TG Newsletter: BIKE TESTING
(10 & 17 April, 1 & 27 May, 9 June 2021)
The Long, the Tall and the Short of it…
Sometimes you abuse. Sometimes you get abused.
Going out to test ride a few bikes that is currently out on the market has proven this statement, AND that you will survive both.
You would think that convincing dealerships to let you test ride their latest beauties would be easy as the products often sell themselves, but amazingly the conversation usually ends in one of two ways: ‘No’, followed by a multitude of (b)anal excuses or the much rarer unicorn: ‘Yes, it is waiting for you! See you Saturday.’
The hit rate from five shops was one resounding ‘Go &%$# yourself’ also paraphrased as ‘inclement weather’, two further ‘we don’t have any demos of those bikes’, one awesome ‘Yes! They are brand new, but you can take them!’ and one painfully begrudging ‘Take my bikes.’
If, however, you arrive at a dealership with Skinny van Schalkwyk, it’s normally ‘NO!’ as well as ‘The traction control doesn’t switch off.’
We therefor visited a few random dealers and handpicked (the most expensive) bikes to take for a spin. Between Skinny, Chikita and Crispy; the first one sometimes forgets which side’s the clutch, the second one believes the felt of a worn tyre is an indication that there’s only 1000km’s tyre life left, and the third one always thinks there’s enough oil because of the parallax fault from her height disadvantage.
Take our ratings as you please, but for us, that meant riding other people’s bikes for a day. Bliss!
Fire It Up
A magical place with extremely friendly people. A nice café serving food all day long. Bikes of all sorts, colours and cc’s. And a whole floor for helmets, jackets and boots.
DUCATI 1199 PANIGALE
Horse Power and all that nonsense: Who cares? The thing is fast!
Seat Height: 825mm
Top Speed: 285km/h (You might catch your own farts)
Side Stand: Solid, does not jump back, maybe a bit upright
Price: Go ask ‘em yourself, we were too embarrassed
Wheelie Capability: As they got the bike ready for us to use, Skinny asked if they could switch off the traction control. Without lifting his head he mumbled, “We know who you are…”. But we betya it would be good!
We turned quite a few heads in traffic. Two red stripes, speeding past, with ponytails flapping in the wind. The sound of the Ducati alone made people think a lion was in town. It growls – it never purrs! Maybe it was an optical illusion, but our asses looked petite on those wasp shaped seats. The ride was extremely smooth and the only vibration came from the exhaust. The brakes work well, we checked them… And even though the suspension will need to be set for your own weight, the ride (albeit short) was very comfortable. And it’s red!
MV AGUSTA SUPERVELOCE
Horse Power and all that nonsense: Quite a few horses. Probably more than you can afford
Seat Height: 830mm (Crispy would need a steppie)
Top Speed: 240km/h
Side Stand: Easy to reach, solid
Price: See the answer to the first statistic
Wheelie Capability: WOOPWOOP! Why did they put a front wheel on this machine??? So unnecessary…
Not as smooth as the Duc, but it looks, feels and smells very futuristic. It’s very unlike the normal Jap superbikes. You feel a bit like a too rich kid getting too spoilt. For one day, WHO CARES? It’s also red!
KAWASAKI Z1000 R-EDITION
Horse Power and all that nonsense: They used those Shire horses in this engine – those with the thick legs
Weight: 221kg (A little bit of a fatty)
Seat Height: 815mm
Top Speed: 240km/h (But they really don’t want to tell you the truth on the internet – go on; search it)
Side Stand: A bit poofy
Price: Affordable, as far as bikes go these days
Wheelie Capability: Nope, the thing has just too much power. Dang, finally got her standing up in second gear, third might be best…
These short bikes make moving around the city and traffic spectacularly easy. They can turn a corner before a cop even notices you’re there. There’s a lot of tank in front of you, that might make you either think it is a massive bike and too heavy, or that it is a beast of a bike and too powerful. But it really is just a playful machine. Lots of fun to be had once you can control the power.
Triumph Thruxton 1200 R
Horse Power and all that nonsense: You won’t believe it, but it pulls!
Seat Height: 810mm
Top Speed: 210km/h (You will feel like Che Cuervo if you ride it that fast)
Side Stand: Don’t you just love it when they put those little wings on the side stand? You can flick it out with a kick of your heel
Price: R199k, but I guess for woke people it’s more than affordable
Wheelie Capability: Traction control… and we don’t think you can switch it off???
We felt retro AF! It really is a looker and with the modern power on this small bike you can zip to the next town to visit your sweetheart in no time. The steering felt like that of a long forked Harley though…
KTM Centurion aka Ultimate Performance
A stalwart in the KTM brand, who doesn’t know Thomas? We think they might actually make their ‘welcome’ coffee with orange flavoured beans. It’s a nice spot. It’s a happening spot. It’s a spot where you want to spend money – be warned!
