Saturday, October 24, 2009
Roberto Colaninno, President of the Piaggio Group, recently announced that a new business plan is being worked out for Moto Guzzi and the company will be ready with some new bikes by 2011-12. Piaggio, which owns Moto Guzzi, was sanctioned a loan of 150 million euros from the European Investment Bank last year. Of this, about 12 million euros will be invested towards developing new bikes for Moto Guzzi.
Guzzi’s R&D activities will be moved to Piaggio’s facility in Noale, while production will continue at Mandello. The company, which currently produces around 3,500 bikes per annum, hopes to boost production to at least 4,500 bikes by 2010, at which point it will reach break-even point.
Established in the early-1920s, Moto Guzzi is one of Italy’s great, iconic motorcycle manufacturers who’ve fallen upon hard times. The company has produced some great machines over the years (we are great fans of the 1970s Le Mans 850) and we certainly hope Piaggio will be successful in resurrecting M-G.
Friday, October 23, 2009
It’s been a terribly boring week. Nothing much seems to be happening at the Tokyo Motor Show – Kawasaki aren’t there, Suzuki are showing a fuel cell-powered scooter and Yamaha are showing a chassis wrapped in a bunch of rags. Indeed, apart from the Honda VFR1200F and CB1100 (both of which had already been unveiled before the Tokyo Show), nothing new or exciting seems to be happening this year. Guess we’ll have to wait for the EICMA in Milan next month for some real action…
In the meanwhile, Motociclismo recently had the opportunity to ride the 2010 Kawasaki 1400GTR, which comes with traction control this year. Here are some excerpts from what they have to say about Kawasaki’s hyper-tourer:
Thanks to the electronics, the 1400GTR has taken a big step forward this year. Kawasaki have listened to their customers and the result is that the bike now comes with second-generation ABS and a traction control system. The bodywork has been given a minor redesign for better dissipation of engine heat, the windscreen has been reshaped and its height has been increased by a bit, heated grips have been added, the glove compartment has been made more spacious and on-board computer can now be controlled via controls mounted on the handlebar.
The new 1400GTR’s chassis remains unchanged, but the suspension has been revised so that it works better with the bike’s anti-lock braking system. The new set-up works very well and is very communicative, and the bike feels very stable on the highway at high speeds. Of course, it’s a heavy bike (304kg claimed kerb weight) and you have to be careful with how you maneouver it at lower speeds and while suddenly braking hard.
Kawasaki’s K-ACT combined braking system, with ABS, works very well and with the bike fully loaded, provides powerful stopping performance from the twin 310mm front discs and single 240mm rear disc. While riding alone, however, and with the luggage bags removed (hence reduced weight), the ABS can be a bit more intrusive at times. The traction control also made a very positive impression – at no time does it cut in abruptly or suddenly interrupt the bike’s power delivery. It’s smooth and effective, allowing you to ride with more confidence on wet, slippery surfaces.
The Kawasaki 1400GTR’s 1,352cc inline-four remains perfect as ever – 155bhp and 136Nm of torque is a lot of power. But the engine is free from vibes and power delivery is smooth and consistent. Also, there is an eco mode that’ll help you get up to 10% better fuel efficiency, though performance suffers a bit. But it’s nice to be able to make that choice.
The new GTR will be priced at around 17,000 euros (US$25,500) and seems to be quite worth the money. Now the only question is if it’s a better sports-tourer than the new Honda VFR1200F. For that, you’ll have to wait for a few more weeks – a shootout between the two bikes should settle that one!
For the original article, visit the Motociclismo website here
A promo video for the new 2010 Kawasaki 1400GTR
Monday, October 19, 2009
Right now, Costa Mouzouris has to be one of the luckiest motorcyclists in the world – he has filed what we think is the world’s first riding impression of the 2010 Honda VFR1200F, for the Canadian Motorcycle Guide. Here are some excerpts from what Mouzouris has to say about the new Honda:
‘Physically, the VFR1200 feels slimmer and lighter than bikes like the BMW K1300GT, the Yamaha FJR1300 and the Kawasaki Concours 14 – machines which the Honda will inevitably be compared with. It’s also lighter, according to the spec sheet, which puts its wet weight at 21 kilos lighter than the BMW K1300GT,’ says Mouzouris, who adds that the VFR’s fit and finish are impeccable and that the bike looks quite sleek.
Going on to compare the new bike’s riding position with that of the Honda ST1300’s, Mouzouris says the VFR’s riding position is not as relaxed and upright, though it’s still much closer to a grand-touring machine than that of a supersport. ‘The seat is wide and supportive, but more time in the saddle will reveal if the ergonomics can sustain long-distance travel. Reach to the ground will be easy for average sized riders,’ he says.
Of course, that brand-new V4 engine is what most people have been waiting for, and it doesn’t fail to impress. ‘The engine is remarkably torquey and very powerful. Throttle response is instantaneous but easily manageable,’ says Mouzouris. However, he seems to have been a bit disappointed with the Honda’s low-rpm pulling power. ‘I rolled on the throttle full from about 2,000rpm in second gear, expecting to have my arms stretched straight, but was surprised to discover that the engine pulled in a subdued manner,’ he says.
