Saturday, July 15, 2006

MV Agusta: You've come a long way baby!

On top of our list of lust-worthy MVs is, of course, the very beautiful MV Agusta F4 1000, a more powerful version of the earlier F4 750, which was, by far, the most mind-blowingly beautiful motorcycle to ever come out of Italy. And the 1000 continues to flaunt the same lines. It’s amazing, really – the 750 made its debut way back in 1997. Giacomo Agostini, who won multiple motorcycle roadracing world championships on MV Agusta bikes in the 1960s, unveiled the F4 Series d’Oro at Milan Show back then. And yet, the shape looks so terrific even now. I guess Tamburini has something special. He knows how to pen lines that stir our souls. Or maybe it’s something about Varese, in Italy, where the MV Agusta factory is situated.

To come to the bike itself, the 1000 has better ergonomics and is more comfortable than the old 750. Its 998cc inline-four revs to 11,750rpm, produces 166 horsepower, and the bike will do close to 290km/h. Plus, it’s littered with those desirable little bits which make it so lust-worthy – the exquisite chrome-moly chassis, 50mm Marzocchi USD front forks, beautifully machined alloys, and single-sided swingarm. Anything that can make a Japanese 1000cc superbike seem commonplace has got to be something really special. The MV Agusta F4 1000 S is that something. Italian motorcycles rock!

Below are some pics of an MV Agusta F4 in Rothmans livery. Yeah, Rothmans-liveried Fireblades we've seen, but an MV F4 in Rothmans colours? That's a first!  :-)

image host image host image host

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yamaha 750s: The memorable three

The mighty OW01 (above) packed 120 horsepower, revved to 14000rpm and cost a fortune!
Purists said the YZF750R (above) was heavy and underpowered
The R7 (above) was beautifully finished and handled well, but lacked power (in stock form) and was horribly expensive
The mighty Yamaha FZR750RR, also known as the OW01, was built to win races, niceties for the road be damned. With a 14,000rpm redline and 120 horsepower on tap, this wasn’t a bike for the timid. It was super-expensive, and laden with exotic bits like Yamaha’s very stiff and race proven Deltabox chassis, Ohlins suspension, six-speed close ratio gearbox and various titanium and magnesium bits for reduced weight and better handling.

The OW01’s successor, the YZF750R was deemed heavy and underpowered by purists and did not enjoy the kind of racing success which its predecessor did. However, the Yamaha YZF R7, also known as the OW02, redeemed some of the prestige which Yamaha lost, picking up a few race victories in WSB with Noriyuki Haga, and earning a name for itself as the best handling bike Yamaha’s ever made. The R7 was never a sales success though, as it only made 100 horsepower in stock trim (150 horsepower or more, when set up and tuned for racing…) and cost more than twice as much as an equally powerful, yet much more affordable R1.

A bunch of 1990s bikes - a Kawasaki ZXR750, Yamaha YZF750 and the original Fireblade - against a K6 model Suzuki GSX-R1000? Yes!

Striking Trike

My friend (and ex-colleague at CAR India) Jayesh, having a go on Timothy's trike!

Ex-motocross racer, ex-stuntman, motorcycle workshop owner and talented moto-craftsman he may be, but the most notable thing about Timothy Lewis is his ever-ready laugh and his infectious enthusiasm for motorcycles. And since he’s never satisfied with stock, he’s always looking at building something new, doing something nobody’s tried before. Money is not a driving factor for him – if he thinks he’ll enjoy building something, he’ll go ahead and build it anyway. Which is why this three-wheeled contraption exists. I asked him why he built this machine. He laughed and shot back, ‘why not?!’ Can I ride it? 'Yeah, sure!'

So we find ourselves on the Bandra-Worli sealink at six in the morning. As photographer Pratul sets up his photo equipment, there is already a crowd gathering around Tim’s trike. People want to touch it. Sit on it. Someone asks me when the machine is being launched in India. Another one wants to know how much it’ll cost. Timothy is standing on one side, smiling quietly. In the meanwhile, Jayesh (who’s now studying at IIM and is an MBA in the making…) has donned his jacket and helmet and is ready to ride the trike for pictures. And he actually manages to pull away without stalling the engine. Bravo! After a few runs up and down the sealink, security guards arrive on the scene to chase us away. We take the action to Bandstand, in Bandra. The crowds continue to gape and point. For those 30 minutes, Jayesh is Shah Rukh Khan.

