Tuesday, February 24, 2009
We quite like powerful, high-performance trikes here at Faster and Faster, and while the Campagna T-Rex, Carver One and Piaggio MP3/Gilera Fuoco remain our absolute favourite three-wheelers, the Can-Am Spyder is not too far off either.
For 2009, BRP are doing a new variant of the Can-Am Spyder – the SE5 – which features a sequential push-button semi-automatic transmission. Most other things remain the same – the Spyder SE5 is still fitted with Rotax’s eight-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 998cc v-twin that makes 106bhp at 8,500rpm and 104Nm of torque at 6,250rpm.
Final drive is via a carbon-reinforced belt, so there are none of the maintenance-related hassles associated with chain-drive. The SE5 uses a double A-arm with anti-roll bar setup at the front and swingarm/monoshock at the rear.
The Spyder rides on 14-inch front wheels, while the rear wheel is a 15-incher. Tyre sizes are 165/65 at the front and 225/50 at the back. The foot actuated brakes comprise of 260mm discs on all three wheels, with four-piston callipers at front and single-piston calliper at the rear. There are bits like electronic brake force distribution (EBD), anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control system (TCS) and vehicle stability system (VSS), which we’re sure boost the Spyder SE5’s safety factor.
The SE5 weighs 317kg dry, is priced at US$17,000 and comes with a two-year warranty. If we had the money, would we buy one? Umm… probably not. If we were getting a three-wheeler, we’d really have something a bit funkier, something like the Carver One or the Campagna T-Rex. However, with a bit more power – perhaps another 80-100bhp or so – the Spyder SE5 may not be such a bad deal after all…!
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
A supermoto tourer? That’s what KTM have done for 2009, with the new 990 SMT. And why not – we suppose there would be people who’re looking for a touring bike that’s lighter, more agile and more fun than, say, a K1300GT or a Goldwing. The guys at Motociclismo recently had a chance to ride the new 990 SMT and here are some excerpts from their report:
KTM have a particular way of building their bikes and the 990 SMT is no different. Yes, it’s comfortable, versatile and well suited to long journeys, but it also has that sporty DNA like all other KTMs. With this bike, with its wider range of capabilities, KTM hope to expand their customer base.
With the Supermoto Tourer, the Austrian company has managed to create a bike that offers great all-around performance. With 116bhp, it’s not extremely rapid, but the performance is still commendable – we assure you, it can satisfy the most demanding palates.
The 990 SMT is as agile as the standard 990 Supermoto, but is more comfortable, versatile and less tiring on longer rides. It even handles better, probably due to its lower, firmer suspension – the bike handles fast, flowing roads with great aplomb. In terms of styling, we think the 990 SMT is perhaps not as good looking as some other KTMs and comes across as a bit too ‘serious,’ but that is a matter of personal taste. The 990 SMT is probably targeted at a more mature audience, which may actually prefer the bike’s rather subdued bearing.
Like the standard 990 SM, the SMT is happy being ridden at a quick pace – it actually allows you to go even faster at most times – but unlike its cousin, this KTM is equally happy chugging along at a more relaxed pace. Because of its firmer suspension and reduced suspension travel, the SMT does not weave or wallow – it changes direction quickly and is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds. The brakes also work very well, showing no signs of fade even after extended hard usage. Overall, a very confidence-inspiring package…
Coming to the engine, the 990 SMT’s v-twin feels quite smooth and refined. It starts pulling hard from 3,000rpm and delivers an aggressive punch between 5,000-8,000rpm. The engine will actually rev all the way to 9,500 rpm though most of the time, you won’t need to push it that hard. The gearbox is also quick, precise and silent – no missed gear changes ever.
We liked the 990 SMT’s ergonomics, though the seat remains a bit on the higher side despite KTM having lowered it a bit. The riding position feels relaxed and bigger riders should be able to get quite comfortable on this bike. To conclude, the KTM 990 SMT was quite a pleasant surprise – it was good fun to ride and not one rider had anything negative to say about it. Just perfect.
