Buying a bike 600 miles away.


5th February 2017 - 11:30am.

I am drafting this sat in Bristol airport waiting for my flight. My flight is to Inverness. I am on my way to complete the single most expensive purchase of my life, A 2013 KTM 990 Adventure, and I placed a deposit on it without even seeing pictures.

I'm afraid although this is the start of my blog, it certainly isn't the beginning of my story, I hope you are sitting comfortably as there is quite a lot to take in.

The want for a new bike started around mid-October 2016, I was due a pay increase soon and naturally what is a boy who has a passion for bikes to do? Of course... spunk it all on a new bike!

I decided for my kind of use I wanted a "do it all bike", this of course means different things for different people. For me it includes commuting 30 miles each way, solo and 2-up touring, fun rides, track days and the ability to ride up a forestry track for example when attempting to find a good wild camping spot. As you will see from various photos my ol' faithful CBR900 Fireblade did all of the above but apart from track days it was at least a little compromised in most of the scenarios.

Having looked around online I decided the bike for me was to be a Ducati Multistrada 1200, even reviews called it a 4-in-1 bike. My only experience of any Ducati was had at an off-road riding experience at November 2016's Motorcycle Live held at the NEC and even then it was the Multistrada Enduro.

It felt an incredibly capable bike with a great seating position and standing position however you can only tell so much from a 10-15mph ride off road for 10 minutes in the space the size of half a football pitch.

Not me riding but it is the bike I rode with the optional Termignoni exhaust, sounded lovely.

As I was leaving the experience arena I was told "Why not come back later and try another bike?" After wandering around the rest of the show for a few hours I decided to head back and luckily there was a seat going spare on a KTM 1290 Adventure.

For going over all of the same conditions and despite the KTM being a lower spec (not having hill assist for example it just felt better, more suited and ultimately a nicer bike to aboard.

Both the KTM 1290 and Multistrada Enduro would be out of budget so this got me looking towards more affordable equivalents. Namely the KTM 990 Adventure and the Multistrada 1200s.

So fast-forward a couple of months and we arrive at January 26th. An afternoon off work and I scuttled over to Riders of Bridgwater as they happened to have exactly what I had been looking for in stock.

A quick chat about the bikes, some legal things signed as I started to kit up ready to ride a 2012 KTM and a 2013 MTS back to back.

At first I went out on the Ducati, pottering around in traffic due to the road works it felt a little top heavy and steering it around roundabouts it just didn't feel great. The engine is stonking and really the other bits could have been down to set up but I had to make my mind up based on the 20 minutes or so I had on the bike.

Next up, the 990. Now as soon as I threw my leg over I realised it was quite a tall bike. I'm not hugely vertically challenged but with a 31" inside leg it isn't the easier to climb aboard, however as soon as we got on the move I could feel the difference. The KTM is a very old bike in comparison, the engine has just been tweaked and updated here and there, the brakes are twin piston sliding caliper and the dash is incredibly basic, yet it had an infinitely more fun feeling.

The best way I can describe it is the Ducati feels like a production bike, which is no bad thing. The KTM is an entirely different breed, it feels like a "special" some chap called Lukas has knocked up in his shed purely because somebody else told him not to.

So with my Heart beating orange the hunt began. Trawling tirelessly through classifieds I struggled to find the "one". They were either not the right year, the right mileage or the right spec. Apart from 1 private seller that after leaving 2 telephone messages and an email I decided perhaps he didn't want to sell his motorcycle after all, despite paying for an Autotrader listing.

With that I felt a little dejected and decided that I would stop searching, build a little more cash and wait for the right one to come along.

I wasn't waiting long, on the evening of Tuesday the 31st I had an eBay notification telling me of a new KTM 990 Adventure listing. A 2013 model with a start bid of £2500, no photos and no buy it now but with a reserve, there was a relatively brief description and to top it off it was over 580 miles from home.

So doing what any sane 24 year old would do, I called the number left in the advert.

A 20 minute conversation with the very pleasant if not a little scatty seller I was convinced it was genuine. I skulked into the living room grinning like a Cheshire cat at my other half, fully decided that this was the bike for me.

I was told it had 2000 miles, had been garaged since late 2015 due to the owner losing his licence for health reasons and it had all the luggage I wanted. The only issue was my self imposed budget. So that night I began looking at loans, it only took less than 12 hours to find one that suited me and get the deal done.

A £500 deposit secured the bike providing it passed it's MOT on the Thursday. When the text came through to say it was the flight to Inverness was booked, all £58 of it, my bags were packed to the brim despite packing light and it was time to start anxiously counting down the days til the flight.

From Thursday around midday until Sunday morning the majority of my time was spent googling different routes to take, what roads might be fun, searching for areas I may be able to camp and also devising a plan to turn up on my friend's doorsteps with a new bike that I hadn't told them about.

15:10pm.

I arrived at Inverness airport around 50 minutes ago, I didn't realise it was going back in time as ours was the only jet turbine engine plane that landed or was on site. The rest were propeller driven!

While waiting for the bus and having a quick snack I looked up at the skylight above me only to see and hear it had just started raining. Great. Would this be a sign of how things were about to go?

18:40pm.

Camp is set, the bike is parked next to my hammock and the fire is lit. Bliss.

I've had Minestrone soup mixed with Mackerel in tomato sauce (it sounds a lot worse than it taste, a very hearty camping meal) followed by a starbar for dessert.

Surprisingly considering how much it has rained recently, a couple of fire lights and a fire log meant that a few soggy sticks couldn't dampen the mood, I had quite a roaring fire and at times had to move away as my legs were getting too hot!

