Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Norton goes bust. Again.

These are computer-rendered images of the Norton Commando 961 SS, which was never built after all...

Norton Motorcycles, the US-based company that had bought the famous old British name and which had been developing a new Commando – the 961 SS – have gone bust. The man behind Norton Motorcycles, Kenny Dreer wanted to develop a new 961cc parallel twin engine and produce an all-new Norton Commando bike in volumes. He’d managed to raise several million dollars in funding for this venture, and reportedly, even attracted several hundred customers who were willing to pay a deposit for one of his bikes – slated to cost in the region of US$20,000! The new 961 SS Commando was being touted by the company as “a new beginning for Norton Motorcycles. Designed and built from the ground up, this bike continues the Norton legacy of defined style and performance.” Pity it never happened.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the original 1970s Norton Commando, which I think just looks divine. It’s sad that there won’t be another after all. But then, with a name as magical as Norton, you never know. I hope some vastly rich and knowledgeable motorcycle enthusiast comes along, buys the rights to the name and gets Norton back on track!

See some quaint, charming old Norton advertisements here and definitely do go here to see why British bikes are not the only British things going bust. Ha!

Velocity: The MotoGP movie

Kenny Roberts will now be a movie star!

Can’t get enough of MotoGP? Wait for Velocity, a full-blown Hollywood movie on the sport. ‘King’ Kenny Roberts will star in this movie, which will be premiered at next year’s Cannes film festival. Director Jeff Jensen (who’s earlier directed another bike racing movie that came out in 2002 – High Speed – which was about the World Superbikes scene…) says he wants to really blur the lines between fiction and reality.

Velocity is going to be a high budget flick, backed by Dorna, so in addition to real action footage shot during real MotoGP events this year, expect high-grade special effects and excellent camerawork. The storyline will have something to do with a rookie American racer who gets involved with the Russian oil mafia… er… but as long as it has fast bikes, realistic racing action and a few hot chicks, I suppose it should be all right!

New BMW F800GS announced

The 2008 BMW F800GS!

Pics: Motoblog (updated on Nov. 3, 2007)

BMW have confirmed the development of their new 800 series of motorcycles – the off-road/dual-purpose F800GS, and the F800R, which will be in the Honda VFR sport-touring niche.

The F800GS should be the ideal bike for those who love the R1200GS’ off-road style and capability, but who’re intimidated by the 1200’s sheer heft and bulk. The 800 will also pack more power than the existing F650 (which will continue to remain in the BMW range), so it should certainly be able to carve a nice niche for itself...

This is the engine that'll be fitted to the F800GS and other forthcoming BMW bikes. The chick is only there to... umm... er, make the pic more interesting!

A new naked 800 is being developed, which will be on the lines of the aggressive, sporty K1200R. And finally, there will also be a new F450GS, which will be in the mould of the BMW HP2 – lightweight, powerful and totally focused on off-road applications. BMW definitely seem to be going all-out towards developing newer, sportier, more aggressive bikes. Nice!

Also see:
2007 BMW HP2 Megamoto
2007 BMW G650 XMoto, XChallenge, and XCountry
All-new superbike from BMW in 2007
2007 BMW K1200R Sport
Schnitzer BMWs

Kawasaki Z1000: 2007 edition announced

Last year's Z1000 looked better...

Kawasaki have unveiled the 2007-edition Z1000, which will feature new bodywork, a new exhaust system, a new and more powerful engine (based on the ZX-10R’s motor), and an upgraded chassis.

The engine has been ‘retuned’ for more low-end power, the front brake calipers and radial mounted and brake rotors are the currently fashionable wavy type. The redesigned chassis is aluminium monocoque and the new dual-pipe, quad-outlet exhaust is just plain… huge! Of course, a nice, loud, free-flow Yoshimura should cure that, but overall, I must say I prefer last year’s Z1000

Love it or hate it, you can't ignore this one!

Also see:
The 2007
Kawasaki 1400GTR
The mighty
Kawasaki ZZR1100
Kawasaki ZZR1400 vs Suzuki Hayabusa!
Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The ramblings of Fred Gassit

You want Gassit? You got it!

So who’s Fred Gassit then? Well, he rides bikes. And he’s the most likeable bloke among all moto-cartoons in the world! His exploits have been printed in Australian Motorcycle News, and the British magazine Superbike, and they are just so, so cool! I’ve been reading Gassit for many years now, and the dude has always made me smile. He is da maan! You can have a look at many of his cartoon strips here

KTM LC4 690 officially launched

The 2007 KTM LC4 690 Supermoto: Very cool!

KTM have officially launched their new LC4 690 engine – the largest single-cylinder engine the Austrian company has ever made. The fuel-injected 690 single (actually only 654cc) makes about 65 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed gearbox. This engine is expected to be used in multiple bikes, including supermoto and off-road rally rep machines. The KTM 690 SuperMoto is expected to be launched at the INTERMOT in Germany, in October this year. However, what I’d really like to see from KTM is a 690-powered supersport machine – something on the lines of the Triumph 675. Now that should really be something…!

