He's ridden everything from an RC213V-S MotoGP bike for-the-road to a Harley-Davidson across America on Route 66. But don't hate him for it. Here, Bike Social's chief, Marc Potter, highlights some of his personal best rides and bikes he's ridden under the guise of 'work' this year.
Marc Potter Bike Social’s editor-at-large and former MCN editor talks through some of his best rides and moments of 2015. From riding the Honda RC213V-S to travelling across America on Route 66 and a slow ride on the Isle of Man on a seventies Honda.
Nearest thing to a MotoGP bike: Honda RC213V-S, Valencia, Spain.
The road bike is special. It should be. At a cost of £138,000 it is the most expensive road-going production sports bike ever produced. The Japanese elite engineers and designers who spent years of their lives creating it are here. And I'm not sure who's more nervous. The men who built it, or the three British journalists who are about to ride it in Valencia. Well, I say built. It’s more hand-built than produced. Just three people will build the RC213V-S at a rate of one bike per day. It may carry the badge of the Big H, but this bike is as hand built as it gets. The frame is made by Moriwaki, the engine uses the same camshafts as the Honda RC213V MotoGP bike. And it feels every bit the race bike. Every part feels precise, designed for one purpose.
The road bike is the best-handling bike you will ever ride and a true MotoGP bike for-the-road. The race-kitted £146,000 bike is a full-on Marc Marquez open-pipe MotoGP fairground ride. Nothing can prepare you for the way the 170g V-4-powered 1000cc RCV accelerates, or the way it makes you feel when it pops and bangs on the over run, the engine braking control working overtime on the way into corners and the way the chassis grips mid-corner. There’s nothing else like it.
Weird bike of the future (that’s a bit like Street Hawk): Harley-Davidson Livewire
Turn it on, flick the start button and suddenly you have thousands of watts of power at your right-wrist. It may look like a Harley dropped from a futuristic movie set but some how it still feels like a Harley to ride too. Even though no Harley before or after has had an electric motor and no Harley has ever sounded like this. Ever watch Street Hawk as a kid? Well, it sounds like that. Like twenty thousand electric drills about to unleash hell. At a wet Millbrook proving ground in May Harley-Davidson unleashed the future to a load of cynical bike journalists, and Harley-Davidson customers. Every single one of us left amazed. Will Harley ever make it for production? It’s unlikely right now, but as a concept in working out if the Harley name could handle an electric motorcycle it’s a fascinating project.
Best all-rounder: Ducati Multistrada 1200S.
There are many bikes that can do touring, commuting, riding fast and even a weensy teensy bit of off-road. But few do it better than Ducati’s Multistrada and give you an inane grin every time you open the throttle. The electronics on the Multistrada are so advanced that even in full pony mode, or Sport, as it says on the dash, you can nail it in first gear unleashing all of those claimed 160 horses and not worrying about nay wheelspin, or the front wheel lifting too high. When you accelerate hard on a Multistrada for the first time you can’t quite believe how quickly something this big, with wide handlebars makes forward motion.
Having done almost 4000 miles on the Multistrada in just a few months it never got dull, was never uncomfortable even on a two-day 600 mile trip to the Yorkshire Dales on some of Britain’s finest roads, and never let me down. It didn’t even need the chain adjusting in all that time. The DVT engine is addictive, it’s so comfortable, and the clever headlinght which moves when the bike leans on the S-model turns night into day.
It’s not perfect, but is one of the best bikes money can buy for doing absolutely everything on.
Multistrada long-term test video here.
Rediscovering the joys of dirt: Honda Africa Twin – discovering the joy of the G button:
The new Africa Twin takes Honda’s ‘True Adventure’ concept bike and turns it into one a brilliant all-rounder that is as happy blasting across the South African savannah as it is commuting to Croydon.
I was lucky enough to ride it in South Africa a few weeks ago. On the road it’s good, the kind of bike that gets you in the groove. Off-road the bike is a revelation for such a big adventure bike. The DCT system with the G-button switched on does all the thinking for you. It changes up and down automatically and is always ready with the right gear all of the time so you can just concentrate on trying to stay on the thing and dodge the Wildebeest. It may not make the power of the BMW R1200GS but it fills the gap nicely between the 800s and the big 1200s in every way.
The big tour: Route 66 on a Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Ultra, 2900 miles in 12 days.
It’s a cold, windy day in Chicago on October 2. 6.30am and we’re outside a sign that says it’s the start of the infamous Route 66, possibly the world’s most famous road. It doesn’t mean much to the assembled 18 riders right now, but it will. It will mean a hell of a lot in two weeks’ time.
Nervous, and apprehensive about the next two weeks we pick up our Harleys/Indians/GoldWings and ride out of Chicago. Sat navs set to Los Angeles, via the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas. Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California.
It’s a road trip of epic proportions, we encounter some of the best and worst weather I’ve ever ridden a motorcycle in. We almost get arrested. Witness some of the most stunning scenery on earth. We ride together, drink together. And two weeks later we’re not no longer strangers. We’re friends for life. And the Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide Ultra is a bike so comfortable and so capable, that you never have to think about riding it. It just gets on and swoops you up across America in perfect, low-revving, lazy comfort. What a trip. What a bike.
The one I crashed: Yamaha MT-09 Tracer
The sound of metal skidding across the road is not one I’d heard for a long time. It was over before it began. But it still began. And ended with a slightly scuffed brand-new Yamaha MT-09 Tracer and a bruised ego.
