Sunday, August 03, 2008

The VTR - What's it like?

Okay, so I'm back from my first decent ride on the VTR and what do I think?

Well firstly, I'm writing this as someone who has not really ridden a lot of sports bikes. I've mainly been on sports-tourers (and some say that that is what the VTR is - not me though) and tourers. I am not used to the ride position or the V-twin (only ridden V-twin cruisers) so she's all pretty new to me.

Obviously the first thing I noticed was the size coming off a 280kg Connie. The seat height is about the same as the Connie although the bike is a lot skinnier so it is easier to touch the ground. The bike is light - it feels like a 250 or some toy after the Connie. Pushing it around, getting it in and out of the shed etc is a piece of cake.

The ride position is definitely different to the Connie with the low, narrow clip-ons you feel like your chin is hovering just over the front mudguard. Around town I'm getting sore wrists but don't have the problem once on the open road. The seat is firm but surprisingly comfy - after over 350km my backside was still all good. The aftermarket screen is also very good - with earplugs there is actually less wind noise than on the Connie with the screen full up. Weather protection is obviously not in the same league though and I felt the breeze on my legs and got a tad damp in the wet weather towards the end of the ride.

And the donk? Well, what's not to like? There is definitely something about twins - they're alive: vibrating and making nice noises etc. Even with what look like completely stock mufflers you know she's a twin - great music when gassing it and another nice sound on the overrun. The motor talks to you and tells you what gear you need to be in and encourages you to use the gearbox and enjoy the sound - and performance. It doesn't have to work hard either - I'm not one for revving the tripe out of bikes and even when getting along a bit keeping her between 4-6,000 revs was fine. A lot of the time in the windies only 3rd, 4th and 5th was required and this meant a lot of fun! I knew that fuel economy was not going to be great

but in the mix of riding we did yesterday I got between 6.5-6.7L per 100km - not as good as the Connie but then the bike is working a bit harder for it's living.

Handling? Ok, I'm still coming to grips with this. Initially I was riding on some pretty slippery roads on new tyres so a bit of care was required - a few little slips here and there but she behaved herself. Later on when on some nice dry roads it was easier to push things a bit and the bike just ate the corners up. The tyres also got nicely scrubbed and worked well in the rain later on. The ride is a bit firm but you forget this once the pace is up. Being a light bike the bumpier corners need to be treated with a little more respect. Interestingly given the weight difference the bike does need more rider input than the Connie - especially into slower corners. The difference here is the wider bars on the Connie requiring less effort and I guess that sports-bikes are designed to be ridden hard. Steering lock is pretty average with hands being squished into the tank at full lock - pretty typical problem with narrow clip-ons.

What's wrong with it:

  • Range - it'd be nice to be able to do 300km to a tank. Not going to happen and I can live with it because I have the Connie.
  • Gear carrying. It could easily take a pack rack as it already has the mount fitted with a grab rail but I don't want to go there - ugly and she's just a toy for me. I had my tank bag on yesterday and this was ok but I'm not really a fan of tank bags. I do like the look of Sarge's tail bag...
  • No centre-stand. Oh, that's right it's a sports-bike. Might have to get some stands for cleaning, maintenance etc.
  • Noise. It'd be nice if she made a bit more but this is getting more unpopular these days so I dunno.
  • I thought bar-risers might be a good idea especially around town but I'm not so sure now - the screen works really well and sitting higher up might wreck that.
  • Brakes. Not in the same league as the Connie but I'm getting used to them and they are nice and progressive. One thing to watch carefully when swapping between bikes.

And that's about it. Overall, I'm more than happy with my little toy especially considering the price I paid for it and am looking forward to some nice sunny days so I can go out and play...

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