Why I Bought a KTM 790 Duke

I’d had my Suzuki SV650N for 8 years and it was time for a change. I now own a KTM Duke 790 which is fantastic – though not the usual choice for a step up from an SV. What led me to the KTM?

I had been pondering a new bike for a while, as I had outgrown my elderly SV and needed more power. The decider for me was a 250 mile TVAM ride in August in the wind and rain on my underpowered SV650…. time for a new bike.

I wanted a bike with a bit of spirit that I wouldn’t outgrow quickly, yet calm and stable, light [not more than 170kg], upright and flickable but would double up as a tourer with a bit of kit on it. I also wanted riding modes, abs, traction control and an up and down quick-shifter, and it had to be narrow and light enough to squeeze through the alleyway to my back garden.

Initially I looked at the F900XR, Shiver 900, Tracer 900GT, Tiger 900GT pro, MT07 and the Street Triple. Although these are great bikes, none of them actually fitted me or my requirements, and I had to be quite disciplined in turning away from them. This was hard.

So what did I need? Well, what mattered most of all [after the squeeze] was that I needed an upright seating position – less stress on the joints. Looking up Cycle-ergo.com and using my SV as a comparison, I was able to see what it would be like sitting on different bikes. I know this sounds rather mechanical but it was actually very helpful, further proven from visiting dealerships to sit on bikes. It was fun going in with my list of what I NEEDED not what have you got, and helped me see through the marketing blurb.

Cycle-ergo.com indicated the KTM naked sports bike Duke range. Power-wise for me, this meant either the 690 or 790.  Anything bigger was wider and therefore irrelevant – I know you can get narrow bars for any bike but this was a mod too far for me. I wanted to keep it simple.

So it was down to the KTM Duke 690 or 790. A spin on Chris Brownlee’s 690R single was delightful – I came back saying, it’s really light I must have said it about 3 times, I was astonished at how quick and nippy it was yet stable and solid. However I wanted more technical gadgets and a twin, so this led me to the 790 and Alan Bradford who gave me loads of helpful tips on his, thank you.

I had first seen the KTM Duke 790 aka ‘The Scalpel’ in a ‘Ride’ magazine a couple of years back in 2018. The mere name of it put me right off. Who rides a bike called a scalpel? But two years on I saw it in a different light, looking closely at its features and found that it ticked all my boxes. I was ready to book in a test ride.

I loved it from the start. It was amazing. Light, powerful, flexible and equally at home filtering through town or out on the twisties. A little windy at high speeds and the original seat was like a plank but this was sorted with a touring screen and their comfort ergo seat. A parallel twin and 105bhp but only 169kg – perfect. Great price at £7,500 new for the 2020 version which I recommend, as they have re-designed and fixed some issues prevalent in the earlier version.

A second test ride confirmed my selection and I was ready to buy.

Early days were spent on local roads, learning all the technology – I had never had anything like this before, not even ABS on the SV. The emissions requirements make it a bit twitchy at low speed but I adapted and it doesn’t bother me now – choosing a lower riding mode helps. It is also a bit vibey at higher speeds but not excessive. Everything else is fabulous!

The first 600 miles were running it in so I was careful not to over-rev it. It felt like learning to ride all over again which was a surprise [only my second middle-weight bike]. A little ‘red mist’ was quickly eradicated by my advanced rider training.

At 1,000 miles, what do I like about it so far? It has had its first service, oil change and the full rev range has been unleashed. This bike just keeps giving and giving, right through the rev range. It accelerates really quickly, is light and fun through the twisties yet stable and not intimidating. I don’t feel overpowered by it and love the different riding modes, abs and lean-sensitive traction control. I’m loving the quick-shifter and auto-blipper. Narrow for filtering and lovely sounding – bangs and pops through the exhaust. The suspension, though not adjustable on the forks, feels well set up, and the preload is adjustable. I have it on the comfort setting and it is great. This bike gives me the potential to grow with it. I currently ride in the ‘street’ mode but am looking forward to exploring the sport and track modes. Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Check it out, what have you got to lose?

