THE TEST - Ducati UpNorth

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THE TEST - Ducati UpNorth

THE

TEST

Fast alternatives

So what if they’re not the latest fully faired race reps – who

said you need to look like a WSB refugee to ride fast anyway?

WORDS BY MARTIN CHILD + PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHIPPY WOOD AND TOM CRITCHELL (STUDIO)

TEST TEAM: TOM BEDFORD + MARTIN CHILD + PAUL MEECH + ANDREW MOOK

*

Ducati Multistrada

£7600, 200kg, 80bhp, 130mph

Ducati’s attempt at getting all

practical on us. Could be the best

bike they’ve ever made – but how

will it stack up in this company?

The old Multistrada is likely to be

a lashed-together Monster, built

in a shed, as this is the first year

of Multistrada production.

Yamaha FZS1000

Fazer

£6850, 208kg, 121bhp, 150mph

Owners might love the Fazer, but

it’s been called bland by others.

There’s no arguing with that

engine or those brakes, though.

The old Fazer 1000 was the same,

apart from silver finishes on the

engine and frame.

*

Motorway 160 miles

Urban 7 towns,

23 villages

A Roads 124 miles

B Roads 136 miles

Kawasaki ZRX1200S

£6990, 223kg, 109bhp, 144mph

Old tech, old-school but still nobody’s

fool, the ZRX is built on solid practices

that won’t let you down. But does

it challenge you like the Beemer

or intrigue you like the Duke?

The old ZRX was the ZRX1100, which

got an extra 100cc in 2001 and hasn’t

altered since. Not exactly cutting edge.

* There has never been a test quite like this. Full-on science meets mile after mile of gritty, real-road

BMW R1100S

£7745, 209kg, 85bhp,136mph

Motorcycle manufacture turned

on its head. As conventional as a

Prince Albert and as fashionable

as flock wallpaper, the ‘sporting’

BMW has a lot to prove.

The old R1100S was exactly like

this one but had more tasteful

graphics. Progress, eh?

*

TEST

ROUTE TM

The Bike Test Route

Welcome to the future of road testing

blasting.Whatever the bike, whatever the weather, the Bike Test will deliver the definitive verdict

on which one you should buy. Road testing will never be the same again. Part one is the

top-secret Bike Test Route: 433 miles of hand-picked roads. From tyre-blisteringly fast A roads and

twisty back roads to gruelling dual carriageways and the trickiest of rush hour towns, the route

will highlight the best and worst of a bike’s behaviour. Part two is the test track. Pushing

machines to their limits around the notorious Bruntingthorpe test facility, we measure top speed,

acceleration and braking, then put in a dozen laps of the fast, bumpy circuit to pinpoint which bike

handles best and why.There’s more. Part three is the perfect weekend: we do track days,

touring… whatever’s necessary to see how each bike will cope on your dream weekend. Part

four is dyno testing, home servicing and living with it. Only then can we reach a verdict. Believe it.

*


THE

TEST

‘The more time

you spend with

this bike, the

better the

experience

becomes’

BMW R1100S £7745

Weird but wonderful, the race-inspired R1100S is more useful on the road

THE MOTORWAY SECTION of the Bike Test Route

is, quite frankly, the most tedious part of the day.

An hour and a bit of 90+mph to get the mpg

figures and see what falls off, both the bike

and rider. Between trying to shake some really

annoying song from your head, it’s eyes

scanning mirror and horizon for the police.

Luckily, the R1100S – the ‘BMW for the

Sporty Generation’ (my words, not theirs) – has

excellent mirrors. I spy an iffy looking car tailing

me. Black. Means nothing – the cops have your

speeding fines to spend. BMW. Phew. Looks

like an unlikely Jam Sandwich. M3. Wide-rims,

elastic-band tyres. Sexy-cool, purposeful, potent.

Why don’t BMW cars and bikes talk to each

other? The M3 flashes past and I’m not the only

one to want one. Do you think my R1100S is

raising the same levels of interest? Not a chance.

Looking at the colour scheme, it’s clear that

the Germans need to hire an Italian somewhere

in the Design/Finishing Department. If the

AA-breakdown-truck yellow isn’t bad enough,

the grey stripes and blocks end the argument.

The tank has a house-makeover-style pattern of

squares up the middle. All it needs is a bit of

MDF for the transformation to be complete. The

colours and style remind me of BMW clothing.

Quality and practicality, maybe. Style? Never.

BMW simply aren’t talking ’bout my generation.

That’s a shame, because the R1100S is a great

bike. Weird, but great. You’ll need to cleanse

your mind of all things Japanese, though.

The bike doesn’t sink when you first climb

aboard, thanks to the Telelever suspension.

Basically there’s a shock attached to a wishbone

that controls the front suspension and what you

think are the forks are just slider tubes. Haul it off

the sidestand and it’s clear the BM hasn’t won

any slimming contests. Thumb the starter and

the R1100S tries to rotate around the crank

(which runs front to back of the bike) before

settling into a dumper-truck idle. So far it’s not

re-inventing the wheel so much as using skis.

A clonk indicates first and it surges forward.

It’ll wheelie if you really try – but then, so will

a shopping trolley. It’s clear from the first few

LIVING WITH IT 14 days of real life with an R1100S

+ Pillions need to bring a 10p coin so

they can get the seat hump off. Comical

grabrail hinders, but linear power helps.

+ Mirrors are well spread and let you see

all.They tuck in easily for garage parking.

+ Group 13 insurance for the dearest bike

on test. How does that work, when the

£900-cheaper Fazer is two groups higher?

+ The fuel light comes on at 130 miles,

which means your Fazer-mounted mate

will be waiting for you 20 miles down the

turns of the yellow wheels that the bike arm of

BMW doesn’t have a Madness Department.

The more time you spend with this bike, the

better the experience becomes. The suspension

works unbelievably well and the bike rolls over

dips and ripples you’d feel on conventional setups.

