Saturday, July 29, 2006

The World’s Fastest Indian

If you love motorcycles, you'll love The World's Fastest Indian

"You live more in five minutes on a bike than some people live in their lifetime," says Burt Munro (played by Anthony Hopkins) in one of the very best ‘biker movies’ of all time. The World’s Fastest Indian is based on the real life story of Burt Munro, and his lifelong devotion to the pursuit of speed on two wheels. Forget current day Hayabusas and ZZR1400s with their mega-powerful engines, sticky tyres and powerful brakes. Munro, from New Zealand, wants to go to the US and do 200mph (320km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats. On his weedy old 1920s Indian Scout. The tyres are finished, the brakes barely work and Munro’s riding gear comprises, among other things, of trousers tucked into socks and an old pair of canvas shoes. The sheer audacity of it all – a man in his 60s, on a shoestring budget, and suffering from a heart ailment, wanting to do this high speed stuff – is heartening. And uplifting.

There is some brilliant acting from Hopkins, who does an absolutely wonderful job of playing Munro. The journey from a remote town in New Zealand, all the way to Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, is an amazing one. The difficulties which Munro faces and the way he overcomes those. The various interesting characters he meets in America. And finally, how his courage and self-conviction are appreciated and the way people help him along – it’s all very well depicted in the film. And when he finally does run his bike at Bonneville and crosses the 200mph mark, you want to stand up and cheer for the old man.

Beg, borrow or steal a DVD, but whatever you do, just watch this film. It makes you believe in the power of dreams once more. It makes you believe in the power of the human spirit. Awesome movie!

Here's a trailer from the film

Aprilia RSV 1000R Factory: Sportsbike Heaven

Yeah, the Italians know how to make nice looking motorcycles... :-)

Over the last few years, Aprilia has joined the ranks of Italian motorcycle manufacturers who are giving the Japs a run for their money. With the RSV Mille, Aprilia had graduated from making hot little 125s and 250s and joined the Top Gun league of 1000cc superbikes. The new 1000 R takes things even further – it’s smaller and slimmer than its predecessor, is more powerful (the mighty, 60-degree V-twin revs to 11,000rpm and produces 139 horsepower), and sports a new 16-bit fuel-injection system. For most punters, the new RSV’s styling takes up from where Ducati’s 998R left off – drop dead gorgeous in the way only Italians do. And it’ll do 280km/h, so there’s performance to back up its good looks.

The bike steers quickly and is nimble, and yet, it’s also extremely stable during high-speed cornering – a difficult engineering feat, which Aprilia wizards have managed to pull off. Remember, Aprilia is not Honda, and the small Italian company doesn’t have the kind of top dollar research budgets which the Japanese giants have. If you find Japanese superbikes too common and can’t live with the Ducati 999’s styling, the RSV 1000R is what you need.

Power: 139bhp
0 to 100kph: 2.68 seconds
Top speed: 280kph
In a line: The other Italian job…

A video of an RSV 1000 being chased by an AC Cobra!

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...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Suzuki GSX-R 1000: Rocket science for the road

If you're up to it, it'll trash its rear tyre in one single day of hard riding

The sharply-styled GSX-R1000 is relatively comfortable – soft, cushy seat (relatively speaking…), adequate wind protection, and even some under-seat storage. But all allusions to practicality are shredded when you open the throttle – from a standing start, the Suzuki accelerates to 160kph in all of 5.2 seconds and goes on to a hit a massive 282kph in sixth gear. The GSX-R series has always had that ‘ultimate performance motorcycle’ image. Back in 1993, when Kevin Schwantz raced his way to a 500cc Grand Prix world championship, all the sportsbike guys wanted GSX-Rs with RGV500 paint schemes. Now, with Schwantz having retired a long time ago and Kenny Roberts Jr.’s year 2000 500cc title (which he won on a Suzuki) having faded into distant memory, Suzuki is a bit short on heroes. But then, the GSX-R1000 is more capable than ever before. For twisty mountain roads and closed-circuit racetracks, Suzuki have made the perfect bike. Just get a loud Yoshimura can fitted, and you’re in business…

Power: 150bhp
0 to 100kph: 2.8 seconds
Top speed: 282km/h
In a line: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…

The very memorable GSX-R1100, from 1991...
...and an awesome video of a GSX-R 1000 pitted against a Westfield XTR4

Yamaha R1: The One

The Yamaha R1 is one the best-looking Japanese superbikes around, with performance to match

When it first came out in 1998, the R1, with its brilliant styling and ripping performance, pretty much rocked the sportbike world on its collective haunches. The big Yam is completely single-minded and totally performance oriented – it has a ram-air induction system to boost horsepower at triple-digit speeds, a close-ratio gearbox, a super-quick 32-bit ECU to control the fuel-injection system and a host of titanium components to keep the weight down. There’s also a lap-timer in there and a programmable shift light, to help you optimise gear shifts. The latest SP/LE versions have trick paint schemes and lightweight parts. And the buzz is that Yamaha may launch an all-new R6-style R1 later this year!

