Magnetic Drain Plug
Stories about motorcycles with a Canadian perspective
2011 Harley-Davidson Softail Convertible CVO - Review
Story and photos by Dustin A. Woods
Over the course of my time with the 2011 Softail Convertible CVO, I was approached many times by curious onlookers that would admire the bike and inquire as to what model it was. After responding, I was inevitably asked, “Isn’t every motorcycle a convertible?” To be fair, it’s a valid question. After all, how many motorcycles have you ever seen with a roof? In this case, the term convertible refers to the fact that this Softail CVO can easily be transformed from a custom tourer to a custom cruiser in mere minutes. For those who may be on the fence over which kind of model to purchase next and aren’t a fan of compromise, this split personality Softail was introduced in 2010 to be the best of both worlds.
The Convertible CVO has a unique fairing that can be attached or detached in two shakes of a lambs tail. Remove the side saddlebags and back rest and presto chango, you're ready to go cruising. Heading out on a long trip? Simply reattach the two pins that keep the fairing in place, click the saddlebags back on and hit the open road. Cruise control is also standard, which most owners will never bother with but can be a Godsend on a long journey. One of the benefits of Harley baggers is the fact that they include a kick-ass sound system that allows you to enjoy your favourite tunes if for some unknown reason you happen to grow weary of the V-Twin symphony booming from between your thighs. Being a removable unit, it would be too complicated to outfit the Convertible with a permanent stereo, but it does house a simpler two speaker system with 20 watts per channel along with an auxiliary input and pocket for an MP3 player. Volume can be adjusted by hitting the + and – buttons on the inside of the front fairing but if you want to change songs on your Harley iPod, it requires pulling over and shuffling through playlists on the MP3 player so you better make sure you choose your riding music carefully. You’ve been warned.
CVO, for those who may be unfamiliar, stands for Custom Vehicle Operations, a limited production program that adds acres of chrome, accessories that are unavailable on the standard lineup of bikes and flashy paint schemes like that of the Roman Gold with Burnished Copper Graphics of my tester. This also included the Convertible’s leather seat, complete with alligator inserts. Sinking into this handsome saddle is an easy proposition for those who may be inseam impaired as it sits at a lowly 665mm (26.2-inches) – even shorter than the Fat Boy Lo.
Thumb the starter button and the twin cam Screamin’ Eagle V-Twin coughs and sputters before roaring to life and settling into that familiar idle with which Harley has become synonymous. Keyless ignition means never having to fumble for the keys. Leave the fob in your pocket and forget about it. Harley is also famous for torque, and the 110 cubic inch powerplant churns out 110 ft-lbs at 3,000 rpm. Certainly nothing to scoff at, however its running weight tips the scales at a portly 354.3kg (781 lbs) so don’t expect to pass too many gas stations on a long journey if your hand is enthusiastic on the throttle.
While the removable fairing isn’t nearly as heavy and cumbersome as that of a Street Glide, it does add weight to the front end and also does more to disrupt oncoming air rather than make friends with it once reaching highway speeds. The ape hanger handlebars are more comfortable than they look and definitely add to the custom look but aren’t ideal for carving corners, nor are the floorboards that I scuffed after about 10 minutes on the bike.
Thanks to the booming air-cooled, fuel-injected 45-degree V-Twin and six-speed transmission, the Convertible CVO is a blast to ride but definitely isn’t purpose-built for speed. But then again, that isn’t really the point, is it? Like most Hogs, it feels most at home when cruising boulevards or smooth two-lane blacktop. Visually similar to the "hardtail" choppers of years gone by, this Softail features a hidden shock under the chassis to soften the frost heaves and potholes of our sadly neglected roadways. Reeling in that power wasn’t a revelation but braking was actually better than expected, thanks to the four piston calipers grabbing up front, two piston calipers in the rear and ABS as standard equipment. Another set of discs could be added but it would be a shame to overshadow the 18-inch chrome StingerTM custom cast aluminum wheels.
Tipping the register at $32,739, the Convertible CVO certainly isn’t cheap but those who were previously considering the possibility of adding another steed to their stable can take solace in the fact that is it essentially two motorcycles in one.
Torquey Sceamin’ Eagle 110CI V-Twin
Custom tourer or custom cruiser? Buy one, get both.
Paint scheme worthy of a show bike
Prepare to scuff the floorboards
Not exactly a fuel miser
2011 Ducati Monster 796 Review
Everything about this medium-sized Monster seamlessly combines form and function. The single-sided swingarm is not only a fetching design, but it is also lighter than the traditional double setup found on the 696, for instance. The sculpted plastic covering the 15L fuel tank (13.5 for ABS version) is aerodynamic and comfortable for my six foot frame to straddle but also exhibits subtle styling elements that evoke a unique view from every angle.
First ride - 2010 Can-Am Sypder
Written by: Dean Parsons
(A quick stop along the roadside of First Pond (snow and ice covered) behind the Goulds)
The afternoon led me through the small towns along the east coat of the Avalon Peninsula, with breathtaking views of the vibrant blue Atlantic, frozen fresh water ponds, and along some nice twists and turns that I'm familiar with. However, this time I'm on three wheels instead of two… and I'm loving it!
