July 03, 2002

The test ride.

It's a typical English summer day. That's another way of saying that it's raining. A lot.

Never mind. On with the ride... I've bought a new helmet and some leathers that fit (I've, er, expanded a little over the years) but discover I've also worn a hole in my boots so the dealer gets a quick sale on a new pair before the main event. I then sign my life away, get the keys to their demo bike and a quick tour of the controls. Then the sales bloke goes back inside and I'm left with that strange "now that I've got it, what am I going to do with it" feeling.

So, I spend a few minutes going round the bike and fathom the remaining controls. And open the panniers to see if my new lid fits. It does with stacks of room to spare.

No putting it off any further, so onto the bike I get.

There's no denying that this is a big bike. A very big bike. And tall with it. Not a problem for me but I guess that in spite of the height-adjustable seat, it will be a major problem for shorter riders. When I turned the engine over, I was surprised that it revved so low at tickover (900-1000 rpm). So surprised that I stalled it on the forecourt. Twice.

Cheeks burning with embarrassment, I headed off on my planned test route. Over the next hour, I took in the M2 (motorway with and without roadworks), the A229 (a fast road, in places), some back lanes and both Rochester and Chatham town centres. Hardly glamorous but a good mix of the sorts of road I'll be using every day. The Pan handed me a number of surprises, mostly pleasant:

Surprise 1: Engine vibration. Let's get the nasty one out of the way first. There was a lot of this up through the bars and it stayed fairly constant up through the revs. Nothing dangerous, you understand but very noticeable.

Surprise 2: Heavy but not heavy. Bearing in mind this Pan weighs in at over 280kg (over 50% more than my previous bike) it hides its' paunch very well. Yes, it's a bastard to get on the centre stand (even with the excellent retractable handle provided) and, yes, it's a bit of a pig to push around the place. But as soon as it's moving, where on earth does all the weight go? Even trickling through traffic, the Pan seems agile.

Surprise 3: Great mirrors. No, really. They are.

When I finished the test ride, I sort of had a moment of weakness and ordered one. In green. With a top box and heated grips and a power socket and an alarm and, and, and...

I think I should go for a lie down in a darkened room.

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