Catherine Russell

First published in Slipstream November 2020

Riders Ride (November 2018)

Continuing our Rider’s Rides! Each month we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Jono Wiles and his Bonneville.

Well this looks familiar; but which specific flavour of bike are we looking at here?

It’s a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 Black edition.

And how long has this example been lurking in the shadows of your garage?

I bought it back in November last year.

Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to your fleet?

Whilst I would love a garage full of bikes it’s my only ride! It replaced an older version of the Bonneville, an air-cooled T100 SE.

There’s a lot of choice in the retro/classics segment at the moment; did you go straight for an upgrade or consider anything else (e.g. Moto-Guzzi V7)?

As I had already ridden a Bonnie I didn’t look too closely at other options. As before, I wanted a classic-looking bike with modern performance, and personally think that Triumph have done a great job in creating a fantastic range of old-school-looking bikes. I do like the look of the Moto-Guzzi, and I also considered the BMW R-nineT, but I still feel Triumph pip them both on style, quality and reliability.

The older Bonneville’s were fairly basic bikes, tech-wise. Was there anything in particular you were hoping to get from this upgrade?

I loved my old Bonnie but it was missing some key features: ABS, traction control, heated grips etc. The new one is a comprehensive ground-up redesign with twin front brakes, electronic ride-by-wire system, riding modes, torque assist clutch, LED lights and, in the T120, a much more powerful 1200cc water-cooled engine. Combined, these make my new T120 a much more responsive, safe and powerful bike. The clutch is a dream and really light, which is great when riding for extended distances. The engine delivers 50% more torque and 20% more power than my old bike and sounds great with the pea-shooter style exhausts. Contrary to expectations, it also handles well on both twisties and the open road.

Sounds like you’re a big fan! I’m guessing you collected this one from an equally enthusiastic dealer?

Yep – I bought it from Laguna in Maidstone; at the time these models were hard to find second hand, and I didn’t want to buy new and take the hit on the initial depreciation.

How did that work out?

They were okay to start with, but after I got the bike home I noticed the hazard lights weren’t working. Laguna picked the bike up again, fixed the problem and got it back to me within three days but it was a bit annoying, to say the least. I have to question if they really performed the promised checks that were claimed to have been carried out, and one of the key reasons I wanted to buy from a dealer.

I normally stick to Jack Lilley Triumph in Ashford; they maintain my bikes as they are local and are a great bunch who I would thoroughly recommend. For example: when I took the T120 in for a recent service, I mentioned the front brakes squeaked a bit when used at low speed. Apparently this was a common problem for the early T120’s and Triumph issued a fix, but my bike was just a few months out of warranty by this point and so wouldn’t normally be covered.

But the guys at Jack Lilley called Triumph and persuaded them to sort it out at no cost, which they really didn’t have to do. Considering the fix included a new front wheel, discs and pads, which would have cost me £1,200 + fitting, I was understandably delighted. It shows that they really care about their customers. In fact, this was another thing Laguna should really have resolved before selling it to me five months earlier!

I’m no expert, but that bike looks a little different than the examples I’ve seen. Have you made some changes?

The Bonnie came with some modifications already fitted, such as a tail-tidy, different indicators, suspension and an upgraded Vance & Hines exhaust. I have since added a Dart fly-screen which makes a huge difference to wind buffering for such a small bit of plastic, and finally panniers to make it more suitable for touring.

So not just a Sunday cruiser then!

I only started riding two years ago when my best mate (who had ridden for years) arranged a biking trip to the US for his 50th. So I thought: why not? I passed my test and three months later I was riding an Indian Roadmaster 2,500 miles from Colorado, to California, passing through Ohio, Arizona and Nevada on our way to LA and San Francisco.

