Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In conversation with Oberdan Bezzi

Oberdan Bezzi (above, second from left), with a team of designers...

As a motorcycle designer, he’s worked with companies like Ducati, Cagiva, Aprilia, Benelli and Moto Guzzi. And you can tell by his sketches – which you are likely to have seen on various motorcycle websites – that he quite loves bikes. So, of course, we caught up with Oberdan Bezzi for a quick chat. Here are some excerpts from what he has to say:

On how he got started with motorcycle design

I was born with a passion for motorcycles. In the area of Italy where I live (North East), the love for motorcycles and cars is widespread. I attended technical schools and at the same time I honed my skills in design. Then I met with Massimo Tamburini and I started working with him. Afterwards, for many years I worked as a consultant and as an internal designer in various Style Centers for Italian and international companies.

On working with Ducati, Cagiva, Aprilia, Benelli and Moto Guzzi

Having worked with these companies as an external consultant, for contractual reasons, I cannot mention the models to which I contributed [but] I can say that some of those bikes went into regular production. In all these factories, I found a lot of passion and professionalism, and I got in touch with some of the best technicians in the world. It’s amazing how the best people in the field of two-wheelers are so kind and modest.

Oberdan aboard Randy Mamola's Cagiva 500 GP racer (above) two decades ago...

On his own favourite motorcycles

I like several bikes, but for me, some of the milestones in motorcycle design are the Manx Norton, Honda NR750, Honda RC211V and RC212V. I also like the first Honda CB750, the 1970s Kawasaki Mach 1, the Kawasaki GPZ and the Ducati 916.

On European vs Japanese motorcycle design

The approach to motorcycle design is very different, although in both cases it leads to excellent results. Europeans (especially Italians) follow the intuition of a single person who expresses his ideas, which then are shared by engineers to form the development team. The Japanese design is more ‘scientific,’ there is a thorough preliminary study in order to have a product that meets public expectations. It’s striking, however, that often the approach of the ‘heart’ and ‘head’ will lead to very close results...

On the future of hybrid and electric motorcycles

I believe in electric and hybrid two-wheelers, but the brands currently ignore aesthetics in favour of the technological aspect. This is not conducive to the spread of such vehicles. People buy a bike especially for the aesthetic pleasure. That it will also work fine is automatically implied.

On his own dream bike

The bike I would design would be an extreme sportsbike. Technology from a MotoGP bike, lighter, more powerful and very, very aggressive. It will be beautiful!

We thank Oberdan for his time and wish him all the best. And we definitely hope he gets to design that dream bike of his someday! To see more of Oberdan’s sketches, visit his website here

Volkswagen motorcycles: Will they or won’t they?

Motorcycles from Volkswagen? Stranger things have happened...

In the world of cars, Volkswagen are a powerhouse like no other. Among others, they own Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche and Skoda, and they recently bought a 20% stake in Suzuki. The last, it’s being said, is so that Suzuki’s expertise with small cars will give them access to the huge market for cheap, fuel-efficient cars in Asia. And also, maybe, so that it will let VW step into the motorcycles segment.

Ferdinand Piech, the man who heads the VW empire, is said to have a penchant for sportsbikes. Back in the mid-1980s, he was on the verge of buying out Ducati though the Italian company ultimately went to Claudio Castiglioni. ‘I would still like a small, valuable motorcycle manufacturer. I myself ride a Ducati – 180bhp and more power-per-kilo than the 1,001bhp Bugatti Veyron,’ said the 71-year-old Piech last year. And it’s not just Piech – VW’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn is also said to love bikes.

Of course, it’s still not clear whether Volkswagen sees its 20% stake in Suzuki as a starting point for its motorcycle manufacturing business. However, Superbike magazine recently caught up with designer Nils Poschwatta, who used to work with VW until recently. Poschwatta, who’s deeply passionate about motorcycles himself, designed various concept bikes (see sketches above) during his time at VW.

‘VW’s history is closely tied to Auto Union [which later became Audi], which was made up of four brands, including DKW and Wanderer, both of which used to make motorcycles. So, from a historical point of view, there is already a connection between Volkswagen and motorcycles,’ says Poschwatta.