2009 KTM 990 SMT: Tech Specs
...and here's the MCN guys having a go at the 990 SMT
Engine: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 8-valve, 999cc v-twin
Torque: 97Nm@ 7,000rpm
Power: 116bhp@9,000 rpm
Chassis: Steel tube trellis-type
Suspension: 48mm USD fork (front), adjustable monoshock (rear)
Price: 12,486 euros (US$16,000)
For the full article, visit the Motociclismo website here
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
BMW S1000RR vs Aprilia RSV4, Germany vs Italy. World Superbikes is going to be an all-out war zone this year...!
Strange things seem to be happening in the world of top-flight motorcycle racing. In a year when a major Japanese company like Kawasaki has announced its withdrawal from MotoGP, two European companies – BMW and Aprilia – are actually getting into World Superbikes, with all-new four-cylinder machines.
Forget the recession and cost-cutting, BMW and Aprilia are planning a no-holds-barred assault in World Superbikes this year, and they seem to be bringing the right kind of firepower for the battle that lies ahead for each of them. First, the BMW. The brand-new S1000RR, which will be ridden by Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus, is fitted with a liquid-cooled 999cc four-cylinder engine that, according to BMW, makes 200+ horsepower at 14,000+ revs.
The S1000RR comes with a six-speed gearbox, Dell´ Orto fuel-injection system (with 48mm injectors), fully adjustable Öhlins suspension (43mm USD fork at front, TTX shock at the back) and Brembo brakes (twin 320mm discs with four-piston callipers at front, single 220mm disc at the back with four-piston calliper). The bike rides on 16.5-inch wheels shod with Pirelli tyres and weighs 162kg dry.
On to the Aprilia, and the all-new RSV4, which is fitted with a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 999cc, 65-degree V4 that Aprilia claim is the most powerful engine they’ve ever built. Indeed, the street-legal version of the RSV4 packs 180bhp at 12,500rpm, so the World Superbikes racer should, like the S1000RR, easily have more than 200 horsepower.
Like the BMW, the Aprilia also has a host of electronics making sure the engine delivers its best at all times. The RSV4’s engine has bits like variable height intake trumpets, four throttle bodes, eight injectors and ride-by-wire fuel management. There’s also a six-speed cassette-type gearbox, aluminium beam frame with mixed cast and pressed sheet sections, fully adjustable Öhlins suspension and Brembo brakes with monobloc radial-mount callipers.
The RSV4 rides on 17-inch forged aluminium alloy wheels, shod with 120/70 (front) and 190/55 (rear) tyres. The streetbike weighs 179kg dry, so we suppose the WSBK-spec bike will be at least 10-15 kilos lighter. On paper, the RSV4 and S1000RR seem pretty evenly matched, though it remains to be seen how they’ll perform on the track. What’s certain is that the 2009 World Superbikes season should be the best ever and the action is likely to be fast and furious. Bring it on now…
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The 2009 Piaggio MP3 HyS will use an electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, to augment its 250cc petrol engine...
Piaggio recently got a loan of €150 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which the company said it would invest towards the development of its next-generation two-wheelers, including non-polluting battery-powered electric scooters.
Well, it seems Piaggio are almost ready to take their first steps towards a cleaner, greener future. The company had started work on a hybrid version of its MP3 – the MP3 HyS – three-wheeled scooter back in 2007 and the little trike will soon be ready to go into production. It won’t be inexpensive though – prices are likely to be around €10,000 when this scooter is launched later this year, in Italy and Spain.
Apart from its 250cc petrol engine, the Piaggio MP3 HyS will be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, which will offer a range of about 20km in electric-only mode. However, even when the petrol engine is being used, the electric motor will chip in to help under hard acceleration. Since electric motors produce lots of torque at low RPMs, this ‘help’ is likely to provide a significant hike in performance.
The Piaggio HyS system has been designed as a ‘parallel hybrid’ where the petrol engine and electric motor are ‘linked,’ and work together seamlessly. With its ride-by-wire throttle and advanced electronics managing the engine and electric motor, the MP3 HyS will be able to offer better acceleration, reduced fuel consumption (the vehicle could average up to 60km/l) and lower emissions.