It was a fantastic experience on an absolute beast of a bike and a real baptism of fire. As a novice rider I learnt a lot very quickly, but it got me hooked and I have not looked back since. Since then I have been to Holland, France and Spain, and plan to go on at least one or two trips away each year from now on. The TT and Balkans are already in the diary for 2019!

The T120 is quite a bit more powerful than your old T100; has your riding changed at all as a result?

The T120 has allowed me to progress my riding – especially the cornering side – but I still see myself as a beginner, which is why I joined TVAM. Being a member gives me the opportunity to improve my capability as well as socialise and ride with a bunch of like-minded people. It’s been fantastic! Only a few weeks ago I went away on the ‘Let’s go to France’ trip for a long weekend. Expertly organised by John Rodda it was truly excellent. There were six of us altogether, everything was planned well, from the route to hotels and the daytime activities. Everyone looked out for each other and John was a brilliant tour leader.

Sorry I missed it! Did the trip highlight anything lacking that you missed from your old bike?

I certainly don’t miss the manual choke or woolly front brakes! But then this new bike had been customised by a company called 8 Ball who are commissioned by Triumph to fettle some of their bikes, so it looked mean and sounded great.

On the flip side, even with the indicators fixed they were still not great quality and rather small. Equally, whilst the rear light looked good and fit the aesthetic, it too was quite small, and I received some feedback during TVAM rides on how ineffective they both were. As such I have just swapped the tail tidy for an R&G racing set-up which was a bit pricey, but after doing some research it came back as the best option. It also allowed me to reinstall the rear grab-rail, which is handy for pillions or attaching extra luggage when touring. I then fitted some Triumph short-stem indicators which are both much brighter, making me far more visible to motorists.

Finally, the only other issue, common to all naked bikes, is that you can’t help but be somewhat envious of the fairings on big touring bikes while blasting down the motorway! But I suppose those are the choices we make and I wouldn’t swap my bike for anything.

So it sounds like you’re pretty pleased with your purchase then!

Yes – it’s perfect for me and the type of riding I want to do. So, whilst it wouldn’t suit everyone, I absolutely love this bike!!

Nick Tasker was talking to Jono Wiles earlier this summer.

First published in Slipstream November 2018

Rider’s Rides (October 2018)

Continuing our Rider’s Rides! Each month we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have John Rodda and his mighty BMW Tourer.

And which flavour of Bavarian boxer do we have here then?

This is my BMW R1200RTLE.

Did it replace an existing bike, or is this an addition to your garage?

The RT replaces my previous bike, a BMW R1200GS Adventure Triple Black. I prefer the weather protection, ride comfort and seating position of the RT. I’ve had a fair number of these models in the past, so I knew what to expect.

My Uncle has a similar love affair with the boxer. Did you consider anything else, say a K1600?

I looked at BMW’s S1000XR – but only briefly. I’ve owned a K1600 and an R1200GS in the past. Both are excellent machines, but the RT seems to suit my purposes particularly well.

How so?

Great comfort, load capacity, fuel range and amazing handling for a machine of this size and weight. The RT also has great presence on the road, and therefore is a little more likely to be seen than smaller sports bikes.

Which dealer delivered this one to you?

BMW Bahnstormer in Maidenhead.

And would you recommend them to other TVAM members?

Yes, plenty of TVAM customers use Bahnstormer already, and are offered a discount on clothing and accessories.

Good to know! The bike looks stock, but have you got any modifications I missed?

I’ve installed a Roadhawk bullet camera tucked almost out of sight on the front fairing, which records witness footage on a continuous loop whenever the bike ignition is turned on.

Sneaky! What sort of riding do you do/plan on doing with this bike?

Anything and everything, from observed rides with my associate to an upcoming tour of France and adjacent countries, as well as motorcycle marshalling on cycle races and other events with the National Escort Group.

Is this different from the sort of riding/trips you used your previous bikes for?

