no rules...no politics...just ridin'

Making The Big Decision

I read a post on the GSX forum about how one of the Aussie members, Grungenut(whom I have ridden with), went through the decision making process of choosing his next bike. It is something we all go through but seldom think too much about afterwards - afterall, we are far too busy riding it to spend too much time thinking about how we decided on it. I thought he described the process he went through really, really well and it makes a really good read. Enjoy....

My GSXR600 has served me well over the past four years, however longer rides were taking their toll on my aging body. With aching wrists and a sore arse becoming an all too frequent side affect, it was time to upgrade to something more comfortable. So the search began….

Time for a change
My goal was simple. Find a bike that performed well, was comfortable and pleasing to look at. Piece of cake…. Not. A friend suggested I take a look at
Yamaha’s FZ1. The specs looked good – sports bike performance with comfortable ergos, I just wasn’t sure about its appearance though. It looked more like a docile praying mantis than a machine that uses the same moving bits as the famed R1. There must be something else out there with the looks to match its performance.
After an extensive search on the Internet, using search strings like "bike tests", "bike reviews", and "bikes that look horny" (this last search didn’t return many motorcycle sites though) I found an image of such beauty, such craftsmanship that I said to myself, this is the one for me. It’s the new
Triumph Sprint ST 1050. I could not fault any aspect of the new 2005 models appearance. It oozed style from every angle (well every angle I could find a photo for on the net). The specs looked really good too. I downloaded the pics and proceeded to tell my friends about the bike that would soon be mine (in much the same way a schoolboy would tell his friends about that girl in his class he has a crush on). One of my friends agreed that it was a nice bike and told me it was a shame that they wont be available in Australia until June. JUNE!!!, that’s five months away. That’s OK, I’m a patient man, a machine this special is worth the wait. Two days later I was back looking at the FZ1.


Let the tests begin…
OK so maybe the FZ1 doesn’t look that bad after all. If you squint your eyes and tilt your head at 45 degrees you can almost imagine that it’s an R1 without fairings, so lets take one for a spin. I knew my local Suzuki dealership had a second hand FZ1 in the yard so I went down for a test ride. Noticing that they also had a second hand
Bandit1200S, I told Dave (the sales guy) that I would like to give both bikes a run. The Bandit looked a bit plain Jane to me but I thought it would be a good idea to have something to compare the FZ with. Dave jumped on the Bandit and headed down the road. As I hoped on the FZ1 I immediately noticed the intrusive fuel tank. It was like riding a motorcycle with a medicine ball between your legs (not that I have ever tried that). I took off after Dave. I noticed that the handlebars were not stock. They where higher and straighter than standard, a feel that I quite liked. On the Motorway I was able to open up the throttle and explore this "R1 for the real world" more intimately. The power was exhilarating. I attempted to settle in to a more relaxed cruise on the open road – to get a feel for its tourability, but the FZ seamed to urge me if not provoke me into twisting that throttle. I began to realise that this bike was truly evil. At ridiculous speeds I didn’t feel all that safe (strange that). I guess I’m thinking more of what I would expect when punting my GSXR around at these speeds. The FZ1 didn’t feel stable like a sports bike, but then again it’s not designed to be a race rep like the gixer. This is why I feel this bike is evil. It provokes the rider to explore the upper reaches of is power without backing that up with the steering to match. Don’t get me wrong, this bike handles quite well. The problem is it goes even better. If there is anything about this bike that’s more impressive than its power, then that would be its brakes. You wont find better brakes anywhere.
I hoped off the FZ with adrenaline still pumping through my veins. I was actually glad to get that medicine ball out from between my legs though. At no stage during the ride could I get comfortable with that fat intrusive fuel tank (possibly a symptom of having longer than average legs). Dave and I swapped bikes for the return trip.
The Bandit felt comfortable the moment I got on. As we rode back I was surprised at how well it handled through the corners. It felt more like a sports bike than the FZ (maybe something to do with the FZs after market handlebars). The brakes didn’t compare to the FZ though and I wasn’t sure whether the rear brake was actually connected. I hated the handlebars on the Bandit. The angle of the hand grips forced my elbows inward – a position I am not at all comfortable with. I found my wrists starting to ache after a while. Although the power didn’t compare to the FZ it was still enjoyable to push hard, and I never felt unsafe (not sure if that’s a compliment though).


