‘It’s the best Blade ever built’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

The ZX-10R is still fast, and cer­tainly packs enough power – but it’s all at the top- end, and that makes it hard to ac­cess on the road. It’s got a com­mu­nica­tive chas­sis, but high pegs and low bars make for un­com­pro­mis­ing er­gonomics. Com­bined with its dated feel, it’s de­moted to last place in this com­pany.

A step ahead is the Pani­gale. It’s the one we all wanted if we were buy­ing with our hearts be­cause it feels so spe­cial. It’s also roomier and smoother than you might ex­pect, but awk­ward at low speeds and on bumpy roads. The most de­sir­able fifth place fin­isher ever.

Just ahead, de­spite be­ing far from stock, is the S1000RR. It’s a bril­liant bike, fits all sizes and is dev­as­tat­ingly quick. But it’s also so clin­i­cally ef­fi­cient that it’s bland, and that feel­ing isn’t di­min­ished by tick­ing all the ac­ces­sory op­tions.

Step­ping onto the podium, de­spite be­ing one of the old­est bikes on test, is the R1. That stun­ning en­gine, re­ward­ing ride, and soul­ful char­ac­ter make rid­ing it a hugely en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence, but the hewn- of- gran­ite seat is un­com­fort­able, and the whole bike screams track, not road.

At the top it’s al­most too close to call. But it’s the GSX-R, ul­ti­mately, that comes a very close sec­ond to the Fire­blade. It is the cheap­est on test, has more power and torque then the Honda, and is a su­perb road bike – but it just doesn’t have the re­fine­ment, or vis­ual ex­cite­ment of the Blade. And while thr Blade may need a big­ger screen, it is the best Blade ever built, and that lovely, snarling sound­track en­ter­tains whether you’re bim­bling about or push­ing on.

‘Noth­ing matches its re­fine­ment or ex­cite­ment’

Some of Europe’s best mo­tor­cy­cling roads can be found in Scot­land, with each re­gion of­fer­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent in terms of scenery and sense of ad­ven­ture. This spe­cial ride takes in the wilds of Ar­gyll, start­ing and fin­ish­ing at the self pro­claimed ‘Gate­way to the High­lands’, Cri­an­larich. Be­gin with a short trun­dle west on the A82 to Tyn­drum where you’ll find the Green Welly Stop, a suit­able spot for both bike and rider to top up – fuel and food will be few and far be­tween on this route so you may wish to make the most of this long es­tab­lished stag­ing post.

Keep left at the fork as you roll out of town (head­ing for Oban on the A85) and you’ll be re­warded with a glo­ri­ous strip of as­phalt that weaves gen­tly along a fir-lined river val­ley. The road runs par­al­lel with the main­line rail, flat grey and cold steel in con­trast to the vi­brant sparkle of the River Lochy; fun­nelled by steep slopes, this me­an­der­ing wa­ter­course leads you on to its con­flu­ence with the Orchy, which you’ll cross to ride down the north­ern shore of Loch Awe. A spec­tac­u­lar vista is re­vealed be­fore the tar­mac takes a turn to fol­low the River Awe, dip­ping along the wa­ter’s edge to dive through a nat­u­ral groove be­tween the hills. Be­yond this crevice the land­scape lev­els out and the road sweeps away from the river be­fore reach­ing Loch Etive and rolling on­ward to Oban.

From Oban take the A816 – fuel up on the way out of town if needs be as the next op­por­tu­nity is some 40 miles on. This next sec­tion has an en­tirely dif­fer­ent charm as the black­top trans­forms from a smooth rolling cruise to a rib­bon of chal­leng­ing twisties; it’s a sen­sa­tional ride that corkscrews through the heather, hug­ging the ter­rain as it crests and falls through re­lent­less rip­pling un­du­la­tions. Even­tu­ally you’ll reach Lochgilp­head, whose fill­ing sta­tion may well prove a wel­come sight. If you’re hun­gry try the Ar­gyll Café – their tra­di­tional home cooked food is sure to make you ‘bide a wee’ be­fore push­ing on up the A83.

A flow­ing flit along Loch Fyne comes next, where you can race your re­flec­tion north to the rugged moun­tains of the Ar­rochar Alps and a steady climb to the Rest and be Thank­ful. Take a mo­ment at the sum­mit to do just that be­fore mak­ing a dra­matic de­scent through Glen Croe and a spin around the head of pic­turesque Loch Long. At Tar­bet turn left and head for home on the A82.

‘It’s a sen­sa­tional ride that corkscrews through the heather, hug­ging the ter­rain’

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