Saturday, August 18, 2007

Honda CBR600RR wins Cycle World's 'Best 2007 Middleweight' Award

Light, nimble and fast. Right now, the CBR600RR is the best middleweight sportsbike around...

Cycle World magazine have announced their ten best motorcycles of 2007, and the Honda CBR600RR has come out on top as the 'Best 2007 Middleweight' bike. Says Cycle World, 'All who rode Big Red’s new middleweight came away impressed, so much so that it edged out last year’s winner, the still-spectacular Triumph 675. As a streetbike it can do no wrong. The engine cranks out impressive horsepower and is tractable all the way down in the rev-range basement. Handling has been improved dramatically, aided in part by a 16-pound drop in weight and radical new chassis geometry.' Here, we'll note that the CBR600RR also won Bike magazine's '2007 Bike of the Year' award recently.

Cycle World reckon the Duke 1098 is better than a GSX-R1000, Fireblade, R1 or ZX-10. They might be right

Cycle World have given their 'Best 2007 Superbike' award to the Ducati 1098. 'Visually respectful of the iconic 916 and packing a new racing-derived Testastretta Evoluzione engine more than capable of running with the Japanese Fours, the 1098 is the most significant sportsbike of 2007,' they say.

The big and bad ZZR1400 wins CW's best 2007 open streetbike. Rightly so

Finally, the 'Best 2007 Open Streetbike' award goes to the mighty Kawasaki ZZR1400 (ZX-14 in the US). Says Cycle World, 'Despite sophisticated electronics that soften power delivery in the bottom four gears, only the steamiest open-class racer-replicas are as quick in the quarter-mile and nothing – repeat, nothing – posts a higher top speed. Dual counterbalancers all but eliminate engine vibration, and the seating position and suspension calibration fall somewhere between hard-edged sportbike and long-haul sport-tourer.'

Go here for the full list and descriptions of the Cycle World 2007 Top 10 motorcycles.

Update: Can the CBR600RR match up to the 2008 Yamaha R6?

Also see:
How good is your lid?
Blow away: Supercharged Kawasaki ZRX1200
Now available: Benelli Tre-K 1130 Amazon
Dirtbike-based 450cc roadracers...
Casey Stoner unveils so-called 'Motorcycle of the Future'
Pipe dreams: Yoshimura exhausts for 2007 superbikes

Friday, August 17, 2007

Colin Edwards: “Valentino Rossi's very undercover, foxy, sly...”

No.46, Valentino Rossi. The greatest motorcycle racer ever? Probably

'Unbeatable superheroes only exist in movies. Real life is different,' said Valentino Rossi at the end of the 2006 MotoGP season, when he lost the world championship to Nicky Hayden. That statement has come back to haunt him this year. While Hayden is nowhere in the picture this time around, it's Casey Stoner who's been giving Rossi hell. Things have gone far enough to make people wonder if Stoner is indeed the new Rossi, and whether Rossi has enough talent to win despite Stoner.

While the Stoner vs Rossi debate rages on, noted motorcycle journalist, Mat Oxley has gone ahead and asked some people – people who should know Rossi very well – to speak out and say what they really think of Rossi. These people are Ohlins suspension specialist Mike Norton, Rossi's teammate Colin Edwards, 2006 MotoGP world champ Nicky Hayden, Rossi's crew chief Jeremy Burgess and finally, Giacomo Agostini himself. Here's some of what they had to say...

Colin Edwards: "Rossi doesn't get enough credit for how hard he works..."

Colin Edwards: “My assessment of Valentino is that he's like a 16-year-old who never grew up. He looks at riding a motorcycle like my daughter looks at riding her bicycle – it's something fun to do. It's a bit different to the approach of most guys on the grid who are maybe gritty, hard faced and determined. Valentino has got all that – he just has a different way of showing it. He goes out there and enjoys the battle.

