by Jill Boulton
Twenty years after I passed my motorcycle test and four years after I last hung up my boots, I am in the market for another bike. And I think I’ve found it at last, after much deliberation.
For me, there aren’t that many things to consider – seat height is the main one (I’m only 5ft 1in) so my lack of stature rules out the majority of bikes I would otherwise be interested in, such as the naked middleweights. Engine size, fun factor, weight, price and looks are important too. I like naked bikes best, don’t want to spend much more than £5k, and don’t like a lot of chrome.
However, being in the business of motorcycle safety, I am giving quite a lot of thought to that, too, in my choice.
But isn’t this a contradiction in terms? Surely one motorcycle is as dangerous or as safe as the next? And the answer is yes, or “it depends” – on how it’s being ridden being a big factor!
So for me, there’s no point in buying a bike that fits all my criteria if it doesn’t provide me with that one essential ingredient for motorcycle safety – confidence.
For me, confidence is almost everything on a motorcycle. It helps breed a positive state of mind which enables the rider to concentrate 100% on the task at hand. In my head I would like to ride an MV Augusta, but in reality I know this is not a sensible choice as it would be far too intimidating (as well as nigh-on impossible for me to swing a leg over). And therefore not safe for me to ride. Sadly.
My last bike was the very well respected Suzuki SV650, an excellent machine and pretty fast too, great for swift overtaking and fun on the twisties. However, I won’t buy another one, and nor will I go for other middleweights that have been recommended to me, such as the MT-07 or Ducati Monster. Ultimately they’re all just a bit too big and bulky to feel right for me. And if a bike doesn’t feel right, it can’t inspire confidence.
Also out, sadly, is the bike I almost decided on – the KTM 390 Duke. It’s really lightweight and a lot of fun apparently, however it’s far too high for me so difficult to get a feel for it, and impossible to take for a test ride or even sit on without modifying it first, in which case presumably I would have to agree to buy it! Also I would have to change those shouty graphics – no surprise there as it’s aimed at younger riders (i.e. not me!). And I’ve heard it likes to blow its head gasket after a few thousand miles. The KTM is my brother’s recommendation too – he reckons it’s one of the best all-rounders he’s ridden, and he’s ridden a lot of bikes. But I have finally decided against it.
So, after 20 years of trying to find a confidence-boosting bike, I think I’ve found one. However it remains to be seen if it provides as much confidence and smiles as the Honda GB250 Clubman, my second bike, pictured above. Rare as the proverbial, the GB (a grey import) was a lot of fun and taught me how to ride. My next bike, a GPZ500, was a bit of a beast in comparison and taught me how NOT to ride! Having said that, if anyone has got a good one (unlikely, as they rusted to bits) for sale, maybe I’ll try it again as it was good fun and fast!
But no, I think my mind is made up.
I need a test ride first though.
Jill Boulton is the managing director of Visorcat, the award-winning and patented wash/wipe visor device for motorcyclists that increases vision, confidence and safety