We are stuck in difficult times. Fuel prices seem to be soaring beyond control; taxes are finding creative ways of making their presence felt in our pockets, prices of essential goods are higher than ever, almost everything is so much more inaccessible than they were say 10 years ago. If you’re a speed demon, then these are the dark ages.
But just as people have found ways to cope with challenges, us speed mongers have found alternatives as well, with a number of us taking on two wheels instead of four. The adrenalin rush, the passion, the challenge, the camaraderie, everything remains the same.
True, it is definitely more dangerous, but where’s the fun in staying safe? There’s a very good reason why people go sky-diving naked, drive at over 200 km/h and for riders, scrape their knees while tackling a fast corner. And that’s because dopamine – the hormone that provides an adrenaline rush – is highly addictive!
Sure, a disaster is always just a blink away, but disasters don’t just happen, they are caused by lunacy, bad judgement, drugs, alcohol and ego-feeding machismo, and if you are so inclined – faith (in which case even traveling in a tank won’t save you either).
Bikes are brilliant. They are fast, cheap to run, traffic jams don’t bother bikes (until it starts to rain), and the whole process of putting on your gear and helmet makes you feel like you’re about to go to war! It’s exciting before you even start to ride.
Bikes are a little like fine women, ride one well and the reward is satisfying, but get it wrong and your life is on the line. It really separates the men from the boys.
In the context of superbikes and such, they have largely been inaccessible thanks to the price, high down payment, the whole process of getting a license, and the cost of safety gear.
The prices of superbikes are still beyond the reach of most people. The down payment for a bike loan is still hovering around 20 – 30%, and interest rates are pretty steep as well.
As for safety gear, ask any biker if it’s worth compromising on safety just to get a cheaper alternative, and you’re likely to be in for an earful. There’s absolutely no compromising on safety. Good brands, padded gear, good build quality, and even good tyres are the fundamental basics. And ATGATT – short for All The Gear All The Time – should be enshrined in your mind.
Licensing is another issue; the entire process of attending classes, then training, then examinations can be very tiresome and time consuming. That’s probably why many superbikers on the road today don’t have their license.
Of course, there are easier ways around that, but I’m not going to touch on that, visit your friendly driving school for more information. But if you are thinking that just because you have ridden a scooter and some kapcai, therefore you can ride a superbike, then the classes and training is the safer route for you. Safer for both you and others on the road.
Moving on to the bikes then.
So for the sake of this story, I brought together three very different bikes with very unique abilities, and yet worlds apart to demonstrate how you can indulge in everything a speed demon needs with the convenience of daily transport. Of course there are a number of bikes that deserve to be listed as good entry level bikes but the trio were called together based on availability.
Just to make a point, the owners of all these bikes started off as all-out car nuts, charging Porsche’s and M3’s up some of the trickiest roads in Malaysia, and competing against each other to post the fastest time around Sepang. Bikes suddenly made more sense because you get all the thrill at a budget. It made good economic sense to all.
The Yamaha Diversion XJ6 is the entry level sport bike. It’s the cheapest among the three, the friendliest to ride, and the easiest to live with. It was built to be used on a daily basis, cruise long distance when need be, and attack corners when asked to do so. Simply put, if you’re looking for a bike that will take you on to bigger things, the XJ6 is it.
Built locally, the XJ6 doesn’t command a hefty price tag either. At RM40,647.50, its the cheapest four-cylinder sport bike in Malaysia. The highlight of the XJ6, besides its good looks, is its engine. Besides sounding something like Judge Dredd’s cruiser, the four-cylinders provide a smooth ride with minimal vibrations. This makes long distance cruising quite comfortable.
The engine’s 600cc displacement returns 77 hp and 60 Nm of torque. And if you pull all the way till its 12,000 rpm redline, you will see 100 km/h in slightly more than three seconds and 200 km/h in a little over 20 seconds. That’s not going to win you a duel with a Ferrari or a Ducati, but it’s more than enough to set your heart racing.