I've never really felt like he gets enough credit for how hard he works – there's always that myth that he always has the best bikes and so on. I don't think many people realise how hard he works – there's no in-between, he does it all to the max. He's also very clever. How would you say it... he's sly! He's very undercover, foxy, sly. It's cool. He's not real blatant about some of the mind games. But on the track, he's pretty vicious!

Something he's really good at is recovering from mistakes. When he makes the kind of mistake that would have most people sliding on their asses into the gravel, he seems to somehow gather it back. Like Donington 2004, that really wet race. I locked up the front a couple of times and it scared the shit out of me, so I was cruising with the pack. The next thing you know, he just pisses off. Later, I looked at his data and it was scary – Valentino was locking the front in the rain on a shitty track that was slicker than snot! Every other corner, he just had it locked! The guy's crazy!”

Giacomo Agostini. Has won more world championships than the number of fingers you have on both your hands!

Giacomo Agostini: “It's something inside and it's difficult to find the reason. In Italian, we say regalo dalla natura. It's a gift from nature. It's the same with Valentino, Hailwood, Barry Sheene or Michael Schumacher.”

Nicky Hayden, the man who ended Rossi's championship winning streak and took away his crown in 2006

Nicky Hayden: “I can't say it's just his approach that makes him good. But regardless of whatever he does, he definitely gets around the track fast, which is what's most important! Once you're in the garage, that dude is so serious, so focused. Everything seems perfect, right down to the windscreen sticker and the colour of his boots. He doesn't overlook anything and I think that's a big part of it.

More than anything, it's the racer in him that makes him so strong. It's obvious the guy wants to win. He's got a lot of natural talent but I know a lot of guys with natural talent and it gets some guys in trouble. It's the whole package that makes him strong – the desire, the focus, the talent.

I think sometimes, maybe he's not as laidback as he comes across. He knows what to say and when to say it, to make it look like things aren't really getting to him. He knows how to play it, on the bike and off the bike. Him and Burgess haven't won all those titles just through his riding. They know how to play people, they know how to play their cards, when to show their hand, when not to show their hand. I don't think [Rossi] plays as many games as some of the other guys. You don't need to play a lot of games when you can ride like that.

On the track, sure he's aggressive. But he's totally clean and he definitely has a lot of tactics. I'd say that his biggest strength is that he can adapt. It's not just braking or corner speed or this or that. I'd just say when he's in a rhythm and putting those laps down, he can break a guy. He doesn't ride at 95 percent – he rides on that razor edge for a long time...”

Rossi's crew chief, Jeremy Burgess. Doesn't mince words. Hard man to please

Jeremy Burgess: “He enjoys his job. As for talent, guys like Valentino have a very special ability to process information, so they can correct mistakes as they're happening, before we would even realise we've made a mistake. It's the ability to process information so fast and so accurately that makes all the difference.”

Mike Norton:Valentino's very good because he's very methodical. He doesn't dwell on problems. He's very black and white, very clinical. It's very rare that he can't tell you what's going on, but when he can't, he'll say so.”

Also see:
The 2007 MotoGP season: Race reports and hi-res wallpaper
Kevin Schwantz interviews Valentino Rossi!
Rossi responds to charges of tax evasion...
Fast past: Gary Nixon rides the 990cc Kawasaki ZX-RR
Road Racer X: In conversation with John Hopkins
Quarantasei: Valentino Rossi, Milo Manara style...
Rossi vs Pedrosa. What happened?
Rossi vs Stoner? Where's the truth?

Kevin Schwantz interviews Valentino Rossi!

No.34 grills No.46... :-)

1993 world champ in the 500cc class and one of the greatest motorcycle racers from the 1980s and early-1990s, Kevin Schwantz recently had the opportunity to interview Valentino Rossi. The interview was arranged by Motociclismo and here we have a few excerpts (translated from Spanish to English) from the conversation:

Kevin Schwantz: What differences do you see between Yamaha and Honda? Not only from the point of view of the bikes, but also what it's like to ride for different companies. This question comes from personal curiosity, because I have never run with either of them…

Valentino Rossi: I do not know how the situation is now, but when I ran for Honda, I had the feeling that despite being the rider, my word was not very important. When I suggested an improvement, the factory would say 'yes, we already know it.' They feel their bikes are the best and do not listen to what the rider says. The only thing that matters is three Honda riders in first three positions!