The real ace comes under braking, where the

R1100S refuses to dive. Steaming up to corners is

a real treat, as the front feels so planted and

you’ve all but forgotten the weight of the bike.

Pushed hard, it’s possible to touch down the

cylinder heads, but for 98 per cent of the time,

the BM has no ground clearance problems. It

clearly lives for braking and curves.

Which is why the engine feels the weakest

part of the package. Getting past the torquereaction

when it’s revved, the engine vibrates

constantly and it’s felt through the bars and

pegs. Not enough to numb your fingers, but

always present. It’ll pull from 2500rpm up to

8000 and there’s a constant delivery in-between

– but exciting isn’t the first word that springs to

mind. Give it another 30bhp and things would

be very different. On the route’s B roads, it was

easy to feel between gears as the engine failed to

punch out of medium-speed uphill corners.

The gearbox matches the engine in that it’s

less slick than a Japanese unit and you have to

learn how to get the most out of it. Trying to

change too fast isn’t the way to win it over. Solid,

positive pedal movements are the key. A lack of

solid lever feel in bottom and top gears means

you’re always trying to change up from top and

checking you’re in first at the lights.

With 400 miles on the trip, the day’s nearly

over. I haven’t had to move around the bike once

to get comfortable. It just fits and does the miles.

With more-than-decent wind protection, it’d be

a good choice if your favourite scratching road

just happened to be in another country.

So the R1100S is a mighty fine-handling bike,

hampered by the buzziness of the engine and let

down by the colouring. Like Marmite, you’ll love

it or hate it. But if BMW want more of a cool feel

for their bikes, they need only look across the car

park to their four-wheel brethren. >

road.You thought BM’s went touring?

+ Servicing is the standard routine of

every 6000 miles after the initial 600

mile return-to-dealer service.

+ The BMW runs fine with one of the plug

caps pulled from the spark plug. Chippy’s

Ford Focus doesn’t, when you grab and

break the key head and immobilise it for

him.That’ll teach him.

+ ABS costs £750 extra – or why not go

the whole hog with an £8495 Cup rep?

IN A NUTSHELL

It must be the

R1100S because...

The Japanese

‘plastic-fantastics’

just seem too

conventional.

You talk about

your bike at dinner

parties.

You actually go to

dinner parties.

TEST

ROUTE TM

Weather Where’s

all the rain gone?

Traffic Bloody

tourists…

Miles ridden (by

bike’s trip) 421

Time taken

6 hours 38 minutes

Average speed

65mph

Fuel used 48 litres

Average mpg 40

Motorway

Miles of smiles

from the comfiest

seat this side of a

sofa showroom.

45mpg

Top-gear cruising

70mph = 3800rpm

100 = 5400rpm

Town

Feels wide and

heavy at slow

speeds. Still takes

a look to locate

the Lego indicator

switches.

Fast A roads

Out of the cage

and on the run, the

big BMW sprints

through the

countryside with

sure feet and a

keen engine.

37mpg

Twisty B roads

The bulky BMW is

surprisingly agile

over the bumps

and is the latest

of brakers into the

corners. 38mpg

Summary

A very surprising

bike, despite how

it looks. Brilliant

for handling and

stopping, but

frustrating in

the engine

department.You’ll

have to be of a

certain age/lifestyle

to get excited

about it.

113


114

TEST

ROUTE TM Fiction

Weather More

sun than a row

of newsagents

Traffic Sightseers

by the coachload

Miles ridden (by

bike’s trip) 428

Time taken

6 hours 45 minutes

Average speed

63mph

Fuel used 51 litres

Average mpg 38

Motorway

After 60 miles, the

novelty of being on

the Bat-bike wears

thin. Legs never

cramp, though.

45mpg

Top-gear cruising

70mph = 4000rpm

100 = 5750rpm

Town

Wickedly bad

in town.Wahey

wheelie, wahey

stoppie, wahey

copper, wahey

I’m gone.

Fast A roads

Fun rather than

serious. Forget

apexes, think

jumps and slides.

34mpg

Twisty B roads

Brilliant seating

with wide bars,

forcing the bike

through corners.

Back wheel hops

under heavy

braking.

35mpg

Summary

Fine real-world bike

– a first for Ducati.

Well put together

and went back

with all the bits it

came with still in

place (another

first).A pricey but

worthy alternative

to a sportsbike.

Ducati Multistrada £7600

meets reality in Ducati’s do-anything all-rounder

SOME THINGS FROM YOUR PAST stay with you,

even if the details get sketchy. The TV series Street

Hawk was Knight Rider on two wheels, some good

guy fighting evil on an eye-catching off-roader.

Street Hawk, CHiPs and my dad’s C90 were my

only contact with biking as a nipper.

Though I’m not actually fighting evil, today,

Matthew, I am Street Hawk – and the Multistrada

is my crime-fighting partner. I could just as easily

be Batman, as the Ducati has a futuristically

comic-book look to it. It’s about as far removed

from a race-rep as you’ll get, this side of a Harley.

It’s a new and fresh approach by Ducati. After

years of coining it in off the back of the 916, the

Multistrada is a welcome change. The Monsters

always looked more fun than they were, with

heavy clutches, poor ground clearance and

no freshness since conception. That’s why I

approached the Multistrada with a feeling

that I knew what it was all about. I’ve ridden the

Monster 1000, with the same Dual Spark engine,

and felt satisfied rather than impressed.

First things first. If your height doesn’t start

with a six (or close to it), this is going to seem

like a mountain. It’s tall – quite a leg swing to get

on. Once conquered, the suspension settles but

most will have to favour one side at the lights.

The engine spins up with all the urgency of a

B-reg diesel Transit. Really. Once it does start,

things get better when you’re on the move. High

seat, high bars, lighter clutch. Even from the first

revolution of the Pirelli Scorpion Sync tyres, it’s

clear that in this bike, the engine has been given

a new, exciting lease of life. Popping the front up

out of roundabouts is very un-Monster-like, as is

the urgency to get through gears.

