As a born-again biker who in his mis-spent youth started out on a Honda XL250, trailriding along the Waimak’ river, around the port hills and Banks Peninsular and any other bit of dirt that could be found as well as touring on it (Chch to Auck and return on more than one occasion), then later moving on to a 66 Triumph 650 Saint which handled the gravel as well as the XL and once the centrestand had been removed, cornered very well, only scraping the headers occasionally. From that to a TS185 for commuting and an accident that resulted in a ruptured L4-L5 disc and nearly 20 years off bikes, when I did decide to ride again I was looking for something that I could sit fairly upright on, both for my back and because that was the riding position that I was used to.
The bike that immediately appealed to me was the Suzuki VS1400 Intruder. It has the classic V-twin, stepped seat, lots of chrome, look of a cruiser, low slung seat and moderately raised bars that result in a comfortable, upright riding position and easy ground handling (I’m 180 cm), and a great sound. I could sneak off at 6am without the neighbours knowing, but it had a good snarl when it got angry.
The 1400 V-twin motor delivers steady power all the way to 160 kph and I found the bike easy to handle (or at least it certainly suited my riding style). It is quite a slim bike and I had no problems when it came to weaving through traffic, and the ground clearance is quite good so I found that compared to other cruisers, the Intruder did seem to corner very well.
The rake on the front forks is slightly more than normal which gives the Intruder a bit of a ‘choppery’ look but this does affect the handling slightly. At very low speed, the front wheel wants to flop into the turn, and by making the bike quite long, it presents a bigger sail area so it is more affected by cross winds. A long bike requires more corner but this isn’t too much of a problem on the Intruder thanks to the good ground clearance, as long as you set-up for the corner well.
The only real disadvantages I found were:
In general I loved riding the Intruder and I managed to cover about 25,000 kms in 15 months, but therein lies the problem. I was doing too many touring k’s and often two-up so I had to look for some throw over saddlebags. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any that would fit the bike without affecting comfort or without requiring modifications to the bike……and that was when it happened. I spotted a lovely pair of red panniers. Only problem was that there was a Honda ST1300 attached!! “I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Cruiser Rider…I wouldn’t touch a Rocket Ship”…at least that’s what I kept telling myself. “But 1,000 miles a month is really touring…isn’t it”??
This epiphany resulted in a trip(s) to the web and a lots of ‘googling’ for comparisons and reviews of the Honda ST1300, the Yamaha FJR1300 and the yet to be released Kawaski Concours 14 and frequent visits to Trade-me and Autopoint to view prices and availability. Hell…not many 2nd hand ones of any of these around…either can’t be many on the road or they are all cherished and kept for the duration?? Luckily there were two ST riders in the Wellington Ulysses, so I had a chat to them. Hmm…not much help there, they only said good things and I’m sure they had a glassy stare but I couldn’t tell as we spoke on the phone. Luckily the wife and I were booked in for a trip to Auckland and a bike shop up there had both ST’s & FJR’s advertised, I could have a look for myself.
Fatal mistake!! It turned out they never had any FJR’s but that didn’t matter because I didn’t want to buy till the Concours was released anyway, but I did let them talk me into a test ride on an ST. I had a sit and it felt alright…pretty upright and I could adjust the seat height as well. Took off very tentatively and struck the 1st problem, it didn’t have any footpegs….oops. Sorry, they just weren’t where they were supposed to be, …out front. Oh well, that’s not really uncomfortable, now where’s that motorway?
After negotiating some crappy Auckland traffic I soon found myself heading North toward Albany. “Hey, where’s the mirrors…oh shit, they’re way down there…gosh I can see the cars clearly…hmm, that’s because the mirrors aren’t vibrating!!!...wow, this adjustable windscreen is cool, I can’t feel a thing…just a bit higher, hey, where’d the tail-wind come from….Oh shit, I’m doing 130k’s, better slow down.” After a quick spin up to Dairy Flat and back via the old road, I was quite impressed at the smooth ride, power and comfort of this machine. Apparently I had a glint in my eye and quirky smile on my face on my return, no wonder the salesman had an easy job of it. He offered me a good deal on the Intruder and a really good deal on the ST and unfortunately I had a long ride back to Wellington and just couldn’t wait to check out the FJR or Concours. I signed up and the next day returned to collect my pristine new ST1300 with 0 kms on the clock. Wow.
I’ve had it two weeks now and done 2,000 kms and although I am still adjusting to it, when I talk about it, I probably have the same glassy stare as Ken and Adrian (the other ST owners).
We did a 150 kms around Auckland before heading back to Wellington and I elected to travel down SH1 as that would help me keep the speed down and give more variation in speed, revs and gears for the running-in process. We made our first stop in Taupo for gas and lunch, then headed on to Taihape for a coffee, and as we’d done the 500km running-in, decided to deviate through the Wairarapa and took the turn-off at Mangaweka, through Kimbolton and onto Colyton, a brief stop in Ashhurst to stretch before heading over the Saddle and down to Masterton for a quick visit to my parents. Then the last short bit over the Rimutakas and home and I only needed to do another 150k before taking it for the 1st service which was already booked for the Tuesday. (I took it in with 1025 on the clock).
Another 1,000 kms on and I am a Born-again biker and an ST convert. This bike is amazing.
Red line is at 8500rpm but I have yet to take it over 5000 and it sits on 3000 at 100kph in top gear, so it appears to have heaps, and the quiet engine gives no indication of the power lurking at hand. It corners intuitively requiring very little counter-steering input and the transitions on winding roads is smooth although I am not yet comfortable to push the envelope here and I have aborted on a couple of corners. It sits nicely on loose gravel but I am still carrying the Intruder Allergy to gravel and try to avoid it like the plague. The fuel injection means the throttle is very responsive and I am still trying to get smoother gear changes and low speed transitions.
The only problems I have noted so far is that the gear I had to buy for riding the Intruder is now too good and I get a bit warm, particularly my hands as the mirrors shield the hand grips. It is quite heavy and with the seat right up, for my riding comfort, my feet just touch the ground and it can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially with a pillion. The other problem is that I have to work and don’t get as much time, as I would like, to ride.
Overall, I’m loving it and I am 100% sure that I couldn’t have bought the wife a better birthday present.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.