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Happy Customers… and the not happy customer…

From Ben Purcell:

“Many thanks for the assessment and the training last night. Even the short time you have spent with me has improved my confidence. And turning into side roads around here, I was practicing the counter balancing which is coming on and surprising effective.”

From Mike:

“I just thought I drop a line to thank you for the article on the Honda 125 VARADERO I found it very useful.”

Meanwhile, I also got a mail from Robin. He didn’t like my Africa Twin write up.

“I realise this email is received well after the event, but I just read your “review” of the XRV750 Africa Twin and can conclude only one thing…that your bloke just didn’t like it, because he doesn’t like bikes of that kind.

“To mention an XRV and a GS500, a GPz anything or any kind of VFR is just plain ignorant; almost like you didn’t even ride the bike in order to review it. Why even MENTION a Fireblade in the same review??

“Comparing these machines is like comparing apples and oranges.

“I took my DAS (not with you, thankfully) on a GS500 from being a Vespa rider, and I was perfectly happy to be on it, even though I’m quite tall and this bike was perhaps a little under sized for me. But it didn’t make me hate it… and in fact as soon as I passed my test, I searched around and bought myself an Africa Twin, because it’s it’s a multi-role bike – ‘a bike looking for a role’ – which will take on ANY role capably.

It doesn’t have to be fast, because that isn’t the point. It’s designed to go to a multitude of places.. I regularly ride mine into the City of London, through the hideous traffic, and ok it takes a bit of muscle to maneouvre it it in the tightest spots but nothing terrifying. But to get there, I have to do the motorway, A-roads and twisty B-roads, and it copes fine with ALL of them – that’s the point!! On a GPz you wouldn’t go into London because getting through the traffic whilst laying over it is a joke and a pain in the back.

You can fit plenty of luggage on an XRV, same as you can on a BMW, or a Super Tenere (where was that in your “review”?) but you have to buy it, same as any bike. No bike has a luggage rack the size of a pallette as standard. I concur that the tank is too strangely shaped for a tank bag but you can get them, if you look.

You said “A starter bike for a recently qualified rider? Not really”. Rubbish. As mentioned, I bought my XRV a week after passing, having never ridden anything bigger than the GS500, and rode it home from Coventry to Hertfordshire as my first ride. At no time was I in the least bit intimidated; it gave me Honda reliability, and the build-quality inspired me immediately. Far from your verdict, this is a GREAT bike for a new passer to jump on to. You contradicted yourself terribly…in one sentence you said “the high seat allows you to see over cars” which for new passers is a fantastic bonus, in the next paragraph (regarding being a newbie’s bike” you said “..recently qualified rider? Not really, with a seat somewhere near the stratosphere”!!! Make your mind up, either having a high position is a good thing or a bad thing, it can’t be both.

“I’m 6’4 and weigh in at a trim 19 stone. This bike propels me to 100mph and beyond with ease, and with a pillion if I choose (including the heavily-pregant girlfriend who fitted on the “pretty short ” seat quite comfortably) but I choose NOT because this bike isn’t designed with that in mind. It’s completely obviously a long-legged, load carrying, go-many-places touring machine which doesn’t have to rev it’s guts out to get up hills or scream it’s head off to make distance on motorways. Furthermore, it would go places – especially off-road but not necessarily – that anything you’ve mentioned would never dream of going.

“In a nutshell, yes this bike has shortcomings in certain scenarios but what is plainly obvious from your your review – which is insulting and unnecessarily off-putting and blatantly incorrect, to the many people who get lots of pleasure out of an XRV, and even more so to the sort of people who would really benefit from a bike like this – is that, quite simply, you just didn’t like this bike. You obviously prefer bikes of a different type and without considering it fairly, choose to air your negative views on a page where people can’t even respond. If you want an objective, balanced review (with positive and negative points but represented PROPERLY) I’d be happy to write one.

“Thanks for reading.”

…and breathe!