However, at 211 kg, it’s no lightweight. It’s no carving knife in the corners either as its heft tends to push it off your intended line, forcing you to slow down. The low set foot pegs also tend to scrape if you try to take on a dramatic lean angle. But it’s still plenty of fun once you get accustomed to its character, and is a great introductory machine.
The KTM 690 Duke R is the other entry-level bike, but unlike the do-it-all XJ6, the Duke R is more suited to stunting and urban riding. It’s a tall bike, but there are mods available to lower the seat height. It’s a mean looking naked bike too, almost as if it’s about to transform into an evil Decepticon and throw you off its saddle at high speed.
Get on the bike and immediately it makes you feel like popping a standing wheelie, terrorise some pedestrians with a stoppie, and pulling off a rolling burnout at a busy intersection.
The 690 Duke R is incredibly fast, and that’s because it’s powered by the world´s most powerful single-cylinder bike engine. The 690cc powerplant produces similar figures to the XJ6 – 70 hp and 70 Nm of torque. But weighing in at only 148 kg, the Duke R totally trumps the XJ6. Still the acceleration figures to 100 km/h remains in the sub-3 second category. The weight savings is meant to make wheelie’s easier rather than help you win drag races.
But while it excels at looking and behaving naughty, the Duke R is not very friendly for long distance riding. That’s because its single-cylinder engine sends vibration up your spine worse than a classic single engine Cessna at take-off and landing. The way to deal with the vibrations is to ride fast, it’s just that the upright seating position exposes you to the onslaught of wind and beetles.
So stick to urban commuting and the KTM 690 Duke R will do just fine. Slap on an Akrapovic exhaust can and you’ll be slicing through traffic like a hot knife through butter. It’s incredibly capable and there’s a very good reason why some of the world’s biking media call it the best single-cylinder bike in the world. That should be reason enough to splash slightly over RM48,000 on it.
If the Yamaha and KTM are entry level bikes for the aspiring superbiker, the BMW R1200R is the bike for the aspiring ‘ride-around-the-world’ tour rider with a fat bank account. It’s worlds apart from the other two and features a gadget list longer than your average car.
At RM112,000, it’s not cheap at all. There are a lot of cars that you can buy for that much money, however it’s meant to compliment your car rather than being your sole mode of transport. But a good, reliable, fast bike like the BMW R1200R can serve as your primary transport if need be. And there aren’t many cars that can return an incredible fuel consumption figure of just 5.5-litres for every 100 km at a constant speed of 120 km/h. There’s just the small matter of Malaysian weather.
Acronyms like ASC (Automatic Stability Control), ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), ABS, and TPC (tyre pressure control), work in unison to give the rider the safest and the most comfortable ride while traversing continents. Its twin-cylinder horizontally-opposed boxer engine provides a smooth ride while churning out 109 hp and 115 Nm of torque, more than enough to power through dangerous situations or to indulge in traffic light drag races.
Your travels taking you up some chilly mountains? No fear as the heated grips will keep you warm while you concentrate on the road ahead.
At 228 kg, it’s pretty obvious that the R1200R is no corner-slinger but more of a Bahn-stormer. The weight makes it feel stable and subdued at high speed; despite its weight the R1200R will still do the 100 km/h sprint in just 3.6 seconds.
Did I mention it’s incredible easy to ride? With an impressive equipment list, great safety acronyms, incredible frugality, and pleasant retro looks, it’s almost a complete bike. All that is left is having lots of money to buy it.
So there it is then. Three great bikes provide a great case on why biking is the way to go in these days of raising costs and insane traffic jams. Safety is a personal issue, ride safe and stay safe, ride like a lunatic and get buried with a mangled torso, it’s as simple as that.
If you’re thinking of riding, there’s just one golden rule. Riding is not like driving, you can still get into a Ferrari Enzo and drive away, biking is not as simple. It’s an evolutionary process that requires you to start with something small and manageable and then make your way to bigger, more powerful bikes. Money can buy you a nice bike, but can’t buy you valuable experience.
Do yourself a favour, save fuel, save time, increase productivity, ride a bike.