Wednesday, 25 June 2008

How does the Mana handle with the top case Shad SH50?

After having sent me some great shots of his Mana with the top case Shad SH50 installed, JB also sent me the following comments about how the bike feels and handles with the topc case.

Thank you JB!


Hi all,

Here are some first comments about the setup Mana and SH 50 top case.

The Aprilia rack is just a piece of cake to mount is just five minutes. The existing passenger handle has to be removed but the rack has two lateral ones which are finally more comfortable for the passenger. (We are talking about comfort when many other bikes would just be lucky to feature something to hook up the back meat).The SH50 mounting is pretty easy but requires some new holes to fit into the existing ones of the Aprilia rack. The choice for this top case was based on size, price and aestheticism as the color really match the bike's. The case is also available in red, blue, black, etc. Check for more information. Personally this is the best and most beautiful case I have found on the market even if Givi has great products too.

Again Shad say they would make a baggage rack available for the case but “ a couple of month” is too long anyway for me as I need to use the bike to go to work when I am at the office which happens two or three times a week. The case has then to accommodate my soft business bag including a laptop, all being worth about 8 kilos.

The first time I ride the bike with the case, I thought it was too much disturbing. But a strong wind was blowing this day and finally the most sensitive effect was with lateral wind. The overweight is not a problem and it is the same as if you would have a very light passenger on the back seat. The same day I went for a famous ride around the hills. The road goes from 300m to 800 m of altitude over 10 km. Its is a pretty fast one with long curves that you take between 120 and 140 km/h. The case was empty this time. I did not pay attention to it as it had absolutely no effect on the bike. What was concerning me was the tuning of the rear shock absorber that I think could be harder to accommodate fast curve speeds. It was great fun anyway !

All in all the only thing I have noticed with this setup is some noise coming from vibrations at null speed. This problem can easily be solved with one additional screw at the top rear of the case and the plate. My son and my daughter have volunteered to test the bike as passengers and they both said it's just like in our sofa !

Have great rides.


Thank you JB. I think what is particularly interesting is the increased comfort of the passenger, who now has two handles for increased stability and a place to rest his back...

I am not surprised about the wind effect, as this would occur with every bike with a top case...

I might have to buy one myself in the end...we'll see!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Mana with Shad SH50 top case

JB, a commentator of Mototourism, sent me some very good photos of his grey Mana (great colour, by the way) with a Shad SH50 top case. You can see them below.

I must admit the bike looks a lot better that I thought it would: it must also be the fact that the Shad is the same colour as the bike. It actually looks very neat.

JB kindly promised to send me a few words on the Mana's behaviour with this top case. I am really curious to hear how it handles, as this case is really big, and I am sure that the different weight distrubution will affect the bike. Depending on what he says, I will decide myself on whether to buy the Givi V-46 or not. I would like to avoid it, but I think it will be necessary during the winter, when I will have to store the winter gear...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Room is never enough

The V-strom 650 is my long-range motorbike, which I use for longer trips, especially during the Summer. This is the main reason why I fitted it with the Givi Top Case V46 (which can store two full face helmet), and the two side-cases Givi E41, each of them of 41 liters.

Very heavy traveling...the blue thing beow the side bag is a sun umbrella

Whereas I live the top case always installed on the bike, I put on the side bags only when I go for a long journey. The problem is that if the top case is enough if I am on my own, during the winter time, when I wear my motorbike jacket even when I gett off the bike, it is definitevely not enough during the summer, especially if I am traveling with my partner and we do not want to walk around with our gear on.

The main problem is where to leave our protective jackets, pants and shoes. In fact, I refuse to let my girlfriend ride on the bike in shorts and a t-shirt, even if it is only to go to the beach: we both wear our protective jackets and trousers and shoes. Obviously, as soon we get to the beach, we take off all this stuff, and we do not want to carry it with us.

Last year I bought for 75 Euros an anti-theft bag called "Stuffsafe", by Pacsafe. It is an 80lt foldable bag, which takes only a very limited space when folded. Unfolded, it can contain our trousers, our harmored jackets, our shoes, and whatever else you want...the textile is water repellent, and is protected by an exterior iron mesh which protects it from people who might try to cut the textile to steal your stuff. You can anchor the bag to your bike or to any other fixed installations, if you do not want to carry your stuff with you.

