Author: Bike Social Reporter Posted: 08 Apr 2014
Fancy a quick blast on a brand new bike? Here our pick of the bikes to blag a test ride on in 2014…
A word of caution: First of all, remember that test riding a bike can potentially be an expensive decision. For a start there is the inevitable temptation of buying the actual bike! A quick adrenalin-fuelled blast, a persuasive salesman and a seemingly easy finance package are honey traps for even tightest of wallets. So be very careful. Also, there are financial issues attached to a test ride. Usually a dealer will ask for a credit card and you will be liable for the insurance excess on the test bike. This could be up to £1000, possibly even more, so what starts out as a bit of a Sunday laugh can wind up costing you a lot of cash. Always check what liability you are letting yourself in for before test riding a bike.
Ok, warnings over, what are the best bikes to blag a go on?
BMW dealers all operate very slick test fleets, however the issue for 2014 is that the bike everyone wants ago on isn’t on all the fleets. BMW have sold every R nineT they can build in 2014 and 2015, so not all dealers aren’t running demos as many have sold them! Never mind, get a go on the naked S1000R instead. If you are a sportsbike nut then this will certainly turn you to the naked side. As a bit of a curveball, get a go on the R1200RT and test the new gear shift assist system. Not only is the RT a brilliant bike, the auto-blipper on the downshift is a unique toy. Close the throttle, tap the gear lever down and listed to the boxer engine blip before selecting the lower cog. Very cool and just like a WSB bike…almost… You could get a go on the new R1200GS Adventure, but it’s a bike for the dedicated and the stratospheric seat height is hard to overcome in more ways than one. If you are considering a GS then test the stock model instead.
With little new this year, the best model to have a go on in the Italian dealership comes from sister company Moto Guzzi. Try and grab a ride on the California, which is a lovely cruiser, or the extremely cool cafe racer V7. Aprilia are struggling like hell to sell the RSV4 superbike, so if you want a deal, haggle hard and this argumentative litre bike could be yours for a bargain price. For sheer insanity, try the Tuono V4…
Want a go on a Superleggera? Don’t we all! Lower your targets and ride the new Panigale 899, which is a beautiful smaller capacity superbike with bags of charm. If you want a surprise then take a Diavel out for a spin, this is a cruiser that can really turn it on in the bends and will certainly make you smile. The current fashion is for naked bikes and the new Monster 1200 marks a turn away from air-cooling for Ducati. It’s not as classically styled as the old Monster, but the engine is a peach and it comes fully loaded with electronic gadgets. Some will argue it is missing the Monster soul, but it’s a brilliant handling bike that looks good. Take a test ride to see what you think.
Honda have really gone to town this year on new models, although it has to be said their model range is a bit ‘worthy’ – with the exception of the Fireblade SP of course. Bad news, according to dealers the SP is selling like hotcakes and therefore won’t be on the test fleet. So what else is there to try? Like or loath the NC750 range, they may not be the most thrilling of bikes but they are brilliant at doing their job of providing cheap motoring. Try the DCT clutch-less gearbox, which is very popular with NC riders and equates to around 40% of sales. If you want a bike with a bit of spirit then the excellent CB650F looks great and goes very well. It’s a touch muted but a brilliant bike, and the same goes for the CBR650F. But the Honda that is likely to be very popular with demo riders is the new VFR800F. The first Honda with a quickshifter (optional extra), this iconic bike is a superb do it all and a legendary machine. If you want a practical bike that can tour, scratch or commute, this is the Honda to get. The £10,500 price tag is a touch steep, but it’s superbly well built.
There is a lot of talk about how good the new Z1000 is, aside from some pretty stiff suspension, so try Kawasaki’s new super naked for yourself. However also have a go on the updated Z1000SX. This hugely underrated sports tourer is a wonderful bike that was revised last year to make it even better. Something of a connoisseur’s choice, the SX is the kind of bike that is overlooked and really needs a test ride to appreciate just how good it is. And then there is the J300 scooter. If you want a scooter, then try the Kawasaki. It’s a re-badged Kymco but is quite cool for a scooter thanks to the Kawasaki branding and rides well.
Yamaha’s revival is being spearheaded by two models – the MT-07 and MT-09, both of which are absolutely superb. The MT-09 is the more aggressive of the two bikes with a peppy triple motor and abrupt throttle response. Some call this character, some say it’s irritating, you make up your mind on a test ride. However, the MT-07 is virtually flawless. The parallel twin is beautiful, the chassis excellent and the price spot on. If you are new to two-wheels, or a little nervous, this is the way to go. However don’t write it off if you are an experienced rider, like the Street Triple, the Yamaha is a formidable weapon when ridden hard. The Super Tenere is worth a look if you are after a bargain as dealers are struggling to shift them, however don’t expect to see an SR400 on the demo fleet for a while. Yamaha’s very cool retro is delayed and won’t be in the UK until summer.
A Suzuki dealer will be delighted to offer you a test ride as they are struggling with a lack of new models. The V-Strom 1000 is a bargain adventure bike and a surprisingly good machine that is worth a look, however the bike to try is the GSX-R1000. Ok, it’s not a new machine, but this is the bargain litre bike and with over 160bhp at the rear wheel isn’t exactly slow. It’s a ‘rider’s bike’, devoid of electronics and arguably a more thrilling and raw ride because of this fact. Haggle hard and you will be amazed just how cheap you can pick a GSX-R of any description up for…
Triumph didn’t exactly stun the world with new models this year, however the updated Thunderbird models are surprisingly good if you are after a cruiser. Long, low and quite good handling, they are actually very nice bikes to ride and look superb in the flesh. If you want to see what all the fuss is about then test ride a Street Triple, they really are brilliant, but also test the Tiger 800, which is a lovely mini-adventure bike. And then there is the Bonneville. Retro cool doesn’t get any better than a Bonnie…
The bike that has been creating all the headlines is the new 1290 Super Duke R. However with a fairly limited number coming into the UK, not all KTM dealers will have one on demo fleet. If you can find one, then get a go on this barking, but also very refined when all the electrics assists are turned on, super naked. Sadly for KTM the bikes that are causing the most interest are delayed. The small capacity RC range won’t be here until summer, which is bad news for new riders everywhere as they promise to be brilliant. You can always get a go on the excellent 125 Duke instead…
You may struggle a bit to find a dealer close to you (look at www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-uk ), but if are willing to travel then the new Indian is a staggering machine not only to look at, but also ride. Brown leather panniers with tassels, the kind of soul that would shame Motown and a street presence second to none. Ride the new Indian and you will see why Harley need to be nervous about this legendary brand’s revival…
When buying a Harley you aren’t just buying a bike, you are buying a lifestyle. Take your other half along on the test ride as Harleys are made for two-up riding. The HOG is the most active of all owners’ groups with over a million members all over the world and the number of events, rallys, rideouts, etc organised through HOG is amazing. On the demo side, try a full dress model for cruising or a V-Rod derivative for power. If you are into customising a bike then the Sportster model range is the way forward while you can’t beat the classic style of a Fatboy. The great thing about buying a Harley is not only HOG, but also the fact they hardly depreciate at all. A used Harley holds its value like no other motorcycle, so you can try one for a few years and be safe in the knowledge your money is secure.