Fast Bikes Report

When I traded my Silver TLS (wrecked) for TLzebub I never expected to see it again. However, here it is gracing the pages of Fast Bike. Pleased to see they didn't chuck it down the road as well..........

Here is the article and some pictures: -

GOOD COP, BAD COP

There is a theory that says that twins separated at birth will be Just alike twenty years down the line. Of course, there is another theory that says the first one is bullshit and we are all the products of our environment. And so it is with these particular twins each conceived, at heart, in Japan, but white one stayed home and grew up to be the feared TL1000S, the other was snatched away to Italy and nurtured into the Cagiva V-Raptor. Now, like a script from some cheesy Jean-Claude Van Dam movie, they -are reunited to do battle It over Europe.

Though they may not seem like obvious adversaries, thanks to the scare mongers in the press and its conceptually conceited rotary rear damper, the, TLS was effectively stillborn as little more than a street-fighter, as opposed to the 916 protagonist the men from Hamamatsu intended. Irony was thus heaped upon irony when it became clear that far from being in different categories, this actually positioned the TLS almost head to head with the bike that would henceforth become the beneficiary of its engine. The Cagiva V Raptor.

Cagiva V-Raptor

Having already tested the naked Raptor I knew what to expect - an aggressive shit kicker of a motorcycle as opposed to the soft streetbike the detuned engine and relaxed riding position would have you believe. Just as well because it doesn’t take much encouragement to have the V rearing into the air. It is slightly more controlled than the naked version, thanks mostly to the one main non-aesthetic change - lower bars. They successfully place more rider weight over the front wheel which instantly gives more feedback in turn providing more direct control from the bars.

The other change is even more obvious - the, er, I hate this name, bikini fairing. As far as I’m concerned, bikinis should be delicately balanced over an altogether different sort of ‘V. However, as it happens this one is fairly good and you wouldn’t really expect anything less from a designer of Galuzzi’s calibre. So it also seems no coincidence that the sportier ergonomy of the V model benefits from a more front biased weight distribution, courtesy of five extra kilos around the headlight. This may seem like clumsy or at best lucky design - plonk a fairing on and don’t change anything else, but the effect on the handling is marked and precise.

The Cagiva was the first of the two I rode and felt very relaxing’ winding up the Estrel Mountains just north of Frejus. not having to worry about any other aspect of steering the bike other than pushing the bars. These are wide like its stablemate, and provide a lot of leverage to manoeuvre the bike at low speed in town or even up mountain hairpins.

Slow sucks, though, so I was relieved when I got the nod to give it some grief. The first thing that was required of me was a spot of 15mph, 180 degree downhill, first gear knee down. Not the easiest way to-corner any bike and I was sceptical as to whether the V-Rap could do it without tucking. Well, whaddyaknow? Galuzzi and the ex GP500 team test boys have done their homework fabulously around the winding Alpine foothills of Varese, and the Vee proved utterly neutral, and could be leant with serious intention whether foot-out or knee—down, a huge improvement over the naked bike’s turn in. Having said that, and though initial steering is quick and secure, it does become vague as you start to ask more of the tyre on the way over. This is partly attributable to the generally soft suspension which needs a moment to settle into a bend and until it does is somewhat lacking in feedback.

Once acclimatised to this trait, it’s easy enough to plan corners a fraction, and I really mean just tenths of a second sooner in order to make the most of the mid-corner poise. The speed of turn, that neutral front end and the delicious grip and feedback once the suspension had been compressed into the corner meant hooly-ing around the hills was a deep joy.

Leaving Cannes, Da Chief finally allowed me off the leash for 10 kms to assess the edges of da envelope and all that jazz. This particular stretch of carbon hi-path may be familiar to you, dear reader/viewer, from the Dream Twins and Pulp 2 videos. I, however, had never seen it before, even on video, but was having more fun than I have ever had on a bike, including a track day at Brands. In 28 degrees, with little traffic save the occasional mad motarder, and a surface as divine as Brittany’s globes, every corner could be taken totally committed, making the rear BT56 earn its living as it squirmed first under the full force of the boosted mid-range on corner exit and then beneath the liquid, free-revving top-end.

I was still buzzing like a pylon when the truck caught up and Chief was half way through telling me to give it another 4 miles when a yokel on a race-piped XJR or something else inexplicably popular in France, hacked by. After kickin and spinnin it out of the dirty lay-by I weaved for ten yards to clean the still hot tyres and then went on the mission of my life. The Raptor actually revelled in this hot-headed approach. By going in hard and really committing to the corner with lots of lean the suspension settled more through the apex and just got better and better. The Brembo brakes (which must have had new pads coz they were shit at first) now returned all the power needed to attack a 50mph cliff-top bend at 110. After just a few corners the other bike was within sight and the Velocyroraptors carnivorous tendencies were rubbing off on me - time to go hunting. Needless to say, at this pace, the game of catn’mouse lasted barely halt a mile and as Froggy backed off half way down a straight, I thundered past about a foot away maxing in fourth, It was only after I stopped stupidly patting myself on the back for passing 40mph faster someone who didn’t even know I was coming, that it crossed my mind that maybe this guy had ridden the road before and perhaps knew something I didn’t!