So far, it has proven invaluable: I fix it to the bike with the provided lock, and just head off to the beach...with peace of mind.

Monday, 16 June 2008

MEP ride on 25 June in Brussels

Since 1996, the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA), organises every year a "MEP Motorcycle Ride".

The objective of the event is to bring together motorcycling citizens from all over Europe and the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) for an informal event, so as to give MEPs the opportunity to experience the pleasure of motorcycling, but especially to help them understand the issues motorcyclists are facing every day. Normally around 150 people attend the event (MEPs, their assistants, lobbying organizations, or simple motorcyclists).

This year, the 12th MEP Ride will take place on 25 June. The even will start at 3.30pm, with various activities (test rides, classes), with the actual ride departing at 6.30 from the AutoWorld Museum in the Center of Brussels.

A dinner and a concert will follow. I myself will go just for the ride, which should last around one hour and a half...if any of you readers are passing by, let me know and I will treat you to a nice Belgian beer (but only after the ride, don't worry...).

For more information, please visit this website, where the organizers should also put on the itinerary of the ride.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Losing weight sometimes has a downside

Back in January I hit my highest record weight: 94 kilos. Belgian food can kill you, let me tell you. I decided I had to do something about it, I needed to get back in shape. I needed to start going to the gym, rather than simply paying the gym's fee...

And so I did. At the moment I am 83 kilos and counting (hopefully). I was able to build back muscles and lose a lot of fat. I still need to lose around 5-7 kilos, but I feel great.

But if you are a biker with a lot of protective (and expensive) gear, losing weight has a phenomenal downside: all your gear is far too big. I had bought a leather protective jacket (my first motorbike leather jaket!!!) back in November, and I was waiting for April-May to start using it. Well, now it is far too big. It still has the label on it, I never never used it once. It is useless. 350 Euros thrown down the toilet.

Same thing for my summer mesh Clover Air Tek trousers, which I bought last year...and for the Dainese winter jacket. But at least I used those for one season...

The problem is that this gear now fits so loose that the protections at the elbows, the knees and the shoulders move around, and do not provide any guarantee of protection in case of a crash. The only item which I can safely wear is a Spidi Spring-Summer jacket which I bought back in March, when I had started already my diet and my exercise. I had bought it two sizes too an incentive for me to get worked, so now it is the only thing which I can use.

Now I am facing a dilemma. I am one of those bikers that use protective gear all the time, even in very hot weathers. I always wear a back protector and an harmoured jacket at the very minimum. Depending on the lenght of the journey I add harmored trousers and boots.

But what shall I do now? Should I buy new stuff? Should I contact the manufacturers of the products I own (some of them really only one year old) and see whether these products can be adjusted? Or should I just sit and wait until I am sure I can keep my weight? And what should I do in the meantime?

Don't get me wrong. I am extremely happy of my new shape. I think a man decides in his mid-thirties how fit he will be for the rest of his life. So it was important for me to go back to practicing sports and eating healthy as I had done before coming to Belgium.

But on the other hand, what a waste of money!!!! Even the boots are now too large!!!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Riding behaviours

I have always wondered to what extent the bike you are riding influences the way you ride. I have always been riding enduro-style bike, and I have always considered myself a very cautious rider.

I never lost sleep over how to cut the perfect corner…I am more interested in the comfort the bike has to offer for long journeys or for commuting, or in elements of the design rather than in the top speed or absolute power.

However, I found myself riding in a much more aggressive way with the Mana than I have ever done in the past.

The Mana is much more powerful than anything I have ridden before, and it is the first naked I have. And I am starting to appreciate why so many riders talk about the importance of cutting the corner in a certain way…when I enter the tunnel which takes me home, with a steep turn, I am smiling at my ever more daring attempts to find the limit of the bike, pushing down with my knee…

I have started to use a lot more my weight to incline the bike, and I am in general riding faster than I used to. Faster than I probably should. I discovered myself losing grip over my rear tyre exiting from a turn. Opening the throttle to the full with the Mana is not a good idea, I realized…nothing happened with the V-strom (even if it is a decently powerful bike), but a lot can go wrong with the Mana when you do it…

A few years back, I was driving a sports car, an Alfa GTV…and I was definitively driving faster and more aggressively than I am now that I have a different type of car.