But to come back to the machine itself, it’s no ordinary bodge-chop job. It’s been done with care and is finished quite well. The engine has been taken from a Maruti 800 and is fitted with a high-lift camshaft, resulting in a slight increase in power. Start the thing and it throbs quietly, while Timothy tells us it’s very reliable. I’m sure it is. The front forks are really long and the bottom legs are taken from a Honda CBR1000F. The front wheel is a 15-incher, clad in meaty Dunlop 170/80R15 rubber. Steering this thing takes some doing, believe me.

The gearbox is from a Maruti Omni, and transfers power – through an Omni differential – to the rear wheels. Which, by the way, have been taken off a Mazda Miata. You operate the clutch with your left hand and shift gears with your right, using a Premier Padmini’s column-shifter. Of course, shifting gears requires the rider to let go of the handlebar, which is a bit disconcerting. As this… vehicle gathers speed, it becomes increasingly disconcerting to let go of the handlebar and shift up another cog. Thank god for the M800 engine, because with anything more powerful, things would have been terrifying. Especially given that the only brakes here are from a Bajaj autorickshaw. ‘These would have been sufficient for a Bullet 500 engine, which I was planning to use earlier,’ explains Timothy. Oh, well.

We’re hungry by now, so we troop into an Irani joint for a spot of breakfast. Over Keema Pao, masala omelettes, bun maska and tea, we ask Tim what’s next on his list. What’ll he come up with next? ‘That,’ he says with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘is a secret! But I can assure you that nobody in India has tried anything like it before.’ And he laughs.

Timothy, the builder of this three-wheeled special, can be reached on +91-9820241057

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Honda V4s: Racers for the road

The Honda RC30, with its single-sided swingarm and hugely competent chassis, is one of the most lust-worthy Hondas ever made

The 1989 Honda VFR750R (the fabled RC30) was the very pinnacle of racing technology made available for the road. Based on Honda’s RVF750 endurance racer, the RC30 was powered by Honda’s smooth and powerful V-four engine, which was unique in its class – all other Japanese 750s had inline-fours. The bike was laden with exotica – aluminum frame and fuel tank, single-sided swingarm, titanium rods, magnesium engine covers, and hand-laid bodywork made it extremely desirable. The V4 made only 100PS in street trim, but that number went up to 150PS in race trim. The RC30 was expensive, costing the equivalent of about Rs six lakh, back in 1989. But then it delivered the goods, what with Carl Fogarty winning the Motorcycle F1 championship aboard an RC30 in 1989.

Honda upped the ante in 1995, launching the RVF750R, also called the RC45. Also a homologation special like its predecessor, the RC45 utilised ram-air and fuel injection, developed more than 175PS in full race trim and was capable of more than 280km/h on the track. The RC45 did enjoy success in WSB, but really excelled in AMA Superbike, with Miguel Du Hamel taking dozens of memorable victories in that series.

The RC45 was a worthy successor to the RC30, though it didn't acquire the same kind of cult status among enthusiasts

Also see:
V4 revival: 2008 Honda VFR1000!

Campagna T-Rex: Three-wheeled madness

It costs US$50,000, has three wheels, and looks as dramatic as a Lamborghini Diablo. And, oh, it almost goes as hard as one too!

The Campagna T-Rex is powered by a Kawasaki ZZR1200 inline-four, which makes 152 horsepower. It's Canadian creator, Daniel Campagna, spent more than eight years designing and developing the T-Rex. Daniel has done time as mechanic to Formula 1 legend, Gilles Villeneuve, so he'd know a thing or two about high-performance machines. And indeed, the T-Rex goes from zero to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and hits a top speed of 240km/h. It weighs only 408 kilos, so acceleration, while not in the same league as the newest litre-class superbikes, is still tremendous. Plus, it seats two people in comfort. One more addition to my dream garage...!