Saturday, December 30, 2006

Faster and Faster: The Best of 2006

As the year 2006 comes to an end, it’s time for the
Faster and Faster Best of 2006 Awards
Here we go...

Kawasaki ZZR1400: 200bhp. 320km/h. Best open-class sportsbike of 2006

Best open-class sportsbike
Kawasaki have had a tradition of building some of the fastest, most powerful motorcycles in the world. Remember the H1, Z1, GPZ750 Turbo, GPZ900, ZXR750, ZZR1100 and the ZX-12R? The ZX-12R, which packs 165 horsepower, can easily hit 280km/h. Kawasaki decided that was not enough, so they launched the ZZR1400, which packs 197 horsepower and does top speeds of 320km/h. It also looks awesome and handles well for its size and weight. In our book, it’s the best open class sportsbike of 2006. Suzuki, now are you going to build that six-cylinder, 1100cc, 210bhp Hayabusa in 2008…?

Suzuki GSX-R1000: The best litre-class sportsbike of 2006

Best litre-class sportsbike
It’s got to be the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Small, light, nimble, and hugely powerful, the mega Gixxer continued to redefine the modern-day 1000cc superbike. The 2007 model will have more power, various chassis and suspension tweaks and even traction control, but the 2006 GSX-R1000 actually looks better. Yeah, it’s the best litre-class superbike of 2006, though the all-new Yamaha R1 is waiting to snatch away its glory in 2007!

Triumph Daytona 675: The best middleweight sportsbike of 2006

Best middleweight sportsbike
It was tough deciding between the Triumph Daytona 675 and the Suzuki GSX-R750, but the 675 won out in the end. The bike, with its sharp and distinctive looks, powerful three cylinder engine, and superb handling, offers a package that few can ignore. It’s got enough of everything – power, performance, handling, style, attitude – but doesn’t overwhelm you with extreme ergonomics or scary acceleration/top speeds. Right then, the Triumph 675, which also won the 2006 International Bike of the Year award, was the best middleweight sportsbike in 2006. But Triumph definitely need to watch out for the new Honda CBR600RR and Kawasaki ZX-6R in 2007.

MV Agusta F41000R: The best styled sportsbike of 2006

Best styled sportsbike
The MV Agusta F41000R, of course. Massimo Tamburini has created a motorcycle just refuses to be bested in terms of styling and sheer, gorgeous street presence. There are bikes that are lighter, more powerful and faster, but when it comes to a motorcycle making you stop and just stare at it in complete silence, the MV is still at the top. And 300km/h should be enough for anyone anyway. No discussion, no debate and no arguments – the MV Agusta F41000R was the best styled sportsbike in 2006.

Aprilia Tuono R: The best streetfighter of 2006

Best streetfighter
Again, no surprises here – it’s the Aprilia Tuono R, though the Triumph Speed Triple is a very close second. With its mix of aggressive and beautifully proportionate styling, stonking V-twin engine, and high-spec chassis and suspension bits, the Tuono R is one hell of a machine for those who want the ultimate in sportsbike performance, but can’t be bothered with racebike-style fairings and extreme ergonomics. The Tuono R was indeed the best streetfighter in 2006, though it will have some stiff competition from the KTM 990 Superduke R and the BMW HP2 Megamoto in 2007.

Honda VFR800: The best sportstourer of 2006

Best sportstourer
It’s our old favourite – the Honda VFR800, which just about edged out the BMW K1200S by a narrow margin. Yes, the BMW is more powerful, quicker and faster, but the VFR, with its 800cc VTEC V-four, still does it right for us. Superb ergonomics, manageable heft, deft handling and adequate power mean that the smooth, refined VFR still ticks all the boxes. And now that the earlier glitches in the VTEC system have been ironed out, it’s better than ever before. The VFR800 was the best sportstourer in 2006, but with the imminent arrival of the Kawasaki 1400GTR, its position may be threatened in 2007-08.

Gilera Fuoco 500: The funkiest, coolest off-beat bike of 2006

Funkiest, coolest off-beat bike
It’s a scooter! Yeah, we quite love the Gilera Fuoco 500 (and the Piaggio MP3 on which it’s based). With its three wheels, super-funky styling and sporty handling and performance, the Fuoco 500 has the style, panache and cool of a proper Italian machine. And we absolutely love it for that.

