Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dual-purpose Duel: 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere vs Honda Transalp XL700V vs the others…


The 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. Love that face, eh?
It’s powered by a simple single-cylinder engine and it’s essentially just a big old trail-bike, but the 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere sure looks flash. For those who are given to fantasizing about the Paris-Dakar rally-raid, the new XT660Z is certainly the hot ticket right now. And while the Tenere’s moody, funky styling will definitely get the neighbours’ attention, the bike also seems to pack enough substance to actually see you through a trans-continental journey or two if that’s what you fancy.

The 2008 XT660Z Tenere is fitted with a 660cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC, four-valve, single-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed gearbox. The steel tube cradle chassis is all-new, and suspension components – aluminium swingarm with monoshock, and long-travel front forks – have been optimized for on- and off-road use. Dual-purpose tyres are used and the brakes are Brembo units – twin 298mm discs at the front and single 245mm disc at the back ensure that the bike has adequate stopping power. Together with the long-range 22-litre fuel tank, tall screen, and plush, well-padded seat, Long Way Round-style journeys shouldn’t be a problem on the XT660Z!

The 20-year-old Honda Transalp gets a major makeover for 2008...
Of course, the Yamaha isn’t the only option you have – there’s also the 2008 Honda Transalp XL700V. It’s been around for the last two decades, but Honda have substantially revised the bike for 2008. The ‘new’ Transalp is fitted with a steel tube chassis and a Euro III compliant, 680cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve V-twin that makes 60 horsepower – just about adequate for this 214-kilo (about 25kg more than the Tenere…) machine.

Brakes are twin 256mm discs up front and single 240mm disc at the back – ABS is optional. Suspension is Honda’s Pro-Link adjustable monoshock at the back and 41mm telescopic fork at the front. The rear wheel is a 17-inch units, while the 19-inch front makes the Transalp’s off-road intent clear.

Don't want the XT660Z or the Transalp? BMW and KTM have other bikes for you!
Not happy with the Honda and the Yamaha, and can’t afford an R1200GS? No problem, you have more bikes to choose from. There’s the BMW G650 XCountry dual-purpose machine, and the G650 XChallenge, if you want something more off-road oriented. Both are powered by a lightened, retuned variant of the BMW F650 engine – a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 652cc unit that makes 53bhp.

The XChallenge runs 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, wearing dirt-oriented tyres, and is the lighter of the two. The XCountry rides on 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, shod with dual-purpose rubber. ABS, which the rider can switch off when it’s not needed, is available as an optional extra. The bikes’ suspension is tuned and fettled according to their positioning, and according to most road tests worldwide, both are capable machines in their own way.

Finally, for those who want something lighter, funkier, radical and even more off-road oriented – but something that’s only suitable for shorter journeys as compared with the XT660Z or the Transalp – there’s the 2008 KTM 690 Enduro. The bike is fitted with KTM’s 654cc, fuel-injected, single-cylinder ‘LC4’ engine, which makes 65bhp. The chassis is chrome-molybdenum tubular space frame, and the bike gets a one-piece, aluminium die-cast swingarm, and WP suspension components – 48mm USD fork at front, fully adjustable monoshock at the rear, with a Pro-Lever linkage system. As you’d expect, the bike has been optimized for outstanding off-road performance, but isn’t suitable for street use or longer-distance riding. For that, you'll want to check out the KTM 690 SMR.

Which one would we take? A GSX-R1000!! Er… okay, for its styling alone, we’d have the Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. And our choice is helped by the fact that its single-cylinder engine would be supremely reliable and the bike’s ergos look just right for that Long Way Round trip of our own… 


As you can see from this pic - taken during the 1992 Paris Dakar Rally - choosing the right bike is important. Not everybody can handle a Cagiva Elefant... :-D

Australian MotoGP: Stoner takes ninth win of the season at Philip Island


Despite the Barry Sheene colours, Chris Vermeulen could only finish in 8th place...

...while Casey Stoner, of course, won the race. Rossi took third place (behind Capirossi), while Hayden had to retire because of engine trouble

No surprises in Australia – as is usual now, Casey Stoner led from start to finish, and won the race by a huge margin. This was his ninth victory of the 2007 MotoGP season! After a late charge, Loris Capirossi finished in second place, while Rossi took third. Dani Pedrosa, who seemed to be struggling a bit with some tyre trouble, finished in fourth place and Alex Barros took a very creditable fifth.