Piaggio’s HyS system also has other tricks up its sleeve – it uses regenerative braking to store the energy generated during braking, which it uses to charge the scooter’s battery. Even otherwise, the lithium-ion battery pack will only take around 3-4 hours for a full charge, via any household electricity outlet.
Riders will have the option to use the MP3 HyS in either battery-only, engine-only or hybrid mode, with the scooter’s on-board electronics managing the interaction between the engine and the electric motor in hybrid mode. Everything is, of course, fully automated – the rider only has to twist the throttle and go.
Will HyS be the future of two-wheeler technology? Umm… we’re not too sure. In fact, we think that probably wouldn’t be the case. Various manufacturers are working on full-on electric vehicles, which wouldn’t have a petrol engine at all and will only run on electric motors powered by lithium-ion batteries. Within the next 2-5 years, we expect mainstream manufacturers to start offering battery-powered bikes that would offer adequate range and performance, which would be vastly better than what’s currently available.
Over the next few years, scooters and small-displacement commuter bikes will move away from the IC engine completely and switch over to battery power, while high-end sportsbikes are likely to still have only petrol engines for at least another decade. So where does that leave HyS and other similar systems? In our opinion, these hybrid systems will be short-lived – they might be around for the next 2-3 years, after which they will fade away and lithium-ion batteries (and later, hydrogen fuel cells…) will take over the world.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Valentino Rossi turns 30 today, on the 16th of February 2009. With 97 race wins and eight world championships (including six premier class world championships) over 14 years of racing, the man is phenomenally successful. And unlike some other immensely successful men who have their heads stuck up their own a****s most of the time, The Doctor remains humble, affable and genuinely likable. Yes, we love him!!!
Here are some people wishing Rossi a very happy birthday. Read on - some of these messages are quite interesting...
DAVIDE BRIVIO (FIAT YAMAHA TEAM MANAGER)
"I don't really have a favourite memory of Valentino, or at least it's difficult to choose the ‘absolute best!' The first one that comes to mind however is just after the Welkom race in 2004, his famous first MotoGP race with Yamaha. Before Valentino finally joined Yamaha, during one of the meetings the previous September, he said that he wanted to win his first race with Yamaha! This immediately created a lot of pressure for me and for Yamaha, but anyway I promised him that we would all try all our best. Honestly at that time I felt that it was going to be a very difficult thing to achieve! During the final few pre-season tests the chances of doing it began to look better and better, but in a race itself anything can happen. Incredibly, he won that race in Welkom and just after it, after the technical meeting had finished, we were alone in his changing room. Somebody had left a bottle of wine in the fridge and we opened it and raised a toast to that day way back in September, when he had first said that he wanted to win this race. "We did it!" I said to him. It was a very emotional moment for me because it was the moment we achieved our very first target together. Happy Birthday!"
CESARE CREMONINI (SINGER AND FRIEND)
"Vale is a fighter, but armed with a smile. I've never seen him lose his humanity, even in the most difficult moments. One time I found him making gags and jokes as if he was at home with friends, when in fact he had just a couple of minutes to go before a decisive race. While he was putting on his leathers, ready to go out and challenge the world, he transmitted a joy for life, listening to a song on his ipod. "Ciao Ragazzi! See you later!" He said. Then came a sweeping victory at the limits of possibility and a long night of partying together! Happy Birthday, Vale!"
TOM CRUISE (ACTOR AND ROSSI FAN)
"Valentino, You are a true champion. You keep raising the bar, relentlessly pursuing the next race, the next challenge, the next championship. I also know that the victories don't necessarily become easier. You have to dig deeper, work even harder, become more focused to overcome the distractions. That's what you do. And I, like countless others, know that when you're on that track anything is possible. It was my great pleasure to be there at Laguna Seca and see you take that victory. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it! You certainly don't disappoint! Thank you for all the great races you have given us, and for all the great races yet to come. Happy Birthday."
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS (ACTOR AND ROSSI FAN)
"Every race, every win, every championship! Vale the kid in the portaloo is an old favourite, always irresistible in victory and gracious in defeat (not that he had to prove it very often!) But the all-time favourite memory for me would be him at Laguna Seca going inside Stoner through the dirt. Death or glory; the whole race an answer to those daft enough still to have a question. And to have shaken the hand of that man - that I won't forget either."