Big deal, you might think. Well, for me it is. I always thought that I could control myself on any bike, that deep inside I was a cautious rider. I am realizing that maybe I was so cautious because I was always riding easy going bikes, and not powerful naked.

Again, nothing major, I am not racing on the streets. But I wonder whether a Harley 1200 Nightster or a Triumph Scrambler or Bonneville would have been closer to my traditional riding styles…

And I am definitively increasingly determined to take riding classes. Yes, I have been riding for 20 years now. But I feel I could benefit so much from riding classes. I will find out what are the options here in Belgium…

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Mototourism on All Top

I am very happy to announce that since last Sunday, Mototourism has been added to the motorcycles page of All Top.

All Top is a news aggregator which publishes news from a wide variety of sources on a long list of topics: from food to travel, from autos to politics, from fashion to food. Have a look at their main site, and I am sure you will find something you will be interested in…

Recently, All Top launched also a motorcycles page. At the moment it aggregates more than 20 blogs, and I am very happy to say that Mototourism is now one of them!!!

I had to choose the button to put on my website, and I went for a politically incorrect one…down on the right side of the blog. I hope you like it!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Revolution on your head

Are you a Communist? Are you one of those who believe that Che Guevara is a real hero? Do you own a t-shirt with his face? Do you have his image tattooed on your forearm? Well, why not buying this helmet then, and showing to the whole world that Revolution is what's on your mind (actually, on your head, properly speaking)...

When I saw it I couldn't believe it. But the helmet is for real. I took the photos myself a couple of days ago in a Brussels shop. It is manufactured by the Belgian helmet maker Lazer, which until a few months ago owned the brand AGV (Valentino Rossi's helmets - AGV now is owned by Dainese).

The designer must have thought that Che Guevara was not enough, so he also threw in the CCCP letters...I am not sure why anyone would like to have an helmet gloryfying one of the most violent regimes ever, like the Soviet Union was (I am not sure either why they put on the same helmet the USSR acronym and Che Guevara...), but hey, if they were to sell it in Italy it would be sold out in a minute...every time I go back there I am amazed by the number of people sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt...

Friday, 6 June 2008

Riding in the Brussels weather - the Perma18

The weather in Brussels is pretty much disgusting throughout the year. So riding in this country is really not fun. But when it really becomes unbearable is during Spring and the Summer time, when you have the permanent weather conditions that I call Perma18.

The Perma18 is the typical Belgian climate which kicks in May and accompanies us until the end of September-beginning of October. As the name suggests, the main feature of the Perma18 is the constant temperature of around 18 degree Celsius (around 64 Degrees F). It can be 19 C, it can 17C, but the max values will not go very far away from there. You can get grey sky, if you are lucky, and grey sky AND rain if you are not lucky.

Today I wasn’t lucky, as you can see.
I have been living in this country for ten years, and I cannot be proven wrong: after around ten days of very hot temperature and brilliant sunshine at the end of April/beginning of May, the Perma18 kicks in, and you are set for the Summer.

Riding in these conditions is obviously a pain. Because you have the impression of riding in the rain 12 months a year. And this is why I try and go to Italy at least every two weeks during the Summer, to keep my melatonin levels right. But on the plus side, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money in buying light and Summer protective gear, as you can use your winter gear all the time.

Fun, isn’t it?

Grey sky at the Brussels Atomium

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Pimp my Mana

It took FAR longer than I thought it would...but in the end I managed to put on the red reflective tape on the wheels of the Mana. I am not too sure about the colour...when I bought the red tape I thought that I would replace it with a different colour if I didn't like it...but given the time it took me to put it on I have no intention whatsoever to take it off and try on a different colour...

Unfortunately the job was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had bought a tape with a plastic thing which is supposed to help you put it on the wheel. It took me a while to figure out how it worked, and even so the tape kept breaking off in various points.

The result is not as messy as with the yellow tape I had put on the V-strom (for which I did not have the plastic ruler), but it is far from perfect anyhow. It looks like if a drunkman did it.