The long-travel suspension does a fine job

of fending off bumps, not just bouncing off

them like every other over-hard Ducati. Within

ten miles it’s clear that this is the most real-world

Ducati ever. Hurrah!

Remarkable leg room and the high bars make

it easy to just hop on and go. Comfort from the

hardish saddle lasts for a bit more than 100 miles

then makes itself scarce for the rest of the day.

No matter how often you stop after that, the

LIVING WITH IT 14 days of real life with a Multistrada

+ Pillions get a high perch and a good

handle but that’s on a wheelie-prone bike

with softish suspension. Hmmm.

+ Mirrors are absolutely rubbish at doing

anything but vibrating. Chippy reckons the

white-lensed indicators are hard to see.

Like the focus button on your camera, eh?

+ Group 15 insurance punishes you for

being so trendy with your bikes.

+ Fuel gauge and light conspire to tell you

lies at every opportunity.

numbness creeps back quickly. Motorway miles

take their toll when you’re on the Multistrada.

The weird split screen/fairing doesn’t offer

the same protection as the BMW’s screen, even

though when you’re on it, it feels connected to

your helmet. You don’t sit behind this screen,

more over it. The biggest disappointment is the

mirrors: they’re crap. They’re the wrong shape

(the wide bit is in the middle) and the mirror

head is held onto the stem by two rivets. Cheap

and nasty, they let the glass get so blurry you

don’t bother looking in it. After 1000 miles the

mirrors danced around like pill-heads at a rave.

On the Bike Test Route’s B roads, the Ducati

struts a more funky dance. Instant power means

the front lifts easily over bumps but the forks

induce dive under braking, which can send the

rear skyward. A hopping back tyre was also felt

when flip-flopping through left/rights.

One clear advantage the Multistrada had was

in performance testing at Bruntingthorpe.

There’s a long, long fifth-gear left-hander that

usually throws you wide on the exit. The Ducati.

held a much tighter line through this corner due

to its geometry and relative lack of power.

Right-handers, though, were it’s downfall.

Lean too much and the bike touches down.

Pedal, peg and, most worryingly, front exhaust

shield. I had the shield touch at Bruntingthorpe

and Silverstone, unloading the suspension and

causing unplanned two-wheel drifting.

Practicalities aren’t the Duke’s strong point,

either. Room for nowt under the seat, but the

right-hand fairing unlocks to allow items to be

stored there. There’s no netting to hold things,

so it’s a constant battle against gravity to get it

shut. Multi-function clocks are Italian and

therefore for comic effect only. The fuel gauge

reads half tank then empty within a few miles

– and once informed me that I was low on fuel

and had ‘only’ 196 miles until empty. I see.

Foibles aside, if you want a bike with that

important ‘Now’ factor, the Multistrada can

be your only choice. Is that to do with Ducati

being voted one of the coolest brands about?

Or is there a Street Hawk fantasy in everyone? >

+ Servicing is every 6000 miles or every

12 months.

+ Panniers and heated grips will get the

fashionable courier though the winter.

Both are available from Ducati dealers.

+ Though the Multistrada drew the most

crowds wherever it went, we never heard

anyone call it beautiful. It does look

odd, especially from the front when

parked on full lock.What were you

thinking,Terry Blamanche?

IN A NUTSHELL

It must be the

Multistrada

because...

You’re really

enjoying riding

a Duke, not just

owning one.

It never sounds like

it’s going to start.

It’ll shut that BMW

rider up at parties.

‘Within ten miles it’s

clear that this is the

most real-world

Ducati ever. Hurrah!’

THE

TEST


THE

TEST

‘Odd choices for

the track, but

madness? Never.

Today we’re at

Silverstone’

On the track

Alternatives to sportsbikes, or

alternative sportsbikes? Let’s see

TRACKDAYS ALWAYS EXCITE. It starts with

the ride in. Bikes you pass, vans that make you

wonder if their cargo will be heading for the

circuit or not. A nod from the security guard.

Yes, I’m meant to be here. Whether this month’s

main test bikes are is another matter.

You could easily mistake this for a round of

some British championship. Generators generate

while tyre warmers warm. Riders sign on while

the heat of the day comes through. Slicks

outnumber novices and all the usual contenders

are there. And then there’s us. The only Fazer

Thou. The only ZRX1200S. The only R1100S.

And the only Multistrada.

Odd choices, but madness? Never. Today

we’re on Silverstone’s 2.249-mile Grand Prix

Circuit, treading in the tyre tracks of the greats.

It’s not a cheap trackday. The cost and lack of

days available mean nobody knows the circuit –

and this plays into our hands. Fast learners go to

the top of the class, regardless of machinery.

I arrived on the Fazer, so it’s my choice for the

first few laps. Out of the pits, through Maggots

and Becketts in a frenzy of left, right, left, right.

Don’t drift wide as you exit the next left-hander,

Chapel, as it dictates your speed onto the long

Hangar Straight. Reel in the horizon for what

seems like ages, check your speed and turn-in

for Stowe – not too fast or you’ll run wide as

the track snakes back across in front of you.

Through Vale, then the long right-hand

double-apex Club. Seems like forever until you

pick it up and fire down the straight towards the

blindingly quick Abbey. That runs into the easier

Farm and Bridge corners, before Priory and the

decreasing radius Brooklands, which seems

sooo slow after the others. Blast out then brake

into Luffield and then play with the Mickey-

Mouse chicane on the inside of Woodcote before

ripping down the pit straight and knocking back

one for the first corner, Copse.

First session on the Fazer sees boots scuffed

but fun levels on maximum. Ditto the ZRX. It’s

the R1100S that calls for a different mindset.

There are no real ground-clearance problems but

it just doesn’t have the ooomph of the Japanese

bikes. Outbrakes them every time, though.

And then it’s Multistrada time. Feeling like a

giant supermoto and towering over everything

this side of the pit garages, the Ducati is a fish

out of water but nowhere near the frying pan.

