Saturday, September 26, 2009

Honda U3-X: Reinventing the wheel?

The Honda U3-X (on the left) uses technologies borrowed from Honda's ASIMO robot (right) to maintain balance and move freely in any direction on just one wheel

Honda claim they’ve reinvented the wheel with their new personal mobility device, the U3-X, which uses the world’s first drive system with 360-degree movement. Using technologies borrowed from the Honda ASIMO robot, the U3-X can freely move in any direction – on just one wheel!

While riding the U3-X, the rider can adjust speed and direction of the device (monowheel? appliance? vehicle? unicycle? motorcycle?), and move, turn or stop simply by shifting his upper bodyweight. To make this possible, Honda has drawn upon advanced technologies used in the humanoid robot ASIMO, for which human beings’ ability to maintain balance was studied extensively. (Ever wondered why you don’t keep toppling down on all four limbs, like various other animals…?)

Honda’s balance control technology enables ASIMO to stand, walk and run in a controlled manner. Developed further, this technology now lets the U3-X detect shifts in the rider’s bodyweight to adjust the direction and speed of the device. Based on the data it collects via its sensors, the U3-X is able to maintain an upright position and yet move smoothly and with human-like agility.

The Honda U3-X also uses technologies from Honda’s omni-directional driving wheel system (HOT Drive System) which enables movement in all directions, including right and left and diagonal, thanks to many small, motor-controlled wheels that are connected in-line to form one large-diameter wheel. By moving the large-diameter wheel, the device moves forward and backward, and by moving small-diameter wheels, the device moves side-to-side. Combining these movements means the device moves diagonally too.

The U3-X, which weighs less than 10 kilos, is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The experimental vehicle will be showcased at the Tokyo Motor Show in October this year. Of course, this is an experimental device made to study the dynamics of balance, but what’s exciting is the potential uses for this technology in motorcycles.

With electric propulsion systems and technologies like Honda’s omni-directional driving wheel system, who know what future motorcycles may look like, or how they might work. Self balancing motorcycles? Motorcycles that don’t need you to have Kenny Roberts’ skills to go sideways? Motorcycles that will simply refuse to topple over even if you happen to lose control?

We’re still in love with the RC30, RC45 and the NSR500, but the future, too, may not be all that dull after all…

The Honda U3-X in action...

Moto Morini believe they’ll be back on track in 2010

Established in 1937, Moto Morini have been around for more than seven decades and have seen their share of ups and downs. We do hope they can pull through yet another crisis...

Moto Morini, who recently went into voluntary liquidation, insist their product development activities are still on track and that the company’s offices – including after-sales and spare parts divisions – are fully functional. While MM haven’t paid their suppliers for the last three months, the beleaguered Italian company continues to update its products and will even launch a few 2010-spec variants of its existing bikes by mid-October this year.

By declaring bankruptcy, Moto Morini have bought some time – under Italian laws, the company has about 6-8 months in which it can reengineer its financial position, pay off its outstanding debts and generally get back on its feet.

According to some reports on the Internet, Moto Morini have only sold around 1,200 bikes this year, while the aim was to sell at least 2,000. The small Italian company will, apparently, break even if it manages to sell 2,500 bikes, which is what it’s aiming for in 2010. If we were realistic, however, we’d say Morini’s chances for survival may be a bit slim. The whole scenario looks like one of those bust-revival-bust-revival cycles that some smaller-scale motorcycle manufacturers in Europe go through every once in a while. The heart, soul and deep-burning passion are all there at Moto Morini. But financial viability? Hmmm…

A road test video of the Moto Morini Corsaro Veloce. Very impressive indeed. Yes, MM definitely deserve another chance and we hope they survive...

2010 Aprilia RSV4 R announced

The 2010 Aprilia RSV4 R makes do with cheaper components and less adjustability, but is as powerful and looks just as cool as the more expensive Factory version. And we think Mr Biaggi agrees with that

Aprilia have announced the 2010 RSV4 R, a cheaper (okay, a relatively less expensive) version of the RSV4 Factory. Instead of Ohlins suspension, the RSV4 R gets a Showa fork and Sachs shock, its 60-degree V4 makes do with aluminium parts instead of the Factory’s magnesium bits, and the chassis isn’t adjustable for swingarm pivot point, steering head angle and engine position.

Still, the significantly cheaper RSV4 R’s Showa/Sachs suspension is fully adjustable and the engine still produces 180bhp (though we suspect it may not be able to rev as high and/or as quickly as the RSV4 Factory’s engine). Also, with its ride-by-wire electronics, the bike still has three ride modes – Race, Sport and Road – for optimised power delivery for whatever conditions you might encounter.

