Saturday, October 25, 2014

Test ride: 2014 BMW R1200GS

A few days ago, I arranged for a test ride of a 2014 BMW R1200GS through Riller & Schnauk, my local BMW dealer.  The weather was a cool 8 Celcius (46 F) and quite damp/humid -- a pretty typical morning for late October in Berlin.

They gave me the key to a model from their rental fleet. It had about 9,000 Kms on the odometer, and it was in excellent condition. I went straight to the highway and headed out of town. Within 20 minutes, I had reached a stretch of the autobahn where there are no speed limits. I set the electronic cruise control at 175 Km/h and kept it there for about 10 minutes. Rock solid ride for gobbling up highway miles. Very comfortable, too, although I would make small adjustments to the handlebar position and levers. The stock seat is very comfy, although I suspect the wider ass rest found on the Adventure model is even more plush. I also thought the footpegs were a little close to the seat, with my knees bent a little more than I would like. This would be solved either by raising the seat, or lowering the pegs. I had no trouble to reach both feet flat on the ground, so raising the seat my be the better option.

The new liquid cooled engine is superb: no shortage of power, and the delivery of all 125 ponies is extremely smooth and linear. I didn't fiddle around with the fuel injection mappings. In "normal" mode it was excellent. The brakes: also excellent. Suspension: excellent again.

Overall, this is one exquisite machine. Everything about it was top notch: handling, performance, comfort, build quality. 

Minor annoyances were the heated grips, and also the hand guards.  The heat from the grips was fine, but the diameter of the grips felt small. I would probably consider finding fatter grips. Yes, it's a minor complaint. The hand guards is another minor complaint: they certainly wouldn't provide any protection for the expensive hydraulic clutch/brake control and electronic switch gear in the event of a tip-over, and they don't provide much in the way of wind protection since their surface area is quite small. I'd install a beefy set of aluminum-framed hand guards (à la HighwayDirtBikes). The windscreen is quite functional, and sufficiently adjustable via a large knob on the right side -- although, it would make more sense to have the knob on the left so you don't have to remove your throttle hand while riding. The German mentality when they designed it was probably such that you should not be adjusting it while you are moving anyway.

All in all, this bike is a very sophisticated piece of engineering with an outstandingly refined and precise feel. All of these qualities are reflected in the price tag.

I was gone for a total of 2 1/2 hours, and I returned the bike with 195 Kms added to the odometer. I rode in city traffic, and some 40 minutes or so of modest commuter highway riding, about 30 minutes of missle-cruising autobahn stretches, and probably 45 minutes of twisty rural roads. A very well rounded mix of various riding scenarios.

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about a new GS (among other bikes). The GS has been at the top of my short list, and today's test ride has pretty much sealed it. The likelihood of me putting down a deposit on the new 2015 model is very high, but I'll wait a few weeks before taking the plunge. I may arrange a ride on the KTM 1190 while I'm thinking about it.

A short video from the test ride


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fuel consumption

For the last few weeks, I've been keeping track of my fuel consumption, just for curiosity's sake. Very pleased to report that he 2014 KTM 690 gets terrific fuel economy.

An afternoon of spirited riding on rural paved roads (mostly 5th & 6th gear) with a few occasional Kilometres of two-track forest roads yields very impressive results.

235 kms (146 miles)
8.8 Litres (2.35 US gallons)

= 3.74 L/100 Kms (62.89 mpg)

Now let's compare with fuel consumption in the city. I live in downtown Berlin, and I like to accelerate hard and frequently loft the front tire with a good whack of the throttle. I routinely see results like this:

195 Kms (121 miles)
8.6 Litres (2.27 US gallons)

=  4.4 Litres/100Kms (53.46 mpg)

Those are pretty respectable numbers in my opinion, especially considering I often use a very heavy throttle hand.

The engine is bone stock, and the only modification that has been done which could possibly impact performance and/or fuel consumption is a Wings slip-on muffler. Everything else is original: stock airbox, stock air filter, stock ECU mapping.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall riding

When the weather cooperates --especially on the weekend-- you need to take advantage of it and ride.  23 Celcius and not a cloud in sight today: a great day for a ride. Too bad I don't know any places to ride, and too bad I don't know anyone to ride with. No worries -- a few minutes scouring  BestBikingRoads and I was able to find a route that looked interesting.

