Saturday, November 28, 2009
Asphaltfighters, who recently unveiled their Kawasaki ZX-10R-based Stormbringer at the 2009 Essen Motor Show in Germany, claim it’s the fastest streetbike in the world. Fitted with a heavily modified ZX-10R engine, the Stormbringer has a top speed of more than 320km/h and, even more impressively, it can accelerate from zero to 300km/h in just 13.9 seconds! (Zero to 100km/h comes up in 2.9 seconds, while zero to 200km/h takes 6.5 seconds.)
The Stormfighter’s 1,000cc Kawasaki engine has been fettled to produce 220 horsepower at 13,500rpm, while the bike’s wet weight has been pared down to 195 kilos. In ‘booster mode,’ the engine can produce up to 280 horsepower, though only for a few seconds at a time, presumably to stop the engine from melting down completely...
Fancy bits on the Stormbringer include a rear-view camera system that eliminates the need for conventional rearview mirrors, a heads-up display that projects the current speed onto the bike’s windscreen, Xenon headlamp and LED daytime running lights, Akrapovic exhaust and a 10-stage traction control system. The bike rides on 17-inch alloy wheels from OZ, shod with Bridgestone’s Battlax BT-016 tyres.
The Asphaltfighters Stormbringer will be built by Warm Up in small numbers in Aalen, Germany, and will be priced at 57,500 euros (US$86,000). And if you think that’s a bit too much for a modded ZX-10R, get this – the price includes “a precisely fitting leather suit and a carbonfibre and Kevlar helmet whose aerodynamic properties make it perfectly suited for the extremely high speeds this motorcycle can reach.” Bargain!
Friday, November 27, 2009
For those looking for a simple, lightweight and fun-to-ride supermoto-style bike, the 2010 Yamaha XT660X is now a better deal than ever before. And that’s because it’s now available in new colours – red, blue and white!!! And at 6,590 euros, it isn’t very expensive either.
But seriously, we actually quite like this bike. It rides on 17-inch wheels, weighs 189kg dry and packs 48 horsepower and 60Nm of torque from its 660cc single-cylinder engine. The XT660X probably won’t be a life altering experience, but should be equally good for daily commutes, carving up some city traffic and the occasional Sunday morning blast around some twisty mountain roads.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The 2010 CB1300S now gets Honda’s combined anti-lock (C-ABS) braking system, while everything else remains the same. With its double-cradle steel tube frame, half fairing, 21-litre fuel tank, generous seat and big, 1.3-litre inline-four that cranks out 113 horsepower and 116Nm of torque, the Honda CB1300S is a simple yet competent sports-tourer of sorts. With the addition of ABS, it’s now the perfect machine for those who simply want a do-it-all motorcycle that’s all ‘analog’ rather than ‘digital.’
For 2010, the KTM 990 Super Duke gets a new olive green/black paintjob, which… umm… is all right but nowhere near as good looking as the Super Duke R’s orange/white/black scheme. Still, with its 999cc rev-happy v-twin, which produces 118 horsepower and 100Nm of torque, the 186-kilo Super Duke should be as much as fun as ever.
Based in Sydney, Australia, Dan Anderson is studying industrial design and as his final year thesis project, he’s designed the electric bike – Voltra – that you see here. ‘The Voltra is an electric which conveys the visual sense of excitement and exhilaration not currently addressed in the alternative-fuel motorcycle market, but which is so important to the appeal of motorcycles to riders,’ says Dan. ‘The bike is the result of extensive research into motorcycling history, society and culture as well as technology, materials and manufacturing. The Voltra's main aim is to give greener, alternative-fuel technology the sex-appeal needed for success in its fashion-conscious market,’ he adds.
Powered by Li-Ion batteries, which feed its AC induction motor (with a programmable controller), the Voltra packs 129Nm of torque and projected top speed is more than 200km/h. With its carbonfibre monocoque chassis, the Voltra weighs 200 kilos and while riding time and travel range are dependent on the riding style, Dan reckons the bike can be ridden for more than 90 minutes in one go. A full recharge takes two hours.
We guess battery-powered electric sportsbikes (as opposed to low-powered electric commuter bikes and/or scooters) are still a few years away from going mainstream, but machines like the Voltra probably provide a glimpse of what the future might be like.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Just how good can a moderately good looking, fairly expensive motorcycle, which is fitted with an air-cooled, 80-horsepower parallel twin, be? If it's a British motorcycle, ridden by British journalists who work for a British magazine, very, very good...! ;-D We think the 961 SE should be all right, but the rotary-engined NRV588 is still the only Norton for us...
Even before it’s gotten off to a start, the controversial Moto2 class has already suffered its first casualty – Aprilia have announced that they wouldn’t be fielding a factory team in the brand-new 600cc four-stroke class after all.
According to its rules, Moto2 will have 600cc four-stroke engines from one supplier only (Honda), while teams would be free to use their own chassis and suspension components. ‘It would be useless and harmful to the image of a large European motorcycle manufacturer, which has won 43 world titles in road racing and off-road competition, to take part in a race series which relies on engine technology by a rival constructor,’ said a press release from Aprilia.
