Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rotohak: The 325bhp BMW sidecar that… isn’t one!

Nice, shiny BMW, eh?

Pics: Rotohak

You’ll probably look at this bright-yellow sidecar rig and think it’s a BMW-powered trike. And you’d be completely wrong. Because what looks like a BMW engine poking out from the BMW R1150RT motorcycle fairing, is actually an empty shell!

The Rotohak’s sidecar actually packs a twin-turbo, 325bhp rotary engine from the Mazda Cosmo, mated to a VW automatic transmission. Both (the motorcycle’s as well as the sidecar’s) rear wheels are powered by this Mazda engine, and the owner claims this rig will actually wheelie if you cane it hard enough. Interesting? Read more about the Rotohak here.

Also see:
A bunch of very interesting trikes!
ARCF's titanium-framed RatBikes...
Hot Rod: EDR Performance's 131bhp Yamaha R6!
The US$140,000 Neander Turbodiesel...
The BMW R1150GS-based Beutler Boxer!
Mad buggy: The Honda Fireblade-powered Rage R180RT...

External links:
Marco Melandri says Stoner's success is due to Ducati's traction control system!
Motorcycle USA: Kawasaki Ninja 250R riding impression

Which is the best dual-purpose bike in 2008? The Yamaha XT660Z Tenere, the Honda XL700V Transalp or the all-new BMW F800GS? We'd probably take the Tenere...!

Monday, February 11, 2008

MotoGP: 2008 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R unveiled

Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen should provide some fireworks on the 2008 GSV-R!

Suzuki have unveiled their second-generation GSV-R GP bike and they say it’s ‘The most complex and technically advanced racing motorcycle Suzuki have ever produced.’ Codenamed XRG1, the 2008 GSV-R has been developed on the basis of feedback provided by Suzuki’s MotoGP riders, testing and development riders and the company’s experimental technology engineers.

Compared with last year’s machine, Suzuki say the 2008 GSV-R XRG1 has improved acceleration, better aerodynamics, and a better sorted chassis and electronic systems. The bike’s 800cc V4 has been further refined, and with the addition of an updated Mitsubishi ECU, it’s said to provide higher engine performance, increased usability and lower fuel consumption. Power output is now 225bhp at 18,000rpm, and the 148-kilo XRG1 can hit a top speed of 330km/h!

‘The new bike looks great and is already a lot better to ride than last year’s GSV-R. It feels quicker, and I am able to get on the power better out of the corners. The handling is even better than it was, so that is a huge plus – because it was very good already,’ says Chris Vermeulen. ‘I have been with Suzuki a short while but for me they are very switched on and are trying their hardest to make the bike the best it can be for the new season. I still feel like I have a new toy! The bike also looks great with the new design; I love the colour and look forward racing on it,’ adds Loris Capirossi.

And here are some pics from last year, which say something about why we love the Rizla Suzuki team so much! Come on, bring 'em on again...!

Also see:
MASSIVE collection of hi-res MotoGP wallpaper!
F1 tech in MotoGP: The Aprilia RS3 Cube...
The best MotoGP-replica 'NSR500' in the world!!!
Michael Schumacher could have been a MotoGP rider...
Face-off: 1974 MV Agusta 500cc GP bike vs 2007 Ducati GP7 racer!
Wild rides: MotoGP bike vs 600-kilo bull...

External links:
Bored with bikes? Here's more stuff from Japan that'll keep you entertained!

Ducati Desmosedici RR or the 1098 Tricolore? Hard to choose... :-)

Memorable: The mid-1980s Honda VF1000R

From left: The Honda VF1000F Interceptor, and the cooler, faster, more powerful, more stylish and very exotic VF1000R!
Pics: PB mag forum
Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R Honda VF1000R

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the CB1100R, a high-performance homologation-special bike which Honda made in the early 1980s. But even though it dripped racer-cool, for some Honda connoisseurs, an inline-four just wasn’t enough – they had to have a V4 engine. And with the VF1000 range, that’s exactly what Honda gave them.