ALDO DRUDI (DESIGNER AND FRIEND)
"Cattolica, August 1996, 2pm, very hot. I'm travelling by motorbike on a deserted road towards the sea, when a small and colourful outline appears from an intersection ahead, going very fast. A young boy on a scooter ‘closes' the corner, accentuates the bend, runs around the pavement, straightens up and pulls a wheelie... he holds the wheelie on the aqua-green Zip for more than 200 metres, still on the gas. I accelerate and catch him up. The boy lets go of the left handlebar and lifts the left hand in a sign of victory. I recognise him and follow him. Finally he lowers the wheel and with his feet on the footrests he throws embraces and salutes all around the road to his imaginary fans. He notices me, right beside him, and smiles. Happy Birthday Vale!"
COLIN EDWARDS (TEAM-MATE 2005/06/07 AND NOW TECH 3 YAMAHA RIDER)
"I have a few fond memories of Vale starting from 2000. Our 2002 victory at the Suzuka 8-Hour was something special, but I'd have to say my one memory that stands out is Laguna 2005. Basically, we were both healthy and fighting for every inch. I did have a slight advantage knowing the track since 1992. As I can recall, it was the first time we were together on track racing close; as most would confirm, he was usually ten seconds in front of me leading by this point in the race! Then he mounted a charge on the last two laps that came up just short...I was happy we didn't have one more lap! Haha!!!! It's not really a memory that I beat him, it's more of a memory of racing side by side with what I consider "The Goat", which translates as The Greatest Of All Time. Happy birthday, you old man!"
CARMELO EZPELETA (CEO, DORNA SPORTS)
"My favourite "Valentino moment" is remembering the unique human quality that he showed after his battle with Nicky Hayden for the 2006 MotoGP Championship. It is very easy to behave like a champion when you win, but Rossi's attitude after losing was admirable and impressive."
LIN JARVIS (MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING)
"It's difficult to think of a single moment but I guess one of the most memorable moments was during the 2003 season when Valentino had his first meeting with the Yamaha YZR-M1. We had started our secret discussions earlier that year for a possible future move to Yamaha. Vale said he wanted to have a real look at the Yamaha M1 bike so we agreed to organize a secret rendezvous in the paddock at the Donington GP. To keep it secret we arranged to meet on Saturday night in the Yamaha Factory Team pit box. After midnight Vale arrived in a dark parka jacket with the hood up. He looked like a burglar coming to steal our stuff! Once inside he greeted everybody there and introduced himself and then took his time to look at Carlos Checa's M1 from every angle before asking our permission if he could sit on the bike. We were so surprised by his humility and modesty and even more surprised when he paid a complement to us by stating that it was "not so bad" after all. His attitude on that first night time meeting said a lot about the man. Since then I have seen a hundred more examples... Happy Birthday, Vale!"
JORGE LORENZO (FIAT YAMAHATEAM-MATE, 2008/09)
"I want to say Happy Birthday to my team-mate Valentino. It is great for me to be racing with a legend like him, but maybe now he's 30 he might slow down a little bit!"
MARCO MATERAZZI (INTER MILAN FOOTBALL PLAYER AND FRIEND)
"We met thanks to Inter, but we became friends thanks to motorbikes: our two great passions! Now the stadium and the circuit are occasions to be fans for one another and to try to bring good luck; you for me and I for you. But the moment in which we feel the truest friends is when we're having dinner together at my house, sitting together at the same table. There we are just Marco and Valentino, two who for many reasons see life in the same way. Today I am just like you, when you put your number on to race it is the double of me when I put mine on to play, because I have 23! For your 30th I give you ‘double' greetings. And one more special thing to remember, to succeed in keeping our ‘secret' promise, the one which we can only tell when we've achieved it! Happy birthday Vale!"