Can-Am Spyder Specs and Details:
- Rotax® 990 V-Twin engine
- 3 Spoke aluminum wheels
Front: Double A-Arm with anti-roll bar, 5.67 in. (145 mm) of travel.
Safety and Security:
Spyder RS - $19,299
Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300S
Sure enough, not two hours after picking the bike up, I was standing on the side of Highway 10 north of Shelbourne with Ontario’s finest writing me up a ticket with more decimal places than I had deposited into my bank account last month. While the friendly officer was empathetic to my situation, citing that such a bike would be nearly impossible not to speed on, “The law is the law.” He then thanked me for being a law abiding citizen by pulling over as soon as the cherries started flashing. He put it best by saying, “If you had attempted to make a run for it, I wouldn’t have been able to catch you,” as he gave the bike an envious up and down.
The combination of excellent wind buffeting, Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), and a powerplant that feels as commanding, smooth and linear as an airliner means that the K1300S is better suited to the Autobahn than the strictly regulated roads of Ontario. Luckily the ESA system (available for $850) can be adjusted to ‘Comfort’ mode to accommodate our sorely neglected road surfaces. The available ‘Sport’ mode is a welcome addition, useful for more spirited riding or trackday shenanigans.
On several occasions over the course of my eventful cottage excursion where hard braking was needed, the ABS demonstrated itself to be shockingly good. While I likely wouldn’t have the cajones to test the Anti-Spin Control (ASC) on dry pavement, it actually came in handy while negotiating rain soaked streets. The K1300S comes with many great options as standard equipment such as the aforementioned ABS and dual mode grip warmers. It may be June but after a run in with Mother Nature and with the sun beginning to set, the warm grips made the closing minutes of my ride considerably more comfortable and safe by keeping my wet hands warm and dexterous.
Displacement has also been upped from 1157cc to 1293cc, which was accomplished by adding a 1mm overbore and 5.3mm increase in stroke. Power has therefore increased seven horsepower, bringing output to 175 hp and 103 ft-lbs of torque. Throttle response has therefore been improved and with the glitches removed, the K1300S is a force to be reckoned with.
Another welcome update to the K series was the discontinuation of BMW’s traditional three switch turn signals in favour of the more user-friendly left-thumb-only configuration. While many Bimmer purists may cringe, I find the new switches to be a God send compared to the previous system.
Cruising with a guy named Fat Bob
5 days, 4 nights - that’s the amount of time I had with a black pearl Harley Davidson motorcycle going by the the name of “Fat Bob.” A member of the DYNA family of Harley’s, and introduced in 2008, it’s a stretched out and unapologetic motorcycle. You won't find any frilly leathers, unnecessary add-ons, seat heaters, ipod attachments and nor will you get any protection from the elements. It's just you and the road and that's obviously got some appeal judging from the abundance of Harley's on the roads.
Another example of the technology lying beneath the surface of the Fat-Bob is that if you buy the optional $440 security system you don’t even need to use a key to start this bike. Well, I should say you have to use the key to put the bike in the ignition position or as I say the 'at the ready' position but the key fob features a proximity sensor so once this is done you can put your keys in your pocket. Then, just put the dial switch in the ignition position with your hand (there's also an 'off' and 'accessories' position), wait for the electronic fuel injection whirring sound to complete its cycle, thumb the starter and the big 45 degree v-twin burbles to life. When you stop to get off, hit the kill switch, turn the ignition switch off and walk away with the key still in your pocket. The security system automatically arms. If you're leaving the bike for a while its probably a good idea to use the key to take the bike out of the 'at the ready' mode and lock the steering particularly if you're leaving it in unmonitored areas to make it tougher for unscrupulous folks to roll it onto a waiting truck. The security system includes an immobilizer in North America and and an immobilizer and siren outside that region.
Starting this big twin produces a very satisfying, deep and distinct, Harley-Davidson potato-potato rumble. That rumble resonates through a two-into-one-into-two exhaust. The exhaust is shiny chrome; there's carefully placed protective covers where your legs might easily touch featuring oval venting slots in the outer skin, purposely designed to resemble the cooling vents on a Tommy gun. It still gets a little warm though so watch yourself.
The Fat Bob comes from a line of bikes pegged between the big touring FL bikes and the XL Sportsters - the FX series. Mating the lighter front end of a XL to the FL frame produced a family of five FX bikes, renamed as Dyna's in 2006. The Fat Bob name comes from the fat 18.93 litre tank, with centre console, and bobbed rear fender.
As one might expect, "Fat Bob" isn't a lightweight and checks in at 703 lbs fully fueled. But, it's pushed along by a big 96 cubic inch (that’s 1584 cc’s), air cooled engine - which does so with ease. It's good for a whopping 92 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm and mated to a 6-speed cruise drive transmission and belt final drive. Cracking open the throttle give you the sensation that you've just been launched from a sling-shot. A tough feeling to describe, but believe me - it WILL put a smile on your face!
My loaner was equipped with forward foot controls but mid-mount controls are also available as a factory option. I've got a 32" inseam and the forward foot controls were a little bit of a stretch and during extended rides they did put my hip flexor muscles to the test. Despite the slight stretch it is a pretty comfortable position so definitely don't rule it out, especially if you've got a longer leg. The seat height of 663 mm (26.1 in) is very low and being able to touch the ground flat footed won't be an issue for just about anybody - reaching forward mounted controls would be an issue long before seat height.