Power: 152bhp
0 to 100kph: 2.8 seconds
Top speed: 290kph
In a line: Move over, Keanu. This is The One!

Update (10th Oct 2006): 2007 Yamaha R1 unveiled at the Intermot in Germany

Right click and download a road test video of the R1 here and read about the 2007 Yamaha R1 here

A limited-edition 2006 Yamaha R1, with Kenny Roberts' old Yamaha 500 GP bike from the 1970s

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Triumph Speed Triple: Mean Mutha

The Triumph Speed Triple - Proper Mad Max stuff. Ha ha!

This is the hard man’s streetfighter. Short, stubby and very purposeful looking, the Speed Triple is not meant for dawdling around. If you’re on one of these mean looking muthas, you’d better be up to hoisting mega wheelies, pulling high-speed rolling stoppies and generally riding like a man possessed. The Triple is fitted with a 1050cc three-cylinder engine that makes 113 horsepower – enough for acceleration that’ll leave most BMW convertibles in the dust, and a 230km/h top speed.

More than top speed, which is anyway of academic interest only with most naked bikes, it’s the acceleration that counts. And the Speed Triple is quick enough to keep up with most fully-faired race reps, what with 0 to 100km/h taking less than three seconds. The big, howling, three-cylinder engine pulls hard from 2800rpm, and makes serious stomp from 4000rpm onwards – the kind of muscle that’ll have you doing wheelies without meaning to. If attention is what you always craved, this bike will get you lots.

In addition to the ‘bad boy’ styling and wheelie/stoppie antics, the Triple also handles well. Given its stiff, dual-rate USD front forks, and front-endy stance, turn-in is quick and sharp. The bike changes direction in a jiffy and stays superglued to the tarmac in fast bends. The rider’s seat is well padded though take a pillion along only if you wish to severely punish him/her. The bottomline is, this one is not for the pretty boys. It’s a lean, mean machine meant for the advanced rider who wants serious performance from his streetfighter. The Speed Triple is the bad boy pin up of streetfighters. God bless Triumph.

Update (20.02.2007): Triumph are said to be working on a new naked bike which will be in the Speed Triple mould, but which will be fitted with the Daytona 675's engine. Revvy, powerful engine in a stiff, lightweight package - stunt riders should love this one!

Engine: 1050cc, 12-valve, inline-three
Power: 113bhp@9100rpm
Top speed: 230km/h
In a line: You there, step out. Now!

The Triumph X75 Hurricane, from 1973 (the year I was born!), was a style icon of its time...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Punk Rocker: Kawasaki Z1000

Looks totally cool, eh? And it goes very hard as well!

Kawasaki have a well-deserved reputation for making some of most powerful, fastest and good-looking motorcycles in the world, and the Z1000 is definitely up there with Kawasaki’s best. This is one motorcycles which proves that the Italians aren’t the only ones who can make supremely attractive bikes bursting with character and attitude – the Japanese can be just as effective.

While the Z1000 is a styling coup for Kawasaki, it is essentially a simple motorcycle – a 953cc, inline-four, 120 horsepower engine (taken from the old ZX-9R Ninja, and modified…) bolted to a steel cradle frame, USD front forks, comfy seats and high-ish handlebars. Give it some juice, and the front wheel paws at the skies, brake hard, and the rear wheel goes up, bung it into corners and you get your knee down – the Kawasaki encourages all kinds of moto-hooliganism.

With a relatively short wheelbase and quick, sharp steering, the Kawasaki belies its size and weight and can be thrown around with aplomb. The seating position is slightly canted forward, so you lean into the bike, with your wrists taking most of the weight. Suspension is multi-adjustable front and rear. Handling, while not in the league of, say, a GSX-R750, is still competent enough for most people. If you want the coolest-looking streetfighter in the world, this is probably it.

Engine: 953cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four
Power: 120bhp@10100rpm
Top speed: 220km/h
In a line: Cooler than an igloo-full of freezing eskimos…

Kawasaki have, of course, been making cool super-nakeds for many years...