Monday, August 14, 2006

Remembering Rotary: Suzuki RE-5


In 1975, the rotary-engined Suzuki RE-5 was the bee's knees... :-)
imagebam.com Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5
In September 1974, Suzuki issued a press release about the RE-5, which said that ‘The Suzuki RE-5 rotary-engined touring motorcycle is the ultimate achievement in motorcycle design, engineering and workmanship. The RE-5 is powered by a unique liquid-cooled NSU-Wankel type 497cc Suzuki rotary engine specially designed and improved for motorcycle application by Suzuki Motor Company Ltd.’

Ah, well. That 499cc NSU-Wankel made a claimed 62 horsepower and was solid mounted on a weedy double downtube frame. Suzuki claimed that rubber bushings weren’t required for the RE-5 to deliver virtually vibration free performance. This was a rotary-engined motorcycle after all!

The mid-1970s was a time when everyone wanted a rotary engine in their lineup. Yamaha was working on the twin rotor RZ-201, Honda were testing a CRX rotary prototype, Kawasaki were working on the X-99 rotary, and even Sachs/Hercules of Germany were readying the W-2000 rotary machine. Wow! Norton, of course, went on to actually build and race their rotary-powered F1, a very few of which were also sold to the public.

Anyway, coming back to the RE-5, the bike had a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes at the front. Suzuki offered a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty on all internal engine and transmission components on this bike. The RE-5 was launched simultaneously in Germany, England, France, Spain, Belgium, and the United States. Suzuki started selling the bike by January 1975, but there were problems with fueling and other engine components and the company ceased production of this bike towards the end of 1976. And with it ended yet another chapter in the saga of rotary-engined motorcycles…

The RE-5 was heavy and unreliable, and Suzuki stopped production of this bike in late 1976
A pic of the RE-5 out in the open somewhere. Proof that people actually bought and rode this thing! :-)

Remembering Rotary: The Norton F1


The legendary Norton F1 Sport

Norton made a few rotary-engined bikes through the mid-1980s and early-1990s, none of which were very successful. The 588cc, air-cooled Interpol II police bike, which Norton started making in 1983, had a two-rotor engine which made 79bhp@9000rpm. There was also a civilian version, the Classic. In a later iteration, the Commander, the 588cc rotary engine got liquid cooling, and made 85bhp@9000 rpm.

But the really interesting Nortan rotary is the now legendary F1. The world’s only rotary-engined superbike was hyper-expensive – about US$45,000 back in the early ’90s – but went like blazes. Unlike a conventional piston driven engine, the F1’s 588cc, liquid-cooled rotary engine had no reciprocating mass, and produced 95bhp@9500rpm in a smooth, linear fashion. The Norton F1 RCW588 won the British F1 series in 1989, and the bike was also raced in the Isle of Man TT races. The British Motorcycle Land Speed Record was also set at 307km/h in 1991 using a Norton rotary engine. Steve Spray and Trevor Nation were the two British riders who raced the F1 successfully in various events in the UK.

As you would expect with an all-new engine design, Norton had various problems with the F1's rotary engine, and the British company never really had the money to sort those problems out completely. If only Norton had Honda's financial muscle, the world of very fast motorcycles might have been a different place today…


The Norton F1 RCW588, which won the British F1 series in 1989

Also see:
NRV588 Norton rotary prototype


Saturday, August 12, 2006

MotoCzysz C1: MotoGP replicas now available


Want a 200+bhp MotoGP bike on which you can live out your I'm-faster-than-Rossi fantasies? The Motoczysz is your machine...

If you love bikes, have US$100,000 lying around, and want an American-built MotoGP replica, MotoCzysz have you covered. While the Ducati Desmosedici RR only costs about US$65,000 the MotoCzysz 990 C1 racer replicas, only 50 of which are being built, are probably meant for even richer, even more discerning, and even faster customers… :-)

The non-street legal replica C1 shares a lot of bits with the factory race bike, including its carbonfibre chassis, front and rear suspension, and twin-crank, triple overhead cam, 990cc four-cylinder engine. With more than 200bhp on tap, the C1 replica should offer acceleration and top speeds (and of course, handling…) far beyond what a current Suzuki Hayabusa or a Kawasaki ZZR1400 can.

