This is the first of several quick reviews of bikes that I am testing in my search for the “Ultimate bike for real Australian roads”

The new Tiger 800 has been eagerly awaited after photos and good stories started coming out of the UK last year.  The bike was launched in Australia just 2 or 3 weeks ago and demand is already high

So what’s it like ?  For most people a big improvement over the old Tiger and from early indications better than its obvious direct competitor, the BM GS 800.  It has clearly been modeled on the BM as they look remarkably similar, though in my eyes the BM still looks better in a giant insect sort of way.

Where to start ? – the good bits !   The engine is amazing, a long stroke version of the 675 triple in the Street Triple, together with a very slick gearbox and easy (if old fashioned cable operated) clutch make an excellent drivetrain.  There is no obvious powerband on the triple, it just keeps growing throughout the range and its very free revving so it gets there very quickly (compared to a twin).  Fueling is spot on, even on a very low mileage bike there were no glitches, flat spots, hesitancy, hiccups or rough spots – both KTM and Ducati could learn from this.  It’s also a huge improvement over the BM parallel twin which feels much less responsive down low and has more medium and high speed vibes than some singles.     Can’t leave the engine without commenting about the sound – Triumph Triple aficionados may be horrified – but for me in standard trim its not a pleasant sound – more like a whine from a worn straight cut gearbox, add to that a a rattling/pinging probably from the header and cat and very little sound coming out the end of the pipe – it desperately needs the Arrow end can from the accessories catalogue and better still a full system to also get rid of the heat and weight of the cat.   Heat is another surprising issue – the day was not hot (27 C) and not heavy stop start traffic but the inside of my lower legs and knees were getting very toasty after 30-40 min

Speaking of vibes though, strangely the triple has an odd sort of vibration that none of the testers/reviewers seem to have commented about – quite noticeable at idle, noticeable every now and then at other speeds but the big issue is that my hands went so numb after 20 min around town that I had to stop.  Tried another bike which was not quite as bad but still too much.  Looking on the web showed lots of comments about it on the 675 – seems to be limited to some bikes and some riders, especially older ones :-(   Remember I’m coming from years of Ducati’s so I know what vibration is all about, but this is different, more high frequency, less obvious until the numbness sets in

Gearing on the standard model is quite high and fine on the road but first is too high for really slow stuff – hopefully the XC model is different.  Maybe unfair comparing the standard 800 to the GS rather than the XC  but the BM, despite having less low speed torque, seems to be better in slow going and feels less top heavy than the Triumph.  Its not quite like the old Tigers but looking at the engine and its position in the frame it not hard to understand why its still feels heavier than it actually is

The suspension is also seems better on the road than the BM from the point of view of compliance, ride comfort and handling though the standard model did bottom out a little too easily, the XC has bigger forks and longer travel so it should be even better

The brakes look old fashioned and low tech, like the clutch, but seem to work OK though they were not tested in anger and no idea how they would last after repeated application.  There is an ABS option for A$1000 extra but not available till later in the year

The riding comfort and riding position on a quick sit in the showroom are great, unfortunately it doesn’t work so well for me out on the road.  Likely I am both smaller (178cm – 5’8″) and lighter (68kg – 150lbs) than the typical target rider so I find I am sitting at the very front of the seat almost on the tank which gets a little painful on braking and also there isn’t much padding there.  The seat is adjustable for height both at the front and back so by raising the front and dropping the back it helps but the accessory gel touring seat is hopefully better still.  The radiating heat and vibration have already been mentioned.  The other issue is the screen, it is relatively small, not adjustable and seems to be way to far forward and this is borne out by a ride – it doesn’t seem to do much.  Have to say again that is assessed with my height and  wearing a peaked Shoei Hornet DS helmet

The final element is build quality – While there are lots of quality components and great paint finish there are also quite a few let downs.  Lots of unfinished cheap looking plastic around the lights and instruments, welds in the less conspicuous places don’t look so good and lots of small plates and brackets seem very thin and flimsy.  It just doesn’t look like the kind of package that that will stand up to the Australian outback or any sort of distance on rough dirt roads