I have only done 50 miles or so mainly because of the rain starting and making me want to not set camp in pouring rain, For those that have done this you'll know how miserable it is getting soggy while attempting to keep hammock/sleeping bags/yourself dry and get a good set up so it stays dry, it isn't much fun, and my pin-lock kept fogging up. I thought they were supposed to stop exactly that?

I managed to find a camping spot relatively easily by turning off the A9 just south of Aviemore and heading along the B970 until seeing a sign for Inschriach Forest, this wasn't planned it was pot luck but I took it! The rain stopped just before I found the perfect spot but by that time my mind was made up and let it never be known that I don't follow through with my decisions. This means waking up in the morning, according to google maps I had 7 or so hours of boring motorway/dual carriaageway riding. Brilliant.

6th February 10:15am.

I've been awake for approximately 2 hours. It's still bloody cold and I had a terrible nights sleep due to having to pack light as most of my rucksack space was taken up with bike jacket and trousers.

I planned to leave around 9am, stood in the woods and hearing the wind get up and some serious creaking from a nearby tree I decided not to wait and find out what might happen so I get the last bits of gear stashed in the ludicrously spacious panniers and topbox combo. The key goes in, the bike does the startup needle sweep (first bike I've had that does this and it's fucking cool! at first then becomes annoying waiting for it to finish), press the button and.... and to be fair there wasn't nothing but sometimes it would try turning it over, sometimes it would do nothing. BOLLOCKS!

Fully geared up and with a thermal vest on I start pushing a bloody heavy, bloody tall bike over uneven ground and out of the woods. Not the easiest thing I have ever done. I decided to try and bump it but bumping a huge FI twin is nigh on impossible, especially when you're not very strong or fit!

Choosing the only sensible option I dug the manual out of the bottom of the now jam packed topbox and start trying to find where the battery lives, realising I need tools I popped over the road to the tearoom/plant nursery opposite, now growing ever more glad of my choice of camping spot, and see if they could help. Luckily they had workers on site and I managed to gain access to the battery.. only I didn't as under the skid plate is a further plastic box housing the battery that has 6mm bolts securing it which unfortunately the helpful chaps didn't have.

So onto calling the RAC and expecting to waste half my day I was shocked when they said they would be arriving at approximately half 11. Winner! It could have been worse, I got to look at snow topped mountains with packet of peanut M&M's.

10:50am

A van rolls around the corner with "Ross's Garage" written on it and proceeds to pull up and it turns out these guys are the RAC contractors. Fantastic!

After a quick jump start, a battery check Troy lets me know there isn't a real issue and we agreed it was most likely the cold that did the battery in overnight with it being uncovered etc. I made a comment along the lines of "I expect it was below zero last night" and he looked wide-eyed and replied "It was -5 on my way into work". Well no wonder I had a terrible nights sleep from being cold!

So 2 hours after I originally planned to leave I wave goodbye to Troy, throw my leg over and start to head south.

The A9 is an awful stretch of road to spend time on, full of average speed cameras and to top it off lots of road works which meant lots of riding at 40/50mph and filtering where possible when the temporary traffic lights are around.

I would like to say it was a pleasant journey but really it was terrible. The highest temperature I saw all day? 7 degrees. Lowest? 0.8 degrees according to the KTM dash, and then to top it all off once getting South of Cumbria it started to rain. This then turned into hammering it down that lasted until I got to my Friends house just outside Rugby, the only bonus of this is that my Gore-tex gear got it's first real trial and I stayed bone dry! ... Apart from having to have my visor slightly open the whole time to avoid fogging which meant a soggy head and helmet.

The only good thing about this day was testing how comfortable the bike was, first off the heated grips (a first on any bike I have owned) were fantastic! Without them it would have been a lot less enjoyable. I'm unsure if it was the bike being uncomfortable or me not being bike fit but just prior to each fuel stop my arse and legs were getting sore and needed moving, coupled with being on motorways and my hands not moving much they were sore and had to have a little hand pump every so often to stop it.

7:15pm Approx

I arrived outside my friends house, dripping and knocked the door. He couldn't believe I had just turned up on a nearly new bike when I had been saying to him I had "family things" to sort out nearby, a good long chat about bikes, the journey etc ensued over a cuppa before he finally got too itchy and despite the weather doing it's best to put us off, we headed out so he could have a quick blast on the new beast.

The seal of approval on the bike was achieved and we headed back to his place to bed down for the night.

Summary

The rest of the journey to Somerset was rather uneventful apart from dropping in and seeing another friend before getting it home late on the 7th.

I'm not completely sold on the bike as doing mainly motorway miles I never had a real sense of fun on the bike, I have a trip planned for the beginning of March camping in Wales so hopefully testing it as intended might make me fall for the bike.

If not then it'll be up for sale and replacements (plural) sourced!

Good points on the bike:

  • The noise even on standard cans is very pleasant

  • Seating position is great, lets you feel like commander of the road

  • Headlight is good on dipped beam and main beam

  • Hard panniers and cases are a god-send. Packing them is a breeze compared to poorly lashed bungees.

  • Engine characteristics, lots of fun and happy to cruise anywhere between 70-90.

  • Plush suspension, now speed bumps are a joy!

Bad points on the bike:

  • Main beam - fantastic.... if it isn't wet, then the light on the dash is so bright it illuminates the water on your visor and you see less, not more.

  • Tank range - fuel consumption isn't great and even on a run it was 120 miles or so to the fuel light.

  • Seat height. As mentioned they are bloody tall and getting my little legs over can sometimes be a pain. Not a good bike to buy if you like working out, after exercise it gets harder!

  • Suspension - it's currently so soft that as soon as the throttle is opened it looks like you are flashing people. I need to have a real investigation.

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