. You are asked not to video or photograph inside the Chapel so I have no photos to show, but every inch of the walls are covered in decorations which are brimming with history. We spent the entire day on or around the grounds. We also listened to 3 of the hourly talks that are given on the history and interior of the Chapel, and with each one new information was shared about the site so do take the oppurtunity if you can. After all that we walked down to what remains of Rosslyn Castle, and the site of those scenes in The Da Vinci Code movie.

The bridge to Rosslyn Castle


We loved it. Every minute of it. Even the way the visit started set the tone for the rest of the day. The very pleasant lady who welcomed us asked where we were from, we said Mullingar in Co Westmeath, and instead of the usual "oh, that's nice", she erupted into a flurry of excitement as the very first trip she made to Ireland was to none other than our very own Greville Arms Hotel. Soon she was off to fetch her husband to introduce to us, which again led to more stories and a very warm start to our visit. All the staff at the site are equally inviting to talk to and willing to answer whatever questions you have to ask. Don't worry, without a doubt they have heard them all. So high praise has to be given to all of them, which just wrapped the whole trip in a wonderful warm bow.

This is what welcomes you on arrival


As for the the Tiger 800 XRx on her first two-up, fully loaded road-trip... she performed brilliantly. On the roads up to Larne I had her in the rider mode, but with the sport throttle map, as the roads were relatively fast and predictable. The whole whole thing was swallowed up without a seconds thought. When we got off the ferry in Scotland it had been raining, and since I was not very familiar with the roads I stuck to the rider mode, but went with the rain throttle map to help ease me in. The softer throttle response on those flowing, but wet, coast roads made for a nice smooth ride. Once we got back onto the main roads again I switched to the road mode and riding normally. I should note that I did adjust the preload all the way out due to the load on the bike, and flicked the lever behind the headlights to take into account the effect the fully loaded setup has on the lights. But all that is accomplished in two minutes.

Our trusty companion throughout.


Coming off the main road once we were approaching the Premier Inn in Dalkeith we were back on slippy wet back roads, and fully loaded, but again the XRx was never flustered as we pushed on. We arrived at the hotel without a single ache or pain, quickly got changed, and straight out for dinner and refreshments. The hotel was also fantastic, cosy, quiet, and comfortable. Again, some great staff which meant you had nothing to worry about. Day two and travelling to Rosslyn Chapel was a 10 minute ride on country roads, so really nothing to say there. However the journey back on the final day was made interesting thanks to traffic, weather, and more traffic! Sun initially, but very heavy traffic between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but easing off beyond Edinburgh. Back on the Irish side we were met by heavy rain and traffic for the entire final leg back. It meant for slow progress home, but we were always comfortable and the Tiger is such an easy bike to ride you never felt like it was work.

Me converting the tank bag into a backpack.


Really the same could be said for the entire trip, these kind of trips are what this bike is designed to do, and it does so without effort. We arrived home, and sitting around the dinner table, not off the bike for 40mins, and we were already talking about riding to Poland and back for our next adventure. For the pillion to get off the bike and be that excited I believe speaks volumes about the whole package the Tiger offers. Now I just need to convince the boss to let me take the time off work for that one... during the summer months... hm. 

Basically the route we stuck to


Gear wise, I wore my bullet-proof Triumph H2 Sport Suit (jacket and pants) the entire time, and whatever the weather she kept me snug as a bug. I was hoping for an excuse to go and order myself the Navigator Suit, but the H2 gave me no reasons. Which just means I need to find another excuse.

Non-standard equipment on the Tiger 800 XRx; touring screen, adventure luggage pack, heated grips, LED fog lights, PDoiler, mudguard extender (from the XCx but seems to fit fine), engine bars, tank pad, and tank bag (which doubled as a really useful backpack). Everything, other then the PDoiler, are all OEM Triumph parts. They all performed exactly as they should and I am even more delighted in having made the investment.

For now I think that is everything, but as always feel free to ask questions or comment below.

Peace and keep the rubber side down


Monday, 17 August 2015

Scrambler Urban Enduro

I have seen them all, but I must confess the Scrambler Urban Enduro is my pick of the bunch. Just like the rest of the Scrambler family you are getting the same 803cc L-Twin making 75hp, Brembo ABS brakes, headlight that includes a LED ring, even a USB port under the seat. The Urban Enduro is tricked out specifically to suit its unique style including nice touches like the skid plate and headlight grill. All-in-all a really fun piece of kit.