Summary and price – the immediate feeling after a short ride is GREAT mainly because of that wonderful engine but stopping and analysing shows that overall for me at least it falls short.  I am sure though it will sell well and it will find many very happy riders.  The recommended retail in Sydney on the road is about $18,300 which initially looks very attractive and certainly less than its competitors but for me it would need at least screen, seat, exhaust and some anti vibration work.  The one only XC in captivity so far also had the horrible Bridgestone Trail wing tyres (commonly referred to as death wings) which would also need replacing (Strangely the standard model comes with excellent Pirelli Scorpion Trails)  So the total cost starts rising very quickly and gets less attractive.  While the Triumph is very good and in many respects is better than its only direct competitor the BM 800GS, with a few essential accessories we starting getting into the $ region of everyone else’s 1000’s and 1200’s  e.g. the Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere or Guzzi Stelvio 1200.  The Suzuki 1000 V Strom and Honda Varadero 1000 are way cheaper (but way heavier) and the base Ducati 1200 Multistrada,  BM 1200 GS and KTM 990 are not that far away.



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It seems rare these days that anyone says anything good or is honestly able to say anything good about banks but I am going to buck the trend

We returned to Australia after an extended stint in SE Asia and after some research chose Westpac bank.  It seems to have been a good choice, while not perfect they have exceeded expectations and certainly an order of magnitude above HSBC (but that is not news)

Particularly happy with the Internet banking facility – easy to use and quite versatile esp for overseas banking.  Also very impressed with staff at the Marrickville branch in Sydney.  Even applying for a loan was easy, even if it was rejected !!

Not all roses though; personal loan interest rates are quite high and shocked to see several finance companies significantly lower

A strange throwback to last century (millennium ?) is coin deposit handling.  Common practice these days are automatic coin sorting machines in branches and several banks even have dedicated coin deposit ATM’s so quite a shock to have to go through the slow, tedious old sorting, counting and bagging method

Security is another concern – Westpac don’t use an external number generating dongle and only allow a simple low level 6 digit pin for on-line banking and 4 digit ATM pin – don’t know if that’s common but certainly doesn’t seem good especially for banking

What’s that got to do with bikes ??   Well I am looking to finance a new bike – will write more when I succeed !

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Some more bike related quotes that I like:

from a radio add – “Happiness by the tankful”

from a magazine add – “When you’re riding your living, everything else is just waiting”

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Well I finally found the right oil filter “spanner” for the RAV – its actually a giant socket !

It’s made by JTC Auto Tools  – Part Number 1114  and the size is 14/65

In Singapore its available from Alltools Trading on Lavender street for S$17.10

I’m sure there must be an Australian equivalent


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Bike Weights – dry weight, wet weight, on the road weight and real weight
Most bike companies, especially sports bike and dirt bike ones like to make their bikes sound lighter so it is very hard to get real weights unless you can find magazines and reviews that actually weigh and accurately report

The general consensus seems to be that dry weight is without; fuel, oil (what about fork oil ?) water and sometimes even without the battery.
Wet weight can be everything or everything except fuel
On the road weight should be everything but even there it can vary if accessories are added (subtracted ?) – e.g. racks, ergonomic seats, bar ends, bark busters, screens, pillion grab handles, tank bags, panniers, radiator guards, sump guards, engine bars, crash knobbs etc on the positive side and on the negative side all the carbon stuff and pipes or mufflers, wheels, even tyres and lots more.  Then there is luggage and maybe a pillion if your lucky on top of that

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there – the magical figure in kg or lbs is not enough – it’s also the weight distribution, centre of gravity, wheelbase, seat height, wheel size, ground clearance, handle bar width etc which effect how heavy the bike feels.  A BM GSA, KTM Adventure or Triumph Tiger with a full tank (esp. with a bigger tank) at 200-250kg can feel a lot scarier than the 350kg Triumph Rocket 3 and a 125kg dirt bike feels like a pig compared to a 100kg one through a steep rock garden

So how to compare different models to arrive at the perfect bike ?

