Saturday, March 28, 2009

CAF-E: Tim Cameron’s supercharged hybrid motorcycle concept


The CAF-E concept bike uses a supercharged parallel twin mated to an electric motor

Pics: Tim Cameron

Tim Cameron, the Aussie motorcycle designer who’s earlier done bikes like the Travertson V-Rex and VR-2 (both of which are now in production, in the US), is now on to his next machine – the CAF-E. In addition to style and performance, the CAF-E hybrid motorcycle concept has been designed for better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

Since it’s a petrol-electric hybrid, the CAF-E is powered by a parallel-twin engine with twin superchargers and an electric motor that’s fed by a lithium-ion battery pack. ‘It is a 'parallel hybrid,' meaning the petrol engine and the electric motor work together to provide the driving power,’ says Cameron. ‘The secret to this arrangement is the transmission, based around Toyota's clever 'Synergy Drive,' a computer-controlled planetary gear arrangement that combines the output of both powerplants seamlessly according to load and conditions. It is a stepless CVT type of transmission, which also makes it very compact and ideal for a motorcycle application,’ he adds.

‘Motorcycles are already an economical transport ‘alternative’ but what if you could buy something that could not only out-perform everything else on the road, but at the same time got double or even triple the mpg of existing machines whilst putting out less emissions?’ says Cameron. ‘The hybrid technology I’m showcasing in the CAF-E has already been proven in the car world and I don’t think the CAF-E would be that expensive to produce. Toyota, Honda and General Motors have already shelled out huge amounts of money to develop the technology in the first place – I’m just adapting it over to two wheels. I envisage something like this costing upper-range Harley money,’ he concludes.

Yup, sounds interesting. We hope the CAF-E will make the transition from concept bike to production reality soon. We wish Tim and his team all the very best for this project!

Friday, March 27, 2009

MotoGP: Tech3 Yamaha, Monster Energy come together for 2009


Out with Kawasaki, in with Yamaha...
Pic: Motoblog

We just finished posting pics of the new Playboy LCR Honda bike, and now here’s the new Monster Yamaha Tech3 machine. Yes, with Kawasaki pulling out of MotoGP this year, Monster Energy will now be the title sponsor for the Tech3 Yamaha team, for the 2009 MotoGP season.

For 2009, Monster also have a personal sponsorship deal going with the reigning MotoGP world champion, Valentino Rossi. According to Monster, they are the no.1 energy drink in the US (in terms of sales volumes) and are now looking at expanding their presence across Europe. You, in the meanwhile, can download some of their Monstrous stuff here

MotoGP: LCR Honda, Playboy get together for 2009


Playboy comes to MotoGP, with LCR Honda. Yes!

Pics: LCR Honda

This year, the LCR Honda MotoGP team is really coming out to play. Boy! The satellite Honda team will start the 2009 season with a new title sponsor – Playboy.

‘Playboy Italy has positively assessed the project and confirmed the sponsorship for the early stage of the season, linking it to their activities in the view of re-launching the magazine in Italy. Currently, there are further ongoing negotiations with licensees in more countries, who have been presented with our ‘projects by event’ concept, which does not imply any millionaire investments,’ says LCR Honda team boss, Lucio Cecchinello.

Cecchinello also believes that Randy De Puniet, who’s riding for LCR Honda again this year, will have more competitive machinery this time. ‘It’s clear that 2007 and 2008 for the independent teams were not easy years. Since the 800cc class made its appearance, it has become harder than ever to compete with the factory teams. Now we are approaching a phase where the factories can even supply the satellite teams with the state-of-the-art technologies and this will make us more competitive,’ he says.

Honda, in particular, has really made a big effort for 2009 by giving us the same engines as the ones they use, featuring pneumatic valve technology and all the relevant managing software. Now it’s up to us, working hard with Randy to be ready to battle and, where possible, challenge the factory riders,’ says Cecchinello.

‘The first impression I got from the bike was very positive. The engine is more competitive compared to last year’s, especially as far as its maximum speed is concerned,’ says De Puniet. ‘Last year wasn’t as easy and we didn’t achieve the results we were hoping for, therefore I trust this season to be the best with the LCR Team. I believe our potential is higher this year and I’m very confident,’ he adds.