Scrambler Urban Enduro with most of its extras on show

There is the headlight grill and brace bar

The Scrambler Land of Joy!
Obviously the other members of the family are equally as fun to ride, I just prefer the look and styling of the Urban Enduro and it would be the one I would go after. The Land of Joy is now set up in Rosso Ducati with lots of Scrambler goodness on display.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt

A Triumph Tiger 800 XRt was getting collected from Dublin Triumph Ireland yesterday by one very lucky owner. This bike was in the new 'Intense Orange' colour and you can have a proper look in the pictures below.

The XRt is the top-of-the-range Tiger 800 XR which as standard includes ABS, traction control, rider modes, throttle maps, adjustable screen, LED fog lights, heated grips, rider and pillion heated seats, radiator guard, pannier mounts, handguards, centre stand, 650W alternator, 3 accessory sockets, cruise control, auto cancel indicators... you get the idea. It is a lot of bike. And for €15,150 that's not bad.

The new Triumph Tiger 800 XCa variant is also on the way into the store.


Triumph Tiger 800 XRt complete with Expedition luggage

An amazing looking bike, especially in the 'intense orange'

Close up of the Triumph Expedition luggage

Nice details all over

Side view of the cases with Triumph logo

Peace and keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Bringing the Cub Home

"Thou shalt be free
As mountain winds: but then exactly do
All points of my command."
~ W. Shakespeare

After homes, motor vehicles tend to the next biggest expense we put our money down on. I have never owned a home, so that says something about my priorities. In this case I have signed the papers on the Triumph Tiger XRx, and for the first time in in 12 years I have gone back to black.


I get to ride many different motorcycles from an assortment of manufactures virtually every day, it is not a bad situation to be in. I have even had the chance to ride some electric motorcycles in the last few weeks, but obviously for me two particular brands have a very special place in my heart and of those two I picked the Tiger. I test rode the previous Tiger 800 model a number of years ago while I still had the Buell Ulysses XB12XT, but for various reasons we did not click and subsequently settled on the NC700X. Now a few years down the road I get to ride the newly revamped Tiger 800 XRx and it was a perfect match.

"What's Past is Prologue" ~W. Shakespeare

The new Tiger 800 family starts at just €12,375 (Tiger XR) and stretches to €15,825 (Tiger XCa) and obviously available here from Dublin Triumph Ireland. All models get the over 160 changes over the previous Tiger including revised engine, 17% better fuel economy, ABS/traction control as standard, and then the feature list keeps getting longer as you move through the family. Now the model range is basically two different versions, XR (cross roads) and XC (cross country), and in those you get different spec and accessories with each variant. The variants go from the XR -> XRx -> XRt and the XC -> XCx -> XCa. The XR made better sense due to me being 'funsized' as the XR's are not as tall. The XC's have an off-road bias which adds larger wheels and WP suspension. Since the only time I go off-road is usually to a campsite or Irish Photo Rally location I was not concerned about the off-road aspect, but I have to admit the WP suspension is very good and provides a plusher ride. The XRx also adds extra accessories, cruise control, and rider modes over the standard XR which sealed the deal for me. The XRt adds a mountain of extra specification, but I just could not stretch that far.



Enough of the broad strokes. For me the XRx provides an economical, light, cruise control equipped bike that lets me make very short work of the daily commute. But provides more then enough ability to haul me fully loaded, two-up, on future adventures. The fly-by-wire throttle took a little getting used to, you do not need to treat it like a cable system, more like a control pad on a computer game. Light inputs reap the most rewards I find from the new system, no need to whind on hard as you pull off, just nice and light. Once you get used to it the whole thing feels effortless and hugely rewarding.



I have mentioned how nimble that bike is, and to be fair more often than not most modern motorcycles have got their centre of balance sorted. It is only the top heavy examples that stand out from the pack. This bike will go were you look and has a fantastically small turning circle, coupled with the new fly-by-wire the whole thing makes for a bike that will make much better riders of all of us. A motorcycle instructor I know loves the auto-cancel indicators, it means one less thing for those taking their test to worry about. 

Farkle wise I have added the following accessories;

That really is everything I could want or need for the Tiger 800 XRx. Most of it is for a combination of practicality and making an already superb package a perfect fit for me and how I use the bike. The PDOiler is really a no-brainer, when you are doing at least 180KM every day then constant chain lubrication is a must-have. LED lights I used for the first time on Sprint GT when I upgraded the main lights, and I am never going back! The higher screen provides a useful amount of extra weather protection on those windy or wet days. But on hot sunny days on small country roads you can drop it down. The Adventure luggage is a better fit for me as I need to be able to store two helmets when I go somewhere with the better half, the standard comfort seats on the XRx helps keep everyone happy too.