Anyway, what do people think? Do you like it?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Olive Oil Route of the Pisa Mountains

As promised, this is a post with lots of photos...Sunday I was in Tuscany and had the time for a brief one-hour tour with my Suzuki V-Strom. The weather was not very warm, and the sky was not very blue, but I couldn’t resist…also because I wanted to have the opportunity to ride again the V-strom after riding the Mana for two weeks, so that I could compare the two bikes.

Given the limited time, I went for a route very close to where my family lives, which is one of my favourite routes on Earth. It is called the “Olive Oil Route of the Pisa Mountains”, and it flanks the mountains that separate Pisa from other Tuscany city, such as Lucca. You can take it from where my parents live, and get to the seaside, if you want: 30 kms of beautiful countryside landscape, lots of turns, lots of small villages with beautiful churches, the ruins of an ancient Roman water system…when I say that it is one of the nicest routes I have ever driven in my life you need to believe me. I hope the photos can show it.

As for the Strom, it was funny to ride it again after two weeks of the Mana. On the bad side, it felt underpowered…it felt as it didn’t have enough power, and it is the first time I feel this way about the Strom. But on the plus side, it felt extremely protective. If it wasn’t for the turbulences that kill my head (and I do need to fix this problem, as it is making every ride above 80km/h a pain), it would be perfect. The protection of my torso is fantastic. I was wearing a mesh summer jacket, with only 22 degrees, and still I was not cold.

Many details of the V-Strom show that the Japanese in charge of the project were really on a mission to make the life of the rider easier. The space under the saddle is huge for a classic motorbike. And you can fix your helmets to iron strings under the saddle, which make it for a nice touch. And you have a fuel indicator, the hazard lights…all stuff that you do not get on the Mana, even if the design of the dashboard is a bit outdated.

Getting on the Mana after the Strom gives me the impression as if the Mana was not a finalized project. The Mana needs many practical things to make it like the perfect bike. As for the Strom, instead, if I ever was to solve the turbolences problem, it could really be THE bike, at least if you are looking for a trustworthy companion to take you on longer tours.

Ancient Roman ruins.

Typical landscape in Tuscany, not too far from the coast.

A typical Tuscany traditional house.

Let's finish the day with a nice Negroni and a few aperitivo true Italian style.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Transporting stuff with the Mana

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of the main reasons why I preferred the Mana over the other possible choices was its practical aspects. The trunk, in particular, really appealed to me.

At the moment I fill it in with a long Abus chain, the bike's documents, a pair of rain trousers and a very light rain jacket. When I park the bike, I put the chain-lock on and I fit the rest of the trunk's content into the helmet, which I then put into the trunk.

However, even with this trunk, the Mana cannot obviously compete with a scooter in terms of luggage space. And when you need to transport a gym bag or a business suitcase, you need to use a spider net.

You can obviously also use a shoulder strap bag, but if there is a sensation I hate in life is that of having a bag on my shoulder. I go to the extreme of not bringing stuff just so that I do not have to carry it on me, even when I walk....

Fitting a bag with a spider net on the passenger's portion of the saddle is realtively easy: there is a small hook on each side of the bike that can used to fix the net. However, I find the distance between them and the passenger handle - the only other point of anchorage - to be too much...they should have put a couple of additional hooks in between.

In any case, the bag tied up like this seems stable, and doesn't move. I want to avoid having to buy a back case, as it would really spoil the line of the Mana...

Monday, 26 May 2008

Sunday ride...not much of a ride!

This post should have been very different. I had planned to report on the roads I would have ridden the Mana at the weekend. However the itinerary that I did ride, suggested by a Belgian motorbike magazine, was absolute RUBBISH: 90 kms of riding in the suburbs of small villages, with no turns, no hill whatsoever, appalling surface conditions, no sightseeing, no scenic panoramas, no nothing.

Belgium is a country famous for its flat land. Its most famous singer, Jacques Brel, used to sing about the “plat pays”…Riding in Belgium is obviously NOT as riding in the Tuscany hilly countryside or the beautiful coast…but Belgium can offer very nice roads, which make it for a very nice weekend or Sunday ride. Unfortunately today this wasn’t one of them.

