I used to test motorcycles for a living. It was dangerous, fun and not very well paid. Out of the hundreds of motorcycles and scooters I had a spin on, here are a few which stuck in my memory, and why;
The Suzuki Hayabusa launch from 1998 at Bruntingthorpe was unforgettable. Jimmi from Fast Bikes spewed up in a car glove box on the way to the event, as he was still pissed from the free booze Suzuki’s PR specialists served up the night before.
I wasn’t feeling too clever and after getting my helmet visor hit by gravel at 150mph, as Shakey Byrne overtook me on the straight, I began to think one of us journos might die as we raced towards the speed trap at over 175mph. Then played chicken on the brakes. Things became so surreal that Chris `Crasher’ Moss from MCN declared the Busa was good enough to make a decent Proddie race bike.
I recorded a mere 194mph that day. Shakey did 202mph. Interestingly, the speedo on my bike was showing around 215mph at 190mph, which only goes to prove one thing; road tests are 90% bullsh** baby.
If ever a bike belonged in the Grand Canyon, the badlands of Missouri or cruising the Strip in Vegas, it was the Triumph Rocket III Touring. True, the motor is NOT a V8, but the pistons are from a Dodge Viper I believe and the way the three cylinder engine punches you towards the next horizon is deeply MoPar.
It drinks fuel. I recall filling the tank every 100 miles or so, but in the USA that doesn’t matter. It corners like a big sofa, but again, what difference does that make on an arrow straight road in Nevada? Lie back and enjoy the adventure, the sheer emptiness of the open road. There was a moment on the ET Highway, where I started singing Wanted: Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, beneath the confines of my Arai. Think I got away with it…
You know when you meet one of your heroes and it’s a great disappointment? Well the same thing happened with the Ducati 1098.
I loved its sheer Sophia Loren curvaceous beauty, drooled over the tech spec when Ducati’s PR team sent over the promo blurb and couldn’t wait to test the bike. As a lowly scum internet editor back in the 2000s, I wasn’t allowed on the flashy press launch, so instead had to book a week’s road test.
Rarely have I felt such pain in my neck and back, (and I’ve attended many of Max Mosley’s finest evening soirees,) and the number of times the bike almost wrenched its handlebars from my grip, as the rock solid suspension bumped and thumped over pot-holes was a constant unsettling annoyance. You simply didn’t trust the bike to behave at speed, as it reacted to every piss-poor road repair, thickly painted whiteline, or drainage grid. The 1098 was incredibly hard work in traffic too; a lumpy low end power delivery and a clutch that seemed extremely sensitive and fragile.
In short, a fantastic track bike, a pure racer. But a total bag of nails on the A41 during a showery day in April. You could cover ground quicker on a ten year old 748. Like so many exotic motorcycles, the 1098 was more show than go, a medallion man machine for those blokes who feel the need to say “I’m considerably richer than yow” at biker hang outs.
Ridden an unforgettable steed? Post a comment below.