Right now I have just come up to my first service on the Tempest (yes, that's her name and no surprises there...) and will give updates as the KM's rack up. First impressions of all the accessories are that they are top pieces of kit. As the weather starts to turn we will really see what they are made of though, but I don't have any doubts after my time with the Sprint GT.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.



Monday, 3 August 2015

Leaving Serenity - Final Thoughts on the Sprint GT

Well that was a short ride, relatively speaking. I was lucky enough to live with the Triumph Sprint GT over the last few months and have absolutely loved it. But alas my days with my favourite demo are up and she has found a new home where I wish her many happy miles. The following are my takeaways from living with the Sprint GT.

Performance

The 1050cc lump that beats in the Sprint GT is an amazing piece of machinery. Smooth, torquey and powerful. The engine never feels like it is trying until you start trying to get very silly. Fuel economy has proven to be better than expected, I have managed an average of 54mpg, this has been done mainly on the daily commute which mostly comprises motorway and filtering through heavy traffic. Off the motorways, the Sprint is tremendous fun, she does need to be pushed to get the most out of her through the bends. But that little bit of effort brings on massive rewards. She also likes to have everything sorted before you start changing direction, or so I find anyway. Having your gear and speed sorted as you enter the turn makes for a much smoother rider and adds to the composure of the bike.

Equipment

No we do not have linked brakes, traction control or rider modes. What you do have is a fantastic grand turismo motorcycle designed to haul you in comfort from place to place, with bucket loads of fun in between. For the money what you get is everything a GT needs. 55 litre top box with a power socket. 2 31 litre panniers that can each take a full face helmet. The entire luggage system is designed to move to increase stability in the twisties and when at high speeds. You are also getting a comfort seat, bubble screen, heated grips, a second power socket, and a nice little storage compartment in the front right fairing. There is even a nice bit of storage space under the seat. I normally get to between 290km - 305km before the fuel light pops on. This is an astonishingly well specified motorcycle which delivers on all the creature comforts a tourer needs, without things getting too big and heavy.

Farkles

Modifications I made were purely to help get me into my personal comfort zone. Being a fully faired motorcycle I was very aware of the cost of any silly slow speed drops. Hence I dug into R&G catalogue and covered the Sprint in various bits of protective kit. The next tweak was the front brake and clutch levers, I preferred the shorty versions as they suit me better. The other important tweak was a chain-oiler, I have tried several brands over the years and spoken about most of them on this blog but I recently discovered the PDoiler and I am a complete convert. Probably the best chain oiler I have ever used, and amazing value for money. I am recommending these to everyone I meet.

Moving On

I have said before, the Sprint is a model of motorcycle I have wanted since 1999. I have loved living with the Sprint, my only negative with the bike is the way she carries her weight. I just never got used to that over the period of having her. But that is it. It is a weight that does not ever really disappear, but it does add to the bikes stability and comfort when out on the road. The Sprint has always been an extremely comfortable place to be, even in the worst of weather ducking down a few cm's and you find yourself in a very calm bubble. Even the way the fairing deflects the wind means I barely use the heated grips. So while I will not be buying a Sprint GT just yet it really has nothing to do with the bike, just me wanting something that is a bit easier for me to live with.

So what comes next? We will see very soon, but right now I know if I had not been in a position that meant the Sprint GT could go then I probably would have gone on very happily for years to come. So next time I will be making sure that the bike can not slip away.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Triumph H2 Sport Jacket & H2 Pants Review

In The Beginning

It rained. Hard. That was my first ride home in my new Triumph H2 Sport Jacket and H2 Sport Jeans. It had started out fine, which I was looking forward to, especially in a brand new set of leathers that were stiff and tight. But within 20 mins a few spits of rain had turned into a downpour, which I was stuck in for the next 40mins on my commute home. Lazy Saturday evening traffic did not help either, and of course the Irish road user turns into a panicked animal when they can no longer safely use their smartphones and ignore the road. A bit too much rain, heat, or weather in general turns the whole thing into a farce. Then there is me, in my new leathers, and for the first while every instinct was screaming at me to pull in and slip on waterproofs, but I had none to slip on.

