“I'd find it interesting to get an idea of how the various bikes performed and what are the virtues that their owners like about them. I'm sure the fellas would have discussed the merits of their particular bikes at some stage.”
What an excellent idea for a post and the guys thought so too! So this is for you Jules and we hope it all makes sense!
Davey – 1999 Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
I’m in my early 40’s just under 6 ft tall with long legs. As a kid, I had many trials bikes and MX bikes I rented a bike to do my test and bought a Honda CBR1000 which I kept for many years.
The Blackbird I have now is the 1999 FI model which I bought new 14 years ago. It’s done 50,000 miles (80,000 km). What I love about this bike is the look, the outrageous performance and the build quality. The down side is the budget suspension which has been improved by the addition of a Penske rear shock and better front spring and fresh fluid. The bike is also a little heavy compared to more modern offerings.
However there is nothing available that I would be prepared to trade the Blackbird for given the extra dollars I would have to spend. In my view nothing is that much better. I have raised the rear and lowered the front which helps it turn in a lot faster. However it also put a lot of weight on the wrists which on a long journey can be a pain but given I only do a long run once a year I’ll live with it. All in all, I love the Blackbird and cannot imagine ever getting rid of it but I would contemplate getting another bike; possibly a BMW 1200GS.
Roger, 2007 Triumph Sprint ST
I chose the Sprint after getting rid of the Daytona 955i. The ergonomics seemed a happy compromise between sports and touring, and I had long ago fallen in love with Triples. Although the growl from the Sprint is not as distinctive as the growl that came from the 955, I also needed a bike that was going to be comfy for two up touring. I think overall the mix of sports vs. touring is fairly good.
Like Davey's Blackbird, the Sprint’s biggest let-down was its pathetically soft suspension. Upgrading with an Ohlins shock and reworking the front end forks of the bike ensured a completely
ride. The wallowing was gone replaced by a bike that is
stable and a pleasure to ride.
The bike has great low down torque but lacks real top end speed. This can be a tad annoying when hanging onto the tails of a Blackbird in full flight! The bike though has served me well with a couple of South Island tours and countless trouble-free miles. With a range of 320kms (Fully loaded two up) she can cover a good distance between fills. She is starting to blow a bit of smoke after 60,000 km. The bike certainly needs to be ridden high up in the rev range to get a decent response out of corners.
I am beginning to get to the stage where a bit more top end power would be nice, and shifting to an inline four like the Connie, ZX14, or K1300s appeals. Certainly, being behind the likes of the Blackbird and Andy's BMW1200R, the Sprint cannot compete for any straight line speed. These bikes just pull away even if I am at full throttle and the triple is screaming.
Richard, 2007 BMW R1200 GS
As a kid I grew up around bikes. My dad didn’t have a car but owned a BSA 650 twin which I always helped him clean and we also lived 500m from Swindon Speedway, home of legends like Barry Briggs, Martin Ashby, Phil Crump and more recently Leigh Adams. Bikes have always been in my blood and whilst I was never able to own one in my teens I always hooned around on my mates 50’s and scooters. I eventually got a full license in the UK to allow me to buy a bike for commuting to work and avoid the congestion which also gave me the experience of riding on snow and ice..... stuff that again!
After moving to NZ, I purchased my first big bike, a 2002 Honda VTR Firestorm, which was eventually my “hack” commuting bike. I went through some other big twins over a short time whilst looking for a second “sports twin” and settled on a Ducati 999. I even had a Harley for a while, which I still have nightmares over! Access to big bikes without the insurance and theft issues that the UK has made me like a kid in a candy store and much money has passed over to dealers along the way. Thankfully I have an understanding wife.
I eventually purchased the R1200GS in December 2006 with it being an 07 model. I had long admired this bike since its upgrade from the 1100/1150 generation and read other riders reports with envy. It was getting good press all over the world and I felt a need for change from my current bikes with this bike seeming to be a good fit for the riding I wanted to do. I finally took the plunge after selling my Ducati 999 and trading my Firestorm, both of which were great bikes in their own way but were getting me too close to the edge on NZ roads (meaning I was riding too fast!!).
The main point for me purchasing this model year rather than earlier ones was BMW’s adoption of “normal” brakes rather than the servo-brakes of previous generations which I found too sharp and also inoperable without the ignition on. I had the idea that this bike would slow me down and also allow me to see some of NZ’s dirt roads and ride off the beaten track as it were. I have managed to do both (though Geoff would argue that I still ride “vigorously”!) and have enjoyed every moment of ownership. My wife often accompanies me on rides and is very happy and comfortable as a pillion (certainly more so than other bikes I have owned!!).
