Sunday, March 16, 2008

Memorable: The Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans

The 1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans Mk I. It's just so, so cool...

Er…, we’ll admit we aren’t big fans of Moto Guzzi machines here. While we lust after Ducati 1098s and MV Agusta F4s, it’s a bit harder to think of a Moto Guzzi that’s in the same league. Maybe it’s the kind of bikes Moto Guzzi make, maybe it’s what MG bikes stand for. Now while a Griso BB1 looks quite all right to us, what’s with the Bellagio? What were Moto Guzzi thinking of when they made that bike…?

The Bellagio notwithstanding, there’s been at least one Moto Guzzi which we absolutely adore – the fantastic late-1970s/early-1980s 850 Le Mans. Launched in 1976, the 850 Le Mans Mk I was fitted with Guzzi’s 90-degree air-cooled v-twin that made a claimed 78 horsepower at the flywheel – that’s about 71bhp at the rear wheel. The gearbox was a five-speed unit, twin 300mm brake discs were fitted at the front (and a single 242mm disc at the back), and the chassis was a cradle-type tubular steel number.

Look at these pics and you'll probably understand why we're in love with the 850 Le Mans

With Moto Guzzi’s traditional shaft-drive, telescopic forks at the front, adjustable twin rear shocks, and proper Italian-superbike styling, the racy-looking 850 Le Mans was fast and fun. Top speed was about 210km/h, and while racer-style ergonomics and stiff suspension meant that the 225-kilo Le Mans wasn’t very comfortable, it handled at least reasonably well. (For that era, riding on the tyres available in those days, and other such clichés as applicable…) It also cost US$3,700 back in 1976, which wasn’t exactly inexpensive!

It's a pity Moto Guzzi don't make such good-looking bikes anymore

Guzzi launched the 850 Le Mans Mk II in 1978, following it up with the Mk III in 1980. They also made Le Mans 1000 Mk IV and Mk V models in 1984 and 1988, but rather than the earlier 844cc engines, the Le Mans 1000s were fitted with slightly more powerful 949cc v-twins. Over the years, the Le Mans also got some styling tweaks, air-assisted suspension, linked brakes, and marginally better electrics. But the sexier, more stylish 850 Le Mans – and not the later Le Mans 1000 – is most definitely the bike to have.

Good 1970s/80s models go for around US$8,000 - 10,000 these days, and for fans of classic Italian sportsbikes, those old 850 Le Mans should be well worth the money…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nanotechnology: Smart Helmets could save motorcyclists’ lives in the near future

Smarter than thou: The smart helmet, with its embedded nanotech sensors, will know exactly what's going on in your brain...

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in the US, are said to be working on a ‘smart helmet’ that could possibly benefit motorcycle riders. Initially developed for combat soldiers, this helmet would, in the event of a mishap, be able to transmit head injury data to emergency medical services.

The smart helmet is still in the development phase, and over the next one year, researchers plan to test regular helmets that have been modified and fitted with nanotechnology sensors. Working in tandem with the latest communication technologies, these sensors will be able to record and relay real time information about injuries to the wearer.

In the event of an accident, sensors embedded in the smart helmet would start recording changes in crucial factors like changes in oxygen levels in the blood, the heart rate, and other systemic variables in the brain. This information, relayed to medical teams that respond to an emergency, could possibly help them deal with potential problems and minimize the impact of serious injuries.

Also see:

Rider Alert: Put a lid on this...
Street survival for motorcyclists: The 50 things you need to know!
Want to go faster? Here are some tips from Superbike mag...
Track riding for newbies: Ron Haslam's masterclass!
Beringer working on next-gen brakes for motorcycles...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Peraves MonoTracer: 100 units to be produced in 2009

Peraves MonoTracer vs Suzuki GSX-R? Bring it on!

Pics: Peraves

The rather remarkable MonoTracer, which fits right into the growing trend of ‘motorcycles’ with more than two wheels, is on track for going into production. The MonoTracer is currently being shown at the Geneva Automobile Salon, and the Switzerland-based Peraves say they will ramp up their production facilities to manufacture up to 100 units of this vehicle in 2009.