Update - also see:
2007 KTM 690SM Supermoto unveiled
2007 BMW HP2 Megamoto: BMW ups the ante again!
2007 BMW G650: Xmoto, XChallenge, and XCountry

Who says bikes with single-cylinder engines are no fun to ride?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Loris Capirossi: Winning for 16 years!

Loris Capirossi has never won a MotoGP world championship, but he's still one of best, most charismatic riders ever!

With his second MotoGP victory of the 2006 season at Brno yesterday, Loris Capirossi has made a bit of history - he now has the longest winning career in GP history, which spans more than 16 years! Loris won his first 125cc GP at Donington Park in August 1990. I remember reading somewhere that Kenny Roberts (500cc World Champ in 1978, 79 and 80) had once said 'no matter how early you start [referring to motorcycle racing], you've got ten years in this sport.' Well, Capirossi seems to have proved his wrong, eh? :-)

Loris Capirossi, former 125 and 250 world champ, is widely respected for his all-out, never-give-up riding style. He is a spectacular rider on the track, and yet he is also a 'nice guy' off the track - one of the most likeable and affable riders on the current MotoGP circuit. Capirossi began his World Championship career in 1990, winning the 125 title at his very first attempt, when he was just 17 years old! This was with Marlboro Team Pileri Honda. He retained his 125 crown in 1991, and then moved to 250s, winning the 250 championship in 1998.

He's been in 500s/MotoGP since the year 2000, and there seems to be no slowing down for him anytime in the near future. In 2007, he'll be back on the new 800cc Ducati GP7, and he'll continue to show young upstarts like Pedrosa and Stoner that he still has a thing or two to teach them...

Loris Capirossi, in action on his Ducati...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

KTM NitroDuke: The World's Fastest KTM!

Built by Salakazi Racing, the 272km/h NitroDuke is billed as the fastest KTM in the world!

The NitroDuke is powered by a 1995cc, supercharged V-twin, and does the 1/8th mile run in 4.36 seconds. It's built by a Finnish chap called Jaska Salakari, who, ahem, likes KTMs - which is probably why the NitroDuke has a smattering of KTM plastics and a few other bits.
Power output depends on the nitro:methane fuel ratio being used, but with 95 percent nitro and 5 percent methane, it makes an astounding 2000 horsepower! Should be enough to move the earth then. And when this bike is doing 200km/h, it drinks fuel at the rate of 1.1 litre per second, so just make sure you're carrying all your credit cards when you're riding it. Just in case you run out of fuel... :-)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mad Kaws: Kawasaki H1 and Z1

The Kawasaki H1 Mach III - a child of the 60s. Flowerpower rocks!

A 500cc two-stroke, 60 horsepower, three-cylinder wild child, the Kawasaki Mach III H1 500 was truly, deeply, madly deranged. Launched in 1968, the H1 had a top speed of around 200km/h, and was capable of scorching down quarter-mile drag strips in 12.4 seconds. Handling was crap, and early models of the bike were fitted with drum brakes (front and rear), but the H1 had no peers when it came to sheer performance in a straight line. What a pity that bikes like this have no place in today's ecology-conscious, politically correct, buttoned-down world... :-(

The other great Kawasaki was the Z1, which came about five years after the launch of the H1. The late-1960s Honda CB750 was the first mass-produced inline-four from Japan, but it was the Kawasaki Z1, launched in 1973, which was the first real four-cylinder open-class ‘superbike’ for the average man on the street. The fact that men like Gary Nixon, Paul Smart, and Yvon DuHamel were involved in the testing and development of the Z1 should tell you something about what the bike was meant for. With its 903cc brute of an engine, the Zed was capable of doing up to 225kmph in a straight line. At the time of its launch, Z1s sold out so fast that even Kawasaki employees couldn’t get any bikes through the employee discount deal…

image host image host image host image host image host image host image host image host
image host image host image host image host image host image host image host

Fast Past: Vincent Black Shadow

The Vincent Black Shadow from the 1950s could do 200km/h!

Until the Kawasaki Z1 came along in 1973, the 1950s Black Shadow was still holding on to the 'fastest production motorcycle ever' tag, even though production had ended in 1955! Its 998cc V-twin made 55 horsepower, and the bike was capable of seeing 200km/h on a good day. And if current-day Suzuki Hayabusas and Kawasaki ZZR1400s can do 300km/h, back in 1948, a certain Rollie Free took a Black Lightning (basically a more powerful, stripped out version of the Black Shadow) to Bonneville, and did 240kmph. Wearing only a swimsuit and tennis shoes, to cut down on drag… :-)

If you wanted to do 240km/h on a bike in 1948, this is how it was done!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Weird Five: Strangest motorcycles ever!

No, really, that - the Bimota Mantra - is supposed to be a motorcycle!