Not really. My motorcycles are part of daily life – not just as transport, but for coaching, tour leading and leisure too.

Anything amiss with your new bike so far?

Nothing much. My previous RT suffered with condensation in the instrument panel, but my current machine is fine so far. Previous experiences with the dealer have always been positive whenever I’ve had a problem, so if anything crops up I know I’ll be looked after.

Overall then, no regrets?

I’m absolutely delighted to be back on an RT. It seems to be the bike that suits me best out of all I’ve ridden, and as an added bonus this version is so far returning more than 60mpg!


Nick Tasker was talking to John Rodda earlier this summer.

First published in Slipstream October 2018

Riders Ride (September 2018)

Each month we’re going to feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it.

Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Cliff Lester and his box-fresh FireBlade:

Welcome, Cliff! What exactly are we looking at here today?

This is my newish Honda Fireblade, specifically the SP1 model.

And how long has this been gracing your garage?

A couple of months.

Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to the garage?

It’s a replacement for my previous bike, a BMW S1000RR. I’d only had it for two years, but I really fancied the new ‘Blade.

Sportsbike enthusiasts are spoilt for choice at the moment – what else did you look at when shopping?

I considered the Yamaha R1M, as well as the new Ducati Panigale V4S and Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

Honda beat out some very trick hardware then! No interest in the new Suzuki GSXR-1000, Kawasaki ZX-10R, or perhaps another BMW?

Not really; I’ve experienced the BMW already, and owned three ZX10’s in the past! Plus I’m not really a lover of the GSXR…

Anything in particular you were evaluating the bikes on when you were conducting your test-rides?

Rideabilty, as well as quality of the suspension and brakes. Also ease of electronics – the BMW has the tech, but it’s not always easy to use.

Which dealer did you purchase your new Fireblade from? Would you recommend them to other TVAM members?

Fowlers of Bristol. As for recommending them, I would, and I wouldn’t. I had good service when buying the bike but paid for both a tail tidy and radiator guard to be fitted as part of the deal. When I came to collect it they’d fitted the tail tidy but said they didn’t have time for the radiator guard! I wasn’t very impressed.

That is rather disappointing. Have you made any further modifications or installed any accessories since then?

I’ve fitted a World SuperBike Akrapovic slip-on exhaust, as well as a double-bubble screen, but that’s it for now.

What sort of riding do you do/plan on doing with this bike?

There’s a group of us that go on regular A road runs, so more of that for sure. We’ve also been on our annual Le Mans MotoGP trip together; I found the ‘Blade to be amazing on the twisty French roads. I’ve also enjoyed a few track days and A runs with TVAM group – it’s perfect for all that stuff.

Has purchasing this bike changed the sort of riding you do, or how you ride?

No, I’ve always had sports bikes, so I’ve always ridden like this. The Honda has improved my cornering confidence slightly, as this bike is so easy to ride – it feels like it’s on rails!

Is there anything you miss from your S1000RR?

The heated grips and cruise control – they should really be standard at this price. But other than that I do feel that it’s a better bike.

Can you elaborate on that? What about the Honda makes it so special?

The ease of the ride, up & down quick-shifter is so smooth and never misses a beat. The dashboard is beautifully done – so easy to read and adjusting any of your setups is a piece of cake. The Öhlins suspension is incredible (as usual) and the brakes are fantastic. It’s an all-round amazing bike.

What’s the one thing about your bike you would change if you could?

I’ve changed the things that needed changing – the usual things I always do on a bike. But nothing else, it looks lovely and goes well.

Any problems or technical issues with all that electronic wizardry?

Well I’ve only put 1,500 miles on it so far and everything is good for the moment. No problems at all!

So it sounds like you’re pretty pleased with your purchase?

Extremely pleased. It’s the first Fireblade I’ve ever owned and I love it.

Nick Tasker was talking to Cliff Lester in June this year.