The Peraves MonoTracer features a self-supporting composite-monocoque chassis that’s made of kevlar and carbonfibre, bonded with epoxy-resin and reinforced with aluminium crash and roll bars. The suspension is comprised of a 50mm USD Marzocchi fork up front, and Monolever swingarm at the back.

Peraves have used the BMW K1200R’s liquid-cooled, 16-valve, 1171cc, 130bhp inline-four in the MonoTracer. The engine drives the rear wheel via BMW’s shaft-drive system and the gearbox is a sequential, manual-shift, four-speed (plus one reverse) unit. An automatic clutch is optional.

With its retractable stabiliser wheels, the MonoTracer will lean at angles of up to 52 degrees!

The high-tech MonoTracer gets three 320mm brake discs with four-piston calipers. ABS is standard fitment, while an anti-spin ASP system is optional. All controls – clutch, brakes, gear-shift and throttle etc – work like those on a conventional motorcycle. The fully enclosed MonoTracer has a sophisticated ventilation system, and full airconditioning is optional.

With a dry weight of 460-485kg (depending on the options chosen), the 130bhp MonoTracer accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and top speed is in excess of 250km/h. And while those figures are impressive, the MonoTracer’s real calling card is its ability to safely lean into very fast corners. With its retractable stabilizer wheels – which deploy automatically when needed, in less than half a second – the MonoT can lean at angles of up to 52 degrees, which is anywhere between seven to 10 degrees more than what most superbikes ever do.

So yes, the funky-cool Peraves MonoTracer looks like a lot of fun, but it’s also terribly expensive – about 52,500 euros (US$81,000) plus VAT. But if you can afford one, riding one of these mad Swiss machines should be an absolute blast! More details on the official MonoTracer website here.

Also see:
Some very cool, very funky trikes on Faster and Faster
Lumeno Smera: Another car-motorcycle hybrid!
Pendolauto: Franco Sbarro's at it again...
Honda DN-01: Is this the future of motorcycling?
Noré Sébastien's motorcycle art...
Heavy Hitter: MV Agusta F4 Veltro Pista!
Face-off: The world's fastest bike vs the world's fastest man...

External links:
M-USA: 2008 Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 road test
Hot Buns: America's 10 Best Burgers!
Getting into a fight? Here's what you need to know about kicking some arse...
2008 Suzuki GSX-R750 and GSX-R600 image gallery

Dannii Minogue remains our no.1 favourite Aussie motorcyclist. (Who else can ever make an old Yamaha Fazer look so good?!) More of the delectable Ms Minogue here and here

Fast bikes, hot babes on Flickr!

And here's the new promo video for the Bajaj Pulsar DTS-Fi, an Indian-made sportsbike fitted with a single-cylinder, oil-cooled, fuel-injected 220cc engine. Interesting...
Via: Motorcyclist at Large

MotoGP results: Rookies do well in Qatar!

Stoner won the 2008 season opener in Qatar...

...Andrea Dovizioso took fourth, Rossi finished in fifth place while Capirex took eighth
Pics: Flickr

Full race report here

2008 MotoGP: Results from the Losail circuit, Qatar
1. Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team (B) 42min 36.587 secs
2. Jorge Lorenzo SPA Fiat Yamaha Team (M) 42min 41.910 secs
3. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team (M) 42min 47.187 secs
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA JiR Scot Team (M) 42min 49.875 secs
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha Team (B) 42min 49.892 secs
6. James Toseland GBR Yamaha Tech 3 (M) 42min 50.627 secs
7. Colin Edwards USA Yamaha Tech 3 (M) 42min 51.737 secs
8. Loris Capirossi ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP (B) 43min 9.092 secs
9. Randy de Puniet FRA LCR Honda MotoGP (M) 43min 9.590 secs
10. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda Team (M) 43min 14.941 secs
11. Marco Melandri ITA Ducati Marlboro Team (B) 43min 20.871 secs
12. John Hopkins USA Kawasaki Racing Team (B) 43min 26.444 secs
13. Shinya Nakano JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini (B) 43min 26.458 secs
14. Toni Elias SPA Alice Team (B) 43min 35.119 secs
15. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Alice Team (B) 43min 35.517 secs
16. Anthony West AUS Kawasaki Racing Team (B) 43min 42.230 secs
17. Chris Vermeulen AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP (B) 1 lap