GUIDO MEDA (ITALIAN TV COMMENTATOR AND FRIEND)
"The end of testing, the slow-down lap. Valentino sees you from the track and goes to wave at you. It's a quick movement and it seems trivial, but it's a sign, a sign of how he focuses his attention; on the bike while he needs to, on the man when he can. He separates the moments, detaches them, changes and reasons. This is why everyone always wants him as their poster boy. The Valentino I know above all defeats what is normal while the legend grows. Now he turns 30, what can I say? As before, he still has his feet on the ground. He is ruthless and very much a perfectionist. He is easy-going and always curious with his own taste for an interesting life, but he is normal. After eight titles and 97 victories, I would like to be sure that I tell the story in the right way and, although the legend continues to grow, I can always find simple words."
STEFANIA PALMA (MOTHER)
"I have thought about what to tell you through the media for your 30th birthday... I could have dealt with sun, stars, mountains, love and happiness... but I feel it is more right to say, simply... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
CARLO PERNAT (JOURNALIST AND FRIEND)
"How could I not love you, Valentino? The champions know exactly what they have to do, instinctively. I remember in 1997, when we were making your first TV advert. You had to endure a day with a fussy and long-winded director, who couldn't finish and had to adjourn until the next day. You left and, with your friend Uccio you called to warn that you were already home at your house, and where you were staying also the next day! Straugurissimi, Legend!"
WAYNE RAINEY (WORLD CHAMPION WITH YAMAHA 1990/91/92)
"Happy 30th birthday Valentino! I love to watch when the odds are against you, the battle is on. Your passion to win is visible and I respect that very much. 30 years old...life is just beginning for you!"
KENNY ROBERTS SENIOR (WORLD CHAMPION WITH YAMAHA 1978/79/80)
"Valentino, when I first saw you ride at the ranch in Barcelona... I thought Kevin Schwantz was tall and skinny! You were very impressive then as you are now! Good luck and Happy Birthday!"
GRAZIANO ROSSI (FATHER)
"Simply... I would like to wish him to get to 40 without growing up anymore and then after 40... let's see!"
RINO SALUCCI (FRIEND AND PRESIDENT OF OFFICIAL FAN CLUB)
"Am I asking too much if I ask for 30 more years of excitement? Well, I can live with half!
UCCIO SALUCCI (BEST FRIEND)
"I hope that for the next 30 years Vale will be as fast as he has been in the previous 30 and that he gives us more passes and excitement like we had at Laguna Seca 2008. 30 more Corkscrews, Vale!"
MARCO SIMONCELLI (250CC WORLD CHAMPION AND FRIEND)
"Happy Birthday, Bomber! Although you are now 30, try to give us as much excitement as you have given to us until you were 29! Auguri! Sic58"
GIGI SOLDANO (OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND FRIEND)
"I know that every time I work with him something different will happen once again. One more time his image is in front of my lens and once again I have a different feeling and taste to be working with him. His little wrinkles, his determined gaze with his piercing eyes, which look right through you if you are not quick to change the shot. We play a game and by now he knows what expression I want before I have even asked, just like a team-mate in a match. The expressions stay in my mind as memories. This is what having Vale in front of the camera means, every time. I am always happy that I have the good fortune to work with him. Today he is posing for me with a chocolate cake to celebrate his 30th birthday. I shoot it as simply as possible; It's not necessary to have anything else to make it a unique shot. A white background is enough, and once again we relax into the ‘groove'. A song comes into my head: "When you have a sunny day in December, you can say that summer is already here! Congratulations, Vale!"
JAMES TOSELAND (TECH 3 YAMAHA RIDER)
"30 is a big milestone for a racer because, even though you're not really old as a person, you're starting to be one of the older ones in professional racing and you start to feel that you can't go on forever! I don't think it's a problem for Valentino however, he seems to still feel 25 so as long as that continues he'll be just fine! Happy Birthday and have a great party!"
FASTER AND FASTER (MOTORCYCLE BLOG RUN BY ROSSI FANS)
"Doctor, wish you a VERY happy birthday! This year, we hope and pray that you'll go out on the track and kick a** harder than ever. And, now, how about the exclusive interview that we've been chasing you for...?"