Unfortunately though, the MotoCzysz will not be homologated and will not be road legal. For that, wait for a cheaper, lower-spec production version. In the meanwhile, deliveries of the C1 replica are slated to begin in early 2007. For more details, go to http://www.motoczysz.com/


Imagine one of these being parked in your garage...


Fischer MRX 650: Born in the USA!


The Fischer MRX 650, an exotic for those who don't want a Honda CBR600RR, a Ducati 749 or a Triumph Daytona 675...

The Fischer MRX 650 is powered by a Hyosung 650cc, 77bhp, liquid-cooled V-twin, and it’s being called ‘the first American superbike!’ in the American press. I don’t know about the ‘first American superbike’ bit and Dan Fischer, the man responsible for building the bike, agrees. He says ‘I think ‘superbike’ is a misnomer used in the press for the MRX650. The Fischer MRX650, our first bike, does not fit under that description. This is a pure sportsbike for the street.’

US-based Gemini Technology Systems have worked on refining and tuning the Hyosung engine and they’ve also worked on the MRX’s chassis. The sharp, angular and very distinctive styling is the work of the well known British motorcycle designer, Glynn Kerr. Why would someone buy a Fischer MRX 650 over a Honda CBR600RR? Says Dan Fischer, ‘Looks are important, but outside of that, the handling and build quality are the most important attributes according to customer surveys in our target audience, which is the American sportbike enthusiast. So while we’ll be about 15 percent more expensive than a comparable Japanese product, we’ll have higher-end components usually only found on an Italian exotic or a factory superbike – at a much lower price.’

Finally, here’s the clincher – if the MRX 650 does well when it’s launched later this year, the company may think of doing a hotter, supercharged version next year!

Visit the Fischer website here and read an interview with Dan Fischer here

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Quadzilla: 2007 GG Quad


Imagine going shopping with the wife, on this!

Okay, this blog is motorcycles-only, with a trike or two thrown in once in a while. I don’t do four-wheelers here. But what the hell, this GG Quad thing looked so interesting, I couldn’t resist putting it here. The machine is manufactured in Switzerland, by Gruter + Gut Motorradtechnik, and is powered by a BMW R1150 motorcycle engine, which makes a claimed 85bhp (closer to 75bhp in the real world…). Weight is 408 kilos, and drive is to the rear wheels, via a BMW driveshaft, which operates through a Quaife limited slip differential. Cool!

There is a six-speed (including one reverse gear) manual transmission, and the Quad can sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Top speed is in the region of 190km/h. No, it won’t be outrunning any ZX-10Rs, but should still be fun on a twisty road on a bright day. Price? Er, about US$50,000 which puts it beyond my wildest dreams. Still, if you want to read more about the CG Quad, motorcycle-usa.com has an excellent report here




Cool, eh...?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fabulous Five: The racing bikes I love!

Manx Norton 500
With its ‘Featherbed’ frame, designed by the McCandless brothers, the early 1950s Manx Norton earned most of its glory at the Isle of Man TT races. Geoff Duke’s riding talent and the Manx Norton’s handling prowess was an unbeatable combination, and for years, the Italians and the Japanese had no answer to the winning ways of this British machine.

Pepsi Suzuki RGV500
In 1989, Lawson was champ, Rainey was trying hard, and Schwantz was god, for he made the number 34 Pepsi Suzuki do things which I still remember after more than fifteen years. The RGV has given me enduring images of Kevin on the bike, with the rear wheel going sideways and the front two feet off the deck - all at the same time. The best ever.

