To my fellow SX riders....
Thought I would report back after my first "proper" trip on the SX, despite having owned her for over a year. I have a 2019 Performance Tourer with Yoshi cans (and a few other bits which I'll talk about).
Hopefully this may provide some info and guidance for those looking at either doing a European trip or looking for reports on how the SX fairs going continental before making the plunge. This isn't my first trip into Europe....I toured every year from about 2008-2014 on my 07' ZX10R (yes, I was a glutton for punishment) so this was going to be much different.
Adding to the adventure, I agreed to take my other half as pillion (brave I know ;-)
I agreed to go and visit a professional athlete mate of mine, who was training in St Moritz for a few weeks. Aim to ride there over a few days staying in different places, then spend a few days there camping and using as a base to nip to Italy, and then ride back again with a few stops.
Route was (early August so pre-quarentine before anyone asks):
Day 1: Chester to Dover (with stop at friends down south) - 270miles
Day 2: Dover to Calais (Ferry), Calais to Reims - 180miles
Day 3: Reims to Lausanne (Switzerland) - 305 miles
Day 4: Lausanne to St Moritz - 250 miles (but I planned a route through the Alps rather than fastest route)
Day 5: St Moritz to Varenna (Lake Como, IT) and back - 120 miles
Day 6: Well Earned Day Off
Day 7: St Moritz to Stelvio Pass and back - 130 miles
Day 8: St Moritz to Offenburg (Germany) - 250miles
Day 9: Offenburg to Ghent - 335 miles
Day 10: Ghent to Calais (97miles) - Chunnel - Dover to Chester (280 miles)
Total (with some minor trips between): 2400 miles.
As you can see, some very big days....biggest time wise was Day 4, over 7hrs of riding due to the route, then closely followed Day 10 just in terms of mileage.Setup:
Panniers was not enough to carry everything, so whilst reluctant as I've never been a fan of them, I fitted a Shad rack and SH39 top box. Turns out they are nothing short of brilliant, and not only for luggage but for my pillion to use as back stop for longer rides. I also used my Kreiga Tank Strap and US5 (which I worked out I've had for over 10yrs)....kept my small items, passports and wallet in there. The top waterproof zip compartment is ideal for easy access at tolls, and borders.
Heated grips fitted (the new Oxford ones) and if honest, should have done this when I first bought the bike. Chunky grips add to feel, and for early mornings or wet rides they allow you crack on. Cold hands are the worst.
Suspension even with just me on it (85kg kitted) was too soft, throw in another 55kg pillion and 20kg of luggage + panniers/top box and it wasn't going to cope. Luckily a contact of mine who races, agreed to tweak the suspension. Ended up (from standard 8 from off) 35 clicks from fully off (or 5 clicks back from full) to get anything close to 30mm of sag. Was much better (although not perfect) and meant I could hold lines and ride quite hard at times fully loaded. Front only needed adjustment of pre-load from 1.75 off max, to 1 turn out.
Sat Nav - had been using the Kwak mount with UA Phone Holder but feel its too low when using a lot. A guy from Facebook owners group has been making mounts that fit under your screen so sit above clocks (for 38 quid) and turned out to be a quality bit of kit and perfect position for touring. NB: using your iPhone on a vibey Kawsaki will f**k the image stabilisation of your camera. So I know need to get this fixed. Worth bearing in mind.
Sat Nav Software: I looked at using Waze, Scenic App and Google Maps but went with an old faithful...CoPilot GPS. I used this many many years ago for touring on the ZX10, and it was brilliant but it then went out of production between iOS updates. To my surprise, I discovered it was now available. Downloaded and joys of iTunes subscription renewal, it auto downloaded my entire European maps and I was back in business. For note, the motorbike setting on this is incredible. Its like it "knows" which roads to choose for motorbikes. Often I just typed in a place, let it work it out and the route more often than note, was brilliant.
Comms: Me and the Mrs have been using Cardo PackTalk Slim headsets in our helmets for about 12 months. With full bluetooth comms, DMC intercoms and JBL speakers these are hard to fault. Easy install and don't look to bad when on the side of the helmet. Much better than some bulkier, earlier models.
Clothing: Alpinestars Two Piece leathers. Admittedly I wore a summer jacket which is vented, but I used a ProSkins base layer which stopped me getting cold even when getting piss wet through. On some of the much higher and colder rides, I used a Berghaus lightweight packable Hydroloft midlayer which I've used for trekking, and it was great combo. Boots where my trusty 12 yrs Sidi Vertigos which are like slippers and super comfortable. Only boots I would ever wear....even if they are White (LOL)
Tyres - Running Pilot Road 5's which up until the trip, had about 600 miles on them. Bloody brilliant tyre and the perfect match for the SX. Grippy in all conditions and confidence inspiring.The Ride:
Won't bore you all with every detail, but it was brilliant in most parts....I'll highlights key points.
Lausanne to St Moritz - I plotted a route through the alps, via Untersee, Grindewald and various mountain paces. Despite the time in the saddle (7+ hrs of riding), this was nothing short of incredible. Glaciers, small passes, waterfalls, forests, snowcapped mountain ranges, amazing tarmac, switchbacks (a lot). Highest was about 2800m above sea level. Worth a look if you ever want to ride "Swiss passes". Happy to provide more details.
Lake Como - Worth riding around and stopping for lunch. Route there took in one pass (Malula Pass) but then was busy A roads. Only downside was it was 35 degrees (St Moritz was a pleasant 20) and I was fully leathered up. Both me and my partner felt like an uncle bens rice bag navigating a small towns and parking up. Amazing but too hot.