Indeed, with the Playboy bunnies cheering him on this year, who knows, De Puniet may even score a podium or three in 2009. We wish him all the best. And, Playboy, welcome to MotoGP - the greatest, grandest sport on earth…

LCR Honda RC212V: Tech Specs

Engine: Four-stroke liquid-cooled pneumatic-valve DOHC 800cc V4
Chassis: Aluminium twin spar, fully adjustable geometry
Gearbox: Six-speed cassette-type
Power: >210bhp
Top Speed: >325km/h
Overall length: 2050-2070mm (depending on the circuit) Overall height: 1125mm
Overall width: 645mm
Weight: 148kg
Fuel capacity: 21 litres capacity ELF
Suspension: Fully-adjustable Öhlins TTX20 USD fork (front), fully-adjustable Öhlins TTX36 Pro-link monoshock (rear)
Wheels and Tyres: Marchesini, Bridgestone
Brakes: Brembo, twin 314mm carbon discs with four piston callipers (front), ventilated steel disc with twin piston callipers (rear)
Misc: Fully adjustable multi-plate slipper clutch, titanium exhaust

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000: A few opinions…


"It was an interesting experience riding the K9, because I’ve never tried a road bike before," says ex-MotoGP rider Sylvain Guintoli. What, he's never tried a road bike before?!?! What has he been riding all these years...? Hmm, maybe the picture above says something after all...

With all the noise that’s been made about its ‘MotoGP-inspired’ engine, the 2009 R1 has quite stolen the GSX-R1000’s thunder this year. And it’s not just the R1 – there’s also the supremely manageable, ABS-equipped Honda Fireblade and the Ducati 1198S with its race-spec DTC traction control system. So the GSX-R has been left on the sidelines in 2009, while the new boys strut their stuff…

But is the new GSX-R really not a match for other litre-class superbikes this year. Let’s take a quick look at what ‘experts’ have to say about the bike. And first up is Sylvain Guintoli, ex-MotoGP rider who’s racing with Crescent Suzuki in British Superbikes this year. ‘It was an interesting experience riding the K9, because I’ve never tried a road bike before. I was really surprised. [Yeah, so are we. How can you never have tried a road bike before?!? – F&F]. I always thought road bikes on the track would be heavy and soft, but the K9 is good fun, and fast,’ says Guintoli.

Hmm… if Guintoli thinks the 2009 GSX-R1000 is ‘fast,’ we suppose it must be, eh? So let’s see what does John Reynolds (ex-BSB champ and current Suzuki test rider) has to say about the machine then. ‘It’s a totally different chassis on the K9 from the K7. We’ve got a setting now where the bike works really well on the race track, and with a couple of turns of preload off the rear shock, and a bit off the front end, you’ve got a bike that’s wonderful for the road as well,’ says Reynolds. ‘The way the geometry of the chassis is now, it’s really focussed towards racing bikes more than anything else,’ he adds.

All right, but since both Guintoli and Reynolds are employed by Suzuki, let’s also see what MCN’s Michael Neeves has to say about the K9. ‘Compared to some of its competition, the GSX-R is not as razor-sharp in and out or corners, and it’s still missing that intoxicating mix of grunt and light weight that made the old K5/K6 the sensation it was at the time,’ says Neeves. ‘But don’t worry, the GSX-R hasn’t gone all soft. The K9 still retains that spine-tingling, evil bark when you blip the throttle and it wants to wheelie at every opportunity…,’ he adds.

So where does that leave us. And you. Where does the GSX-R stand, vis-à-vis the 2009 R1 and Fireblade? ‘Die-hard GSX-R fans will still go all gooey over its evil exhaust note, searing top-end rush and slider-shredding cornering ability,’ says Neeves. ‘But there’s something missing, and I can’t put my finger on it. I wasn’t left giggling or open-mouthed after each riding session, like I should have been. Maybe it feels and looks too much like the old K7/K8 despite all its changes? Maybe it’s still too bulky? Maybe it’s just that Honda and Yamaha have moved the game on so much with the Fireblade and R1…,’ he concludes.


Jay Leno also has a go on the 2009 GSX-R1000...

MZ may be revived. Again


From the 1970s ES150 to the more recent 1000SF, MZ have made some totally cool motorcycles. So, yes, the old German company deserves yet another chance...

MZ is one of those once-great eastern European motorcycle manufacturers who fell upon hard times many decades ago and have, since then, been going through various bust-revival-bust cycles. Those who want the fully story on the MZ name and heritage can look here. For the rest of us, to quickly recapitulate, MZ had been bought over by Malaysian company Hong Leong Industries Bhd, in 1996. After struggling with losses for more than a decade, Hong Leong decided to pull the plug on MZ last year (we wrote about it back then, here).