A brand-new Yamaha MT-09 skidding across the road on a cold and windy day somewhere near Horncastle in Lincolnshire is not the noise you want to hear, and it was with much regret that I called the honourable Jeff Turner at Yamaha who took it like the gentleman that he is.
My fault. My bad. I turned way too hard, ground the peg out and lost the front on the cold surface. Look closely in the pictures above and you can see smoke coming off my Alpinestars boots before the front tucks. Committed. Just a bit beyond what's neccesary to get a few pictures in the bag.
And the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer? Possibly the biggest motorcycling bargain of 2015. It does everything well and essentially does all the things that the latest breed of adventure bikes does, but for £8285 It’s a very-accomplished bike with a glorious three-cylinder motor.
Just watch the ground-clearance on a very cold day…
Read the full MT-09 Tracer review here.
So fast it hurts: Ducati 1299 at Portimao, Portugal
So fast it hurts. The bike is wheelying down the straight as I shift into fifth gear. The front-lifting a few inches from the tarmac as the adjustable wheelie control weaves its magic. The Portimao circuit in Portugal is a rollercoaster of a track. It twists and turns, climbs over 100mph crests and turns a 39-year-old rider into a wheezing bag of nerves.
And it’s this moment that makes me realise that bikes have got so fast, so physical in 2015 that I needed to get to the gym and lose some timber. Lost 2 stone this year, motivated by this bike by the way. Get me.
The 1299 is full of the finest electronics money can buy and keeps the whole thing in wraps so you can ride it faster than you thought possible. But the sheer grunt and force of the bike and the way it accelerates, corners and stops means that you have to be on your A-game every time you attempt to twist the throttle to 100 per cent. Ultimately I may be faster on a Yamaha R1, and not sweat as much, but there’s nothing else this side of a Honda RCV that gives you the same smug feeling of mastering a bike.
Read the full Ducati 1299 review.
Yamaha R1 on an empty Silverstone GP circuit. The year traction control became special.
“How many bikes are going out?”, says the pit-lane marshall. Just me I say. As I sit in pit-lane at Silverstone. The full MotoGP circuit ahead of me for the next lunch hour.
Leathers on, new knee sliders ready for action on the most-exciting production sports bike this year. The Yamaha R1 was all-new for 2015. It was a brave move for Yamaha to make it looks so radically different to any other motorcycle, and any other Yamaha R1 from the long-line of R1’s from 1998. But it’s a bike that moves the game on.
The crossplane crank motor feels fast even on the empty GP circuit. It roars, and howls at the same time. It’s like no other motor you’ll have ridden. Unless you’re Valentino Rossi, as the R1 uses technology from his MotoGP Yamaha M1. It revs high, but pulls cleanly from the mid-range and uses its 200bhp to fight against the brilliant traction-control system, slide control and wheelie control. It means you can ride a sports bike harder and faster than you thought possible, putting your trust in the electronics to get in, out and through corners in an unbelieveable way. It’s the motorcycle that makes heroes out of mortals.
Read the full Yamaha R1 UK test here.
Suzuki GSX-S1000F on the Isle of Man TT course:
Milky Quayle is a TT legend. A race winner around the Isle of Man TT course. And its our job to try and keep up with him over the Isle of Man TT course a few weeks after the TT. Well, that and to get a test on the new Suzuki GSX-S1000F.
There’s nothing like riding around the 37.73-mile circuit, but doing it behind a TT rider on a fast, decent handling motorcycle when there’s little traffic around and no speed limits is a unique experience. The Suzuki may not be a sports bike in the true sense, but tucked in behind an on-form Milky, the bike could more than cut it round the TT course. Another lap says Milky? It would be rude not too.
Read the full Suzuki GSX-S1000F test here.
Keeping up with the kids: Elbow-down at Valencia. Not big, not clever, but something I wanted to tick off the list. I first got my knee down aged 17 on a Honda CG125 using homemade knee sliders made out of tea coasters. It was a massive moment but ended with me crashing out, jumping a ditch and using a hammer from a mate’s car to bang my footrest back straight. So I wasn’t about to tell anyone I got my elbow down until I knew we were all good to go.
This time I was fully-kitted on race tyres on Ducati’s glorious laser-guided missile otherwise known as the Ducati 959. I’d ridden at Valencia a few weeks before on the RCV and when I got the pictures back I couldn’t believe how close my elbow was. So when I got the chance to ride at Valencia again, I thought why not.
I’m used to hanging off, but elbow down is a whole new style. Your head needs to be closer to the tank and screen, your body almost lying down on the bike. The Ducati is so stable mid-corner and so accurate that you can feel what the chassis is doing, feel the tyres working and then suddenly it happened. My elbow touched down lap-after-lap and I was grinning like a 17-year-old who’d just got his knee down. But kept it on two wheels this time! Elbow down. Done.
Read the full Ducati 959 test here.
Slowest, but most fun ride of the year: Riding the Bike Social project 1974 Honda CB750 from Douglas to Ramsey along the coast road in the Isle of Man, during TT week.
The one-piston caliper front brake and over-square Firestone tyres meant I could barely keep up with colleague Paul Taylor, but the sound of the bike on full chat through its handmade open silencers, the view of the sea on a perfect June day and the general feel of the bike made it a special ride Add that to the attention the bike got at the Isle of Man during TT fortnight and that special Senior TT victory by McGuinness on a mission and it was a special week all-round. It's not about the fastest, or the best-handling bike to make the most memorable rides, it's about the way a bike makes you feel. And on its day the Bike Social CB750 makes you feel like a King.
Read about our Project Bike Social CB750 here.