11 October 2012

Bikes and Taste

It's interesting how important looks are for some people - like me. I love the looks of my car. I like the looks of my Tiger. I loved the looks of my GS (but I actually think it's not a pretty bike - I just loved the look). Now there are some bikes on the market that are super interesting for someone like me who likes upright tourers for mainly bad roads.

First and foremost the new water cooled GS:

2013 R1200GS

I think the side view looks really good. Nice lines, good proportions, not the best paint job ever, but okay. Nice optical integration of technical features like shaft, exhaust, boxer engine, and the hidden away water coolers (though it's likely not really water in there). The tank follows a nice line and if it's at all like the 2010 model it won't feel "fat" as soon as you sit on it like for example the Tiger Explorer does.

I'm not certain about the new beak design though:

2013 R1200GS

The beak looks a little bit like a "Spork". It might be okay in person, or I might get used to it, but the initial reaction was that this is the single completely out of line thing on this bike. Maybe along with the weird "handles" on the sides under the windshield. It's kind of weird looking. Wrong, out of place. Whatever. Will have to see it in person.

The new GS comes with semi-active suspension which adjusts compression and rebound damping on the fly while you're riding. This is pretty awesome for tourers like me who like a stable ride but still want it comfortable and swallowing the little (and big) bumps along the way. The engine is now partially water cooled, not really, but in crucial areas, has 125HP (+15HP), the exhaust and shaft switched sides, and a lot of small other changes.

I'll have to test ride one when they come to the dealers next year.

Another very interesting bike is the 2013 Ducati Multistrada - also with the same Sachs semi-active suspension, although with a conventional fork in the front instead of BMW's Telelever. The 2010 Multi was already a superb bike in the suspension department, so it will be interesting to see how this model year works out.

Engine wise, Ducati has worked on the areas a rider like me is interested in: low speed manners. A second spark plug, different fuel injection path, different fueling, and other modifications are there to make it more rideable at low engine speeds. A very welcome addition to a very good looking bike.

2013 Multistrada 1200 S Touring

The Multi is one of those bikes I'd love to love, but the 2010 model I tested fell short in many areas that are very important to me. Nevertheless, I will test ride the 2013 model to find out how it feels as Ducati has now addressed every single point on my list of things I didn't like. It still has chain final drive, is a Ducati, and it is freaking expensive, even compared to the Bavarian bikes. But they have addressed all the things I mentioned in an earlier post here.

2013 Multistrada S Touring

Overall, optically a very good looking bike, clearly Italian, the "beak" is again something to get used to, but by far not as bad as the GS above and it really doesn't look out of place.

Now, seeing these two bikes, I was really hesitant to put the next two photos up here. It's the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000. For model year 2014 the Japanese have worked hard to re-define the definition of "ugly":

New Suzuki V-Strom DL1000

New Suzuki V-Strom DL1000

I certainly hope that this is just a concept bike. It redefines what I had as a picture in my head for the word "fugly". The lines of the design are hilariously out of anything that would make sense, nothing flows the right way, the color combination looks like random picks and the "beak" + bulging lights combination is breathtaking - in the worst possible way. Maybe I have to see this one in person, too, but I fear my impression will be even worse than from the photos.

Wow. I am not surprised that the Japanese manufacturers struggle so hard in this day and age. I might sound harsh here, but really, this is the ugliest motorcycle I have seen in a very, very long time. Who is the supposed customer base? Blind people? Then good luck selling them motorcycles. If Japan doesn't import some better designers soon, I fear they'll have even more trouble selling motorcycles in the Western hemisphere.

Now to finish this topic and rant with a truly classic good looking bike, here is one of my all time favorites:

2012 R1200R

Congratulations to Bob from here for his "new to him" blue R1200R. Beautiful bike! Can't wait for him to write more about how he likes it and how it works for him.


  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say. I never found adventure bikes to be in any way, shape or form 'pretty' in a conventional sence, that is before I spotted the new Stelvio. The only thing that doesn't fit are the round lights.

    The new Beemer beak already comes with a farkle to cover up the broken spork look.

    Are you shopping again?

    1. Taste is personal, absolutely. Nevertheless, I think that most people are receptive to fitting, classic lines, well placed accents and colors, and a generally well balanced appearance. I have not seen many bikes from Far East recently (last 10 years) that fit these criteria. The Super Tenere is actually quite nice, or the FJR1300A or some other bikes, but it's less and less and less. Maybe it's also me becoming less tolerant for designs that I consider unfinished, uninspired, unbalanced, and ugly.

      No, I'm not really shopping. Very happy with the Tiger right now. But I keep my eyes open for things worth looking at next year when I'm back on my feet. Just for the fun of test rides. What actually started to drive this post was the ugliness of the Suzuki, not the looks of the other bikes.

      In my opinion, the big Japanese manufacturers have completely lost their taste. Or they're building for a taste that is so far off from mine that I can't even imagine how anybody could find that "design" appealing. But hey, some people bought the Fiat Multipla ... so you never know.

  2. Guido:

    Up until now I have always considered function over form, plus reliability and the Vstrom is most capable and reliable after you install a couple of farkles. My strom has the Richland Rich fork brace which really helped in the wind, plus the Madstadt windshield bracket. I also installed the ATRE-GPI. The styling doesn't bother me as I think of it as a Jeep

    I decided that I would never go off-road, or gravel so I started looking at road bikes that were more highway capable and lighter. I tried the GS, Tiger XC, Expedition, Tenere among others and they all felt a bit high for me. I wanted something less common with more style and I had been admiring the R1200R for a couple of years now. It has that classic look but I wasn't prepared to purchase a new one, for the new price. I lucked out with the rare Biaritz Blue, low mileage with most options.

    I wanted to take it on a short trip next week if the weather holds then I will be in a better position to offer an option but when I rode my Vstrom I can say that the 'Strom needs better brakes. So far I have installed the OEM topcase/side case bracket, installed a Givi 47L Blade topcase, Michelin Pilot Road 2's, and some RAM mounts for GPS and GoProHD.

    I just noticed your comment "back on your feet", did you have a mishap ? or something at work ? Hope things get back to normal for next riding season.

    So far I am loving my "R"

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My YouTube

    1. I actually didn't find the older V-Stroms really ugly. Utilitarian, a little bit on the ugly side, but functional, although a little top heavy. Andrea had one for a while and we both actually liked the look. I wouldn't call it pretty, but I would also not call the GS pretty.

      Regarding back on my feet: I'll write more about that in probably a week or so when I actually know how everything is.

  3. Maybe taste but to my eye, the only one that looks "off" is the Multistrada. From the front quarter it looks very nice but from the side it looks too short for its height. Maybe the photo is distorted or something. The front wheel looks too small...

    All of the DS bikes seem to have the same look.

    1. The Multi is shorter and smaller than the others. And it has a 17" front wheel, compared to the 19" wheels of most of the other DS bikes.

      So yeah - it's all about taste.

  4. Wow, in comparison - what was Suzuki thinking with designing the 1000?

    I did chuckle at the spork comment on the BMW beak - I think you hit that on the nose - er, I mean beak.