Tuesday, August 29, 2006

MV Agusta sets Bonneville land speed record


This MV Agusta F4 1000R did 302km/h on the Bonneville Salt Flats!

During the 58th Annual Bonneville National Speedweek land speed trials earlier this month, an MV Agusta F4 1000R raced into the Southern California Timing Association record books as the fastest production class 1000cc motorcycle in the world. The 174bhp MV did this with an average combined speed of 299.148km/h, and a highest single speed of 302.116km/h. (So does this mean that the Kawasaki ZZR1400s and the Suzuki Hayabusas of this world are sitting around twiddling their thumbs?!)

The MV was ridden by Roosevelt ‘Rosey’ Lackey, and tuned/fettled by Eraldo Ferracci of Fast By Ferracci Racing Products. This 1000cc production class (bikes must run with the regular production engine and production frame) record means you can walk into any MV showroom today and ride out on a motorcycle that’s not only the best looking bike in the whole world, but one that’ll also do 300km/h down your local salt flats. Cool!

MV Agusta have plans to return to organized racing and Cagiva USA, Inc., the official North American importer of MV Agusta, has set its sights on AMA homologation for Superstock in 2007. We don’t know if MV can return to its Giacomo Agostini glory days, but the F4 1000R has shown its potential, so maybe…


An advert for the MV Agusta F4 1000 Tamburini edition, featuring Massimo Tamburini himself!


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Segway i2, Segway x2: Personal transportation II


The Segway i2 (left) and the Segway x2 (right)

The second generation Segway Personal Transporter (PT) has been unveiled. It’s always been weird and wonderful, and now, it has two new technologies which add to the fun. These are LeanSteer, and a wireless InfoKey controller. With LeanSteer, all aspects of the Segway PT’s movement are now controlled by the direction in which the rider moves his body. Lean right to go right, lean left to go left, lean forward to speed up and lean back to slow down. And the wireless InfoKey controller is your command centre – it’s the cruise-control, speedometer, odometer, and trip computer all rolled into one nifty little device.

The new PT lineup includes i2 and x2 models. The former is for ‘normal’ riding, while the latter can be taken off road and ridden over rough terrain. A Segway PUV (Personal Utility Vehicle) anyone? The i2 can do speeds of up to 20km/h, travel 40km on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries, and costs US$4,995. The x2 can also hit 20km/h, but will only do 20km on a single charge, and costs about US$5,500.

Also read about the one-wheeled wonder transporter, the Bombardier Embrio


And here's the very funky Segway commercial


Sachs is no more


The simple, yet functional Sachs 650 Roadster

Sachs, the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturers (the German company was founded in 1886), have shut shop. Sachs had been facing serious financial problems for quite some time, and a recent cash injection from a Chinese company was also not enough to bail them out of trouble. Sach’s factory site at Nuremberg, in Germany, was once home to legendary names like Hercules, DKW and Fichel.

In recent times, Sachs had been reduced to making small, cheap, Chinese-sourced scooters, which weren’t doing well. The unique, distinctive MadAss was the last ‘real’ Sachs-engineered motorcycle made. Can/will the name be revived? Probably not.


This Sachs MadAss was the last 'real' Sachs-engineered motorcycle made


Friday, August 25, 2006

Wakan: 1640cc of French eccentricity


That's the strange new Wakan 1640. Yeah, whatever

There’s a new motorcycle manufacturer on the block now – from France. The new company, Wakan, are slated to launch a stylish (eccentric? weird?) cruiser that’s powered by a 1640cc, 115-horsepower V-twin engine, which is manufactured by American company S&S. Top speed for this 177-kilo machine is supposed to be in the region of 240km/h. Not that you’d want to that kind of speeds on a naked bike, but still.

The Wakan 1640 is said to have been ‘inspired’ by the Shelby AC Cobra, though I must admit I don’t understand how and in what ways. Anyway, the bike will supposedly be available by October this year, so if you like the bike, now is the time to put down that deposit.

Before Wakan came along, France had just two motorcycle manufacturers – Voxan and Scorpa – though I don’t really know how many bikes they make/sell in a year. Don’t think it’d be a very high number. Bottomline is, I don’t get French motorcycles. If I wanted weird, I’d take a Suzuki Choi Nori over the Wakan 1640.


MV Agusta F4 1000 Senna: God’s own motorcycle


Now that is a proper MV Agusta superbike!

