February 22, 2018

Confessions of a Born Again Biker – Part 21 – Prat in a Punto

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Part 21 - Prat in a Punto

Some days are just strange. There are quite a few reasons why today qualifies. I say “today”, however, that will depend on when you are reading this. It was a Saturday in early August.

It all began with a ride out to Mexborough in Yorkshire, for no other reason than I could. My route stayed away from the major roads, in favour of fast flowing country back roads, and the occasional tight and twisty lane. It was far from the most direct route to Mexborough, but where would the fun be in that?

After a couple of hours working my way across the country, my need for a mug of tea had reached breaking point, yet a café was failing to present itself. Numerous McDonalds kept appearing. It seems there is one on every round-a-bout these days, but I was after a mug of tea.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Part 21 - Team Roberts Triumph Tea
Tea thanks to Team Roberts Triumph

Due to my IAM Roadsmart, enhanced observation skills, or maybe it was plain luck – I’ll let you decide – I spotted a sign for the Team Roberts Triumph Dealership and decided that if anyone knew where I could find that elusive mug of tea, it would be a Yorkshire local.

I wandered in and after a little confusion, due to me being from “down south”, those very nice people at Team Roberts informed me I was in the best place possible for tea and handed me a large mug of Yorkshire’s finest brew.

Half an hour later, having had a good look at a highly appealing Triumph Explorer 1200, I was refreshed and back on my meandering route.

Statistically, every journey has to have a boring bit. Be it those miles that it is just sensible to do on a motorway, the trudge through a town centre, or that arrow straight country road, they are all necessary evils that join the interesting bits together.

As I am working my way through the boring bit that runs west out of Mexborough, where it would seem the local council has decided to use every one of their allocated round-a-bouts, one after the other, to make an otherwise straight road entertaining, I meet the “Prat in a Punto”.

Most of us have met the “Prat in a Punto” at one time or another, and they are not exclusive to Fiat Puntos, it just so happens that this one was a prime example.

They are easy to spot. Typically, the car has been lowered; the wheels are matt black out of a spray can and the Prat often has the habit of keeping one of their arms locked out straight on the steering wheel when cornering. It must be something to do with the excessive G forces they are encountering in their version of reality.

As I’m negotiating one of the numerous round-a-bouts, with the intention of taking the third exit, which involves going three-quarters of the way around the circle before turning off, I spot the Prat when I take a quick look over my left shoulder. Sure enough, the Prat has decided that his Punto is going to go around the outside of me and the car following me, before taking the same exit.

I keep my turn going, and when I see him fully commit to the turn-off, I also turn and stay high, letting the Prat in the Punto under-take me. As I pull in behind him, I see him looking for recognition of his exquisite driving skills from the passenger. I didn’t have time to wait and see if the sought affirmation was forth coming. The Prat in the Punto was having to stop at the back of the queue of traffic he had met.. Meanwhile, I was busy filtering down the outside and progressing through the traffic with ease.

Should I rise above such things? Perhaps. It did feel good though. The rest of my journey passed without incident, and I arrive an hour or so later, and in need of more tea, at Chris Walker’s Kawasaki dealership.

Strangely, for a sunny Saturday, the dealership is quiet. I potter about the showroom sipping tea, while looking at the array of gorgeous motorcycles that Chris Walker always seems to have in stock, chatting with Mark Roberts, one of the very relaxed sales people, as I go.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Kawasaki Versys 1000 Grand Tourer
Susan III – The Versys

As we talk, outside glinting in the afternoon sunshine is their fleet of Kawasaki demonstrators, and as it is quiet, the Versys 1000 is available. It is at this point that my heart makes a daft decision – Test Ride.

The idea of trading in Susan II  (1050 Tiger) for Susan III was obviously on my mind, or I wouldn’t have looked so hard at the Explorer earlier in the day. In such a frame of mind, going for a test ride was never going to end well for my bank account.

I have been in love with my Triumph Tiger; once I’d sorted out the headlights, the suspension settings and the screen. Susan II (1050 Tiger) is pretty much on rails now, and the headlight upgrades turn night into day, which was very useful when pushing across Spain in March, on unlit motorways.

The Versys is very similar to the Tiger, yet benefits from 10+ years of motorcycle evolution. The brakes are lighter and much more effective, plus there is ABS, should I ever need it. The lively motor has three levels of traction control and two power maps to chose from, the full biscuit and a softer rain mode. The small in comparison to the Tiger’s screen, on the nose of the Versys does a sterling job deflecting the wind, even at motorway speeds and the overall handling is both sharper and more intuitive.

The Tiger feels solid and firmly planted on the road, whereas the feedback from the Versys is closer to floating. The Kawasaki is just as predictable and doesn’t twitch or squirm over the uneven Lincolnshire back roads. It is an engaging balance between feather light handling and firm feedback that the Kawasaki designers have pulled off.

Five minutes into the test ride and I feel totally at home on the bike. Twenty minutes into the ride, I am reminding myself how quiet the dealership was, and so I’m sure another ten minutes will be OK. Forty minutes into the ride and I know I’m going to buy one, so yet another 10 minutes will be OK.

Senior Management blessed the transaction, with the caveat that I’m only allowed one “other women” at a time, and with that, the deal was done.

I went out for a ride and found tea in an unexpected place. I was carved up by a Prat in a Punto and came home with a Kawasaki Versys, or will do on the 1st September. Yes, a strange day indeed.

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