Monday, December 29, 2008

Memorable: The Bimota SB2


The 1977 Bimota SB2. Bet your neighbour doesn't have one...

Much before he penned the lines for the Ducati 916 and the MV Agusta F4, two of the most stunningly beautiful bikes ever made, Massimo Tamburini had designed another very significant motorcycle, one which has almost been forgotten today. Yes indeed, we’re talking about the Bimota SB2.

The Tamburini-designed SB2 isn’t, perhaps, as ‘beautiful’ as the 916 or the F4. At least not in the current context of the word. But it’s still strikingly individualistic – a machine that very much marches to its own beat. The bike was launched in 1977, priced at around US$10,000 – terribly expensive for its time.

The SB2 was fitted with a rather prosaic engine – an air-cooled 75bhp inline-four from the Suzuki GS750. But then, as now, Bimota were chassis specialists and that’s where the magic was. The Suzuki engine was bolted on to a light, stiff frame made of chrome-molybdenum steel tubing, which offered easily adjustable steering geometry. And the suspension comprised of a 35mm Ceriani fork at the front and Corte & Cosso monoshock at the rear – cutting-edge stuff for the late-1970s.


It isn't 'beautiful' in the conventional sense, but the SB2 is certainly stand-out individualistic...

The bike was fitted with Brembo disc brakes – 280mm at the front and 260mm at the back. The Campagnolo wheels were made of magnesium alloy, the fuel tank was made of aluminium and the bike weighed 196kg dry – about 30 kilos lighter than a standard Suzuki GS750.

So, what do its owners have to say about the SB2 today? Hmmm… with more than three decades having passed since the bike was introduced, and with Bimota having built only about 70 units of the bike, finding someone who actually owns one was difficult. Still, we managed to track down Robert Vaeth, who’s based in Connecticut, in the US, who owns a 1977 SB2.

‘I was originally attracted to the Bimota SB2 in the early 1980s, when my interest in Italian motorcycles began. I had only seen it in photos but always knew I would love to have one. The avant-garde design of the bodywork, along with the precision frame fabrication and machining won me over,’ says Robert. ‘There are five known SB2s in the United States, and it’s certainly a conversation starter at gas stations and bike meets. Most believe it is a decade newer than it really is,’ he adds.


Robert Vaeth loves his SB2, which he bought more than eight years ago

‘When I purchased the bike, it had not been run in a number of years. My SB2 [which bears serial number 00036] began its life riding the streets of Italy, until it was purchased and brought to England, where it remained for several years and then ultimately to the eastern seaboard of the United States,’ says Robert. ‘After purchasing the bike in 2000, I restored it completely, getting it repainted and having the engine rebuilt,’ he adds.

‘Riding it is a complete joy! Steering, handling and power still make it a brilliant ride, even in modern times. The chassis, in my opinion, is miles ahead of all other bikes from that time period. Its perimeter frame and monoshock design, along with adjustable trail was later copied by many bike manufacturers, putting it years ahead of its time. The standard GS750 engine is upgraded with larger carburetors and velocity stacks by Bimota. The exhaust features a free-flowing Bimota designed pipe and muffler,’ concludes Robert.

Hmm... we reckon Robert is a very lucky guy - the SB2 is a veritable piece of Bimota history, and one hell of a motorcycle. Keep it rolling, friend...

More Bimotas:
The 275km/h Bimota YB11...
The Yamaha FZR1000-powered Bimota YB6 Tuatara...
Classic: The Bimota DB2...
Two-stroke dream: The Bimota V-Due...
Bimota DB7 riding impression...
Bimota Tesi 3D riding impression...
Bimota Delirio DB6R riding impression...


From the early-1990s Tesi 1D to the current Tesi 3D, it's been a long journey for Bimota. But just how good is the Tesi 3D to ride? Find out here

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The BMW MeGa 1 Project


The 1972 BMW R75/5-based MeGa 1 cafe-racer

While looking around for some interesting old BMWs, we happened to come across the MotoEuro website, where we found this MeGa 1 café racer. Based on a 1972 BMW R75/5, the MeGa 1 was first shown two years ago at the AHRMA Vintage Weekend at Barber Motorsports, where it won the 1970s class in the European Concours d' Elegance.

The MeGa 1 features a modified fuel tank from a 1977 R100RS, custom-built seat and tail unit, and a handmade aluminium front fender. The front fork is off an R100RT, with 38mm Race Tech cartridge emulators modified to work with BMW internal components. The alloy wheels are from Morris, and the brakes are modified Brembo units with custom-built stainless steel brake lines.

At the back, the bike’s swingarm has been strengthened and braced, the one-off alloy-bodied reservoir shocks are from Works Performance and the stock BMW drum brakes have been replaced with Grimeca disc brakes.