Now, it seems there’s again talk of the legendary German motorcycle company being revived. According to a report in German magazine Motorrad, two German ex-motorcycle racers – Martin Wimmer and Ralf Waldman – have purchased the rights to the MZ name from Hong Leong, for a rumoured 4-5 million euros. Wimmer has been appointed the new CEO at MZ and the two men are looking at developing new motorcycles which will be sold in Europe under the MZ brand name. Parts for these machines are likely to be sourced from Asia, probably China and/or India.

So, is it going to be party-time in Zschopau all over again? Umm… we really don’t know. We do think MZ have built some really cool motorcycles in the past, but whether the company can make a comeback – especially in the current economic scenario – is a question that’s open to debate. Of course, Wimmer and Waldman are doing more than just debating the question – they’re putting their money where their mouth is. We hope they’ll be successful – here’s wishing them all the best!

Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 Ural Gear-Up Sahara: For real men (and women) only...


Forget big-piston USD forks, leading-link forks are what a real man's motorcycle must have!

Pics: MotoFlash

The last time we wrote about Ural here at Faster and Faster, it was in the context of a book review – American Borders – where Ms Carla King tells her story of how she rode around the United States on a Russian-made Ural sidecar outfit.

That was back in 2007, and it seems Ural haven’t been sitting around twiddling their thumbs since then. The company has just launched a brand-new model for the US market – the Ural Gear-Up Sahara. What, you don’t believe us?! No, really, this isn’t from 1959, it really is a brand-new machine…

The Gear-Up Sahara is actually a limited edition variant of the regular Ural Gear-Up and only 18 units of this sidecar outfit will be made. The whole thing weighs 335 kilos and is powered by an OHV, air-cooled 749cc boxer twin, which produces 40 horsepower and 52Nm of torque – enough to propel the Ural to a top speed of 95km/h. The machine is priced at US$13,949 plus taxes, which actually makes it rather expensive!

Built at the Irbit MotorWorks Factory in Russia, Ural machines are supposed to be indestructible though perhaps not as reliable as contemporary Japanese and European adventure tourers. Still, if you think bikes like the BMW R1200GS, Moto Guzzi Stelvio, KTM 990 Adventure and Yamaha XT660Z Tenere are too ‘soft’ for you, the Ural Gear-Up Sahara just might fit the bill. Heck, with the sidecar driveshaft engaged, you actually get a 2WD motorcycle with the Ural, and that’s more than the Japs and Euros can say for themselves. Plus, if you really want to indulge those Indiana Jones fantasies, we suppose you’ve got to have those spare canisters, spare wheel, shovel, extra lights, luggage rack and medicine kit…

More details at the Ural website here

Ducati Streetfighter S to hit US dealerships in May


Yup, it's going to be a wild ride...


Unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan in November 2008, the smoking-hot Ducati Streetfighter is slated to go on sale in the US by May this year. Priced at $18,995, the Streetfighter S will go on sale in May, while the base model Streetfighter, priced at $14,995, will probably be available by August.

While essentially based on the Ducati 1098, many of the Streetfighter’s bits and pieces are unique to the bike – it has a new subframe, more relaxed steering (25.6 degree rake, compared to 24.5 degrees on the 1098), a swingarm that’s 35mm longer than the 1098’s item, a redesigned cooling system to reduce the width of the bike and a new, fully digital dashboard.

The Streetfighter S is fitted with proper, high-spec bits – 43mm Öhlins USD fork, fully adjustable Öhlins monoshock, five-spoke forged alloy wheels from Marchesini, the Ducati Data Analysis system and Ducati Traction Control (DTC). The Streetfighter S will be available in two colours – red and black – with bronze-painted chassis and wheels, while the base model Streetfighter will come in red and white, with black wheels and dark-grey wheels.

Next week, Ducati will be organising test rides of the Streetfighter for some motorcycle magazines, in Malaga, Spain. In the meanwhile, here are technical specifications of the bike:

Engine: 1,099cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder L-Twin
Power: 155bhp@9,500rpm
Torque: 114Nm@9,500rpm
Chassis: Tubular steel trellis-type frame
Wheelbase: 58.1 inches
Front Suspension: Fully adjustable 43mm Showa (Öhlins on the Streetfighter S) USD fork
Rear Suspension: Aluminum single-sided swingarm, fully adjustable Showa monoshock (Öhlins on the Streetfighter S)
Brakes: Twin 330mm semi-floating discs with radial-mount Brembo Monobloc four-piston callipers (front), single 245mm disc with twin-piston callipers (rear)
Dry Weight: 167kg


For what Damien Basset (the man who's designed the Ducati Streetfighter) has to say about the bike and about motorcycle design in general, see our exclusive interview here
Ducati Streetfighter Ducati Streetfighter Ducati Streetfighter Ducati Streetfighter

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