‘Surf­ing waves of torque; I’d for­got­ten how us­able a big twin can be’

MCN - - UK’S TOUGHEST TEST -

ticket to dis­as­ter and started to ride nor­mally. And this is when you’ll start to dis­like the R6.

At nor­mal speed there’s noth­ing below 6000rpm. Tester Bruce said it was like rid­ing a two-stroke, while above 7000rpm there’s at best a glim­mer of ur­gency. You re­ally need to get the en­gine spin­ning above 10,000rpm to get into the sweet zone where, in­fu­ri­at­ingly, Euro4 con­straints have stran­gled the power and left it gasp­ing for air, like you’re rid­ing at 20,000 feet. I know from past ex­pe­ri­ence that a full race pipe trans­forms the R6 but in stan­dard form it’s a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially on the road. Ev­ery over­take on the busy MCN250 was met with frus­tra­tion as I danced grumpily on the gear lever in search of power.

In con­trast the Du­cati was easy. I hopped on board the V-twin af­ter our stop at the Su­per Sausage Café and was taken aback by its sup­ply of power and torque. As Bruce on the YZF was per­form­ing the River Dance, I was surf­ing waves of man­age­able torque; I’d al­most for­got­ten how us­able a big twin is. In fifth gear it will pull smoothly from nowhere, mak­ing over­takes ef­fort­less. The easy torque meant the ride along the B4525 and A422 was a plea­sur­able breeze: quick but man­age­able. By Strat­ford, though, I started won­der­ing if at the age of 40

I have out­grown the sport­ing mid­dleweight. Both bikes are un­com­fort­able, bor­der­ing on painful af­ter 100 miles. Above 40mph the wind­blast lifts you slightly, tak­ing weight from your wrists, while at mo­tor­way speeds both bikes were sur­pris­ingly easy. But, below that, in town es­pe­cially, no thanks. Af­ter Strat­ford and our first fuel stop I was back on the R6 and look­ing for­ward to at­tack­ing the twistier sec­tions of the MCN250. There’s no deny­ing Yamaha have im­proved the front end, which is an im­pres­sive re­sult given that it was al­ready class lead­ing. The steer­ing is light and ac­cu­rate. Look at the apex and you’re on it, like a cat pounc­ing on its prey, so it’s a shame the rear end doesn’t match the front, es­pe­cially when you throw a few bumps into the mix. The sus­pen­sion is too harsh and jolts over

‘Look at the apex and the R6 pounces on it like a cat’

bumps and, on show­room set­tings, there isn’t enough sag in the rear spring. On a smooth race track, it just about works, but on the smaller roads af­ter Fish Hill my spine took a beat­ing.

By con­trast the Du­cati was planted, hun­gry for cor­ner speed and filled who­ever was on it with con­fi­dence. It turned slightly slower than the R6, but was more pre­dictable, which let me en­ter cor­ners with more lean and speed. The Mil­ton Keynes GP high­lighted a weak point of the Du­cati: its Brem­bos. They’re more than OK but date back to 2013, and lack bite on the limit. The R6 stopped with more ur­gency and loved to be flicked from one round­about to the next.

But Bruce still wasn’t lov­ing the R6. He said: “It wants you to ride it hard, but you can’t. The stan­dard Dun­lops and set-up, plus the small mat­ter of the law of the land, just don’t al­low you to ride it like a race bike on the road (which, es­sen­tially, is what it is).” Af­ter run­ning an R6 for a year, I know it’s a phe­nom­e­nal bike once its mi­nor gripes are rec­ti­fied. Al­low the en­gine to breathe with a full race ex­haust, change the stan­dard tyres and tweak the sus­pen­sion and it be­comes a com­pletely dif­fer­ent bike. My prop­erly set-up R6 would have smoked the Du­cati on a track ses­sion, but we’re not test­ing what could have been. The thing is the Du­cati doesn’t need chang­ing or fix­ing or mod­i­fy­ing. It works su­perbly from the start.

The boom­ing Du­cati is so much eas­ier to get on with

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