So, rather than talking to you about the ride, I want to talk a bit about a couple of other issues that I noticed about the Mana after this extra 300 KM ridden at the weekend.

First of all let’s talk about consumption. I am just below 1000km now, and I noticed that consumption varies enormously depending on whether I ride the bike in the city traffic, or on the highway and in the country roads. Obviously the engine still has to adjust, and the consumption value will probably vary, but I guess the data can already tell me something.

In the city centres, the reserve light comes on after 175-190 km, with consumption of 15.2-16km/lt (6.25lt/100 km). That’s not much. However, if I ride it on the highway and on the country roads, at stable speeds, we get to 20.5 km/lt (4.8lt/100 km), which is quite good.

(The calculations are made filling in the tank to the top, setting to zero the odometer, and then refilling in the tank to the top and dividing the kms ridden by the gasoline litres you put in: simple and very accurate).

My major problem with all this is that the gas tank is too small, as it forces me to put gas at least once every 5 days of continuous commuting use, in the city traffic. I wish the tank was actually a couple of litres bigger, which would have added a nice 30-40 km to the current estimated autonomy of 228 km (in the city traffic) and 310 km (on highway / State roads).

The V-Strom also has very different consumption patterns, depending on the roads I ride it on, but the differences are not as marked as with the Mana. Moreover, the Strom consumes less and has a larger fuel tank, which gives it a much larger autonomy than the Mana. But obviously the two bikes have very different souls, different purposes, at least in principle.

Passenger life
Last Saturday I had to take a guy behind me as a passenger. He had decided to sit as a passenger of another friend riding a scooter, but as soon as we hit the highway, the scooter friend had to pull off the road, as the wind was really making the whole thing instable. So he came as a passenger on the Mana, and we headed off for a nice (ironic) 50 Km of highway at 90-100 km/h (we couldn’t go any faster as the scooter was a 125cc…and that was its maximum speed…and we don't leave any man behind!)

Anyway, the experience was quite interesting, because the guy behind me had NEVER been on a motorbike. On our way back, he was the passenger of another friend of mine on a Yamaha MT-03 and at the end he said that the Mana was a lot more confortable than the MT-03, which really gave him a sore bottom…

So, the passenger life seems to be ok, but with a caveat: not too ride to fast nor to accelerate too impulsively or the passenger just flies away…but then again, I think it is a problem common to all naked bikes.

The gear mode
I keep on experimenting. What I find particularly helpful is to be in the automatic touring mode, but then switching gears down to exploit the engine brake before entering into a turn, for instance, or approaching a traffic light.

I started to use the shaft pedal as well…it came natural again, although mostly I do use the buttons at the left handle.

Today I also experimented my first panic brake. I feared that when this would happen, my left hand would automatically have looked for the clutch…finding nothing. However, this did not happen. I did hit the brakes as one should do, but I did not have the reaction of reaching for the non-existing clutch. I don’t know whether to be happy or not about this though…what would have happened if I had been on the V-strom? Will I be able to have different reactions depending on the bike I am riding in that specific moment? I really hope I never to have to find that out...

The paint
The paint on the fake fuel tank gests scratched by simply looking at it. Beware, really.

Pictures of the day

I leave you with a few picture of the day. Nothing scenic really. You will have to wait for next weekend’s tour for those…

In the land of the Duvel beer (a pretty good beer, if you ask me)

Early rain forces me to stop under a highway bridge, put on my rain suit...and then stop again after 30 minutes, as the sunshine came out again and accompanied me for the rest of the day.

This is...ehm, I don't know. But I thought it made for a good picture, don't you think??

In the rear view mirror I saw a church next to two windmills...I had to take this picture!

Stopping for a good half an hour waiting for the bridge to come down...

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Why Mana?

Over the past few days that I have been riding the Mana, a lot of coworkers have been asking "what is that fantastic motorbike you own now??". However, a lot of friends of mine have also been asking "why the hell did you buy the Mana?". From their point of view, with the same money I could have bought a motorbike that would have kept a higher value...a BMW, for instance.

