I hadn't owned a bike for half a dozen years, but religiously purchased MCN every week to keep tabs on bike developments and the BSB, WSB, GP scene etc - in fact I regularly visit Knockhill in Fife to watch the bike racing. Anyway, the notion of owning a bike had been getting stronger and stronger over the last couple of years, and last winter (99/00) I decided that the following spring was time for a new bike. But which one?
I aint no racer, so the hyper sports missiles don't interest me (although I would love a 916 just to look at:-). My last bike in the early-mid 90's (my early thirties) was a Kawasaki GT550 which I'd fitted a half fairing to, so you'll get an idea of where I'm coming from. I wanted something similar, ie: shaft drive - a must have, comfortable on a long run, good range (= 200 miles approx), not too big capacity wise (500-750cc), a bit of bodywork would be nice, pillion friendly, sensible luggage capability. Looking around at the various options there was one bike which seemed to hit the nail right on the head: Honda Deauville. So the specs were right, but it also looked great (IMHO), not too much of a tourer look, and not too sporty, a really nice blend. That was it, choice made.
The next thing was where to buy it? In general I think it's worth paying a bit extra to support your local dealer, so I duly went along to the Glasgow Honda dealer. There wasn't another customer in the shop, but I couldn't get anybody to serve me, they were too busy chatting amongst themselves, it was pathetic. You just get the impression of a shop that has been run by the same people, in the same place, for far too long, they're just not with it. Especially compared to the Glasgow Kawasaki dealer who have a great showroom, attentive friendly staff, café, 21st century attitude basically. Anyway, enough of the bitchin….
That forced my hand, I was gonna have to go elsewhere, so I decided in this web-savvy age that it would be an interesting exercise to try and source it on the internet. After some ferreting about I came across a very good deal, turns out that Carnell are the dealers tied to the Web company. Now Carnell don't enjoy the best of reputations (apparently), but I aint complaining because the price was great: 5238 inc vat UKP compared with a UK retail price at the time (May 2000) of (I think) 6100. And yes, the price included delivery to my door, which is in Scotland…..
Now, because the bike was coming from Grimsby (and I'm in Paisley - near Glasgow) I wasn't expecting it till later in the day. Bearing this in mind (and understanding I had a day off for this momentous occasion) I, erm, relaxed a tad the previous evening, ie got bladdered with Big Sparti. Aye, right, bike arrived at 9.30 am, I was still in my scratcher, the Carnell guy said he left Grimsby at 3.30am !
"Shit, right mate, just let me get out of my pyjamas..."
Anyway, with the bike delivered, and me with a full shite, shave, shower and breakfast behind me (in that order!), I head off for the first trip...
...to the petrol station. You'd think they'd stick a fiver in it, but it was running on reserve, on vapour even. Ach well.
So, fuelled up and ready to rock, I leave Paisley and head for the M8 motorway towards Greenock for my first stint. I deliberately hit the motorway to stay away from the side-road-sorry-I-didn't-see-you-types (and, yes, it HAS happened to me in the past) so that I can get a feel for the controls, riding position etc. After a few miles I get to the Bishopton turn-off and head through there towards Erskine, a nice quiet, sometimes twisty, wee road that I know really well, perfect for me to start exploring the other parts of the bike outside of the riding position. I get to Erskine and rejoin the M8 back towards Glasgow. after a few miles I slip off through the Clyde Tunnel and head north through Milngavie, up the wee twisty road past The Carbeth Inn - a local biker haunt on summer weekends - slip past Drymen and on to Balloch, which clings to the southern tip of Loch Lomond, the weather is glorious and I'm rejuvenated to be back on a bike amidst some nice Scottish scenery, which makes me realise it's been a while since I last passed here on a bike…
So far I'm just getting a feel for the bike, but immediate impressions are that it's bigger than I thought. I'm 5 foot 5 with a 30 inside leg, ie not the biggest guy in the universe. It's a (just) slightly long reach to the bars for me, which puts pressure on my wrists in town but no probs on the open road once the wind lifts some body weight, as for seat height, well I can reach the ground with my right foot flat comfortably, and almost half-way with both feet down ;-) ..Anyway, I turn back via Alexandria towards Glasgow, over the Erskine Bridge (Toll bridge, but free for bikes) and back along the M8. Through the tunnel again and a short stop in Jordanhill for a blether with some old work colleagues. After a chat I emerge to some fairly light drizzle, ach well, it's only a few miles home. All in all a brilliant first run of about 100 miles. The bike's been great…I'm well chuffed.
