Pros: Quality-built, top-notch performance and fun fun fun.
Cons: Not a first-bike choice.
Most magazine reviews I?ve read of this bike describe its handling on track. For those of us who do not earn their living racing bikes I think this approach is, to say the least, out of touch. I spent the months before delivery of my 2001 929RR (US model) prowling the net for articles that would give me an insight into the sensation this bike is capable of delivering. Only here on Epinions did I find plain-English material that fed this craving. As such, I?m going to try and give you an overview of my first impressions of this bike. I have been riding it for the past month and have about 2000Km on it. I weigh 75 Kg, am 1.83 m tall, have been riding for a compounded 10 years and grew up using the metric system. I ride mostly on weekends.
Wow! 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and you are there: Nirvana. The 150 horses provide enough torque to lift the front wheel in the first three gears. No need to first rev up the engine with an engaged clutch. In fact, this approach will only result in your rear wheel spinning to the side burning rubber needlessly. Instead, when weight is distributed toward the back ? such as when carrying a passenger or on a marked incline - just yank the throttle and up she comes. Other times, just ride the curve and around 7K rpm she starts to lift. If you want to avoid this behavior you need to lean into the bike throwing the weight of your body onto the tank. I have had to train myself to perform this latter movement especially in those cases when I want to come out of a turn in full acceleration else my front wheel risks touching the ground at an angle: not the safest of maneuvers.
The fuel injection is flawless making throttle response instantaneous except during city riding when accelerating from ~2.5K rpm; 300 rpm of slight sputter and then take-off. This bike is not meant to be ridden so low down the curve. The engine delivers now-you?re-here-now-you?re-not class performance and has transformed my merges from stop-or-go decisions into before-or-after-the-vehicle decisions.
From 115 Km/h upward the truly exemplary 6th gear pulls impressively throughout its course so much so that if I?m concentrating on the road and not the instrumentation, I catch myself trying to up-shift at speeds hovering around 140 Km/h thinking that I?m not yet in top gear.
When not delivered in wheelie-inducing bursts, acceleration can still be powerful enough to shift your body along the short axis of the seat and break your posture. In other words, hang on. A full progression through the lower gears is a stunningly raw experience; the closest thing I have come to this sensation is when I?ve grabbed onto the fenders of NYC cabs on roller blades (yes, I?ll admit to that!); it takes the same amount of concentration and, I guess, of recklessness. I now have much more respect for the pilots who race bikes; going through this experience every time you come out of a turn must be incredibly physically and mentally exhausting.
As far as top speed is concerned, I can?t say I?ve been there. I have reached 240 Km/h but she had more to give. I had never ridden this fast before and the road just seemed to flatten in front of me. All I can say is that the bike feels solidly stuck to the ground and that it didn?t transmit the ?flimsy? sensation that I thought it would. In other words, if it were not for the air resistance, 240 Km/h doesn?t feel much different than say, 140 Km/h. I don?t know if that is a good thing.
The fuel injection system that adjusts start-up idle works wonders in the freezing cold and is an entertainment to observe in action while heating the engine. Engine racing is gradually trimmed until the bike is at its operating 1200 +/- 100 rpm idle. The bike starts first time independently of temperature, always.
The digital odometer and clock coupled with a conventional rev counter offers, what I consider an ideal combination as far as instrumentation is concerned. The other godsend is the digital thermometer that has disciplined me into warming the engine up to operating temperature on every start. Two things that I don?t like as much: I really miss the pass switch to flash the high beams and the yellow low-fuel LED tends to be annoyingly bright at night.
The feedback from the chassis and wheelbase while traveling is akin that experienced when gliding on trolley tracks. I used to drive a four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering car and the ease of turn is pretty much comparable. The shifting of the bike?s weight on the road is fluid and effortless and sharp veering from a standstill occurs more easily than with the 125cc Aprilia I used to ride. The power distribution vector feels markedly neat - as in neat whiskey - and exists at a much lower plane than that of other bikes I have ridden.
Riding position is sporty. As well it should be: with the power delivered you need to be well ensconced to control the bike. Pegs are well placed but have a tendency to get caught in the laces of my boots so that sometime, after starting from a green light and making a sharp turn, I find myself having to jostle my foot out of the peg, an annoyance or time to buy proper riding boots. Legs sit flush to the tank and are well repaired from the wind. The air-flow is channeled away from the knees and thighs so they don?t experience the full brunt of cold air. Padding in the seat is surprisingly comfortable. 300 Km rides leave no trace on your cheeks. The cut of the saddle provides for a splendid platform upon which to perform weight-shifts that occur smoothly and uneventfully. Seat height is well measured and the stomach curls comfortably over the tank. The spinal chord also bares little abuse and definitely does not experience jolt-like compressions during regular riding.
Handlebars are neither too far nor too close. The wrists and palms support the lion?s share of body weight much augmented by the momentum imparted by strong decelerations. I sometimes feel true physical pain throughout the carpal bones of the hand on the clutch side only. The movement required puts much stress on these bones. The clutch engages hard and short but feels adjusted optimally. This is most definitely not a two-finger clutch. My antidote to the pain is to rotate the hand toward the inside on a plane that is parallel to the ground with the center of my wrist joint acting as the axis and to force all fingers to share the work involved.
A full throttle turn measures 120 degrees so that the wrist needs to accompany the hand for the last few of these. Don?t worry, you won?t find your hand in this position too often.
Air flows around the helmet appropriately so that the marginal return of leaning your head into the cockpit is minor; at lower speeds I?ve stopped performing this movement altogether. Overall, the body wraps around the machine effectively and is well positioned to handle the horses delivered.
Other miscellaneous points of note are as follows. The compartment lodged under the seat is truly cavernous. I bought a ~1.5 m Abus chain and lock and these fit in there comfortably alongside a disc lock, net and the tool-kit. The latter is complete and had just the right tools to assist a friend of my mine with his Triumph?s minor woes. I was surprised to find out that the manual provided does not mention any details on how break-in should be conducted. My dealership provided adequate sales assistance and my 1000 Km service was performed in a day.
All in all I?m very content with my purchase. The quality of workmanship and engineering and are just outstanding. For my intended purpose of exhilarating weekend jaunts, this bike fits the bill perfectly. I truly appreciate this machine for it has given me the opportunity to fulfill my desire for speed and strong sensations without forgoing a modicum of driving comfort that makes the experience that much more powerful.