While the CB1100R was only made up till 1983, Honda started production of the VF1000 range of motorcycles in 1984, which continued till 1988. The VF1000F Interceptor, the VF1000FF/FG, and the VF1000R were all powered by Honda’s 998cc, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled V4, a formidable piece of engineering if ever there was one.

Things started in 1984 with the VF1000F Interceptor, which was fitted with Honda’s 998cc, 113bhp V4. The bike was quite high-tech for its time – adjustable ProLink rear suspension, braced 41mm forks with Honda’s TRAC anti-dive plumbing, ComStar wheels (16-inch front, 17-inch rear), and disc brakes all around. With its red-white-and-blue paintscheme, which remains instantly recognizable even today, the Interceptor gained cult status with Honda fans worldwide.

If you wanted fast and flashy in the mid-1980s, the Honda VF1000R was the bike to have

The first VF1000F evolved and Honda launched the VF1000FF and FG (F-II) models, which featured minor styling changes, and in the interests of better, more stable handling, the adoption of 18-inch wheels. But the bike which really interests us is the 1984 VF1000R, which Honda launched as a celebration of their racing heritage and as a showcase for their V4 engine technology.

With its gear-driven cams and higher state of tune, the VF1000R’s 998cc V4 made 122bhp at 10,000rpm – enough to push the 238-kilo bike through the standing quarter-mile (400m) in 10.80 seconds, and to a top speed of 240km/h. The chassis and suspension were identical to the VF1000F model, but the 1000R got uprated brakes, quick-release axle holders, adjustable clutch and brake levers, endurance-racer style twin headlamps, a full fairing made of lightweight fibreglass, and a cowl for the rear seat – all very important for those who wanted to look like Freddie Spencer.

Expensive and a bit too heavy, but we still think the VF1000R absolutely rocks!

The VF1000R started with the RE version, and Honda went on to make RF and RG versions, which were marked by minor styling revisions (including a move from twin headlamps to a single headlight), and a hike in power from 122 to 130bhp. What’s important, of course, was that V4 engine, the sheer performance, and the endurance-racer styling – all of which combined to make the bike so very desirable.

Priced at US$6,300 the VF1000R was expensive for its time and did not sell very well. It was also a bit too heavy, and not really very successful in racing. But for us, the fast, sophisticated and stylish VF1000R is still one of the most memorable Hondas ever made…

A video of the VF1000R

Sunday, February 10, 2008

You’ve been framed: ARCF’s Titanium 'RatBikes'

Titanium chassis + swingarm = less weight + better handling

Less is more? Yes, perhaps, when it comes to ARC Fabrication’s lightweight titanium motorcycle chassis. ARCF are in the business of making motorcycle chassis that weigh less than the original equipment, and with reduced weight come handling and performance benefits. The company claims that their ‘RatBike’ frames, which are made of aerospace-grade titanium, offer ‘vastly improved geometry, ideal front/rear weight bias, unrivaled handling, better acceleration and shorter braking distances.’

While ARCF say they can work with engines from almost any Japanese, Italian or other bike manufacturer, they mostly seem to work with Ducati engines. Complete chassis kits consist of a titanium main- and sub-frame, titanium or molybdenum swingarm, and an (optional) ARC undertail exhaust system. The frames are compatible with a wide array of suspension components, so specials builders can pick and choose what they want.

ARCF are now in the process of developing titanium frames for Aprila, Buell and Suzuki GSX-R bikes. And that’s not all. ‘ARC has the capability to design and build a frame for almost any engine. Even if you have a jet turbine, we can build a frame around it,’ says the company website. For more details, visit the ARCF website here.

Also see:
EDR Performance's hot-rod Yamaha R6...
Neander 1400 Turbodiesel: Yours for a mere US$140,000!
Roland Sands' Ducati Ultramotard...
Memorable: The Muzzy Kawasaki Raptor 850!
Can Honda work the CB1100R magic once more?
Buell Ulysses XB12XT sport-tourer launched...
Supermanx: One of the best café racers we’ve seen!

Kenny Roberts and his boys will not be around in MotoGP this year. It seems Team KR hasn't been able to find sponsors. A pity. But we do hope they'll be back in 2009!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

F1 tech in MotoGP: The Aprilia RS3 Cube

Looks cool, eh? Pity the RS3 Cube never worked...

