Saturday, September 09, 2006

Suzuki Katana: Taming of the Sword

The 1982 Suzuki Katana GSX1000S. Awesome!

Back in the early-1980s, Suzuki went to a German design house – Target Design – and asked them to help out with the styling of their new sportsbike. And thus, the mighty Katana (means sword in Japanese) was born. The Target Design team that did the original Katana consisted of three men – Hans Muth, Jan Fellstrom and Hans-Georg Kasten – of whom Hans Muth is still actively working with the motorcycle industry. He has, supposedly, also worked on the styling of some of the recent motorcycles from BMW.

Coming back to the Katana, the bike’s styling was a radical departure from anything else available at the time. With its aggressive stance, butch, naked styling, a brutal 1100cc engine, and the very stylish mini-fairing, the Katana was a stand-out bike all right. Target Design had actually designed a very similar prototype machine for MV Agusta, in the late-1970s, but that never went into production, and Suzuki probably got to benefit from that!

When it came out in 1980 at the Cologne Motor Show in Germany, the Suzuki GSX1100 Katana was criticized for being too radical. “It’ll never work!” cried purists. “We all want one!” said punters everywhere. And within the next 2 – 3 years, other manufacturers were trying to copy the Katana. Through the 1980s and till 1991, Suzuki made 1000cc, 750cc and 250cc versions of the Katana, which still had all the charm, all the allure of the 1100cc version. They also made a bunch of 650cc and 550cc versions in the early-80s, which were complete and utter rubbish – a disgrace to the Katana name. In any case, from the mid-90s onwards, Suzuki completely ruined the Katana by slapping the name on to slow, heavy and dated sport-tourers and even a bunch of Katana-branded scooters. The fiery, cutting-edge sportsbike that was the original Katana was lost forever.

Is there any hope of the Katana ever being resurrected? Well, at last year’s Tokyo Motorcycle Show, Suzuki showed Stratosphere concept bike, which incorporated some design elements from the original ED2 Katana, and was fitted with a six-cylinder engine! We doubt if the Stratosphere will ever make it to production, though if various rumours are to be believed, that six-cylinder engine just might make its way to the 2008 Hayabusa.

Read some old road tests of the Katana here

A Yoshimura-tuned and fettled GSX1100S Katana

Friday, September 08, 2006

Honda VTR1000 RC51 SP2: The un-Fireblade

Exotica: The 136bhp SP-2 is a proper racer for the road
Honda VTR1000 SP2 RC51 Honda VTR1000 SP2 RC51 Honda VTR1000 SP2 RC51

Sure, the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is a hugely powerful, mega-fast superbike – but these days, it’s getting a bit common, isn’t it? The words exotic and Honda don’t really go along, but if you really want an exotic Honda, then it has to be the RC51 VTR1000 SP-2. No, it isn’t as powerful as the four-cylinder, 1000cc Fireblade, but the race-bred SP-2’s 999cc, 8-valve V-twin still kicks out 136 horsepower, which should be enough for most people in most situations...

The RC51 SP-1 made its debut in the year 2000, and with Colin Edwards riding the factory racebike, it picked up the WSB championship in its very first year of competition. With HRC developments lavished on the SP-1, the SP-2 again won the WSB crown in 2002 with Colin. That, however, was where it ended for the RC51 SP-2, with WSB regulations moving on to permit four-cylinder 1000cc machines from 2003 onwards.

Though they don’t race it anymore, Honda have kept the RC51 SP-2 in their lineup and its still an absolutely brilliant motorcycle for those who are looking at a proper, HRC-bred racebike for the road.
Read a comparison test between the Honda RC51 and the Ducati 999R here and read about the very memorable V4-engined Honda RC30 and the RC45 bikes here

2007 Honda CBR600RR breaks cover!

Sharper, lighter, faster - the 2007 CBR600RR

Honda have unveiled the 2007 CBR600RR, and yes, it’s lighter and faster than ever. Thanks to reduced-weight components, the CBR600’s engine is now lighter and can rev all the way to 15,700rpm. It’s been revised to shorten the crankcase by about 30mm, which results in a more compact unit. The compression ratio has been bumped up to 12.2:1 and forged aluminum pistons are now shot-peened for greater durability. There’s a new knock sensor that maintains optimal spark advance and compensates for lower-octane fuel.

