The lure of the A16’s best ba­con butty proved too much for Wil­son and Lang to re­sist. And pro­vided a fair ex­cuse to give two new long term test bikes a blast out…


KTM 790 Duke and Kawasaki Z900RS, buy­ing cruis­ers, Star Wars and a Guzzi.

KTM’S 790 Duke is a good rea­son to get out of bed early. It’s flip­pin’ bril­liant. The com­bi­na­tion of hearty power out­put, sweet han­dling and light weight makes it hi­lar­i­ous. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to ride the KTM slowly, so even jaded old lags who need their beauty sleep take the long way to work. The elec­tronic safety net af­forded by anti-wheelie con­trol and TCS cos­sets you un­til the bark from the high level stain­less pipe has fully wo­ken you up. It doesn’t take long. I’ve been wait­ing for this bike. I loved the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of KTM’S 690 Duke but to me a big ca­pac­ity, highly tuned road sin­gle makes no real sense. A twin is more tractable at low speeds, and eas­ier to tune for high speeds. It’s less stressed and only marginally bulkier and more ex­pen­sive to make. Adding an ex­tra cylin­der and 100cc makes the 790 a bet­ter bike in ev­ery way. To­day’s 7am twisty roads di­ver­sion via Casey’s Cabin (on the un­twisty A16) for ba­con butties and tea is in the com­pany of Bike’s art man Paul Lang who’s rid­ing our Kawasaki Z900RS long term test bike. Both ma­chines have al­most iden­ti­cal 100bhp power out­puts, but the Kawasaki is car­ry­ing an ex­tra 30 ki­los. The KTM is far friskier, but it can also per­form ef­fort­less feet-up U-turns in the layby while Langy is pad­dling about do­ing three point­ers. Though if we were trav­el­ling far I might be jeal­ous of the Kawasaki’s plusher look­ing sad­dle. Down­sides? The small script on the dash makes time, temp, trip and range info along the bot­tom of the screen im­pos­si­ble to read for peo­ple who need +.2 read­ing glasses. Fuel light comes on around 125 miles (at least I think that’s what the trip said) and fill­ing up at 142 miles swal­lows 13.33 litres. That’s 48mpg, when most of the 142 miles was cov­ered in Race mode (ho,ho). Though the bike’s read­out claims a mas­sively op­ti­mistic 71.9mpg. I’ll keep an eye on that. There is no sus­pen­sion ad­just­ment beyond rear pre-load, though the ride qual­ity is ac­cept­able, and Maxxis tyres are pre­sum­ably here be­cause they’re cheap. But none of that re­ally matters be­cause the fun­da­men­tals are right. Less weight makes a bike bet­ter, more so than ad­justa­bil­ity or fancy rub­ber ever can. Hugo Wil­son Edi­tor Been rid­ing for: 41 years Owns: 3x Moto Mori­nis, a 1948 Match­less and a 1965 Mobylette.

‘The com­bi­na­tion of hearty power, sweet han­dling and light weight makes it hi­lar­i­ous’

THE KAWASAKI Z1 was born in 1972, and so was I. Forty six years later I have been handed the keys to the Z1’s grand­son, the new retro themed Z900RS. Straight away you can de­tect the orig­i­nal’s DNA. Teardrop shaped tank, duck­tail cowl and the Candy­tone Brown and or­ange paint. No won­der it gets so many ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ from se­nior bik­ers. ‘Let’s take the long way to work to­mor­row Langy,’ said the gaffer. Which is why I’m say­ing, ‘hello,’ to the postie at 6:30am. ‘Nice bike mate,’ he says. Does ev­ery­one love the Z900RS? Will I love the Z900RS? Turn the key and the rev-o-me­tre jumps to 1500rpm, then 2000rpm, then set­tles for a minute or two at 2300rpm. It’s as if some­one is play­ing with a man­ual choke. Kawasaki’s fiendish retro plan at work? I’d like to think so. Pulling away and the throt­tle feels a lit­tle snatchy, thanks Euro 4. Onto the first A-road and I snap it back and the 108bhp 16-valve in­line four fires me for­wards rapidly but with no drama. I pre­fer en­gines with more char­ac­ter but the deep exhaust note is com­pen­sat­ing very well in­deed. I’m sat in a per­fect up­right po­si­tion that feels comfy and fa­mil­iar. You can feel the ridges on the plush wide seat through rid­ing jeans. It all says clas­sic. And I love that the clocks fea­ture the same font as the orig­i­nal Z1 but set in a stun­ning milled cir­cu­lar back­ground, aside from the mod­ern LCD dash in the mid­dle. You can’t get much more retro than that. The Zed has the same bhp as the KTM the gaffer’s rid­ing to­day, but it’s a very dif­fer­ent weapon. It’s a pleas­ant bike to be on and feels like an Yamaha XJR1300 or Suzuki 1200 Ban­dit, but with plusher sus­pen­sion, great brakes, trac­tion con­trol and neat de­sign touches. Kawasaki have learnt a lot the past 46 years, but they still re­mem­ber their past. Lat­ter in the week I was chat­ting to the guys at Corby Kawasaki while the Z900RS was hav­ing its first ser­vice and they were say­ing the wait­ing time for Candy­tone Brown bikes is around three months. So it’s not just me who likes the Z900RS then.

To­tal fo­cus and ƒne form: en route to Casey’s Cabin Play­ing the retro card: Z900RS sni‡s out the ba­con bap

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