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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Big Test Ride Day........Three Sexy Italians and a British Gal.

Italian ladies and a British lass.........what would you choose? If we were actually talking women most of you would probably go with the Italians. Even though they are beautiful, built to perform, but at times can be temperamental and high maintenance. The good ones are always high maintenance it seems.

Now I'm not talking women of course, because I really don't know three Italians to begin with and my wife sure as hell wouldn't let me take one for a test drive, so it's the two-wheeled mistresses that are the topic of this blog. Maybe one day I'll discuss the finer points of  Ducati and Triumph umbrella girls.

It's no secret that I have been jonesing for a new bike, and for a long time now I have wanted something a little smaller size wise, some character, with a good sized engine. Well, I got that in spades today. I am not gonna go into technical details, mostly because it bores me and I don't really care, so don't expect bore and stroke figures, seat to peg distances, etc. Also I am in no way a professionally motojournalist, although I like to pretend to be.

I jumped on the ol' Strom and headed to Moncton, home of the Euro bike dealer. I headed first to G. Bourque, the Moto Guzzi, Aprilla dealer. My main mission was to try out a V7 in the form of the Racer. Since that was their demo bike. All was going to plan until the battery died in the Guzzi. So while they put that back on the charger `I decided to head to Atlantic Motoplex for a look see.

Not sure if someone read my previous blog post about the poor service I received the last time I was there, but I was met with open arms today. To the point where they even let me take a showroom model Ducati Icon for a spin. Whoa........and then they gave me the key to a Triumph Scrambler so I could ride them back to back. Double whoa. 

The Ducati Scrambler Icon........I have been in love with it since it first came out.

First of all, this bike is small, short seat height, and easy to flatfoot for me, and practically any adult. If you are a big person, I'd go somewhere else, since even I'm at the upper levels of comfort.

The seat......well it kinda locks you into one spot, and is firm. I thumbed the starter, and the little V-twin came to life. Nice sound. The clutch pull is nice and light and I shifted into first with a clunk. Acceleration is brisk, with good low end torque. I wasn't able to explore the upper limits of the rev range as it was a brand new bike and I was asked to keep it under 5K. Plenty of fun can still be had under 5000rpm though as this little bike is really happy there.

Hitting the roads of Dieppe the first thing I noticed was the firm suspension that matches the firm seat. You feel every crack in the road. The egos were actually pretty good for a guy that has short legs and a long torso. The tall bars on the Icon made it feel dirt bikeish. The bike was easy to ride, and I felt instantly comfortable with it, nice and light, easy to throw around.

The motor is what makes this bike so good, at 75hp, it is just a joy to ride, trying to resist the urge to wheelie it everywhere. It would make a good hooligan bike. I wonder if it has a little too much pep for this old guy? No not really, I felt like I was 25 again. The Duc has just the right amount of vibration, not smooth, but not annoying either.

Most of my riding was in suburban Dieppe, but I did take it for a quick spin on the highway. No issues there, plenty of power, 120kph at 4500rpm. Wind blast was decent, the tall bars put you up enough in the wind with a straight up body position that would make extended highway riding uncomfortable. I think the slightly more forward lean, and shorter bars of the Full Throttle would be better, and or installing a small wind screen.

So the motor gets you up to speed quickly and the brakes do a decent job of slowing you down. No need for more than the single disc up front, and it comes with switchable ABS. Nice. Where the bike was new, I'm guessing the brakes needed some miles to "break in". The ones on the used Hyperstrada were incredible.

Not a fan of digital displays, I'm old school and prefer a dial. The clock on the Duc is easy to read, even in bright sunlight. There is a lot of info available there, scrollable from the menu select buttons on the left handlebar. Although you have to get through a couple of menus to turn the ABS off.

Overall I was impressed with the little Duc. Next up Triumph's iconic Scrambler. (see the play on words)

The Scrambler I took out belonged to one of the salesman's. It wasn't stock, but it did give me a good idea of the ride. Right off the bat the ol' English girl felt bigger and heavier. The ergos were more spacious than the Duc's version. 

I had more room for my legs on the Triumph. The reach to the bars was similar, and the seat was a tad more plush, but I don't think this one was stock.

This one had an aftermarket Arrow exhaust. Triumph offers this as an accessory, not a cheap one either. Around $1500 for the two into one pipe. A lot of heat comes off that pipe that sits next your leg, even with the heat shield on it. Not sure I like that, especially on a hot, 34C day. I wasn't sold on the sound of the pipe either. I prefer a low rumble.

I had high hopes for the Triumph, I really wanted to like it, I mean it's so cool looking, but I found it.....BLAH. I mean it wasn't a bad bike at all, but it just didn't wow me. I even channeled my inner Steve Macqueen.

Low end torque wasn't there, it didn't accelerate particularly well, the suspension was firm like the Duc, and I found it didn't handle all that well. Which may have been the more aggressive off road tire, however the front end just seemed vague when cornering.

On the highway the Trumpet was happy enough 120kph was easy, and the wind blast was manageable, no helmet buffeting, just nice clean air on a hot day.

Loved the dual clocks.

Overall I came away disappointed at the British lass, I think Triumph needs to breathe some new life into the old gal. I hate to say this, but it needs a little more performance and character thrown on it. The character I was hoping for wasn't there. The English lass is a little bland compared to her Italian rivals.

The next bike is not even in the same category as the rest, and when I mean rest I mean, smallish retro styled standard bikes.

