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First ride on bigger-bore C1

Published: 29 April 2001

Updated: 19 November 2014

Riding a 175cc bike from Bracknell, around the M25 then up the M1 to Kettering may not sound like a lot of fun to most people. But then, you probably haven’t tried it on one of the oddest looking " bikes " you can buy; BMW’s C1 200.

OK it may only have a top speed of 70mph, but the 90 miles I did on it were some of the most enjoyable I’d ever ridden.

Everyone stares when you go past – or when they pass you, as is more often the case. But rather than grimacing, sneering or snarling, they smile. Then they nudge each other and point. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many car occupants wave at me before.

But what is it about the C1 that makes people behave like this? Is it the totally radical looks or the fact that something which so closely resembles a scooter is keeping up with their family cars? Or can they see the huge smile on my face behind the dark visor?

Many have questioned the logic behind BMW’s launch of the C1 200. It falls into a kind of no man’s land of biking.It’s too powerful to be a learner bike – that’s the preserve of its 125cc stablemate – so you need a full licence. But will people really want a C1 when they can ride a more powerful and less outlandish-looking machine?

The general manager of BMW’s motorcycle division, David Taylor, thinks so. He said: " We believe people will buy it both because of the safety aspects and because they wanted a C1, but with more power. "

Where the 125cc version runs out of power, the 200, with 20 per cent more oomph and 42 per cent more torque, keeps on going. That makes it a viable motorway machine (just about) and increases its versatility as a commuter.

The C1 has crumple zones, like modern cars, which absorb impact. Also, the " roll-over cage " , or roof, as I like to call it, is made of rigid aluminium to protect you. It does make it top heavy when you compare it with a normal bike, but, in town it feels light and easy to flick through queues of traffic.

Steering takes some getting used to because you’re held in place by two seat-belts, so you’re forced to stay stationary – which is odd if you’re used to riding sports bikes. But it soon becomes second nature.

Overall, this is a bike that is fun to ride, does 80mpg and makes friends everywhere you go.

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