‘But creating a car and a motorcycle is completely different. It’s very hard to create the same feeling, hard to create a family. It makes more sense to have a stand alone motorcycle brand, but to keep it clean, like VW cars, and not like Japanese bikes, which tends to be very cluttered,’ he adds.

Whether Volkswagen will really get into the bikes business – at a time when many existing motorcycle manufacturers are facing some really tough times – remains to be seen. If they do, we think VW might not do conventional motorcycles. Instead, they may choose to do high-performance battery-powered electric bikes and/or other, future-oriented two- and three-wheeled vehicles aimed at the ‘sustainable urban transport’ segment, which a lot of manufacturers seem to be looking at these days.

Either way, the possibility of VW getting into bikes has to be a good thing for motorcycles and motorcyclists. The more, the merrier…

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 MV Agusta F4 riding impression

2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta 2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta 2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta 2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta 2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta 2012 MV Agusta F4 R Corsa Corta
The 2010 MV Agusta F4 - minor cosmetic mods only, or is it significantly better than its predecessor? To find out, MotorBox tests the bike at the Almeria circuit in Spain...

We’ve been big fans of the MV Agusta F4, which still looks absolutely gorgeous despite the design being a decade old. The 2010 MV F4 has supposedly been ‘redesigned,’ with sharper edges, new paintjobs and… well, not much else. Still, apart from the Ducati 1198 and Aprilia RSV4, there’s no other fully faired superbike that’s as good looking as the MV.

Now, while the 2010 F4 looks almost the same as its predecessor, is it any different when it comes to actually riding the bike? MotorBox recently tested new F4 and here are some excerpts from what they have to say about the machine:

While the new F4 looks almost identical to the old one, MV Agusta really have changed everything – the new bike doesn’t share any parts with the earlier F4. The new bike is more sleek, modern and streamlined than ever. With the new F4, the objective was make it harder-edged, more competitive on the track. And so, MV engineers have shaved 10 kilos off the bike’s weight, which now weighs 192.5kg dry.

The new F4’s steel tube trellis / aluminium beam chassis has been extensively revised and is 1.2kg lighter than the older chassis. With a slightly longer swingarm, the weight distribution now stands at 51.7% front / 48.3%. The inline-four engine’s capacity has been reduced from 1,078cc to 998cc and a new Marelli fuel-injection system, titanium valves and variable-length intake have been fitted. Output is an impressive 186bhp at 12,900rpm and 114Nm of torque at 9,500rpm.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bajaj Auto in talks for KTM buyout

Indian motorcycle manufacturer, Bajaj Auto is expected to hike its stake in KTM to 90%...

Indian motorcycle manufacturer Bajaj Auto, which already has a 30% stake in KTM, is expected to hike its stake to as much as 90% in the near future. While full details on this acquisition are not available yet, Bajaj and KTM are said to be in talks to finalise the deal as soon as possible. Bajaj may either increase its stake in KTM to 90% right away, or may first hike the stake to 51% and then, in a phased manner, up to 90%. Details on the final arrangement are expected to emerge over the next few days.

This deal will give Bajaj a major foothold in the European bike market and also open up avenues for launching bigger sportsbike from the KTM line-up in India, which is the second-largest market in the world for two-wheelers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wayne Gardner: The Lone Rider

Here's a treat for motorcycle GP racing fans with fond memories of the 1980s. Made in 1986, this is a three-part documentary film on Wayne Gardner, Australian rider who won the 500cc world championship aboard a Honda NSR500 in 1987. It's a great little film - Eddie Lawson, Randy Mamola, Freddie Spencer and even Jeremy Burgess are all there, and some of the race footage is just terrific. Enjoy...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alitalia to sponsor Aprilia in World Superbikes

Alitalia Aprilia RSV4 Factory
Aprilia RSV4 AlitaliaAprilia RSV4 Alitalia
Aprilia RSV4 AlitaliaAprilia RSV4 Alitalia
Alitalia returns to motorsport sponsorship after two decades, this time on two wheels rather than four. But while the Aprilia RSV4 is a great bike, the legendary Lancia Stratos remains incomparable...