Clearly I didn’t hit the spot with Robin! So I wrote back with what I felt explained the basis for the tests:

“Please refer to the explanation of the context of the tests, which is found on the index page for the bike tests (and copied below):

“I’ve come in for some criticism in letters (mostly to be found on the letters pages) when I have upset owners by not being so complimentary about their pride and joy.

So before you write and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’ve commented on your bike, let me point out a few things.

I’m writing for UK riders. I’m happy for owners of machines outside the UK to comment, but bear that in mind. The pages are also aimed at less-experienced riders, who may well not be able to ride around problems a more experienced rider probably wouldn’t notice after 10 minutes in the saddle.

These tests are not 10,000 mile owner experiences and neither are they meant to be, but to point up what any rider new to the machine might notice.

These are my OWN experiences – I’ve personally tested or ridden virtually all the models listed opposite in the since I set up these pages on the site, except where a couple of the tests have been provided by friends. With a couple of exceptions which are also noted, I’ve had the bike for at least a day, often more and I’ve usually ridden it in a range of conditions including country and in-town riding.

For some of the bikes, I’ve owned them personally and done many, many miles over a number of years, and may have ridden more than one machine of the type. For example, my experience of the GS500 runs to over 200,000 miles and over half a dozen examples of the machine. Similarly I’ve ridden four different Diversions and five different CB500s, half a dozen ER-5s, two Hayabusas, four Super Fours, three Bandit 600s and two VFR800s and one VFR750.

Also bear in mind my background. I’m a road rider – so telling me that I’m obviously no good at riding off-road when I comment on my experiences on a dual sport is a fair criticism – but it’s one that would apply to 90% of riders who might be considering a dual-sport machine. Likewise I’m not a racer or a track day expert.

Like any rider I have my own particular likes and dislikes based on over 30 years of riding everything from BSA Bantams to the latest sports bikes. If I don’t like a particular machine, then I’ll tell you that. It doesn’t mean you won’t get on it and instantly fall in love.

And I only write what I see and experience on the machine I’m riding. If I ride a high mileage CB500 and tell you that it’s a bit asthmatic and rusty as heck, and that Honda build quality on this model is a myth, it doesn’t mean that your immaculate, well cared for, owned from new and low mileage model is not a better example – but it might give you an idea what to expect if you do buy an old cluncker!”

That’s on the index page to put the tests in perspective. It answers virtually all your comments.

Couple of other points. You’ll note that I’ve inserted critical comments and corrections about some of the tests up on the webpages where people have pointed out that I have made mistakes of a factual basis. So there IS a right to reply and I do take note of what’s said.

The bike in question happens to belong to a mate of mine, who’s owned it for 5 or 6 years now, loves it to bits but ISN’T mortally offended by my comments. Not infrequently we swap bikes, so I’ve put a reasonable number of miles on it, on different roads and in different condtions. As I’ve pointed out, I actually like it. And I’ve pointed out it’s many good points – you’ve chosen not to notice that. I wrote “I did ignore the one person who might buy a XRV – someone who just wants something that is different and a bit of fun – for all its faults the XVR Africa Twin is a lot of fun to ride”.

As for apples and oranges? What’s wrong with comparing them?

>I’m 6’4 and weigh in at a trim 19 stone.

And most people don’t. And final point… >I took my DAS (not with you, thankfully)

Exactly who is accusing whom of being closed minded? [Quite frankly I was a bit ticked off by that statement linking my objectivity as an instructor with my opinion of a motorcycle.]

Back came another mail:

“Your cut-and-paste explanation means nothing and answers none of the criticsms I levelled. Your review was designed purely to put people off buying an XRV, which it shouldn’t be. It should be aimed at introducing people to a product’s good and bad points. All you effectively said was ‘this bike is good at nothing, so don’t bother looking at it whether you’re a novice or experienced. And I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been riding bikes longer than you.’

“Close-minded? No. I said ‘thankfully not you’ because if the total of the advice an instructor can give to their DAS pupils is which bike they should or shouldn’t use because their opinion, a bike they once rode if for a few hours, wasn’t their cup of tea. then I’m happy I went elsewhere.”