I threw my leg over a used 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada.

It's a touring version of it's Hypermotard range. The ergos are slightly changed and a more comfortable seat is used, plus it comes standard with a small screen and luggage. 

It is a very comfortable bike, despite its looks. The seating position is odd, you sit up high and very forward, like an MX bike with a comfortable seat and 110hp under your arse. Out of all the bikes I rode this was the most comfortable, I could see myself on this all day long without issue.

The bike has three riding modes, sport, touring and urban. Basically it just changes the ECU mapping. I believe Sport and Touring take advantage of the full 110hp, and urban restricts it. I chose to ride in touring since it smooths throttle response out. Plus I had read previously about a how the 2013 Hyper's had a jerky throttle to begin with. 

As with all Ducati's the motor is wonderful, the sound from a Duc is unmistakable, and joyous. It's not smooth like a Japanese 4-cylinder, throwing enough vibration to give it that Italiano character.

The bike is very small, at least it feels small, and when I say small I mean narrow, you sit on top of this thing and look at the road, just the small windscreen in your peripheral. The bike handles very well, but in an odd way, and I don't think I ever felt completely comfortable with it, between that and the throttle I felt like I was on some kind of twitchy, nervous horse. 

One thing I will say, is the suspension was nice, soaking up the bumps nicely, and the brakes were awesome. I tried a couple of emergency stops from 60kph, and my eyeballs almost came out of my head, with just a slight chudder from the ABS.

It never really suited my style of riding though, maybe if I was 25 again, and had a urge to rack up speeding tickets, and hooliganism charges. So the Hyperstrada was out. 

Now to compare the Ducati Scrambler, which was so far my favourite out of the bunch to another Italian beauty.

So I left Motoplex and headed down the road to G. Bourque again, hoping this time a V7 Racer would be ready for me.

Ah the V7 Racer, probably THE most beautiful production bike on the market. It is so fuckin sexy. It gives me wood just looking at it.

I remember the first time I saw one. It was on the TV show Storage Wars, and Barry Weiz rode up on one. I thought it was a one of custom job. I instantly fell in love, or was it lust.

I was very anxious to take the shiny Guzzi out. Before long the sexy Italian lovely was sitting in front of me, those two big cylinders shaking away like a dancer at a gentleman's club. 

When someone said Guzzi is the Italian Harley-Davidson, I think they nailed it. I love Harley's but the feet and fists in the wind thing ain't me, and $11K for an anemic 883 is nuts. But Harley has character, culture and history in spades. Guzzi is the same way, but on a lesser, more rare scale. Guzzi has the sound, rumble, history (oldest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe) and all the character, but they are rare to see. Ride down the I95 in Maine and it's a Harleyfest.

OK, back to the Racer, part of that character is, even though it's fuel injected,  it needs time to warm up, or it won't go anywhere. Fire it up, and by the time you put on your gear, it's ready to roll. 

Clutch pull is nice and light and shifting into gear is weird. I mean no clunk, click, the shift lever just goes down and the neutral light goes out. All shifts were like this, buttery smooth. I've never ridden a bike with gearbox like this before.

The V7 only makes about 48hp, considerably lower than Ducati's 75hp on the Scrambler, yet it doesn't feel like it. Low end power and torque are impressive, the motor is wonderful. All that shaking and rumbling disappear once underway, and bike is fairly smooth, more than I was expecting. 

Likewise I was also surprised at the suspension, it was comfortable, soaking up road imperfections nicely, and New Brunswick and smooth roads do not go hand in hand. However I do believe the racer has a nicer set of rear shocks than the Stone and Classic. 

The Racer has clip ons and higher pegs, so the ergos are a little more aggressive and cramped. I wasn't a fan of the clip ons and know my back and wrists would be complaining after a long day. Despite it's Racer designation, it's not a high performance bike by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe in the '60's it was, but not by todays standard. It's as much Racer as Harley's Sportster is sporty, and that is not a bad thing.

Next to the Ducati Scrambler I felt the most comfortable right away on this bike, chucking it into corners, tearing up and down the streets, it was a blast. If riding a Ducati is like getting jiggy with a 25 year supermodel, riding the Guzzi V7 Racer would be like getting with that supermodel's hot mom, fun for a night or two, but not one you'd want to marry.

Fortunately Guzzi makes the V7 in another form, the Stone and the Classic. Both are more upright, and the pegs are lower and more forward, making for a comfortable ride. Even though I never had a chance to ride the Stone or the Classic, sitting on them in the showroom is a much more comfortable experience than the Racer. It's the supermodel's hot mom's best friend who's still attractive, but more down to earth and can cook up a mean pasta dish, but still rock your world in the sack kinda bike. The one you'd marry.

Ducati Scrambler or Moto Guzzi V7 Stone? Or do I stay with the ol' Strom?

Stay tuned.


  1. Haha, fun review Terry. Thanks for posting. I wish we had the same range of bikes to choose from in Halifax. No Duc or Guzzi dealers down here. The Duc Scrambler sounds pretty nice!

  2. Glad to see such a review. I want to change my bike in a few months (a 2003, 955 c.c. Triumph Sprint RS) since I do very few (if any) highway rides the past few years. And I too am between the Ducati Scrambler and the MotoGuzzi v7ii Stone. OK... Yamaha MT-07 has a snip through because of its low price, light weight and fun engine, but I am mostly sold-out for the 2 Italian ones. Hope I can make up my mind soon... before I lose it! :)