A motorcycle so ugly, it looked like a cross between a dying mutant insect and a disjointed alien. Bimotas should look exquisite, handle like a dream and go very, very fast – none of which the Mantra did. The bike's designer, a Frenchman called Sacha Lakic, is said to have taken inspiration from wasps when he penned the Mantra's lines - I kid you not! Just what were Bimota thinking of when they gave this one the green signal?!?

The single-cylinder Ducati Supermono was very high-tech, but still rather pointless...

Designed by Pierre Terblanche, the single-cylinder Supermono, launched in 1993, has to be one of Ducati's whackiest efforts ever. This very hi-tech single-cylinder motorcycle had a 550cc engine, which made about 80bhp at 10,000rpm - enough to propel this lightweight (only 115kg) machine all the way up to 220kmph. Ducati built this pure-bred racing machine at very high cost, and among others, noted bike journalist Alan Cathcart raced this bike. Only a handful were ever built, and used examples now command prices of up to US$40-45,000 (Rs 18 - 20 lakh!).

What could have BMW been thinking when they made the R1200ST??

For all its long-distance touring capabilities, last year's R1200ST is one of the ugliest motorcycles I’ve ever seen. From the front, the ST looks like something lashed up in somebody’s backyard, with whatever parts that happened to be lying around. The headlamp looks like a bathroom fitting from a low-end, economy hotel. I don’t care that the engine makes 110 horsepower – the bike just looks crap!

The Morbidelli V8 MK-1 (top left hand corner) is probably the ugliest-ever Italian motorcycle, though later versions (also shown in the pic above) were slightly better looking

First shown in the mid-1990s, the Morbidelli V8 Mk-1, designed by Pininfarina, wins the contest for being the ugliest motorcycle ever made. For US$55,000 you could buy this shaft-drive motorcycle with a 32-valve, 8-cylinder, 850cc engine, a single-sided swingarm, and get this – an instrument panel made of wood. For what it’s worth though, Morbidelli bikes did win three 125cc motorcycle racing world championships, from 1975 to 1977. Even more interesting is the fact that Graziano Rossi, Valentino Rossi's father, also rode a Morbidelli 500cc racer, fitted with a unique monocoque chassis, in 1979.

The Foggy Petronas FP1. Ha ha ha ha ha...!!!

Carl Fogarty was very cool when he was winning WSB championships on Ducatis. Carl Fogarty was not at all cool when he was running his show with the Petronas team, and not winning anything at all. And why anyone should buy an FP1 for US$45,000 (Rs 20 lakh), when they could buy a top-of-the-line Ducati 999R Fila Replica for slightly more than half of that, is quite beyond me!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kawasaki ZRX1200R: Remember Eddie Lawson...?

Just look at this supercharged Kawasaki ZRX1200R... :-)

1980s-superbike styling overtones. Chunky and muscular. Stonking engine. (Just the thing to slap a pair of really loud Muzzy pipes on, and if you're so inclined, a supercharger as well...!). Taut handling, provided you are prepared to fiddle with suspension settings. Get one in the lime-green / white / blue paint scheme and fitted with a bikini fairing, and the modern day ZRX will let you start playing Eddie Lawson all over again. What a bike!

...and now imagine firing up that supercharged (above) 1200cc engine...

Rickey Gadson sets new 1/8-mile record on a Kawasaki ZX-14

No, this isn't Gadson's pic, but I'll try and find one and post it soon...

During the recently held (at the Indianapolis Raceway Park) round six of the eight-event 2006 AMA Prostar season, drag racer Rickey Gadson set new 1/8-mile records in the Super Street class. The ‘Super Street’ class is for superbikes without wheelie bars and with a maximum wheelbase of 64 inches. (The swingarm can be extended, but the frame and bodywork must be kept stock.) And since nitrous and/or turbochargers aren’t allowed, the max power that bikes in this class usually have is around 300bhp.

Gadson’s new 1/8-mile record – an ET of 5.46 seconds at 224km/h – was set on his 2006, Coby Adams-prepared, Kawasaki ZX-14. Gadson ran a Pirelli Dragon SuperCorsa Pro 180/55-17 tyre at the back. For all those rocket-boy street-racers who’re panting to put 200-section rear tyres on their bike, the 180 is preferred by pro drag racers for the big bikes because they are about three quarters of a kilo lighter than the 190, and have a flatter profile once mounted on a 6.5-inch rim, providing a wider contact patch on the pavement...

I LOVE the Kawasaki ZX-14 and I've GOT to get one somehow!!!!!!!
And here's another Kawasaki I love - the mighty ZX-11. When Cycle World magazine first tested it fifteen years ago, they said 'it's like riding the blast wave of an endless explosion.' I've wanted one ever since... :-)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Remembering Rotary: Suzuki RE-5

In 1975, the rotary-engined Suzuki RE-5 was the bee's knees... :-) 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! :-)

Random Ramblings