Like last year, Rizla Suzuki are again in top form when it comes to pit babes! For more Rizla Suzuki babes, see here

Also see:
Hi-res MotoGP wallpaper: Here and here
Memorable: 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500 GP racer!
Valentino Rossi's new Dainese advert...
Sheene Tribute: Vermeulen-replica GSX-R1000 on sale!
Aprilia RS3 Cube: F1 tech in MotoGP?
Wild Rides: MotoGP vs Professional Bullfighting!
Mighty Mite: The Honda Dream 50R

External links:
PVM Viper II: Honda RC51-based streetfighter from Switzerland!
JT Nesbitt, Confederate Wraith designer, is now building cars...
Motorcycles: "What're you looking at?!"

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Singularly Sexy: The amazing Ducati Supermono

Racy, hot-blooded, Italian. Single, and likes being ridden hard!

Pics: Ducati, Flickr
Back in 1993, Ducati took a rather brave break from their traditional v-twin engine format, and produced a radical, high-tech racebike with a single-cylinder engine. Designed by Pierre Terblanche, the Supermono was fitted with a four-stroke, four-valve, Desmo DOHC, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled 549cc engine that made 75 horsepower at 10,000rpm (which actually translated into 61.4bhp at the rear wheel). Ducati claimed a dry weight of 118kg for the machine, and top speed was in excess of 225km/h. Of course, at US$30,000 back then, the Supermono’s price tag was equally impressive…

At the very outset, the Supermono was conceptualized and built as an expensive, exotic, no-holds-barred racer. The bike was fitted with Ducati’s race-proven tubular trellis frame, fully adjustable 42mm USD Öhlins fork, adjustable Öhlins monoshock, twin 280mm brake discs with four-piston calipers at the front, and a six-speed gearbox. According to some test figures from the 1990s, the little Ducati would do the standing quarter-mile (400m) in 11.4 seconds, hitting 197.5km/h in that time.

John Burns, who rode the bike for Cycle World magazine, said ‘Riders accustomed to streetbikes – even small ones – will feel as if they've returned to their potty chairs upon first mounting the Supermono. You crouch low, with your knees almost beneath your chin – it's a short reach to the clip-ons. Below 6000rpm, the Mono's motor is indistinguishable from the garden-variety thumper found in, say, an XT600 Yamaha.’

‘The difference becomes apparent as revs increase. While it's all over for a stock XT at 6500rpm, the Supermono is just beginning to breathe. The Ducati goes from less than 20 horsepower to almost 40 between 5700 and 6500rpm, burbles through a 500-rpm plateau, and enters its real powerband at 7000 rpm. By 8000rpm, where torque peaks at 37 foot-pounds, the lone 100mm piston is feeding 57 horsepower into the rear contact patch. At 9750rpm, maximum thrust of 61.4 horsepower is achieved. When the rev-limiter cuts in 1000rpm later, there are 55 horses and the piston is traveling 4938 feet per minute. Best to shift at 10 thousand,’ concluded Burns.

A Supermono in full race trim and the bike's 549cc, single-cylinder engine...

The Supermono’s Weber-Marelli fuel-injection system was quite sophisticated for its time, providing immediate, crisp throttle response. And unlike most other single-cylinder engines, the Supermono’s mill was fitted with a counter balancer weight, which allowed the engine to behave like a v-twin rather than a single. The result was that the engine was largely free of vibration at higher revs.

The Supermono was made in two batches – one in 1993 (41 units) and one in 1996 (26 units). Given that only 67 of these bikes were made, we suppose it would be very hard to find one on sale today. And according to some sources on the Web, current prices for a Supermono in good condition could be anywhere between US$80,000 – 100,000.

Also see:
Wakan 1640: A racing cruiser...?!
Nitin Design's 'Dacoit' set to roam the streets...
RAD 01: Ducati 749R-based forerunner to the Ducati 848
Cagiva Mito 500: Will they, or won't they...
CR&S Vun Racing: A modern-day equivalent of the Ducati Supermono?
Britten V1000: The greatest racebike ever built!
Can Honda work the CB1100R magic once more?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lumeneo Smera: Another car-motorcycle hybrid…

The Smera is car that tilts in favour of behaving like a bike...