The manners of the traffic soon had my full attention and as I slowed to go through the etag lane of the M4 toll it hit me, it is pouring down, I am in my leathers, and feeling bone dry. I rode on until the westbound Esso service station just before Mullingar to fill up and walked into the store, at which time I had my first proper look at just how wet I was, on the outside. Getting home not long later and dripping in the doorway I was as happy as a pig in muck, the H2 leathers did exactly what they claimed to. All the safety of leather, but also being waterproof...and not costing the earth compared to the other waterproof leather alternatives.

They do hold water, it is the inbuilt liner that does all the work, unlike other brands which have the waterproofing impregnated into the leather itself. However on its first outing this worked fantastic, and living in Ireland a waterproof leather suit sounds like the motorcyclists wet dream (pun unintended). This however was my first 83km’s of living in the suit. Besides that the overall quality and fit is superb, but the sizing is probably tighter than I would like, while my Held suit fit me comfortably as per the sizing guidelines, the Triumph suit is much tighter on initial wear. Obviously this also comes from it being leather which I am hoping will soften in time like my other leather suits. The suit also has the TFL cool system to keep the black leather from baking you alive on those warm days, but I would say that this is an absolute must in this suit as are the very generous air vents as the waterproof liner will have an unavoidable effect on your warm weather comfort. Or so I suspect….

10,000KM Later

That's me in the H2 Suit. Trust the Triumph sizing guides

I have been wearing the H2 suit five days a week, not even bothering to take off the H2 jeans in work some days. Yes it is that comfortable. The pants do get a bit warm when you are running around on hot days, but what else would you expect? The whole thing is absolutely waterproof. I have walked out of the door into pouring rain, ridden to work, and then come home in the rain without any dampness sneaking through. Of course I am happy about the suits performance in adverse weather, but I am equally delighted over how comfortable the suit has become to live in. Just like any set of leathers once the the stiffness gives way and the suit softens then it becomes like slipping on a second skin each day. Leather is a natural companion to motorcyclists, offering protection and comfort. Suits like the H2 add an extra dimension of practicality which gives the wearer less to be concerned about as they focus on the road ahead.

For some the only real negative to the H2 would be the branding, there is certainly no mistaking this as being a Triumph suit, whether you see this as being a negative or a positive is going to come down to the individual. Hopefully the suits performance will speak for itself and be enough for most to decide upon. No it is not cheap, but for this quality and performance it is exceptionally well priced. Anyone looking for a genuine do it all motorcycle suit should be including this in their search.

I cover, on average, in excess of 30,000km a year on my motorcycle. Not having a car licence means that good gear is essential for all year motorcycling. I would not waste my money or time on gear that I did not believe was up to the job. We will see how I feel about the H2 in a year's time, but right now I have little doubt that my trust in this suit is well deserved.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Finding Serenity

1999. That was when my first motorcycle crush began. I had been riding motorcycles for about two years, all my time being spent on underpowered and overweight Japanese mini-cruisers. Then I saw her, the Triumph Sprint ST, fully kitted out with luggage and I wanted one.





Being in no position to come close to owning one at the time it would be about 8 years later that an opportunity would arise to purchase that 1999 model, but again it just was not meant to be. The Sprint ST has been revised several times since that 1999 model caught my eye. The 995i evolving into an all new 1050, which itself grew into the current Sprint GT variant. The only other bike I lusted after so much was the Ducati ST4 and ST3 models, but alas there is no sign of a reincarnation of those anytime soon, but if fortunes change I would certainly snap one up. By now you can see a trend emerging, and anybody who knows me will attest that I like my sport-tourers.



Which I am now the proud owner of. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Absolutely. The Sprint GT is an amazing piece of kit, though to be fair it does fall more on the tourer side of the sports-tourer marriage. Yet it works exceedingly well. My initial impressions are as follows.

First and Foremost: This is A Lot of Motorcycle for the Money

The price here in Ireland is €13,550. For that you are getting the Sprint GT SE, complete with two 31 liters panniers and a 55 liter topcase. The luggage has to be the best designed I have seen on a motorcycle so far, the quality really is outstanding. The top case even includes a power socket so you can have your phone, tablet, etc. charging while on the move. There is a second power socket on the left by the riders knee. Touring screen, heated grips and a gel seat all make this a very attractive package. This is also the first bike I have owned with ABS. Does it work? I have not had cause to test that out yet, but the twin Nissin 4-piston calipers up front have yet to be found wanting.