Before that, one more pet grizzle –  How come manufacturers can make super light sports bikes and dirt bikes yet most adventurer tourers, nakeds, and anything with any semblance of touring capability weighs a ton.  What do female riders do ? wouldn’t it be great if there were more bikes to suit them and so more female riders out there ?  Even some road 250’s weigh more than the latest GSXR 600 and a Honda Deauville with a similar engine size weighs almost 100kg more.  That’s without even going down the cruiser path.
The reasons are many – cost, strength, reliability, load carrying, marketing.  Even the cost argument doesn’t hold up – 1000cc sports bikes are relatively very cheap compared with other big bikes.  Maybe manufactures use their image, exposure benefits to offset lower profit margins.  There is the usual answer – a heavy touring bike is more stable than a light one – maybe sometimes true but after wrestling a loaded BM GS in high winds and on slippery roads I’m not convinced not to mention, how do you pick it up on your own when it inevitably goes down on a dirt road or if for some reason you have to push it any distance ?  I can confirm from recent experience that a 1000km day on a 150kg bike was a lot less tiring than on a 250kg one on similar real roads.  Of course I’m not talking about straight smooth freeways and why would you want to ride on them anyway when there are so many wonderful alternatives.

So, enough rambling and ranting – technically it is possible to build a comfortable reliable 750 – 1000cc all roads tourer with an on the road weight of 160-170 kg at an acceptable price – so why hasn’t anyone (that I know of) done it ?   With enough money its easy – Race bikes are well under that weight (and have you seen how much hardware is under the fairing of a Moto GP bike !) and there are sub 150kg 1100 cc Ducatis out there.  Now there is even an affordable 250 or 280cc Ossa trials bike that only weighs about 65kg !   There are those who would say the answer is simple – just get a 250 or 400 but having done long distances on little bikes and big bikes I know which I prefer – power is fun and addictive.
The mountain bike world is another good example of where weight weenies abound, the learning from there is that there is a trilogy of weight, strength, price – you can have 2 of them but not 3 so the trick is to find the right balance which probably applies to motor bikes as well
My search for an affordable perfect bike has been going on for quite some time and, as it has so far been unsuccessful, the only solution seems to be to build one.  It looks like there are a few approaches,
i.e. starting with:
* A sports bike, lose the fairing, make it more comfortable and “dirtable” eg suspension, protection etc (Saunders has done several around the world trips on an R1 and there is Nelis Bakker from the Netherlands with his home built framed “Grizzly”  – claimed as GSX-R1000 power with GS comfort )
* A dirt bike or motard and make it more comfortable and more “roadable” (lots of stories like  Steve Crombie’s adventurers on his “Lost On… Yamaha WR250R” so even real dirt bikes “work”)
* A naked or touring bike and make it lighter and more “dirtable” (like the Terra Mostro)

That brings me back to the beginning – bike weights.  Following will be a list of weights gleaned from many sources, the aim is to use that information to find the right bike to start from

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Motorcycling and other interesting Quotes

You can only really talk motorcycles with motorcyclists. Everyone else just keeps telling you you’re going to die.

It’s not what we ride but why we ride. 

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” – Frank Tyger

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch 

“Previous owners are nature’s way of forcing us to exercise our minds,
examine life’s choices and practice anger management.” Jepstr67

Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm 

Life is like a shooting star, it don’t matter who you are,

If you only run for cover, it’s just a waste of time.
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The Search for the ideal bike for real Australian roads – Part 2 – the Short list.

The Search for the ideal bike for real Australian roads – Part 2 – the Short list.

From the original list there are many that can be eliminated because:
Too heavy, too big, too expensive, underpowered, too much of a handful (for a 70kg weakling) in the dirt, lack of reliability or back up, too old or no longer available (in a reasonable condition), hard to find, too expensive to maintain, just plain boring, or I have some unexplainable bias against it (well it is my list !)