Vehicles that have three or four wheels, but which can still tilt into corners like proper motorcycles, seem to be the flavour of the minute. After the recently unveiled Pendolauto, we have the somewhat similar Lumeneo Smera, which comes from France and which is also on display at the Geneva Motor Show.

The twin-seater (single-seater if you want to also carry luggage…) Smera is about the same size as a large scooter, but has four wheels and a fully-enclosed rider’s (driver’s?) cabin. It’s powered by lithium-ion batteries that feed the Smera’s twin electric motors, which together make the equivalent of 40bhp. Claimed zero to 100km/h time is eight seconds, top speed is about 130km/h, and the Smera will do 150km on one full charge of electricity, after which the batteries need to be juiced-up again.

Like the Pendolauto, the Smera is also capable of tilting into corners like a motorcycle. But unlike bikes, the Smera is also fitted with a safety-cage and seat-belts, which should make it a bit safer than most bikes. Prices have not been announced yet, but Lumeneo plan to make 250 units of this vehicle in 2009. We like it and we do hope to see the Smera on the streets sometime soon! More details on the Lumeneo website here.

Also see:
Some amazing tilting trikes on Faster and Faster!
From dream to disaster: The Morbidelli 850 V8...
The most impressive Rossi-rep 'NSR500' we've ever seen!
Face-off: 1974 MV Agusta 500 GP racer vs 2007 Ducati MotoGP machine!
Peugeot V6-powered bike: Mad Max lives...
Ready to roll: The 2008 TriRod F3 Adrenaline
RVF750R RC45: The most desirable Honda ever built?
War of the Ninjas: Kawasaki ZZR1100 vs ZZR1400!

External links:
A treat for fans of classic Moto Guzzis...
Here's why we suddenly love rugby...! (NSFW)

All right, after a bunch of cars pretending to be motorcycles, here’s one car that’s still only a car, but WHAT a car it is!!! The Transmontana is fitted with a 5500cc, twin-turbo V12 that makes 720 horsepower and 900Nm of torque. The 1250kg Transmontana will go from zero to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 340km/h. The monocoque chassis is made entirely of carbonfibre, and the manual gearbox is a six-speed unit. If we could afford one, we’d sure love to park one of these cars next to our Vermeulen-replica GSX-R1000
More about the Transmontana here

3UpRacing: The 95Racer

95 kilos, 95bhp - the 3UpRacing 95Racer. Er, well...

Pics: 3UpRacing

The UK-based 3UpRacing say that the aim with their most ambitious project ever, the 95Racer, was to build the four-stroke equivalent of a 250cc Grand Prix bike, with performance similar to privateer Honda RS250s and Yamaha TZ250s. 3Up started with the intent of building a racebike that would weigh no more than 95 kilos, and would have 95 horsepower at the rear wheel. The end result is what you see here – the 95Racer!

3Up started thinking about building this bike back in 2006, and decided on using a 650cc parallel-twin, from the Kawasaki ER-6n, for their machine. They chose the Kawasaki mill over Aprilia RXV450/SXV550 and Suzuki SV650 engines, primarily because the Kwacker was relatively cheaper, more tuneable and had a cassette-type gearbox which is ideal for racing applications.

We think the 95Racer looks rather neat...

The chassis is a Ducati-style tubular-steel trellis structure, the USD front fork is off a 2005 Yamaha R6, the rear monoshock is custom-built by Maxton, and the bodywork is a Honda RS250 kit, made by Spanish company, Speedfibre.

In the quest for 95 rear-wheel horsepower, the 95Racer’s engine has been tuned and extensively reworked by a British Superbikes engine specialist, the bike has been fitted with a bigger radiator and airbox and the custom-made exhaust system has been specially designed to liberate more horsepower.

We think the 95Racer is quite an interesting little machine. More details on the 3UpRacing website here.

Also see:
GP racing: 600 four-strokes to replace two-stroke 250s by 2010?
Ducati get off to a flying start in WSBK and in MotoGP!
Giordano Loi’s Ducati 999-based Desmo Infinito...
Aprilia RSV 4 'Race Machine' unveiled!
ShowYo Moto's 'Alien' GSX-R1100...
Sheene Tribute: Chris Vermeulen-replica GSX-R1000!
You’ve been framed: ARCF’s Titanium 'RatBikes'...
PB: The world's best two-stroke sportsbikes!

