RiDE (UK) - - Group Ride -

The York­shire Dales Na­tional Park cov­ers 841 square miles, with amaz­ing rid­ing to be found through­out. The way we went – an an­ti­clock­wise loop away from and back to the A1 – is not in­tended to be the de­fin­i­tive great­est sin­gle route within it. In­stead it’s a mix of roads we chose to test our sports tourers in a va­ri­ety of sce­nar­ios – from bumpy to smooth, from wide to nar­row, and from desolate to busy. It starts off from Bedale, head­ing across to Reeth and then Th­waite on a run of pretty, easy-go­ing and gen­er­ally quiet back­roads. We took a scenic diver­sion on the road from Feetham to Langth­waite (turn right at the Punch Bowl Inn) – rec­om­mended so long as you’re happy on tight, sin­gle-track car­riage­ways. The road from Th­waite to Hawes – the But­ter­tubs Pass – is a bel­ter but can be quite touristy. Things get qui­eter as you leave Hawes, skirt­ing the Rib­ble­head Viaduct to head for Skip­ton, be­fore traf­fic builds up again on the east­bound A-roads. Biker-friendly eater­ies in­clude the Pen­ny­garth Café in Hawes and the Route 59 Café a few miles out­side Skip­ton on the A59.

Si­mon, though he’s not so en­thu­si­as­tic about the MT’S hy­per­ac­tive be­hav­iour. “For me, it’s al­most too ea­ger to leap about, on the verge of be­ing way­ward. It forces you to read a road in three di­men­sions — up and down, as well as what di­rec­tion it’s go­ing — es­pe­cially over some of those crests.”


58 miles Af­ter filling up in Hawes (this time the Yamaha’s fuel light ping­ing on be­fore its trip has reached 100 miles), the next morn­ing we head south-west on the B6255. It’s a smoother, calmer, more flow­ing road than yes­ter­day’s fran­tic But­ter­tubs ac­tion, though by any nor­mal mea­sure still an in­cred­i­ble place to ride: quiet, fast, free and chal­leng­ing enough to keep you on your toes. The sense of empty space and sprawl­ing views in all di­rec­tions means, at times, it even gives the slight­est sub­tle sense of fly­ing — though one that’s quickly put in per­spec­tive when we find our­selves be­ing buzzed by an RAF Tu­cano.

It’s a great chance to get to com­pare the bikes’ en­gines. The BMW’S 999cc straight four is in­stantly impressive, not just be­cause it’s out­ra­geously fast — the most pow­er­ful and the most torquey of the three bikes — but be­cause it’s also fault­lessly flex­i­ble and con­trol­lable with it. “The fu­elling is amaz­ing,” con­firms Jimmy. Even set to Dy­namic (the most ag­gres­sive of the XR’S var­i­ous rid­ing modes) it’s im­pos­si­ble to get it to hic­cup from a shut throt­tle. The two-way quick­shifter is equally slick, seam­lessly swap­ping gears with­out need­ing you to touch the clutch.

There’s a slight coarse­ness to the com­bus­tion — not the same thing as the mo­tor­way tin­gles, which you barely no­tice out here when the mo­tor’s mov­ing up and down through the rev range — but the power de­liv­ery is per­fectly, per­ma­nently obe­di­ent. “The BMW’S mo­tor isn’t as in­ter­est­ing or charis­matic as the Yamaha, but it’s more con­trol­lable,” says Si­mon.

“It’s a great chance to get to com­pare the bikes’ en­gines”

“The Kawasaki has a flex­i­ble engine too,” adds James. “You can just stick it in sixth gear and ride the midrange.” The Z1000 has the only mo­tor here that isn’t de­scended from a su­per­bike but in­stead, has been de­vel­oped purely for its pur­pose as a road­ster – with the small­est pis­tons, the long­est stroke and the big­gest ca­pac­ity of the three bikes here, its peak fig­ures need the fewest revs. It of­fers up a huge amount of easy, ef­fort­less, lin­ear drive, but does so with­out a scorch­ing, ag­gres­sive, ex­plo­sive char­ac­ter. Tellingly, none of us feel the need to try its Low Power mode.

“The Z1000 has a sort of carby feel, like it’s say­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to add speed in my own time,’” ex­plains Si­mon. “And in some ways, I pre­fer that to the MT-10, es­pe­cially on bumpy back­roads. I feel like I can move the throt­tle a frac­tion and it’s not sud­denly go­ing to leap about ev­ery­where.”

Ah yes, the MT-10. Its engine re­sponse is ra­bid — it’s like there’s no fly­wheel weight to tem­per things, so the slight­est tweak of the throt­tle in­stantly sends the mo­tor off through the revs. Shut­ting the twist­grip sim­i­larly re­sults in sud­den, sharp engine brak­ing and so fre­quently tran­si­tion­ing between a closed and slightly open throt­tle feels… well, how would you de­scribe it, Si?

“When I started rid­ing the MT-10 on back­roads, or in traf­fic, I couldn’t think of a suit­able curse,” he scowls, shak­ing his head. “I just wanted to get off and throw it in a ditch. I lit­er­ally couldn’t con­trol it.”

“Get­ting back on the throt­tle does feel a lit­tle crude,” rea­sons Jimmy. “It’s a flaw, but it doesn’t an­noy me. The Stan­dard engine mode is the smoothest, which helps at low speed or when you’re in low gears.”

Turn­ing left at the re­mark­able Rib­ble­head Viaduct on to the B6479, we skirt through Set­tle and pick up the busier, calmer A65 and A59 back to the mo­tor­way. Pick­ing taller gears (a good excuse to use the stan­dard quick­shifter) does help tame the Yamaha’s ex­cess en­thu­si­asm, let­ting us ap­pre­ci­ate the engine’s other traits — like its gor­geous, growl­ing, gar­gling off­beat ex­haust note, courtesy of its cross­planecrank’s fir­ing in­ter­val.

Sin­gle-track black­top wind­ing through the hills... per­fect

“I say, I say, I say... My dog has no nose...”

Who­ever is hav­ing the beans goes at the back...

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