The MeGa 1’s engine, which makes 85bhp, is based on an R100GS mill that’s been completely rebuilt – ported and polished heads, new valves, new cams, 38mm Mikuni carbs with velocity stacks, modified Luftmeister 2-into-1 header, Supertrapp muffler, high performance coils, ignition booster, electronic regulator and… a lot of other bits and pieces. The gearbox is a five-speed unit, and the dashboard is all-electronic, with LED displays and computer-controlled instrumentation!

The BMW MeGa 1, which weighs about 175kg, looks lean and lithe and we quite like the 1970s café racer styling. Should be good fun to ride…

More BMWs:
MAB's BMW K1200R Turbo...
AC Schnitzer-tuned BMW K1200R Sport...
The Canjamoto BMW R1200S Turbo...
The BMW HP2-based Wunderlich WR2...
The very cool BMW HP2 Sport...
The BMW R1150GS-based Beutler Boxer...
AC Schnitzer BMW F800GS...
BMW HP2 Sport takes on the Buell 1125R!
Face-off: BMW HP2 Sport vs KTM RC8...

Elsewhere today:
Bazzaz Performance's Z-Fi Traction Control system...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 Yamaha R1 vs early-1990s Yamaha 500cc GP racers


The 1992 Yamaha YZR500 GP racer had a bit more than 160bhp at the rear wheel. The 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 has the same. If that isn't progress, what is...?!

According to a recent press release from Akrapovic, the 2009 Yamaha R1, in stock form, produces 161.6bhp at 12,430rpm, with the power being measured at the rear wheel. With an Akrapovic slip-on, the R1’s peak power goes up to 163.9bhp at 12,410rpm. The Akrapovic system also has the option to do away with the catalytic converter, boosting power to 164.2bhp at 12,410rpm and fattening the power delivery throughout the rev range.

But, for this story, we’re actually more interested in the stock R1 and the 161bhp it delivers at the back wheel. That really is a shocking amount of power on a streetbike with a kerb weight of 206 kilos. Yamaha’s two-stroke 500cc GP racing bikes were making that much power back in the early-1990s, and those required a huge amount of experience and talent to ride. Oh, well, that’s probably an understatement. You actually couldn’t ride a late-1980s/early-1990s Yamaha YZR500 unless you were in the same league as Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson…


You needed the talent of a Rainey or Lawson to be able to ride the YZR500. Thanks to its electronics, the R1 doesn't need you to be Rossi...

Yamaha started development work on the YZR500 GP racer in the early-1970s and the first of these bikes went racing in 1973. In those days, the YZR’s power output was around 80bhp, which had gone up to 180bhp by the late-1990s – an increase of 125% in a time span of 25 years. The R1 has not too badly either – the first 1998 model had around 130bhp at the rear wheel, which has grown to 164bhp in the space of 10 years – an increase of 26%.

Which brings us to just how important a modern sportsbike’s electronics are. You had to be a Rainey, Lawson, Mamola, Cadalora, Capirossi or Kocinski to ride one of those 160bhp early-1990s YZR500s, while just about any reasonably experienced motorcyclist can jump on a 164bhp 2009 R1, ride off and not be killed in the next five minutes. That, we suppose, is only made possible by the raft of electronics that do duty on new R1s.


2009 Yamaha R1, the equivalent of a 500cc Grand Prix racer for the street?

The 1992 Yamaha YZR500, on which Wayne Rainey won his last 500cc world championship, had an aluminium ‘Deltabox’ chassis, ‘Monocross’ rear suspension and USD fork, carburetted two-stroke engine, carbon brake discs, the Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS) and… we can’t think of much else in the way of gizmos, electronics or path-breaking technologies.

The 2009 Yamaha R1, on the other hand, has terribly impressive sounding bits like Yamaha Chip Control Intake (YCC-I), Yamaha Chip Control Throttle (YCC-T) and D-Mode, which lets you modulate and optimise throttle response according to road and weather conditions. Rainey, with his Godly riding skill, didn’t need these bits to control his YZR's 160 rear-wheel horsepower. For most of, we’d be toast without the electronics on the R1.

The best part is, no matter how much money you have, you probably can’t a 1992 Yamaha YZR500. On the other hand, you can buy a brand-new R1 for a mere US$12,500. A bike that’s as powerful as Rainey’s 1992 YZR500, for the street, which you can actually just walk into a showroom and buy? You’ve got to love technology…

We'll never be able to ride like Rainey, Lawson or Rossi. But bikes like the R1 at least bring us closer to that 164bhp-at-the-rear-wheel experience, and thank god for that!