Yamaha are more... normal! The rider is more important and is given an opportunity to do things his way. You tell Yamaha what you want and they do it. Of course, you must then also gets results. But at least they listen to you, and that's important for me. If this were not the case, I may have lost my motivation by now.

KS: So how long do you think you'll be with Yamaha?

VR: I don't know. I have a contract with Yamaha for this year and the next one. Soon, I will decide what I want to do after that. I think I have the potential to remain in MotoGP for another two years, but whether to stay with Yamaha or move [after 2008], I still have not decided.

KS: What happens once you're done with MotoGP?

VR: I would like to have a shot at car racing. I think that it's possible, and I have always enjoyed driving cars. I even have a great passion for rallies and circuit racing. It won't be the same as motorcycle racing, but... I do not know. I must find something. But at this moment, I do not have any clear idea.

Get the full interview on Motociclismo.

Also see:
Kevin Schwantz talks to Faster and Faster!
The Sultan of Slide: Freddie Spencer!
Down memory lane: John Surtees
Stephanie Sheene talks about Barry...
Valentino Rossi talks about Loris Capirossi
Remembering the 1981 500cc world champ, Marco Lucchinelli
An interview with five-time 500cc world champ, Mick Doohan

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Face off! Get a proper lid...

...and the next minute, you don't have a face anymore!

If you still aren't wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle - or wearing a crappy open-face helmet like the one here - these pictures might prompt you to do the right thing and get you to buy a proper, full-face, high-quality lid. And while you are at it, also watch this absolutely amazing, mind-blowing video. Riding a 600bhp turbocharged ZZR1400 fitted with nitrous, with one of your hands tied behind your back and with your eyes blindfolded, will probably be slightly less scary...

No, this Sparco helmet won't do on a bike

Yamaha TZR50: Mite is right

Okay, so it only has 2.5bhp, but that should be fine for 13 year olds...

Want a high-performance Yamaha but not old enough yet to buy an R1? Well, Yamaha's legendary TZR250s and 125s have been killed off due to emission norms, but you could still get a TZR50! It has what Yamaha call 'a hungry two-stroke engine and a sweet six-speed gearbox.' You also get disc brakes front and rear, and headlamps that are styled to look like the R1's.

With a compression ratio of 11.5:1, the little TZR50's 49.7cc, liquid-cooled two-stroke engine makes 2.5 horsepower at 6500rpm and 2.9Nm of torque at 5500. There's electric start and the fuel tank will take in almost 14 litres of fuel. And the bike only weighs 114kg, dry. For people who grew up riding Yamaha RDs and who are now buying a first bike for their kids, the TZR50 should be worth looking at...

Download the Yamaha TZR50 brochure (PDF file) here.

Also see:
Yamaha EC-02: The future of two-wheeled transport?
Supercharged scooter: Peugeot Satelis 125 Compressor!
2006 MotoGP world champ, Nicky Hayden gets down to scooter testing!
The feisty little Gilera Storm 50...
Malaguti Phantom F12 R Capirex: Loris Capirossi tribute
David vs Goliath: KTM 125 GP racer vs Suzuki GSX-R1000!

Valentino Rossi: 'I'm being crucified...!'

Rossi says he's done no wrong, evaded no taxes

Rossi, who's currently being investigated by Italian authorities for alleged tax evasion, has finally responded and is making his stand very clear. The MotoGP superstar insists he's done no wrong and says he's been 'condemned before the right checks have been carried out.'

Says Rossi, 'I've been crucified and condemned even before any of the necessary checks have been carried out, as is often the case. I have been living in London for seven years, not a Disney city or a tax paradise on a small island. I chose London because I like the city, and for the demands of my occupation. It's clear to me that I've been exploited, probably because Italian taxes don't work in the same way as taxes in other countries like England. However, I think the authorities should resolve that difference amongst themselves rather than taking it out on me.'