The route I chose appeared to be ~250 Kms and looked like it would take me far enough outside the city to feel like I was getting away from it. From downtown where I live, about 40 Kms riding South-East of Berlin to reach the start point of a 175 Km loop made up of rural roads passing through several small towns, villages and farmland.

An unusually nice weather day in mid-October brings everyone outside. There was plenty of traffic, but not excessive. Lots of bikes: cruisers, sportbikes, sport tourers, baggers, and scooters. This loop seems to be very popular among all sorts of bikers. I played with a dude on a Tiger 800 for about 100 Kms: we kept a brisk pace and took turns passing each other, as well as slowpokes. We did get passed by several supersports.

a Garmin GPX track is available here if you're interested.

About 7 or 8 times, I ventured off the road and into the woods. 
Not deep into the woods, just a few hundred yards at a time. Exploring.

Stopped for a few minutes at a wind farm.

OK, well this photo was from a ride last weekend. This was about 
an hour West and a little North of the city.

And here's a boring video I put together, showing the highlights in 2 minutes.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shoei GT Air - time for a new helmet

Over the years, I have found that only Shoei helmets seem to fit my head properly. I've tried all the brands, all the styles, all the price ranges. This time, I did make a point of trying lots of the European brands that are not popular on the other side of the Atlantic, where I come from. None of them seem to fit my funny shaped head like a Shoei.  I've owned a few other brands over the years but was never very happy with them.

I've been using two helmets lately. Both are a few years old, and both are due for replacement. My Shoei TZ-R was a very bargain, and it has lasted very well. In fact, it still looks awesome from the outside, and the original face shield is still in near perfect shape. The interior liner padding and cheek pads, however, well they're pretty worn and they smell pretty funky.  I wash them regularly, but they are well past the "best before" date. And my Shoei Hornet DS? Same thing. The cost of refurbishing the inside of the helmet is rather pricey, and even after you spend the cash to do that, you've still got an old helmet.

So, I've been looking around, and I found a very good bargain on select models of the Shoei GT Air. It seems that a handful of the solid colour models are being phased out, and prices knocked down. Funny, because the GT Air line has only been around for 2 years.

Everywhere I looked, this helmet was €529. For the same helmet with flashy graphics, €579. That's a lot of coin. How much did I pay?  Well, the giant Louis store just north of Tegel airport had solid colours on for €399 (red, yellow, or silver). To compare with Canadian/American prices, Revzilla has the identical plain silver GT Air for $549 USD right now.

This is a premium helmet with a clear face shield and an integrated Pinlock insert to prevent fogging. This fancy helmet also has built-in, spring-loaded, drop-down sun shades like a fighter pilot's helmet. Way cool.

OK, enough with the keyboard diarrhea, let's get to the point:


  • By far, this is the quietest helmet I have ever worn. It's seriously quiet. Really. Can't emphasize this enough. Well done, Shoei. 
  • The fit is excellent. But this is subjective. It fits my head, and that is key.
  • Ventilation is very good. Not awesome, but very good. There are two intake vents: chin and forehead. There is one exhaust vent at the top, rear of the helmet.
  • The Pinlock visor is awesome. No fogging at all.  I did notice that when I wear my glasses (I don't always wear them as my vision isn't that bad) my glasses fogged up a little one particularly cool morning this week. Note that it was my glasses fogging, not the visor. I removed the chin skirt though, and no more foggy glasses! I may try the chin skirt again as the weather gets colder.
  • The Euro-version of this helmet uses Shoei's quick-release mini-ratchet locking clip mechanism to fasten the chin strap. It's pretty cool in that it's easy to fasten and unfasten. There's a con, though. See next section.


  • The mini-ratchet locking clip mechanism seems to be positioned too far back -- what I mean is that it digs into my throat rather than hugging under my jaw/chin. It's like they mounted the anchor points too far back on the sides of the helmet, so that the buckle is sitting against my Adam's apple. I find I am leaving it adjusted rather loose just so that I can slide it forward to keep from choking me. I think I prefer the old fashioned, tried-and-true long strap with double D-rings. Maybe I'll get used to it eventually.
  • Aside from the comfort issue with the chin strap buckle, I really can't find any real fault with this new helmet. 
  • If I wanted to really nitpick, I might say that the lip for raising the visor is a little small. Pretty minor annoyance. However, the visor itself is very, very good with excellent feel through the movement during opening and closing. Top quality visor all around.