First published in Slipstream September 2018

Rider’s Ride (August 2018)

Continuing with our Rider’s Rides feature after a break. Here we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Steve Dobson and his go-anywhere Yamaha:

Steve – tell us about your new Yamaha.

It’s a Super Tenere Raid Edition. The same as the XT1200ZE model with some extras.

And how long have you been riding this one?

Just 3 months at this point!

Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to an existing fleet?

It’s a replacement. I had a Yamaha Tracer 900 (16 model) beforehand – a great bike, but I was on my third oil cooler in just two years! All fixed under warranty of course, but I wanted something reliable. I suspect it may be a design issue, as I notice that the recently-updated version of the Tracer 900 has a revised oil cooler. Hopefully that means anyone buying a new one today won’t have the same issues I did!

The Ténéré is a much more off-road focused bike than your Tracer, what with spoked wheels, a 19” front and, I believe, more off-road oriented tyres as standard. Do you intend to experiment with any light green-laning or are you intending to stick to pavement?

I visit lots of sites around UK for work and invariably the last mile of the journey is off road. I have started to use my bike for some of these work visits, so that capability comes in handy. The tyres are not what I describe as off-road but they do have more tread than my previous Tracer’s Pilot Road 4’s.  I would not use this bike for any serious off road stuff though, it’s just too heavy.

Indeed, 261kgs wet – shaft-drive will do that! Do you notice the weight when riding, cornering etc, or just when pushing it around?

You don’t notice the weight in corners or even when doing slow riding, I feel it’s precise and well planted.

There are a lot of great choices in the Adventure-bike segment these days; did you consider, say a Suzuki V-Strom 1000, KTM 1190 or BMW R1200GS?

Yes, all of the above – and even a few others, such as the Triumph Explorer 1200. They’re all great bikes – but then again, is there such a thing as a bad bike these days?

Oh, I could name a few…but with so much choice, and so many issues, why go with the Yamaha?

Honestly, it was easier to stick with Yamaha. When I looked around, the deals offered were similar but the trade in value on the Tracer varied massively, £4k low to £5.8k high.

Even so, sticking with the brand after all those problems shows impressive brand loyalty…

I am overly loyal sometimes, some would say I was mad to stick with Yamaha.  Then again, bikes are bikes – sometimes they break down, and not everything goes to plan.  When things do go wrong is when you can really get to the bottom of “dealer service” – find out how much they really care about their customers. Each time my bike went back their focus was on sorting the issue out, rather than debating whether or not the issue would be covered under warranty.  It was a pain, I’m not denying that, but I never had cause to believe it was not going to get sorted in the end.

Which Yamaha dealer are we talking about here?

Woking Yamaha. I also purchased the Tracer there, and I have to say that they were great when sorting out my previous oil cooler issues. Highly recommended.

Are there any specific features or particular capabilities you were looking for when you chose this bike?

Shaft drive, all day comfort, touring capability, reliability.

Have you made any modifications or installed any accessories? Do you have any planned for the future?

The RAID edition of the Ténéré came with all of the extras I wanted as standard: tank bag, skid plate, panniers, a touring screen complete with wind deflectors, even a set of LED fog lamps. So for now I have nothing else planned!

What sort of riding do you do/plan on doing with this bike? 

Commuting, touring, TVAM Rides – the same sort of thing as before really. It’s a versatile bike, like the Tracer, but I’m finding I’m using it more.

Are there any particular features/aspects that you miss from your previous bike?

Yes…the 900cc triple in the Tracer really was superb. That being said, the 1200 twin in the Ténéré pulls like a train. The whole bike is so well planted at all speeds, and actually easier to ride at low speed than my last bike, and you only notice the weight when pushing it in and out of the garage.

What’s the one thing about your bike you would change if you could?

Drop a few kilos. If only bikes were like people and lost weight the harder you exercised them!


