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Yamaha SCR950 Review: ‘A Scrambler? Maybe not, but it’s the most fun I’ve had all year!’

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The first custom bike I built was a 1966 Honda CL77 Scrambler. Yup, Scrambler, that’s what it was actually called half a century ago, and Honda were a decade late to the desert sledding party even then.

I restored mine, (see here) fitted trials tyres, alloy mudguards and exhibited it at the 2nd Bike Shed show. People still wax lyrical about the bike as if I’m some sort of design genius, but in reality I didn’t really do a huge amount. It took ages but most of the bike is still bone stock. I just looked at old pictures of Bud Ekins and Bill Robertson Jr doing the Baja 1000 reconnaissance run in 1962 and began to daydream.

The scrambler moniker has already been toted by nearly all the other manufacturers so Yamaha opted for SCR950 to name the new version of their XV950 (Bolt if you’re American).

Yamaha aren’t suggesting customers are stupid enough to be hoodwinked by a word but they just needed an angle. The all-new Jacked Up XV With Knobblies doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. The company responsible for kickstarting the custom scene at manufacturer level with their Yard Build programme the thick end of a decade ago are of course totally serious with their intentions – to build good motorcycles and sell them, but there’s also a seam of fun running through the organisation and product lineup.

So what is the SCR?

Well, the motor is the same 942cc air cooled V-twin found in the XV with ceramic bores and roller rockers, pumping out 52hp and 80NM of torque. I’ve heard on the greasy grapevine that there’s another 10 horsepowers chomping at the bit behind the restrictive air filter housing and exhaust. Longer forks, with rubber gaitors, and piggyback shocks combine with a taller steel subframe to move the SCR away from its cruiser roots. The flat saddle looks the part and is aimed at allowing the rider to move around, rather than just providing a pillion perch. Pegs are shunted rearward 130mm and up 30mm for a more dynamic riding position and with weight shifted off the rider’s sitting bones comfort should be an improvement over the XV (not that I’ve ridden one, I’m just tainted by a brief encounter with a Harley 48).

Here’s the definition of scramble – to make one’s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or rough ground using one’s hand and feet.

Apart from the Tenere and dedicated off-roaders the SCR is now the only spoked-wheel product on Yamaha’s books. And they’ve not scrimped, alloy DID rims come as standard. Bridgestone’s Trailwing is in charge of keeping the whole lot upright on Tarmac, gravel and everything in-between. Bars are a braced MX type complete with Faster Sons pad and half waffle grips. The speedo is an evolution of the simple, round LCD gauge found across the Sport Heritage range, on the SCR though it’s black. Unfortunately the plug is a different fitting to the XSR or I might have tried to lift one for my JVB Super 7.

My favourite part is the classically shaped, XT500 inspired fuel tank which has been produced without a visible seam. A+ and a gold star from me, I hate seeing big budget customs roll off a bench with a crimped and spot welded example of mass production on show. The underside is really well finished and the fuel pump is integrated. I’d wager that I’ll be seeing a few non-Yamaha projects using an SCR tank once the secret is out. Standard colours are Racing Red (not something I’d usually go for but this is a nice tone) and black with a white pinstripe which looked classy.

But before anyone gets their panties in a bunch about the off-road capabilities of the SCR, or any other neo retro, new wave, authentic, heritage motorcycle with dual sport tyres, here’s the definition of scramble – to make one’s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or rough ground using one’s hand and feet.

Nowhere does that suggest that a scrambler must be capable of clearing a 60ft tabletop or navigate a gnarly enduro track. Yamaha haven’t actually called the bike a scrambler but the test route covered rough ground with a moderate gradient, and for the most part we were all attached to one of the test fleet by hands and feet.

In a bid to persuade us to say nice things Yamaha chose Sardinia for the press launch as it offered the optimum mix of road surfaces and the correct weather to test such a bike (any bike). Yamahas are the bestest bikes in the world ever, you must buy one, maybe two, immediately.

On the sweeping roads along Sardinia’s southern coast the SCR kept its promise of a comfortable, upright riding position and the torquey engine provided a characterful soundtrack.

There’s plenty of shove for a spirited ride and I did see a few decent wheelie attempts from the UK press pack but power sliding out of hairpins definitely wasn’t on the cards. The V-twin is happy to rev hard although there’s little point as short shifting and riding the torque is more relaxing. Engineers did actually do-away with rubber engine mounts in a bid to add visceral vibes.

Pegs touched Tarmac on the first corner out of the hotel and over zealous attempts to carry speed led to sparks from the thick steel mounting bracket. Shifting one’s arse on the bench seat reduced the chances of low-siding off a cliff but I’m sure that people who’ve actually saved up enough pocket money to afford an SCR won’t be riding them with quite the same reckless abandon as a bunch of hairy children on a 100km press dash.

