Sadly, because of Covid-19 and two extensive lockdowns, this is a review over two years. During that time, I have ridden two scooters (both electric), three cruisers, three retro Roadsters, two sports bikes and one sports tourer – eleven in all. I’ve had to split this review into two parts. Here is Part 1 , with Part 2 to follow next month.
Despite two lockdowns, I have been helped enormously by local bike dealers offering demo rides on an increasingly small range of demo bikes produced to the dealers because of Covid problems. The bike market has been turned upside down. Normally dealers would have three or more demos across their range. Sometimes I was lucky if there was one demo available in their whole range. Either the demos weren’t being delivered, or they had one demo which had been sold online, almost immediately and it was someone’s bike, so I couldn’t ride it.
Crazy was another word for the bike buying market. Second-hand bike prices went through the roof because of supply problems, not only from the Far East but also from Europe. Microchips were unavailable for the latest TFT displays on instrument panels and engine management systems. Containers which would be used to transport the bikes were in the wrong part of the world and there was no sea traffic to bring them over. Some factories reduced their production capacity.
I won’t dwell on the tragedies and traumas of this difficult time and this overview is meant to be a light touch review of the better days of biking and scootering in the UK, from my own personal viewpoint in testing these bikes and trying to lead as normal a life as possible.
In the February 2020 issue, I took out my own bike. It is a Honda VFR 800X Cross Runner and contrasted it with the latest model which I had ridden for my first bike review for this magazine in April 2015. This was a real-world review of a not so shiny bike! It should be called “Ronseal” for obvious reasons. A do-it-all V4 stalwart.
In March 2020, I took out the ginormous Triumph Rocket 3R. This bike has got to be a contender for the bike of the year. The looks, sound and the way it goes simply has to be checked out. This is currently the largest production motorcycle from main manufacturers in the world. Mine was literally a black beast. I could understand how every one of these £20,000 bikes was sold as soon as it hit the salesrooms. You must try it out.
From the sublime to the electric – I tested in April 2020 the Vespa Elettrica which is the equivalent of a 50cc petrol scooter. I whizzed around Tyneside’s urban hang-outs. It was great. I particularly liked the coiled under-seat three-pin plug – pop it onto your garage socket to recharge. Simple.
The next was the Triumph Speed Twin 1200 in black and looking at the photos what a marvellous sunny day I had in my next review which was September 2020 (first gap for lockdown). I took this powerful but nimble bike along the Military Road to the Sill Visitor Centre just beside Housesteads. It was a glorious day sitting on the sun patio. This is a real bikers’ bike. Power. Handling. Looks.
October 2020 saw me riding the Kawasaki Z650. It was a very focused but usable Japanese sports bike in the naked sports
bike category. An aggressive but easy to use package. Obviously in green.
November 2020 and I rode the awesome (I cannot think of any other word) BMW R18 (Retro Cruiser) which is a ‘statement’ in itself. A very expensive and beautifully made Bavarian take on the Monster Cruiser style. It felt that you could ride through stone walls on it! Cow horn handlebars and beautiful detail.
December saw me re-riding the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 from an earlier test I had done in June 2019 borrowing my son’s bike and taking a trip across the Moors by Edmundbyers recreating the fantastic run I had on this bike first time around. What a great looking, great handling and inexpensive package this is.
We then had our second enforced break. See next month for the rest in Part 2 – to be continued… best bike and best pit stop awards!
Mark Hipkin is a Partner/ Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at email@example.com or call 0191 2533509.