Straights frustrate while gains on the bends

mend the difference. It just goes to prove it’s

not what you ride, but how you ride it, laddie. >

FAZER 1000

Best engine and

R1-sourced brakes:

no surprise that this

is a darn-quick bike.

Suffers from early

touch down, with

the end can making

right-handers tricky.

Learn to love the

weave and you’ll

be very quick.

ZRX1200S

Feels solid and heavy

on the track and the

front doesn’t feed

back as much as the

Fazer. Has more

ground clearance,

though. Powerful

engine offers plenty

of torque for those

long, leant-over exits.

Eddie Lawson

fantasies? Maybe.

R1100S

Boxer Cup races run

at MotoGP rounds,

so it should be no

shock that this is the

best-handling bike.

Braking and

suspension are pretty

much faultless but

the vibey engine –

30-40bhp down on

what it needs to be –

means all the hard

work round the

corners is lost

on the straights.

MULTISTRADA

Oddity turns to

novelty. Easy to pilot

but suffers the same

underpowered

syndrome as the

BMW. Long-travel

suspension and

large-blocked tyres

mean this moves

around the most.

Worst is the exhaust

guard that skates on

right-handers, lifting

weight off the tyres

and inducing a

wakening slide.

Twice.

117


118

TEST

ROUTE TM Smacked

Weather They’ll be

frying eggs on the

pavement soon

Traffic Third-aged

daytrippers. Most

out of date

Miles ridden (by

bike’s trip) 427

Time taken

6 hours 10 minutes

Average speed

69mph

Fuel used 57 litres

Average mpg 34

Motorway

The ease of it all.

Mucho power,

vibe-free engine

and clear mirrors.

40mpg

Top-gear cruising

70mph = 4600rpm

100 = 6600rpm

Town

Fastest between

Argos and Asda.

Nips and tucks

like a Harley

Street surgeon.

Fast A roads

Bar shakes

threaten to get

worse but never

do and the speedo

appears to lie. How

fast? 29mpg

Twisty B roads

‘We are sailing, we

are sailing.’ Throw

the Fazer along a

bumpy road and

come out smiling.

Superb.

33mpg

Summary

Becomes your best

friend out on the

road.All the power

you’ll need, all the

brakes you could

ask for and enough

chassis to just

about keep the

whole plot in the

right direction.As

fun as it is plain.

And it’s very plain.

Yamaha FZS1000 Fazer £6850

at birth, nearly given up for adoption, the Fazer turns into a swan

THERE’S SOMETHING desperately un-passionate

about the big Fazer. It sits quietly, basking in the

summer sun as I don leathers, pack my rucksack

and generally get into the mindset needed for

day-long testing. I know how capable the Yam

is but feel no real warmth towards it parked up.

Fill-up, set the trip, settle in for the journey

ahead. The Fazer Thou makes a mockery of

having any bike-riding skills. Absolutely anyone

could ride this bike. Part of this ease of riding is

the size. The bike disappears underneath you. It

has no vices, gives you no concerns.

And then we get to the other side of the

Fazer’s personality. Whipping through the

countryside, fast as you like, the ride becomes

addictive. Soft suspension is always present

but once you learn to love the weave, you’re as

happy as Bruce Forsyth but not half as camp.

Forget the plain-Jane looks, this is a serious and

unexpected superbike slayer.

It might be packing some 30kg more than

the R1, but it never feels like it. The two share

the same engine but the Fazer makes do with

‘only’ 121bhp, rather than the superbike’s 132.

The midrange and top end rush feel the same,

as the Fazer rider has to brace himself against

rolling off the back.

What’s most useable about this engine is the

length of the rev range and the power available.

Get 2000rpm showing on the tacho and you’ll

be ready to exploit another 9000 revs of easily

accessed power. This means you’re never in the

wrong gear and instant drive is always available.

The wide spread of power means driving through

corners is a throttle-only affair, with no need for

the next ratio. To make the whole plot sweeter,

the gearbox is slicker than an oil-tanker’s cargo.

What’s most noticeable about the Yam,

especially after the Beemer, Duke and Kwak,

is just how smooth and vibe-free the ride is.

The engine never feels coarse, even when you’re

banging it off the rev-limiter at Silverstone.

Talking of which, this is the bike to uphold

your honour on the track. Faster than many

Ducatis down the Hangar Straight, the only

bugbear was the ground clearance. It’s the lowest

LIVING WITH IT 14 days of real life with a Fazer

+ Passengers will enjoy the wide, padded

saddle and the rubber-topped pegs.That’s

if they stay on.The side-mounted grab

handles act as pivots and 120-odd horses

help you practice Twister.

+ Small screen deflects enough wind to

keep you going. Mirrors give you a good

chance of seeing sneaky cops.

+ Group 15 insurance reflects that R1

motor between the frame rails.The

consolation is that it’s superbike quick.

of the four bikes here and its pegs and exhaust

prevent it dishing out what would be a serious

whipping. Rearsets and a race can, anyone?

As well as nicking the R1’s engine, the Fazer

has also lifted its brakes. The one-piece four-pot

calipers suit it so well, allowing heavy braking up

to, but never past, the point of adhesion of the

front tyre. The back locks early if used too much

but does give plenty of warning.

Back on the road the Fazer sets a record time

round the Bike Test Route, beating the GSX-R600,

SP-2, 748S… anything. Cor. There’s always power

on the exit of every corner, always heart in the

brakes and the suspension, though soft, copes

with the changing surfaces with a wallow and

then control. It’s not quite over in the blink of

an eye, but the 433 miles are covered effortlessly.

Rider comfort is just shy of BMW levels of

luxury. The screen deflects slightly more than

the Ducati’s does but still allows wind to tug on

your upper body. The seat gives you smiles over

piles and the pegs are just right for leg-weighting

when pushing on. The clutch action is one of the

lightest around and the bars waggle only when

really motoring. Basic information is delivered

by the clocks: time; two trips; speed; revs – all

you need to know; clear, easy, precise. The seat

swallows a U-lock and waterproofs and the fuel

light stays off for a cool 150 miles. Mirrors are

wide, clear and best on test, while strapping a

bag to the back’s a doddle, with multi-bungee

points and the twin grab handles to anchor to.

