Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Say goodbye to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R is still AWESOME, but it has to go now...

It’s a sad thing, but it’s finally time to say goodbye to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R. One of our favourite bikes of all time, this 190bhp, 300km/h-capable machine was launched in the year 2000, taking on the likes of the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Honda 1100XX Super Blackbird.

While it’s still a hugely capable motorcycle, Kawasaki see no place for the ZX-12R in their lineup anymore. The sharper, more focused Ninja ZX-10R has taken the ‘pure sportsbike’ territory, while the even more powerful ZZR1400 reigns supreme in the sport-tourer segment. (What’s the world coming to? A 197-horsepower sport-tourer?!?!) The last few brand-new Ninja ZX-12Rs are now being shipped to European dealers, so if you’ve always wanted one, now’s the time to rush to your local Kawasaki dealership…

Limited Edition Suzuki GSX-R1000 Phantom

The Suzuki GSX-R1000 Phanton. The best superbike in the world?
The Brits are a lucky bunch indeed. As if a stock GSX-R1000 is not enough, Suzuki GB PLC have announced the launch of a new limited edition model – the GSX-R1000 Phantom – only 200 units of which will be made available. The Phantom features a silver/gray colour scheme (which was not available in Europe earlier), with a Yoshimura Tri-oval exhaust system. The Phantom will retail at £8,799 which is the same as a standard GSX-R1000, so it really is a brilliant deal! But of course, the 2007 GSX-R1000 K7 should be even better, so you may want to wait for that.

Update (22nd September, '06):
The latest news is that the 2007 GSX-R1000 gets traction control, where the rider can choose between three settings - normal, wet and sports. The Hayabusa remains the same, with only new colours and engine tweaks that make it Euro III emissions norms compliant.

Right now, the hottest superbike in the world...!

Rocky Robinson and the ACK Attack do 547km/h

Twin Hayabusa engines, 900 horsepower, 547km/h...

Rocky Robinson has set a new motorcycle land speed world record. Riding his Team Top-1 ACK Attack streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats, he made an initial pass at 550.4km/h and a return pass of 544km/h, resulting in the new record (average) speed of 547km/h. The last record, which stood for 16 years, was set by Dave Campos in 1990 – at 515.2km/h.

During the Bonneville Speed Week this year, riders had a 17.6km course to work with, compared with only 8km last year. This provided an opportunity to mega-powerful machines like the ACK Attack, which incidentally is powered by twin Suzuki Hayabusa engines – producing a total of more than 900 horsepower, to really strut their stuff.

Here’s a list of who’s been going how fast (on two wheels) over the years:

1937 Ernst Henne BMW 500 274.494km/h

1951 William Herz NSU 500 289.681km/h

1955 Russell Wright Vincent 1000 297.728km/h

1956 Johnny Allen Triumph 650 311.778km/h

1956 William Herz NSU 500 338.992km/h

1956 Johnny Allen Triumph 650 345.426km/h

1962 Bill Johnson Triumph 650 361.410km/h

1966 Bob Leppan Triumph 650 395.362km/h

1970 Don Vesco Yamaha 350 405.425km/h

1970 Cal Rayborn Harley-Davidson 427.267km/h

1975 Don Vesco Yamaha 700 487.084km/h

1978 Don Vesco Kawasaki 1000 512.733km/h

1990 Dave Campos Harley-Davidson 518.450km/h

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bikes vs Cars: One more round!

Which one would you have?

British bike mag TWO ran an interesting bikes vs cars feature in their September issue. Yes, many other magazines and TV channels have pitted supercars and superbikes against each other before, and the results are pretty much the same – bikes accelerate harder, cars brake and corner harder. In 0-100-0 timed runs, cars can have a problem with getting enough traction – excessive wheelspin may look spectacular, but you’re wasting time. With bikes, it’s not wheelspin, but the tendency to wheelie that can be a problem.