Nick Tasker was talking to Steve Dobson

First published in Slipstream August 2018

Riders Ride (March 2017)

Welcome to Rider’s Rides! Each month we’ll feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have our Chief Observer Pat Coneley and his KTM:

So what bike are we looking at here?

A KTM Superduke GT.

And what does the GT stand for?

Well, it’s the kind of touring version of the Superduke. The original Superduke was a naked bike – same engine, same frame, slightly lighter. With the GT they’ve engineered some integral panniers, giving it some touring capability. They’re styled with the bike, and as panniers go, they look pretty good. They’re not huge like those on a GS, but they’re big enough. Fortunately they only have to cater for one as Amanda has her own bikes. She carries her stuff, I carry mine.

How long have you had the bike?

I bought it last May, so around ten months  – 13,000 miles.

Did it replace another bike or is this an addition to the garage?

Replacement. I already had a KTM, an 1190 Adventure, for three years. I think I put 36,000 miles on it. I don’t really have any off-road aspirations, so other than a few rocky tracks abroad on holiday it was only ever a tarmac bike. I figured why not try something a little bit more road focused with a smaller front wheel? I don’t particularly like bigger front wheels, find them a bit vague. KTM launched the GT, I tried it, and that was it, I fell in love.

What in particular is it that draws you to KTMs?

Well, if you cut me in half I don’t exactly bleed orange. I’ve had Honda’s, Suzuki’s, quite a range of bikes, but I like V-Twins, I like the power delivery, that punch, and I like the fact that they’re very slim-waisted, which my older ZX-9R was not. I like that slimness, both from a handling point of view, and from a filtering point of view. I like lighter bikes, and while the GT looks pretty big and heavy, it isn’t. It’s not that much more than 200kg dry, so 230kg fully fuelled, and it’s quite a big tank.

And 170 horsepower…


Do you agree that the safety nets on modern high-end bikes are a reflection of a rider demographic that no longer has the strength or skill to handle these increasingly powerful machines?

I do think it’s a factor. Manufacturers are being encouraged to produce bikes of such power that the only way that we can make them rideable for inexperienced riders is to inhibit them electronically, to which you could argue, well why do we bother? I know I’m riding one, but why do we need a 170bhp bike if it needs electronics to reign it in? I made reference to my ZX-9R, that was an old-style full-fat sportsbike; it didn’t even know which gear you were in! If you were daft enough to ask for it, it would give you 140bhp in first gear, which would loop it. The traction control was just my right hand and brain, and there’s something nice about that.

Many bike magazines praise traction control and ABS as a great way to enable us to ride faster than ever on roads, while others dislike them for encouraging people to rely upon the computer too much. What’s your view?

I think anything that makes bikes safer is a good thing. My view is that we ought to develop the skill to not need these things, but developing that skill safely could be quite a hazardous process. Within TVAM we encourage people to develop the skills stage by stage in a supportive learning environment with courses like Look Lean Roll and Advanced Braking. But to put an article in a magazine and then suggest to people they then go out and try all, that is probably not a good thing, and not very responsible.

So they may be good training wheels then?

Yes. And by the same token, if the planning does go wrong, if there suddenly is something in front of you, a truck coming the other way, and instinct tells you just to grab a handful…ABS can be a real lifesaver.

So which dealer got your business in this case?

Premier Bikes in Didcot. I’ve known them for quite a long time, and they’ve been brilliant. And what I liked about them is that they’re very straight. When KTM introduced the 1190 Adventure it was a new bike to them, and what really impressed me was that they were completely honest if they didn’t know the answers to my questions. That gave me a lot of faith in their workshop, which I still have. They’ve been brilliant.

Have you had any technical problems or anything with this Superduke or previous Adventure that needed it to go back to the dealer?

I’ve had a number of recalls as with a lot of bikes, but nothing that stopped me on the road. A couple of punctures, but I don’t blame KTM for that! Some niggling things, like the horn – KTM horns seem famous for not working when they’re hot. They’ve had the pin on the side stand, the bit you hook your foot on – they’ve had a number of those fall out. In fact, mine as well, but that’s not a particularly big deal, they sent me a new one and I screwed it in.

