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Comparison test: Harley Davidson, Moto Guzzi, Triumph and Yamaha

The Big Easy: Character Bikes Compared

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The Big Easy is synonymous with New Orleans and the sluggish and relaxed southern feeling that prevails there. PS it was easy and got involved with the most powerful character bikes on the scene. Strong guys with a mind of their own who, despite their coolness, don’t always have to get along. Or is it? There will be: Harley Davidson XR 1200, Moto Guzzi Griso 8V, Triumph Thruxton and Yamaha MT-01.

The Big Easy

"Well, Motschi-san, displacement isn’t everything. Personality counts, individuality." Scott Barker cools his throat with a few sips of beer and sinks back into his thoughts: A whole bloody and bloody sunny day in the saddle of a Harley. A new Harley. An XR 1200. That makes you thirsty. Just how the oven looks in this hot orange. Glows as brightly as a cheerleader’s miniskirt. Looks like the famous XR 750, the dirt track racer. And costs just 10,990 euros. The price will attract some cardboard noses; End of individuality. Scott cools the bitter idea down and tries to think of more pleasant images. The day on the XR and the three other bikes. It all started at the meeting point. There was Motschi-San on his MT-01, the groomed Lecca Toni with his Guzzi Griso 8V and this snobbish Gene Robhero on the Thruxton. They knew each other by sight, but had never ridden together. Without many words, the mission is clear: “We’ll pale the sun,” Motschi had said. And the others understood. The Japanese ahead, Scott closely followed. Not even a Harley disciple wants to miss a beat from the great bass of the MT-01. Sure, displacement isn’t everything, but 1670 cubic is not a mistake. Even if they are from Japan. At the latest with the first coffee, all four are really hooked. Curious about the other bikes. Without many words, the swap is decided and Scott climbs into the saddle of Motschi’s Yamaha. Wow what a bike! Almost a penny farthing if you’re just switching from the Harley. The seat is not even a quarter of an inch away from the asphalt. Still, the MT-01 feels very different. Scott knows the wide handlebars. But at the same time sit relaxed and oriented towards the front wheel?

Hard to believe, but it works. Then the boom between the knees: the engine alone weighs 105 kilos, it has 1.67 liters of displacement in two cylinders – that is real heavy metal. And how that pushes! In contrast, Scott’s beloved Harley is a pale barrel organ. The goat goes from 1500 tours, between 20 and 30 on the clock he feels most comfortable, if necessary 50 can be done too. But nobody needs, over 40 you hardly have to. Especially not in the fifth, the last gear: It’s translated forever. And the Yamaha weighs five and a half quintals. Without Scott. Sometimes you even have to downshift on a seventeen hundred. Fortunately, Japanese gears work fine. Scott smiles, the first alternating curve on the Yam was a nasty surprise. He’s got used to the fact that his XR particularly likes to drive straight ahead. But the MT-01 cattle are even more stubborn: At first they didn’t want to go diagonally, and when Scott got that far, they wanted to stand up straight again. "I will feel bad about it andele Leifen." Aha, Motschi-San has also noticed the problem and wants to replace the Metzeler Z6 rubbers. Good man. On the other hand, the brake bites well, and the fork doesn‘t bend like a match at the first braking maneuver. "Not bad at all", runs through Scott’s brain. "For a Japanese", he thinks in a hurry.

Griso – swing


Moto Guzzi Griso 8V

Then Lecca Toni urgently needs to call again and pulls over to the shoulder. As soon as they stand, Motschi-san arrives and smiles: "Globaltig, del Dluck, odel?" Scott leaves him ungalant and grabs the Italian’s white fairy. This shiny box reminds him of his XR. As if ZZ Top had changed their style to the young John Travolta. The Guzzi handlebars are flatter, but also nice and wide, the pegs fit – that’s cool sport. "Careful Scott, exercise has never been your thing", he admonishes himself. Lecca has finished, let’s go on. Wind and sun tan the skin. The Griso under Scott dances to the beat of the curves, follows the impulses of the driver and spreads a lightness that very few have. Compared to the Yam and the XR, it lacks punch from the cellar. She comes from the city, of course, from Italy, too, and can never shed her tendency to hectic. It has great handling, but it lacks sovereignty in Great Relax mode. No wonder: your finely ribbed engine now has four instead of two valves per cylinder, and each has its own camshaft. No more meter-long bumpers, but short, light tappets and rocker arms. This makes the Griso not only the strongest in the field, but also the one with the highest speed level. Harley and Yamaha push their maximum torque below 4000 rpm, Guzzi and Triumph have to let their twin rotate 6500 times per minute.

Scott is almost shocked at how quickly he got used to the Griso’s easy swing. He even had time to look at the dignified workmanship and the harmonious finish of the poppers. And the Italian offers freedom, namely freedom of inclination. Well, the stand brushes to the left early, but otherwise: Great, how relaxed she lets herself drift through the curves. The shock absorber and especially the fork willingly swallow the asphalt scars. Well, in plain language: The fork is great, the shock absorber a bit stubborn, but not really bad. Scott can hardly hide his enthusiasm anymore. He even likes the Italian sound, as does the twins’ manners. The Guzzi is the only one on the ride to have six gears and they can be shifted very casually. And the throttle response – tender as fillet. There is only one thing he cannot and does not want to get used to: how the thing wobbles! At the first throttle after the start, the Griso almost tilts to the right of the stand.