MSRP starting at $ 19,059 for Black and $19,499 for color
- Length or a little over 7.6 feet long.
- Dry weight 303.77 kg (~670 lbs)
- Wet weight 318.88 kg (703 lbs)
- Fuel economy (claimed) 4.44 hwy / 6.92 city per 100 km's
- Torque 124.75 Nm @ 3000 rpm
- 2-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Quick Hit and Slideshow - 2009 Yamaha TMAX Scooter
Written by: Dan M
I'm sure you've all heard the jokes about scooters and perhaps you've ignored them because of the stereotypes often associated with them. Whatever the negative stereotype is that's keeping you from hopping on a scooter; GET OVER IT. Not only are scooters much cheaper to operate than automobiles, they're extremely practical, and they're an absolute blast to ride!
The 2009 Yamaha TMAX is new to Canada but has been available in Europe since 2001 where scooter riders have been buying them up en masse. Revamped in 2008, the TMAX now has a sporty aluminum chassis and, dare I say it, sport bike like bodywork and upswept muffler. This size scoter falls into the maxi scooter category and unlike the little 49cc scooters or even some of their larger brethren you're not limited to city, or secondary roads. Maxi scooters have the stability and power to comfortably get you whereever you want to go and whatever road you want to get their on. 2-up cross Canada trip? - the TMAX will do it with ease!
The TMAX has a liquid cooled, DOHC 499cc parallel twin engine pumps out a claimed 43 horsepower and 34.2 ft-lb of torque @ 6,500 rpm. Not earth shattering by motorcycle standards, but more than capable of propelling you at and above the speed limit on any Canadian road or highway; even if you've got a friend along for the ride.
If safety and performance is a key consideration you'll be pleased to know that the TMAX has R6 sportsbike derived brakes, with twin, monoblock four-piston front calipers and single-piston rear caliper, and a trio of 267 mm discs. If you want to stop, you can do it in a hurry; a single finger is all it takes to bring the TMAX down from speed. It doesn't feature ABS.
A huge 43mm fork up front and a single shock swingarm in the rear ensure a sportbike like ride and that road imperfections are taken in stride. 15" cast aluminum wheels with 120/70R15 front, 160/60R15 rear tires further highlight the motorcycle like package offered by the TMAX. The larger rims help with stability at higher speeds too.
The 2-piece windshield provides excellent wind and weather protection. The upper portion of the windshield features a "hard coated" finish for scratch protection. Dual 60/55-watt halogen headlights provide a bright beam of light to guide your way through the night and give the TMAX a sporty, sleek, cat-eye image.
In terms of comfort there's lots of legroom and a spacious cockpit. A seat height of 800mm (31.5'') should suit a wide range of riders. The rider portion of the seat features a 3 position back support for even more comfort and allows the rider's position to be adjusted forward or backward to add or reduce leg room.
A few things you'll immediately notice when hopping aboard the TMAX is the step through design common to scooters. It feels a little unusual at first if you're coming from a motorcycle background but I found the adjustment quick - within mere minutes I was feeling comfortable and enjoying the sporty handling. Another feature that's not as common on motorcycles is the fully automatic, CVT (constantly variable transmission) V-belt transmission. There's no gear changes to worry or think about. You're always in the proper gear and the transmission ensures easy "twist-the-throttle-and-go operation". This is especially convenient if you're a commuter or riding within the city. Stop and go traffic, and low speed maneuvers are performed effortlessly.
What about economy? Well, the TMAX features a 15-litre fuel tank and as you might anticipate it gets great gas mileage; 56 mpg or 20kpl is claimed by Yamaha. That gives you a theoretical range of approximately 300 km on a single tank. Gas prices are all over the map at the moment but lets say you're getting $1 a litre gasoline to make the math easy. That's $15 bucks to travel 300 km! You should also factor in insurance costs and scooters are generally easily insurable and at affordable rates.
On the practicality side - one of the great features of the TMAX is its lockable underseat storage. It has a large, locking under seat storage compartment can easily hold a full-face helmet. A vanity light is provided in the rear section of the trunk which is a nice touch when unloading in low light.
A multi-function instrumentation panel gives the rider all sorts of useful information. It includes analog speedometer, temp and fuel gauges with illuminated needles. Tach, odometer, dual tripmeters, clock, fuel tripmeter are digital. There's even a V-belt wear indicator warning light and an oil change indicator light too.
If you're a motorcycle rider and want the storage you get straight out of the crate with the TMAX you'll at least have to invest in a top box which also changes the appearance of the motorcycle. It's integrated into the styling of the TMAX. That makes throwing your laptop, work files, groceries, rain gear, helmet; whatever so much easier on the TMAX. The sporty performance it offers is also within the realm of many motorcycles and handling capabilities that exceeds that of many motorcycles. Those traits should make the transition from motorcycle to scooter quite a bit easier for traditional motorcycle riders. If you're a newcomer to two-wheeled riding, well, you're in for a treat!
