Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Has the horse bolted on the Hyper?

The Australian Open has been won, or lost, depending on which player you support, I've put another 1,500kms on the clock of the Hyper and the Australian public holiday has been and gone once again - it can only mean one thing; yet another ADR (Australia Day Ride) has come to an end. 'Our lot' have been doing for them for the past seven years now and what started as a six man ride has swollen to as many as 16 and has taken in over 10,000kms of some of the best roads in Victoria and Tasmania. This year was the second time I have taken the Ducati Hypermotard and I have some interesting things to think over on my return this year. Read on.

I love my Hyper, don't get me wrong, it's such a fun bike to ride and even though it has hooligan and crazytown stamped all over it can actually double up as a fairly comfortable long distance bike. Don't laugh - I'm serious. All you really need to do to make the Hyper a semi-convincing comfortable proposition is buy yourself a Sargent Seat, not once in three days and just over 1,500kms travelled did I ponder my aching derrière. The Sargent is easily the best seat you can get for riding anything over 200kms in day, I swear by it. But then when I start to think about the other things that make touring or any sort of long distance travel practical, like being able to do over 200kms without stopping at a petrol station, or the effort it takes to ride one for 10 hours straight, I start to see the limitations of the little Hyper.

Got a bit drenched by a spectacular lightning storm as we approached Corryong for the night


Touring you really need some sort of luggage, and that took some figuring out but I finally have it nailed. A DP luggage rack on the back replacing the tail piece and a set of Wolfman Enduro saddlebags slung over the rear fenders do the job absolutely perfectly. I can carry everything that I need including a change of clothes, wets,  an assortment of electrical crap (techno boy to the rescue) water, maps, cap, basic tools (shaddup Steve) and of course phones, wallets and general crap. It could be better capacity wise but I manage.

 So why have I got stuff to think about if all of these things are only marginal bumps in the road to being a great all-round bike? Well it's kinda bit complicated but it goes something like this. Aside from the 200km fuel range, it's actually as rough as guts to ride at the speed limit over, the mirrors are completely useless, the complete lack of any sort of protection from the elements (wind blast is ridiculous), it's loud as hell (earplugs are a must) and I've come to realise it's a really physically tiring bike to ride. In this world where things like mortgages, taxes and bills mean I'm pretty much limited to the one bike and I started to ask myself for the first time after this ADR - is the Hyper actually the right bike to have if I can only have one? What happened? To start with I rode a Triumph Speed Triple 1050R for a squirt on day three (thanks Racin' Mason!) and then got back on the Hyper and realised just how friggen rugged and rudimentary the thing is.

Now that's not to say that I loved everything about the Speed Triple either but I had something of an epiphany at that point. Every time I buy a new bike it takes something special for me to know that I will buy one. It happened when I bough the Buell; completely taken by the power & torque of the lumpy Sportster 1200 engine in that big ugly naked SM frame, the feeling of control the wide bars gave me and just how agile a massive thing like the XB12X Ulysses actually was.

That thing happened and I had to get one. Four years later the fun wore off, Buell went belly up after I rode the Hyper and fell in love. I remember thinking, wow man the Buell feels so agricultural and rough as guts compared to the Hyper, how did I ever manage to ride it every day for so long? That thing happened and I had to get one. The Buell was loud (louder than said Hyper) angry, ugly, different and had loads of attitude but it kept me happy. Then I fell briefly or the litre sportsbike for  a very short period which ended in the 'incident that shall not be named' and I came to realise that my real passion for motorcycling is wedged firmly in the 'land of torque' and is only be satiated by the grunt of big twins. So following a typical boys dream one day to own a Ducati the Hyper found its way into my life. But now a full year on and after a ride on a brand new shiny 1050R Triple, getting back on the Hyper I am reminded of that feeling I earned over time with the Buell.

Now the Hyper feels angry, it has a nasty attitude and wants to be throttled, strangled, pinned WOT at every moment of every day, pushed over into every corner and popped up on the back wheel at every set of traffic lights (not that I can do all of that). It's 100% a hooligan bike and you would never use the words versatile or practical in the same sentence as Hypermotard (but we all knew that anyway right?) and it takes a lot out of me physically to ride it 'normally' for long periods of time. It is a very physical bike to work with out in the elements getting belted by the wind and rain, fun but physical. Maybe I'm just getting old and a bit piss weak, but I sure as hell come away from three days riding pretty knackered.

I did find a grey hair in my poor excuse for facial hair upon my return...I remember having the Multistrada for a week thanks to the boys at Ducati City and I took some long rides on that and distinctly remember coming back feeling literally no fatigue at all. It takes a significant less out of you to ride a Multi over long distance than it does a Hyper (pretty lame epiphany hey). Same thing when I belted around Scotland on a (blugh) BMW GS1200 for a week - ride all day and get off fresh as the daisies. A nice big screen and some protection from the elements make a big difference to  how physically tiring riding can be. Of course the the Speed Triple is a completely different bike, somewhere in between a thumpy twin and a litre sportsbike with it's three pot four valve per cylinder donk, but it was a good different, and oh so smoooooth. Of course then there were things like a decent dash with gauges that are easy to read, lots of instrumentation that could be useful like a fuel gauge, oh and speaking of fuel an 18 litre tank that would be handy too. Comfortable, powerful, angry, capable, 18l tank, luggage ready, it's a lot of bike with a decent wallop of fun-factor that would be exciting to live with I'm sure. Still belted about by the elements (marginally less than the Hyper but don't kid yourself) but more versatile and stacks more comfortable.

 It kick started a conversation with myself about what I get out of my bike more than sheer grin factor, and hopping back on the Hyper straight after riding the Speed Triple I realised I was riding nothing more than a massive Italian version of my beloved teenage years on a Suzuki ER-185 , kidding myself that I really enjoy long distance riding on it. If money was free I'd be happy as ever to have it sit in my garage for ever, take it out for the odd spurt on short jaunts and the odd commute, but if I am going to be doing bigger rides and really enjoying being able to tour further away from me than the nearest BP, I started thinking about 'what next'.

 This is of course all just 'stuff' that went through my mind as I took in some of Australia's best roads with a good bunch of people and it doesn't mean the Hypers out the door by any means; I'm in no position to be changing bikes in the foreseeable future, and with most of the annual plans already done and dusted including ADR, it's back to the grind for the right now. Still gotta build a shed that will hold two bikes :) I'll bang out (and on) a proper ride report later on (when i'm not so tired hehehe), until then stay upright folks.

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