Again I’m sure there will be many objections and disagreements – I certainly don’t have detailed long term experience of them all and therefor happy to hear more or be proven wrong.


GS 650 twin – In some respects better than the 800 – cheaper, smoother, more “honest” but ultimately not up to long distances
GS 800 parallel twin – more capable at low speed than 1200, suspension not great but 21″ front wheel good, brakes no where near as good as 1200, deal breaker is lack of torque and bad med and high speed vibration
GS 1200 – comfortable, relaxed, very capable, fantastic brakes with no front end dive, probably best long distance bike, too much for low speed dirt, too much weight, feeling of being disconnected from what is happening and for me (tho not thousands of others) lacks the oh wow factor, reliability doesn’t match reputation (or older models), electronic suspension a gimmick or benefit – don’t know, lots around to pick from

Gran Canyon – have done 120,000 kms on one so it was a very good original choice, now off the road being upgraded. Comfortable, capable, great handling (with the right tyres and tyre pressures) even kept up with Ducati sports bikes up to 200kph, surprisingly reliable, great 2 up, excellent forum, surprising good parts availability (remember Cagiva owned Ducati), way too heavy and top heavy for serious dirt, coarse gravel, mud/clay, sand, suspension more suited to road than dirt, terrible lights, a little too much vibration. Many aftermarket parts and upgrade possibilities but can’t do much about the weight.

Multistrada 1000, 1100 – Great handling, sound, feel, ownership buzz (actually don’t mind the looks), good 2nd hand prices, needs work to improve off road capabilities, too much weight, probably too fragile for serious off road
Hypermotard 796, 1100 – Most fun, Great handling, sound, feel, ownership buzz, good weight, looks more like a dirt bike than it actually is but riding position helps – needs work to improve off road and tank range

Monster Terra – Not available in Aus but possible to build something like it locally and at least one person has done it already – – simple reliable low tech, only a 695 but can probably upgrade, is it possible to get a parts kit and build locally ? – have emailed to ask. Seems like a Hyper would be a better starting point but does have more “stuff” to go wrong

TE 610, 630 – Great price, heavy for a dirt bike single, Vibration too bad for longer saddle time

640 Adventure – Vibration even worse than Husky, heavy, seems to be the pick for central Australian adventures – don;t know how they cope with the vibration
690 Enduro – One of the best all round, lightest on the list, spoilt by horrible fuelling and torture seat, big tanks available

950 Adventure – Great on open dirt, Tall and top heavy esp. with full tank, difficult servicing access, some reliability issues, no fuelling issues but thirsty

950 Super Enduro – way too tall – I’m only 170cm
990 Adventure – Great on open dirt, Tall and top heavy esp with full tank, difficult servicing access, better reliability than 950 ??, fuelling not as good as carby version but much better than 690, too “full on” to be relaxing long distance, lots of wind buffeting at speed

800 Tiger – Unknown quantity but great reviews and engine likely to be even better than already excellent 675 version, could be let down by low spec suspension and build quality/cheapie parts, acceptable weight – and hopefully not as top heavy as 1050 Tiger. Available in Aus. March April
800 Tiger XC – Probably even better than standard one and could be overall pick of new bikes

Looking at all of the above there isn’t one stand out

Started off with the KTM 690 and done 5000 km on it but still looking for the ultimate, at this stage a 2nd hand dirtified Ducati or if it lives up to expectation and the budget stretches, a new 800 Tiger XC

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The search for the ideal bike for real Australian roads – Part 1

The Search for the ideal bike for real Australian roads – Part 1 – the List.

a) Don’t have the exact statistics but I’m sure that much more than 50% of the road kilometres in Australia are dirt and the % of smooth, windy, un-trafficed and un-policed bitumen is close to 0 – that must have a big impact on the ideal bike
b) Having ridden everything from trials bike to to adventure tourers, scooters and sports bikes to monster cruisers all over Australia and in many other countries for many years, I have finally arrived at the conclusion that the perfect recipe for many, and sometimes long, happy days riding on all sorts of roads requires; an upright riding position, comfortable seat, relatively light weight, a reasonable amount of power or more importantly torque, reliability, dirt road and long distance cruising capability and that difficult to measure ingredient which is a combination of; character, soul, connection, involvement, buzz, pride, feel good, and the “oh wow” factor when you ride or even just look at or hear the bike !