2009 Yamaha TMAX
MSRP of $10,499
Wet weight 222kg (488.4 lb)
Colors: Dark Metallic Blue,Reddish Yellow
An instant rebate of $500 is available until September 2009 - see Yamaha's website for details.
Buell 1125's and Ulysses XT - in pictures
2009 Buell 1125R - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.
2009 Buell Ulysses XT - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.
Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT
Test Ride - 2009 BMW K1300GT
want in your garage. Go check them out. If you're in the market for a new BMW, Ducati, or Yamaha contact Troy Leblanc @ 506) 383-1022. Tell'em CanadianMotorcycleRider sent you!
BMW K1300GT; A bit of a dull name for something that sets the high performance touring bar so high. One would think it deserves a name more fitting of its greatness! I guess it's tough to distill all the things that make this bike what it is into just one simple word, so K1300GT it is. Let it be known though that behind that name lies a bike that you can pretty much 'do it all' on - a short cruise around town or a trip across Canada; the BMW K1300 GT is ready for it. To tell you about all the features and technology packed into this machine would take a large book - we're going to hit what we feel are the highlights.
Protection and Ergonomics
The grab handles have some adjustability front to back should you so desire. Behind the passenger is a plate that can be used to mount gear on when touring, or perhaps a top box. The K1300GT I rode also had heated seats - another very nice feature that helps boost comfort and extend the riding season a little. The rider and passenger have their own independent control over what temperature they want. The drivers control is on the right switchgear which the passenger control is a small switch located on the right hand side of the bike between the back of the seat and the gear mounting plate.
The handlebars are adjustable for height and coming towards the riders body covering a range of 40 millimeters (almost 1.6") allowing you to easily customize the height of the bars to your exact preferences. The height of the handlebar is adjusted via a mechanical thread-and-bolt setting making it pretty simple and convenient.
Engine & Drivetrain
The bike produces practically no dive under braking because of its optimized Duolever front-wheel suspension. The Duolever has a newly designed lower longitudinal arm - made of aluminum instead of steel which brings down the weight by 2lbs. That may not seem overly relevant in a bike weighing 635 pounds full of fuel but every pound counts. Consider that it's unsprung weight too and if you drop pounds on a bike that's the best place to do it. In the rear you've got the Paralever single-sided swingarm that incorporates final shaft drive.
BMW’s new ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment II) suspension is also available on the K 1300 GT as an extra cost option. This allows the rider to adjust the suspension at the touch of a button to optimize the suspension based on the load you're carrying; whether it's just you riding solo, solo with luggage, or you've got a passenger and luggage. These settings that are represented visually on the LCD situated between the conventional speedometer and tachometer by a single helmet, a single helmet with a suitcase, or two helmets with a suitcase symbol. Damping is user-selectable on-the-fly and at the push of a button you can ride in Sport, Normal, or Comfort mode to suit your riding style. Very useful features on a bike that will tempt you to seek adventure like the K1300GT will.
Speaking of adventure, the 32-litre side cases offer generous amounts of storage and easily swallow up full-face helmet. The latching mechanism is easy to use and so long as you don't lock them you don't require the key to open the cases. The key releases the bags easily from the bike and the integral handle makes them easy to carry into your hotel room. The GT also comes standard with a locking glove box on the right hand side of the fairing to keep necessities close at hand. If you need more enclosed storage you can get an optional top box in 49 or 28-litre capacity.
BMW's proven EVO brake system and BMW Motorrad ABS provide maximum safety, and the optional ASC (Automatic Stability Control) - which works together with the standard ABS to prevent rear wheelspin, and TPC (tire pressure control) give you extra peace of mind and control. The BMW Motorrad Integral ABS controls the front- and rear-wheels brakes through the handbrake lever, while the foot brake lever controls just the rear-wheel brake.
Brake discs measuring 320 millimeters (12.6") in diameter up front and 294 millimeters (11.6") in the rear pull this bike down from speed in a hurry.
A 24-litre fuel tank and BMW's claimed 5 L/100 km @ 90 km/hr OR 5.9 L/100 km @ 120 km/hr give this Gran Turismo a very respectable theoretical range of over 400 km's before needing to stop for refueling.
Available in three colours: Red Apple Metallic, Royal Blue Metallic and Magnesium Beige Metallic.
Here's some Canadian pricing information on the factory options:
- Closed-loop 3-way Catalytic Converter
- Colour Matched Luggage Cases
- Electrically Adjustable Windshield
- Heated Grips
- ABS Brakes
- High Windshield = $150
- Anti-Theft Alarm System = $250.00
- Lowered Seat 800/820mm = $ 0
- Safety Package: Tire Pressure Control, Automatic Stability Control = $ 600.00
- Equipment Package 1: On Board Computer = $ 215.00
- Equipment Package 2: Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, On Board Computer = $1,300.00
- Equipment Package 3: Xenon Light, Electronic Suspension Adjustment, Heated Seat, Cruise Control, On Board Computer = $2,000
Base price is $21,825.00 but you can easily option that up by several thousand dollars. The fit, finish, build quality, and overall feel of this motorcycle help you to come to terms with that sticker price. This is a high quality motorcycle.