My two-finger braking habit didn’t offer quite enough pressure for the single disc and I found myself trailing into corners a bit deeper than I’d have liked. ABS is of course fitted but I’d rather not rely on gadgets. But to be fair to the SCR it does weigh a quarter of a tonne and wasn’t designed to be ridden quite so quickly. The steering is incredibly light considering the bulk and only the smallest of tugs on the bars are required to swap from one hero blob to the other. I’d have liked a bit more steering lock, three point turns during photo shoots were easier dismounted. The clutch was lighter than expected from a litre twin and would be ideal for scything through traffic. The gearbox is a five-speeder with firm actuation required, but it’s not a patch on the Milwaukee Stamp needed to move off on a 48.

Comparing the SCR with other bikes using the scrambler pseudonym is potentially unfair

As soon as the Tarmac turned to boulder strewn, potholed tracks the SCR came into it’s element. It’s not a capable off-roader, far from it in fact, but what it delivers are smiles, I could hear giggling above the clatter of rocks on sump guards – it was a bad day to be a bumpstop! It’s heavy, the short stroke shocks struggled and the slow-pulsed ABS on the rear brake didn’t allow for mega skids but nobody cared, we were too busy having fun. Standing, sitting, trying to jump and drift, race starts – whatever we threw at the SCR it accepted the challenge graciously.

Comparing the SCR with other bikes using the scrambler pseudonym is potentially unfair, some of those models have been designed with way more emphasis given to off-road capability.

The most direct comparison I can think of is the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer, and the SCR runs dusty rings around that. The other thing to remember, especially if you’re a city dweller like me, is that huge parts of the world’s road network are still unpaved. There might not be many green lanes left in the UK but everywhere I’ve ridden in Europe has never been too far from a fire trail, track or gravelled path.

If more people diverted seriousness to the important things in life and remembered that motorcycles are supposed to be fun escapism then we’d all be better off.

If I worked in Rome I’d gladly battle traffic in the week on an SCR and hammer a white road at the weekend.

Even if you have no plans to conquer the Baja 1000, or don’t even know where it is, but want to ride around living the dream the SCR950 could be for you. Pretending never hurt anybody and if more people diverted seriousness to the important things in life and remembered that motorcycles are supposed to be fun escapism then we’d all be better off.

I’ve got an enduro bike, a motocrosser, some flattrackers, an adventure bike and my beloved classic Scrambler, but so far this year I had more fun messing around with my mates on the SCR.

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Ride Review: We’d buy a Triumph Tiger 800 XC in an instant – If we had the money!

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We often speak about riding into the ‘middle of nowhere’ – that place where we’ve lost GPS signal, there’s no bars on the mobile phone reception and there isn’t a petrol station for miles around – but it’s usually a metaphor and doesn’t really exist.

Yet somehow, Triumph found us that place for the Tiger 800 launch and we can”t wait to return.

Our ‘middle of nowhere’ for the Triumph Tiger 800 test is in and around the wasteland of lake Lalla Takerkoust in Morocco. It’s a fitting location for the smaller bike in the Tiger range that Triumph hope is to become synonymous with adventure.

What kind of adventure chosen is up to the individual of course and everyone has to decide for themselves – it could just be a ride through the centre of the city at rush hour, or a trip through the African savannah. Regardless of your pursuits, Triumph say that they now have a very clear Tiger 800 range that should offer something for everyone. But even after speaking with Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Woods it took us longer than we would like to fully comprehend the difference between the Tiger XR, XRx, XRxlrh, XRt, XCx and XCA.

For those who are of a similar mindset, the closest we could come to was this… The XR is for asphalt use and is available in a basic version (XR), the same bike but slightly more richer equipped (XRx with LED daytime running lights, handle heating, TFT color dashboard, etc) or as a luxury model (XRt with heated seat, full LED, extra driving modes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, etc).

The lrh version, or Low Ride Height, is considered a completely separate model because the engine not only receives a lower saddle, but also a lower suspension. It’s nice that Triumph takes into account a slightly shorter riders!

This logic is then extended out from the XR series to the more off-road orientated XC range. However, there isn’t a ‘basic’ XC version, just the XCx which is already reasonably well equipped and then the XCa which has all of the bells and whistles thrown at it.

Anyway, enough letters and versioning, as motorcycle journalists we get to feed our egos with only the best models, so the XRt and XCa are presented to us and the heated seats are immediately welcomed as we set off towards the Atlas Mountains.

The addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better

The first few kilometres are enough for us to determine the marked differences between this and the previous Tiger 800. Of course the most immediately visible from a rider’s view is the new colour TFT dashboard screen and handily adjustable windshield. From an aural perspective the new 800 has a narrower exhaust damper that sounds a lot deeper in low revs and roars louder as you open the throttle. It’s the perfect amplifier for that wonderful, triple engine.

The Triumph engineers will say that there are more than 200 improvements made to this new Tiger 800, but whilst the changes made may be many, the bike still feels comfortably familiar. This is no bad thing either, as the Tiger 800 was always a relatively light and fun bike that didn’t shy away from the task of tackling heavier roads.

Certainly during the first test drive on the road with the XRt it is noticeable how smoothly the three-cylinder picks up from the bottom and still pulls hard up to the red zone at 10,500 rpm. The sports mode with it’s 95hp isn’t the most potent of machines on the market, but this just means it’s a machine that we reckon everyone would be able to handle. In this respect the gearing has been tweaked too – enabling a shorter first gear that means that riders should now benefit from better control of immediate torque when compared to the previous version – especially when off-road.

Where the Tiger 800 really shines through is with it’s balance of components, comfort and riding characteristics. The wide handlebars offer a solid lever, the tank is well-formed and offers a lot of ‘grip’ and it’s interesting to note that the larger 21″ front wheel on the XCa is almost as neutral and familiar as the XR.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately

All of the Tiger 800s (with the exception of the base model XR) come with Brembo front brakes too, and these do a fantastic job of offering balanced bite in well-managed doses. And of course there is the adjustable ABS that really handles itself well in even the most treacherous of circumstances.

After a whole day of touring, we become convinced that the new Tiger 800 isn’t so much a revolution of the previous machine as opposed to a measured and balanced evolution of it. The engine was already great – it still is – and the addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better.

The next day sees us on the XCa’s equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Rally studs and playing some more on the Moroccan trails.

Even more so than on the road, it strikes us just how well balanced the XCa is and how smoothly this engine comes out to play.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately. Admittedly, it doesn’t take long before the bottom plate has claps,the soil underneath, but that’s what it’s for!

We do wonder if the plastic hand caps and tank parts would survive a slight crash just as quickly though.

After just a short ride in the sand, it dawns on us that this is the real, natural habitat for for the Tiger 800. The XRt is undoubtedly the more thoughtful option for the busy road traffic, but given a choice we would buy an XC in an instant, slip on the off-road studs and drift, slip and jump my way along any dirt I could find, powered by that sumptuous three-cylinder soundtrack.

If we had the £12,500 to spend on such a machine that is! And that’s before we’ve even added the cost of the panniers.

The Tiger 800 is a beautiful machine and the equipment is as top-level as a rider can get, but secretly we dream of a Tiger 800 XC with as little bling and glamour as possible. Forget the iPad like dashboard, the 27 rider modes, electronic aids, heated grips or Brembo brakes and give us a basic XC package for around £9,500.

Sure the ride won’t be quite as pleasurable, but then the tent we would have strapped to the back wouldn’t come with air-conditioning either and we’d be ok with that!

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm Showa fully adjustable suspension 180 mm 
Rear suspension:
  Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 170 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires: 
 100 / 90-19 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
 199-208kg, depending on model 
Seat height:
  810 – 830 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Silver Ice, Crystal White, Matt Cobalt Blue

 

Triumph Tiger 800 XCa
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm WP fully adjustable travel 220 mm 
Rear suspension:
  WP monoshock, fully adjustable, travel 215 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires:
 90 / 90-21 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
  199-208kg, depending on model
Seat height:
  840 – 860 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Korosi Red, Crystal White, Marine


This review was first featured on MaxxMoto. It’s translated and republished here with permission.

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Ride Review: The Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE will have you planning an Autobahn or Nürburgring trip immediately!

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What do a Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha VMax, Honda Fireblade and a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 3 tuned Harley-Davidson all have in common? They’re all now humbled at the lights by the touring Kawasaki H2SX!

SUPERCHARGER! It’s a word that belongs in the Fast & Furious movies, next to Turbo Boost, NOS Injection and Intercooler. But since the introduction of the bonkers Kawasaki H2R three years ago it’s a word that motorcyclists can no longer ignore. Now, in 2018 you can add a whole dollop of Supercharge juice to your vocabulary because the more ‘ordinary’ H2SX is here.

Let’s get real for a second, a supercharged engine sounds cool and impressive in promotional material, but at €25,000 the shine could quickly be lost towards what is essentially a motor that’s built to just go in a straight line.

Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

Now that the hype has died down a little bit though – and with the introduction of the supercharged H2SX tourer – Kawasaki are hoping to profit from bringing the same engine to a wider market and with a reduced price. Could this be the sweet spot the big green machine?

We were invited over to Estoril in Portugal to find out.

At first glance, all of the necessary elements are there… Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

It’s not so simple.

At a ‘performance workshop’ the project developer, Watanabe-San explains that Kawasaki have had to completely redesign the H2 block for the new H2SX; adding lower consumption and more torque to the low and mid-range areas.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas.

And then there are the electronics.

From the moment you come face-to-face with the new H2SX, the LCD display strikes as something completely new for the famous green marque. The buttons on both left and right bars are extensive enough to feel initially overwhelming and the functions that they enable are extensive enough to put the most technologically advanced of all modern tourers to shame. There’s no electronic suspension but with multiple dashboard layouts, adjustable driving modes, three levels of traction control, switch-off’able quick-shifter, cruise control and launch control there’s enough to get to grips with.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas. Couple this with fresh Bridgestone Hypersport S21s that have yet to be ‘scrubbed in’ and the drifting from both tyres and buttocks is enough to send a shiver of fear up the spine.

So traction control on medium and riding mode put back firmly into the ‘middle’ it is then.

It’s a motion that doesn’t take as long as I had first feared – the controls are intuitive enough to be done on the fly, and help to settle the nerves.

It’s really not the greatest of conditions in which to test the H2SX’s abilities to be honest and after 250kms of riding in ice cold wind and rain it’s all that we can do to keep going. Riding comfort wise everything is fine and with a nice, wide tank and spacious seating position there’s nothing to complain about. But that cold wind?!

The windshield is large enough to hide behind and take the edge off of most of the buffeting and heated grips coupled with electronic ‘castration’ tools mean that we make it to our destination as relaxed as possible.

But a sunny day at Estoril circuit the following day is all that we can think about to keep us going towards our destination.

Finally, we give it some gas.

It’s an early morning start, but we don’t truly wake up until we put the supercharged engine into the limiter at the beginning of the first, Estoril straight. Launch control for the win!

The electronics ensure that everything goes to plan and all you need to do is to find first gear and then open up the throttle.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

‘The braking point is just around the third bridge’, is the advice offered by the PR-man before we start. In truth that’s about one bridge too far for this rider and the double-disc brakes have trouble scrubbing the incredible speed from my H2SX and the gravel is just about avoided.

After a while of careful measuring and balancing, the potential of the engine is realised and it’s striking just how much more powerful the motor is at the bottom end when compared to the H2. It just doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or what speed the engine is running at; whatever power you need is available, seemingly on tap.

The brakes struggle a little on track after a while, but there is nothing to suggest that there won’t be more than enough stopping power for even the most spirited of rides on a public road.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

The suspension in this regard is excellent. At 256kgs the H2SX isn’t exactly svelte and in chicanes the fat rolls take some effort to tuck back in, but it’s smooth and managed. And there is always that throttle response to aid in allowing the extra gas needed to get you back onto the riding line.

It never ceases to be breathtaking ;the 200 horses coming out of that 998cc four-cylinder beast is something that will never get old.

And this is a tourer don’t forget. So once all of the modern touring equipment is back on the machine and the sporty underpinnings are still available, what’s not to get excited about?

So where exactly is the catch? It’s a question that is asked of us throughout our time with the machine. And the only real issue with the Kawasaki H2SX is one of compromise.

Do you want an super-comfortable Grand Tourer? Or do you want the world’s fastest sportsbike? The H2SX is not going to be the best in class when compared to pure machines in each of those segments. But if you want an engine that is at home on all roads, across all markets and is unbeatable in a straight line, then you can start planing your first Autobahn or Nürburgring trip now.

Specifications:

Kawasaki H2SX 
Engine: 998cc, 4 kl./cil., Liquid-cooled 4-in-line with compressor
Max. power: 200 hp / 11,000 rpm
Max. torque: 137.3 Nm / 9.500 rpm
Transmission: zesbak, chain
Frame: steel lattice frame
Front suspension: 43 mm UPSD, fully adjustable, suspension 120 mm
Rear suspension: monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 139 mm
Front brake: 330 mm discs with 4 piston calipers
Rear brake: 250 mm disk with 2zuigerremklauw
Tires Front / rear: 120 / 70-17 / 190 / 55-17
Wet weight: 256 kg
Seat height: 835 mm
Tank capacity:19.0 l.
Colors: Emerald Blazed Green / Metallic Diablo Black (SE)


This review first appeared on MaxxMoto ; It’s translated and republished here with explicit permission.

 

 

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