On the morning of our test rides, we arrived early at the coffee centric (yay!), orange unicorn of dealerships. KTM Centurion was abuzz with activity. Standing on the landing overlooking the test ride fleet we witnessed Johan handing over a magnificent looking black 1290 Super Duke to an excited customer – we always feel like clapping when that happens – the joy is tangible.
KTM 390 ADVENTURE
Horse Power and all that nonsense: At the official launch, even the mafuta guys enjoyed it. Like a mule, it carries what ever you load it with
Seat Height: 855mm (A lot higher than what you would think)
Top Speed: They say 150km/h, but we defnitely got it up to 172km/h
Side Stand: There’s a bit of a twist in the stalk, so it’s easy to reach
Price: R105k, which is absolutely nothing compared to the heaps of fun you’ll get
Wheelie Capability: It needs a little bit of compression, or maybe a heavier butt
Judgement by Crispy:
Alas, my ‘superior’ weight doesn’t drop the suspensions far enough for me, so Megan kindly parked the 390 Adventure close to a kerb as I tried to navigate the traditionally high KTM seat. With the bike feeling like it has been on a diet, its claimed 158kgs helps to navigate the tall seat somewhat so I avoided landing in a heap in the KTM driveway.
The first thing I noticed is the upright sitting position on the bike which is surprisingly comfortable, and you can see much more of what is going on in front of you. The reach for the handlebars feels natural and was way better than the reach for the kickstand in my case.
The 390 can be described in one word: ‘Peppy’. This means it loves filtering. As you can imagine I had a difficult time of it keeping up with the Tall and Long ones but as I chased them through Centurion traffic the bike relished at the chase. It obviously reaches its full potential quite quickly being the smaller capacity bike but does not disgrace itself in any way, easily leaving cars behind.
Gearing is smooth and proved helpful darting between the cars. The dash is easy to read (it was cloudy and overcast on the day). Their website says it has a decent size fuel tank (14 litres) which will give you a good 400km range (really?!?). Pity we didn’t have the time to take it off-road, not that I’m an expert but it makes sense that this little bike could just be the jack of all trades that some peeps are looking for. Especially if you are an entry level adventure biker that does not feel like trying to pick up a dropped gargantuan adventure bike.
KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R
Horse Power and all that nonsense: This one doesn’t get pulled by horses. It’s got dragons!
Seat Height: 835mm
Top Speed: 289km/h!!! (The short spurt we had on the hi-way was not enough. Think we have to go back and test it again…)
Side Stand: Can’t remember? We hardly ever parked it
Price: R296k …and they allowed us out on it? Do they know how platsak we are???
Wheelie Capability: What do YOU think?!?
It’s not that intimidating, until you find out later the full specs of what you were riding. It feels like you are sitting on the last tail tip of this dragon and that it might fly out from underneath you. Advice: If you ever get one, start off softly on the throttle.
Skinny and Chikita swopped bikes and made it look so easy as they swirled through the John Vorster off-ramp, knees down, back to the dealer who had pleaded with us to be quick to accommodate all the bearded peeps lined up to test ride the Super Duke.
KTM 890 ADVENTURE
Horse Power and all that nonsense: It feels like a proper mid-weight adventure bike’s power. Just that
CC’s: 889 (Cause in the adventure world, the 9 counts)
Seat Height: 879mm (Forget the steppie – bring a ladder)
Top Speed: 210km/h (Doing 210 on this bike is a hell of of lot easier than on the Thruxton)
Side Stand: Proper, as it should be with a heavier adventure bike
Wheelie Capability: Without any effort
Chikita’s long legs drape over the bikes with ease and she opted to take the new 890 Adventure for a whirl. It was quite a standard mid-sized adventure bike, but we guess it would show its skill rather on the dirt. For city riding it was a bit of overkill.
Fokken Conrad aka Off Road Cycles
We headed off to visit Conrad at Off Road Cycles next. He made no bones about begrudgingly giving the Tank Girls bikes but eventually succumbed to the Tall one’s charms. We also got to dig around in the back storeroom where we came upon some absolute gems. Crispy recently acquired a 1981 Yamaha XT 250 and she’s a wee bit partial to them now. In our hunt we found not one but two of these lovelies!
When we came out of the treasure trove aka back storeroom, we found three bikes waiting for us. A KTM 790 Adventure R Rally, a Honda CRF250L, and a Poegie (PGO scoot).
This is the best f0kken place. Your questions are answered by a disgusted look as if you just crawled out from under a sluice moth’s sphincter… and you appreciate it. There is coffee, even if you have to make it yourself. Jy het mos bliksemse arms. Break your bike, get an uitk@k, have it fixed by F0kkenConrad, and just be flippen happy, OK!