It is true that from that point of view, buying a Mana is probably a bet. Aprilias are not famous for keeping a high value when they are sold second hand. And on top of that, the fact that this is an automatic bike, a completely new model, and one whose reliability is not proven yet all add to the potential low value when I sell it. All true: but thinking about this when you buy a new motorbike is like refusing to sleep with a beautiful woman because maybe, in ten years, she will leave you. It only means you lack the passion.

When I was shopping for a new bike to replace the scooter I was using in Brussels, I had a couple of criteria in mind:
  • It had to be a motorbike: I had grown tired of the scooter I had bought two years before, very practical and everything. It was great, but it wasn't a motorbike. I am a motorbiker, and I need a motorbike. It is that simple.
  • It had to be practical, but not as ugly and as boring as a Honda Deauville. I needed something with space to put my stuff though.
  • It had to be funky. It had to had the looks.

I never liked sports bike. I never liked the innatural position your body needs to be in while I was actually looking either at a new Enduro/supermotard or at an "old style" new bike.

I excluded the enduro option, because I already own a fantastic enduro-style bike, the V-Strom. The perfect bike, if it wasn't for those turbolences which kill my head as of 80 Km/h...I looked at the Yamaha MT-03, which really looks marvellous, but it has a zero score in practicality.

So I was looking in particular at the Triumph Bonneville or the Triumph Scrambler. I was that close to buy the Scrambler, as I had found a bike shop which had a fantastic offer, but then I tried the Mana.

And in spite of the fact that during my test-drive the bike actually broke off, it was love at first sight. A real motorbike, practical, with lot of space, which allows me to go to work without ruining my shoes with the gear pedal, and which has the looks and feels like a real power monster.

I understand: the Mana is probably the motorbike that for its futuristic features is the furthest away from the Triumph Scrambler or the Bonneville. Which are both great bikes, and which sooner or later will find their way to my garage.

But for the moment I am with her.

Friday, 23 May 2008

I like this!

My post on the first impressions on the Aprilia Mana was translated into Korean!! Thank you Lewis!!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Test - Open Face Helmets

One of the best motorbike magazines that I ever stumbled upon is Moto Magazine, also called Motomag. It is a French publication, which every month – among other things – publishes very clear and very accurate tests of different motorcycling products. I find these tests to be particularly refreshing, because if a product – a helmet, a jacket, anything – is rubbish, they say it clearly. They also invite the producers to comment on their findings, which is also very instructive.

In Motomag’s test, each product gets a mark, both on the basis of the price/quality ratio, and of the pure technical quality. So you normally have two “best products”: a best price/quality ratio product, and a best technical product. Sometimes a single product wins both titles, but more often than not this does not happen. You also have “the worst product”.

I am going to write summaries of some of the tests published in French on Motomag. Given that the Summer is approaching, I have chosen to start with the test results of a comparison among Jet (open face) Helmets, which was originally published in July 2007. I hope you will find it useful.

Comparison among nine Jet Helmets published on Motomag in July 2007

The objective of Motomag was to test a number of open face helmets which are fit to be used on long journeys as well, for tourism purposes. Three of the chosen helmets are the top available on the market (Shoei, Schuberth and Arai), with a price tag well above 350 Euros. The other helmets tested are middle range, and cost between 135 and 240 Euros.

The helmets tested are:
- Schuberth J1 - Shoei J-Wing - Arai SZ/F - Nolan N42 - HJC AC-3
- AGV Placet Stripes - Caberg Downtown - Roof Rover - Premier JT2

The helmets have been tested with regards to their noise levels, the presence of practical aspects (detachable interiors, sun visor, steam resistance etc.), comfort, price, etc. For each of the different aspects the helmets receive from one to five stars. The helmets then get rated on two aspects: price qualità ratio and technical quality. So what were the results?


  • The Schubert J1 was rated the best of the pack, scoring 8/10. I am very happy about this because this is one of my helmets…
  • The Nolan N42 was the winner from a price/quality ratio (7/10)
  • All helmets are very noisy, and some of them make you almost deaf (especially the Nolan). The tests were made on a naked bike.
I have summarized below the results for the most common helmets.