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Big Green are now getting… greener. In keeping with newer, stricter C02 emissions norms, Kawasaki, in Europe, are now offering their ‘ECO2Logic’ technology on some of their bikes – the ones with less than 100bhp. The 2009 Kawasaki Z750 will be the first bike to be equipped with ECO2Logic, which we think represents tweaks to the fuel-injection and exhaust systems to minimise emissions…
Thursday, February 12, 2009
We think the Ducati Streetfighter really is one of the very best looking machines to come out of Italy in recent times. It’s buff and muscular, taut and aggressive, and gives out that ‘you don’t want to mess with me’ vibe, which we quite like. So it was only natural that we tracked down the man who designed this bike – Damien Basset – and asked him some questions.
From 1997 to 2000, Damien studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, in the US, from where he got a degree in product design. He then started his career in 2001 with Honda R&D Americas and now works with Ducati at their Design Center in Bologna, Italy. He was the project leader for the Ducati Streetfighter and was responsible for the concept, design and development of the bike.
Here are some excerpts from what Damien has to say about his life, his work and motorcycle design:
On where he’s from, and how he got started with motorcycle design
I am from Laval, a small city in the north-west of France, about 30 minutes away from Le Mans. My father is a passionate motorcyclist; I've always seen motorcycles in the garage, all brands, all types, and all generations. I wanted to do something about bikes, selling them, building them etc. I was always a hands-on person – restoring old bikes and modifying my own…
Once, seeing the parts I had designed for my bike, a mechanic told me about Franco Sbarro and his design school and I decided to check it out. Till that time, I thought design applied only to furniture and weird lighting devices – I had no clue I could also apply this to creating motorcycles. While visiting Sbarro's school in Switzerland, I learnt about Art Center College of Design. When I entered the students’ gallery, there was a yellow Ducati redesigned as a thesis project by some student, and I was hooked.
When I enrolled at the Art Center, I first decided I wouldn’t design bikes!! I was much too involved with bikes to let anybody impose their vision on me. And so I started with sketching and designing more than 200 watches, TVs, cellphones and other consumer products. But in the end, I realised I’d rather do motorcycles after all…
I took a transfer to the American campus in Pasadena and redirected my studies towards motorcycle design. When I graduated, I got picked up by Honda R&D in California, where I worked on the design of a couple of ATVs, sportsbikes, cruisers and Jet-skis. There, I really understood what it meant to design motorcycles, and the complexity of the task. The Japanese are very thorough and I learnt a great deal. Those were good times!
On how he got started with Ducati
Four years ago, Ducati was looking for somebody to design motorcycles exclusively, so I wound up my 10 years of life in America and returned to Europe to design red, exotic racing motorcycles. I worked on the 1098, the SportClassics, the Hypermotard and the Desmosedici. And then I started the Streefighter project...
On the bikes he rides
I have always ridden – cruisers, sportsbikes and motocross bikes. In my family, we always spend our vacations on bikes – we like to go places and meet people on the way. Motorcycles are great for that, it's a fantastic community.
I had many bikes – sportsbikes and cruisers – the latest one being a Ducati MHe. I love antique and classic bikes, but I also love to ride them. So, the MHe seemed a good compromise of retro looks, power and modern brakes and handling.
On his favourite bikes, from the design point of view
It's a bit difficult to say. There is the professional point of view and then there are the bikes that I personally loved, because they meant something to me. It's very difficult to differentiate passion from profession. I have respect for all motorcycles, I always find something interesting in most bikes.
In general, I like bikes designed by non-professional industrial designers. Bikes done in a garage, with very little resources, often lead to amazing and original design solutions, which can be very inspirational. This is the spirit in which it all started – from the early-1900’s DeDion Bouton cycle cars, to Britten. It has to do with people being able to see their design through – no restrictions, no limits, no meetings, lots of passion!
On his favourite bikes from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s
From the 70s, the Yamaha 1100XS, the first bike I remember in the garage when I was eight. The Goldwing GL1000 and Watsonian sidecar, with earl forks and square car tyres. These are not really design references, but they're the reason I design bikes today!