While Aprilia will not be present in Moto2, they will definitely continue to have a strong presence in top-level motorcycle racing. The company is expected to increase its focus on the World Superbikes series (Wayne Gardner thinks the RSV4 is actually the best bike of the current WSBK lot) and might even come back to MotoGP, if that series allows production-based engines at some time in the future.
Monday, November 23, 2009
More powerful and hard-edged than before, the 2010 Kawasaki Z1000 has been built to take on the best super nakeds from Europe...
The 2010 Kawasaki Z1000, with its new styling, 1,043cc inline-four engine (which replaces the old 953cc mill) and new aluminium beam frame, looks all set to take on hard-core streetfighters from Europe. While the earlier Z was a bit soft when compared with machines like the Ducati Streetfighter, MV Agusta Brutale and Triumph Speed Triple, the new one looks fit enough to brawl with those bikes.
So, while it promises much on paper, is the new Z1000 really all that good in the real world? The guys at MotorBox recently had the opportunity to ride the bike, and here are some excerpts what they have to say about the Big Kaw:
The new Z1000’s engine and high-spec chassis and suspension make this the first real Japanese streetfighter. When it was first launched in 2003, the Z1000 only had the Aprilia Tuono and the Triumph Speed Triple to contend with. Now, the third generation bike has more competition to deal with, and Kawasaki have revamped the machine completely to make sure it stays on top of the super nakeds heap. The price, at 10,590 euro (11,190 euro for the version with ABS), is also very attractive.
The new Z’s styling epitomises Kawasaki’s penchant for sharp, edgy lines, and as an overall package – huge fuel tank tapering down to that slender tail section – works well. Okay, maybe there’s a bit too much of plastic here, but standing still, the bike looks quite aggressive and dynamic. And, of course, that exhaust system (much shorter and lighter now, as compared to the 2009 model) remains an instantly recognisable style element.
Kawasaki have also gone in for ‘mass centralisation’ on the new Z, tilting the new 1,043cc engine (which produces 138 horsepower at 9,600rpm and 110Nm of torque at 7,800rpm) forward by five degrees and altering its fitment in the chassis, in order to improve the bike’s handling. The new aluminium chassis, lighter and with 30% more torsional rigidity than the old bike’s frame, has been designed in accordance with the principles used on the Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja. And among other things, it has resulted in a motorcycle that’s actually quite slim and that weighs only 218kg (with all fluids and fuel).
In addition to the reduced weight, the new Z-bike is also more compact than the old one and the completely redesigned rear suspension now uses a monoshock that’s mounted almost horizontally, with a progressive linkage. The 41mm USD fork is adjustable and the presence of anti-lock brakes is comforting. Reflecting the bike’s newfound personality, the riding position is now more aggressive, with more weight on the front end, which feels quite appropriate.
On the move, the new Z1000 is much more responsive than the old one. Not only is the new engine simply phenomenal, the electronics are all very well sorted out, eliminating any jerkiness and/or inconsistent behaviour. Between 4,500-10,000rpm, the four-cylinder engine pushes really hard and the bike’s acceleration almost matches that of an MV Brutale which we rode here earlier.
With gear ratios perfectly matched to the engine and with its killer mid-range power delivery, the new Z is an absolute joy to ride. During our very fast 170km ride across the magnificent roads in Spain, we did notice some vibration creeping in at around 7,500 revs in sixth gear, but that shouldn’t be a problem because spending extended amounts of time at those speeds will anyway result in an immediate confiscation of your driving license. At more sane speeds, vibration is just about unnoticeable on the bike.
While the new, more powerful engine is a joy to use, what’s even better is that improvements in the chassis department have kept pace with the engine. At high speeds, the new chassis keeps the bike very planted and stable, and there isn’t a hint of nervousness or uncertainty here. Even with a passenger on board, the Kawasaki's behaviour remains impeccable, and the suspension works very well indeed. Yes, this is a well balanced, manageable and responsive motorcycle that can take all the hard cornering you can throw at it, though the chassis/suspension setup is a bit too stiff for bad, uneven roads.
Overall, this is a fine bike. The new Z1000 costs less than most comparable super nakeds from Europe and yet it manages to equal their outright performance.
And here's what the guys at MCN have to say about the new Z1000...
With 193bhp at the crank, the BMW S1000RR is the most powerful litre-class bike in production and offers stunning levels of performance on the track
It may not have the race-proven heritage of a GSX-R, ZX-R, CBR-RR or YZF-R, but the BMW S1000RR has something which its litre-class competition doesn’t – an inline-four that makes all of 193 horsepower at the crank. Indeed, with a (claimed) 180bhp at the rear wheel, the S1000RR is the most powerful of all current litre-class production bikes. And with a top speed of 290km/h, it’s also the fastest.