Schuberth J1

  • Tehnical vote: 8/10
  • Price/quality ratio: 6/10
  • Price: 499 Euro
  • 5 stars for: practicality, wind protection, ventilation, highway confort
  • According to Motomag, the J1 is clearly the top of the pack. The chin metal bar which you can insert seems to have resisted to all crash impact tests. Obviously it is not a full face helmet, but the level of protection that the J1 can provide is a lot more than what any other open face helmet can offer.
  • It is signaled as the only open face helmet which can realistically replace a modular or full face helmet for tourism purposes (For what it is worth, I can confirm this: last summer I went for a long 2000Km tour in Tuscany and I was very happy to have chosen to bring the Schuberth.)
  • Pricewise, it is very epxensive. I bught it after carfeul consideration, but I don’t regret it. I never wanted to buy a Jet helmet, because if you fall on your chin you destroy your face…but the J1 gives me a lot more protection than a normal jet, thanks to the chin bar. It is a good compromise, if you are willing to compromise.
Nolan N42 – Winner price/quality ratio

  • Technical vote: 7/10
  • Price/quality ratio: 7/10
  • Price: 189 Euro
  • 5 stars for various practical aspects (see the table below).
  • Very low rating for the noise levels and for the scarce ventilation
  • In spite of the few problems, Motomag claims this is the helmet that offers the best price quality ratio.
Shoei J-Wing

  • Technical mark: 7/10
  • Price/quality ratio: 7/10
  • Price: 369 Euro
  • 5 stars for the quality of the interiors
  • Accordino to Motomag, the major advantage of the Shoei compared to the Schubert and the Arai is the price/quality ratio and the very low noise levels.
Arai SZ/F

  • Technical rating: 7/10
  • Price/quality ratio: 6/10
  • Price: 429 Euro
  • 5 stars for the comfort
  • Motomag thinks that this is a good helmet, but the price tag is not justified: the interiors cannot be detached, there is no sun visor…
Caberg Downtown
  • Technical rating: 5/10
  • Price/quality ratio: 7/10
  • Price: 169 Euro
  • Very bad in terms of ventilation, sun visor too short to protect well, and very annoying for those who wear prescriptive glasses (I can confirm this: the sun visor would not go above my glasses…).
Noise levels
All of the helmets tested were considered far too noisy. Each of them was well above the threshold of 85db at 90 km/h. According to Motomag, 85 db is the threshold above which you start suffering because of the noise, and as of 92 db earplugs are considered necessary to protect your ears. NB: for each increase of 3db, the noise level perceived by the human ear DOUBLE!!!!)
Helmet 90km/h 130km/h 160km/h
AGV 88 98 102
Arai 88 97 100
Caberg 88 98 102
HJC 90 100 102
Nolan 92 101 105 The noisiest
Premier 90 98 101
Roof 89 98 101
Schuberth 88 98 100
Shoei 88 95 100 The best perfomance

Summary Table
This is the summary table with all the results. To make it bigger, just click on it.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Aprilia Mana - first impressions after 400Km

As I mentioned in my previous post, I just recently got my new Aprilia Mana. I named her Clarabella (this is an habit of mine, to name all the bikes I had...I will come back on this topic sooner or later).

So far, I have been able to take it for a long spin during the weekend, riding it on the highway, on some nice countryside roads, and in the city centre, on the daily commute to work. Obviously the engine still has to adjust, but I think I can draw some first conclusions, especially in terms of what I like and what I don't like.
What does the bike feel like?
The bike feels great. Mind, this is my first naked bike, I always rode Enduro-type bikes, so I can't really compare it with other naked. However, I can say for sure that what Aprilia used to say at the time of the launch - i.e. that this was not an 'easy' motorbike, but a real sports bike - seems to be absolutely true.

On the Mana you are on two rails. The bike goes where you tell her to go, without having to move too much or press on the pedals to get it down. The bike feels also very low - a lot lowerethan my V-strom - which is an incredible advantage in the city centre. I had never felt such a sensation of control as with this bike.

The seat is very firm, but very comfortable. The body can assume a number of positions that can come in handy on long journeys when you need to switch positions a bit. The longest I rode it was for 270km in one go, and I did not have backpains or anything else.