Ducati Desmosedici RR: The most desirable bike of 2006

The most desirable bike
The most desirable motorcycle in 2006 was also from Italy. What could possibly be more desirable than parking a proper MotoGP replica in your garage, and the Ducati Desmosedici RR is just that. The Desmosedici’s MotoGP-spec 989cc L4 makes 205 horsepower and can propel the 165-kilo bike to speeds in excess of 320km/h. And the bike’s styling is so utterly, madly, beautifully gorgeous, it’s beyond us to say anything about it. The Desmo RR may cost US$65,000 but we’d do anything to get our hands on one.

And that's it, ladies and gentlemen, for 2006. Hope you have an absolute blast and wish you a very happy new year. See you in 2007!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New type of cat-con could make life easier for motorcyclists

The sound of silence: Too quiet, too heavy and too restrictive...

Our absolute no.1 favourite litre-class superbike is the svelte, sweet handling, and hugely powerful 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000. The 2007 machine may have a basic iteration of traction control, but the shape of the headlamp and the graphics on the bodywork leave something to be desired. Also, the 2007 GSX-R1000 has two unsightly exhaust cans (one on either side) in place of the single-sided unit on the 2006 bike.

Not that Suzuki are to blame though. Increasingly strict emission norms mean more catalytic converters choking up our bikes’ exhaust systems. Which, in turn, means heavier, more complex and more expensive exhausts which offer reduced performance – no wonder we hate cat-cons!

While it doesn’t look like there’s an immediate solution to this problem, things could change in the next 3 – 4 years. FCC, a Japanese company in which Honda are major shareholders, are working on a new type of catalytic converter which would be made from paper, mixed with platinum and other exotic metals.

This cat-con will be very lightweight, relatively inexpensive and yet adhere to stringent emission norms without big losses in power and performance. Work is already in progress, and the FCC cat-con could possibly go on sale by 2010. Cool!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Get ready for the KTM RC8!

If you can see this in your rear-view mirror, something orange is going to fly past you soon...

KTM most definitely are on a roll. They have recently shown some awesome new bikes that are packed with power, performance, aggression and bad-boy attitude. And the best is yet to come. Yeah, we’re talking about the RC8 superbike, which KTM have been working on for the last two years.

Given the kind of off-road/dual-purpose machines that KTM have been building, the road-going RC8 (which will most likely be powered by a 990cc or a 1150cc V-twin, and pack more than 160 horsepower…) won’t upset any existing superbike hierarchies. No, it’ll just tear them up, pour some petrol on them and put them on fire. Yup, it’ll kick arse, good and proper. And now KTM have gone and put up a little website for this bike. Have a look at

The KTM RC8 should offer a radical new take on litre-class performance. Watch out, Japan and Italy!

Also see:
Nitroduke: The world's fastest KTM!
KTM 950 Super Enduro R
2007 KTM 690 Supermoto
2007 KTM 990 Superduke R
X-Bow: Radical new sportster from KTM

Long Way Round. Again. And again...

Biker Boyz: These two are going the long way again. Cool!

Though they’ve already been around the world on their BMW R1200GS motorcycles, Brits Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman are getting ready to take off again. The two are planning two more trips – each of which, we’re sure, will again be turned into a television series. Which is a good thing, since we hugely enjoyed the original Long Way Round saga…

In 2007, Ewan and Charlie will ride from London to Cape Town, and the trip will be called Long Way Down. That will be followed by Long Way Up, where the two will ride from Argentina to the United States.

Like with Long Way Round, the riders will have a full back-up team of camera crews and mechanics and other support people, and yeah, we’re sure there’ll be some who’ll diss the whole thing because of that. As for us, we’re just plain envious. How we wish we could give up our jobs, break out of the office cubicle, fire up our bikes and ride off into the sunset…

Phase Change Material: The next level in rider apparel development?

Blowing hot and cold? You need PCM jackets then. And you can buy 'em from BMW...

The textile technology department of the widely respected Indian Institute of Technology has announced that it has developed a new ‘phase change’ material, which may be used for making motorcycling jackets and trousers in the near future. PCM (phase change material) jackets will be able to absorb heat when it gets too hot, keeping the rider cool. And when it gets too cold, the jacket will be able to release stored heat, keeping the rider warm!

Sounds too good to be true? Well, BMW are already offering PCM clothing. Part of the 2007 BMW Motorrad rider equipment collection, BMW’s PhaseChange undersuit uses Schoeller PCM in its construction. This PCM consists of microcapsules of Paraffin that react to changes in the rider’s body temperature, as well as the ambient temperature. And by storing/releasing heat as described above, the material allows the rider to maintain a uniformly comfortable body temperature, regardless of weather conditions.

Prices for the two-piece PhaseChange suit are US$140 for the trousers and US$120 for the jacket. For more details, try going to