Cagiva 500 grand prix racer
GP bikes don’t need to look beautiful - going extremely fast would suffice. The Cagiva 500, raced by the likes of Lawson and Mamola, looked achingly gorgeous anyway. It didn’t win too many races (Lawson gave it its first GP win in 1992, and got a Ferrari from Cagiva for his efforts…), but when you look like this, you’re forgiven anything.

Honda NS/NSR500
In 1983, the ‘Sultan of Slide’, Freddie Spencer won the 500cc motorcycle GP racing championship on the V3 (three-cylinder) NS500. Then, in 1985, riding a V4 NSR500, he not only won the 500cc championship, but also picked up the 250cc crown in the same year. Honda released the MVX 250 in celebration of the NS500, and Fast Freddie’s 1985 double-crown feat remains unequalled ever since, though Honda NSRs kept notching up countless victories in top-flight GP racing, right until Valentino Rossi's last 500cc crown in 2001. (Of course, the Honda RC211V proved to be a worthy successor to the mighty NSR500 after that...)

Britten V1000
Some of my best early 1990s memories are those of watching, on television, Britten V1000s thundering past Ducati 851s in various BoTT races. Those strange-looking Brittens, with their Hossack-design frontends and pink/blue paintwork, wouldn’t so much overtake the Fast by Ferracci Ducatis as completely blow them into the weeds. John Britten, of New Zealand, the man who designed this bike from scratch, passed away about ten years ago - a terrible loss for the world of very fast, very unique motorcycles.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo: Blow hard!

Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo
We love the Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo...!!!
Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo Kawasaki GPZ 750 Turbo

Kawasaki’s most powerful motorcycle ever - the ZZR 1400 - packs 197bhp and sure, it's insane. But it still doesn't have a turbocharger, which the 1980s GPZ750 did! Oh, okay, given the added weight, cost and complexity, turbochargers on motorcycles aren’t probably worth the hassle. But then, a ‘factory turbo’ badge has to be worth a point or two down at the pub, swapping tales over a pint. Wind on the boost, and from stoplights, the mid-1980s GPZ Turbo will still leave your neighbour’s Porsche Cayenne for dead. This bike was, after all, the first production motorcycle ever to run the quarter mile (400m) in less than 11 seconds.
The bike featured digital fuel injection and was fitted with a Hitachi HT-10B turbocharger. Power output, in stock form, was 95bhp, but with a bit of fettling and tweaking, some tuners claim to be able to release more than 200bhp! Said Motorcyclist magazine, in October 1983, "The 750 Turbo is far more than the hottest. It's a milestone in motorcycling." Many will argue that the normally-aspirated GPZ 900R was the better machine, but come on, everyone should own at least one turbocharged motorcycle, at least once in their lives...

Yes, the GPZ750 Turbo was a bit special...

Monday, August 07, 2006

AC Schnitzer: Doing more with BMW bikes


The BMW F800S, after it's been given the AC Schnitzer treatment!

German tuning house, AC Schnitzer, have been at it again. And this time, the BMW F800S and the R1200S have been at the receiving end of their magic wand.

For the F800, there is new, sports-oriented suspension from WP, a more substantial fairing, a high-performance titanium exhaust system, and improved engine cooling, resulting in better power delivery.



The R1200S gets funkier and more track-oriented

The R1200S gets fully-adjustable WP suspension, a race-oriented titanium exhaust system, and lightweight forged wheels, which reduce unsprung weight and hence improve steering. An adjustable footrest system is also being developed, for better ergonomics on the racetrack as well as on the street.