If you can live with plastic instead of carbonfibre trim, aluminium instead of forged magnesium wheels and a bit more weight (the R weighs 184kg, about five kilos more than the Factory), the RSV4 R just might be the Aprilia for you. The bike is expected to cost about £11,800-12,400 in the UK, which would be around 20-24% cheaper than the higher-spec Factory version. In the US, the RSV4 Factory is priced at $21,000 while the RSV4 R is significantly cheaper, at $16,000.

Plastic instead of carbonfibre, aluminium instead of magnesium and Showa/Sachs instead of Ohlins. But the RSV4 R is also at least 20% less expensive than the Factory

Not too bad at all!

2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 announced

The 2010 Ducati Hypermotard 796 looks like a rather dull proposition to us...

Ducati recently announced a new, smaller, lighter Hypermotard – the Hypermotard 796. The bike is fitted with Ducati’s brand-new 796cc two-valves-per-cylinder air-cooled L-twin that kicks out 81 horsepower and 75Nm of torque. And that, according to a Ducati press release, is sufficient to ‘deliver an exhilarating ride without compromising the smooth tractability found in Ducati's other L-Twin engines.’

While 81bhp doesn't sound like much, the 796, which weighs 166 kilos dry, is a bit lighter than the Hypermotard 1100 and with its tweaked chassis and optimised suspension, it just might provide a bit of fun on twisty mountain roads. Or not.

The Ducati Hypermotard 796, which will be officially unveiled at the EICMA show in Milan this year, will be priced at US$9,995. If we’re completely honest, the Hyper 796 looks dull and we’d much rather save up for a 1198 or even a Monster 1100

Pics: Motoblog

Monday, September 21, 2009

Video: Kane Friesen’s 219km/h stoppie!

Kane Friesen pulls a stoppie at 219km/h. Respect is due...
Via Oliepeil

Canadian stunt-rider, Kane ‘Insane’ Friesen holds the world’s fastest stoppie record, which he set on his 2006 Kawasaki ZX-10R, beating Gary Rothwell’s 156.8km/h stoppie record set in 2002. Kane, who’s longest wheelie was over 19km long and who longest stoppie was over 900ft, lists pink as his favourite colour, Stephen King as his favourite author and ‘Chinese food, in Tokyo’ as his favourite food. And before he started his stunt riding career, he was a professional body piercer. Hmm…

Giacomo Agostini: “I am the greatest!”

With 122 race wins and 15 world championships, Giacomo Agostini is one of motorcycle grand prix road racing’s all-time greats. French magazine Moto Revue recently interviewed the 67-year-old Italian ex-racer, and here are some excerpts from what Giacomo had to say:

On whether he thinks Rossi can beat his record of 122 race wins

It’s possible. He will try, it's normal. I'd do the same if I were in his place [but] I hope he does not get there!

On comparing his days in racing to the current scenario

You know, winning, it has always been difficult – you have to give 100% of your potential, you have to fight. The difference is that in my time, I lost a friend every week. Today, it is safer and we should be very happy about that.

On who’s the greatest motorcycle racer ever

If you ask Valentino that question, he will tell you it's him. If you could ask Mike Hailwood, he would tell you it's him. Phil Read believes he is the best. So it's natural that I would say I am the greatest.

On who might be Rossi’s successor

I think it’s obviously Jorge Lorenzo. He's only 22 years old and has enormous talent. He may not be the same charisma as Valentino, but what makes a champion, above all, is race victories. And for that, I think Jorge will make history.

On how the world of motorcycle GP racing has changed

Everything changes. It's progress, we cannot do anything about it. Sure, the atmosphere is very different today than it was thirty years ago. In my day, the atmosphere was more family-like, we were more united. But we must also say that we were between 7-10 people per team. It was easier to know everyone. Today, running a MotoGP team means having about 30 people. We cannot share the same things with such big teams.

For the full interview, visit the Moto Revue website here

Ben Spies replica Yamaha R1 prepared by UK dealer

Ben Spies replica R1 from UK dealer, CMC


For those who think a Rossi-rep R1 might be too common, CMC, a Yamaha dealer in the UK, has readied a Ben Spies replica R1. The bike is painted in Ben’s World Superbikes colours and the exhaust system gets Akrapovic carbon end cans. The bike costs £12,499 OTR.

Spies and Rossi replica R1s are all fine but what we’d really love to see from Yamaha is a series of limited-edition 1980s specials – Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey replica Yamaha R1s. Now that would be something!