While spending an idle hour trolling through the net, I came across your site and had to write having found myself agreeing with so much you said about the Varadero. Didn't know you existed but I'm certainly pleased to find you as I've been a fan of big trailies for some time. I don't know why they've never caught on here as they have in the land of the falling Euro. After all they're comfy, quick, have presence and at least make a nod in the direction of going a bit beyond the black-top. I've been riding bikes constantly for 25 years now including club racing, commuting and yearly touring throughout Europe and parts of Asia where we lived for a while.
Which brings me to the point of dropping you a line. Having graduated through oily British twins, Italian exotica, American excess (I'm not old enough yet!) and Japanese predictability I ended up with a succession of FJ's (still one of the best all-round bikes ever built) and finally, in 94, a BMW GS1100 and a V-max for the adrenalin rush. For some time we had the only GS in Hong Kong, which made servicing and getting parts interesting as there are no BMW bike dealers in HK. Anyway, the GS I loved; the Max I got bored with. So they both went, principally on the strength of a very positive comparitive road test in "Bike" magazine, and along came the Varadero last month.
What did I like about the GS; brilliant handling (We now live in darkest Devon), fabulous brakes and ABS, tolerable off-road performance, low down grunt, build quality, brilliant handling again and (believe it or not) looks! Dislikes included uncomfortable seat after 100+ miles, poor seat to footpeg relationship resulting in aching legs (I'm 6 feet), cleaning spoked wheels on my 94 model which had no coating (unlike later models), surging on constant throttle openings (see Rob Lentini's excellent page on fixing this common problem), exhaust noise; or rather lack of it, ultimate lack of power when really going for it and lack of weather protection in grim weather. It is wet most of the year down here! The attraction of the Varadero was all the things that I disliked about the GS.
So, how have I found it after only 1000 miles or so? Love the seat, weather protection, sound, power and character of the engine (a Honda with character!), and looks!! (one of the attractions about biking is retaining some individuality but it now seems that unless you own a bike which puts your bum on the same level as your head you're not one of "us". Witness "Superbike's" July 99 parting shot in their road test of the Varadero; ".....if you've got the balls to ignore the peer pressure................") Only real dislike so far is handling. Why oh why did Honda scrimp on the suspenders and shocks? You are absolutely spot-on. Yes, I hit bends faster than I thought 'cos of that brilliant engine. If (when!) that happened on the GS you could just drop it a few more degrees from vertical, trail the front brake deep into the bend and still come out the other side with composure comparitively intact; farmer's droppings aside. If you try that on the Honda the best that happens is you pogo round the bend bouncing off the footpegs (I know, it's happened!). The worst that could happen is you end up horizontal or in a hedge (not happened yet). Consequence is that I now find myself at least feeling as though I'm going a lot slower through the same bends as on the BM. I have a 30 mile drive through country lanes to my work so it's been fairly easy to draw direct comparisons between the 2 bikes. Bottom line is it doesn't feel quite so much fun. And what is going to happen when I stick "she who must be obeyed" on the back along with requisite make-up support panniers? Will the pegs then scrape at 5 degrees off vertical? Am I going to give up? Do I think Camilla should be modelling Wonderbras? Any help/advice anybody can give on improving damping and spring rates will be much appreciated. I'm even prepared to run the risk of incurring Sochiro's ghost's wrath by putting on non-standard bits and having any future warranty claims denied! First step is bunging in some decent progressive fork springs and upping the oil weight. I had some success with Hyperpro's springs and oil in the V-Max. For "some success" read "it went round corners a little bit better than a supermarket trolley" after putting them in. I'll let you know how it works out on the Honda. As far as the rear is concerned, I really don't know where to start so any thoughts please.
Got to go and try and remember how to adjust a chain.
Keep up the site.
Colin Beal (45 years young, father of one, smoker, drinker, but never been banned from a pub for being a biker)