Test Ride Pass

AIMI PASSED!!!! WOOP WOOP!!!! Girlfriend is a fully licensed BIKER CHICK!!!

So what’s the first thing you do when you pass your test? GO TEST RIDE BIKES!!!

First up, was one she had seen on Letchworth Honda website. It was a Honda CB 500, 2013 model in white. Pretty average looking naked bike, you could almost say boring. It could slip past you and be mistaken for any other white naked midrange bike. And slip past you it would, it was almost silent. Holding up Honda’s reputation for refined and easy to ride bikes, this one has a super smooth and flat rev range, perfect for learners. The parallel twin engine having easy to use and accessible power, but… not really enough. I’m used to something with a bit more poke so found this engine a bit featureless and… dare I say it…. Boring!?

Having just passed her test, it would however, be perfect (on paper) for Aimi. Plenty more poke than her little 125 but not so much to be overwhelmed. This would give plenty of easy riding to build up confidence and big bike experience before getting something else. Pulling out the dealer, a bit tentatively, we headed out of town towards a recommended road. It’s always a bit nerve racking riding a demo bike. If you crash it, you pay cash for it, so we took it slow.

I had been a bit cheeky and asked if I too, could test ride a bike. One of my dream bikes, ever since I had seen it at the Motorbike show was the new Honda Africa Twin 1000. This bike has a long adventure sport heritage but seems to have fallen off the radar since the Long Way Round boys had swooped in on their ridiculously obese BMW’s. Honda had hit back, big time, if maybe a little slowly with this new version. Maybe it was a deliberate tic-tac to see all the best bits of the competitions bikes before designing theirs? Well whatever, the result is spectacular.

Out of town there was a short blast of A road before we were back into some slow town riding. Aimi was ahead, having lived in the area, she sort of knew where she was going.

Town riding is definitely a test of clutch control and I was impressed by how confident and competent she was for a noob. She was easily handling the CB 500 and looked planted and confident. She rode quick, but pretty smoothly, indicative of being in easy control of the machine.

We finally got out onto the open, twisty road we had been promised. It was an absolute hoot! That road, the A507 from Baldock to Buntingford, is amazing! It’s got everything you could want; wide open flat straights to test power and acceleration, into sharp corners testing brakes, hills to test torque, bumps and manholes here and there trialling the suspension, twisty sections to see how they handle and strange off camber and swooping corners to test the geometry of the bikes.

After a getting most of the way to Buntingford we pulled over for a chat. She wasn’t too thrilled. The Kawasaki ER6 she had been learning on had more power and more character. I borrowed it for a wiz around the block and agreed. It’s pretty boring, i certainly wouldn’t want to borrow it at ANY point.

We headed back to the showroom via a small farm road. I was following on the Africa twin, so if anywhere, this was where it should shine. On rough, wet, muddy roads skipping between hedgerows. I was astounded at how confidence inspiring the chassis and tyres felt. A couple times the rear traction control / ABS kicked in and stopped the rear locking up under heavy braking. It definitely cut in earlier than I would have liked, which just confirms my suspicions that ABS lets people ride harder, beyond their natural ability which i dont think is safe. I know I can brake harder and not lock the rear up so having it jump in early was a bit frustrating. Maybe If i played around with the riding modes, i could adjust this. I spotted the button on the dash to turn the ABS off altogether, but resisted the urge, reminding myself that I really didn’t fancy throwing a £12k bike sideways down the road…

It didn’t take long to get used to it, but it does have a lightning quick throttle and loads of dive in the forks. My Versys dives around under acceleration and braking, but just because of the sheer power available, it felt like the Africa Twin rocked around a bit more. The other thing that shocked me, ever since I sat astride it is how little this huge 1000cc V Twin weighed and just how easy it was to get your feel flat on the floor from such a lofty seating position. Being a “Tall-Rounder” this was a shock because the offerings from other manufactures would not be easy to get on for the average sized rider.

We handed the CB 500 back, there was no way she was buying that. It was just too boring. Before we had arrived I had suggested the Suzuki SV 650. It has a V Twin engine so would feel a bit different to the parallel twins she had been learning to ride on. Its also a more serious bike, having its own race series and reportedly a nicely sporty chassis. It also has about double the horsepower of the CB 500. I was a little nervous about her riding it, but she was absolutely fine.  I’m really impressed with her riding skills, shes way ahead of her experience level.

She looked great on the white SV 650, really sexy and a smooth rider. Not long after we had set off, she pulled up next to me with a huge grin on her face. This was the bike for her. There is just something inexplicable about choosing a bike. Two people can ride the same bike and one will fall in love with it, and another will move on, its a very personal thing. But when you find the right one, it sticks and there is no other bike that can tempt you away. Its the reason I’ve held onto my Versys for 9 years and 53,000 miles.

We popped up the road to another bike shop, where we had seen another SV 650 for sale. It was slightly newer and had less miles on it and much better paintwork, but it didnt have some of the optional extras the first had. It also showed up something I thought I knew. It had clip on handlebars. The first SV 650 we had ridden had flat bars and a more upright riding position, this one had clip ons and a much more racing body position. I had thought the fist one looked a bit off, it had had a new top yoke, bars and risers. Much more comfy in my opinion and hadn’t negatively affected the handling so all was good.

It was a bit of a toss up, but in the end Aimi went for the first one with the higher handlebars. I totally understand why, it was a much more natural riding position, particularly because she was still getting used to riding a more powerful bike. Deposit paid, she was now the owner of a shiney new motorbike. Next year is going to be awesome! ROAD TRIP!!!