From the 80s, the Yamaha V-max – it’s one of the first bikes I remember desiring. I was 11. I still think the original bike looks more modern than most bikes today.
From the 90s, GSX-Rs, CBRs, and especially the Kawasaki ZXR750, for it's monstrous air-intake pipes. Those were the forbidden crazy rides, the race-replicas, 0-to-60 under 4s... Then, Britten, for the story and the innovation.
Current models? The concept MT-01 before it became fat, Sachs Beast, Honda NAS, Harley-Davidson Softtail, Benelli Tre, MV Agusta F4 and the Ducati Streetfighter... because it's my baby!
On how working in Italy, for Ducati, is different from working in the US, for Honda
The work is pretty much the same, the environment is different. LA is a big place, Bologna is small. Honda is a big company, Ducati is a small company... The culture of a company is related to its size. I think that's the main difference between Honda and Ducati.
Things are not as planned here at Ducati, at least not as you would expect. Therefore it takes a while to gather all the resources necessary. Once it starts, it's very quick, efficient and to the point. Just like a race. Also it seems that designers are more involved from day one, therefore have a little more control over the outcome.
The Japanese plan everything, even the non-planned hurdles are computed, so products are defined well in advance in a very tedious process. Everybody and everything is considered and when your turn comes, there is the necessary time to achieve exactly what was expected of you. You have to be quick and efficient…
On European vs Japanese motorcycle design
Japanese manufacturers must follow their market very closely. They are huge enterprises therefore must sell lots of ‘products’ to sustain their activities. This is something that drives their design. A bike will look different if you sell it for 15,000 euro to 4,000 people or if you sell it for 9,999 euro to 20,000 people. Because it's a saturated market, you must make sure you'll design something that will please those 20,000...
Europeans must identify a narrower set of taste and opinions, which lead to more targeted design. This what BMW or Ducati are doing. Talking about evolution, It's seems there are many more crossover concepts nowadays. Bikes used to be classified in just a couple of categories – standard, cruiser, sports... Nowadays, it's motocross-meets-streetbike and sport-tourers with 300km/h top speeds.
They're all doing it, but Europeans have to stick to their core market due to limited resources. The Japanese have expanded exponentially in all directions – and not only in the motorcycle business – Honda is making jet airplanes now…
On the Ducati Streetfighter
Claudio Domenicali identified an opportunity to use the chassis and engine of the 1098. Because of the new Monster 696, we had to find an alternative for the S4RS. We rapidly decided that the ‘Streetfighter’ had to have its own style.
Due to time restrictions, we decided not to modify the 1098’s chassis, engine and airbox. It was clear to me from that point that the ’Fighter would be closely tied to the 1098. So, identifiable details and form language are directly drawn from the 1098, but proportions are clearly more aggressive and the lines are more directional. I also put it on steroids – more muscle. I really wanted it as the ‘pissed-off’ alternative!
Another design prerogative was to make it a 160kg/160bhp motorcycle. We blew it somehow, but not by much and certainly those figures remain easily reachable. Overall, I am quite satisfied, considering the complexity of the project. The bike is very short, narrow and directional. The goal was to keep most of the volume contained in the perimeter of the frame. Proportion is the most important aspect of design, the rest is detail.
In terms of integration, creating a sense of unity was one of the biggest challenges. Unlike with a faired bike, the bodywork and surfaces are interrupted by mechanical components on a naked. Overall, I just kept the bodywork on top of its mechanical, functional part. In terms of surface treatment, I wanted fluid surfaces, along with clear and sharp character lines.
I have to give credit to the patience and perseverance of the development team in charge of producing the bike – they're the ones who really made the Streetfighter, not me. With the time constraints, it turned out to be an engineering nightmare, but they still pulled it off.
On how people react to the Ducati Streetfighter
The response of Ducati fans has been very good. The bike won the best of Milan show – I guess that means something. Still, I get criticism about the headlight and the bellypan (I hate it by the way!), more from people who’ve only seen the bike in pictures. But once they have seen it physically and felt its volume, size and proportions from all angles, the criticism tends to vanish. In the end, you can't please them all, right?