That's an R1200R, given the Schnitzer treatment

For more info, visit AC Schnitzer here

Payback Time: Suzuki GSX-R 750 (1996 – 1999)


The 1996 GSX-R 750WT got a brand-new beam frame (in place of the old perimeter frame), weighed less and packed more punch. Give Honda Fireblades something to think about, eh Suzuki? :-)

By the time this generation of GSX-R 750 came out, the Honda Fireblade 900RR was already thrashing everything on the road, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R wasn’t helping the cause of 750cc superbikes either and the Yamaha R1 was waiting in the wings. Everyone was ready to write off the 750 when, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Suzuki hit the motorcycling world with this – the GSX-R 750WT. The first big change was the chassis, with the old perimeter frame being dumped in favour of a proper, contemporary beam frame. Suzuki also put the bike on a strict weight loss program, with the Gixxer losing all of 25 kilos, which helped improve handling in a big way. Befitting the new package, Suzuki also lavished top-spec suspension components on this GSX-R, making it even more of a tool for the totally committed rider.

If the things were looking up in the chassis area, the engine guys weren’t about to be left behind either. The GSX-R 750 WT’s brand new engine was much lighter (around 10 kilos!) than the old 750’s, was fed by bigger carbs, revved higher, and made close to 115PS at the crank. For the first time, the bike got an electronic engine management system monitoring the carbs, which paved the way for full-on EFI systems on the WW and WX models. For a bike that everyone had already prepared to write off, not bad at all, eh? So good was this GSX-R that ridden hard enough, it would keep a Fireblade at bay – and don’t forget that the ’Blade had a 150cc engine capacity advantage over this Gixxer.

Those in the know say that the GSX-R 750 WV, the last of the carb-fed GSX-R 750s, is the one the best, most refined and most committed GSX-Rs ever made. Fit a set of modern, sticky tyres and new brake pads, and they say that the old GSX-R will still keep up with far more contemporary machinery on the racetrack. Maybe it really will. Maybe it won’t. But we’re sure it was one hell of a bike anyway.

Here's what PB mag had to say about the 1996 GSX-R750 SRAD!

GSX-R 750 (models WT, WV, WW and WX)
Power: 120bhp@12,000rpm
Weight: 174kg
Top Speed: 254km/h
0 – 400m: 11.9 seconds


Kevin Schwantz: "Today, at the level I currently ride, I can still get what I need out of a GSX-R 750 and I don't think I can do that on a 1000..."

Kevin Schwantz speaks about the Suzuki GSX-R:
The GSX-R750 was introduced in 1986 and as I was under contract by Suzuki, I was one of the first to ride the GSX-R at a professional level. I rode for Yoshimura Suzuki from 1986-1988 and during that time rode the current year model. The 1986 GSX-R750 handled great, but the problem was getting power and reliability at the same time. It was an awesome bike to ride, though I didn't win any races.

The 1987 GSX-R750 bike will always be my favorite. It was so reliable, I don't even remember breaking in a race. The bike was light and actually quite nervous, which I feel like got me ready for a GP bike because it was styled in that direction. Every time I got on it, I felt like I could win.

The 1988 GSX-R750 was a completely redesigned look – much smaller bodywork and therefore looked a sleeker-faster-smaller motorcycle that was again blue and white. Handling-wise, the bike was good, though we struggled with top speed development.

Today, at the level I currently ride, I can still get what I need out of a GSX-R 750 and I don't think I can do that on a 1000. I am able to ride at a pace that allows me to slide the thing around and have lots of fun! If I ride a GSX-R 1000, I've got to be on my game much better and nowadays I just ride for fun. However, there is no doubt a GSX-R 1000 is faster in the right hands!


Kevin Schwantz in action on his Suzuki RGV500 GP bike

Friday, August 04, 2006

Top Fuel motorcycles: A lesson in acceleration


Zero to 100km/h in 0.7 seconds quick enough for you?

What are the fastest accelerating motorcycles in the world? MotoGP bikes? No! Top fuel drag bikes. The figures are mind numbing – a top fuel drag bike accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 0.7 seconds. Zero to 370km/h comes up in less than 6.5 seconds. And the quarter mile (400m) is dispatched in about 6.32 seconds, which is more than three seconds quicker than what a stock Kawasaki ZZR1400 (with ram air, a claimed 197 horsepower) will do.