Barros finished in fifth place, Capirossi took second spot and Pedrosa took fourth

At the start, it was Stoner, followed by Hayden, Pedrosa and Rossi. Initially, The Kentucky Kid seemed to be having one of his better races of this season as he went after Stoner with a vengeance. But while the ex-world champ never did manage to catch up with Casey, it was Rossi who got past Pedrosa and caught up with Nicky. And very soon, it was game up for no.69 as his Repsol Honda expired, leaving a very furious Hayden stranded beside the track.


Rossi wanted to 'Storm the Island,' which he could not - this is Stoner's year after all!

In the meanwhile, Stoner made his break and disappeared while The Doctor, Pedrosa and Melandri had a bit of a dog-fight between themselves. Rossi managed to stay ahead of the other two, who passed and re-passed each other a couple of times before Melandri finally got left behind. Towards the end, Capirossi decided to join the fray and came streaming past Pedrosa and Rossi – the duo could do little but watch Capirossi disappear into the distance.


Hayden, who seemed to be having a good race, was furious when he had to retire due to engine failure. And Hopkins could only finish down in seventh place...

Chris Vermeulen, who was racing in special Barry Sheene tribute colours, managed to finish in eighth place, while his teammate John Hopkins did better, taking seventh. Kawasaki’s Randy de Puniet took sixth, while Colin Edwards in ninth and Melandri in tenth rounded off the top ten positions on Philip Island.

Also see:
2007 MotoGP race reports, features, interviews and hi-res wallpaper
The hottest, fastest Aussie on two wheels is...?
220bhp V4 Aprilia in WSBK next year!
2008 KTM 690 sportsbike range
2008 Suzuki GSX-R750 and GSX-R600 pics and details
Jeremy Burgess talks about MotoGP, Rossi and Doohan!


Two decades ago, it was another Aussie - Wayne Gardner - who ruled motorcycle racing. He won the 500cc world championship in 1987. Faster and Faster spoke to Wayne Gardner last year - see here

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MotoGP: Barry Sheene livery for Vermeulen’s Suzuki in Australia


Chris Vermeulen will run this special livery on his bike at the Australian MotoGP

(Left) Vermeulen with his one-off Suzuki GSV-R, (centre) Barry Sheene's son, Freddie sitting on the bike and (right) Barry Sheene's original 1977 Suzuki RG500 XR22!

Rizla Suzuki rider, Chris Vermeulen will pay homage to his hero and mentor – Barry Sheene – at the upcoming Australian MotoGP at the Philip Island circuit this Sunday. Vermeulen’s GSV-R will sport a special, one-off paintjob that’s inspired by Barry Sheene’s mid-1970s Suzuki GP racebike. To go with this, Vermeulen will also wear a retro-style riding suit and helmet to match.


Thirty years ago: Sheene (bike no.7) riding his Suzuki RG500

The inimitable Barry Sheene in action...

It was Barry Sheene, 500cc motorcycle GP racing world champ in 1976 and 1977, who had encouraged Vermeulen to move from Australia to the UK and to pursue his dream of going motorcycle racing at the top level. Says Vermeulen, 'It’s is a great honour for me to ride the bike in a colour scheme inspired by my hero, Barry Sheene.'

'Barry did a lot to make sure I became a success when I arrived in the UK and I miss him a lot. I rode one of his XR14 Grand Prix bikes at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year and that was certainly a privilege, but to ride my bike in the same livery is just awesome. Thanks to Suzuki and the team for letting this happen. I just hope that we can do credit to it...,' says Vermeulen. Well, we certainly wish you all the very best - hope you win the race mate!


Chris Vermeulen got to ride Barry's original Suzuki RG500 GP bike at the 2006 Goodwood FoS

Also see:
Stephanie McLean: "Barry was a cheeky little sod!"
2007 MotoGP race reports, features, interviews and hi-res wallpaper
Mind-blowing hi-res wallpaper from last five seasons of MotoGP!
Rizla pit girls: Hi-res wallpaper...
220bhp Aprilia V4 superbike in 2008?!
Carl Fogarty not coming back to WSBK after all...
Heavy Hitter: 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14!
Scoop! First pics of 2012 MotoGP bikes!

External links:
Rossi to run on Bridgestone rubber in 2008?!
Cycle World: Moto Guzzi Griso V8 first ride
Honda CBX power, Ducati 916 style? Yes!
Supercharged Honda VFR800...


Yamaha will also run a special paint scheme on their bikes at the Australian MotoGP. Their livery pays homage to Abarth, the performance-car division of Fiat. Yamaha earlier ran special paintjobs on their bikes at Assen and Laguna Seca

The Stoner Express rolls on in the meanwhile, as two ex-world champs look on helplessly. The pit chicks couldn't care less though, they're happy as ever...