Anyway, in the TWO article, here are some 0-100-0mph (or 0-160-0km/h) times for different cars and bikes:

A1 GP racing car – 8.4 seconds

Bugatti Veyron – 9.9 seconds

Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 10.7 seconds

Porsche 911 Turbo – 12.50 seconds

Honda CBF1000F – 13.2 seconds

Nissan 350Z – 18.8 seconds

Since we all know the humungous difference in price between a Veyron and a GSX-R1000, I think we motorcyclists can afford to be just a wee bit smug, eh? And here's an absolutely brilliant video of a GSX-R1000 going head to head against a Westfield XTR4!

Also see: Aprilia Mille RSV1000R vs Ferrari 360 Modena!

2007 Buell XBRR: Bring it on!

It packs a 150bhp V-twin, and it'll blow your socks off!

While the Fischer MRX is being hailed as America’s first proper sportsbike, with its 77-horsepower, 647cc V-twin, it’s hardly a Hayabusa or a ZZR1400 beater. No, if you want an American bike that can dust those two Japanese heavyweights, you want the 2007 Buell XBRR. It isn’t road-legal of course, but weighing in at 164 kilos, and powered by a 1338cc, air and oil-cooled V-twin, which makes 150 horsepower at 8000rpm, it should certainly be capable of some serious performance!

Suspension is top quality Ohlins items (front and rear), and the chassis is all aluminum with Buell’s ‘Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system,’ which probably reduces vibes. Fuel is carried in the frame. At the front, Buell’s unique ‘Zero Torsional Load’ eight-piston Nissin disc brakes are used, which should make stoppies a cinch.

Overall, this should be one rocking Buell. Read Motorcycle-usa.com's first ride report here

A Buell video shows what these bikes are capable of!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fischer MRX ready to roll!

The Glynn Kerr-designed Fischer MRX is certainly sharp and aggressive looking

The Fischer MRX, on which we had reported earlier, is now in production – you can buy one today for US$8,000. Designed by Glynn Kerr, the MRX looks quite distinctive, and build quality is supposed to be top notch. It’s powered by a Hyosung-built, DOHC, 16-valve, 647cc V-twin, which makes 77bhp@9400rpm. Performance should be adequate, but with its high-spec suspension components, the bike should handle very well.

The Fischer MRX’s chassis is derived from the Harley Davidson VR1000 superbike, which in turn was developed by top racers like Miguel Duhamel, Scott Russell, and Doug Chandler. The multi-adjustable, 43mm USD front forks and Ohlins rear shock are set up for sporty riding, and are suitably taut.

Visit the company website for more information.

It's being billed as an 'American exotic'...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Triumph opens second plant in Thailand

Triumph have recently opened their second manufacturing facility there, and may even open a third one within the next one year! The new plant which is already operational, doubles the production capacity of Triumph in Thailand to 100,000 units per annum. Thai-made Triumph motorcycles are sold in that country, and also exported to other countries. India, one of the largest two-wheeler markets in the world, is close by and also has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand. We wonder if Triumph will also set up a manufacturing unit in India sometime soon…?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Honda NR750: Your game's oval…

The oval piston Honda NR750, from 1992
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Launched in 1992, the madly-expensive Honda NR750, with its oval-piston, fuel-injected, eight valve per cylinder V4, which redlined at an astounding 15,000rpm, is a superbike like no other. The bike, which ‘inspired’ Massimo Tamburini’s styling for the Ducati 916, made extensive use of carbonfibre and was fitted with exotica like a single-sided swingarm, digital instrumentation (very flash for 1992…) and projector type headlamps.

Power output was a modest 125bhp@14000rpm, and top speed was around 255km/h – figures which are easily beaten by current 1000cc sportsbikes. But the NR750 was about more than just numbers – the bike showed Honda’s strengths with technology and showed what the Japanese manufacturers were capable of. Only 200 of these bikes were ever made, and each is now worth more than US$50,000 (Rs. 23 lakh).

Download PDFs of original Japanese Honda NR750 brochures here

A video of some poor sod crashing his Honda NR. Unbelieveable!

Vyrus 985 C3 4V: Different strokes

Imagine seeing the Vyrus 985 C3 4V in your mirrors...

