With the girl-child on a scout hike, we did something we haven't done in years - spent a Saturday hanging out in bike shops.
I arranged for us both to get a squirt on the 2012 Guzzi Stelvio NTX - 1200cc shaft-drive dual-sport, spoked wheels, all the "Adventure" bling.
Naturally we rode both our Caponords down there.
Although they're identical and even have the same top-boxes, few people pick them as twins, as mine is about 2" (50mm) higher.
Pretty-much straight off, we asked the salesman to REMOVE the Stelvio's panniers - nice stout boxes they may be, and worth knowing what if any effect they have on handling - but as they made the bike 3" (75mm) wider than the already very wide bars, leaving them on in Saturday morning traffic was looking for trouble.
Liz set off first; now it's worth realising that we've both been riding - not just bikes generally, but specifically Guzzis - for over 30 years (so, longer than either of the salesmen have been alive...) I still have the Le Mans I was riding when I met her, and she has both the Monza she bought brand-new with her very first pay-cheque, and the Le Mans she bought a year later.
Right now, we only have 4 Guzzis between us - at times it has been over a dozen at the same time.
So we were not exactly new to Guzzis - just "new" Guzzis. The salesman was smart enough to realise that we probably knew more about the bike than he did and wisely shut up.
When she was back, she told me where she'd gone and I used the same route: city, some winding twisties, a bit of freeway and the reverse - no dirt reachable in the timeframe, unfortunately.
Afterwards we compared notes: Liz is a scientist and quite analytical.
She liked: the gearbox, power, brakes, nimbleness, wind protection & seating position. She didn't like: the tall seat height, the twitchy, sensitive throttle that had the bike lunging forward every time you hit a bump, a gap in the power delivery at about 3000rpm and the excruciating vibration through the bars.
I didn't notice the seat height unduly (mostly because I'm 2" taller and a fat bastard, compressing the springs!) but agreed with all else.
She (being a scientist) observed that the gearing in top (6th) gear on this 2012 fuel injected 1200cc bike is exactly the same as it is in fifth on her 1978 carburetted 850cc bike: 28km/h per 1000 rpm.
We both decided that there wasn't enough of an improvement in the NTX over what we've got to justify a change - especially since the NTX is $25,000 here (and $16,000 in the US )
If one turns up in my favourite condition (repairable write-off) for a good price, we agreed we'd consider getting a Stelvio - but to rush out and buy even a used one from a dealer? Not enough improvement over what we've already got - which are paid for, running great and already more bike than we need.
The dealer also refused to contemplate trading the Capos against a Stelvio - despite having a same-era Futura on the floor.
The Yamaha guy tried hard to get us interested in a Super-Tenere; I described it as custard - nice, but uninteresting: "Does it come in yellow?". Full marks to him, he listened to what Liz was saying about size, height, weight, bulk - and suggested she tried a TDM.
"Know why it's spelled like that?"
"Because it's tedious?" she answered. Smart cookie that one.
The people in the Kawasaki/Suzuki/Honda and KTM shops all ignored us (a middleaged couple looking specifically at Adventure bikes, wearing riding gear and carrying helmets) Fcuk 'em!
And then: shit struckl!
Last week I'd finally wired up my whizz-bang Oxford heated handgrips; despite the inviting battery-terminal-sized rings, I'd resisted just sticking them on the battery, because of the risk of leaving them on and killing the battery.
"Don't worry" my mate Michael the electrician said, "they have a circuit that monitors the battery and if it's getting too low to start the bike, they switch off automatically."
So I did hook them into the battery. Mistake.
Predictibly, I left them on by accident for a couple of hours - and the bike wouldn't start. So we went home on Liz's bike, hooked up the trailer and fetched the damn thing!
Home at 9.00pm.
But at least we know we don't desperately want a Stelvio. Not desperately enough, anyway.