If you're in the market for a sporty, comfortable, touring machine in a surprisingly nimble 1300cc package then you should most certainly check out the BMW K1300GT. I've had the opportunity to ride many bikes and this is one that I can honestly say ranks very highly on my list of bikes I'd like to own. It's practical, comfortable, and safe - but not at the expense of losing excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed this bike.
Test Ride - 2009 Suzuki Gladius
Clutch feel is very light. You won't develop an abnormally large forearm with this one because it requires so little force to pull. The friction point - the point at which the clutch engages - is at about the half-way point of its range of motion. It's a natural feeling spot that most riders will be comfortable with immediately. In contrast, the friction point of the clutch on the Ducati 696 I rode last summer was almost at the 3/4 way out point and several riders were stalling them.
Canadian Bike Review - Monster S4R S
You see I was visiting Nova Scotia from Winnipeg, Manitoba to get married. I'm also moving to Halifax in a couple of weeks time (anybody looking for a IT guy who loves motorcycles?). This friend was the best man at my wedding. Best man indeed!
I took the bike from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Shelburne and a did a return trip as well. It's about 210 km's from Halifax to Shelburne if you go straight through. I had 3 glorious days with the S4RS and managed near a thousand kilometers of seat time. I would have liked more but, well - you know, there was a wedding I had to get ready for. My two hour ride from Halifax to Shelburne that I managed to turn into a 4 hour ride was somewhat of an indulgance. I took the direct route back to Halifax. Let me say this, I enjoyed every single minute of riding this bike! Even the several km's of ripped up road surface (it was being prepared for paving) that I rode on to get a picture of the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia sign and the Ducati!
As I was stopped and taking this picture a friendly local woman stopped to take a picture of me with the bike. Just a small sample of the friendliness of some folks in Atlantic Canada. Thanks! Maybe it wasn't that the locals are friendly... maybe they wanted a closer look at the Monster? Hmmmm....
Is it practical? Nope - not really. Gas mileage? Terrible - you're going to be very familiar with where all the gas stations are. Inexpensive? No - definitely not. Will you care? I can emphatically say - You won't care at all about these things. I had a fantastic time on this bike. It oozes quality, performance, and sexiness.
The color scheme for my test bike was white pearl with a red stripe down the middle. There's a removable passenger seat cover too. The S4R S is an attention getter. I know the bike looks good but I was a little surprised at just how much people are drawn to it. Just about everywhere I stoped people came over to talk to me abut the bike. There aren't too many of them around in NS and perhaps that added to the interest in the bike.
The Monster S4R S is the upscale Monster. It's an uncompromising naked superbike; it's covered in carbon fiber bits and features top spec equipment in abundance. When you sit on and ride you'll know where the money went. It feels like its price which is in the neighborhood of $18,000. Pictures don't really do it justice. You can't fully appreciate it until you get up close and examine it. Count on making some new friends!
It includes standard Monster styling cues such as single sided swingarm, small upper fairing, vertically stacked twin exhausts, and longitudinal stripe (bigger and centrally positioned on the S4R S).
I stopped at several gas stations during my time with the Monster and most of the times people came up to me to to chat about the bike and where I was headed, what I was doing etc. Some were fellow motorcyclists and some were just admiring fans. I'd like to say that it's me that was attracting all the attention, but I know better!
One of the countless things that make this bike special is the 130 hp, 998cc L-Twin engine. Now, 130 HP may not seem like a lot but this bike seems to be barely moving at 110 km/hr and it will pull strongly well above that. It's solid and planted as a tank at speed even in wind, except that it only weighs in at svelte Ducati listed weight of 390 lbs. The engine is very forgiving and delivers power so smoothly it's tough to drive it slowly, only because you'll feel like you're barely moving. In that regard it's much like the other Ducati's I've ridden lately - deceptively fast! You need to keep an eye on the speedometer to make sure you can keep your licence and get to ride another day.
The L-twin offers tons of power and produces gobs of torque (76.6 lb-ft to be exact) and forward momentum at anything over 3,000 RPM. The rumbling L-twin sounds fantastic, particularly with the twin termingioni's that were fitted to my tester. You can drive this bike in a reserved manner, but I challenge you to do it. A tiny twist of the wrist ensures you're exceeding posted limits rapidly with no feeling that the power will taper off any time soon.
The mirrors are decent and in a good position. Your body doesn't block your view. It's just tough to see things out of mirrors when you're not stationary because of the rumbling L-twin. You KNOW you're on a twin. You can feel the vibration in your seat, in the pegs, and in the bars. It gives you a distinct sense that you've got a lot of power on tap.
Twist the throttle hard and that sense of power is confirmed. You can lighten the front wheel pretty easily. The termi's begin to sound like booming cannons when you crack open the throttle. I imagine the cars you're passing can feel the percussion as you swiftly and effortlessly blast past them by. There will be no lazy passing on this machine!
Ducati Styling and Character
Of course, the S4R S has the famous dry clutch that some Ducatisti say is the only way to go. The adjustable clutch lever pull is smooth, light and the shifting is buttery smooth. Not quite as light as the 696 but that's the lightest clutch pull of any bike I've ridden. The clutch shifts almost effortlessly. There is absolutely no clunking when the gears engage. What you will hear is lots of clickety clack noises though; a characteristic of the dry clutch. Embrace it - you'll quickly learn to love it! I've read some reviews that say the clutch pull is tough. I don't know what those guys are talking about... They've obviously never spent any time on a Suzuki GS 500. The clutch pull is light! Either that or my left forearm is bulked up from the GS!