I’m sure there will be as many objections and bikes missing from the list are those on it but here goes in alphabetical rather than preference order. A later post will come to the short list, conclusions and why


Caponord, Pegaso, 750, 1200 Dorsoduro, SVX 550

TreK 1130 Amazonas


650 X-Country, GS 650 single, 650 twin, 800, 80, 100, 1100, 1150, 1200, 1200 GSA, HP2 Enduro


XB12X Ulysses


Elephant, Gran Canyon, Navigator


Multistrada 620, 1000, 1100, 1200,  Hypermotard 796, 1100,  Monster Terra

XR650R, XR650L, 750 Africa twin, 1000 Varadero, VFR1200 Crosstourer, 700 Transalp

TE 610, 630

KLR 650, Versys 650/ER6

640 Adventure, 690 Enduro, 950 Adventure, 950 Super Enduro, 990 Adventure, 990 SMT

Moto Guzzi
Quota, Stelvio

Moto Morini


DRZ 400, DR 650, DR 750 Big One, DL 650 VStrom, DL 1000 VStrom

955, 1050 Tiger, Scrambler, 800 Tiger, 800 Tiger XC

Tenere; 650, 660, 750, 1200, TDM 900, XT660

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KTM 690 Saga – Tyres or Tires

KTM Saga Part 4 Tyres

When I bought the bike (2nd hand) it came with reasonably new cheapie tyres which (after reading all the reviews ) were actually better than expectedThe previous owner used the bike mainly on the road so had installed more road focused tyres – the front was a Bridgestone Trail Wing (commonly though I think undeservedly called death wings) TW 41 in a 90/90 21and the rear a Bridgestone BT 45 R in a 130/80 18 (looks tiny given I’m used to 180 or 190’s on a Ducati). Despite the reputation and very square profile of the rear, I did 1700km of mainly bitumen but including very broken up roads, full on twisties, very heavy rain, flooded roads and occasionally deep river crossings without any big tire related “moments” Must admit I was not pushing though given the conditions.

Was a bit scared of taking them on serious dirt and searched around for some “roadable” knobbies and ended up with Pirelli MT21 Rallycross – apparently a very old design with mixed but on average good reviews. claimed to be 80/20 or 70/30 dirt/road. Front is a 90/90 21 and rear 140/80. Traction on bitumen from the start was much better than expected but ohhh the vibration was painful. Kept dropping the pressures and ended up with 14/16 psi to give a slightly more bearable ride, better dirt traction and still surprisingly OK on the road. 1000km on all sorts of stuff from high speed highway (up to 130-140 k) to steep and rocky trails and other than the vibration/ride quality they were great. No big slides on the road (yes I wasn’t trying hard enough). While traction on the rocky stuff and soft dirt was great, traction on hard dirt was surprisingly poorer than expected with a real loose feel not unlike more road focused tyres or maybe I just need to learn to let it move around

The ride comfort was getting to me and had some longer all roads riding planned so started the search again – this time looking for a more 50/50 or 40/60 dirt/road balance. Bound to get different views but I find the 690 is geared too high, doesn’t have a huge amount of trickle along torque for real serious tight/technical dirt coupled with too much weight and yes insufficient skill – think it much better suited to faster more open fire trails which don’t need full knobbies. After looking at lots of forums and web sites found there was no real answer with always a compromise somewhere. Was going to try the Mefo Explorer but the dealer was closed for Christmas new year so no luck there. They were claimed to have v good mileage which seems to fit with comments of less than ideal wet bitumen performance which, with the current Aus weather, didn’t sound too good. Unless I’m on a long distance expedition would prefer to trade mileage for traction. There is a great German website with lots of user reviews which helped –