Consider the spec – an engine that revs to 14,200rpm, cutting-edge engine management, ABS and DTC traction control systems, a ‘gearshift assistant’ feature that allows full-throttle upshifts without using the clutch, track-optimised aluminium chassis and optional Akrapovic exhaust system. Then there’s the fully adjustable 46mm front fork, lightweight aluminium wheels, high-spec Brembo brakes with four-piston radial-mount callipers and a claimed dry weight of 182 kilos. The S1000RR sure looks like it’s been built with a single-minded focus – to go around a racetrack as fast as possible. And with prices starting at US$13,800 (European prices start at around 16,000 euro for the basic model, and 17,400 euro for the bike with ABS and DTC), the bike isn’t all that expensive either.
The guys over at MotorBox recently had the opportunity to test ride the S1000RR at the Portimao circuit in Portugal, and they came away with some interesting observations. Here are some excerpts from their test report:
Creating a brand-new sportsbike powered by an inline-four couldn’t have been an easy task even for a company like BMW, whose prowess with technology is second to none. Also, the bike comes at a time when the market for big sportsbikes seems to be slowing down a bit. Still, BMW really believe in this product, which they admit has been engineered for an audience that’s external to the brand – people who have until now been riding Japanese or Italian bikes.
To begin with, there isn’t anything incredibly original about the S1000RR, there isn’t much ‘out of the box’ thinking here. All the bits – the inline-four engine, the aluminium double beam frame and even the high-tech electronics – it’s all been done before by other manufacturers. And yet, the bike has a very sophisticated engine, with titanium valves, two fuel injectors per cylinder and ride-by-wire throttle control. It produces 193bhp and 112Nm of torque at 13,000rpm and 9,750rpm respectively, and the 14,200rpm redline is very high for a litre-bike engine. With its dry weight of 182kg, the S1000RR has the best power-to-weight ratio in its segment.
And if the engine is powerful, the rest of the package – including the chassis, suspension and the electronics – has been engineered to allow the rider to fully exploit all that power. On this bike, the optional electronics – Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) – have been designed specifically for use on a supersports machine and are there to help you go faster rather than just rein in all that Bavarian horsepower.
The S1000RR’s DTC system is very high-tech and apart from the detecting difference in front and rear wheels speeds, its sensors can also detect the bike’s angle of lean, on the basis of which it decides when and by how much to reduce power. There are four modes – rain, sport, race and slick, with the last one being recommended for track use only, with race-compound slick tyres. As you move from rain to sport and race modes, power delivery becomes increasingly direct and aggressive, while the role of ABS and DTC is progressively reduced. In ‘slick’ mode, ABS does not work on the bike’s rear wheel and the traction control is dialled back to an absolute minimum. Both systems can also be disabled completely, if the rider wants it so.
Coming to the styling, well, some will definitely think that it’s rather ugly. The asymmetrical fairing and headlight is what you’d typically expect from BMW, but maybe there’s something to be said for the German company refusing to conform to other manufacturers’ idea of ‘beauty.’
Coming to the riding experience, the S1000RR was very well suited to the very demanding Portimao circuit. The riding position is just about okay, though the bike’s handlebars seem to be more suited to the track than the street. We started the ride with the DTC in ‘rain’ mode, in order to get familiar with the bike and understand how its electronics really work. The response from the bike’s ride-by-wire throttle is absolutely perfect and in the low-threshold rain mode, if you open the throttle at the wrong time, the computers simply refuse to delivery power to the rear wheel. There are, however, no jolts or sudden jerky movement – everything happens very smoothly, with the electronics working hard to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
In sport mode, the bike really comes alive and from 7,000rpm upwards, power delivery becomes furious, lofting the front wheel effortlessly in third gear and blasting the bike down hundreds of yards before you even remember to roll back the throttle. Suddenly, those 193 horses make their presence felt in a very big way. In fact, you begin to wonder if the bike might actually be making a bit more. When we tested the Ducati 1198 on this track earlier, the fastest we did was 259km/h. With the BMW, it was 279km/h and we knew there was more to come.
Things become a bit more abrupt in race mode, especially while exiting corners, and it seems the DTC system often has to work overtime to keep things in check. To quote one example, if you crank open the throttle with the bike still fully leant over, the bike will not respond till the computers deem it’s upright enough, and then all the horsepower comes stampeding in, in a rush. Still, the DTC is always very smooth and consistent, and remains as unobtrusive as possible.
In terms of handling, the S1000RR probably isn’t as agile as a Honda CBR1000RR or Aprilia RSV4, but is still a remarkably balanced package. On the Portimao circuit, the bike felt light and accurate, and very little suspension tweaking was needed to make the bike work. With Metzeler Raceteck K3 rubber, grip was never an issue and a best lap time of 1:57 speaks for itself.
Riding this BMW felt really different from anything else that we’ve previously ridden. Yes, the S1000RR is a remarkable bike – not just because of the outright performance it offers, but also for the ease with which that performance can be accessed by the rider.