Ok, so i took my 899 to Phillip Island this week and it was blistering hot. About 40 degrees with a hot , blustery northerly wind blowing in off the desert and across Victoria.
Ran stock Diablo Rosso Corsa's with no warmers as the tyres were toasty from the ambient temperature. I set the suspension up as per the manual for racing and tweaked it to suit needs throughout the day. I didn’t set rider sag as I was doing other things but really should have.
As it was stinking hot I sat out the last 3 sessions as I am half the man I used to be and suffered some nasty heat stroke and had to sit down until I recovered.
From the get-go, I found the bike a lovely, free and high revving beast that loves being flogged in the meaty part of the rev range – 8/9rpms to redline. Bike was run in Race mode.
I am by no means a racer and I consider this review to be of an everyday riders perspective so don't crucify me if you don't agree with my thoughts and experiences.
Engine - Ride this bike in the meaty part of the rev range and it will reward you with deceptively fast acceleration and spit you out of corners like a slingshot. Like some other reviewers have said, I did find myself working the gears quite often to stay in the meaty part of the rev range and because the engine revs so dam quickly at high rpms, you have to make sure your peripheral vision is on cue so you can see the limiter lights come on otherwise you’ll bounce off the limiter very easily. The bike pulls really hard for it’s size in the high rpms and it took me a few sessions to get used to being in the right gears for going into corners and coming out of them. That being said, the bike is by no means a slouch in the lower rpms and I found coming out of the two tight right handers at Phillip Island, the bike still pulled very hard from low rpms and I am still blown away at how quickly it leaps through the rev range when you are really on it....lovely stuff. The engine note under full steam sounds absolutely amazing even with the stock system on, the exhaust was popping and farting under deceleration and when the DQS was put through it’s paces.
On hard downshifting, I made sure to match the revs with the downshifts to avoid any lockup and even whilst leant over and down changing, the bike felt stable and engine handled the rev changes without a fuss.
Chassis – The chassis (or lack of ) made the bike stable as **** through corners and the bike stayed planted and has an almost telepathic kind of feel as it peels through corners with ease and goes where you want it to go. Once the bike was leant over, it hooked up and railed with precision and ease and made cornering very easy. Although the bikes spec sheet put it down as being a bit heavy in comparison to it’s size, it felt extremely light and agile when flicking through transitions and tight corners.
Suspension – I really should have set rider sag before I set the bike up but with limited time I worked with what I had. Tyre wear was crap to start out with but as I worked the suspension settings, things got much better and I also found the bike more planted and was squatting better through corners better. Bike felt very nice beneath me and very stable in corners and under hard braking. Maybe high and low speed compression and dampening would help sharpen things up but I’m not Casey Stoner so the stock Showa suspension works fine for me.
Electronics – I turned EBC completely off as I like it this way for my riding style. ABS was on it’s lowest setting and DTC was on level 2. I didn’t feel at anytime the DTC or ABS kick in although after leaving ******* out of corners, I know the DTC was doing it’s thing in the background but felt totally unobtrusive whilst riding. I did crank DTC up to 6 for a session to see what it was like and all I felt was a slight bogging down of the engine with the throttle wide open through corners but once traction regained the bike surged forward unhindered. Even though EBC was switched off and there is no slipper clutch, I didn’t have a problem with the bike stepping out under hard downshifting, even when leaned over. DQS worked a treat on the track and I only hit a false neutral once because I was a bit light footed whilst downshifting.
Brakes – The brakes on this bike are phenomenal and are the best I have ever had to date. Coming into MG Corner at Phillip Island (after Stoner corner) I was wiping off around 220kph with a simple and easy squeeze of the brake lever. The brakes don’t initially bite hard but have a fantastic progression to them that just seems to suck up speed and pull you up on a dime. It was a fantastic feeling and very confidence inspiring to just squeeze hard on the levers and have the bike stay stable beneath me. Perhaps ABS was kicking in but I didn’t feel the normal pulsing through the levers that you get from ABS kicking in. Trail braking was easy and these brakes just give you magnificent feedback through the levers which I love.
Ergonomics – The thin tank made hanging off the bike a breeze and getting a nice hanging off body position was effortless. The wide bars made turning input very easy and the bike flicked into corners with ease. I did find coming into turn 1 at Phillip Island that the bike was a bit hard to initially turn in but I put that down to my tyre pressures being slightly low and me just getting used to the bike. I did however get tip in points faster throughout the day as I acclimatised myself to the bike. Tank grips may help when hanging off the bike but I think it’s up to each individual to suit their own needs. I put some aftermarket pegs on the bike and oh my god, they helped me when cranked over and gave me confidence in general when moving around the bike – definitely a must mod to do if you can’t be bothered getting rearsets.
Sweet top end rev range and this bike feels very happy to rev it’s **** off all day long.
Superb brakes that soak up speed and pull the bike up on a dime. Fantastic feedback through te brake levers which inspires confidence.
Wide bars and chassis make slicing through corners a breeze – stable, precise and intuitive are words that spring to mind when thinking about how this baby corners.
The slim tank and ergos make for transition from one side of the bike to the other effortless and you can hang off like a god **** monkey through corners.
I must say that I am not too happy about not being able to use the race slicks that I have - Pirelli Superbike Pros - 190 rear. Ok, I should say that you can use them but the DTC is not intuitive like my RSV4 is, where you can re-calibrate APRC (traction control) and the bikes wheel sensors picks up the changes and changes settings accordingly so you can use the bikes electronics. To my knowledge and after speaking to techs, if you change the tyre size on the 899 it may only work on just one setting or not work at all. I was told it would be best to just disable all electronics together. Kind of annoying that this is the case but maybe someone can correct me if I am wrong about this as I find it hard to believe that you can’t tyre sizes and lose some or all of the electronics.
The riding/electronic modes on the Duc aren’t very user friendly. If I want to change settings, I want to do them whilst I am riding (on the street) or for a trackday, pull into the pits, quickly toggle through the menu and be of again. I just find the menu system not as easy as some other bikes but perhaps I’m just being a little *****
Why the **** the preload clicker on the front forks has to be a hex head clicker is beyond me. It’s a small thing but when you are rushing around setting up suspension, a screwdriver is your best friend and works for all the rest of the suspension clickers so why not for the preload.
A slipper clutch is not necessary but would be nice to have for the track to just take the rev matching out of the equation when downshifting.
Stock windshield doesn’t provide too much (if any) protection from the wind and if you are doing lots of trackdays on this bike then a double bubble or the like is strongly advised.
So, there you have it. I will probably add more but that's all I could think about at the moment.