I had a Honda Helix back in high school, but my first real bike back in 1997 was a BMW F650 with a Rotax single. I was never comfortable with manual shifting and always felt like the bike had a crash in it. I got to the point where I dreaded taking it out, so I sold it to a friend who promptly crashed and broke his arm (but was otherwise fine).
I followed up the BMW with an Aprilia Atlantic and then a Suzuki Burgman 650. The Burg was great for city riding due to its low CG and storage capacity. It was okay on the freeway but performance was dull, especially for (or due to) its 600 lb. weight.
15 years have gone by and we now live in the suburbs and have an RV to which we'd like to add an auxiliary vehicle. Like lots of others I'd been wanting an R1200GS for years but knew that the high CG and manual shifting would ultimately make riding a chore, especially for my 20 minute commute into the city (currently an hour on the bus). I saw an AT at the local bakery couple of weeks ago and thought it looked awesome; when the owner told me it was DCT I was super intrigued. Did a bunch of research and decided to pull the trigger last week.
The bike was delivered yesterday and I was nervous as ****. Keep in mind it's been 20 years since I have ridden anything but a (honking big) scooter. My first trip down the street went okay. I immediately noticed that the throttle has a very short engagement and that steering is much less nimble than the Burgman with its 17" front tire and weight low and aft. However, on the ride home (Golden Gate bridge, freeway, couple twisty miles) I felt increasingly confident.
1. Even though I haven't ridden manual in ages, it still feels weird to come to a stop and not worry about stalling. A noted, coming off the line can be a surprise if I am not very delicate on the throttle, but I find that I am able to start smoothly and operate a low speed with a little care, which I expect to become second nature quickly.
2. DCT auto shifts in "D" mode are extremely conservative, as everyone says. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see the bike in 6th gear at 35 mph. But since I am not an aggressive rider I didn't mind that in the city and was surprised to find reasonable torque available at 2K rpm. Downshifting to pass is super intuitive and I find myself doing it frequently, though I agree with the plethora of comments that say it would be nice if the downshifts were held longer.
3. The engine has more vibration than I was expecting. I guess that is typical twin, though I wouldn't know from experience. In particular, adding throttle at 2K rpm sets up a harmonic knocking you can feel through the pedals, which is gone by 2300 rpm. Because of the shift points in "D" this happens fairly frequently. It's not a bad feeling and the engine sound is good, though if it isn't normal I hope someone will let me know. :laugh:
4. It was a gusty day yesterday so I don't know if the buffeting I felt was due to the windscreen, steering tunnel, or just, you know, wind. I never found it objectionable but will be interested to try a larger screen.
5. I found the seat quite comfortable. I am 5' 9" and set it to the low position to give me better foot contact with the ground. Engine heat is noticeable after warm-up. The pegs seem okay but I find myself being hit in the shins when starting from a stop. I'm sure this is just scooter transition as I don't see what other design would improve matters though I plan to try some Pivot Pegz.
6. My wife was very excited when I brought the bike home (it was a surprise, though she knew I was looking at the AT and was very supportive after a trip to the dealer last weekend). She wanted to immediately go for a ride, so visited the hardware store to get a torque wrench. She said that the pillion seat was extremely comfortable and she loved the secure handholds and the seating position. We don't bash helmets on deceleration any more and she has a wide field of view. She did comment on the buffeting; I'm not sure whether a screen change will affect that. I did not notice any handling change with her on the back (she is 110 lbs. and I am 160), though the extra 1/2" of suspension sag was welcome.
7. The suspension seems very supple and going over curbs and into uneven parking lots is a breeze. I did notice some drift from the rear tire when we hit a gravelly patch on the shoulder of the freeway offramp while going around the traffic. That surprised but didn't panic me as it hooked up again immediately.
8. Unlike some others, I find the blinker switch position to be totally intuitive, but the horn definitely is not. I'll have to retrain the muscle memory so I can find it in a panic situation. The headlight flasher is now the upshift switch, so I will probably need to think about that one as well, but I don't flash much (as much as I should, probably) so it's less of an issue than the horn.
Overall I am very excited and feel much more confident after only an hour and a half or so of saddle time. The DCT is amazing and I feel an order of magnitude more prepared to ride defensively than I did on a manual. I'm looking forward to accessorizing in the coming weeks, with:
- AltRider crash bars
- Honda panniers
- Koso heated grips
- Center stand
- Louder horn
Happy to answer any questions from other noobs, and would welcome feedback from the more experienced.