I saw the Derbi Mulhacen for the first time as a prototype on the Intermot. I was smitten.
The prototype has come into production, and has stayed almost as beautiful as the prototype. I have made a test ride, and it rides superbly. I did buy one in spring, 2007.
The Derbi Mulhacen, a modern Scrambler. At this moment, the Derbi Mulhacen is still rarely seen on the street.
It is a motorcycle which is manufactured with high quality components, and with a very lively engine (the same engine as is used in the Yamaha XT660 and the Yamaha Tenere).
Here is a report of my acquaintance witrh the Mulhacen, and my impressions during the first and subsequent rides: a rider report.
We saw the Derbi Mulhacen for the first time at Intermot, in 2004 (see the Dutch page about the Intermot ).
It was a Scrambler in a modern design. Scramblers were street motorcycles made suitable for off-road use. They had a high exhaust pipe and knobby tires, for instance. This BSA Scrambler is an example.
Scramblers have always appealed to me: they are the classic variant of allroads, while the frame geometry and suspension guarantees more fun on the road, the looks are more of a classic motorcycle, and often their weight is lower than that of modern allroads, which is always an advantage off the road.
Recently, Triumph came with a (much too heavy) copy of a classic Scrambler. Derbi did something different, and designed a modern Scrambler, with the low weight of a classic one.
At this moment, it looks like everybody is imitating this initiative of the Derbi (think of the new F650's from BMW for instance).
To our surprise, Derbi took the Mulhacen into production. It was at the Intermot 2006 that we saw the Derbi Mulhacen that would be for sale. The production bike looks very much the same as the prototype, as you can see.
The Mulhacen has the engine from the Yamaha XT660. We have seen several reviews, both of the Mulhacen and the XT660. All reviews praise the engine (though there seems to be some konstantfahrrückeln). They also all praise the handling of the Derbi: it is a dream to ride. One French magazine calls the Derbi Mulhacen the 21th century XT500, which is quite a compliment.
Derbi was not present at Intermot 2006, but the German importer of Derbi was.
For the first time, I could try sitting on the Mulhacen.
The handlebars are very wide (which I like). Your knees are wide apart due to the tank (which reminds sitting on a BMW R1200GS). You sit straight up, and slightly forward. The pegs are slightly behind your knees. It felt like it was custom-made for me.
The back of the Mulhacen is as beautiful as the front or the side view.
And, as you see, I am not the only one interested in it.
The German importer gave us the adress of motorcycle dealer Wirths, where we could take a test ride.
It was farther away than we thought: about 180 km, through the beautifull surroundings of Windeck. We rode using backways, and as a result, we arrived rather late, at around 4 in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, our contacts had been a bit vague. We had not made it explicit that we would arrive that day, so the Mulhacen was not ready to ride yet.
It was taken to the workshop, and we got a cup of coffee, and waited.
It took some time, because the battery had to be charged.
It was very strange, knowing that I would ride on a bike that we had spotted two years ago, which looked too good to be true.
At last, when it was dark outside, the Mulhacen was ready for its first test ride.
It had zero kilometers on its clocks. Clocks, by the way, that have the form of a panel with an adjustable backlight.
I was shown the controls. Only the knob for adjusting the backlight of the instrument panel was different from what I am used to. It can be used to set different functions of the display, and to adjust the backlight, and it works a bit like a trackball.
And then it was time to set off. I started the engine, and the first observation was that the sound is beautiful: deep, and not too loud at the same time.
An advantage of riding in the dark, is that you can check how well the headlight works. The headlight of the Mulhacen is very good, even in the pitch dark forest where we took our test ride.
The wide handlebars make the Mulhacen handle very easily: you only have to think about a corner and the Mulhacen is cornering.
I never had the feeling of "falling" into a turn (a feeling that you may get on a BMW R1100GS with TKC 80's), and I never had the feeling that I had to push the Mulhacen into a corner. It was all very easy, and we rode a really curvy road, so I had all the opportunity to feel the handling.
The engine felt really smooth, although it was brand new. It was very eager to go ahead: it was difficult to be gentle. I did not want to be rough on this brand new engine, so I never pulled open the throttle, but nevertheless, the clocks always showed a much higher speed than I thought I would have.
The clocks were very easily readable, in the dark.
And of course, the Mulhacen is as beautifull, from all sides, as it was at Intermot.
The outcome of the test ride is that I know that this will be my motorcycle. I will wait until this spring: I will have saved the money for it, by then, and it is much more fun having a new motorcycle in a time when it gets warmer instead of during the winter. Breaking in an engine in the cold is not the best way to break it in.
Finally, the long expected day was there: we went to buy the Mulhacen, from the dealer in Germany who had aloowed us to take a testride.