As I was not totally satisfied with either bike I decided to continue my research. Finding something that equaled (if not bettered) the performance of my GSXR whilst supplying comfort at the same time was looking unlikely. After all the research, the FZ1 really did look like the only option.

Deciding that it was probably those trail bike handlebars on the FZ1 I tested that made it feel unstable, I decided to visit a Yamaha dealer a try another FZ1. As I threw my leg over I remembered what it was that I disliked most about the FZ1 - that damn medicine ball fuel tank. I rode off regardless and found that handling was much improved with the stock handlebars, although still no match for its power.
The FZ1 was finally eliminated as a potential replacement for the GSXR, primarily due to the shape of its fuel tank. I briefly examined the
Honda Firestorm but decided I couldn’t live with the crap fuel range / economy. I felt the Suzuki SV1000S would be too uncomfortable for long trips and not have enough fuel range either.

Fuel range was also a negative for the Kawasaki Z1000, however during a Sunday ride towards Toowoomba, John (a mate of mine who owns one) suggested we swap bikes for a while. I rode the Kwaka through mainly open roads with sweeping corners. I must say it was a blast to ride. The trail bike type handlebars (fitted as standard) suited this bike and it felt more stable than the FZ1, although still not like a true sports bike. I found the fuel tank on the Z1000 a bit like a medicine ball, but not nearly as intrusive as the FZ1. Although the riding position was quite comfortable, I wasn’t sure if that little seat would support my 100kg weight comfortably on longer trips.

Revelations
Back on my GSXR600 riding up the back of Mount Glorious towards Brisbane I finally realised something that I guess I knew all along. I love riding this little gixer. I fell in love with its looks the first day I saw one and love riding it as much (if not more) now than when I first got it. Yeah I know it’s not comfortable, but you don’t notice when you’re scratching your way up Mount Glorious.

I wheeled the little Suzuki back into my garage after that rather enlightened ride and looked at it apologetically. How could I have considered parting with something that has, and continues to provide me with so much enjoyment? As I began to realise that my quest for comfort was far from complete, my gaze shifted from my beloved gixer to the WR450 parked beside it. Well something has to go and it looks like your it.

Change of Focus
The decision to dump the WR was not taken lightly. I purchased this bike two years ago following a 15 year drought from dirt bikes. That was 15 years of insane jealousy every time I’d drive past a patch of dirt to see plumes of dust accompanied by the buzzing sound of a mixture or 2 and 4 stroke dirt bikes running a muck. The fact was, I just never rode the thing as much as I thought I would, and my passion for the open road is far stronger than getting down and dirty (on two wheels at least).
Having decided to keep the GSXR, my direction began to shift. I no longer required something that would need to match the gixers performance, so more focus was placed on comfort.

The Big, the Bad and the Beastly
Back to the net for more research. Now I can get serious about eliminating those aches and pains from long rides. I wanted a big plush seat and high handlebars. I briefly considered the myriad of cruisers on the marked but was turned off, firstly by their poor ability to be punted swiftly through a corner (yeah I know I still have the gixer, but cornering is what motorcycling is all about, even on those long trips) and secondly by their high price tag. I’d have to trade both my bikes in just to get a decent cruiser.

Enter the big bad standards. Options here are the Yamaha XJR1300, Suzuki Bandit1200S, Honda CB1300, Kawasaki ZRX1200R and Suzuki GSX1400. Although comfort is the priority, handling is important too. Unfavorable reports on handling turned me away from the XJR and CB. I know the Bandit handles well but those handlebars are a concern. Thoughts of changing the handlebars remind me of the issues I had with that first FZ1 I rode. The ZRX won all the naked bike races before the FZ1 arrived on the scene so I guess this would have to be a good all round performer.

