Many thanks to our guests Lindsay and Jenny who sent in this review of their self-guided NZ motorcycle tour which ended just two weeks ago.
A 2014 BMW K1600GT 6 cyl, 23,000 km. Smooth as silk, no vibration through the pegs or bars with 160Nm of torque, the bike doesn't know what a hill is. Six speed box but no engine brake unless you step down at least 2 gears. With so much torque at first I found myself riding around town and pulling up to the lights in 3rd. The gear shift is more like an electrical switch than a mechanical linkage; click into second, click into neutral, click into 1st. No need to feather the clutch or fiddle the left foot; precision.
Metzlers are OEM tyres, I put a hole in the rear on the first day. Hit a piece of sharp shale in Arthur's Pass, dodged it with the front, got it with the rear, fully loaded and accelerating. I'd only been on the bike for 2 hours, if it were the FJR a push-bar swerve would have missed the rock. The BMW dash lit up and flashed a warning before I felt the rear wobble. I left the tyre pressure displayed on the dash for most of the trip, its a great feature, first up in the morning checking tyre pressure from the dash is so convenient.
The duolever front suspension works well under brakes with no nosedive. I rode around for years on bikes with 2 rear shocks, the move to a single rear shock stopped the 2 rear shocks fighting each other, the duolever does the same on the front. To me, the FJR tries to stand up in corners and you have to fight it to keep it down (roll steer), the BMW is just neutral at all speeds and angles. The bike has Rain, Road and Dynamic settings, we had 5 wet days (and one snowing), we never lost traction under acceleration or braking, we slipped sideways slightly with the front and back once each.
We had soft inserts for the panniers and top box and loaded the topbox to the max. The box has 4 metal locking tags, 2 fixed and 2 movable, Jenny found the backrest comfortable and strong. The frame under the topbox seems to hack the pace. It's so dissappointing that Yamaha didn't re-engineer the Gen 3 topbox and strenghten the frame.
The bike is very big and heavy, as always, you only feel it when you stop. It seemed to get taller as the 15 days sped past. I'm 6 foot and managed both feet almost flat on the bitumen. Jenny found it hard to climb on but loved it when she got there. The dash showed she enjoyed the seat heaters, and I had mine on in the snow. The windscreen was very effective, larger than the FJR but it has a shallow “V” cut in the top. I could see over the top (thru the V) but the higher tips kept the helmet quiet and stable.
We rode the FJR as soon as we got home, slim, light, low, vibes that let you know its running and acceleration that is no slouch. Superb! We rode it to the BMW dealer who offered $7K for our '08 with 67K on the clock, a $31K changeover. Bullshit, overpriced.
Paradise Motorcycle Tours
Brilliant ! Airport pick up, the bike and inner bags were at the 1st class B&B heritage accommodation, our travel bags (army duffels) reappeared at the airport hotel where we stayed the last night. The punctured tyre happened 90 minutes from Christchurch, they were there in 60 minutes, loaded the bike on the trailer, drove to Christchurch, replaced the tyre, we made it to the first night's accommodation.
We opted for the self guided trip with B&B accom. The whole trip was loaded into the GPS with accom addresses as the daily destination. Perfect ! On only one occasion the GPS sent us the wrong way, directly away from a rainstorm, by the time we found the error the storm had passed and the road was drying. Even the stuff ups worked well.
The accommodation was great, it varied from castles to old nuneries to modern timber and glass. Only one didn't have a view and some had spectacular views of snow clad mountains or the sea or both. We went for B&B with the idea of loading up at breakfast, a coffee for lunch, and buy a evening meal. All the B&B hosts understood; big breakfasts, ommeletes, pancakes the lot. The hosts couldn't do enough for us, if we arrived wet they'd send us straight to the spa and take our gear to the drying room.
If tours needed to be booked or changed (whale watching, glow worms, jet boats, glacier flights) it was no trouble and cheerfully done. We had 2 nights in 4 places which gave us a day to do the tours above, the rest was move to a new place each day. It worked like clockwork, we were expected everywhere and breakfast was included without question.
Paradise Motorcycle Tours have other trip options, hire a bike, preloaded tours and accompanied tours. On the west coast we passed 3 bikes and the backup van going the other way. We gave chase on the BMW and easily caught 'em. At accom you'd often cross paths with other Paradise customers. On the west coast we met a couple touring on a Triumph 800 triple, ½ the BMW's size, in our youth Jen and I often toured on a 650 twin.
As an example, we paid for whale watching in advance from Aus, the operators usually don't take money until the captain decides he will sail (weather and sea). It wasn't paid for in advance so we rang Paradise. “Can you pay with your C-C and we'll sort it out”. The money was cheerfully refunded, no drama.
New Zealand Roads
The road surfaces are good, there is little heavy transport, hire cars and campers are everywhere. Many drivers are from right hand drive countries and there are horror stories.
We bought a ticket in the Policeman's ball, $120 for 20km/hr over, stationary car radar, no lecture, no points. I paid it the next day at the Westpak Bank because the bike could easily get me into a court appearance, I wanted to be able to say I'd paid the fine promptly. There are cop cars everywhere, the cruise helped heaps. Saw a couple of camera vans of the old type with the camera looking at the front of the bike.
The Paradise instructions ask RHS drivers to pause before re-joining the highway after a tourist view stop. Locals also say this is the most dangerous place for cars on the wrong side of the road, in all these spots there are arrows painted on the road. One van came straight at me, thankfully he got the message and moved left. The instructions also mention possums are a pest and are regularly squashed and slippery. I saw 5, they obviously haven't dodged pademelons in Tasmania. (Possums squash easier).
Had a ball and would do it again, probably with a smaller bike, BMW don't have a 4 cyl tourer.