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Monday, December 22, 2008

RetroSBK’s GSX-R1000-based Yoshimura Suzuki GS1000 tribute


From left: The 1979 GS1000S and the GSX-R1000-based machine that RetroSBK have build in tribute to the original. Very, very cool...
Original GS1000 pic: Motorcycle USA

Remember Wes Cooley and the Yoshimura Suzuki GS1000 on which he won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1979 and 1980? While the GS1000 was first made in 1977, Suzuki later produced a special model – the GS1000S – in tribute to Cooley’s race wins aboard the Yoshimura-fettled GS.

With around 87 horsepower, tuner-friendliness, reasonable handling and a generous helping of reliability, the Suzuki GS1000 was the seminal sportsbike of the 1970s. By the standards of that era, the GS’ air-assisted forks, steel tube chassis and twin brake discs at the front worked very well indeed. And Cooley’s spectacular racing style, coupled with all those race wins, made the big GS lust-worthy for most sportsbike fans in those days.

More than thirty years have passed since the GS1000 first came out, but the bike hasn’t been completely forgotten just yet. Take William Kenefick, of RetroSBK, who’s built the modern-day equivalent of a GS1000 that you see here. Based on a 2008 GSX-R1000, the bike has, according to the RetroSBK website, been built in tribute to Hideo ‘Pops’ Yoshimura’s contribution to production-based roadracing in the United States.


In spirit, RetroSBK's tribute remains faithful to the original

Unfortunately, the RetroSBK website doesn’t seem to have William Kenefick’s email ID, so we couldn’t write to him and ask for more details. But according to whatever little information we could glean from various bike forums, the GSX-R1000-based GS-tribute took over 400 man-hours to make! The tail unit, fuel tank and chassis are stock GSX-R items, a full Yoshimura exhaust system has been installed, various carbonfibre bits have been bolted on, and then of course there’s that custom-built 1970s-style fairing.

There’s also a new Ohlins shock at the back, the front fork’s internals have been reworked by RetroSBK, the Brembo brakes have been uprated to race-spec components and power output is a claimed 178bhp at the rear wheel. Amazing stuff, eh? Oh yes, we love this bike…!

Also see:
Heron Suzuki GB Replica GSX-R1100...
The Bruiser Brothers: Suzuki GSX-R1100 and Bimota SB6...
Classic: The rotary-engined Suzuki RE-5...
Barry Sheene-tribute: Chris Vermeulen replica GSX-R1000...
200-horsepower, NOS'd Suzuki B-King...
Two-stroke glory: The Suzuki RGV250...
Memorable: The 1983 Suzuki XN85 Turbo!

Elsewhere today:
The Carberry Enfield 1000 is ready to roll...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Honda in tie-up with GS Yuasa Corporation, will be ready with first electric bike by 2010


Soichiro Honda himself is no more, but the spirit of innovation and invention continues at Honda. After 60 years of making motorcycles powered by the IC engine, Honda will start making electric bikes in 2010. Bring on the next 60 years, and the battery-powered Fireblade...!

With dozens of small-scale manufacturers already building electric bikes all over the world, the big companies had to get in on the action sooner or later. And in the case of Honda, it’s going to happen by 2010.

‘Honda is currently developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation. The company is aiming to introduce this electric motorcycle to the market about in two years from now,’ says Takeo Fukui, Chairman and CEO – Honda Motor Co. ‘History shows that motorcycles remain strong in a difficult market environment and have always supported Honda in difficult times,’ he adds.

Honda have, in fact, tied up with GS Yuasa Corp. for the development of high-performance lithium-ion batteries for its electric motorcycles. The two companies will jointly set up a research and development centre, and a battery manufacturing facility, near Kyoto in Japan.

The Honda-GS Yuasa joint venture company is being set up at an investment of around US$ 18.5 million, with Honda holding a 49% stake in the company, and the rest being held by GS Yuasa.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Gurney Alligator Instigator: Make it snappy!


The all-new Gurney Alligator Instigator. Conventional, it certainly isn't...

Dan Gurney, founder of Dan Gurney Alligator Motorcycles, Inc. is at it again. One of our readers, Bill Kniegge has sent us some information and pics of the latest Gurney project – the Alligator Instigator – which has been developed by Dan and his son Justin.

While the earlier Alligator was powered by a 670cc, single-cylinder Honda engine, the Instigator is fitted with a 2032cc S&S V-twin, which is much bigger and more powerful than any engine previously used on Alligator motorcycles. The feet-forward design, however, is the same as before and the very low seat height provides a very low centre of gravity, which is said to help handling in a very big way.