I arrived at the Kawasaki dealership and realised I was overlooking one important detail. The bikes appearance. I took a good long look at this thing but I couldn’t get past the fact that it looked like an old pile of crap from the 80’s. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the retro concept, but the 80’s were a style void. Nothing in the automotive industry that was produced in the 80’s had any style at all. Then again that’s just my opinion. The specs showed that this is the most powerful bike out of this bunch so I gave it a go. Now this bike felt good. Comfortable seat and the handlebars positioned nicely. Cornering felt quite stable. The power was awesome as well. I managed to get the front wheel off the ground (unintentionally) whilst accelerating down a hill. The front brakes were adequate, although the suspension up front felt a bit soft, allowing the bike to nose dive under brakes. The rear brake was virtually none existent. I would be hesitant to rely on it for steep hill starts. Overall though I enjoyed riding this bike and it’s really only its looks that prevent it from being a serious contender.
With only one bike left to test, the GSX1400 seamed more elusive than an honest chick in a nightclub. I couldn’t find a demo or second hand version anywhere. I examined the bike in more detail on the net and decided that the GSX could possibly be the one. I really liked its beastly appearance and the bucket loads of torque at low revs, as indicated by the dyno charts, seamed quite appealing to me as well. Fuel injection and fully adjustable suspension all pluses as well.
Just to throw a spanner in the works, a friend suggested we swap bikes whilst returning from a ride to Kyogle. I considered the
Aprilia Tuono as being somewhat outside my focus (and outside my price range), but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed riding this machine. High handlebars, comfy seat, brilliant handling and heaps of grunt from the awesome sounding V twin. I can see how this bike could be all things to many people. For me though, I would have to sacrifice my gixer as well to get one. I’m just not quite ready to loose that sports bike feel on those short Sunday rides or track days. How things have changed. This could have been the bike I was looking for two months ago.

I eventually got the opportunity to ride the GSX1400 when the sales guy from Kawasaki arranged for a second hand unit to be moved up from the Southside somewhere so I could compare it with the ZRX1200. Once the GSX arrived I went back down there and took it for a spin.

My initial thoughts were – this is nice and comfy. Comfortable wide and deep padded seat and high wide handlebars. I could imagine cruising long distances in the saddle of this machine. Then the first corner approached. Whilst still in cruise mode, I gently tipped the big 1400 in with minimal effort on those wide handlebars; however the big slug objected violently. It bucked and weaved horribly. I arrived out the other side of the corner thinking – what the f@$k was all that about. Up until that point I was quite impressed with this machine and thought it to be a serious contender. I was now a little upset that after the time it took to finally get one to test ride that it would be such a disappointment. I was now keen to get this pile of crap back to the dealer so I could continue my search. I knocked it down a gear and twisted the throttle in tradition GSXR600 style. The next thing I remembered was the instant rush of air as the speed climbed at an alarming rate. My angered disappointed had turned into adrenaline driven fear. I was approaching a corner just as tight as the last one but at twice the speed. I pulled myself forward (fighting the wind blast) and gripped the handlebars tightly. I pushed this thing hard through the corner. The 1400 remained stable and precise. I backed off to allow the adrenaline levels to subside. Wow – this bike has personality. It can be a subdue cruising machine or a wild beast that needs to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and taught who’s boss. I hadn’t been this impressed by a bike since that time four years ago when I test rode the GSXR600.

The final decision (the decision finally)
The GSX1400 was the one. I haggled with a couple of dealerships to get the best trade on the WR and then signed on the dotted line.


Written by Grungenut

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2 Comments:

Anonymous mrs road captain said...

WOW! That's a lot of pondering... And to think most people walk into a dealer and say "ooo, check out that one! I want it!"

11:03 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Glad to hear that someone has sense to ride a bike before buying it! Mrs. Road Captain said it all....

6:47 PM  

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