We have to import the Mulhacen into the Netherlands before we can insure it, so we had to take a trailer along.
I hope this will be the only time that the Mulhacen sees a trailer...
And now, there is one extra motorcycle in the stable...
Importing is no big deal: you can get a registration plate for one day, ride to a test center of the RDW, and then wait for all the paperwork to be done. A few days later (and a lot of money spent), you will recieve the papers and your registration numbers.
During the first kilometers, the Derbi Mulhacen feels rough. With a constant throttle, there is considerable "Konstantfahrrückeln", as the Germans call it: the rpm constantly changing.
Because the thumper has a really strong engine brake, and almost literally jumps forward when the rpm goes up, this results in a bucking horse, so to speak.
Also, it is very difficult to resist opening the throttle: the Mulhacen seems to beg you to do that. But while breaking in, you should try to accelerate only slowly.
From the first kilometers on, switching gears was precise and very smooth and easy (especially when you are used to the loud and ratling BMW gearboxes).
The handlebar is very wide, and the grips are at exactly the right angle for your hands.
Steering the bike is very easy because of the wide handlebar, and also very precise. The Mulhacen rides corners at speed as if you don't have to steer at all: a light press on the bars and it goes, exactly alon g the line that you were thinking.
After engine break in, the engine got much smoother. The fact that I could keep the revs a bit lower than in the first kilometers also helps.
The engine feels like ir urges you forward. The Mulhacen feels like a happy bike, begging you to open the throttle.
The engine feels best at just below 4000 rpm (exactly where the BMW R1100GS has a dip), and in the 5th and 6th gear it runs happily at higher rpm's as well.
Opening the throttle feels firm and powerfull, like a tractor on speed. Passing cars can be done in a split of a second, just by opening it a bit.
the first and second gears are rather short.
In city traffic, 50 kilometers an hour is just between second and third gear: the Mulhacen likes to ride a bit above speed limit...
The front brake is superb! You have to get used to it, because you can brake with an enormous force.
And at the same time, they allow you to brake very subtly.
You just have to remember never to grab the handle at once: you will either make a nose dive or have the front wheel blocked.
The rear brake doesn't bite at all. At first, you get the impression that there is no rear brake at all: when you slightly push the brake pedal, nothing happens.
Only when you push the pedal further down, the rear brake begins braking. It is almost impossible to use it to block your rear wheel, but it is the perfect brake to assist in tight corners.
The first and second gear are very short, and the third is not vey long either.
That means that acceleration is superb, but also that you switch gears a lot when riding through town.
It also means that short corners are hard work: with the BMW GS it doesn't matter which gear you choose, the GS will always pull through; not so with the Mulhacen. Choosing the right gear means you have to be very alert, and predict the exact nature of the corner.
And what I notice is that that fact enhances the experience of riding: the Mulhacen challenges you in every corner.
The Mulhacen has six gears, and the sixth gear is not an overdrive: to pass a car, you don't have to switch to the 5th gear.
In 6th gear, the Mulhacen runs really smooth at highway- and interstate-speeds.
All in all, the Mulhacen feels like it prefers speeds of 90km/h and above. In town, riding below 60km/h is rather hard: you'll find yourself constantly changing gears between 2nd and 3rd, on a motorcycle which begs you to find an open road.
It is like a thoroughbred horse, that you have to withold, in contrast with an old and tired horse that need much encouraging to move forward.
Both the preload and the rebound of the rear scock are adjustable. The only drawback here is that there is no indication, so it's impossible to find out the preious setting after you have adjusted the shocks for riding with luggage, for instance.
You can vary the shocks adjustments for bad roads, for good roads, and for riding with or without an passenger.
The first and second gear are very short, and the third is not vey long either.
The riding position is just a bit less upright than on a BMW R1200GS. That position is very comfortable at the speeds that the Mulhacen likes (90 km/h and more). It is a perfect position to control the bike, both with your knees and hands.
The shape of the tank is not only beautifull, it also adds to the riding. Your knees are in the perfect angle to control the bike through corners.
The saddle is hard enough to keep riding for as long as the tank has gas, and it feels comfortable from the start.
The handlebar is very wide, which I like, because it gives you much control at countersteering.
The tank holds 12 litres, and the "reserve" indicator light switches on at about 9 and a half liters. So there is plenty of time to look for a gas station.
Until now, the Derbi always did 20 or more kilometers on one litre.
So the tank range is about 240 kilometers, or, when you try to avoid running out of gas, about 200 kilometers.
In the first place, the Mulhacen gives you the impression of raw power: the engine thumps happily, and always urges you to open the throttle more, and more, and more...
In tight corners you have to be very attentive, to predict what's coming and use the right gear.
All in all, the Mulhacen makes you feel: "I'm very much alive and I enjoy!".