Saturday, February 28, 2009

MotoGP: The Kawasaki farce continues

Will Marco Melandri really ride a bike that was uncompetitive last year and which, without Kawasaki's involvement, has no chance of improving this year?!

In the ongoing Kawasaki-MotoGP debacle, the latest, according to MCN, is that one Kawasaki machine will participate in the 2009 MotoGP season. This lone Kawasai ZX-RR will, however, be re-branded ‘Hayate’ and will be run by Dorna, with Kawasaki themselves not playing any role in the entire thing.

Reports in the media claim that Marco Melandri will be racing this Dorna-Hayate machine, while Melandri himself says he will first test the machine (in Qatar, tomorrow) and see if it’s worth riding at all. Indeed, why Melandri should race a machine that was completely uncompetitive in 2008 and which hasn’t changed since then, is beyond us. And to top that, since Kawasaki will not be involved and there is apparently nobody else who’s equipped to handle development work for the bike, there’s zero chance of the ZX-RR improving at all!

The other thing of course is that nobody knows what’s happening with John Hopkins, who’s now left without a ride. In any case, this whole Kawasaki-MotoGP thing seems to be in shambles – it’s a shameful to way to bring things to an end. If Kawasaki had decided to leave MotoGP, a clean, clear exit would have been so much better than this protracted Dorna vs Kawasaki battle.

Kawasaki ZX-RR MotoGP

Friday, February 27, 2009

Toyoshi Nishida: “We wanted to make the new R1 exciting to ride…!”

Rossi's bike for the street? Yeah, well, the 2009 R1 is probably as close as most of us can get...

Is Toyoshi Nishida the next Tadao Baba? Baba, the man responsible for the first ‘wild child’ Honda CBR900RR FireBlade, became a cult figure who is even today idolised by fans of the original ’Blade.

When it was launched in 1992, the FireBlade was an absolute revelation – the world had not seen anything like it before. And, it seems, the 2009 Yamaha R1 is a similar step in superbike evolution. In one fell swoop, it has raised the bar and changed the game, making all other Japanese litre-class sportsbikes look dated. So much so that in the years to come, Toyoshi Nishida, the 2009 R1 project leader at Yamaha, just might be looked upon as the new Tadao Baba…

‘The crossplane crankshaft gives a very gentle torque feeling, a less aggressive character than the old R1. We wanted to make the bike exciting to ride, so we focused on providing good injection control and a very linear feel from the throttle,’ says Nishida. ‘This makes the bike very exciting to ride, and it’s very fast too. We tested with many riders of different levels and the new bike is always faster. Riders of all skill levels had the same comment – that the new model is very controllable,’ he adds.

But why didn’t Yamaha fit anti-lock brakes and/or traction control on the new R1? Isn’t that a serious oversight? ‘At this moment, I don’t think the most important thing is to help the rider who miscontrols [?!] the bike. The priority is to give the rider a linear feel, which is more enjoyable and also safer,’ says Nishida. ‘For the same reason we didn’t fit ABS, although we considered it. At this moment, the most important thing is to provide the rider with very precise control,’ he adds.

Finally, what about the MotoGP-style exhaust system that many were expecting to see on the 2009 R1? ‘We considered using a shorter exhaust system, like the one on the M1 and R6, instead of the high-level system. But we had many things to consider, including the length and straightness of the exhaust, which affect performance, and the new, lower, rear suspension linkage. There was not much space under the engine,’ concludes Nishida.

Indeed, it looks like Yamaha have done things right with the 2009 YZF-R1. ‘Before riding this bike, and with the brilliance of Ducati’s 1198S fresh in my mind, I thought Yamaha had missed a trick in updating the R1 so comprehensively without adding traction control,’ says noted bike journalist Roland Brown, who recently tested the new R1 at the Eastern Creek circuit. ‘Time to think again. The electronic aids will, inevitably, come soon. But in the meanwhile, this version of the R1 is not simply the best yet – it’s a significant step forward whose edge is gained via its rider’s brain and right wrist – surely the purest, most satisfying way possible,’ he adds.

Hmm… sounds good to us, though we don’t know if we’re convinced about Yamaha’s decision to leave ABS out of the equation. On the street, especially in tricky road/weather conditions, even the best riders can and do mess up, and ABS is an invaluable safety aid in such situations. Then again, that also leaves something to look forward to in 2010…

Toyoshi Nishida speaks about the 2009 Yamaha R1...

Ducati GT1000 riding impression

The right Ducati for those lazy Sunday morning rides...

All right, so we do think the Ducati 1198S is the most lust-worthy motorcycle (though the 2009 Yamaha R1 is not too far behind…!) in the whole world right now. But the GT1000 also looks charming in its own retro-classic way. For the times when you aren’t in the mood for full race leathers – for lazy Sunday morning rides when you’d rather just throw on an old leather jacket and wear a stylish open-face helmet – the GT1000 might just be perfect. Even the wife/girlfriend is likely to find the GT more comfortable than the 1198, so…

The guys at InfoMotori recently had the opportunity to test ride the Ducati GT1000, and here are some excerpts from what they have to say about the bike:

The Ducati GT1000 offers the best of two different worlds – elegant styling that harks back to a different era, combined with contemporary motorcycle technology, which makes it safe and reliable. Retro styling cues are everywhere – large, generous double seat, twin rear shocks, wire-spoke wheels, steel tube chassis and even the way the headlamp and taillamp look – everything looks like it’s from a different age.

