Supermotards are getting bigger news by the day here in the UK, and it’s not hard to see why. Light, agile, possessed of torquey four stroke motors, these anorexic enduro refugees have a great deal to offer the biker who is getting bored of spending big money on a Supersports machine, but risks a ban every time they take it past second gear.
The VOR 503 is an Italian made machine that combines punchy power characteristics, with rakish good looks and a reasonably middling seat height – important for anyone who doesn’t like using a step-ladder to get onto a motorbike. Buy some off-road knobblies and spare wheels and you have a great dirty weekend bike too.
The versatile VOR could open up a whole new biking world for you
More bikers in the UK are getting turned on to the Supermotard experience and the reason can be summed up in one word; Gatso.
The trouble with an R1, Hayabusa, Blade or whatever, is that one unlucky lapse in concentration can see an anonymous grey box destroy your licence, job and possibly put your mortgage on the line, should you be traveling past at 100mph or more. It’s a farcical situation, when a government effectively imposes a speed tax, backed up by a threat of prison, on one of the safest driving populations in the world – but, we all have to live with their greed for the foreseeable future.
One solution, which maintains 100% biking fun – and let’s face it, that is why we ride expensive two-wheeled toys – is to purchase a dual purpose bike, like the DRZ400 Suzuki, or Honda XR650. If you can find some off-road access, that’s all well and good, but if, like myself, you live in an area where the Duke of Westminster probably owns a percentage of the air which we all breathe, then a more road based, Motard machine makes sense.
The reason is clear when you cast your eye across the slimline VOR. This is basically an enduro class motorbike, but with all the right kit on it to make tarmac life a great deal more entertaining;
At the front end, huge 50mm diameter, Marzocchi forks look purposeful, yet compliant, an Ohlins unit does the business at the rear end, with a superbly crafted swingarm making this a long wheelbase bike, perfect for tail-happy antics when gassing it up out of roundabouts.
A massive single Brembo front brake stops the mere 116 kilos (dry) of the VOR 503, with a smaller rear disc to allow the aspiring Supermoto racer to practise their `backing it in – cornering technique. Every detail on the skinny tubular chassis reeks of quality and minimalist style – with the possible exception of the sidestand, which is of the traditional Italian flip-up variety. Yep, it did flip whilst the bike was parked up for the photos’
BIT OF A GOER
I only had a few hours playtime on the VOR, which given the murky fog and damp roads of Nottinghamshire didn’t allow the VOR to show its true ability. This is the sort of bike that you need to explore, step by step, until you gain enough confidence to sling it about a bit. Bit like the CCM Supermoto I crashed the other week in fact’
In fact, comparison with machines like the CCM Supermoto, the Husqvarna SM610, or the KTM Supermoto are exactly what any biker who wants a top laugh, at sub 100mph speeds, should be thinking about this Spring. All these models are loosely based on enduro machinery, but add up to much more than the sum of their Supermotard parts when on the road.
There’s only one way that I can sum up the excitement riding these machines generates, which is to say that it feels like learning biking from scratch. Sure, you know the gears, clutch, how to squeeze the brakes progressively, but the VOR – like its immediate rivals – demands that you totally re-think your bike control, especially on slippery wet city streets, or seriously twisty backroads.
Where a large sportbike needs gingerly piloting through the urban gridlock, the VOR sets you high up, perfectly placed to see gaps opening up, or traffic lights changing. You have loads of input with the VOR’s steering, with just a twitch of your arms producing a sudden move left or right. Add on some body-shifting techniques when the back end steps out a bit and suddenly, commuting becomes fun. And I never thought I would ride bikes long enough to say that’
The water cooled, gear driven cam, 503cc four stroke single, makes around 50bhp, which probably doesn’t sound too thrilling, but take it from me, doing anything above 90mph on a VOR feels like 150mph on a faired sports bike. More importantly, the VOR accelerates rapidly through its 5 gears, with the front end getting light easily in the first two – if ever a bike was made for wheelie school, then this was it.