In the cockpit you'll see large white faced, side-by-side analog, tachometer and speedometer gauges that quickly provide the most important information. There's also digital instrumentation that adds quite a bit of information such as trip meter, odometer, time and many other features. I honestly didn't even spend too much time exploring what the digital gauges provided; I felt compelled to drive it as much as I could. A bit of research shows that it displays speedometer, rev counter, warning light for low oil pressure, indicators for high beam, fuel reserve, turn signals, LCD clock, immobilizer.
I found the seat is much more comfortable than the one on the new 696. It doesn't have the forward slope that tends to drive your sensitive bits into the tank. The large airbox and tank seems to indicate that you'll get a good distance down the road without having to stop to fill up - wrong! The tank is actually a plastic unit and only 14 L (of which 3 L reserve). The tank features nice cutouts for your knees that help you feel at one with the machine during spirited riding. They're a welcome feature because your knees/legs would be splayed out around the tank otherwise which would quickly become uncomfortable.
Suspension is by way of a huge pair of 43mm upside down Ohlins shocks in the front; the rear end is equipped with an Ohlins as well, both are fully adjustable of course. The front suspension has a titanium nitride coating on the stanchions making things nice and slippery so they can do their job more effectively.
I would be amiss if I didn't mention that being a naked bike you get to see all the beautiful and go-fast bits. That shiny red trellis frame, made of high strength ALS 450 steel tubing for example; very nice! And how about that triangular oil cooler and huge radiator.
The wheels are super lightweight Marchesini Y-shaped 5-spoke that ensure outstanding handling by reducing unsprung weight, while 320 mm Brembo twin discs on the front have radial-mounted calipers with four pistons and four pads per caliper. You can bring this bike down from speed in a real hurry. The brakes make a strangely pleasing audible whirring sound as you rapidly decelerate.
If you're looking for protection from the elements this isn't really the bike for you. It is a naked after all. The small front windscreen does do a decent job of deflecting some wind and I didn't feel uncomfortable or have much wind buffeting my head. I was riding in nice weather though. Lucky me!
The riding position was comfortable; course I did have to stop to gas up pretty regularly so I got to move around and stretch before any discomfort could set in. It is a long stretch to the bars. I have long arms and found it suited me well. The bars are wide and feature no steering damper. I didn't feel like it was essential but it might help smooth out the turns a little. I didn't experience any headshake like I did on the Hypermotard S though. Course it wasn't nearly as windy and the roads I was traveling on were a lot smoother than in Winnipeg.
I didn't like this bike. I LOVED it! The only fault I can say is that you can't get very far on a tank a fuel and perhaps that it's a tad on the pricey side. Having said that, the bike is built with very high quality parts and it shows. So it can be forgiven for being expensive. What it could use is a slightly larger tank. That's it really. Everything else on the bike is superb.
If the Monster S4R S suits the type of driving you do and you've got the bank roll to have a focused purpose bike then I'd say by all means take one for a test ride. If you want to do a lot of long range touring, this probably isn't the bike for you. The bike is comfortable so you could easily go for some shorter over night or weekend trips but you'd need to plan out your route to stay near gas stations.
For more information on the Ducati S4R S feel free to check out the Ducati North America website.
2009 Ducati 696 test ride for Canadians
When you think of things that are classically Italian chances are; pasta, wine, haute couture and fast cars are a few things that probably come to mind. Sounds pretty good right? - A country known for food, wine, fashion, and fast cars. While I’m not so keen on fashion but those other things sure make it sound like it’d be a good place to spend some time.
Turns out that the stereotype of Italians and their love of fast cars is true to some degree. In fact, one of Italy’s largest exports is motor vehicles. Ferrari is one unmistakably Italian brand but not all vehicles hailing from Italy are Ferrari’s though, or even cars for that matter. With some 20+ companies making motorcycles or scooters within its borders it’s clear that Italians love motorcycles too. Take a look at a few of the bikes that are produced in that region and it’s easy to see that they have a passion for making high quality machines, often hand crafted, and full of character.
I recently had a chance to test drive the newest model in the wildly successful ‘Monster’ series. Originally introduced in 1992 at the Cologne Motorshow and designed by Miguel Galuzzi the Monster has been hugely popular. Ducati claims the Monster brand was the original ‘naked’ bike.
How does one improve on a bike that’s already so popular? A few good ways would be to give it more power and make it lighter all while keeping the style that people love. This basic philosophy wasn’t lost on the folks at Ducati because that’s exactly what they did. The new 696 is a lot like the old 695 – just lighter and more powerful, while retaining the same emotional response from potential owners and its sexy looks.
The new 2009 model 696 is the “next generation naked and the final word in urban excitement” according to Ducati. I’m not sure about it being “the final word” - whatever that means… But there is no doubt it is a very stylish and sporty looking bike that’s sure to draw some looks.