He's had his troubles this year, but Rossi will be back!

So how does Rossi think this whole sorry episode is going to end? He says, 'The professionals who handle my income declarations have assured me that they respected the rules, as I have always asked them to do. This story will be over very soon.'

Also see:
Fast Past: Gary Nixon rides the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR
200mph in 1956: NSU 500 Kompressor!
In conversation with John Hopkins...
Rossi vs Stoner. Or is it Michelin vs Bridgestone?
Dani Pedrosa: 2007 MotoGP season not going right...

Casey Stoner unveils 'Motorcycle of the Future' design concept

Tim Cameron's latest - is this the future of motorcycling?

Given his newfound celebrity status, we suppose Casey Stoner will be 'launching' and 'unveiling' various things this year. One such recent unveiling was that of Tim Cameron's (the man responsible for the amazing V-Rex) newest machine, the 'Swann Insurance Motorcycle of the Future' concept.

The high-tech bike is supposed to be safer than current motorcycles, harder to steal and cheaper to repair. And with features like traction control, tip-over warning device, tyre pressure indicators, blind spot warning sensors, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, and half a dozen other gizmos, it sure does look like a peek into the future of motorcycling.

More details on the Drive website here and on the Tim Cameron Design website here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fast singles: Dirtbike-based 450cc road racers

Roland Sands speaks about the single-cylinder 450cc road racer concept
To keep costs low, engine, chassis and swingarm have to be stock items...

Gavin Trippe, a key figure in promoting motorcycle racing in the US in the 1970s and 80s, has now come up with a new (?) proposition – converting single-cylinder dirtbikes into road racers. The idea is to take bikes like the Honda CRF450X and the Yamaha WR450F, use the standard engine, swingarm and chassis, add wheels, tyres and suspension components suited to road racing and there you are – low cost road racers for people on a budget.

Along with Trippe, noted specials builders Roland Sands and Troy Lee have also been drafted in to help out with this project and handle the design and fabrication work. Together, the three of them have worked to keep costs low – the aim is to start a new race series for these single-cylinder 450cc machines, which would be far more affordable than four-cylinder 600s.

Road Racer X recently interviewed Trippe, who says, ‘The 450 is really the workhorse engine of everything – motocross, off-road, supermoto, and the rest of it. The purpose [of creating these road racers] is, instead of seeing who can build the fastest motorcycle, to create a test of rider. You can’t buy the right wrist!’

Trippe thinks a single-cylinder 450cc class would be perfect for beginners. He says, ‘A class like this would get the basics down. I think it’s got a lot of validity, purely because it helps you learn to road race – sorting out corner speed, braking and exits. It isn’t going to blow past a 250cc pure road racer, but it’s going to be highly competitive; it gets the basics down.’

Get the full interview on the Road Racer X website here and visit Trippe’s blog here.

Also see:
Yamaha WRF450 vs Subaru Impreza WRX STi
Troy Lee creates the Honda CRF450-based 'Canyon Chaser'
Roland Sands and Kenny Roberts build the KRV5 Boardtracker
Team Cristofolini build 350cc, 112bhp racing scooter!!
Shelby and Rucker's 150bhp chopper...
Lazareth Motorcycles' cool customs
Tim Cameron's amazing V-Rex!
Going mad: A V8, 1000 horsepower motorcycle!
From Belgium: The Krugger Goodwood

Video: The 2007 World Stunt Riding Championship

Wheelie. Stoppie. Repeat...

The video is from the 2007 World Stunt Riding Championship, held in Kaposvar, Hungary. The stunts are probably nothing that you haven't seen before. And nothing that you wouldn't want to see more of. Watch the video and you'll wish you could ride like these guys...

