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FOUR BY NORTH WEST

Four naked bikes, four (not naked) men, and four days of mayhem touring to the nutty North West 200…

NAKEDS TO THE NW200

Following our big sportsbike touring trip to Portimao in 2015, many of you guys pulled me up on something I’d mentioned – that I was glad we were touring on sportsbikes rather than naked machines. And, yes, that’s what I said then – and I’ll happily stick by it. That’s because I truly believe that if you’ve an ounce of spirit in your biking soul, anything but a sportsbike is ultimately compromised, especially in the modern age where these bikes can do everything almost as good as anything else – and are far better at the really fun stuff.

So, to give some credence to this claim we decided to turn a traditional test into something else entirely. The test in question appeared in issue 318, a naked bust-up between Europe’s greatest naked sportsbikes from 2016, one that saw the sublime Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory crush very capable opposition into submission.

But that test was just a part of the entire experience, because to answer some of your questions we decided to also turn it into a touring feature, with one brilliant destination to achieve – the North West 200.

This worked for us in many ways. Firstly, I’d never been to the NW200 in all the years I’ve been doing this lark, which ticked that off the list. Ensuring you have something wonderful to behold halfway through a touring trip is, I’d venture, nigh on essential. But it also worked for the naked theme too, in that it would give the bikes their best chance of being able to achieve their touring stripes. Specifically, this would mean not too much motorway mileage. Were we to simply stick to main routes without a fairing to hide behind, life would quickly get dull, painful and, more annoyingly, we wouldn’t be able to make decent progress without a subsequent visit to a neck-strain specialist…

The bikes we used were quite different, beyond the fact all are sans fairings. The Aprilia is the sportiest of the bunch and theoretically the least capable at this kind of lark. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R, while quite soft in many ways, is also the one that sits you up highest, which isn’t what you need when hammering out the motorway miles. The Ducati Monster 1200 R, with its mildly peculiar riding position, also throws a potentially odd dynamic into the mix. And, finally, BMW’s S 1000 R, on paper, is the best of the bunch given its specification and touring friendly qualities. If any bike was going to make naked touring a cinch, this one was it. So that’s the bike I decided to spend most time on, and let the others suffer!

Our group consisted of Gary from Bridgestone, who was super-pumped to be handed the Aprilia. Snapper (and ex-FB design guru) Andy ‘Beaky’ Saunders was astride the KTM (as it was the only one with panniers to store his cameras). And Mr Jonny of Gawler was on the Monster – and started complaining immediately that it was way too loud with the open Termignonis fitted by full-time carer Charlie.

Every good trip away needs a plan, although I always prefer to leave a little leeway in these things in case something interesting crosses your path or something untoward happens. Having too tight a schedule often means an incident or similar can royally cock everything up. That being said, I’m also a bit of a bastard, too, and didn’t want to make our lives too easy. That meant settling on a four day trip – a razz around some of Wales’ best roads in the Brecon Beacons, then a brief jaunt on one of Stenaline’s finest from Fishguard to Rosslare in southern Ireland. From there we’d head up through the Wicklow National Park, zip around Dublin and then head towards Lough Neagh, before the last leg to Portstewart and our destiny at road racing’s nirvana.

We all met up at Chez FB on a balmy Thursday afternoon to get our bikes ready, which meant filling up rucksacks with pants and Kriega tail packs with shoes and security. Tank bags are all well and good, and don’t get in the way as much on a naked as a sportsbike – but are still a pain in the arse. And anyway, what do you need for just four days away? Not much, bar essentials and a few handy touring tools. Always tour as lightly as possible if you’re on anything sporty – rule number one.

A fine steed

TOP TIPS: NAKED TOURING

Andy: Easyjet (twat! – BJ).

BJ: Keep motorways to a minimum.

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