But then, there’re precious little machines that accelerate as hard as these top fuel drag bikes do. The aforementioned 197bhp (closer to 170bhp in the real world) ZZR, for example, weighs in at around 330 kilos. Top fuel drag bikes come in at 400 kilos, but also pack a real 1000 horsepower. Er, yes, that's right – 1000bhp. Formula-1 cars don’t accelerate as hard as these bikes. Neither does an F14 jet fighter. The Bugatti Veyron, which packs an 8000cc, 1001bhp 16-cylinder engine, takes 10.8 seconds to do the quarter mile run, while a Ferrari Enzo, with its 6000cc, 660bhp, V12 engine does it in 11 seconds flat. The V10-powered Porsche Carrera GT takes 11.1 seconds, and the V12 Lamborghini Murcielago takes 11.72 seconds.

Top fuel drag bikes cost in excess of US$80,000 (about Rs 36 lakh!) to build. They have four-cylinder supercharged engines that run on nitromethane, which is consumed at the rate of around 40 litres per one kilometre!

Is there anything at all that can live with a top fuel drag bike. Yeah, a top fuel drag car, which consumes close to 35 litres of nitromethane per second, does the quarter mile in less than 4.5 seconds, and accelerates to speeds in the region of 500km/h in that time. A Ferrari Enzo driver can go past a top fuel drag car (that’s standing still) at 300km/h, and if the drag car leaves the line immediately after being passed, it’ll still overtake the Ferrari within a distance of 350 metres.

The next time somebody tells you how hard their new Porsche 911 goes, you know what to tell them, eh? :-)


That rear tyre is transferring close to a 1000bhp on to the track...

Aprilia, KTM, Moto Guzzi, Ducati: Taking on Japan Inc.


Expect the KTM RC8 to create a proper stir in the sportsbike market!

When it comes to building and selling high-performance motorcycles, European manufactures are taking on Japan Inc. in a big, big way. First Ducati let loose with the Desmosedici RR MotoGP replica. Now, Aprilia are said to be planning a return to World Superbikes in 2008 and for that, they are said to be working on a road-going RS1000 powered by a V-four engine. Sergio Robbiano – designer of the recent Bimota DB5 and DB6 machines – is going to design the new Aprilia, so expect it to look really good.

KTM, builders of some very good off-road and dual-purpose bikes, are also working on the RC8, which will be powered by a 1150cc V-twin. A KTM spokesperson was recently quoted as saying that 'Our RC8 superbike is a rocket,' and that the company can 'evolve the engine even more into a WSB winner.' No wonder then that KTM are also planning to get into WSB in the next two years.

While Moto Guzzi have no plans to go racing, it seems they do plan to break away from their 'old codger' image. Which is why they're planning a 1200cc full-on sportsbike that they may launch by 2008.

With so much action happening from other European manufacturers, would you expect Ducati to sit around twiddling their thumbs? No! They are also rumoured to be planning to attack the WSB series with renewed vigour. And a new motorcycle – a 1200cc V-twin. The buzz on various websites and in foreign magazines is that they're working on the new 1188R, which will take styling cues from the late, great 998R.

Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki should be getting worried now… ;-)


Thursday, August 03, 2006

AC Schnitzer BMW HP2: The Ultimate Supermoto


This AC Schnitzer converted BMW HP2 should be just the ticket for a bit of sliding around

The HP2 is one hell of a barking mad off-road bike from BMW. 100 horsepower packed in one lean, lithe package, the HP2 (where HP stands of High Performance) offers a very different riding experience from BMW’s dual-purpose R1200GS. If I equate the GS with a Toyota Lancruiser Prado, then the HP2 would be a stripped out Willys Jeep – albeit one with a modern, refined and powerful engine, and updated suspension and braking components! The video below shows what a stock HP2 is capable of…


This BMW HP2 'Dig the dirt' video is insane!