For the second ride I decide to head south over the Glennifer Braes. This involves a fairly steep, twisty climb to start with, past the 'Car Park In The Sky', which then leads onto a nice big straight at the top of the braes (I now want to thrash it, but control myself…'keep it at 5 grand johnny boy'), followed by some twisty bits heading towards Lugton, another old biker haunt here - The Paraffin Lamp - now a Brewers Fayre shop and more family centric. At Lugton I hang left to Barrhead, back through Glenburn and back up the hill! (sad bastard) Anyway, the bike pulls like a tractor up these steep hills, no probs at all - even running it in, so this time at Lugton I take a right towards Beith, on through Lochwinnoch, some nice twistys, then down the single-tracker, past the Quarriers, into Bridge Of Weir. This next bit I'm really looking forward to, the road from BOW, through Houston to Erskine. Did it a zillion times in my youth, big straights, followed by chicanes (well, that's the way I see it !). Before I know it I'm back in Paisley. 60 miles, great weather, magic. The bike proves very comfortable indeed, though I have come to notice the wind blast & noise when cruising at motorway type speeds, possibly I get it more around the head because of my short height. It doesn't bother me too much, but perhaps on a longer tour it might, maybe I'll try a flip-up screen at some point.
Down to Langbank, back via the Houston twistys, 20 odd mile. A very nice wee ride, gorgeous weather, what can I say. I'm hooked…again… :-)
M8 through Greenock, Inverkip and Wemyss Bay down the coast road to Largs, I'm held at 40 for a long stretch, this is when I realise the vibrations make my fingers go a bit numb and tingling, this reflects on my short height and reach I'm sure, but I re-adjust my position to compensate, it seems to help. It's a bank holiday and Largs is busy, brilliant weather and the ferries are hard at it, shunting the punters back and forth between Largs and Millport on Great Cumbrae Island. Anyroadup, I aint hanging about for an ice cream so it's back the twisty route over the braes, via Kilbirnie and Lochwinnoch, to Paisley, about 55 miles. Another blinder of a day, I'm beginning to wonder if this really is Scotland - no rain yet? … :)
Over the Braes. Lugton, Irvine, Ardrossan, Dalry, Lochwinnoch, BOW, Houston, Paisley. About 70 miles, brilliant weather (again!), this is the business. I'm more confident on the bike now, and hence have been pushing it a bit more through the twisty's - not exactly Carl Fogarty mind you ;) - but it has led me to appreciate the brakes (twin discs front, single disc rear), which are very effective.
Down to Greenock to visit the McLean museum, 35 miles. There's a story behind this visit. Sadly, earlier in the year, a very dear friend of mine - wee Hugh - passed away. I was devastated, but also very grateful to receive a print, which I was very fond of, which hung above Hugh's fireplace. It's subject is a ship on the Clyde, and Hugh (like so many people round this neck of the woods) worked in the shipbuilding industry. So, I'm visiting the museum to try and find out some information about the artist - Patrick Downie - a local Greenock man, who's speciality was maritime subjects, particularly around the River Clyde.
Anyway, I diverse, back to the subject. The weather today is a bit more overcast, so I decide to take the waterproofs, just in case, and also take my laptop type bag with some bits 'n' bobs in it. No probs, everything just pops in the panniers. I know a lot of people go on about them being too small, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how useful they've proven so far, albeit for mostly short trips. The larger capacity lids look a bit daft to me, so when extra storage space is required I think I'll opt for the topbox.
And there we have it, 500 odd miles (the rest having been done travelling to work - Booo! Hisss!), and just about time for the first service, which is 'free'. Now, if you're wondering how this works when buying a bike from a distant dealer - here's the sketch: Carnell told me to take it to a dealer of my choice, get the service done and pay for it myself, then send them the receipt and they would send me a cheque. And that's exactly what happened, no problem, and fairly prompt.
So, am I happy with my choice of a Deauville? You better believe it! It's a great bike, and one I would thoroughly recommend. Am I happy with my choice of supplier? Again, yes, it was an interesting experiment to source it on the net, it worked, and for a very fair price. All in all one happy bunny.
Should you be toying with the idea of buying a Deauville, and you've (obviously!) come across this page, then I hope it has proved a positive influence!
John Bell, Summer 2000.