That sort of lunge is another reason why the VOR is so good at cutting a swathe through traffic, or blatting from one 90 degree bend to another, which in these days of ever increasing gridlock, has to be worth considering when you buy your next bike. It has just enough pull to slip past cars and lorries safely on A and B roads, keeping the bike in the 50-80mph speed range using the top two gears.
The bottom line is that you will be making just as fast progress on the VOR, as you would on a big sportbike, in fact, you could well hustle this bike between high hedgerows a shade faster than your plastic rocket jockey. You feel relaxed, even when the bike is moving about at the back end – it sounds like bull**it, but you honestly do start to get used to the tyres sliding a little bit – and enjoying it.
I know you’re not convinced, but just go out and try one, OK ?
THERE’S ALWAYS A DOWNSIDE
Which in the case of the VOR, like any motard, is the sheer physical hard work you need to put into the experience, to get maximum fun out of the bike. The windblast wears you down pretty fast on these sort of bikes, plus the inevitable vibration from the big single cylinder engine soon feels like a dentist’s drill inside your helmet – not nice.
A Sunday ride along country lanes, with a break every 40 miles or so, would be ideal on the VOR, especially if it ended with a half day at a twisty track like Ty Croes in Anglesey, or Three Sisters in Lancashire. But a 200 mile round trip, trying to keep pace with GSXRs, ZX7Rs etc along dual carriageways and motorways to see BSB at Donington would probably be pretty close to Hell on wheels.
Another couple of little niggles with the VOR, are the kickstart ( yeah, remember them ? ) and the lack of an ignition key.
In truth, kicking the bike over isn’t too difficult and only took me about 20 swings on the forwards activating lever to perfect the technique. But the digital switch on the bars, which turned the ignition on/off with a simple press of the button, is an invitation to thieves and vandalistic kids that you just do not need. Basically, you would be mad to park the VOR up and wander off shopping in any major UK city – that’s a serious drawback because the VOR actually makes a halfway decent commuter, albeit one costing around five grand.
But the sheer overall quality of the VOR won me over. Like the CCM I rode recently, this feels like a truly durable motorcycle and I reckon it is time all bikers had the option of buying a two-wheeler that has cycle parts that last beyond 10,000 miles. I’m sick of seeing bikes with a nominal mileage sporting furred up alloy, rusting exhausts, bolt-heads, shot suspension seals etc.
The swingarm on the VOR is machined and pressed from a single casting, there’s no seams or welds in it. The crankcases and head on its engine are sandcast – the process costs more, but is a more precise method of manufacture. The gearbox is a cassette type, the preferred choice of racers for its easier access. In fact, the whole bike is proof that Italians can make tough looking, well finished motorcycles.
All this costs cash of course and a list price of £5336, plus OTR charges, probably puts the VOR out of the picture for an awful lot of riders. The Husky SM610 for example can be seen advertised for around #3,800, or the Honda XR650 for about £4500. Both very decent bikes, which could be used off-road if you had the urge.
That said, you get some pretty exclusive with the VOR; a great looking supermotard, with a real feeling of finesse about it. Sure the enduro roots show through occasionally, but this is a bike which can put a grin on your face within seconds of kicking the engine into life. It handles and brakes beautifully, plus there’s an addictive kick inside its engine cases. This is a gentleman thug, a bespoke hooligan, for the bloke who wants to be different, at almost any price
There’s no doubt this is one of the toughest bikes on the market today, so your five grand will buy you something that lasts. It also takes serious skill to master the motard style of riding, which might well involve falling off. So if the phrase `No Fear – is more than just a sad T-shirt slogan to you, then the VOR could be all the bike you need.
Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.
Ride a VOR? A Carole Nash bike insurance policy could be for you.
Engine Single cylinder, SOHC, water-cooled, four stroke.
Claimed power (bhp) N/A
Compression ratio 11.8:1
Transmission Five speed
Bolt-up chrome-moly tubular frame.
Front forks; 50mm Marzocchi
Rear suspension; Multi adjustable Ohlins monoshock, 275mm travel
Front brake; 320mm Brembo disc, four piston caliper. Rear brake; 220mm Brembo disc, 2 piston caliper.
Top speed 110 mph
Fuel capacity 9 litres
Current price £5336 plus OTR charges