To sum this bike up, and to coin a phrase from a paint advert, it does everything it says on the tin! This bike for me has been, and still is, pretty much perfect. Comfortable, able to cover long distances, reliable and able to cope with all the vagaries of NZ’s back-roads with excellent and consistent handling. A switch to BMW’s telelever front end and shaft drive is a jump too far for some motorcycling purists but simply put they are awesome and do not compromise power delivery and handling as the detractors will have you believe. I have not had issues with the rear diff that some GS owners have and apart from a couple of recall issues it has performed perfectly.
I have ridden off-road, which I know some owners don’t do, and have so far clocked up 60,000km, half of which were in the first 2 years of ownership with at least 5-10,000km on dirt roads. Being able to ride up to 400km on a tank is very useful if exploring further away from civilization and is a major improvement from my old Firestorm which had me sweating after 150km! It carries luggage and pillion well, without upsetting performance, and will take on any ride put in front of it.
Would I change it? I have considered the GS upgrade models that have come on to the market over the last few years with their electronically adjustable suspension and revised 4-valve HP2 cylinder heads etc., but none have impressed me enough to part with the cash. I have also considered other bikes, especially the newer Multistrada, but again the cost to change does not buy me a truly better bike. As I also have a GSXR1000 for track days I get my high speed fixes in relative safety so don’t feel the need to have a really fast bike for the road any more. At some point it will feel really old and dated and certainly the engine and gearbox are not as smooth as newer models, but I cannot foresee when this time will come just yet. It is the best bike I have owned, and whilst not the best I have ridden – the BMW S1000RR will take that title – it does all I want it to and you can’t really ask for much more.
For perspective, here are the bikes I have owned:Kawasaki ER5, Suzuki SV650 (naked model) – UK. 2002 Honda VTR Firestorm, 2003 Ducati 999, 2003 Aprilia RSV Mille R, 2003 Harley Davidson V-Rod (please forgive me!) – NZ (you can see I like big twins!!) BMW R1200GS and 2008 Suzuki GSXR1000 – still own.
Dave, Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
I bought my Blackbird (CBR1100XX) in 2004 when I moved to NZ. Main reasons for buying: legendary build quality, reliability, on-tap power, two-up potential and mainly, as my main form of transport to and from work, weather protection. After 9 years I can say, hand on heart, that she has fulfilled the original wish list. Downsides; she’s a lardy old girl – over 230 kg fully gassed-up and, with a high CoG, virtually impossible to pick-up if you drop her! I’ve had a couple of instances of the slow-speed drop and when I was fitter, was able to pick her up but no more. John Baker have been excellent with their insurance back-ups so no major dramas (except a $750 excess ;-( I haven’t done any structural mods just added a few peripherals like a rear hugger, Scottoiler, heated grips, Ventura rack. All have performed exemplary but recently the Scottoiler has started playing-up so time to get the degreaser out (again) and investigate. After 76,000km, the suspension is getting a bit tired so I’ve put a new shock on my shopping list. Penske likely as they seem quite popular for Blackbirds.
Having started my biking career on a Puch Maxi !! I worked my way up from a 125 to a 250 to a couple of 600s (I loved my ZZR600), a 955i Daytona which handled on the road like it was on rails and finally the Blackbird. Before the Old Firm tiki tour I fitted new Michelin Pilot Road 2 front and back, after having Avon Storms. Compared with the Storms, which were a revelation when first introduced but a bit dated now, the Michelins are great in all aspects although I haven’t tried them in the wet yet (Yippee!). After the dry tiki tour of around 1,000 km for me they feel even better, real sticky stuff. No dramas on the tour even when I misjudged a couple of corners and had to tighten my line a bit. The suspension even feels better now! Other good things about a ‘bird – pick the right gear for a particular set of corners and you can hold onto it for miles and minimise braking to as the engine braking is pretty good and predictable. Overall view – there are other bikes that I’ve owned that would’ve handled bits of the tiki tour better than the ‘bird but none that would have been as versatile overall. She definitely prefers fast sweepers to 25kph sharpies but then she is a bit of a bus (albeit a 280 km/hr bus) so no great surprises there.
Post weekend up-date – I had a Scottoiler Lube Tube since day one, and the problems I had were due to a tiny puncture in this little baby. Now taken off and the system now works fine. I’m going to get another Lube Tube as when they work they deliver 4x the capacity of the standard set-up so less maintenance. I’m also considering re-siting the main unit and the lube tube as the place AMPS (the dealers) put the main unit requires the rear fairing, grab rail and Ventura rack to come-off. Not a drama but not convenient either. My memorable photo attached, which sums up the weekend for me “Bazinga – out of the blue”.
Dave's "Bazinga" moment on the "Old Firm" tour!
Oh, and remember the great Eddie and the Hot Rods anthem ‘Do anything you wanna do’…..!!!!