The trunk is absolutely amazing. It now contains a long chain and a rain suit, which I fit into the helmet when I want to put my helmet in the trunk itself. Both my helmets - a Schubert J1 L size and a Shark S800 XL size fit in the trunk (individually, obviously). The full face Shark actually fits in better than the Schuberth.

The gearbox
As most readers would know, the Mana has an automatic gearbox, with different modes of functioning: a full automatic mode and a sequential mode.

In full automatic mode, you drive it without having to change gears, and you can choose among three different engine modes: Touring, which is the one I have been using the most; Sport, which keeps the engine spinning at higher level and gives you a stronger break engine sensation - but which also makes the bike vibrate and consume more; and Rain, which Aprilia says it is useful when it rains and the road is slippery, because it cuts the power of the bike, so that it makes it difficult to lose control of the rear wheel.

Of the three modes, the one that convinces me the least is the Rain one: with no engine braking power at all, the motorbike becames even more dangerous when it rains, and you have this mode on...because you end up having to use your breaks a lot more frequently than you would with, say, the Sport mode or the Touring mode. But this is my personal opinion.

The sequential mode is the one I am using the most: with this, you can change gear either with two very easy and intuitive bottons at the handle, or at the pedal like on a normal bike. In reality I NEVER NEVER NEVER used the pedal, apart from the very first time just to see how it feels.

It becomes immediately natural either to use the bike in automatic, especially in the city with eavy traffic, or in sequential mode. At the moment I find myself using the sequential mode, switching gears at the handle, a lot more than I thought I would. I would say I use this mode 60-70% of my riding time, as soon as the roads free up from traffic.

The dashboard
The dashboard is very complete and very well done. The only thing missing is the fuel indicator. However, when the bike enters into reserve mode (approximately 3 liters left) a red light comes on, and an odometer automatically turns on to indicate how many kilometers you have been riding in reserve. This is very useful.

There are four lights which lighten up to indicate when to switch gear in sequential mode. However, I haven't used them that much yet: I kept the engine spinning at lower levels than I normally would, since it is very new.

I find it very useful the possibility to switch among the different functions of the dashboard from a button on the left handle, without having to touch a button on the dashboard itself - as it happens instaead on my V-strom.

The gear-buttons at the handle are right where you would expect them to be...the process of switching gears become immediate after a couple of Kms....However, the button to switch gears up is right where normally you would have the horn...and this means that on a couple of occasions I tried to use the horn but I was actually switching gears...not very nice!

What I DO like a lot:
  • How the bike feels, the immediate controlling sensation that it gives, and the fact that it does not tire you even on long roads and on the highways, if you respect the speed limit (in Belgium it is 120Km/hr). I always had Enduro bikes, and always suffered from turbolences caused by the fairing. Nothing like that on the Mana (ok - probably this is the case for all naked...)
  • The engine noise: SPECTACULAR. It just rattles like a real sportsbike
  • The trunk, very roomy and useful.
  • The gear buttons on the handle
  • The gearbox: fun, practical and at the same time engaging. This is a bike which is both great to ride at the weekend and for commuting every day.
  • The possibility to visualize the different functions on the dashboard from a button on the handle.
  • The look: I know, this is entirely personal, but the bike looks simply amazing. The front and the left views are phenomenal.
  • The dashboard, very beautiful and clean.

What I really DON'T like:

  • The vibrations on the pedals at high engine speeds, especially when the gear is in Sport automatic mode
  • The location of the horn button, very umconfortable to reach.
  • The sound of the horn: absolutely terrible, it souns like a 50cc scooter. A real shame.
  • The location of the stand, very difficult to reach
  • The fact that you end up scracthing the cover of the trunk pretty fast, unless you open it with the handles real straight.
  • The exhaust pipe, which ends us very high on the bike, making it difficult to use soft luggage...
  • The rear view mirrors. Cheap, small and difficult to fix.
  • The lack of even a small space under the seat, to put your documents and a anti-theft system.
  • The lack of a fuel indicator.
All in all, for the moment it seems like a great bike. I am 100% happy of my purchase, and don't regret it at all. We'll see. This is my first Italian bike (I always had japanese bikes before): I hope I don't come to regret my choice because of reliability issues...

I plan to post new review of the bike as i ride it, and will post itineraries i will be riding in the near future. Stay tuned!