First there was the Bimota Tesi 1D, in the early-1990s. With its complex ‘alternative’ front suspension, the first Bimota Tesi was a magnificent display of Bimota’s prowess with advanced motorcycle technology. The hub-centre steering and front swingarm separated steering and braking forces, eliminated dive under hard braking, and offered enhanced stability in fast corners. Riders complained that the system did not offer enough feel. And the front suspension assembly was hugely complex, expensive to manufacture and tough to maintain. So yes, Bimota only sold a very few of these bikes, and that was the end of it.

Now it seems the Tesi 1D is reborn – as the Vyrus. A Rimini, Italy-based company, VDM, which is owned by former Bimota mechanic Rodorigo Ascanio, continued development on the original Tesi, and the result is the Vyrus 985 C3 4V. Says Rodorigo, ‘It’s our objective to try to persuade people to take a fresh look at two-wheeled chassis design. This is my challenge!’ Ahem.

The bike uses the Ducati 999R’s powerful, 150bhp V-twin engine, but the two are very different in terms of handling characteristics. Rodorigo says, ‘We made a bike that is a very stiff structure, where nothing moves except the suspension and the tires. And we produced a steering linkage with fewer bearings, so as to give it more sensitivity. You must feel the front tire as if the front axle were in your hands. All this influences handling and makes the bike steer much faster, especially with the short wheelbase. It’s like a 250cc GP bike in terms of geometry, but it’s also completely stable in a straight line. Even if you try to make it shake by moving the handlebars, you can’t. And we have no steering damper fitted; that’s a band-aid for a wrong design!’

For those who must have the Vyrus’ alien styling and cool front suspension, but are on a tighter budget, there’s also the Vyrus 984 2V, which is powered by the Ducati 1000DS v-twin and costs about US$40,000. And if you're all set to buy the US$75,000 985 C3 4V, you may want to read Motorcyclist magazine's road test here

Front End Funnies
Some other bikes that went the alternative front suspension route...

Hossack racebike

Back in 1981, inventor Norman Hossack presented his vision of the alternative front suspension – the Hossack Wishbone. A development of this is used on the BMW K1200S and K1200R bikes.

Elf Honda GP bike

Raced by Ron Haslam in 1985, the Elf Honda got hub-centre steering and a front swingarm instead of the usual front forks.

Bimota Tesi 1D

Launched in 1991, the Tesi 1D got Bimota’s complex and expensive hub-centre steering and front swingarm. It was beautiful to look at, but ahead of its time. Excessive steering linkage play made it scary to ride, and there were incessant issues with reliability and longevity of various components. Not that Bimota would give up though…

Gilera CX125

The most notable thing about the Gilera CX125 (launched in 1992) was not its eccentric styling, but its single-side front fork.

Britten V1000

Back in the 1990s, Britten V1000s used to thunder past Ducati 851s in BoTT races in Europe. And yes, they used a Hossack-design front end.

Yamaha GTS1000

Yamaha launched the GTS1000 in 1993. The bike was fitted with a 1000cc inline-four from the FZR1000, and had hub-centre steering via a single-side front swingarm. The bike was even raced at the Isle of Man TT, though it was a bit heavy and clumsy.


The first modern-day BMW to eschew the conventional front fork, the 1993 R1100RS sported BMW’s ‘Telelever’ front suspension. This used fork sliders (which look quite conventional to unsuspecting bystanders) connected to a rocker arm and a front shock absorber. People who’ve ridden the bike say it works well, but lacks the feedback of a conventional fork.

Italjet Dragster 180

One of the coolest, fastest and most radical scooters to come out of Italy, the Italjet Dragster 180 packed a 180cc two-stroke engine and boasted of hub-centre steering via single-sided swingarm.

BMW K1200S / K1200R

Launched in 2004, both, the K1200S and the K1200R use an iteration of the Hossack Wishbone front suspension.


The ‘Flex 6X’ front suspension used on the 2006 Motoczysz MotoGP bike employs linear bearing in stanchions, connected to an Ohlins shock in the headstock.

Bimota Tesi 3D

Ducati engine, hub-centre steering, trellis frame chassis, 168kg kerb weight and a price tag of US$38,400. Only 29 of these avant-garde Tesi 3D bikes will be built, so exclusivity is guaranteed.

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

Random Ramblings