A slight crest obscured the next bend for the Split Second of that thought and as realisation dawned so did a 60mph right. No worries. My confidence had never been higher, and I didn’t even brake as hard as I could have done - just leant the bastard over - right over - until it decked out. As the Raptors are fitted with rubber pegs and I didn’t feel it, I was left wondering what had hit. It was only on inspection later that I found the scrape on the brake pedal...

Make no mistake. This bike can really lean. With the luxury of a practiced corner as I passed for the photos that same piece of undercarriage could be dragged right through the apex and, what’s more, the gear lever received the same abuse in the opposite direction. I was just wondering whether I really wanted to be putting upward pressure like that on the gear lever mid-corner when, on the second warm up pass, I went in about 20mph too hot. Again it was only the bike’s total neutrality that prevented me from planting it in the side of the LandCruiser as I braked very, very deep - though not of course with the rear as the lever was now rising up again underneath my foot as I called on every mill of clearance to make it round.

Like the steering, the gearbox always does as it is told. Suzuki have long been builders of the best transmissions in the business and, as such, it suited Cagiva well to use the whole transmission, lock, stock and barrel. The engine itself is significantly different in character to its donor bike. The mid-range has been fattened and, although overall power and torque figures are well down on the original TL, it responds with a greater surge below 7k. Above that the retuning is obvious and, back to back, the Raptor feels flat, if only for the manic top end of the TLS. Absolute top end is around 152mph on the digital clock if you wedge your chin piece between the ‘horns’.

The do-tune certainly hasn’t harmed the fuelling. On the contrary, it squirts and burns faultlessly throughout the range. There can be no greater test of a bikes mixology than asking it to pick up from 2000rpm in second out of a 15mph hairpin at 3,000ft above sea level. A truly class act.

SUZUKI TLI000S

The TL is almost the perfect copy of the Ducati 996 mill right down to the bore and stroke. What they didn’t quite get right was the suspension, despite the meaty upside down forks pivoting in an aluminium truss frame - the first of its kind and a blatant attempt to trump the Bolognese steel trellis on looks as well as function. Because, you see, despite the hype, the let-down comes not at the front but the back, where fanciful and flamboyant though it may be, the rotary rear shock is nonetheless fundamentally flawed.

The designers certainly intended the TL to be sporty, the riding position doing the usual sad Japanese imitation of the pure sports ergonomy of the 996 without actually having the bottle to go all the way. It does still place a lot of weight on the wrists and the seat feels up in the clouds after the Raptor. The soft upholstery, a modern Suzuki concession to comfort and far preferable to squidgy suspension, was all that gave as I picked up my feet for the first time. The suspension is very firm, especially under my 11st 4, and promised a proper sports bike.

First impressions as I warmed the tyres kept the initial promise and the TL tracked every line asked of it, turning in accurately and quickly as I made the most of the sports ergonomy to lever the bike with my body. The first warning that the parameters weren’t limitless, however, came as I tipped in to the tight downhill left chosen for the photos only to glimpse the rotary rear doing almost precisely that - rotating right round to my shoulder. Shame, because the springing is firm but fair and would do a fine job of hauling some serious lean angles were it not for the damping. Mid-corner things aren’t much better and by the time you get to the exit, it just feels as though both you and the bike have had an epidural. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a highside on the road. I held the throttle where it was and stood the bike up a bit while hanging off some more and fortunately the whole plot realigned itself. Not sure I could do it again, though.

Away from artificial scenarios like the photo location and hooning down the valley the TL could be ridden quite effectively at eight or nine tenths. It’s just that every time I sussed a corner dead right and lined up to hammer through a bit harder, the back would go comatose again and you’d end up riding on blind faith.

The engine, of course, is storming and sounds it as it revs frantically through the gears. This is one headbanger motorcycle. A big V-Twin that craves revs - who am I to complain? It takes off at 7,500rpm and the front rises at 9k in first. Bang second home, free of the clutch at 10,5k for the fun to start again. Unfortunately, the race cans had fluffed up the bottom end a bit, which wasn’t helped by the additional altitude and mid-range wasn’t that great, either, so the most effective method of riding fast was to simply blip the throttle a fraction on the brakes and knock it down one more gear than you might otherwise in order to maximise drive out the turn. On the overrun the cans droned and popped enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. At least it feels like you’re going fast.

On the Autoroutes you will be. The TLS has enough top end and aerodynamics to show 167mph and give a 916, if not the 996, a damn good run for its money. The Mule and SF5 I passed on the ‘route didn’t feel inclined to bother chasing as I boomed past. Good job as both would have destroyed the S, especially through 150mph bends. The TLS is certainly not made for motorway knee-down. More likely It would have you on your knees at the first attempt.

Despite its flaws I can’t help liking the TLS. It’s a bit like that ideal woman we all yearn for - the body of Baywatch with the face and the manners of Crimewatch. But can any of us handle that for more than one night?

CONCLUSION

Like the Bimota Mantra, I’m still not 100% convinced about the Raptor’s styling, which is a shame as dynamically it’s worth every penny. The TLS? Looks great. Just a shame it handles like a penny farthing...

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