No Bantamweight

She is not a small bike by any stretch of the imagination. Weighing in at 268 kg wet she is not the easiest for someone of my 'fun size' stature to push and pull around the drive at home. Nor will I use the tired cliché of saying the weight disappears when you are on the move, because it doesn't. That said, this is a very easy bike to ride but you feel the mass of the bike below you, though I find this to be a positive sensation. Especially when on those open stretches of motorway. The bike always feels stable and glued to the road, which is especially nice as my commute involves sections of road with some bad cross winds which lighter bikes spend a lot of time leant into. Regardless of the weight, she turns easily and is easily hustled through the twisty bits, no she will not turn in as tightly as some but then you are moving into the sportier end of things.

Easy to Ride

As alluded to, this is a very easy bike to ride. Triumph's 1050cc lump is probably the most enjoyable engine I have experienced. Down low it provides acres of torque, but when asked it will ensure you can make 'good progress' effortlessly. I also find myself grinning, a lot. Every morning when I turn her on and the whistle from the inline three just leaves me chuckling as I pull away from the drive. The gear changes are not as slick as some out there, but its positive and reassuring. Reminding me of my Buell XB12XT, though this is much slicker than the XB's more agricultural feel. Filtering is very easy and I find myself getting through the traffic quicker than on lighter bikes I have used. I put this down to a combination of the bikes glued feel to the road and on demand torque at low speeds. I have yet to really push the bike, but in the coming months I plan on undertaking my first track day training session with her which should be an eye-opening experience.

Farkles

I have changed the original front brake and clutch levers for Triumph's short versions which are a perfect fit for me. I also opted for the low seat option and a full set of R&G crash bobbins. I have not used crash bobbins before, but have used engine bars of various types on other bikes I have owned. The only other faired bike I have owned was a Kawasaki Er-6f back in 2007, all the rest being cruisers or adventure style bikes. All of which went over at some stage mostly thanks to ham-fisted mistakes in gravel car parks in out of the way places. I have also added a mount for my trusty SW-Motech GPS/Phone holder. The next investment for me will probably be a chain-oiler. I have tried a few brands over the years with varying degrees of success, so Pro-Oiler is now on the top of my wish list and hopefully in the coming months I will get to try that out and see if it makes my life a little easier (and overall cheaper if I can save on chain and sprocket replacements). All these mods are really just tweaks to suit my own preferences, but she is as close to perfect as I can get right now.

Final Thoughts

No she does not have traction control or rider modes which seem to be the way to go right now, but as I said this is my first bike with ABS so I have finally caught up with the second half of the 20th century! I have no issue at all with rider aids. I am a geek who loves all things tech, I even have an Android Smartwatch on my wrist, so if the Sprint came with those things then super. But she does not and that is super with me too. Having ridden since the late 90's, and still not having a cage licence, I really don't know what I am missing. I do ride bikes with these features, but I just don't seem to push them hard enough to kick in. That said, it is only when you need them will you miss them. Generally I am more concerned with power sockets and luggage anyway, unless a motorcycle can bring home the shopping, a bottle of wine, and flowers then its probably not going to figure on my wish list. I fully intend for my next motorcycle to be a Ducati Multistrada, but that's just a bit beyond my budget...for now.

I have started a new Fuelly page for the Sprint GT, and under no illusions that this will perform as well as the Honda NC700X, but it is still a good practice to get into. I will readily admit that I have been enjoying riding the bike a bit too much, hence the relatively modest results so far. After my next fuel up I will try to be a bit more well behaved to really see what fuel consumption could look like. Generally I have been finding the the fuel light will come on at around the 163 miles / 262 km mark. Though the tank is good for a theoretical 203 miles / 327 km range. I have only pushed to 183 miles / 295 km and found there was still 2.1 litres left in the tank, so good for another 24 miles / 38 km...in theory.

She has proven her worth as a superb commuter, but I have yet to get away on a trip yet. Basically what she was designed for, and hopefully the oppurtunity will present itself sooner rather than later. Right now though I feel like that cat that got the cream. After all this time finally ending up with my own Sprint and it proving to be as good as I had hoped for. And just like the bikes I have owned that have gone before her I have given her a name, and I could not imagine one more apt than Serenity (though this being in a Joss Whedon "I am to misbehave" vein ;-) ).

So as usual, watch for updates as time allows.

Peace, and keep the rubber side down.