Honda claim 118bhp@13,500rpm for the new CBR600RR, which should put it in contention for the ‘top dog’ title in the forthcoming 2007 600s track scrap. Honda have also incorporated a new intake air control valve (IACV) in the airbox, which is said to smoothen throttle response. And while we’re not sure if the new CBR has a proper slipper clutch, there’s a new ‘no-lash’ transmission that helps reduce driveline lash between accelerating and slowing down repeatedly, at lower speeds.

In the chassis department, the wheelbase is shorter than last year’s model by about 22mm, though the swingarm is 5mm longer. The new chassis also uses just four die-cast sections instead of the 11 sections for the last year’s model. The bike is now fitted with an updated version of the CBR1000RR's electronic steering damper, to make sure it stays stable at higher speeds. Suspension and brakes remain unchanged (41mm USD fork at front, Unit Pro-Link at the back), but given Honda’s focus on weight reduction, the new bike is lighter than the ’06 CBR600RR by eight kilos.

Now that Honda have fired the first salvo, and Kawasaki have shown the 2007 ZX-6R Ninja, let's see what Suzuki and Yamaha do with their 600s…!

Styling is not hugely different from the 2006 model, but the white/blue graphics on the '07 model are a bit dubious...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

London Land Speed Record on a ZZR1400

The ZZR1400's fast, no doubt

How fast would you ride in London city? 100km/h? 150km/h? Well, the boys at TWO magazine recently took a Kawasaki ZZR1400 and hit 293.44km/h at the London City Airport. And no, they did not run into any Lear Jets because the airport was officially closed for the first London Land Speed record attempt! TWO’s sister publication, Autocar was also present, but the fastest that any of their assembled supercars could do was a mere 280km/h. Cars vs bikes, eh? Guess that one’s settled then.

A Japanese road test video of the Kawasaki ZZR1400. Simply amazing!

Go here to see just how hard a ZZR1400 accelerates!

See this awesome video of Tiff Needell (Fifth Gear) testing a Kawasaki ZZR1200-powered trike!

Chris Carr does 560km/h at Bonneville

That's Chris Carr, with the BUB streamliner that did 560km/h!

Barely two days ago, we had reported that Rocky Robinson has set a new motorcycle land speed world record on his Team Top-1 ACK Attack streamliner, riding the machine at 547km/h at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Well, the record didn’t last long. Chris Carr (who’s also a seven-time AMA Flat Track champion), riding his BUB streamliner, did 560km/h at Bonneville, and is now officially the ‘fastest human on two-wheels.’ Pity Valentino & Co.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sin City: Volkswagen GX3

You've got to LOVE this trike!!!

What has three wheels, two seats, goes from zero to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and has a top speed of 200km/h? The scintillating, 125bhp, Volkswagen GX3. First shown in January this year, the GX3 was designed by Volkswagen’s Design Centre in California, and is a fully functional concept.

The GX3 is powered by a VW 1600cc engine, which gives it a power/weight ratio of 1:4.56. The vehicle is also capable of achieving lateral acceleration of up to 1.25g, which is what some very expensive, high-performance cars do, but the GX3 was only supposed to cost about US $17,000. That was before VW dropped plans of building this vehicle because they thought it might be too dangerous, and result in too many liability claims, which the company definitely does not want. Too bad VW chickened out of producing this vehicle, which they claimed is “Inspired by the minimalist design language often expressed in contemporary GP motorcycles and F1 race cars…”

If you like high-performance three-wheelers, see this and if you like weird three-wheelers, see this

Forget the GTI - this is the best thing VW (n)ever made!

Beastly: 2007 Ducati Monster S4R Testastretta

That L-twin packs 130bhp, so watch out!

The Monster is getting more powerful as it grows older. The 2007 Monster S4R Testastretta gets Ducati’s 130 horsepower, 4-valve-per-cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled, 998cc Testastretta L-twin engine (whew!), which was earlier available only with the S4Rs Testastretta. Twin mufflers, tubular trellis chassis, single-sided swingarm, and the mini fairing continue as before, but two new paint schemes – titanium and red – will be offered.

The suspension also gets an upgrade, with the 43mm Showa USD front forks and Sachs rear shock absorber now being fully adjustable. Ride height at the back, which can be an important factor for changing a bike’s handling characteristics, is also adjustable on the 2007 Ducati Monster S4R Testastretta. The new bike will be available by early October this year.

A Ducati Monster tribute video

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's first ride report here

A Buell video shows what these bikes are capable of!