In their wisdom, Yamaha have elected to

paint the frame, swingarm and engine black

(they were silver before). The Fazer’s much better

for it, the frame looking butcher and contrasting

with the yellow bodywork. It’s still no beauty but

at least it looks less like a 900 Diversion now.

We’ve criticised the Fazer in the past, but it

really showed its worth on the route. If there’s

one bike here that plays hard at being all things

to all men, it’s the Fazer. It has the power, brakes

and handling along with comfort, the ability to

tour or attack. It’s the most all-round useable

bike Yamaha build and the easiest to live with.

It would just benefit from a harder image. >

+ There’s room beneath the seat for a

U-lock, waterproofs and a Kit-Kat. Oh,

alright, leave the Kit-Kat out. I’m dieting.

+ Servicing is every 6000 miles or every

12 months, whichever comes first.

+ There are clearance issues, but you

could turn it into a trackday slayer with a

high-level race can and rearsets. Don’t get

too carried away, though. Slicks would

probably tie the chassis into a knot that

a badged-up Boy Scout couldn’t undo.

IN A NUTSHELL

It must be the

Fazer because...

You always get

there first.

You don’t talk much

about your bike.

You fancy your

mate’s bike more

than you fancy

his wife.

THE

TEST

‘Whipping through

the countryside,

fast as you

like, the ride

becomes addictive’


THE

TEST

‘Looks like a

proper bike,

doesn’t it? Oldschool

retro, built

the traditional way’

Kawasaki ZRX1200S £6990

The king of retro has seen them all come and go. But for how much longer?

AFTER THE UPROAR caused by the arrival

of the Multistrada, the debate about whether

the R1100S can cut it as a sportbike and the

argument over who could actually love the

Fazer, the ZRX rolls into the picture as a point

of reference. It’s something of a known quantity.

Looks like a proper bike, doesn’t it? Oldschool

retro, built the traditional way. Steel

frame, conventional forks, wide saddle and

side panels that are separate from the tail unit.

If you’re looking for flash, save you cash – there’s

nothing cutting edge about this Kawasaki.

On the first day of the test we do the

strip-down shots, where the four get naked in

front of the camera. Sounds like a sordid kind of

photo shoot. As the ZRX gets its top (fairing) off,

it’s clear to what lengths Kawasaki have gone for

a change over the bikini-faired non ‘S’ model.

Stripped, it looks like the handiwork of a

first-day apprentice. In his lunch hour.

Clothes back on, it’s hard to imagine more

of a mismatch of styles than the front and back

of the Kawasaki. The rear end is as hardcore-cool

as they come – twin piggyback shocks, stepped

saddle, ducktail flip on the plastics, tubed

swingarm and wide, simple, bright rear light.

Cutting edge in 1983 and still Kool & The Gang

20 years on. The front, however, is as memorable

as last night’s TV. It’s a real aid when you’re on

the motorway at the ton but does nothing for

the looks of the thing.

And you’ll need to get past that indifferent

face to really enjoy the ZRX. Once you’re on

it, the differences between this and the Fazer

become clear. The thickly padded seat means

you sit firmly on top of the bike, which feels

more solid but heavier than all save the BMW.

More ccs than the Fazer but less power,

it’s clear that the Kawasaki is more of a torquemonster

than the whippet-like Yam. A clonk

into first and you’re away. It drives rather than

sprints from the lights, front skimming but not

abandoning the tarmac.

Click through the gears – the torque means

there’s always instant go – then sit back and

enjoy the ride. The suspension has a control that

LIVING WITH IT 14 days of real life with a ZRX1200S

+ Pillions get treated to a proper saddle

and well-placed pegs. Has twin grab

handles like the Fazer, but doesn’t want

to send the pillion over the back with the

same urgency.

+ Mirrors are well spaced and clear but

the rubber covers can be a pain to clip

back on the fairing.

+ Clocks are as basic as you like and

difficult to read at speed.

+ Group 14 insurance sees you being

the Fazer would envy. The handlebars never

shake and the back seldom gets squidgy. Around

Silverstone, the ZRX matched the BMW in terms

of ground clearance and firmness but couldn’t

run with the Fazer in terms of outright pace or

feedback from the front.

At Bruntingthorpe, while lapping the

handling circuit, the vagueness from the ZRX’s

front end showed up most. After the flat-out

main straight, it’s one gear back and run through

the right-hander then brake hard while banked

over. It’s always frantic to bring the speed down

for the following second-gear corner but the

front Avon Azaro locked, without warning.

Luckily there’s enough run off to release the

brake and still make the corner.

Back on the road, the extra weight and

control of the Kawasaki makes it the ideal bike

for 90 per cent commitment. It’s precise, surefooted

and comfortable – though what looks like

it should be the comfiest seat here stops doing

you any favours after 120 miles.

Driving up and down the gearbox, the

engine lets you know it’s doing the work. There’s

always a faint vibe – not enough to spoil the ride,

but enough to make the bike feel alive. It takes

just that bit longer to spin up than the newer,

smaller Yamaha motor. The gearbox itself is

normally slick but the change into and out of

fifth can be clonky.

The equipment on the ZRX is practical but

minimal. Fairing-mounted mirrors are excellent

for giving rear-view news, the fairing offers good

protection in bad weather and at motorway

speeds, while the underseat storage is like the

cargo hold of the Titanic. Only not so wet.

Minus points go against the 1980s’ fuel tap, lack

of information on the ‘what digital age?’ clocks

and the ‘guess how fast’ game from having too

many numbers on the face of the speedo.

So the Kawasaki ZRX1200S turns out to be

the gentleman of the test. Always good company

and classy in the way it handles itself in all

situations. It’ll never out-pimp the Fazer – but

then, it isn’t really trying to. What sort of bike

do you want? >

realistic about this 1200cc missile.What

were you expecting?

