Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Great Escape Tours- by Royal Enfield!

Having caught the Royal Enfield bug (amongst others) whilst completing the Enduro Himalaya trip in northern India in 2008, I have decided it is time for another foray into the world of relaxed motorcycle touring mixed with incredible scenery.

The Great Escape Tours are run by fun loving Scot, Kenny Finlayson who is based up in the Scottish Highlands along with his fleet of trusty Indian made Royal Enfield 500 Bullets. The four different trips on offer include The Classic, The Orkney, Your Way and the one I've just signed up to, The Western Isles.

Starting from Ullapool on the north west coast of Scotland, the tour aims to 'island-hop' its way towards the Outer Hebrides, with the Isle of Skye as first port of call. If you've never been to this part of the British Isles may I strongly recommend you do so. My last visit was on a hiking trip and it didn't take long before I was imagining what it must be like to tour such empty, scenery-rich roads on a bike.

The tours organized by Kenny are about taking your time, exploring the magic that this part of Scotland still emphatically displays whilst tasting the food, meeting the locals and having great fun along the way. All the more, whilst astride an Enfield, you have the perfectly relaxed mode of transport on which to soak it all in.

The cost of the tours include all meals, fuel and luggage transfer by support vehicle, allowing you to concentrate fully on the task in hand- enjoying yourself!

With a spare day planned in Ullapool at the end of the five day trip, I also intend to bring my new CCM Supermoto along for what I hope will be one memorable blat over the neighbouring highlands. Well you would, wouldn't you?

Check back soon for a full report and an image gallery you need to see to beleive!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


CCM (Clews Competition Machines) made a name for themselves producing purposeful twin shock motorcross bikes in the 1970s, more recently however the British company has moved towards developing hardy enduro and supermoto bikes.

The 98-02 604E Dual Sport model came with two sets of wheels when new, for both on and off road capability. An oil-in-frame contains a twin port, four valve, 600cc Rotax motor from Austria. Although not revolutionary in it's design, the Rotax engine is well known for its simplicity and ease of maintenance plus abundant levels of torque. Power is a conservative 52bhp and torque an impressive 36ftlbs.

Throwing a leg over the 604, the riding position is immediately recognisable from a modern motorcross bike. The wide, fat Renthal riser bars and firm, thin seat are designed to allow movement on the bike whilst allowing for excellent cornering control- this is definitely no long distance tourer! At 123kg the CCM is neither overweight nor particularly light in this segment, nevertheless, if you are used to more conventional road bikes, dropping it would not require the assistance of Geoff Capes.
Avoiding kicking the big single over, I opt for the electric start which rewards instantly with a deeply satisfying crackle from the Remus branded standard exhaust. A clever choke mechanism keeps the engine idling at a happy note and within a minute or two we are up to temperature with one another. Unable to ignore the level torque on offer, the CCM dispatches with first and second gears very quickly, surging up to it's top speed of 100mph within the first 100m or so. Then you reach your first corner..

A dab of the excellent 320mm Brembo brakes up front, combined with the composure of the sophisiticated USD Paioli forks makes the CCM feel planted entering a bend, "Is that all you can muster?" it seems to ask the rider. Press on harder and the bike simply takes all you can throw at it. Off camber, uphill, downhill, rough or smooth, the WP rear shock has it all covered, the wide 17in tyres hungry for ever more demanding lean angles.
Once I reach a half mile long striaght I finally find the characterful Supermoto's flaw- cruising. Up to 75mph the bike is bucket loads of fun, any more and you are not on a twisty enough road. As a trip to Scotland is looming, I intend to add a higher final gear and find a few more bhp- check back soon!!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Return of the BMW Art Car

BMW's 'Art Car' is back. Artist and Sculpturist Jeff Koons has taken on the responsibility of designing the paint job for the 18th version of the famous collaberation between racing BMWs and breakthrough 'creative types'.

Dubbed the 'rainbow' treatment, Koons' brush strokes will follow in the footsteps of famous names such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney. The car underneath the rainbow is rather special too. BMW's latest GT2 M3 GTR V8 will compete at Les Mans 24 Hours in 2010, cementing it's place in the history books.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200

Ducati have released their new 2010 Mulitstrada 1200, a super-trail bike with the BMW 1200 GS firmly in its sights. Ducati aimed to produce a comfortable, reliable touring machine that was able to produce sports bike levels of performance on almost any terrain. Ducati have fitted a smoother, more efficient version of the latest liquid-cooled Testastretta powerplant from their own flagship 1198cc superbike.

Promising 'four bikes-in-one' available by the flick of a switch, the 2010 Multistrada posseses technology in abundance. Four distinct riding modes, Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro- endow the Multistrada with variable power, torque delivery, suspension and traction control settings. In both Sport and Touring modes the full 150bhp is available, whilst in Urban and Enduro settings, power is limited to a more manageable 100bhp.

Also new is the ride-by-wire throttle system. There is no throttle cable on the new Mulitstrada, the rider's inputs are now electronically transmitted to the throttle bodies. Depending on which riding mode is selected the control unit then decides the ideal power delivery of the engine. Combining this level of computer intelligence with a slipper clutch must make for incredibly smooth progress. All impressive stuff, but I would'nae like to experience a faulty one..

Weighing in at a paltry 189kg (dry) the new Mulitstrada has been on a rather impressive diet. Ducati believe it's the lowest in it's class, although once the 20 litre tank is full of go-go juice, that figure will undoubtedly creep past the 200kg mark.

Advanced instrument controlled Ohlins suspension is supplied on the higher spec 'S' model in the form of Ducati Electronic Suspension. This permits spring pre-load, rebound and compression damping adjustments on the fly. Of the two versions available the Touring model comes with a centre-stand, heated grips and purpose made panniers, whilst the Sport model is a stripped down beasty with various carbon components.

With some added clever touches including hands-free start, adjustable windscreen and LED indicators on the handguards, the punchy 2010 Ducati Multistrada is a direct competitor to BMW's class leading, hardy GS and upcoming Yamaha Tenere 1200. But, if you are a die-hard sportsbike fan looking for a grown up machine with long distance, possible two-up continent crossing abilities, the Multistrada should definately be at the top of your wish list.

I'll take a Touring S model in white please, but don't just take my word for it- hear what MCN have to say about it on video whilst testing the Multistrada in Lanzarote. Now where did I put that £14,000!?