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)
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

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...