Also see:
Could you learn to live without bikes?
The 2007 Cannonball Bike Run...
Trial without error: Dougie Lampkin
Chris Pfeiffer: Stunt-riding the BMW HP2!
And the best loved naked in Italy is...?
Motorcyclists: Will you listen to this please?
Lightning Motors' battery-powered Yamaha R1!
Suzuki RM-Z450: First fuel-injected motocrosser
Serious performance: The 2008 Buell 1125R

Piega 1000: The rebirth of Mondial

The Mondial Piega 1000. Japanese engine, Italian style and craftsmanship. Best of both sportsbike worlds...?

Pics courtsey Motoblog

The Mondial Piega 1000 is powered by the same liquid-cooled, 8-valve, 999cc, 140 horsepower v-twin that you’ll find in a Honda RVT1000 RC51 SP2. Which, right away, tells you something about the bike. If Honda are supplying them with their engines, Mondial bikes must be something special, eh?

Mondial, an Italian company based in Bologna was very active in the 125cc and 250cc grand prix motorcycle racing classes in the 1950s, and even helped Honda break into the racing scene. Today, Honda are repaying the favour by supplying them with engines for Mondial’s road-going superbike, the Piega 1000.

While the engines come from Honda, the chassis has been engineered by Mondial – the tubular trellis frame (made of chromium-molybdenum-vanadium alloy) is light and stiff and is said to provide excellent handling. Paioli USD front forks, Öhlins rear shock, and Brembo brakes complete the package. Various carbonfibre bits help keep the Piega’s weight down to 179 kilos, which further helps performance – top speed is said to be around 265km/h.

The 1951 Mondial Bilabero

Back in 2005, bike journalist Alan Cathcart interviewed Andrew Wright, the British-born American businessman who heads Mondial these days. Wright acquired the rights to the Mondial name in 2004, from one Roberto Ziletti, who in turn had bought the rights from the Boselli family, the founders of Mondial, back in 1999.

It was Ziletti, himself a hardcore motorcycle enthusiast, who had swung a deal with Honda for the RC51 engines and even set up a brand-new factory at Arcore, in Italy, for manufacturing the Piega. However, due to troubles with his other businesses, Ziletti had to walk away from Mondial, and Wright – an ex-superbike racer who used to ride Ducatis – ended up buying the rights to the Mondial name from him.

Speaking to Cathcart, Wright said, ‘I looked at Mondial to see if it was viable, and concluded that it wasn’t – the prices were too expensive, it didn’t have a proper distribution network, the organisation of the factory was very poor, and production was sporadic. But I was convinced the product was a very good one which just needed to be properly manufactured, and professionally marketed, especially with Mondial having such a long history and a famous sporting pedigree. I spent quite some time with Count Boselli, the son of the owner, and his main interest is that Mondial should survive, rather than be split up and sold off and disappear for ever…’

For a fascinating insight into the rebirth of Mondial, and the full interview, go here.

Also see:
V-Roehr 1130: Born in the USA!
Memorable: The Bimota YB11
Ron Haslam's tips for riding on the track
Memorable: The Laverda 750 Formula S
Benelli: Staying alive...
From Japan: Moto Corse 1098AC
CR&S Vun: Single, naked, Italian...
Nine reasons to love the Suzuki Burgman!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NSU 500 Kompressor: 200mph in 1956!

Hermann Mueller, aboard the 250cc NSU Sportmax

More than a 100 years ago, in a small town called Neckarsulm, in Germany, Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (NSU) were making knitting machines and bicycles. They quickly moved ahead with technology though, and by 1905, they were already making a liquid-cooled single-cylinder motorcycle with swing-arm rear suspension and belt drive! By the 1930s, NSU were heavily into motorcycle racing and were making bikes with 500cc, 750cc and even 1000cc four-stroke v-twin engines.

During WW-1, along with other German motorcycle companies like BMW and Zundapp, NSU also made various kinds of motorcycle-based military vehicles, including the famous Kettenkrad. After the war, NSU resumed production of street and racing motorcycles, of which the 125cc Rennfox and the 250cc Rennmax were especially successful racing machines. Hermann P Mueller was the last rider to win a 250cc world championship aboard a 250cc NSU racing bike, the Sportmax.