+ Servicing, after the initial 500 miles, is

every 4000 miles.

+ Huge underseat storage can take vast

amounts of gear: waterproofs, heated

gloves, at least (an estimated) 15 Big

Macs… Bang goes the diet.

+ It always runs onto reserve as you’re

passing a big truck, leaving you fiddling

for the tap.Why is that?

IN A NUTSHELL

It must be the

ZRX1200 because...

People keep asking

about someone

called Eddie.

You’ve always got

lined waterproofs

under the seat

(along with a

lock, toolkit and

workshop manual).

TEST

ROUTE TM

Weather Darker

skies but dry roads

Traffic Lightest

of the week but

plenty of coppers

Miles ridden (by

bike’s trip) 430

Time taken

6 hours 31 minutes

Average speed

66mph

Fuel used 53 litres

Average mpg 37

Motorway

Solid, thrusting

bike with slightly

vibey engine and

good screen.

43mpg

Top-gear cruising

70mph = 3900rpm

100 = 5500rpm

Town

Handles well for

a big ’un. Easy to

beat the traffic

from the lights.

Fast A roads

Enjoys being out

and about. Feels

planted and rapid

on this terrain.

Steering is neutral

and the bars never

waggle.

36mpg

Twisty B roads

Weight is felt on

the slower corners

and the brakes

sometimes struggle

with the bulk.

Fun enough but

important to keep

it on line.

33mpg

Summary

Measured

all-rounder that’ll

surprise you but is

unlikely to ignite

your passions.

Very capable,

comfortable

and controlled.

Brakes need more

initial feel.

121


THE

TEST As soon as man created speed, we looked for ways of doing it differently

FAST

ALTERNATIVE

LANDMARKS

1990s

Every crashed GSX-

R1100 is turned

into a streetfighter.

Motors stay full

power (or get

tuned) and we

discover life outside

full-on sportbikes.

1995

Yamaha launch

the XJR1200 and

misunderstand

the mood of the

alternative market.

It’s just too heavy,

too slow.

1996

Suzuki ‘discover’

the market for

half-faired

rocketships with

the Bandit 1200.

The birth of a

thousand wheelies.

1997

Kawasaki, slow on

the uptake, bring

out the ZRX1100,

apeing their

Eighties classic,

the Z1000R.

2001

Yamaha wake-up

the genre with the

Fazer. Morning all.

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine

Bore x stroke

Compression

Fuel system

Transmission

Frame

Front suspension

Adjustment

Rear suspension

Adjustment

Brakes front; rear

Tyres front; rear

Wheelbase

Rake/trail

Dry weight (claimed)

Seat height

Fuel capacity

Fuel consumption (average)

Warranty/mileage

Service intervals

NU insurance group

Price (otr)

State of the art fast alternatives

SUSPENSION

Conventional stuff front

and rear. Ride height

adjuster on the rear

shock is a useful

addition (especially

as the Multistrada

sits high). Remote rear

preload allows you

to fiddle on the move.

Is that legal?

R1100S

1085cc, air/oil-cooled, 8v, flat twin

99 x 70.5mm

11.3:1

fuel injection

6-speed, shaft

stressed engine with subframes

Telelever

rebound

Paralever

preload, rebound

2 x 305mm discs/4-piston calipers;

276mm disc/2-piston caliper

Bridgestone BT56

120/70 ZR17; 170/60 ZR17

1478mm

25°/100mm

209kg

800mm

18 litres

40mpg

two years/unlimited

6000 miles

13

£7745

The 1000DS engine first

appeared between the

tubes of the Monster.

The DS stands for ‘dual

spark’, which gives

better combustion

and leaner emissions.

*

ENGINE

*

MULTISTRADA

992cc, 4v, 90° V-twin

94x71.5mm

10.0:1

fuel injection

6-speed, chain

tubular steel trellis

43mm usd telescopic fork

preload, compression, rebound

monoshock

preload, compression, rebound

2x320mm discs/4-piston calipers;

245mm disc/2-piston caliper

Pirelli Scorpion Sync

120/70 ZR17; 180/55 ZR17

1462mm

24°/108mm

200kg

850mm

20 litres

38mpg

two years/unlimited

6000 miles/12 months

15

£7600

*

FAZER

998cc, 20v, dohc, in-line four

74 x 58mm

11.4:1

4 x 37mm Mikuni carburettors

6-speed, chain

steel double cradle

43mm telescopic fork

preload, compression, rebound

rising-rate monoshock

preload, compression, rebound

2 x 298mm discs/four-piston calipers;

267mm disc/2-piston caliper

Metzeler Z4

120/70 ZR17; 180/55 ZR17

1450mm

26°/104mm

208kg

820mm

21 litres

34mpg

two years/unlimited

6000 miles/one year

15

£6850

THE BIG IDEA

ADJUSTABLE LIGHTS

This is the big

innovation on the

Multistrada.You can’t

adjust them on the

move, but holding one

of the six trip buttons as

you turn the ignition on

will trim the headlight

to one of its half-dozen

slightly different

factory-set positions.

CHASSIS

It wouldn’t be a Ducati

unless it had a steel

trellis frame. It’s painted

red on the red bikes and

grey on the silver ones.

Clever, eh?

ZRX1200S

1164cc, 16v, dohc, in-line four

79 x 59.4mm

10.1:1

4 x 36mm Keihin carburettors

5-speed, chain

steel double cradle

43mm telescopic fork

preload, compression, rebound

rising-rate monoshock

preload, compression, rebound

2 x 310mm discs/6-piston calipers

250mm disc/2-piston caliper

Bridgestone Battlax BT-020

120/70 ZR17; 180/55 ZR17

1465mm

25°/106mm

223kg

790mm

19 litres

37mpg

two years/unlimited

4000 miles/one year

14

£6990

Clocks

Funky and fresh, the clocks on the

new Multistrada point to the way

forward for Ducati. They’re backlit

with a cool blue hue that makes them

easy to read as you scoot about at

night. Fuel gauge lies like a cheap

Headlights

The BMW’s a lopsided, semi-bugeyed freak. They’re

just not playing that conventional game, are they?