External links:
Randakk's supercharged Honda GL1000!
2008 Derbi Rambla 125 and 250 picture gallery

Chantelle Houghton likes bikes...!

Pics: British Celebrities

Pendolauto: Franco Sbarro’s four-wheeled motorcycle concept unveiled

Franco Sbarro's latest - a four-wheeled motorcycle called the Pendolauto
Pics: CarAdvice

Franco Sbarro – the man who ‘invented’ the hubless wheel – is at it again. And this time, it’s a four-wheeled motorcycle – the Pendolauto concept – which was recently unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

While it is fitted with transparent Perspex wheels, perhaps to make them look like Sbarro’s earlier hubless wheels, the Pendolauto’s calling card is that it rides on four wheels. The bike is fitted with independent front and rear suspension, which allows it to lean into corners like a motorcycle. And yet, given that four wheels are inherently more stable than two, the Pendolauto may be safer than a conventional motorcycle.

Sbarro’s machines are more about style and rarely about real-world practicality, but still, his four-wheeled bike may indeed find use as a (very expensive?) learner bike and/or a weekend toy for those who don’t want to risk life and limb on a ZX-10R.

As of now, there’s no information on the Pendolauto’s engine or performance potential, and indeed, it’s a bit unlikely that this alien-looking thing will ever go into production. Still, it’s good to see that age hasn’t slowed down Mr Sbarro - he’s still thinking hard as ever…

Also see:
Trike strike: Some very cool, unconventional machines on Faster and Faster
The Quadzilla: The amazing GG Quad...
WheelSurf Monowheel: Join the singles club!
Naro: Another four-wheeled motorcycle...
Memorable: The mighty Münch Mammut TTS-E
Kettenkrad: A bike that's not afraid of SUVs!

External links:
The wild world of Nico Bakker's bikes...

A video of Mike Brown's Hubless Monster on the move...!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Precious Metal: 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer

The 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer, with its fairing removed. A great bike...
Pic: Allucchettati

Today, they only make some very neat bicycles, but from 1897 to 1967, Bianchi also made motorcycles. The Italian company was set up by Edoardo Bianchi in Milan in 1885, and Bianchi started with making bicycles, moved on to motorcycles in 1897, and also started making cars, in the year 1900.

Over the seven decades when they made motorcycles, Bianchi made various single-cylinder and v-twin bikes, some of which also saw a fair bit of success on the racing circuit between 1925 and 1930. In the late-1930s, Bianchi also experimented with a four-cylinder, DOHC, 498cc, supercharged engine, but perhaps due to financial or engineering constraints, this did not go too far.

Edoardo Bianchi passed away in 1946, and his son Giuseppe took over the company. By the mid-1950 however, Bianchi were in financial trouble and ultimately, their vehicle division was merged with Fiat and Pirelli. They still struggled on though, and even went GP racing – Bob McIntyre raced a Bianchi in the now-defunct 350cc class in 1961. He finished the season with 10 points, taking fifth place in the 1961 350cc world championship.

The 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer
Pic: Vintagebike

A tireless Bianchi kept working on their racebikes, which brings us to a very interesting machine – their 1964 500cc GP racer. This was fitted with a twin-cylinder engine with custom-made Dell'Orto carbs, preload-adjustable rear shocks, telescopic front forks, steel-tube cradle-type chassis and huge drum brakes. This bike, ridden by Italian rider Remo Venturi, was quite sophisticated for its time, though it did not do very well – Venturi (who also rode in the 350cc class...) finished the 1964 season with only six 500cc world championship points to his name.

1964 was also Bianchi’s last year in motorcycle GP racing. By the mid-1960s, battered by relentless financial trouble, Bianchi were reduced to mostly being a parts supplier to bigger companies like Ferrari, Fiat, Puch and Motobecane. They did, however, also continue to make motorcycles till 1967, after which the motorcycle division was shut down.

It’s a great pity that a company which once went motorcycle GP racing in the 350 and 500cc classes today only makes bicycles. But we suppose that’s the price many European bike manufacturers had to pay, for lacking the Japanese opposition’s foresight, business-savvy and the ability to move quickly and decisively. Rest in peace...



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