BMW 1200GS TE the first ten days

Frustratingly, the longest ride I have had so far on this new lovely bike, is riding it back home from the dealer in Welwyn.
What I don’t want to lose is the sense of the bike’s slightness, lightness and responsiveness compared to my old bike, as well as very welcome slight closeness to the ground. It takes up less space in the garage and has none of that imposing bulk. Opening the garage door to Bertha felt like I looked her in the eye but this bike is definitely down there on the ground.

Plenty of people have offered impressions and more lengthy reviews of this bike, some are clearly new to Beamers and this sort of eccentric design while some compare it carefully with previous models.
For me, I was most surprised by its similarity to riding the old bike, the same position, the same clunky gear box, but as everyone says, it is just so much more zippy and the brakes, which were strong on my old model are even more impressive on this 2014 bike. In fact I’m surprised that the 7 years between Bertha’s production and this model have made such a difference to the sophistication of the machine. The bike, along with the customised GPS is a model of the quantified self, it records and logs all kinds of minute information: how many times you have used each brake, the average opening of the throttle (mine was only 4% after the last but one ride). You can make miniscule adjustments to the way it rides and the suspension which I have only briefly tried in the park and ride car park I go to for low speed practice. As others have said, I can’t say I noticed much difference. The bike also looks and feels more mainstream, less individual and eccentric. Even the seat is springy and comfortable. And the indicator switching has finally come into the 21st century.

I was keen to install some basic protection, SW Motech engine bars and radiator protection and a device meant to make theft of the clocks more difficult, both from English firm Cymark with voluble instruction sheets. So this mass-produced slightly anonymous bike is gradually becoming a little customised. On order are some beautiful Touratech panniers and top box and a couple of other minor enhancements.

In order is a much longer ride.

Bertha and Belinda

Yesterday I rode down to SBW Motorrad in Welwyn for a booked test ride on the F800 that I have been mentioning, my thinking being to move to a lighter more manageable bike but one that still has some style and presence. When I got there it turned out they had sold the test bike and didn’t have another. Not a good start, so as I had spent the best part of an hour getting down there I asked whether they had a 1200gs (the current version of Bertha) for me to try, more out of curiosity. They did and I was shown a TE version with spoked wheels which I rode. Again, more out of curiosity I asked the price and this demo version seemed surprisingly reasonable, not that much more than the smaller machine. So what was it like? Once astride it feels suprisingly similar to my current bike and apart from being noisier (I forgot to put in my ear plugs) and the gears clunkier (mine are well worn in) it was a very familiar experience. But this bike seemed much lighter and easier to get around corners. All reviews say it is much more responsive than the old model but it was hard to compare. Very quickly I realised that this bike was clearly the more manageable bike I was after, with the wind protection and motorway capability that I feared losing on the smaller F800. I loved it. Here it is in a lay by near Welwyn:

Pleasant surprise number two was the offer I got for Bertha’s trade-in. If all goes to plan next Wednesday I will drive down on Bertha (all that cleaning and repainting was worth it) and drive off with a 2014 1200GS TE with just over 1000 miles on the clock, very many extra switches and dials, plus alarm, and I shelled out for the overpriced but clever BMW GPS. I was so excited that I barely slept last night. The Touratech catalogue is on my desk.

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Ride to Saffron Walden

On Friday I test ride a BMW F800, for those who don’t follow such things, its an ‘adventure’ bike similar to mine but about 2/3 the bulk and also 2/3 the power. I am also taking Bertha down for the dealer to give me a quote for its part exchange value.

Here’s Bertha cleaner and shinier than ever before:


Duke of Burgundy

‘Stylish, sensual and smart’, that’s how Rotten Tomatoes summarises this interesting film from Peter Strickland. The review goes on to say that this film ‘proves that erotic cinema can have genuine substance’. Other reviewers have presented it as a thinking person’s alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. So that’s a lot to live up to. It is certainly beautifully filmed with many dreamlike visual nods to late 1960s, psychedelia even. It is also very funny in places, the pan across the concentrating and engaged audience at the entomological association which features at least two slightly out of focus, but nicely dressed, mannequins in the back row, for example. I also enjoyed the strange nostalgic world created in some unspecified time and (European) place where the only people are beautiful and slightly stiffly dressed women.

The subject matter is the dilemma of the relationship between the beautiful and submissive Evelyn (‘this is all I have ever dreamed about’) and the more-comfortable-in-cosy-pygamas-Cynthia who becomes less patient and accommodating to Evelyn’s requests as time goes by. Its nicely played mostly with lots of lingering (in both senses) eroticism. The film avoids the most crass S/M cliches (whips etc.) to its credit and the allure of the practices is nicely balanced with a focus on Evelyn and Cynthia and their gorgeous environment – as well as the butterflies and moths that remained enigmatic for me throughout the film.

But I found it slightly disappointing. I hoped for something far more taut. There was too much sentiment and far too much dialogue. Everything was said out loud. I imagined this film with only a quarter of the dialogue. I asked In what way are these women like butterflies? Are they pinned? I concluded that the entomology was an atmospheric addition rather than a central structure or metaphor for the whole film, albeit a beautifully achieved one.

The trailer is here.