The beauty is more than skin deep - it’s got a powerful air-cooled Desmo L-twin engine that pumps out 80 hp and 50.6 ft-lbs of torque at 7750 rpm. This new engine has the best horsepower per liter ratio of all Ducati’s air-cooled units. It ensures a smooth and powerful delivery for a relaxed or thrilling ride in all conditions. The increase in power was achieved by incorporating new cylinder heads. The pistons and combustion chamber of the new engine have also been revised to optimize the fluid dynamics of the new ports.
The Desmo engine not only sounds great but it actuates the valve closure mechanically, ensuring precise valve timing at all speeds. Typically four-stroke engines rely on simple springs to close the valve. As the engine speed increases the time taken to close the valve becomes more critical and if the valve doesn’t follow the exact profile of the camshaft you have a resulting loss of performance. A mechanical closure eliminates the spring from the system guaranteeing precise valve closure.
Time To Ride:
My ride was scheduled for 2 pm and the weather was a bit mixed. Earlier in the day it was overcast and in the early afternoon there were a few sprinkles of rain. On my way to the test ride a few drops fell and the sky looked like it might want to release a few more drops. Luckily, the rain held off though. There was still that matter of the wind! A consistent 50 km/hr wind with gusts of 70 plus km/hr kept things a little interesing. Dealing with the headwind or tailwind wasn't really an issue but in the wide open and unsheltered area surrounding Winnipeg the swirling cross-winds made for some serious side to side leaning of the bike to keep it on the road and upright.
The first thing I noticed when sitting on the bike was how low the seat was – the lowest seat height of any Ducati apparently at 30.3”. I’m 5’10” with a 32” inseam so I generally don’t have too much trouble with higher seats – low seats are fine as long as the seating position doesn’t have my legs cramped up awkwardly. An over 6 footer might find it a little tight. I personally found the position of my legs to be comfortable.
The seat itself sloped into the tank and I did have to adjust my seating position a few times on the ride, taking the opportunity at lights to stand up and get the blood flowing a little better to my lower body. For short rides the seat would be okay for me, but if I was going out for a few hours I’d definitely be looking for an aftermarket seat to try and keep from sliding up and towards the tank.
The low stance of the bike and the slightly tucked rider position helped keep the bike balanced in the strong crosswinds, a little more so than on the Hypermotard I was on earlier in the day. I had to lean the Hypermotard at steeper angles into the wind due to its height and the very upright seating position; the wind was stronger during my 696 ride too. This demonstrates the difference the low seat and center of gravity has between the two bikes. The 696 felt a little less susceptible to the cross winds.
The wide tank tapers to a comfortably narrow seat. You’re hunkered down into the bike more than sitting on it. It sounds cliche but the bike really does feel like it’s wrapped around you when you’re riding it; like it's an extension of your body. The reach to the bars has been shortened and the pegs moved slightly forward. I’ve got longish arms but the reach felt natural. You’re a more upright than on a sportbike; like say a CBR 600 RR. I felt a little more pressure on my wrists than on the Hypermotard; that’s to be expected with this type of bike. I'd say it's a happy medium between upright and sportbike.
Monster’s have often been touted as being a great bike for new riders. I don’t know that it would be on my list of best bikes for total beginners simply because of the performance potential of this bike. But, if you thought it was a good beginner bike before then I’d say it is even more so now with its reduced weight and lower seat height.
The power delivery is smooth and the clutch is about the lightest I’ve ever felt on a bike. It’s really almost effortless. One thing I did notice on the 696 I rode was that the friction point of the clutch was really a long way out. I had the clutch out almost a full 2/3 before the friction point. I didn’t stall mine but a few folks on the test ride seemed to have a little trouble pulling away from stop lights – likely due to the unusually high engagement point of the clutch and unfamiliarity with the bike.
Once underway, the desmo engine is deceiving – you can’t really tell how quickly you’re moving and accelerating. It’s less sensitive to throttle roll off than some other bikes I’ve ridden lately (BMW F650GS, and Ducati Hypermotard 1100), which should make it a little easier for beginners to feel comfortable with. If you crank your right wrist though you’re going to quickly get up to speeds where you can get yourself into some trouble; either the law enforcement kind or the ditch kind if you’re not riding within your abilities. I easily hit 165 km/hr during my run and the engine was still pulling.
I’d say if a beginner could ride this bike within their limits and responsibly then it may be a good beginner bike because of its smooth power delivery. You can have a relaxing rambling ride if you want or you can twist the throttle a little further to reveal more of the true potential of the Monster. This is a bike that you can really grow into - You won’t soon tire of its performance. I consider myself a pretty responsible rider but I don’t know that I would have had the willpower to resist seeing what the bike would do when I first started riding - maybe that’s just me though!
The 6-speed gearbox didn’t feel quite as smooth as it’s more expensive relative (the Hypermotard 1100S) that I rode the same weekend. Shifting requires a somewhat more purposeful amount of force than the HM1100S. I was a little too gentle with it at one point and got a false neutral. Shifts announce themselves with a little more of a clunk, particularly at slow speed. Nothing to be alarmed about; the bike I rode didn’t have a lot of kilometers on it and it would likely smooth out a little in time. It’s still a lot smoother shifting than my old Suzuki GS500 and I never had any mechanical troubles with that bike.