Other bits on the Alligator Instigator include a Baker six-speed gearbox, custom-built exhaust system, a chassis made of chrome-moly 4030 tubing, machined-from-billet aluminium swingarm, USD fork, Penske monoshock, Dymag forged alloy wheels and Beringer brakes. The bodywork is made of carbonfibre and instrumentation is from Motec.

‘Conventional sportbikes are tall, with short wheelbases to make them turn quickly. This limits their acceleration and braking by making them prone to wheelies and stoppies. Gurney's concept has some extra wheelbase that may slow steering somewhat, but its centre of gravity – another important aspect of swift turning – is so low that the Alligator flicks into corners very quickly,’ said the legendary Kevin Cameron, when he rode a Gurney Alligator bike back in 2000, for Cycle World magazine. ‘Under acceleration and braking, the Alligator's lower centre of gravity and longer wheelbase allow it to generate higher peak values without lifting its wheels. And why not? Orthodoxy is not destiny,’ said Cameron.

Hmmm… the Gurneys plans to build around 50 units of the Instigator, so if you want one, you’d better hurry up already. Visit the Alligator Motorcycle website here for more details.

Also see:
The amazing Carver One...
Classic: The Bimota YB6 Tuatara...
An Alfa Romeo motorcycle...?!
The motorcycle that's not afraid of SUVs...
Face-off: 125cc KTM vs litre-class Suzuki...
Looking back: Old motorcycle advertisements...
Dannii Minogue likes motorcycles...
The fastest, most expensive Honda ever...

Classic: The 1970s Laverda 750SF


The 1970s Laverda 750SF. Looks remarkably cool even today...


Laverda have made some pretty remarkable bikes over the years, our favourites being the V6 Bol d'Or racer, the Jota 1000 and the rather more recent 750 Formula S. Another Laverda that we think is pretty cool is the 750SF, which the company made from 1970-1976.

In the mid-1960s, on the recommendation of his son, Francesco Laverda (the company’s founder) decided to build a bigger, more powerful motorcyclew, which would be capable of touring longer distances than was the norm in Europe. Yes, the new bike would be designed primarily for the American market…

By the end of 1966, Laverda were ready with a prototype machine that was fitted with a 650cc parallel-twin. However, the bike took two more years of development time before it could be put into production. And by the time it did go into production, the engine had been enlarged to 744cc (though a very few 650s were also built…), and thus the Laverda 750 was born.

Initially, the Laverda 750 was sold in the US under the ‘American Eagle’ brand, which was promoted by one Jack McCormack – the man responsible for the ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ ad campaign of the early 1960s. However, American Eagle went bust by around 1970, and the 750 then went on sale in the US under Laverda’s own brand name.


Between 1970-76, around 16,000 units of the 750SF were built

In 1970, the 750 also became the Laverda 750SF (Super Freni, or ‘Super Brakes’), with bigger, better brakes, redesigned chassis and a five-speed gearbox. The 750SF weighed around 230 kilos, and with its 744cc, SOHC, air-cooled parallel-twin producing 60 horsepower at 6,600rpm, the bike was capable of hitting a top speed of 165km/h.

Over the next few years, the 750SF got improved instrumentation (with Nippon Denso bits replacing the earlier Smiths units), a redesigned exhaust system and disc brakes instead of the earlier drums. By the 1975, the big Laverda’s gear shift pedal had been moved to the left, and the rear brake pedal to the right, but only for the US models.

The bike’s final iteration – the SF3, which came out in 1976 – got a few styling tweaks, cast alloy wheels, disc brakes at the rear and a new seat with a fibreglass cowl. Although the bike was available brand new in 1977, actual production stopped in 1976, with Laverda having produced around 16,000 units of the bike from 1970-76.

According to some road tests of the 1970s, the Laverda 750SF was reliable and well built, but the suspension was excessively stiff, the clutch was weak, gears were hard to shift, and thanks to its exhaust system, the bike was a bit too loud. Hmmm… who cares, really? We think the 750SF was totally cool back in the 1970s, and it’s just as cool today…


A restored Laverda 750SF in action...!

Also see:
Ducati Berliner Apollo: The 1960s V-Max!
Memorable: The mid-1980s Honda VF1000R...
Gilera SP01 and SP02: Good things come in small packages...
Icy cool: The 1970s/80s Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans...
The late-1970s Peugeot-powered DJ 1200 Bol d’Or racer...
The amazing Münch Mammut TTS-E...
Memorable: The Bimota DB2...

Elsewhere today:
Memorable: The rotary-engined Hercules W2000...


Bayliss vs Rossi would be the greatest race ever, but is it going to happen? Ducati are ok with Bayliss coming out of retirement for this one, but would Yamaha allow this race to happen? Dennis Noyes at Speed TV has the story here!

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