In fact, I can't wait to see personalised Streetfighters. And I dream of making a ‘Director's Cut’ version – all carbon and aluminium, back to the original 160kg/160bhp concept. The final test will be when the bike hits the dealers but I am convinced owners will love it.
On which bike he would choose, between the Ducati 916, 999 and the 1198
I would choose the 916 because it became such a design icon, a classic. At the end we always come back to that bike. If I wanted performance before everything else, I would choose the 1198, but the 916 is our 911, and if you offered me a choice between the current Cayman or a 1993 911, I would choose the original (money considerations
Among older Ducatis, I really love the F1 – it’s my favourite. Then, the1972 Ducati 750 Imola and the 916.
On how motorcycle design has changed over the last 20 years
From craftsmanship to industrial process, computers, the way we draw, the way we introduce a bike to management.... Nowadays, the management must have a preview of what the bike will be. The goal is to provide more evaluation opportunities and provide choices, options. We draw the bikes, many of them, so the management can choose early. This is necessary because compared to 20 years ago, many more departments are involved in bringing a bike to the market. Quality expectations have evolved and the earlier you can test the final design, the more time you have to avoid potential problems.
Designers are just one element in the team, but we are where the process begins. We have the responsibility to control the aesthetics of the bike in a macroscopic way. The bike must be beautiful, but it must work perfectly too, then it must sell. This has to be a common goal for the team…
On the role of computers in motorcycle design
Computers do allow a much more integrated process. I constantly send and receive updated 3D CAD models. Surfaces are digitized in the first steps and are updated all along the development, allowing us to control the layout in a more efficient manner or, later, to update our surfaces accordingly. Mechanical or functional parts are superimposed by the technical office, while I can modify the 3D model in a couple of days and material resistance/volumes or weight are simulated in a matter of weeks.
It's a big dance – I propose some ideas for a part, receive a counter proposal from the engineers, then digest it and redesign, incorporating those changes. Eventually, the essence of the design is understood and we start to work on the details. That's a big change from 20 years ago, when you would have to wait until the first prototypes to validate an idea fully. Obviously, this provides you with much more opportunity to experiment and refine the design.
On what he would build, if he had full, complete freedom to design a replacement for the 1198
It would have to be identifiable as a Ducati in any colour, without any logo – just gorgeous by any standards! The bike would be small and very aggressive. It would have a pair of eyes and flowing lines, shapes inspired from nature, designed by wind tunnel – a mix of the 916 and the Desmosedici.
I would try to bring in the mix, some ‘shrink wrapping’ around the technology – just like the human form, which follows the shape of the muscle and the bone structure. Don't you find that F1 cars have such an intrinsic beauty, due to their absolute function-oriented shape? I'd like people to think at first glance, ‘That is the F1 of motorcycles.’ And it would be red!
On how he thinks motorcycle design will evolve over the next 10 years
Until recently, parts suppliers were, more or less, common to the auto industry. If you wanted a battery or a radiator, the choices were quite limited. Also, considering the numbers of units per year, it was quite difficult to justify the investment in specific tooling for just a couple of thousand units a year. Basically, for many components, we had to choose from a catalogue.
Now, industrial suppliers are becoming increasingly flexible. The looks of the motorcycle will evolve in parallel with those suppliers’ increased capacity. I dream of batteries taking any shape, radiators that I could curve in any direction, mouldable, cheap carbonfibre etc.
Given that motorcycle design is closely related to the layout of its components, these technological breakthroughs will drive big steps in design. Every once in a while, there is one of those breakthroughs and bike design evolves (for an example, aluminium moulding/welding has shaped sportsbike design over the last 20 years…).
Factory personalisation will also probably play a big role in changing the design picture. Big manufacturers have implemented factory ordered personalisation. In the modern age, I can see how that will expand – from designer to owner – that sounds good.
About my future designs, I'll keep trying not to be taken by ‘design concept’ frenzies or originality for its own sake. I want to see more beautiful motorcycles that are refined and well thought out.
Thank you, Damien, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer all our questions. We wish you all the best and look forward to more Ducatis that you’ve designed…!
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