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R RALLY
Horse Power and all that nonsense: It makes you feel like a better rider than you will ever be
Seat Height: 910mm (She’ll have to get an escalator)
Top Speed: 210km/h
Side Stand: This one had a cheat code called a cameltoe
Price: R295k (Say that again slowly)
Wheelie Capability: Up, up, and away!
They didn’t need to go bigger than this. It was a treat riding the 790 and something you could take the challenge up with Africa. There’s not many things that will stop this bike. Hooligans apply inside!
Horse Power and all that nonsense: We weren’t even sure which one of the Poegies this was. It had the power of Grayskull
CC’s: Anything between a 125 and 220
Weight: About 100kg
Seat Height: 750mm (But it depends on where you place your bum)
Top Speed: 60km/h (It feels a lot quicker when you fall)
Side Stand: Not sure if it had one?
Price: Under R30k, but there’s a really cheap one at ORC… with minor scratches
Wheelie Capability: It doesn’t want to go up as much as it wants to go down
Judgement by Crispy:
The Poegie was marvelous fun as we zoomed around town and even had an onboard pepper spray attachment for those pesky critters that try to interfere with you at traffic lights. Taking off from Off Road Cycles, I realized that I had left my new glasses hanging from my shirt front and quickly stopped to put them back on – I can see clearly now!
We found a quiet back road for the Tall one’s wheelie practice and liquid refreshments which attracted one spectator (a little old lady whose eyes sparkled as she regaled us with her stories of mucking about town on the back of her brother’s bikes in her youth).
But as Murphy would have it – when you fall off it will invariably be when you have spectators. As it turns out – the biscuit sized front wheel, razor sharp brakes and gravel turned the Pepper Spray Poegie into the nemesis of one Tall stunt queen… to top it all off we didn’t even get any photos to prove it!
Crispy rode the one eared Poegie (we had to fold up the loose mirror) back to Off Road Cycles. Her riding confidence had evaporated temporarily on seeing Skinny’s tumble and we were not looking forward to seeing Conrad on our return. Thank goodness he had gone riding! Sorry Conrad!!!
Horse Power and all that nonsense: It has the power you need, want and expect of this bike – nothing more, nothing less
Seat Height: 875mm (It’s high, but because it’s lightweight you can easily catch it on one foot)
Top Speed: 130km/h (You’ll have to take an overnight bag)
Side Stand: HUGE
Price: R75k, please add chips!
Wheelie Capability: You might flip it
Judgement by Crispy:
Chikita took us on an urban route that included using speed bumps as ramps next to a nearby pump bike track. We all swopped bikes and I took the Honda for a spin. It had a Yoshi pipe fitted that gave it loads of attitude. In comparison to the KTM 390, the Honda seemed even easier to ride despite the higher seat!?! Or was I getting the hang of this? It is a slightly lighter bike and it has substantially less power than the larger 390 but this didn’t detract from the fun factor. The bigger spoked wheels and smaller tank (7.8l) emphasize the Honda’s off-road bias.
Suffice to say that I have learnt in my riding life span that tagging along with the Tank Girls can potentially result in many numerous and surprising outcomes (polite tone engaged). Least of which moering off my bike is normally one with spectacular scenery being another! But surprisingly they are forever willing to forgive my ineptitude as I scramble about trying to keep up and learn bucket loads on anything that is usually much smaller than whatever they are riding.
This is where Skinny and Billy-Bob (her stunt Yamaha R6) was introduced to one another. It was the birth of the Skinny Biker Chicken. You should start your Yamaha journey here!
Horse Power and all that nonsense: Enough top-end to blow your hair back, but the spoil lies in the pull away
Weight: 205kg (It looks heavier than it is)
Seat Height: 875mm
Top Speed: Why is it that they do not want to give us the top speed of these bikes on the spec list? Is it because they know we will try and beat it? Let’s make it 193km/h
Side Stand: A little bit to the back
Wheelie Capability: Just don’t expect to see much road once it lifts
Judgement by Chikita:
It’s a lot of money, but a nice open road / dirt road bike. It has an extremely smooth motor and is impressively stable at 170km/h. Coming from a Husky, I’m still not so comfortable with its weight in tighter, technical stuff and the ‘Eiffel’ tower screen set-up irritated me. Though the wind protection it gave was lovely just before sunrise through the Hartbeespoort dam's mist. It's a looker and even the standard exhaust sounds nice. My Husky is quicker on the power but he is also lighter and therefore flimsier at high speeds so they do not quite compare.
I think it's a solid bike and I do not believe he will have as many issues as the European brands (from my personal experience). Skinny wheelies it lekker… of course.
Go test ride one - Linex has a nice demo model with a few extras.
