04 December 2013

Missing Photos

I'm aware that the photos from some of my posts have disappeared. I don't know why this has happened, but I will try to put them back again. Sorry!

03 December 2013


As motorcycling kit goes, your helmet is probably one of the most important. It must fit well and be comfortable as you'll probably be wearing it for a long time. Colour and style don't really matter, although for some people, wearing the latest race-replica design is what it's all about.

For the last ten years or so I have been wearing Arai helmets on the road and when out and about on the Adventure, and they've been very comfortable and are well made: nothing has broken or worn excessively over the five or so years I've been wearing them. I've taken the linings out and washed them and they've come up well.

Arai Astro-R at Cadwell Park

My road helmet is currently an Astro-R and from the track day stickers on it, I can tell I've been using it for seven years. Current thinking is that helmets ought to be replaced every five years or so if they're used regularly; or if you use it infrequently and it's looked after, you can stretch it a bit.

Seven years: six of them in the slow group!

Slightly younger is my Arai Tour-X (or Tour-Cross) which I bought in 2008 and gets used both on and off road. The visor makes on-road use much nicer than relying on goggles, yet there's enough room to use goggles with it off road, and there's plenty of room between the chin-bar and your... err... chin to let you use a hydration pack - which is vital off road or in the heat of the Sahara.

Arai Tour-X somewhere in Wales

It goes without saying that a helmet used off road is going to have a harder life than a road helmet, and mine is no exception. Despite not testing it on the ground in a fall, various tree branches, stone-chips and mud have all left their mark, not to mention the effect of dirt, sweat and whatever on the inside too.

At this year's NEC show, Arai Helmets had a display stand with samples of all their current designs in various sizes to try out. The Astro-R has been discontinued, and the Tour-X is now up to version four. I tried on a selection, and decided that the Astro-R's replacement could be a Chaser-V, and the evolved Tour-X4 is still a good fit, but there's a problem...

You shouldn't perch your helmet on your seat in case it falls...

The Tour-X4 has a much sleeker shape for the chin-bar, and as a result there's no longer enough room to use a hydration pack. This puts it out of contention and means that either my current one will need to last longer or I will have to look elsewhere.

Head Shape: One or the Other?

Also at the NEC show was Shoei. There's a long standing urban myth that you have either an Arai or Shoei shaped head, and consequently if one fits you, the other won't. This is nonsense.

Both manufacturers make helmets to suit different head shapes, and additionally the padding inside can be changed for thicker or thinner pads to help get the right fit - and a premier dealer for each respective brand should do this for you free of charge.

Shoei had fewer helmets to try, but lucky most of them were in my size. They're also one of the few manufacturers to produce a hybrid helmet like the Tour-X: Shoei call theirs Hornet-DS.

And it fitted me pretty well, although I might need to swap to thinner pads for a little extra room for my ears!

Their road helmets were also a good, snug fit, so could 2014 be the year I switch allegiance from Arai to Shoei? More time and trip to a local stockist is in order, I think.


02 December 2013

Sorry for the delay...

Sorry for the delay in posting new stories. I've a lot to write up, including a new bike, events and more. I'll get them done as soon as I can!

08 April 2013

Test Ride: KTM 1190 Adventure

I dropped in to my local KTM dealer today to look at a new small bike, and the salesman happened to be outside showing another customer a 1190 that was about to be collected by its new owner.

Unprompted, he handed me the key to the demonstrator and told me where to go (as it were!). He went through the various electronic systems on the bike, how they were set up and how to change them, and I was on my way.

The engine is silky smooth, and very willing with plenty of power and torque. The brakes were very powerful too, and it was very easy to ride it quickly.

I tried it in Sport, Road and Offroad power modes, and Sport, Road and Comfort suspension settings, and there was a definite difference between them. The Road/Comfort setting was probably closest to the standard 990 settings, and on rural Lincolnshire roads that did me fine.

As you'd expect with road wheels and tyres, it corners very nicely and is very easy to haul around as it's physically smaller than the 990.

However, having said all that, I was disappointed with it.

The first time I rode the 990 it had a 'wow' factor in how something so big could be as agile as it is, and it looked different to everything else out there. People would stop and ask what it was, and of course it was a dual-purpose bike with lots of off road ability.

The new one simply lacks character, and with the floating screen it looks like the BMW GS and the Triumph Tiger. There's nothing distinctive about it, apart from the graphics, if you can call them that, which look messy.

The seat isn't as comfortable as my standard 990 seat, and after an hour I could feel it. Being smaller, the riding position felt slightly cramped compared to the 990. I'm told that the optional comfort seat is... err... comfortable.

Something that seems completely bizarre is that it doesn't have always-on headlights: the bike chooses when to turn it on, and you cannot override it. I know there are the LED daytime running lights, but in poor visibility like mist, falling snow etc. I'd like to have the light on. From experience in cars, automatic lights don't come on when it's bright but the visibility is poor, but at least you can turn them on manually in the car.

Even the controls lack any sort of feedback: the indicator switch doesn't really move, and I was always a bit unsure if I'd actually switched them or not.

There's no red line on the rev. counter, just a red light that comes on when you've overdone it - by which time it's a bit late and you're on the limiter.

From the figures I've seen, it's heavier than the 990 (199Kg / 230Kg), and I don't know how well the glossy plastics and LED indicators would stand up to an off road tumble.

It reminded me of driving a BMW car: a masterpiece of technology and engineering, but lacking any character.

If I were in the market for a road bike, I might consider one: but there are plenty of alternatives that are cheaper and probably more engaging - possibly even the SMT.

I'd like to try the R version, ideally off road, to see if it can win me over but unfortunately the standard model doesn't really suit its 'Adventure' tag as it's just another road bike. It's a clever one, but it's a road bike none the less.

...but that's probably what most people are told they want by the bike magazines.

With thanks to Gear 4 Motorcycles, Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, for offering me their demonstrator for a ride.