Now, German tuning house AC Schnitzer have gone and converted an HP2 into a road-based ‘superbike.’ Up front, there’s a USD, 50mm WP fork and twin 320mm four-pot disc brakes. The rear shock is also from WP, and the bike now runs on ZR-rated Dunlop Sportmax GP Racer rubber – 120/70-R17 front, and 180/55-R17 at the back. There’s a new AC Schnitzer titanium exhaust system, which boosts power to 111.3bhp@ 7500rpm, and torque to 120Nm@ 5550rpm. Weight is 190kg, and weight distribution front:rear is a perfect 50:50. Should be one hell of a machine!


Staid old BMW bikes? Er, not this one

Also see: 2007 BMW HP2 Megamoto: BMW ups the ante yet again!


Other interesting BMWs? Here's a Rennsport from 1954

Six Fix: The mighty Honda CBX 1000


If you haven't heard the CBX's yowling six-cylinder engine, you haven't lived

Honda have always been proud of their engineering prowess – their machines have often exemplified cutting edge technologies. And the late-1970s/early-1980s six-cylinder Honda CBX was right up there – one of the most amazing machines ever to come out of Japan. The incredible CBX was inspired by Honda's six-cylinder RC166 250cc Grand Prix road racing motorcycle, on which Mike Hailwood won the World 250cc GP racing championships in 1966 and 1967.

Both the RC and the CBX were conceptualized by the widely respected Shoichiro Irimajiri, Vice-President at Honda R&D at one time. At the bike's launch in 1979, Irimajiri said ‘When we [Honda] were racing, we were up against four-cylinder two-strokes built by Yamaha and Suzuki. Cylinder multiplication was the only way we could be competitive. That's why we built the five-cylinder 125 and the two six-cylinder machines. The CBX is a direct descendant of these race engines. That's one reason why it took only a year and a half to develop. We already had the engine technology from our GP racing experience.’ All right, Irimajiri San! Now how cool’s that!

The six-cylinder, 1000cc CBX engine, with four valves per cylinder, featured sophisticated constant velocity carburetors and made around 85 horsepower at 9,000rpm (the company claimed 105bhp…). The engine looks very wide in pictures, but the bike is actually only two inches wider than the four-cylinder Honda CB750. According to a road test done by American magazine Cycle (now merged with Cycle World magazine), the CBX did the quarter mile in 11.55 seconds and was capable of 220km/h top speeds. In 1980, in the US, the bike cost US$4,200 or about Rs 200,000 at today’s exchange rate.

The styling – which looks so, so cool even today – was done under the direction of one Norimoto Otsuka. However, for the bike’s weight and power, the chassis was a bit spindly, with weedy forks and narrow wheels and tyres (which were the norm in those days), which meant the CBX didn't handle very well.

Given its weight, high list price and relatively poor handling, the CBX did not sell very well, and Honda ceased production of this bike by 1982-83. Today, there are some six-cylinder cruisers still in existence, but none have the magical charm and the charisma of the CBX. (That just might change if Suzuki let loose with a ZZR1400-beating six-cylinder Hayabusa in 2007!)

Personally, I have ridden the 1980s six-cylinder Kawasaki Z1300, which Kawasaki built to compete with the Honda CBX. I quite loved the sheer audacity and the visual drama of the Z1300. But I still hope to ride a CBX someday…

Read Cycle magazine’s first road test of the mighty Honda CBX here


A shot from Cycle magazine's 1979 road test of the CBX 1000
And here's a video of the great CBX!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

1990s: The first liquid-cooled Suzuki GSX-R750s


Er, ignore the paint job. The bike is good

In 1992, Suzuki, in a bid to increase power, made the first water-cooled GSX-R. Power went up to around 104PS at 11,500rpm but the bike was saddled with a weight penalty. The bike could still do the 0 to 400m run in under 13 seconds and had a top speed in excess of 230km/h, but in terms of handling prowess, the GSX-R had started losing out to more modern tackle from other manufacturers. Plus, Suzuki were coming up with some really terrible paint schemes.