Italy's national airline, Alitalia will be sponsoring Aprilia's world superbikes team this year - the RSV4 bikes ridden by Max Biaggi and Leon Camier will carry the Alitalia livery. Alitalia used to sponsor Lancia and Fiat in the world rally championship in the 1980s and older rally fans are likely to remember the very cool Alitalia race livery used on the iconic Lancia Stratos.

We don't know if Biaggi can still win the WSBK championship, but it sure is good to see Alitalia back in the fast lane. And as for the RSV4, here are more pics of the bike - pics that you'll love!

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The legendary Lancia Stratos, tested by Top Gear. Even the very talented Stig can barely control all that Italian brio...   :-D

Memorable: Buell RR1000 BattleTwin

Buell RR1000 BattleTwin
The late-1980s Buell RR1000 - a path breaking American sportsbike if ever there was one...

A lot has been written about Erik Buell and his motorcycles after Harley-Davidson decided to shut down Buell last year. To be honest, Buell bikes have never really been a part of our (completely imaginary) dream garage, where all the space is taken up by the latest Yamaha R1, Ducati 1198R, MV Agusta F4 1000, BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4, Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZZR1400. Still, we definitely believe Buell made some great, unusual bikes and we wish H-D had given Buell another chance. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – the world of motorcycling is poorer without Buell machines.

But to carry on, we thought we’d take a quick look at one of Buell’s very first production bikes – the RR1000 BattleTwin – which was produced from 1986-1988. Fitted with a 998cc air-cooled OHV V-twin (from the Harley XR1000) that produced 77 horsepower, the RR1000 had a top speed of around 225km/h. The bike cost about US$12,500 when it was launched and, according to a recent story done by Motorcycle Classics, a good, well-maintained example could cost anywhere between US$25,000-50,000 today!

The RR1000 was the first bike to incorporate Erik Buell’s radical ideas on chassis design, including Buell’s patented Uniplanar rubber engine mounts, which permitted the Harley XR engine to be mounted as a fully stressed component of the bike’s tubular steel space frame. The bike was designed around the principles of mass centralisation, chassis rigidity and low unsprung weight. ‘It doesn’t matter what materials you use – whether it’s a tube frame like our earlier bikes, or a fuel-in-frame aluminium one like nowadays – those are the principles that matter,’ says Erik Buell.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2010 BMW R1200RT riding impression

The 2010 BMW R1200RT - not the most powerful touring bike in the world, but perhaps one that offers a great balance of everything and one that's fun to ride...

Maybe it’s a sign that old age is gradually, inevitably creeping upon us, but of late we’re beginning to rather like the BMW R1200RT. Oh, sure, we’d still have an R1 or a 1198R for those short Sunday morning blasts, but for really long rides, the idea of something like the R1200RT sounds rather good. Apparently, we’re not the only ones who appreciate the big BMW; the guys at MotorBox recently had the opportunity to sample the 2010-spec RT, and here are some excerpts from what they have to say about the bike:

The most important change on the 2010 R1200RT is that the 1,170cc boxer-twin engine now incorporates the DOHC cylinder heads from the HP2 Sport, which results in improved power delivery and better overall engine performance. While the power output remains unchanged (110bhp), torque has gone up from 115 to 120Nm at 6,000rpm. And thanks to a new exhaust valve, the power is now spread over a wider rev range, making the bike more usable.

The R1200RT’s styling hasn’t changed, though the electrically adjustable windshield has been further optimised for better wind protection and noise reduction. Also, the headlight beams are now remote adjustable and the instrument cluster has been completely revised – it now looks similar to the instrumentation you might find on some BMW cars and is much more comprehensive and readable . You even get a car-style multi-controller (the two-wheeler equivalent of BMW cars’ i-Drive system) and instead of a CD-player, the bike gets a new digital music player with USB connectivity, which plays MP3s and which can be hooked up to your iPod. The list of optional extras includes traction control, electronically adjustable suspension, tyre pressure monitor, a lower seat, bigger luggage cases and much, much more.

While it does cost a bit more than 17,000 euros, a bike like the BMW R1200RT really can be a life changing tool if you travel long distances regularly. With its heated handgrips and saddle, excellent weather protection and very comfortable riding position, this is one bike that you’ll happily continue to use, almost regardless of the weather.