Have you installed any additional accessories or made any modifications to the bike since you bought it?

I put the Satnav mount on it, I put wiring in for heated gear, and that’s about it. There’s the Givi tankbag, but I quite like keeping bikes standard. I’m not a great fan of loud cans, I find them tiring. They sound fantastic when you hear one go by, but if you’re riding it for 300 miles it can get a bit wearing! And the standard exhaust on the GT, it’s got quite a nice sound.

This is obviously more of a road bike than your 1190 Adventure was. Have you found that riding the Superduke GT has changed your riding style in any way?

Yes, slightly. The weight distribution is probably the same as most bikes, but I’ve found it’s shorter, so if I’m snugged up to the tank I’m quite close to the front end. I find it easier to go deep into a bend, counter steer it hard and gas it out, and it encourages that kind of riding. On the Adventure I was a bit more planned about things; I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s an awful lot of fun!

And the handling is phenomenal; a very easy bike to turn, which translates into some benefits. I can get the bike leaned quicker, so I’ll often find I don’t need to lean it as much, and corners are about average lean rather than maximum lean. You see riders who tend to turn the bike very slowly because they lean their body, so they bring the lean on quite slowly, which means you’ve often got to lean it over quite a long way to get around a corner.

Is there anything you miss from the Adventure?

I can’t do 250 miles between fill-ups, but I don’t have a 250 mile bladder range, so…

What are the least favourite aspects of your GT?

Cleaning it? Like most naked bikes it’s a sod to clean! But you can get in to most of it, it just takes a while. And it’s better than the 1190 – the Adventure had spoked wheels, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bike with spoked wheels?

Yeah, I avoid them like the plague for that exact reason.

The Superduke has got cast wheels, and they’re quite a nice rounded shape so it’s easier to keep clean than the Adventure was. And the ignition key’s a fiddle to get at with the tank bag on. Unlike most bikes where it’s in the steering head, here it’s set further back in an infill panel in the tank. It’s only a tiny thing but it is a fiddle.

So far you’re pleased with the bike then?

Yeah, it still makes me smile, still makes me laugh after ten months.

Nick Tasker was interviewing Pat Coneley

First published in Slipstream March 2017

Riders Ride (February 2017)

Introducing a new feature here in Slipstream: Rider’s Rides! Each month we’re going to feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it.

Want to see your bike featured?         Get in touch with Nick Tasker at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Kathy Drogemuller and her new Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883:

So Kathy, how long have you had this particular bike?

2 weeks and 90 miles!

So its new then! Why replace your previous Sportster?

My bike was beginning to look a bit tired. It was at 20,000 miles and was due a service. Both mudguards were beginning to rust and needed to be fixed and I’d had a small ‘off’ in the summer which left a few scrapes and scratches (on me and the bike!). Coming home from the last 7Ws, Dawn Armstrong was travelling behind me and had to stop to pick up the heat shield from my exhaust, which had fallen off. But probably the biggest reason was that I’d been riding the SERV bikes and found the FJR an absolute dream to handle – you only have to think about going around a corner and before you know it you’re gliding round smoothly. I was beginning to realise that perhaps my riding was limited by my bike.

I dont think Id be able to keep up with you on an FJR, but I see you went with HD again

I am still a dedicated HD fan – I love the rumble and there is a kind of kinship (for better or worse) between HD riders, maybe because we have to put up with so much teasing from other bikers. For me there’s also an emotional connection to the brand after I lost a friend who was a Harley rider (not in an accident I should add).

Its true; nothing looks or sounds quite like a Harley! But presumably there were some specific features you were looking for this time around?

I wanted a tank size that would allow me to travel more than 70 miles in one go – that effectively discounted the forty-eight range – and more ground clearance. Often, on cornering, my pegs would scrape the road surface. Whilst a good indicator of whether I still had room to lean over, it tended to be a bit of a distraction.

