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.