Off-road the handling remained precise, while the weight reduction made the Rambler that much more light-footed. We went through one very tight single-track (in fact a mountainbike trail) up a valley and the Rambler just flew up. It wasn’t until having to walk back down and rescue the following standard R 1200 GS that it was evident the trail was perhaps a mite ‘technical’. Taking over control of that bike and charging it up the remainder of the trail I was suddenly struck how much more difficult this was on a standard type machine and at one point where the trail got loose, where the Rambler had skipped lightly over, the GS nearly buried itself, pitching me over the bars – only a big handful of throttle saved the situation.
There are some caveats, here. The suspension setup on the Rambler had been a best guess by the guys at Touratech Suspension, not having worked on a bike like this before – and having no time for testing. As it was, for me, it was too firm, possibly over sprung and too firm on the damping, too. Quite possibly an ideal setup for super-fast rally racing – with a pro rider who cares not for his wellbeing – but for trail speed riding we needed more movement. Likewise in the dirt, proper knobblies – say Michelin Deserts – would be a much better match, whether in soft going or on gravel for that matter. Only on the Tarmac, with the power the way it is, you’d have to be mighty careful on those knobblies – it would be too easy to spin up and slide off.
The USD forks also limited the steering lock – not such an issue for rally competition, but not so good for trail work. But this is a common issue with USD forks on any brand of machine. Oh, and the brakes – I wasn’t entirely convinced the single disc set-up was enough for stopping from higher speeds. But then there’s only so much energy you can push through a 21x2.15 tyre, so maybe it’s the correct fitting.
The ergos were a mixed package. The fuel-tank-seat arrangement is properly enduro-slim and makes for a narrow mid-section so you can grip the bike with your knees like a regular enduro bike. As well the slimmer profile behind the headstock (where the airbox resides) makes it easier to shift your weight front (and back) much more than you can on a GS. These matched with some Raptor Titanium footpegs gave a superior setup for ‘active’ riding. Both Ramblers, however, were set-up with handlebars that were too narrow and probably too low, making for a sometimes awkward lean forward, only without the sense of bracing as you get with traditional enduro bars. A minor issue, but when you’re wrestling 125hp it can become a major one…!