And yet, even though you may not be able to spot them immediately, there are modern bits aplenty on the GT1000. For example, the 43mm USD Marzocchi fork, twin 320mm brake discs (front) and 245mm disc (rear) and the tyres, with their modern tread pattern.

The GT1000, which weighs 185kg dry, is fitted with Ducati’s 992cc air-and-oil cooled v-twin, which produces 92bhp at 8,000rpm and 91Nm of torque at 6,000rpm. Get on to the bike and it feels light and incredibly comfortable – just right for slicing through city traffic. And even at low revs, there’s always a hint of that special Ducati character, a glimpse of the bike’s ‘fighting spirit’ that’s just waiting to surface.

The GT1000 is, of course, all about looking good...

Up in the winding roads in the hills of Bologna, the GT1000 builds speed quickly and effortlessly. The Ducati engine, which is all aggressive at lower revs, seems to calm down as the speed builds up, while the handling remains spot-on. The bike corners with confidence and stability – the rider always feels completely in control and completely safe.

Now, while the GT1000 is happy being ridden fast, you may actually enjoy the bike more if you slow down a bit. It’s the type of bike on which you’d want to look around a bit, enjoy the scenery. This definitely isn’t about performance calibrated to the last hundredth of a second – it’s about style and turning on the charm…

The GT1000 has no storage space, but that’s a problem that the touring version – with its saddlebags and high windscreen – should take care of. At €10,300 (US$13,100), the GT1000 probably isn’t for everyone. But then stylish, sophisticated Italian motorcycle like this one can never be cheap.

For the full article, visit the InfoMotori website here

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Max Biaggi, Shinya Nakano on the Aprilia RSV4

Shinya Nakano and Max Biaggi, with the Aprilia RSV4 World Superbikes racebike

We think the Aprilia RSV4 is simply amazing. We love the way it looks and we’re sure it’ll go like blazes. This bike, we think, will rock the World Superbikes establishment on its haunches. On the Aprilia website, Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano – the two men who’ll be racing the RSV4 this year – have answered some questions about the bike’s handling and overall performance. Here are some excerpts from what the two have to say about the bike:

On its handling

Biaggi: ‘I am still working hard to find the perfect feeling but it is certainly more manageable [compared to the RSV1000] and very precise upon entering into curves. We are trying to do the most to optimize the handling in respect to the electronics and the engine. It does well coming out of curves – even if the movement is a bit skittish – and I am amazed at how it changes direction. I am also happy about its extreme reactivity.’

Nakano: ‘The RSV4 is really a ‘racing motorcycle’ and I immediately found a great feeling. It has an optimal limber that we worked on a lot during the first test since I think it is of utmost importance; I immediately achieved the sensation I had been seeking. It is still a bit skittish when coming out of curves although that doesn't depend on the mechanics but instead the power supply and engine mapping.’

On its ride-by-wire system

Biaggi: ‘Ride-by-wire was adopted from MotoGP and brought to Superbikes last year by Yamaha. It allows for a much improved management of the motorcycle and can be a great help to the rider since it is well calibrated to make the most of its potential.’

Nakano: ‘The functioning of this system didn't alter my riding style but instead gives more advantages. The most important thing is to find the right connection between the handle control and the rear wheel reaction. Finding the right setting can be tough but that wasn't the case with the RSV4; we've already established a great feeling.’

In a separate interview with Superbike Planet, Biaggi recently gave more insight into the RSV4’s behaviour. ‘It feels like more close on the way of Suzuki, for sure. Not even close to Ducati in the way the two cylinders go, the behavior. That bike is two cylinders less, it makes a big difference. It's pushing out of the corner in a different way compared to Ducati. But it's more close to Suzuki, which is an inline-four. So what I think is, it feels like, young. It feels like it's a young project,’ says Biaggi.

‘Our test in Portugal was not great but I am hopeful that we will come back strong for the Phillip Island test and race. I think the Aprilia Superbike project is very important to the factory and they are putting all of their strength behind it. It's good for me to be back with Aprilia and be back where it really began with me in racing. Would it not be a good story if after all these years we were again successful together,’ says Max. Yes, we’re sure it’ll be one hell of a good story. Here’s wishing you all the best – hope you, Nakano and Aprilia go on to rock the WSBK scene this year!

BMW F800R to hit showrooms by May this year

The BMW F800R is coming out in May...

The BMW F800R, the first official pics of which were released back in November last year, is due to go on sale by May this year, according to a report on Solo Moto. The bike is fitted with BMW's 798cc parallel twin, which makes 87 horsepower at 8,000rpm and 86Nm of torque at 6,000 revs. The bike weighs 204 kilos wet and will be available with ABS. Prices to be announced soon...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 BRP Can-Am Spyder SE5

The 2009 Can-Am Spyder SE5. Looks quite cool, though we wish it had a bit more power...

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

Aprilia RSV1000: The heat is on!

Cindy Iglesias provides a whole new perspective on the Aprilia RSV1000. Go ahead, drool. And if you want more hot Aprilias, there's some below that you may like...
Via Motoblog

Pics: Flickr

Sunday, February 22, 2009

KTM 990 SMT riding impression

Not exactly a Honda Goldwing, the 990 SMT is KTM's take what a touring bike should be

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.

...and here's the MCN guys having a go at the 990 SMT

2009 KTM 990 SMT: Tech Specs

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