Hmmm… I thought I’d actually covered most of Robin’s issues. I didn’t address them all because the answers to some are pretty obvious. For instance you can get a Baglux tankbag and there are various hump-backed magnetic tank bags that will suit that bike, but if you’ve already got a standard kind of tankbag, they won’t fit. Likewise the luggage rack, he’s correct that you’ll have to spend to fit any worthwhile kind of luggage system to virtually any bike – but I still can’t see the point in fitting a rack that’s too small and awkward for anything really useful. I don’t know whether Robin has ridden a GPz500, a model that was still current at the time, but it’s hardly a bike that you have to lay over as he suggests – it’s actually an upright riding position and it was a neat little commuter – light and easy to ride. I know, I had one. Never mind. I had another try.

“You’re still not reading what I wrote, are you? And for someone who accuses me of failing to answer your criticisms, you didn’t comment of the issue of your height vs that of the average rider. How is a 5’6″ rider going to cope with the bike? How about a 5’3” newbie female? Riders make up a broad church.

“Neither did I say it’s “good at nothing”. I said it’s “not PARTICULARLY good” – except being a “lot of fun” alternative. And I stick by that. There are better specialist tourers, better specialist country lane blasters, better specialist commuters… hence the apples and orange comparisons. And there are better all-rounders too.

“I’m not arguing that you’ve put more miles on your bike than I have done on Nick’s, but why is my experience of other machinery NOT relevant? Why isn’t it relevant that I’ve been riding longer than you? How many dual sports have you actually ridden? I’ve not ridden them all, but I’ve had experience of getting on for a dozen different models which vary from extremely capable off-roaders that flatter my very limited dirt skills to styling exercises that I wouldn’t want even want to park off tarmac – with that experience I can place the Africa Twin in that continuum. Likewise you say you are happy two up. Very good, and I’m happy you’re happy. But I’d rather take a pillion on a bike with more room – and I’ve tried a few of those too. I’ve also ridden a few bikes that have far worse pillion accomodation – the Yamaha FZ600 springs to mind. And so on and so forth for all the other jobs the A/T can do.

“And just how many miles are necessary to form an opinion of a bike?

“Something like poor throttle response can be detected in a couple of hundred yards, feeble brakes the first time you stop again!! You don’t even have to engage first gear to decide whether the switch gear is easy to use or the clocks can’t be seen in bright sunlight. Do you honestly think that the road tests you read in magazines are based on more than a few hundred miles of riding? Many are less than that.

“It’s arguable that the more you ride a machine, far from being objective about a machine, the more you accept its faults and foibles.

“My GSXR folds you double. It has awful throttle response with a flat spot like Death Valley between 3 and 5000 rpm, and it steers as though the front wheel is in treacle. It’s overweight, the finish is only average, the mix of fasteners on the fairing is annoying in the extreme and access to simple service items like plugs is tortuous. But for some indefinable reason, I love it to bits. Every time I think I ought to get rid of it, I think “no I’ll keep it another year”. But I try to be objective about its faults if someone asks me.

“Likewise I’d love a Guzzi in the garage – in many ways they are a complete pain to ride, but they suffer the kind of foibles I’d accept for the pleasure of that thudding great motor.

“But at the end of the day, you’re writing YOUR opinion to which you are entitled and I’m not going to argue with that. But I have MY opinion to which I’m equally entitled. There’s nothing to stop you posting your experiences up on the web – that’s what it’s all about. “

>Close-minded? No. I said ‘thankfully not you’ because if the total of the advice an instructor can give to their DAS pupils is which bike they should or shouldn’t use because their opinion, a bike they once rode if for a few hours, wasn’t their cup of tea. then I’m happy I went elsewhere. “Well, you’re certainly making assumptions about quite a few things here… not least what advice I give on DAS courses… As for your assumption about how much I’ve ridden Nick’s… I can tell you for a fact that it’s more than “once” and it’s more than for “a few hours” and it’s over a good mix of roads in a bunch of different weather conditions. Whether or not you care to believe that is of course up to you.”

Anyway, Robin’s had his “right to respond” that he claimed I didn’t give readers!

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