Lucky it’s bright enough to aid night speed.

Tank range

I’m sure I only got 110 miles before the light came

on when I had a 2001 Fazer Thou, but this test bike

made it to 150 three times before the light came

Start

Full Tank

BMW

DUCATI

YAMAHA

KAWASAKI

watch, though. All the others are

more conventional and the Kawasaki

is downright basic. If you want to

know the time on the ZRX, you’ll have

to bring your own timepiece. Looks

like the bridge on Noah’s Ark.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ think

Ducati. ‘Sack the designer’ think the rest of us.

Narrow beam from this cyclops.

on. The impressive 21-litre tank gives a motorway

range of just over 180 miles.

It was possible to be reaching for the tap on the

88

105

130

150

170

178

184

188

Left BMW’s lights-anddials

control centre

Middle The Fazer’s mix of

old and new techno style

Right The ZRXs went in

two by two,

hurrah, hurrah

Main image Have Ducati

bought-out Tandy?

Yamaha goes quickest so has the most open

eyes and widest beam-spread. Kawasaki is as

understated as ever. Head down, just doing its job.

Left (l-r) The Beemer’s

headlights squint, so you

don’t have to;

The Ducati has its own look –

Darlek or Hoover, you decide;

The Fazer has bright eyes,

probably from being smacked

hard at birth

Right Bright smile or killer

glint? It’s the Kawasaki so it’s

probably helping old ladies

across the road as we speak

Kawasaki the wrong side of 100 miles, the BM

made it to 130 miles and I gave up on the lying

clocks on the Duke. I just filled up every 100 miles.

Tank range

BMW R1100S 178 miles

Ducati Multistrada 188 miles

Yamaha Fazer 184 miles

Kawasaki ZRX 170 miles

Figures based on motorway

mpg on the road figures from

the Bike Test Route.


THE

TEST

THINKING

Question:When

does a sportsbike

have heated grips,

a puncture repair kit

and a front wishbone?

Answer:When it has

the flying rondel on

the tank.

EXHAUST

It may look as if twin

exhausts are sticking

out the back but

really they’re just

two exits from the

same ‘can’. Look in

front of the back

wheel and you’ll see

another. Loud it’s not.

BMW R1100S

Home-made special or production

machine? BM’s take on sportsbikes

Ducati Multistrada

To the Batcave, Franco. But tights and

cape aren’t needed to fly on this Duke

*

Right A pretty

complicated back end.

Shaft drive, single arm

and wheels with the

thinnest spokes this

side of a BMX

Far right BMW throws

light on the ‘can-can’

Right 916-style

wheel has been

a round for ages

Far right Bat-rocket

launchers and

oil-spray are just

out of shot

*

FRAME

Normally, 120bhp

would be wrapped in

a rigid frame with just

the right amount

of flex. Maybe it’s the

flex ratio of the steel

frame that makes the

Fazer so much fun

to ride.

BRAKES

There was a time

when six-pot calipers

were at the top of

every hard-charging

biker’s wish list.Ahh,

that was such a long

time ago – and now

they fail to offer the

power or control of

the lightweight

modern four potters.

Yamaha FZS1000

Hairy engine, check. Fierce brakes,

check. Hinge, check. Fun, checkmate

Kawasaki ZRX1200S

A strong argument for the old-style of

bike building. More steel than Sheffield

*

*

Right The silver

alternative is just

a touch too (yawn)

Diversion 900 for

most folk. Looks

better in the black

Far right She’s good at

stopping – not much

will Fazer

Right ‘When I were a

lad…’ Tubed swingarm

and concentric

adjusters. Early

ride-height pioneers

Far right Let’s talk

about torque, baby

– though fins aren’t

what they used to be


THE

TEST

PERFORMANCE TEST

If you thought that the only fast things came with

full-fairings, think again.This motley crew have more

than a fair turn of speed and enough handling to make

it count.As the lap times suggest, you write them off as

also-rans at your peril.The data from Bruntingthorpe

never lies. Read it and weep, superbikers.

The four tests carried out at Bruntingthorpe are:

� Top speed measured on a two-mile runway.

� Acceleration through the gears and rolling on from

60mph in fifth gear (fourth on a five-speed gearbox).

� Braking from 100mph.

� Lapping the Bruntingthorpe handling circuit.

DYNO TEST

Dyno graphs explained If you’re looking for

outright power, you have to get yourself a Fazer.The R1donated

engine makes 121bhp and has such a spread

of useable power that the others don’t get a look in.

Unless torque makes you walk, that is. If so, you

may want to move over to the ZRX. It might loose

12bhp on ultimate power but gains a useful 8lb.ft

of the good stuff at a lower 6900rpm.

The BMW’s figures shows how hard the old-tech

engine has to work to propel the heavy-ish R1100S

around.At least the 80bhp Multistrada litre lump feels

spritely thanks to the spread of ratios in the gearbox

and the non-race looks that make it come as a surprise.

You just don’t expect it to be that fast.

Fastest lap

0-60mph

0-100mph

60-100 (top gear)

Top speed

Braking 100-0mph

Comments:

Power (bhp)

140

120

100

80

60

40

20

1m 17.8s

4.25s

10.37s

8.79s

136.1mph

4.84s (332.8ft)

Feels so solid around the

test track and the brakes

lock the wheels to the

ground. Slowest off the

line and takes an age to

get to the ton.

0

0 2 4 6 8 10 12

� R1100S

85.7bhp @ 8000rpm

64.5lb.ft @ 6200rpm

R1100S

Torque (lb-ft)

0

0 2 4 6 8 10 12

rpm (x1000) rpm (x1000)

� MULTISTRADA

80.6bhp @ 8000rpm

59lb.ft @ 6100rpm

MULTISTRADA

1m 18.5s

4.03s

10.08s

9.68s

129.9mph

5.24s (362.8ft)

Feels slowest in a straight

line. Brakes quicker than

the ZRX, despite block

tyres and long travel

suspension. Grinding the

exhaust guard is scary.

