Test rides. It’s a difficult subject. On the one hand, it seems insane for someone to buy a $12,000 motorcycle without riding it. On the other hand, riding a motorcycle well requires particular set of skills that take years to develop and for a dealer to hand over the keys to a 160 horsepower superbike to any yob off the street is equally insane.
But there are some dealers who allow test rides. BMW dealers tend to be fairly accommodating in this regard with demo bikes of various kinds. Of course BMW clientele tend to be older and wealthier and perhaps less likely to wad a tasty new motorrad
into an unrecognizable tangle of alloy and plastic. Or at least until BMW started selling SS1000RR’s.
Moto International in Seattle, one of the very best motorbike dealers in the country, will give you a test ride. In the interest of full disclosure, I have absolutely no financial interest in Moto I whatsoever. I get no kickbacks or commissions or what have you, and more’s the pity. I just drop in every couple of weeks and soak in the relaxed atmosphere of a bunch of guys doing what they love for a workplace that oozes integrity like Sofia Vergara oozes sex appeal.
The other day I was hanging around MI and Dave says, “You should try the new Tuono. I’d be interested in what you think.” Dave is the Skipper of Moto International. He is also a guy who believes that if you need more than 100 horsepower to go fast, then you should get advanced riding instruction instead of a Hayabusa. He’s a Guzzi guy. “I rode it,” he continued. “It’s a more complex bike than you might imagine. It’s not just crazy fast, it’s better than that.”
Well, now, would I like to go out for a test ride on his Tuono factory demo bike? What do you think? Damn straight I do
and not just around the block, either. I want to use up a significant amount of the OEM tires and work the traction control like a rented mule.
I didn’t mention that “rented mule” part to Dave.
So last Tuesday I did the back-to-back Tuono versus Tuono comparo. I rode my 2007 Tuono to work, and then about 11am rode it to Moto International and accepted the keys to its 2012 RSV4 based younger sibling. The 2012 bike was not brand spanking new; it had about 6,200 miles on it and had been thrashed by various journalists and ne’er do wells for the entirety of its young life. Yellow as banana pudding it was.
The new Tuono has a different riding position than the old one; the bars on the new bike are lower and wider. It’s very comfortable, just different. The seat is spacious and although firm I thought it was fine.
But it’s not the riding position that dominates one’s impression of this bike. It’s the motor, which has to be one of the best ever slid between two frame spars. First of all, it’s loud. I have no idea by what legerdemain Aprilia obtained the blessing of the EPA but at idle and low speeds the bike sounds like a dragon gargling ball bearings the size of grapefruit. As the tach needle travels through the midrange there’s more than a hint of Ferrari V8 and at the top end STOP LOOKING AT THE TACH because wherever you’re going you’re getting there awfully fast.
There’s rumbling and vibration from the engine room, but it’s not irritating, it’s more like a warning. You’re sitting on your own personal volcano whose eruptions are controlled by your right wrist. It’s just stupid fast and I don’t know how you measure upper midrange power but rolling it on at 70 mph makes everything else feel harmless. It’s like being fired from the world’s biggest slingshot.
Dave and I set up the electronics with the power set on “sport” (there are “rain” and “race” modes, too) and the traction control adjusted to 6 (out of a possible 8). At 8 the bike takes the most direction from the traction control, and at 1 the least.
How did I like the traction control/anti wheelie? I have no idea, because after riding around for a while I started dicking with it and turned it off accidentally. Then, I couldn’t turn it back on. Damn digital stuff. This made absolutely no difference because in order to get the traction control to activate you have to ride like a complete brain-out knob.
I thrashed it around for a couple of hours. Well, OK, I can no more thrash this motorcycle than I can play the trombone or dunk a basketball. It is an absurdly competent performance machine and way better than I am. I have pulled some questionable stunts in the past, and was willing to pull a few on the new T, but the bike requires recalibration of one’s speed sensors.
Funny thing though. The throttle goes both ways, of course. The new Tuono is enjoyable to drive at legal speeds. It’s fun to feel That Engine rumbling and shaking the frame under you and while it’s not as much of a command view of the road as the old Tuono, it’s a comfortable standard.
And several manufacturers could take a lesson from the Tuono’s instrument panel. Big easy to read analog tach, big easy to read digital speedometer (Those big numbers are nice. By the time you can afford one of these you’re old enough to wear glasses) and the comprehensive information shown on the digital portion of the dash is clearly laid out and easy to parse.
How do the old and new bikes compare? The old bike is a 60 degree twin and the new one a V4; the new bike has 30 more horsepower at the rear wheel; they have different riding positions and it would be easy to imagine them as being completely different experiences. But I sensed shared DNA—both motors are loud (not in a bad way) and transmit a visceral sensation to the rider. Both bikes are intense like a double shot of espresso or drinking whiskey neat. They definitely felt like brothers.
It may be unfair to compare a demo bike to my obsessively maintained personal Tuono, but my bike with four times the miles felt more solid than the new one. For me, the old bike is a better fit. I can only occasionally use all the power of the 2007 model. Having another 30 horsepower just makes it even easier to meet members of various law enforcement agencies.
So what question is this bike the answer to? Beats me. It has a tiny tank and is has a reputation for being thirsty. It’s expensive, complicated and rare. It’s amazingly fast. Its engine truly gives a visceral thrill that is like nothing else I’ve ridden. It’s comfortable, but has even less fairing than the 2007 model. I walked away from it thinking, “I’m really glad that there’s a manufacturer with the stones to build that bike, because it is outrageous. But I don’t have to have one in my garage.”