Thriumph time


Triumph thruxton

Gene Robhero, the Englishman, is next to stop the entourage. He wants to know when and where the next tea-and-buttered-scones stop is. Scott frowns: Coffee. Black. And a T-bone steak. No man needs more. But this snob wants tea and biscuits or something like that. But if he doesn’t get it, Scott swings into the triumph of the not amused-looking Gene. Scott knows English women. Oh yeah. Usually pale and greasy, but incredibly docile. And sunburned as standard. The Triumph Thruxton has a different knit: it stands there like a top model from a catalog from the 1970s. Well, apart from the oversized brake disc on the front wheel, it could really be as old as the Empire. Everything is consistent: the glossy black paint, the racing stripes across the motorcycle, the twin and all proportions. Only one thing does not belong in the picture: the sound. If you can even call the noise that. Even with the Arrows bag from the Triumph accessories, the Thruxton hardly waxes louder than a Chihuahua with an intestinal disorder. "Th, th, th, th,…", as if she wanted to introduce herself and stuttered with excitement. Or like Motschi, when he is convulsively practicing the tie-ache again.

The motor. Should have 900 cubic. Allegedly. Measured against the XR, Griso and MT-01, the thing doesn’t pull any sausage, not even a slice of sausage from the plate. Still, the Thruxton has something. Charisma? Charm? What’s that still called? No matter. Just looking at them while standing is a lot of fun. You stare at the carburetors, which are not at all. Fell for it, exactly. Scott has to measure his own nose: He also thought at first that old-school constant pressure carburetors would work here. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. These shrewd Englishmen have had an injection built for themselves that looks almost like a carburetor. Then the handlebars, the exhaust pipe, the chrome lamp, the wire-spoke wheels and those mirrors – all in all a pretty fancy number. But somehow a bike is there to be ridden. And for that the engine is really a bit weak. Sure, smooth throttle response is all well and good, as is the transmission, but there is no pressure. And because that is what is missing most precisely when you want to get out of the curve, you have to bring some speed with you when driving in. At least nothing touches the Thruxton if you let it run. Unless you give it your all, which luckily doesn’t happen often. The Englishwoman may be soft, but she has reserves and wants to be a cafe racer. "Well then, let her!" Thinks Barker, and lets her run. And experiences that it develops a life of its own similar to the MT-01, to which you have to get used to. At low speeds it still feels handy and swings around easily. But as soon as things get a little quicker, cafe racing, she becomes stubborn. Then the Triumph hardly wants to give in, has to be pressed with a lot of pressure on the handlebars in an inclined position. Feels like the lamp has been poured out with lead.

Harley feeling


Harley-Davidson XR 1200

"Probably", Scott muses, "the wheels are narrow but heavy. That would explain why it stays so cool on an incline. When you’re not braking in the curve." Because the Thruxton responds to this with violent rebellion, in other words: it stands up clearly and uncomfortably strong. "Hey Barker, you are so quiet! What are you thinking about? Will I betray us, or do I have to put my mom on your neck first? "Lecca Toni stands next to Scott and brings him back to reality, to the pub. "Stop, don’t say anything", Gene calls in between. "I know what you are thinking: you dream of your XR!" – "Now you know, so you can leave me alone again", Scott growls. Pour himself a long sip of beer and pull his hat over his forehead. They can be really annoying, the guys. And the bikes mess up his world. At the beginning of the day he is absolutely convinced that his XR is the hottest buck on the planet, and then something like that. Of course, the XR is still the most beautiful, but Scott also has to admit that behind the beautiful appearance there is not so beautiful being: The exhaust tips of the Harley rust even while standing, none of the others allow themselves that. And what’s more, they’re scratched: one of the three drove in front of him earlier. And while he sat on the Triumph, he watched as the exhaust chrome from his XR sparkled away in a right turn.

"It does not matter", Scott admonishes himself. "I drive a real one from Milwaukee, a Harley-Davidson, an XR 1200. And it has a great engine. Pushes out of the basement properly and is really fun." After getting to know the other twins, he is still a bit surprised how little braking torque the 1200 V2 has. The fact that the tank is made of plastic has not bothered him so far and will not bother him in the future either. Because as soon as the twin hums under him, swings back and forth in its rubber mounts, Scott doesn’t care. The first gear engages with a gentle clone, and every single ignition penetrates into his cowboy heart. He gets a little sad when he thinks about the Griso: She already had a fine fork. The front of his XR is much less responsive and gives him little feel for the front rubber. For this, the brakes grab bitingly, which, however, lets the fork dip far and go on the block. Easy going is better: cruising comfortably with an 80’s pulse and only tearing open on the straight now and then, don’t brake too late before turning in again. That’s cool. And curves too, the Harley. Willingly gives in and lies neutral as long as the surface is good. It just touches down a little early on the right side. With the lady it is enough to swing. And he would never give her up. Motschi-san pokes Barker in the ribs. He emerges from his mind, looks at the three colleagues and says: "As I said: displacement is not everything, but personality and individuality alone are probably not everything either. It all depends on the mix and style. In addition, the four of us are all great guys and we really do something. The next round is on me. And Lecca, turn off that damn cell phone!"



XR 1200: Heavy iron from the USA. Griso 8V: Bella Donna from Italy. Thruxton: Classic style from England. MT-01: Strong sumo wrestler from the Far East.

The blues sits on your neck as soon as you have one of the four aspirants under you. The test truth is that the Moto Guzzi Griso 8V and the Yamaha MT-01 share victory. The Griso lacks some pressure in the middle, the MT-01 has the wrong socks. 3rd place for the beautiful and unfortunately too tame Triumph Thruxton. It goes through life as harmoniously as a good tea. Only 4th place for the Harley-Davidson XR 1200. Many little things and, above all, careless processing with cheap components such as the exhaust cost points.

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