Suzuki had not graduated from the first GSX-R’s perimeter style chassis, which, by the time the early-1990s GSX-R came out, was already long in the tooth. The way this frame was meant that the GSX-R’s engine had to be kept fairly upright, which in turn made for a higher centre of gravity, slower steering and a more ponderous feel to the whole package. Other manufacturers had already moved to beam frames wrapped around the engine (rather than the GSX-R’s setup, which had the beams over the engine rather than around it…), with as straight a line as possible between the steering and swingarm pivots. Against its peers, the Yamaha YZF 750, Honda VFR 750R and the Kawasaki ZXR 750, this iteration of the GSX-R got a proper kicking – on the road and on the track. The bike was fast, but not fun. You wouldn’t think of spilling its predecessor’s pint, but with this one, you could get away with pouring that pint over its head with barely any risk of retribution. It was time for Suzuki to play catch up, which it would do with its next generation Gixxer.

GSX-R 750 (models WN, WP, WR and WS)
Years:
1992 - 95
Power: 104PS@11,500rpm
Weight: 199kg
Top Speed: 230km/h
0 – 400m: 12.26 seconds


Monday, July 31, 2006

Indian Autorickshaw Challenge: Three-wheeler Madness!


What vehicle would you choose if you had to race through 1,000km in southern India. Not an autorickshaw certainly…? :-))

They are calling it the Indian Auto Rickshaw Challenge, and it’s going to kick off on the 21st of August, from Chennai. The organizers claim that teams from over 15 countries worldwide are going to take part in this week-long endurance rally, and yes, the autorickshaw riding (driving?) participants will traverse nearly 1,000km through Tamil Nadu, with the event ending in Kanyakumari on the 28th of August.

Being held for the first time in India, the route for this rather unique rally is via Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Tuticorin, Courtallam and finally Kanyakumari. The longest distance covered on any one single day will be during the third leg – Pondicherry to Thanjavur – which is 177km. The fourth and fifth legs will be 163km and 148km long, which will also test the endurance of both man and machine. Covering such distances in cars or motorcycles may be a cinch, but doing the same in seriously underpowered autorickshaws, with their rubbish ride quality, will be tough! Unpredictable road and weather conditions, unfamiliar food, and heavy traffic in places will add to the challenge, especially for foreign participants.

For those taking part, teams can comprise of a maximum of three people per autorickshaw. And if three-wheelers are not for you, you can also take part on the Enfield 350 or 500 Bullet motorcycle, with our without a sidecar! For more information, go to http://www.indianarc.com/index.php


If you're not from India, you've probably never seen one of our autorickshaws. So here, go for a ride in one, through the streets of Mumbai...


Friday, July 28, 2006

Freddie Spencer: The Sultan of Slide


The great Freddie Spencer, in action on his Honda NS500
During the 1980s, Americans were at the top in 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing. Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and yes, Freddie Spencer. Freddie first won the 500cc world championship in 1983 and then, in 1985, won the 500cc and the 250cc world championships! Yes, two world championships in the same year! Though the softly-spoken Freddie is universally acknowledged as one of the most naturally talented motorcycle racers of all time, he could not, after winning two world championships in 1985, regain the same form again, and faded away from the scene by the late-1980s. Today, Spencer is still respected by those who raced against him and most people have a good word to say about this great racer.
Read a very interesting article about Freddie Spencer here

Freddie Spencer races his Honda NS500 against a Nissan 300ZX and a streetbike. Great video!


Spencer, one of the greatest motorcycle racing icons of all time...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Flexi-flyer: Suzuki GSX-R750 (1985-87)

The very first GSX-R. The repli-racer-for-the-road saga begins...

This, the first GSX-R, was definitely was a head-banging, hell-raising, outlaw. The bike was very light for its time, what with Suzuki using an aluminium alloy chassis and magnesium bits in the engine. The bike featured oil cooling (called SACS – Suzuki Advanced Cooling System) for more efficient heat dissipation, stout, 41mm front forks, twin 300mm dia brake discs at front and those twin round headlamps which later became such a Gixxer styling trademark.

