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...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Memorable: Gilera SP01 and SP02

The Gilera SP01, in Kevin Schwantz's 1989 Pepsi Suzuki colours!
Today, Gilera are probably best known for their scooters – the GP800 and the very cool, very funky Fuoco 500. But the Italian company has made some pretty hot motorcycles too, in the past. And for those who think Ducati and MV Agusta are the only Italian manufacturers who’ve been successful in motorcycle GP racing’s premier class, get this – between 1950 and 1957, Gilera riders won six 500cc world championships! Umberto Masetti (1950, 1952), Geoff Duke (1953, 1954, 1955) and Libero Liberati (1957) brought glory to the Gilera name on the GP circuit.

The company was founded by one Giuseppe Gilera, and the first motorcycle to bear his name – the Gilera VT317 – came out in 1909. By the 1930s, Gilera were already producing bikes with four-stroke, side-valve 500cc engines, and their machines were notching up race victories in Europe. The 1936 Rondine 500 even set a top speed record of 274.181km/h, which remained unbeaten for almost 20 years.

Gilera left the grand prix racing scene after 1957, and in 1969, the company became a part of the Piaggio Group. From then on, Gilera have only been making smaller bikes and scooters, though in the 1980s they made some very memorable bikes, most notably the SP01, SP02 and the CX125, which featured an innovative single-sided front fork.

Launched in 1988, the SP01 was fitted with a 125cc two-stroke, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine that made a claimed 35bhp at 10,600rpm. This, combined with the SP01’s aluminium beam chassis, stiff suspension, disc brakes, and six-speed gearbox made it the perfect sportsbike for teenagers (and, well, lightweight adults). The 132-kilo SP01 was capable of doing the quarter-mile (400m) in 15.1 seconds, and top speed was 171km/h. Not too bad for a 125cc buzz-bomb. And for Kevin Schwantz fans, the SP01 was even available with a 1989 Pepsi-Suzuki replica paint scheme!

The Gilera SP02 was launched in 1990...
Gilera launched the SP01’s successor, the SP02, in 1990. With a bit more power and bit more style, the SP02 would do the standing quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds, though top speed was still 171km/h.

Today, while manufacturers like Cagiva, Aprilia and Derbi continue to make 125cc repli-racers, Gilera are no longer making such bikes, preferring to stick with their stylish scooters instead. Now, while we love the Gilera ‘Mad Max’ Fuoco, we do wish the company would get back to making some seriously high-performance racer-reps again...

Also see:
Performance Bikes: The best two-stroke sportsbikes ever...
Yamaha RD500-based GP-replica!
Britten V1000: The greatest motorcycle ever made?
Howards Killer Customs' US$150,000 hubless-wheeled chopper!
Memorable: The Muzzy Kawasaki Raptor 850...
Design 90: A Lamborghini motorcycle, anyone?
Vyrus 985 C3 4V, and other bikes that featured alternative front suspension...
Significant firsts in motorcycling...