On the move, the new engine is less noisy than the one on the earlier RT, and provides better, stronger acceleration even with two people and their luggage on board. With its higher rev limit and stronger power delivery, the engine makes overtaking manoeuvres easier, though of course it’s still not comparable to some other touring-oriented bikes that are fitted with bigger four-cylinder engines. However, the R1200RT is a very ‘balanced’ machine that’s good for covering long distances at a fair clip and that also remains fun to ride.

Overall, the highway is definitely the BMW R1200RT’s home. With great weather protection from that height adjustable windscreen, adjustable suspension that works very well and the more refined engine, it’s almost impossible to not like the bike.

For the original article, please visit MotorBox

And here's what MCN have to say about the 2010 R1200RT...

While the R1200RT is great for touring, the 190bhp S1000RR would be hard to beat for getting that sheer adrenaline rush. Especially if you're riding the bike on ice...! :-D

2010 Aprilia SXV 5.5: The hooligan’s choice

The Aprilia SXV 5.5 - the right tool for those who want to go out and play hard...
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We have, in the past, admitted that we don’t really ‘get’ supermotards. A bike with motocross-worthy suspension and riding position, combined with sticky, street-spec rubber sounds suspiciously like the two-wheeled equivalent of an SUV – neither a sports car, nor a utility vehicle and a compromise at everything it’s supposedly capable of doing.

Then again, maybe it’s not that bad after all. Not if you see what Motorcycle-USA have to say about the Aprilia SXV 5.5, which actually looks interesting even to us. Here are some excerpts:

Have you ever envisioned riding a top AMA Motocross team’s pumped-up and highly-tuned race bike on road rubber? Well now you can. Say hello to the Aprilia SXV 5.5. The $9,499 SXV 5.5 is the Italian motorcycle manufacturer’s top-shelf Supermoto racer cloaked in full street-legal attire and seemingly designed to break every single traffic law in existence.

The scream emitted during fast idle from the engine’s internal mechanical flurry and the roar of the sleek and expensive looking 2-into-1-into-2 pipe configuration is wake-the-neighbours loud. Punch the throttle and feel the immediate burst of power from the unique 549cc liquid-cooled V-Twin engine.

Right off the bottom, the engine pumps out upwards of 80% of its max torque from as low as 5,000rpm. Torque gradually increases, eventually peaking at 46Nm at 9,000 revs. This gives the engine such a wide spread of propulsion through its 11,400rpm range that it makes it difficult not to loft the front wheel through each of the transmission’s five gears. Overall throttle response is excellent and provides a direct feel to what’s happening at the business end of the rear Dunlop tyre around the racetrack at speed.

With the throttle pinned, the engine gains revs instantly and feels surprisingly similar to a hopped up and race-fuel fed 450cc single. The free revving nature of the engine, extremely close transmission gear ratios, and ultra-short final drive gearing contribute to an engine that spins-up faster than any other road-going motorcycle on the market. The SXV offers mind-boggling acceleration from stoplight to stoplight [and] the sound emitting from the tiny sculpted metal exhaust tips only adds to the thrill.

But buyers beware: Riding this bike is the quickest way for you to end up in the back of a cop car. Whether motoring down the road on the back wheel, getting sideways entering a corner, or drifting the rear tire through corner exit, the Aprilia SXV 5.5 is a true hooligan’s dream.

Sounds interesting to us. For the full story, please visit Motorcycle-USA

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2010 Aprilia SXV 5.5: Tech Specs

Engine: 549cc liquid-cooled SOHC 8-valve fuel-injected V-twin
Power: 61.6bhp@11,100rpm
Torque: 46Nm@9,000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed; chain final drive
Chassis: Steel-trellis/pressed aluminium hybrid
Front suspension: 48mm Marzocchi inverted fork; 2-way adjustable for compression and rebound damping; 10.8 inch travel
Rear suspension: Sachs hydraulic shock absorber; 4-way adjustable for high/low-speed compression, rebound and spring preload; 9.9 inch travel
Front Brake: 320mm disc with 4-piston FTE radial-mount calliper
Rear Brake: 240mm disc with single piston caliper
Front Wheel: 3.5 x 17-inch
Rear Wheel: 5.5 x 17-inch
Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax Qualifer 120/70-17, 180/55-17
Kerb Weight: 141kg
MSRP: $9,499



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