First seen at the Bologna Motor Show in Italy, in December 2001, the RS3 Cube marked Aprilia’s ambitious entry into the tempestuous world of MotoGP. Powered by a four-stroke 990cc three-cylinder engine fitted with pneumatic-valves, the 240-horsepower RS3 was supposed to be one of the most powerful MotoGP machines of its time.

Raced from 2002 to 2004, the Cube’s performance was less than exemplary. There were problems with the bike’s suspension, and its computer-controlled fly-by-wire throttle system was deemed unpredictable by riders Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga, with the latter crashing the RS3 Cube all of 28 times in a single season, in 2003! (Unless Haga-san was crashing the bike twice in almost every race, we suppose that figure includes crashes during practice and qualifying etc.)

So what went wrong? The RS3 Cube’s inline-three was designed by Aprilia in a technical collaboration with British engine specialists, Cosworth, who had earlier also worked with Aprilia on the RSV1000’s v-twin. ‘We chose a three-cylinder engine for several reasons. The first was that I was sure the Japanese wouldn't make a triple, and it was important for Aprilia to have something different from the others,’ said Aprilia racing team boss, Jan Witteveen, speaking to Motorcyclist magazine.

MotoGP rules favor three- and five-cylinder machines, and historically, the triple is more a European concept. A 990cc triple has a 330cc cylinder capacity, which is very close to the dimensions of a 10-cylinder 3.5-litre engine of an F1 car. This way, I could use a lot of technology and parts from Formula 1, which would save some development time,’ said Witteveen.

Noriyuki Haga and Colin Edwards found the RS3 Cube a right handful...

At one time, Aprilia even had plans of building a street-legal replica of their three-cylinder MotoGP machine, but when the RS3 Cube failed to do well in competition, all those plans went out of the window. A lot of the problems with the bike were down to its complex engine management and traction control systems – riders did not like the way these ‘interfered’ with their ‘normal’ way of riding.

Also, the Cube’s chassis and suspension combo did not work very well. The bike’s twin-spar aluminum frame, Ohlins shock, and 45mm Ohlins fork may have been top-spec components individually, but did not work with each other – the RS3 was prone to pulling wheelies, and there was often lack of adequate traction at the rear, a problem which was actually further compounded – rather than helped – by the Cube’s traction control system.

‘The RS3 pulls strongly from 8,000rpm and goes mental when you crack the throttle hard open anywhere above 10,000rpm grand, accelerating unbelievably fast. Your arms are yanked in their sockets and the Cube just takes off. Anywhere from 11,000rpm upward in the bottom four gears, the front wheel starts pawing the air as you shift seamlessly through the gears,’ said Alan Cathcart, when he tested the bike for Motorcyclist.

Cathcart actually liked the motorcycle, saying that ‘This is very far from being the unruly and remote-feeling rolling-laboratory-cum-two-wheeled-Formula 1 car I was expecting. Instead, it felt like a conventional race bike, but with genuine added value obtained from real-world applied electronics-with-a-purpose.’

However, Colin Edwards, who actually raced the bike in 2003, had a very different opinion of the RS3 Cube. ‘Too trick, possibly. Actually, I would not say too trick. I'm just not convinced that car technology works on motorcycles,’ he said, speaking to Superbike Planet.

Well, almost five years after Aprilia pulled the plug on their MotoGP effort, it’s perhaps too late to contemplate whether F1 tech could have worked in MotoGP, had Cosworth tried a bit harder. What matters is, Aprilia haven’t given up – they hope to be back in MotoGP by 2010 with an all-new bike. Now if only they can get Stoner to ride for them… :-)

Also see:
BIG collection of hi-res MotoGP wallpaper here and here
A collection of some very interesting trikes...
Italian sportsbikes on Faster and Faster
Heavy hitter: MV Agusta F4 Veltro Pista!
The Human Hayabusa. Incredible!
The hot new Bimota DB7...
Japan-only racing-spec Fireblade and CBR600RR!

Greatest 500cc GP bike ever - the Yamaha YZR500 or the Honda NSR500?

Random Ramblings