I’d agree that most Harleys arent suited to more progressive riding! Which lucky dealership got your business this time then?

I visited the Reading dealer one sunny Saturday to do some test riding. Budget was a bit of a consideration as anything over £10k would probably lead to my husband filing for divorce (although I would argue that divorce is much more costly than a mere £10,000) so that discounted a number of models. I also wasn’t too sure at that stage how much I would be offered as part-exchange for my current bike.

Did you try anything else or go straight for the Iron?

I took out the 1200T, but found it rode as low as my Sportster, plus it was equipped with windscreen and panniers which added to the cost but didn’t really add to the style. I also tried the forty-eight, but the peanut-size tank just wasn’t going to be up to the job. Next I tried the Iron. It definitely has higher ground clearance than the Sportster and I felt quite comfortable sat astride it. I took one out for a ride and an hour later returned to the shop with a big grin on my face. I felt like Steve McQueen on this raw machine. Not the dream handling of the FJR but far easier than my Sportster.

Were you at all tempted by the extra power of the 1200 Sportsters?

There was a used one on the shop floor which had stage 4 upgrades fitted. The salesman seemed was very reluctant to let me take it out. Perhaps he thought I wasn’t serious? Eventually I was allowed a brief spin around the block and – to be honest – that was all I needed. I cautiously pulled out of the dealer car park and it was just as well I did as even then the front wheel was trying to lift. It was certainly peppy! It turned out to be too much really and felt as if I were riding a wild pony on caffeine.

Were they any more cooperative when you fished out your credit card?

I’d been given a trade-in price of £2700 for my Sportster and told that there was probably room to move on the ticket price of a new Iron, but I would need to come in and sit with the salesman and big bad John, his boss. They were expecting a shipment at the end of November but there was only one black ordered for the whole of the south and it was likely to go pretty fast – the sales talk was beginning to creep in but I wasn’t in a rush. A few emails and phone calls passed between the salesman and I as he encouraged me to come in to meet with John. But still there was no definitive price cut.

Then one afternoon I decided to see what else might be on offer and called the Harley dealer in Guildford. The salesman there said he had a 2016 demo Iron with just under 600 miles on the clock in charcoal. Was I interested? Within 20 minutes I had secured £800 off the full list price, been offered an additional £300 trade-in on my Sportster and the first 1000 mile service included in the exchange. £500 deposit and the bike was sold! I later mused over the fact that I had just bought a bike I hadn’t even seen – but then so had the dealer.

Sounds like a heck of a deal! But the salesman surely didnt let you get away without selling you some accessories?

No. I added a smokey-grey windscreen and a black luggage rack to the order. Before the exchange, and with the kind assistance of the guys at Mel’s Motors, removed some of the extras I’d added over the last 3 years of Harley ownership. The weather was beginning to turn cooler so I was very keen to keep possession of the heated glove connection, in particular.

It has certainly been very cold and wet. Did you brave the elements yourself or get it delivered?

When told that the parts were in and fitted, I took my old bike for one last ride to Guildford to seal the deal. Paperwork completed and road tax paid for online, I was heading home with just as big a grin as I had experienced the first time I rode the Iron.

Sounds like youre enjoying it!  Whats your favourite aspect of the new bike?

The digital control display, which shows revs and which gear you have selected. I also like the position and design of the handlebars which are not as chopper-like as my previous bike. Also the higher ground clearance!

Any future modifications, accessories or upgrades planned?

I might opt for the stage one upgrade (although not necessarily with the pipes) as I’m told that might give me slightly better performance.

What sort of riding do you plan to do?

TVAM trips at home and abroad.

And so far, are you pleased with your purchase?

Yes, thrilled!


Nick Tasker was interviewing Kathy Drogemuller

First published in Slipstream February 2017