The bike’s 749cc, DOHC, 16-valve inline-four was peaky and made most of its power only in the higher reaches of its rev range, which made it a bit of pain to use around town. But then the GSX-R was never made for drop-the-kids-to-school or fetch-the-groceries duties. It was meant for the dedicated, hard-core sportsbike rider who was more interested in getting his knee down than cruising down some Euro-boulevard desperately trying to look cool. Back then, the metrosexual male hadn’t been invented yet and women only rode Vespa scooters. Twist the throttle hard and the GSX-R delivered, waking up at 7000rpm and then screaming all the way up to its 10,500rpm redline, by which time you’d be doing more than 200km/h.

As you would expect, the first GSX-R wasn’t anywhere near perfect. In trying to reduce weight, Suzuki had, perhaps, gone too far – the ‘perimeter’ alloy frame couldn’t cope with the power and was prone to flex, as were the rather skinny wheels of that era. There wasn’t a great deal of feedback from the chassis, the rear shock was too soft and had inadequate damping, and at times, the brakes could be a bit temperamental! But while all this made it tough to pretend you were a Barry Sheene for the road, there’s no getting away from the fact that this first GSX-R was a landmark machine. Future generations of motorcyclists would thank the Gixxer, and Suzuki, for the current, 180bhp, open-class two-wheeled rocketships we see today.

GSX-R 750 (models F, G and H)
Years: 1985 - 87
Power: 80bhp@10,500rpm
Weight: 176kg
Top Speed: 205km/h
0 – 400m: 12.65 seconds

Other GSX-R stories:
Twenty years of the Suzuki GSX-R
Late 1980s/early 1990s GSX-Rs
GSX-R1000 vs Westfield XTR4 video!
Late 1990s GSX-R
Limited edition GSX-R Phantom


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gunslinger: Suzuki GSX-R750 (1988-91 models)


The 1988 Suzuki GSX-R750 'Slingshot'

In addition to SACS and Hyper Sports, this Suzuki GSX-R also had ‘Slingshot’ emblazoned on its flanks. This came from the bike’s redesigned Mikuni carburetors, which had straighter intakes for better combustion efficiency. This GSX-R, with its then radical, all-new styling, looked menacing. Mess with it and it would kill you.

Power was up to a real world 92 horsepower and the bike was capable of doing more than 230km/h in a straight line. The new, shorter stroke 749cc inline-four got a new bottom end (adapted from Suzuki’s own GSX-R1100), revved quicker and higher than the old model’s engine and was less peaky. While the older GSX-R didn’t wake up at all before 7,000 revs, the new one started making its grunt from 5,000rpm onwards – a big improvement for low speed, city riding. In a surprise move though, the M model went back to a longer stroke engine (perhaps to improve rideability and further reduce peakiness…?), which also made a genuine 100bhp for the first time.

The bike’s chassis was a strengthened, beefed-up version of the first GSX-R’s perimeter alloy frame, and steering geometry was made more radical in order to quicken the steering. The M version was the first production motorcycle to get upside-down (USD) front forks, which are now almost ubiquitous on all sports machinery. The ‘Slingshot’ GSX-R also got wider wheels, stickier rubber and higher-spec, multi-adjustable suspension – all of which helped in making it a better tool for the racetrack, where a lot of these bikes ended up being used. With its near unburstable engine and its proclivity for wheelies, stoppies and other acts of assorted two-wheeled hooliganism, this was a ‘proper’ Gixxer and a worthy successor to the first bike.

GSX-R 750 (models J, K, L and M)
Years:
1988 - 91
Power: 92bhp
Weight: 208kg
Top Speed: 235km/h
0 – 400m: 12.22 seconds

Right click and download a motorcycle-usa.com roadtest video of the 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 here


An old sketch of the Slingshot GSX-R, which I made in 1992
This video shows 20 years of evolution of the GSX-R...