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

FAZER

1m 15.1s

3.95s

7.91s

6.65s

150.1mph

4.61s (327.5ft)

Feels so quick off the line,

but the heavier Kawasaki

drives harder. 150mph

comes with a grin and

the handling circuit gets

lapped Tuono-quick.

� FAZER 1000

121bhp @ 10,000rpm

68.7lb.ft @ 7400rpm

ZRX1200S

1m 17.3s

3.36s

7.88s

6.34s

143.9mph

5.19s (383.2ft)

Beats the Fazer to the ton

then drops back. Massive

torque sees the best

60-100 time but the

brakes take 60ft longer

than the Yam. Ouch.

� ZRX1200S

109.7bhp @ 8500rpm

76.4lb.ft @ 6900rpm

‘I’m having

those boots’

says Tom. ‘And

I get the wig,’

begs Martin

It’s like an

evolutionary

diagram, from

wannabe racer

to giggling

stunt supremo

‘That’s the last

time I eat Tom’s

vindaloo,’ says

Martin. It’s his

last ride in

Chip’s car, too

‘That pink

bracelet suits

you so much’

‘What’re you

doing later?’

THE BIKE TEST VERDICT

BMW R1100S SPORT

Engine ��

The real low point of

the package.Vibey when

pushed and not involving.

Chassis �����

Brilliantly surprising in its

handling of all surfaces

and all situations.

Suspension ����

Lack of dive under braking

gives you so much more

road to play with.

Brakes ����

Excellent on the anchors

and work so well with

the suspension.

Comfort �����

About as easy as doing

distances gets. Seat

is superb.

Useability ���

Reliable and practical,

though no storage areas.

Finish ��

Basic but well finished. Just

a shame about that paint

and those tank blocks.

Road ����

Not the fastest over the

route, but so comfortable.

Overall ���

Brilliant package that you’ll

either buy into or not.

DUCATI MULTISTRADA

Engine ����

Never has an 80bhp

twin felt so much fun.

Well-spaced ratios help.

Chassis ����

Allows for much fun

without getting too

lairy.Tall.

Suspension ���

Long-travel forks dive

under braking but don’t

upset the plot too much.

Brakes ���

Suit the bike and tyres well.

Good bite and fade-free

performance.

Comfort ���

Arse goes to sleep after

150 miles, but is good

below that.

Useability ����

A practical Duke? Get

away! Honest. It’s fun

and seems to run and run.

Finish ����

Looks quality apart from

some exposed electrical

connectors.

Road ����

An enjoyable bike to do

450 miles in a day on.

Overall ���

Fun comes at a price.

The best bike

If we’re looking at fast

alternatives, and we are, it’d

be easy to declare the Fazer

the winner. After all, it has

the most power and is

quickest in a straight line. But, as any V-Max

owner knows, power isn’t the whole picture.

That’s why we took these bikes to extremes

to really get under their skins.

Road, track, test strip, route… the Fazer

1000 is the clear winner. It takes ages to form an

emotional bond with this plain-looking bike but

riding it on the Bike Test Route shows just what a

brilliant machine it can be. It becomes your biking

buddy, helping you in and out of situations with a

guiding hand. Many R1 owners would enjoy and

ride the Fazer 1000 better.

Second place is harder to call. Which side of

bed did you get out of?

The Ducati Multistrada is a top bike. More fun

and more useful than a Ducati has ever been and

YAMAHA FAZER

Engine �����

Such a peach of a motor,

it revs forever and the

gearbox is faultless.

Chassis ����

Moves about a bit, but

understand this and

go hunting those R1s.

Suspension ���

Softly sprung and it does

wobble and dive.Worse

two-up.

Brakes ����

Absolutely excellent.All the

feel you need with plenty

of power.

Comfort ����

Does the miles in comfort

and the screen deflects

most of the elements.

Useability �����

Never has one bike opened

itself up to so many. If you

can’t ride this, get a car.

Finish ����

Stands up well to constant

cleaning.

Road �����

Just about the easiest and

quickest way to do miles.

Overall ����

Hard to love but easy to

ride, with real-world charm.

KAWASAKI ZRX1200S

Engine ����

Good’n’torquey and useful

rev range. Feels slightly

harsh and fifth is notchy.

Chassis ����

Twin shock it might be,

but a lovely controlled ride.

Suspension ����

Doesn’t dive too much

and keeps both wheels

on the ground.

Brakes ��

Feel is missing from cold.

Adequate rather than

awesome.

Comfort ���

Seat looks more

comfortable than it is but

bars/pegs are spot-on.

Useability ���

Feels heavy at a standstill

but eats traffic when you

get it moving.

Finish ���

Lots of heavy metal but no

real signs of rust.

Road ���

Measured rather than mad.

Makes for a superb ride

Overall ���

At the right price, this

is all the bike you need.

Is it enough for you?

it didn’t even break down on us. The Kawasaki

may be too retro-cool for its own good and plays

on the moody side of biking. But it’s still a great

bike, just lacking the Fazer’s wild side.

And the BMW. This is an excellent bike to

ride and has to be applauded for its two-fingered

salute at convention. It just needs an image to

be proud of, rather than a paint scheme you

apologise for. And an extra 30bhp.

The best buy

I love it when tests are this clear cut. The Fazer

wins when ridden and is also the cheapest to buy.

With a list price of £6849otr, it’s better than the

ZRX by £150 and the Ducati and BMW by nearly

a grand each. And a quick look in MCN Bikemart

confirms that you really shouldn’t be paying more

than £6k for a new UK bike. That’s good value

considering that the Fazer cost £8099 when it

was launched in 2001. Don’t expect a discount

on the Multistrada and R1100S, so the Kawasaki

should be ripe for a financial kicking, too. �

127

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