Ended up with slightly more dirt Metzler Sahara 3 Enduro in a 90/90 21 for better front end dirt grip ( based on the theory that I don’t mind losing the back end but don’t enjoy losing the front) – these were claimed to be good at everything plus the best of all the similar tyres on wet bitumen traction and braking. Interestingly the tread pattern is very similar to the Trail Wing 41’s ! The only negative that everyone mentioned was the loud road noise. These are original equipment on some of the 690’s
On the back a slightly more road pattern – Pirelli Scorpion MT90 A/T in a 140/80 18. Its a very rounded profile so should give good grip even at extreme lean angles, and less noisy than 2 Metzlers. These are original equipment on the latest 990 Adventure. Btw there is also a 150/70 18 but standard 690 rim is too narrow. Had very good results with both the Scorpion Sync and Scorpion Trail on other bikes which helped the decision.. Got about 2300km on them and so far very happy – wet and dry bitumen including lots of tight corners, dirt roads, fire trails and easy single track. Noise is bearable, vibration and smoothness not fantastic but much better than MT21. Not so great on sand or rough rocks but can live with that. On harder dirt seem to be just as good and maybe even slightly better than the MT21. Running about 20/22 psi after starting around 30+. Both the Metzler and Pirelli are made by the same company and based on the feel and wear levels they seem to be a similar compound.

Got 120,000 km on a Cagiva Gran Canyon so lots of tyre experience there but that’s for another day.

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KTM 690 Saga – Battery

KTM Saga Part 3 – Battery

Over the last few weeks there have been signs of a dying battery including a couple of break downs in the middle of nowhere and lots of pushing.
Seems that if the battery is not 100% it doesn’t deliver enough power for the ECU even though lights, horn etc all still work well. Its getting close to 3 years old so probably a reasonable run.
No success at all push starting even in 4th gear at 30+ kph – not sure if that is related to the battery or if the slipper clutch is also a problem – don’t know enough about how they work
Most recently (after new battery) problem actually turned out to be a screw vibrated loose and lost from one of the contact wires on the starter solenoid.

The last time after exhaustion settled in from more unsuccessful pushing, gave up and went to local KTM dealer for a new genuine battery – because of the risk of being stranded in a desert somewhere didn’t want to risk a cheapie.
First new battery was dead and wouldn’t hold a charge (worth remembering and testing for the future)
2nd was OK but crazy price – its an ordinary old lead acid maintenance free YUASA YTZ10-S and was told it was A$300. Strangely that’s the price because it comes from KTM Austria even though its an ordinary Yuasa made in the USA (i think) battery used in lots of other bikes.
searching the Aus web came up with a range of prices from $245 to 280 with the best being Balmain Tyres.

After charging, testing, buying, installing and riding all seemed good and for that first magic ride the surging problem was drastically reduced which led me to believe (probably wrongly) that it was a low voltage problem all along. Unfortunately after sitting overnight next day’s ride was almost as bad as usual.
Co-incidently the next evening was quickly looking through the electronic version of latest (Feb) edition of the US Motorcyclist Magazine and there staring at me was an add for a US battery company called Shorai USA.
They have a battery for the KTM 690 and equivalent to the Yuasa – model number LFX14A2-BS12 and its amazing – Lithium technology, a whopping 2.9 KG lighter than the old lead acid, a higher capacity (14 vs 8.6 Ah equivalent) and unbelievably only US$153.95. There is even a race version which is even lighter but still has 9 Ah capacity.

Too late for me this time but aside from the performance benefits it seems a very cheap way to save some weight.

Don’t know the costs and legalities of importing batteries from the US as they are considered dangerous goods tho don’t know if that only applies to the lead acid versions

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