For those who aren’t convinced with Honda’s decision to go with shaft – rather than chain – drive on the new VFR, Mouzouris offers some reassurance. ‘Honda has done a remarkable job of controlling driveline lash, and rolling on and off the throttle is exceptionally smooth. As well, the gearbox on the manual-shift model we rode was light-shifting, precise and quiet. Also, the new drive shaft system, which locates the transmission output shaft below the swingarm pivot to reduce driveshaft jacking, works as claimed, with no noticeable hopping or squatting,’ he says.
Mouzouris concludes his report saying that he wasn’t too impressed with the VFR’s exhaust note when the engine was idling, though the sound improved under hard acceleration, at higher revs. He also says a more comprehensive riding impression might be on the way soon. So, of course, stay tuned…
See the original article on CMG Online here
Promo video for the VFR1200F. It's a bit dull, but you still might want to take a look anyway...
In their own way, the Ducati Desmosedici GP9 MotoGP bike and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird military aircraft are two of the most badass machines ever made by man...
We love fast motorcycles more than airplanes, no question about that. For most journeys, if we could, we’d rather ride a Ducati 1198S than sit in the first class section of the latest Boeing passenger aircraft. Even the best of food, drink and smiling, pampering airhostesses aren’t really enough to outweigh the sheer adrenaline rush of riding a 180 horsepower motorcycle at full chat…
But there is indeed one aircraft that we lust after – the mighty SR-71 Blackbird – which makes even MotoGP bikes look as dull as 50cc Chinese-built mopeds. Designed by Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson and his team, the SR-71 was built by Lockheed Skunk Works, first flew in 1964 and was finally retired in 1998. Only 32 were ever built, of which about 20 are still supposed to exist in aviation museums, NASA research centres and the like.
So why is the SR-71 so special? Hmmm… built for ‘strategic reconnaissance’ (hence the ‘SR’ in its name), this US military aircraft was fitted with twin Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 turbojet/ramjet engines, which together produced 65,000 pounds of thrust. While we can’t quote the equivalent horsepower figure (to find out why, see here), the thrust was enough to allow the Blackbird to accelerate away from most missiles. Yes, standard evasive action for SR-71 pilots, if they ever detected a missile coming towards the plane, was simply to accelerate away!
While the Ducati GP9 is definitely one of the hardest accelerating vehicles on the planet, it still can't outrun a missile, which the Blackbird could!
With its airframe made of lightweight titanium (imported from the erstwhile USSR), the SR-71 weighed 77,000 kilos fully loaded. With two people on board, the plane could climb at an astounding rate of 11,800 feet per minute and fly at heights of as much as 26km above the earth’s surface. Top speed was more than 3,500km/h, which is more than three times the speed of sound (Mach 3.2+). The Blackbird could fly for 5,400km before needing to be refueled.
For those who might be interested, you can read more about the late, great SR-71 here. In the meanwhile, we’ll move on to the Ducati Desmosedici GP9 MotoGP machine, which is about as powerful, fast and exotic as a motorcycle – any motorcycle – can get. And for most ordinary mortals, the GP9 is also almost as inaccessible as the mighty SR-71. You can look, but you can’t touch…
Ducati returned to MotoGP in 2003, after an absence of around three decades, and the Italian company won the 2007 MotoGP world championship with Aussie rider Casey Stoner. Beating the might of the Japanese factories couldn’t have been a mean task, but the Ducati Desmosedici GP7 machine proved they could do it.
The latest GP9, which weighs 148 kilos, is fitted with a 799cc four-stroke liquid-cooled 16-valve DOHC V4 that produces about 230 horsepower – enough to catapult the bike from zero to 100km/h in less than 2.5 seconds and on to a top speed of around 350km/h. The bike’s chassis is made of carbonfibre (rather than Ducati’s traditional steel tube trellis frame), the gearbox is a six-speed unit and Öhlins suspension is used at both ends.
The GP9's on-board computer is probably a hundred times more powerful that the 1960s SR-71's analog computers, which makes you respect the SR-71's performance even more
The Ducati GP9 is fitted with twin 320mm carbon brake discs at the front that provide immense stopping power. Also, the bike is fitted with advanced electronics (details of which are not available) that provide traction control functions that can be fine-tuned and controlled by the rider. And though we don’t know that for sure, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Ducati’s on-board computer is a hundred times more powerful than the analog computers that controlled the 1960s SR-71 Blackbird!
So which machine do you think is more impressive – the Ducati GP9 that can do 350km/h, or the SR-71, which could fly at 10 times that speed? For us, it would have to be the SR-71, and that’s because of what its designers managed to do with the technology available in the 1960s. To design and build a plane that could fly as fast as the SR-71 did, without using computers, processing power or CAD software (as we know those things today), has to be an unmatched miracle of engineering.
However, for accessible performance, motorcycles remain the best bet. For an almost-reasonable sum of money, street legal bikes like the Ducati 1198S (or, for that matter, the Desmosedici RR, MV Agusta F4 CC or the 2010 Yamaha R1) can at least provide a glimpse of the kind of performance a MotoGP bike is capable of. But completely regardless of how much money you might have, there is simply no way you can experience an SR-71’s performance. So when it comes to choosing between taking a bike or flying, we’d still take the 1198S…
With a bit of money, you can buy bikes that will let you have a glimpse of a real MotoGP bike's performance potential. But completely regardless of how much you are prepared to spend, the SR-71 Blackbird experience remains completely inaccessible. What a great pity that this great plane will never fly again...