Andy, 2006 BMW K1200R
Every rider I have ever met goes through an evolutionary process with respect to their riding, the types of bike they prefer and I am no exception. I have been riding since I was 8 years old, starting on a Briggs and Stratton-powered mini bike and a procession of chook chasers until I was around 18. What really hooked me was a short spin up the road as pillion on the neighbour’s new CB900….what a blast. I was ten years old. As my riding improved during my late teens, I started looking at road bikes. Even big thumpers like my XR600R were becoming a bit tiresome as my range and distances covered increased. I made the shift when I moved from Hawke Bay to Auckland for work. All of a sudden I didn’t have access to miles of off-road options, rather motorways and city streets for my daily commute.
Fast forward and 3 bikes really stand out for me.
1988 CBR1000F, fast and reliable. My daily commuter for years. I had the 750 for 12 months prior and the thou just buried it. The only problem I encountered with this bike was keeping below the national speed limit, everywhere.
2002 Honda X11 (aka Naked Blackbird CB1100SF) really kicked off my fetish for naked muscle bikes. Incidentally, the lead up to buying this bike is where I met Geoff searching for information around the CBR1100. I had the notion I wanted to ride naked, be at one with the elements and to slow down. Clearly the Blackbird was an exception; I had fallen in love with them when I spotted an early model while on Business in Melbourne a few years prior.
The X11 was not ideal as standard, pretty good but too much bike for the suspension. Ohlins and a PC3 custom mapped for carbon cans really set this bike alive. Challenging in the twisties and brutal acceleration made the X a serious proposition for long term ownership until some demented German decided north of 160bhp for a naked bike is where the action is….and I agree!
2006 BMW K1200R…OMG !!!! Titanium race can that shoots blue flames on the over-run in failing light, enough grunt to keep up with pretty much anything and a long wheelbase to stick it all down with. Comfortable, fast and industrial looks combined with some pretty trick electrics and high quality finish really ticks all of my boxes. It’s not too shabby in the tight stuff either and stops like instantly…just awesome. I love the fact that I have only ever seen a handful on the road, like the X11 before and I feel a bit unique in a seemingly endless parade of sameness that a lot of modern bikes share. Have done 56,000 km now. Maybe that’s just me and how I feel about bikes now. In fact the only bike I would replace it with is another one or the K1300S which also appeals to my vanity.
Problems….I’ve had a few…more than one….a few to mention:
Final drive. Replaced at 26Ks. Cost outrageous. Noted weak point of 2006 and earlier bikes. Remedied in 2007 to present. BMW helped out with the bill and so they should.
Annoying brake squeal. It’s just annoying but intermittent and vastly improved with after-market pads. Open road speeds it’s a non-issue. More of a satisfying hiss.
Potentiometer….say what??…exactly…fixed. 400 bucks for about 15 dollars’ worth of parts.
Upgraded cam chain tensioner remedied a cam chain rattle on start-up, I had this on the X11 as well.
ABS Servo Brakes, legend tells that when these crap out so will my bank balance, likewise clutch and transmission.
The internet gives me demons…no problems to date and all of these “features” were ironed out in subsequent models.
All in all I love this bike, enough to stick with it for a while yet
Geoff, 2009 Triumph Street Triple
I’m in my mid-60’s and 2013 marks 50 years of owning bikes! Prior to buying the Triple in 2009, I owned a Honda Blackbird for 8 years which I still consider to be the best all-round bike I’ve ever owned for the type of riding I did at the time. At 5’8” tall the ‘bird was always a bit tall and heavy for me, especially after raising the ride height to quicken the steering. A low speed spill in 2008 made me reconsider the type of motorcycle I wanted to ride as I aged. Having good performance was paramount, especially riding with my mates who have big capacity machines. Light weight, moderate seat height and comfort were increasingly important. After a substantial evaluation of several machines, the Street Triple was purchased. Incidentally, it was riding Andy's Honda X11 and enjoying it immensely which almost certainly triggered an interest in naked bikes.
Regular readers will have seen the long term ownership post on the blog and also the comparison with the Blackbird, but in short; I don’t regret owning the Triple for a minute! It’s been utterly reliable and whilst the build quality isn’t quite as good as the Blackbird, it’s still acceptable. It’s a fast mother with around 230 km/hr at the top end but it’s the flat torque curve which really makes it a sensational road bike. Rapid overtakes in any gear are a cornerstone of making real progress on the road. Handling is fantastic and whilst my mates can pull away down long straights, they’ll tell you that I can make up for it in the twisties. Range is important as I ride long distances. It has a range of around 270 km to a tank on a normal run and towards 300 km if you’re really light-handed. It’s now done over 30,000 km and I’ll probably upgrade the suspension before it reaches 40,000 km. Surprisingly, power to weight ratio is only a little less than the Blackbird so it’s really only when aerodynamic drag comes into play at higher speeds that it starts to significantly lose out.
And to sum up.......
Well, there you have an excellent set of comments from my cherished riding partners. Despite the varying reasons for their choices, there are some interesting similarities which are worth mentioning.
Sincere thanks to Davey, Rog, Richard, Dave and Andy for their interesting and well-penned thoughts. Hope that everyone else has enjoyed the post.