Yamaha Bulldog Review Update

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Our Man in Italy Can't Release!
--by Yossef Schvetz

Isn't our wired age wonderful? With so much constructive feedbackflowing in from readers, instant improvement in content is just aroundthe corner. For instance--the postings about the underpowered Yamaha Bulldog notbeing worthy of the attention of MO. And I even dared to say it's a nicebike. Could it be that 12 years as a moto-journalist made my vision allrosy tinted? Through the years I developed a simple judgement with bikesI try. The "wanna keep" test. For some reason, even wonderful creaturesas a 998, VTX1800 or Husqvarna Supermoto were bikes that I was happy togive back to their respective dealers after two or three days, whileothers, although much less impressive in their spec sheet earned mylong-term affection. The Bulldog's extended residence at my garage wasthe fruit of an all around pleasantness rather than any heart quickeningbursts of brilliance. Sounds soft, eh?

Maybe I was daydreaming...

Maybe readers were right and a 65-hp bike(57 at the rear wheel) cannot be so nice. Maybe I should give theBulldog another chance to be slapped for being such a weak sister? Afterall, my days in the twisties were mid-week, all alone and without thelocal squids as a reference point. By now angry e-mails from Yamahaasking to turn back the Bulldog were flowing in, so I just had theweekend to come up with different conclusions, if any. Luckily, amotojournalist friend who's also a talented stunt guy happened to be intown. He wanted to go Alpine touring/scratching, so a rented, MO-reader-approved, 100-horsepower, Aprilia Futura was secured and off we took on a400-mile loop divided 50/50 between highway work andbad twisties.

The highway was no contest really, with the Aprilia just swallowing themiles. In order to keep up I did my usual trick, abandoning theBulldog's dual purpose seating position and moving my sorry rear onto theback seat. Now with my torso canted forward, an easy 100-mph could bemaintained and within an hour we were at a really wonderful playgroundin the mountains above Aosta, Italy.

Off the highway, a few fast flowing turns and then the fun begins; atypical hairpin-laden road that climbs up with a fair number of mediumspeed kinks to spice things up. The puny little Bulldog happilygrunts out of the hairpins from 2000 rpm and makes easy work of thissteering-intensive road. My friend on the Aprilia on the other handdisappeared from my mirrors quite a while ago. At our first stop, at a6500-foot pass, surrounded by melting snow, he starts moaning about theAprilia's difficulties in the hairpins and the fact that even with theFutura's relaxed ergos, his neck had to twist in unnatural angles. Healso had a couple of power slides on the little streams that cross theroad. Really sorry about that pal, but that's life 'round here.

Descending from the pass, things do not get any better for the Apriliapilot. The last thing you need while going downhill are those 100 horses;meanwhile, the upright riding position on the Bulldog lets me read theroadbetter and brake real deep without ruining my wrists. It goes on likethis for a few hours and two more Alpine passes. With our quick pace, wepass bunches of German riders but since Germany is quite flat, I guessthey're a bit nervous about those 600 foot sheer drops that line theroad, so that doesn't count really.

We reach our last twisty road for the day; one that I have never ridden. As weenter it, a large group of squids with local plates on CBR's,Ducs, R1&6's and ZX's comes by with engines screaming. Time for someserious fun. It's a downhill road but its twisties are the sickest I'veever seen, real roller coaster stuff without any mentionable straightsand a max speed of 70 mph. We stick to their tails, just to see ifthey're predictable, and thanks to those never-fading R1 brakes I startpassing the tail enders. Things start to heat up and sparks areliterally flying, at least from the Bulldog's hero blobs. But as thisroad is all about flowing kinks, the sport bike pilots cannot really usetheir ground clearance advantage. I keep dispatching riders andeventually reach the leader of the pack. Lo and behold! Even he succumbsto the hard-braking Bulldog and its agility in a hairpin. But hisheadlight beam is filling my mirrors and in the first perceivablestraight he passes me easily with his engine hitting the rev limiter. Ikeep with him until the road reaches a sleepy little town in the valleyand there I stop to wait for my friend.

I take off my helmet and almostmanage to light up a cigarette before the rest of the rabid group fliespast. My friend on the Aprilia arrives too, a bit shaken from the lunacythat went on there in the name of objective journalism.I head back home on the Torino-Milano Autostrada, my butt again on theback seat. This time I keep the throttle pinned at 110, just to seeif the lame two-valve, air-cooled power unit can handle an hour of fullthrottle abuse in the 93-degree heat wave that landed on central Europethis week. No problemas. Back in town, the Bulldog ticks over as ifnothing happened. I take my magnetic tank bag and climb back home,smiling perversely. The verdict is still intact. The Bulldog is a reallynice beginner's (and not so beginner's) 1100cc bike.

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Brent Avis
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