Suzuki Motorcycles South Africa
What friends we’ve made with Suzuki!?! How else if you spend 24hrs racing with them through day and night, sunshine and rain, on an SV650 called Little Stuart. The guys are family now.
SUZUKI HAYABUSA III
Horse Power and all that nonsense: We can’t wait to test it
Seat Height: 800mm (It gives the term ‘gatskuur’ a new meaning)
Top Speed: 300km/h (But it’s about how quickly you get there)
Side Stand: Would expect something more for a big lady like this
Price: R329k (For the amount of metal you get, this ain’t bad)
Wheelie Capability: We will all have to wait and see
We have to wait a while for the full report as the first shipment only lands beginning of October. What we saw at the launch was one heck of a beauty dressed in white. Definitely had a Hannon make-over from the previous edition. The cans are still humungous, but big ladies have big nannas. They’ve raised the bar – litterally! The handle bars now come standard a bit higher and closer to the rider. Would love to see her sparkle in daylight.
We were invited to the launch of the new Agilitee electric motorbikes. The event was to be held at the prestigious Houghton hotel and we were told that it was a black-tie event. Turns out that I wasted money on a fancy rok. Money that I could have spent on a new sprocket. I guess the guy in the orange tracksuit had a good chuckle at the over dressed mamparras.
At the hotel, we were told that nobody booked us a room, but they would have it sorted before the end of the evening.
The event started at 6pm and by the second dominee, we realized this was going to be a loooong night. Tequila was ordered (but the event organizer closed the taps after our fourth). By 12am, we’d sat through 3 church services intermitted by a few gospel songs AND still not a word (or a sight) of the e-bikes…
There was a bit of talk about new companies, JSE, shares, international investments, gooi in a few ‘Hallelujas’ here and there, a surprise take-over by another company, one more gospel song and we still had no idea what these bikes looked like.
By 00:20 (six and a half hours later), we finally had the unveiling of the bikes… with the first bike falling over, as the cloth got pulled off. Luckily these bikes do not really weigh anything and the lady could catch it with her left pinky. Everybody crammed in closer to have a look, while I retreated to the corner of the hall (somebody had to follow Covid protocol). It took a full 5 minutes before every last soul lost interest in these bikes and returned to the long stories of the host, Mandla Langa.
While the bikes were free, I moved in to have a closer look. It was sad to see that nobody checked if the bikes were in a display condition before this fancy launch. One bike had a broken steering, the mirrors were dangling loose, and the scooter’s floor board gave way. For some live entertainment, Henry ‘Meerkat’ helped me with a platform wheelie. Amen!
What I could find on the interwebs about these bikes (depending on which website you read):
Model 1: Wild Grace
Speeds up to 300 / 330 / 360km/h
300km range per battery
R175k (yet, their target market is students and delivery companies?!?)
Model 2: RTF
Speeds up to 180km/h
130 / 350km range per battery (better make sure about this one, or it’s going to be a long push to the dealer)
R48k / R55k
Model 3: LoadEx (this one can carry the weight of three grown men)
Speeds up to 90km/h
120 / 160 / 350km range per battery
R30k / R34k / R35k
They still don’t have batteries available in the country, so no test rides available yet. They will also not have charging stations (be it because of budget constraints, or social propaganda?), but you will have to go to the dealer to swap the battery for a freshly charged one (for free). Considering that they only have one dealer in Cape Town city centre as of end of June, you might have to keep your rides short.
When we finally left, we found out that there was still no room available for us. The man at reception took pity on us and gave us a room of a guest that did not pitch up.
As we watched the Jo’ies sunrise the next morning, we heard what sounded like three muffled gunshots a few floors down!!! We were in a room not booked in our name; of a one Banda Jnr that never showed up; and a host that finally traded his orange jumpsuit worn for 9 years for a new Gucci suit.
We decided to make spore in our fuel guzzling, piston thomping, carbon smoking vehicle.
The long, the tall and the short of it is… ride the bigger, more dangerous bikes as it’s the ‘lil ones that get you in the end!
Be honest - roasties are the worst! One day when I die, my first question will be, “Pumpkin and roasties… what were you thinking?!?” Disprin, Reparil gel and Elastoplast costs money. Help ‘n girl out, wontya?
If you're familiar with the rural concept of the honesty bar, this honesty newsletter ain't much different... I'm a completely un-paid journalist, relying instead on readers using the honour system. You read the newsletter and then leave an amount you see fit for the entertainment you've received.
If you don't find it particularly amusing, then you fork out NO dosh. I won't stop sending you the letter – it is still mahala to those that count their coins and... I love sharing my stories.
As requested by my overseas readers, you can donate to this newsletter on my PayPal account: email@example.com
You can do an EFT transfer to the account below.
Licking my wounds!!!
www.pinterest.com/skinny400 YouTube: Skinny van Schalkwyk