Stelvio - if honest, disappointed. Whilst an absolute spectacle of a road, was too busy with cars, cyclists, buses and of course, a million other bikers. Road is tight, twisty and chaotic. Glad I went for the pictures, but riding wise was hard work. Coming back however, I jumped on the Offen pass. Possible the best motorbike road I've ridden in Europe. Even with pillion, had some proper fun chasing some porsches and ferrari's (was some big supercar rally) and even my partner was laughing at how amazing it was. Again, add it to the list.
Note for Swiss Riding: Speed cameras everywhere (mostly face on though) and very diligent police. They don't even like you filtering in slow moving traffic or in road works. Whilst you can ride quickly, its worth knowing where the cameras are (my sat nav alerted me to them, and also if I exceeded the speed limit above a certain point).
Black Forest - Germany continues to be my overall favourite place to ride a bike as they were intended.... Most roads are wide with great tarmac and big flowing bends where you can push yours tyres and pillions limits ;-) Road from bottom of Blackforest up through to Offenburg (about 70miles in total). Even if you don't want to ride spiritedly, the views are amazing. Bit rolling hills covered in trees, rivers, quaint Germany towns and architecture. If not never been to Germany on a motorbike, you simply have to. I've done most of Germany over the years (including "the ring) and it just never lets me down....places like Eiffel Mountains, Mosel Valley, Gelbacthal and other places are mecca for bikers.The Bike:
The SX did not disappoint....overall it coped admirably with everything I threw at it. Lets not make any mistake....this bike handles fantastically (even with the rear suspension being softer than Boris Johnson's COVID response). It never once made me not trust it. And that included more 180degree switchbacks than I care to remember, with adverse cambers and potholes. I do think it struggled at the very high altitudes, it felt like it was gasping for air but thats normal for any bikes really.
With all the weight over the bike, I did find it sometimes laboured accelerating and if honest, despite a descent amount of torque from the engine...I wished it had a bit more oomph to cope with the "touring" aspect of sports tourer and did sometimes make for arse clenching overtakes.
Brakes continue to be impressive, and even with the extra weight still stopped much quicker than my pillion appreciated sometimes.
Fuel Range: I averaged between 150-215 miles per tank dependant on riding. I find if your riding a lot at lower speeds, even with the odd fast bit...200 miles in a tank was very doable. However, on the motorways and autobahns once you go above 90mph the fuel does reduce noticeable faster. Even with only 5-10mins of 90+ riding would see the range drop by 30-40miles and on the days where i had to cover miles, I find myself hunting for the little ECO symbol to push the range so I didn't have to stop as much.
Saddle: I have the Gel saddle (was included by accident by my dealer at sale...so didn't pay for it) and not going to lie....its hard work. Whilst an improvement over standard, anything more than 140 miles in one sitting your arse would not thank you for it. I found I would have to shift around a lot later in the big days. Needless to say, I used a lot of Ibruprofen and Vaselines on those longer days (TMI perhaps).
Screenwise I have the tinted Powerbronze screen and had it on the highest setting for all of the trip. 90mph or under and its pretty good and didn't feel overly breezy. However does bring me onto another point..... Helmet choice.
I've always had Shoei lids (XR100, XR1100 etc) and Arai RX-7s and my trusty Shoeis were my go to helmet. But after a break of 6-7yrs of riding regularly, I was hesitant on 500-800 outlay on a top of the range lid given I was only just getting back into. So I settled for a Scorpion EXO 1400 Air Carbon helmet, which I think was around 300 quid and for the riding I've been doing in the last 12 months has been great. It also looks the nuts.....inbuilt sun shield and tinted visor included. However it is not up to the job of a touring lid....on long rides above 70mph (even with very good earplugs) it was just too noisy and will not be used for longer rides again....the reality is, a quieter helmet (which does tend to be more expensive brands) are just a must for longer faster rides. Your ears will thank you for sure. So choose your touring lid wisely. Having ridden since getting back (although maybe not ideal) I used my 9yr old XR1100 and even now its soooo quiet.Reflection of the Trip (and the bike):
I forget just how much I loved motorbike touring, and the sense of real adventure of plotting routes and packing up each day and onto another place, another country and unknown roads. You just don't get the same feeling from doing it in a car....there is a immersion of the senses riding your motorbike than truly does grip the head and heart forever. Its inspired me to do more of it, and go even further afield (once this small issue of global pandemic has subsided).
The SX was a worthy steed, and as I've said, absorbed everything I threw at it and looks great (even with the top box). Do I think its the perfect bike for this, no....but its not far off...and I'm being super picky. If I was riding solo, and with less kit then it would have been a different story perhaps. but I did feel, at times, for what we did....it lacked bit of power for what I would call "Hyper touring".
Being totally honest, I am now looking at something to compare it too just in case something out there is better....and so may test ride the new 2020 S1000XR Touring Edition and see how it compares. I'm not saying the SX is going, but should I want to do the same type of trip again, I may consider another option if I think there is a more suitable bike.
Its a shame that for the 2020 Ninja SX they didn't make it closer to outgoing ZZR1400 in terms of power and touring capability in a lightweight package..(and lets be honest, the H2 SX is just stupid). As I do think another 25-30HP, and more torque would have made the Ninja SX unbeatable.
Hope you enjoy the read, and more than happy to provide more details or answer any questions on routes, kit, SX etc.