The clutch on the 696 is an Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) wet multiplate design. It’s a hydraulic control clutch, or 'slipper' clutch. It helps keep the clutch lever action light and easy, improves comfort while simultaneously reducing destabilizing rear wheel “lock-up” when you downshift a little too abruptly. It can be especially helpful in wet weather or other slippery conditions.
The instrument cluster is a small digital unit variety. This digital unit allows the display of a wealth of information such as speed, rev counter, clock, scheduled maintenance warning, oil temperature, trip fuel, air temperature, lap time, warning light for low oil pressure, fuel level, fuel reserve, neutral, turn signals, overrev, and immobilizer. The overrev light is a clearly visible reminder to upshift. It’s about the easiest light to notice on cluster when you're riding. Another nice feature is that it is Ducati Data Analyzer-ready if you really want to keep track of the bike and rider performance.
You may also be glad to hear that the scheduled maintenance warning light won’t come on quite so frequently as the past with Ducati’s new, less frequent, maintenance schedule. Ducati claims there is 50% less maintenance costs on new Ducati’s than on older machines.
The distinctly Ducati tank includes ingenious removable outer skins on the sides which makes it easy to change the personality of the Monster 696 with a new color. The skins also have couple mesh covered air intakes too that give it an athletic appearance. The air scoops allow more air to enter the airbox and even slightly increase the steering angle because of their positioning. The steering lock is up from the 695 to 64 degrees.
The tank is a 15l unit (3.5l of which is reserve). You can match the tank with a quickly removable rear seat cowl if you choose to. When removed, the rear seat cover reveals a place for you to bring along a friend.
At this price point you'd think that Ducati must have had to put some budget pieces on somewhere. Ducati didn’t burden this bike with good looks and budget parts though; it’s got some substance to go along with its style. The headlamp unit features a new triple arc main beam, while the rear light uses modern LED technology. The front brakes are the new benchmark for the category with two 320 mm discs and four-piston radial calipers while the rear gets a 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper riding on Marchesini 17" wheels. All this performance and they still managed to trim a significant 7kg of mass from the 695. The weight savings means that the 696 weighs in at 355lbs (161kg) dry.
The frame is classic Ducati but new; it's a Hybrid Trellis frame with larger diameter tubes directly inspired by the 2007 World MotoGP title-winning Desmosedici GP7 machine. To this is attached a rear aluminium sub-frame.
For suspension you get a showa 43 mm upside-down fork in front with 120 mm / 4.7 in of travel. In the rear you’ll see a progressive linkage with preload and rebound Sachs adjustable monoshock. That’s good for 148 mm / 5.8 in of travel.
The new 696 also has a new exhaust system with re-routed down pipes that cleans up the look of the underside of the Monster. The pipes end with twin high mounted aluminum mufflers.
Affordable naked style bikes usually attract the aftermarket who come out with lots of great ways to customize and personalize the machines. The 696 follows along with this tradition of earlier Monsters with the availability of tons of accessories from Ducati.
You can buy all your accessories separately or you can get yourself a 696+ factory-personalised model and start from there. The 696+ model includes the aerodynamic single seat cover and micro bikini fairing. Here’s just a few of the available accessories:
- An assortment of Termignoni exhausts which not only look great but they give the Monster a bit more of a throaty growl. Optional seat cowl is also visible in this picture.
- Headlight fairing. It's small but the 696 I rode was equipped with one and I must say that it looks sharp.
- Rear seat cowl (partly visible below).
- Touring seat (Designed to improve ergonomic features to make riding position for rider and passenger even more comfortable, this seat is made in high-density foam and is covered with anti-slip valuable fabrics that resist climate conditions). The sides of the seat are textured and you get some visible stitching - red, in this picture.
- Front mudguard
It comes in red, pearl white, matte black while the frame can be red or black. The wheels are black.
The MSRP is $9,495 CDN and it comes with a 2-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
This bike is a well thought out progression of the Monster 695. With a more powerful engine, lighter weight, and lower seat this new 696 deserves a spot in the top of mind awareness of anybody looking for a midsized naked. It can be driven tamely or, if you listen to that little devil on your shoulder, it can be driven hard and it’ll gladly deliver a high level of exciting performance.
I had a lot of fun riding this bike and would ride one again in a heartbeat if given the chance. If you’re looking for a bike to get around town, a fun weekend rider, or something to up your ‘coolness’ a few notches this bike should be on your short list, particularly if you like the naked style. The desmo L-twin engine is fantastic - it sounds and feels like you’d think a motorcycle engine should.
A few issues I see with the bike.
- I’d want to have a different seat than the stock one - then I could really enjoy this bike on more than just a short jaunt.
- The exhaust placement makes for a potentially hot ride for passengers.
- Unadjustable levers might be a challenge for riders with small hands.
- There's a manual fast idle switch. Seemingly a little out of place on a bike costing near $10,000.
This last point while not much of an issue with me I thought I’d mention it – I felt a little more of the vibration from the L-twin engine making it’s way through the foot pegs on the 696 than I did on the HM1100S. Of course, the HM1100S also costs about $8,000 more before taxes than the 696. It might not even be something you notice if you didn’t drive the two different Ducati’s near back-to-back.