It was the winter solstice yesterday in the Southern Hemisphere - days get longer from now. In a recent post, fellow moto-blogger Sonja asked what was wrong with the weather. That applied to Europe and Germany in particular but the same applies down south. Torrential rain and floods on the eastern seaboard of Australia and New Zealand has had its fair share of rain too. However, on the positive side, the weather has been unseasonably warm for the last few days and temperature records are being set in many parts of the country. Our village peaked at 18 degrees C yesterday - not bad for mid-winter!
The Suzuki has racked up 12,000 km from new in about 6 months, (90% of it mentoring with IAM) and was due for its first significant service, With a dire weather forecast for the rest of the week, I thought it would be good to get it over and done with. The dealer I bought it from in Auckland has a really professional and likeable sales team but when taking it back for the 1000 km check, their service team gave the impression of indifference. That may be unfair, but it's impressions which count.
A few weekends ago, I copped a rear puncture near the city of Hamilton. It was a relatively slow leak but being 170 km from home, I didn't want to risk a temporary fix failing and leaving me stranded miles from anywhere. A quick call to Boyd Suzuki in Hamilton who were just open for the Saturday morning saw a really sympathetic response. They said just get the bike to them and they'll look at it straight away. They were as good as their word, fixed the tyre and I was on my way in less than an hour. Even better, the total cost including labour was only NZ$45 - fantastic! They may not have made much on that repair but their excellent service has seen me switch my business to them. A real example of the impact of good customer service. More on this later.
Getting ready for the trip south under threatening skies
Arriving in Hamilton 2 1/4 hours after setting off, the bike was taken off to the workshop as soon as I dismounted and was told that it would be around an hour and a half to complete the service. Felt a bit sorry for the technician as I'd cleaned the bike for him and by the time we got there, it was covered in crap again from the damp roads.
With a bit of time to kill, there was plenty of time to wander round their well-appointed accessories area and showroom. With a fairly new bike, there was no risk of being beaten to a pulp by Jennie for putting a deposit on a new one so it was a good opportunity to cast a dispassionate eye over the Suzuki, BMW and KTM range which they stocked. However, that didn't negate a drool over the accessories!
A small part of their accessories area
My current textile riding pants are at least 5 years old. The term "waterproof" was clearly added to their advertising material by a marketing team who had their fingers crossed behind their collective backs. They leaked in the crotch about 2 weeks after purchase so plastic overtrousers were always worn over the top for longer hauls. However, it got to the stage where even regular applications of Nikwax Tech Wash and Nikwax waterproofers failed to stop me looking like I was incontinent, even on short runs. What a great time to browse along the racks for replacement pants!
There was no way I could justify the expense of Rukka gear or similar but a browse of various websites saw owners singing the praises of mid-priced Rev'it Factor 3 pants. Lo and behold, there was a pair of my size in stock so it was off to the changing room. Lots of quality fittings on the pants and they were a perfect fit, even with armour in all the right places. One feature that I particularly like is that they are a relatively slim cut. My old ones are quite baggy and I've always felt that I looked like the sort of rider who features in 1950's and 60's adverts for sensible 500cc British single cylinder machines. Different story with my silver and black summer leathers - mutton dressed as lamb!
A brisk march up to the accessories counter with the impending purchase gave a nice surprise in that the person behind the counter was someone I knew. Kat used to work at the Triumph franchise up the road and we'd always got on really well when I owned the Street Triple. She gave me a nice discount on the pants which was completely unexpected and certainly added to the customer experience. It's instances like this which go a long way to building customer loyalty.
Rev'it Factor 3 textile pants
With that part of business concluded, it was time for a wander round the showrooms. The first thing which struck me was that if you pulled the decals off most faired sport bikes and painted them the same colour, it would be a real challenge without closer inspection to determine what brand they were - simply not enough differentiation for any one of them to stand out above the rest. However, the naked or semi-naked bikes did show a bit of design flair, even if some of them weren't to my particular taste (whatever that might be!)
Having (probably unjustifiably) dismissed faired bikes in a single sentence, I must say that the KTM range were particularly appealing. With their ladder frames, sharp edges and bold colours, they were really eye-catching. The bike in the foreground of the photo below is a 200 cc learner-compliant bike and is as sexy as hell - never thought I'd be saying that about a 200! I'd happily own one of the naked KTM 390 or 690 singles for behaving badly on in the twisties close to home. Small fuel tanks would put me off one for longer journeys but I guess it's the old adage about fitness for purpose.
The sexy KTM range
My eye was caught by the rear view of the latest BMW 1200 GS below. Fellow moto-blogger Nikos will probably put a contract on me for saying it but I wondered who had sneaked a main battle tank into the line-up of bikes - bloody hell, it's a wide beast! The designer was probably a military vehicle or agricultural equipment designer in a past life. Being towards the end of the queue when long legs were handed out, I'd be looking in the accessories catalogue for retractable trainer wheels. Having gently taken the mickey, I'll freely admit that it was a 1200 GS that had little trouble in keeping up with my Street Triple on our local and bumpy twisties when I was trying hard to shake it off. And of course, for pan-continental journeys, they are almost without peer.
A sturdy Bavarian ummm... motorcycle
The BMW XR1000 shown below looks anything but agricultural. Tall but slim, it defies any normal label of adventure, sports or touring with a modified 4 cylinder motor from the flagship superbike chucking out 160 bhp. Not really sure how well it will sell in NZ as buyers of adventure bikes over here generally use them at least in part for genuine off-roading. How well the XR would handle anything other than a bit of fairly smooth gravel would be interesting to see.
Very stylish XR 1000
There were two BMW's which really caught my eye. I almost missed the first one as it was wedged between some other bikes and was painted gloss black without any lurid decals - a real stealth weapon if ever there was one. This was the S1000R super-naked with essentially the same motor as the XR. It was so slim and compact that it could easily be taken for a small capacity bike. An unobtrusive real missile - my kind of bike!
I did manage to photograph the other bike with real appeal (below). This is the first time I'd seen an R9T in the flesh. Its apparent elegant simplicity really shone - what you might call "retro chic", I suppose. Polished metal fuel tank, uncluttered looks, a seat height for the vertically challenged - just lovely. Price tag very similar to the new Thruxton Bonneville 1200. It will be interesting to see how sales of both go.
The R9T - gorgeous simplicity
Sure enough, the GSX-S was ready bang on time and what's more, they'd washed all the crap off too, bless them! The total bill, including the new pants was a shade under NZ$600. Admittedly, it wasn't the sort of major service requiring the bike to be half-stripped but nonetheless, it was a good price which will keep me going back. Finishing on a light note, I left Boyds and stopped at the traffic signals about half a kilometre up the road. Suddenly, there was an alarming amount of steam coming up from the bike and for a heart-stopping instant, I thought a radiator hose had come off or developed a leak. It's amazing just how much water the radiator fins hold after a wash - the surplus was just flashing off as the engine came up to temperature!
All in all, a rather splendid day........