The MV Agusta F4 1000 Senna was one of the most beautiful, most desirable bikes ever built anywhere in the world. I don’t care for Formula 1 at all, but Ayrton Senna was special. This man, who won the F1 crown in 1988, 1990, and 1991, may have passed away in a tragic accident but his memories will always remain.

MV Agusta owner, Claudio Castiglioni says, “Ayrton was a star in a league of his own. When we met, we didn’t just talk about engines, although Ayrton was very attracted by two-wheel vehicles.” And indeed, the F4 1000 Senna is fitting tribute to the man. The 1000cc, 174 horsepower engine gets the very latest Weber Marelli 5SM fuel injection system, Brembo four-caliper radial brakes, Marchesini alloys, adjustable footrests and a carbonfibre rear mudguard. Also, 50mm Marzocchi USD forks get the titanium nitride treatment up front, there’s a high-spec Sachs racing shock absorber at the back, and the fairing is lighter, more aerodynamic and gets a distinctive Senna logo. The bike revs to 13000rpm, and top speed is 300km/h. Ooohhh..!!

Piaggio MP3: Three wheels, better than two?


Yeah, the Piaggio MP3 looks weird...

The Piaggio MP3 is a scooter with, er, two front wheels. Why? Because the company, which made the first Vespa scooter back in 1946, now claims that the three-wheeled MP3 ‘provides safety, road grip and stability levels that no two-wheeler can match.’ Oh, well.

The rear end is more or less conventional, but at the front, the MP3 has two independent, tilting wheels. The vehicle can, apparently, be cornered pretty hard – even on slippery road surfaces – without either end slipping or sliding off. Piaggio say the MP3 is almost uncrashable, by which I presume they mean it’s safer than conventional two-wheelers. Front end road holding, because of the two wheels up front, is said to be exceptionally good, and the three-wheel disc brakes are also supposed to be very powerful.

When it’s time to park the MP3, its electro-hydraulic suspension locking system means you don’t need to put it on a stand. You can also ‘lock’ the tilting mechanism while coming to a halt (at a traffic signal for example) and you can come to a complete stop without needing to put your feet down to support the vehicle.

Available with two engine options – 125cc and 250cc – and pegged at around US$6,500 this quirky little runaround should definitely be an interesting ride.

Update (24 Nov. 2006): Piaggio are now offering a new version of the MP3 - the MP3 400 i.e. With a single-cylinder, 4-valve, 400cc engine that makes 34 horsepower and 37Nm of torque, top speed for the MP3 400 i.e. is 147km/h.

Other interesting runabouts:
Volkswagen GX3
A home-brewed 800cc trike
Segway i2 and x2transporters
Bombardier Embrio
Campagna T-Rex
The Quadzilla!
Gilera Fuoco 500 three-wheeled scooter


Piaggio claim the MP3 is safer and more stable than any two-wheeler
A video of the MP3 in action!

Helmet Hullabaloo: Snell vs ECE 22-05


If you're riding a 320km/h ZZR1400, make sure you get a Snell-certified helmet!

European helmet crash protection standards (ECE 22-05), which came into force from the year 2000, have come in for some serious flak. It is being said that ‘Due to the way the standard is written, it is easy for manufacturers to build helmets to pass the test by applying additional strength in the specific test areas, rather than building a totally safe helmet.’

Apparently, these claims are backed up by some of the leading helmet manufacturers, who’ve admitted that it is easier to pass the European test rather than the American ‘Snell’ test, which has much higher safety standards! And proof of that is in the fact that most MotoGP and WSB riders only wear helmets that have passed the Snell test, while their cheaper replicas are often sold with an ECE 22-05 marking!

What about India? Forget Snell and ECE 22-06. What we have here is ISI mark, issued by the bureau of Indian standards. I suppose their safety standards would be antiquated, but still, wearing an ISI mark helmet should still be better than going without one. Not convinced? Read an earlier post on rider safety here

Snell or ECE? :-)

Go-faster tips from Kevin Schwantz


1993 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing world champ, Kevin Schwantz probably knows a bit about riding motorcycles fast...

The Motorcyclist magazine website has a nice post on on what they teach at the Kevin Schwantz riding school. Read it here. Sure, it's not a substitute for actually going there and riding with Kevin, but if you can't afford the real thing, I guess this is next best.

I'm a big, big fan of Kevin Schwantz. Had interviewed him earlier this year. You can read that interview here


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!
The
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…


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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!


Random Ramblings