The White Knight has been back to the shop for its 1000km first service. Considering that I bought the bike on the 23rd of September it seems an inordinately long period of time to clock up such a small mileage but the reason is clear if you’ve been following the blog. Almost as if the two events were timed to coincide, the day after I brought TWK home, I fell victim to the virus the remnants of which are still affecting me some 9 weeks later. This meant that I did no riding at all for the first six weeks or so while I battled the debilitating effects of the illness.
Once cleared to ride, I worked hard on logging up the first 1000kms as soon as I could for a number of reasons. The main reason was simply to familiarise myself with it and find out if I had, indeed, made the right decision in buying it. The short answer to that is, yes, I believe I have done so. The other reason was that it would be at the 1000km service that the throttle restricting pin could be removed and the extra 19bhp that was available by doing so could be liberated.
So, what ARE my first impressions? Well, firstly and most importantly, the bike feels much lighter and more maneuverable than the VFR. There are a number of reasons for this. Primarily, the bike FEELS lighter because it IS lighter. Proof of that fact is mostly to be found in the ease of moving the bike around in the garage and parking it. The effort required to back it into the garage and set it up for the paddock stand is so much less than what it was to back the VFR in (getting it on the centrestand was never an issue – I can’t believe how people complain about not being able to put a VFR on the centrestand, it’s a doddle).
With reduced weight and maneuverability comes confidence and, with my decreasing levels of physical strength, this is also critical.
Sitting on the bike is the next “plus”. While the VFR riding position I have always found to be comfortable, I never realised just how much of a “stretch” it was until I rode something else. You must remember that, apart from a short six-month period of owning a VTR1000, I have only ridden VFRs since 2001. Funnily enough, I had to ride the VFR again yesterday and it was only then that I realised what the fundamental difference is. I can put my feet “almost” flat on the ground with the VFR but I can do it EASILY on the GTR. It was almost immediately apparent why this is so. Evidently, the seat height of the two bikes is very similar but what is vastly different is how far apart one needs to spread one’s legs in order to sit on the VFR. The GRT tanks holds 19l, just 2l less than the VFR but its tank is tapered towards the back allowing the rider’s legs to be closer together and therefore making it easier for the feet to reach the ground.
There is a factor here that makes this situation unique for me. The Dynamic Hip Plate that attaches my femur to my pelvis restricts quite considerably my ability to spread my legs. I’ve learned to live with it but the difference that it make when sitting on the bike is very distinct. As an aside that I should have remembered, when I started riding again after the accident, I flirted with the idea of a Can Am Spyder as you know but I discarded it for a number of reasons, one of the most critical ones being the fact that it is VERY broad at the rear of the tank and it made having to spread my legs extremely difficult.
The next major first impression is that the much more upright riding position makes for a great deal of confidence in traffic riding. The VFR has VF1000R clip-ons which raise the handlebars by about an inch but the riding position is still very much “leaning forward” and this makes checking the traffic at intersections a great deal more difficult than doing the same thing on TWK. Again, better visibility makes for better confidence and this was apparent from the first time I rode a GT650, the short test ride I did back in July.
The next thing that is markedly different is that the thing is just so much more comfortable. My legs are vastly less cramped and picking my feet up off the road and putting hem on the footpegs is way easier. I have always said that the ideal riding position should be a little canted forward so that the rider’s weight is not bearing directly upon the coccyx at the base of the spine. This is the fundamental problem with the cruiser-style riding position. With the GT650 the riding position is much more vertical but it DOES still cant you forward just enough.
Time will tell what impact this has on longer runs but my suspicion is that I will be doing a lot less “sitting up” and taking a hand off the bars to ease the wrists.
Now, what about on the move? Again, it’s all good news. The parallel twin format provides plenty of torque and moving off from a stop is so much easier. Again, what impact this is going to have in traffic riding is yet to be determined but my belief is that it will be a very friendly little beast in the cut and thrust of commuting.
But the most important difference is that the bike feels just so damn “flickable”. Think that you want to go left and it will go left. There is zero rider effort required, the bike feels so light and easy it just instils confidence.
As you can see from the photos, the bike has two seats. This has been of a concern for me as the riding position basically makes you sit in one position. As I do a lot of distance riding, not being able to slide back and forth on the seat could be an issue. I’ve done at least a 200km run so far and I did take it easy and stop and have a break in the middle. A long tour is going to highlight whether this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Now, mechanically, all seems sweet. Braided brake lines, ABS, and petal disks on the front have been tested and seem more than adequate. Suspension is very stock (hey they had to save some bucks somewhere,) but the bike hauls my 90 odd kgs easily and reacts much better to bumps and irregularities than the nearly 30-year old VFR’s boingers do.
Level of equipment is awesome. The TFT dash is large, provides lots more information than you really need and the level of illumination is adjustable to allow for the ambient light. There are two USB sockets built into the fairing and cigarette lighter socket in the other side so plenty of room for accessories that the manufacturer already knows about rather than fitting farkles and finding out that they mess up the electrical system. There is a phone app that interfaces with the bike and enables the riders to play with various settings and read how the bike is going. The windscreen is manually adjustable but I haven’t done anything with it as it seems to be just right as it is. The mirrors are a little on the narrow side although that could be more a function of the rider being too wide rather than the mirrors being too narrow.
My big and my small GIVI top boxes fit properly on the rack that was supplied with the bike and I am looking forward to seeing how they go when in “touring” mode. The bike has a steel tank which means that I can use my magnetic tank bag and the 19l in the tank have so far been able to get me more than 300kms on two occasions. The fuel gauge actually seems accurate, amazingly and the bike came as standard with Pirelli Angel GT tyres!! Yes, amazing, eh?
I have not yet ridden the bike at night but a mate who has the MT (the adventure-bike) version of my bike, tells me that the lights are fantastic. Something else to check out for myself.
Styling-wise, the bike is a bit too “modern” for me, all at the front and nothing at the rear. The addition of the rack and the top box has evened this out quite a bit but, as a famous F1 driver said when questioned about a particularly ugly car, “If it goes fast, it will look good.” The bike is available only in white and black and the white is a galaxy better than the black so I’m happy.
So, initial impressions are good, no, great, actually. Time will tell but it all looks very promising.