The 1956 NSU 500 Kompressor. Top speed, 339km/h!

However, the one NSU which absolutely fascinates us is their 500cc supercharged machine, on which Wilhelm Herz hit 290km/h in the year 1951 – an absolute top speed record for bikes at that time. Later, in 1956, Herz again rode the NSU 500 Kompressor, pushing the top speed record to 338.99km/h this time. The stage was thus set for modern-day Hayabusas and ZZR1400s…

Also see:
Suzuki GSX-R1100 vs Kawasaki Ninja ZZR1100
Faster and faster: Turbo Hayabusa!
Limited edition MV Agusta F4 CC
Down memory lane: Cagiva 500 GP racer
The mighty Honda NSR500
That '70s show: The Laverda V6 racer!
Awesome: The 1950s Moto Guzzi V8

Monday, August 13, 2007

Now available: The Benelli Tre-K 1130 Amazon

The Benelli Tre-K 1130 Amazon. A bit heavy, but proper off-road stuff...

The dual-purpose Benelli Tre-K 1130 Amazon, which we first spoke of back in January this year, has finally gone on sale. With 19-inch (front) and 17-inch (rear) wheels, Metzeler Endurance rubber, and multi-adjustable suspension at both ends – Sachs monoshock at the back and USD Marzocchi forks at the front – the Amazon seems suitably equipped to handle rough terrain.

The engine is a well-tested 1130cc, three-cylinder, 120 horsepower unit which also does duty on various other Benelli bikes and is supposed to be very reliable. We think the bike looks good, though at about US$18,000 the price seems to be a bit steep. Still, the BMW R1200GS finally has an Italian rival!

More details and pics soon. Or visit the official Benelli website here.

Also see:
The Duel: Yamaha WRF450 vs Subaru Impreza WRX STi!
New bikes from MV Agusta in 2008...
Honda V4 revival in 2008-09?
Stylish new 125s from Derbi...
Memorable: The Moto Guzzi V8
Wunderlich WR2: A more focused BMW HP2
Coming soon: The KTM RC4 690

External links:
Cycle World: 2007 Benelli Tre-K first ride
The best way to keep your Benelli clean... ;-D

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fast Past: Gary Nixon rides the Kawasaki ZX-RR

The 2006, 990cc, 240bhp Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR. Below (left) Gary Nixon and (right) the mid-1970s Kawasaki KR750 which Nixon used to race...

 It’s often said that most of today’s motorcycle racers are not ‘hard’ enough to have raced in the 1960s and 70s. With tyre / brakes / suspension technologies lagging behind power outputs, and no electronic wizardry to help riders control their machines, motorcycle racing in that era was certainly very different from what it is now. But how would it be if a racer from that period got to grips with a modern-day MotoGP machine?

Motorcycle Cruiser have an answer to that question. They’ve done this feature where legendary American racer from the 1960s/70s, Gary Nixon gets to have a go on a 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR. Nixon, now about 65 years old, won the Daytona 200 in 1967 and AMA Grand National Championships in 1967 and 68.

Shinya Nakano and the 2006 Kawasaki ZX-RR MotoGP machine are the only reasons why we've posted this pic here. Honest...

The last bike Nixon raced was a mid-1970s Kawasaki KR750, a two-stroke Formula 750 beast with a wild, three-cylinder 750cc engine. The bike weighed about 140kg and with 120 horsepower on tap, top speed was close to 280km/h. The 2006 ZX-RR MotoGP machine has a 990cc, four-stroke engine that makes 240 horsepower. Top speed is 320km/h.

So what does Nixon think of the ZX-RR? He says that a Yamaha R1 which he recently rode, feels like a minibike compared with the MotoGP Kawasaki. ‘The guys that race these bikes aren't just from different countries, they're from a different planet! Anyone involved in this scene – especially journalists – should ride one of these bikes before they write about the guys that race them,’ he says...


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