Saturday, August 19, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
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… :-)
Thursday, August 17, 2006
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?!?
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!).
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!
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.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
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
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! :-)
NRV588 Norton rotary-powered prototype
Norton made a few rotary-engined bikes through the mid-1980s and early-1990s, none of which were very successful. The 588cc, air-cooled Interpol II police bike, which Norton started making in 1983, had a two-rotor engine which made 79bhp@9000rpm. There was also a civilian version, the Classic. In a later iteration, the Commander, the 588cc rotary engine got liquid cooling, and made 85bhp@9000 rpm.
But the really interesting Nortan rotary is the now legendary F1. The world’s only rotary-engined superbike was hyper-expensive – about US$45,000 back in the early ’90s – but went like blazes. Unlike a conventional piston driven engine, the F1’s 588cc, liquid-cooled rotary engine had no reciprocating mass, and produced 95bhp@9500rpm in a smooth, linear fashion. The Norton F1 RCW588 won the British F1 series in 1989, and the bike was also raced in the Isle of Man TT races. The British Motorcycle Land Speed Record was also set at 307km/h in 1991 using a Norton rotary engine. Steve Spray and Trevor Nation were the two British riders who raced the F1 successfully in various events in the UK.
As you would expect with an all-new engine design, Norton had various problems with the F1's rotary engine, and the British company never really had the money to sort those problems out completely. If only Norton had Honda's financial muscle, the world of very fast motorcycles might have been a different place today…
NRV588 Norton rotary prototype