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The Pit Stop

Welcome to
The Pit Stop
A Monthly Motorcycle Blog from Fay Myers Motorcycle World

Welcome to "The Pit Stop", here we hope to feature writers from all over the Fay Myers Store and community who want to share and discuss their views and experiences with all different aspects of the motorcycle industry

Sochiro Honda's Dream - Part 2

March 2014

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt completes our look at Sochiro Honda's history and first motorcycles


Honda D-TypeWhen we last left Soichiro Honda, it was 1947, and he had taken his first step toward realizing his dream of being a motorcycle manufacturer by producing the A-type. Although the A-type was really nothing more than a kit for attaching to a bicycle an auxiliary engine (“pon-pon” in Japanese) based on that from a WWII-surplus generator, many things about the evolution of this product gave hints of things to come for Honda. At the time, the vast majority of two-stroke engines used piston ports, but Honda insisted on a rotary disc valve attached to the crankcase, even though it was more expensive, because it was more precise. Honda also insisted on using die-casting instead of sand- casting, as any other concern with Honda’s volume would have done at the time, even though it pretty much guaranteed that profitability would be unattainable with the type-A. This was so even though the employees (including Soichiro’s brother Benjiro) hand-made all the dies because they couldn’t afford to hire a die company to manufacture them. Die-casting creates far less waste in the form of metal shavings than sand casting, because it results in a part far closer to the end product than other casting methods. Mr. Honda also believed that the end product was more attractive when die-cast.

Obviously it wasn’t just appearance that concerned Honda though, since parts that nobody could see, like connecting rods and disc-valve seats were also die-cast. Honda wanted to get as high a quality-level as possible as early as possible in the process, even sometimes at the expense of profit. This approach would serve the company well later, when production numbers were far greater, as would Honda’s utilization of a conveyor-belt production line, even though neither the company’s volume nor the quality of the parts justified such a luxury. The line was constantly being stopped at first to allow for the hand finishing of parts that Mr. Honda had sought to avoid by using die-casting, much to his consternation. It wouldn’t be long before improving quality would allow the line to run pretty much without stoppages.

Less than one year after the incorporation of Honda in September 1948, Honda began production of its first real motorcycle, the Dream D-type. This machine was the first of Honda’s products to make Soichiro Honda’s dream of becoming a bona-fide motorcycle manufacturer come true. In an effort to make the Dream rider-friendly (a corporate philosophy still pursued by Honda to this day), it utilized a semi-automatic clutch that eliminated the clutch-lever, and with it the acclimation period required to ride a motorcycle with a manual clutch. The ease-of-use made it sell very well at first, but the fact that the design necessitated keeping pressure on the shift lever in order to keep the bike in one of its two gears caused complaints about toes and feet getting tired when staying in gear for a long time.

NSU SupermaxBy 1956, Soichiro Honda had mostly been able to phase out 2-stroke engines. He had made it clear to his colleagues that he despised the smoky, noisy, and inefficient 2-strokes, and his goal was to make 4-strokes that were competitive power-wise with 2-strokes of the same displacement. He was able to accomplish this goal with the Super Cub, but Honda wanted to produce a full-sized motorcycle. That (dream) finally was achieved with the C70 Dream. A 250cc OHC twin-cylinder engine in a pressed steel frame, bearing a slight resemblance to the NSU Supermax, the C70 was unusual because in the late fifties, most mid-displacement 4-strokes (and yes, 250cc was mid-displacement) were singles, with less power and revs, and more vibration than the Honda twin.

Honda C70 Dream

It was more powerful and cheaper than other 250s on the Japanese market at the times, which were all two strokes. The precision of the Honda manufacturing process and its engineering prowess resulted in a machine that could rev to levels that led to aspersions being cast on the Honda’s reliability, based only on the fact that other companies’ products could not do so reliably.

Laverda Twin

But the Honda was capable of revving to 8000 rpm. Soichiro Honda himself did a large portion of the design work on the C70 Dream, in what became known as the “Buddhist temple” style. Since this would be Honda’s first motorcycle designed for export outside of Asia, Honda was mindful of the fact that its design would to some extent be representing Japan to the rest of the world, and must therefore be distinctive. The design of the engine was particularly popular and was supposedly used as the basis for the design of Laverda’s 650 and 750cc twins.

 

 



Honda 305 TwinBy the early 60’s, Honda’s OHC twins had been used as the basis for numerous different motorcycles, all available as 250s and 305s. Two of these bikes, the 305 high-piped Scrambler (CL77, CL72 as a 250), and the 305 Dream,(CA77, CA72 as a 250) are on display in our showroom. The other bike based on this motor was called the Super Hawk (CB77 and 72, of course, see the blue bike above), which had a tube steel frame instead of pressed steel. Since production of these machines pretty much coincided with Honda’s entry into the U.S. market, some of my earliest memories of street bikes are these very machines, and I do actually remember meeting some of the nicest people on these Hondas.

 

 



Honda 305 ScramblerHonda 305 Dream

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com


2014 Ducati Monster 1200

February 2014

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt takes a look at the upcoming Ducati Monster 1200 and it's history


2014 Ducati Monster 1200By the mid-eighties, Ducati was floundering. Their bevel-drive twins were an artifact of the 1970’s; expensive to produce and loud enough to begin causing difficulties in a world of newly adopted noise regulations. Having been operated by the Italian government for years (in order to forestall Bankruptcy, at least theoretically), their purchase by Cagiva in 1985 enabled Ducati to develop new models (something that had been sorely lacking in the early eighties), with the goal of broadening the appeal of their line-up without alienating the sport bike and racing enthusiasts that were their core customer base. The original plan was for Ducati to provide Pantah belt-drive engines for two of Cagiva’s new models, the Ala Azzurra, meaning “blue wing”(later simply the Alazzurra), a 650 cc sporty standard, and the Elefant, a competitor of the BMW R80G/S, both of which presaged today’s adventure bikes. Both bikes were to be sold as Cagivas. Two years later, Cagiva was offered the opportunity to purchase Ducati from the Italian government for a reported $5,000,000, and it accepted. Though Cagiva’s owner Claudio Castiglioni planned to retire the Ducati nameplate and sell everything under the Cagiva name, it was determined that the name Ducati was far more familiar, especially in America, than that of Cagiva, so the name stayed.

New 2014 Ducati Monster 1200Castiglioni looked across the pond at Harley Davidson (from which Cagiva had purchased their main production facility in Varese, which was the old Aermacchi factory) and its sales success in the U.S.A., and decided that Ducati needed a cruiser. The resulting bike was called the Indiana; it’s name indicative of the target market, although why they chose Indiana instead of something less prosaic (like Colorado maybe?), who knows? The bike was an abject failure, although probably due more to the iffy build quality and revvy un-cruiser-like engine than the name. Despite the failure of the Indiana, however, the concept of an Italian cruiser was proven to be sound by the Diavel. Maybe it was just thirty-five years ahead of its time. Cagiva would revisit the concept later.

Monster 1200 ChainsIn the meantime, they worked on updating the sport bike line-up, in the process creating bikes that are now Ducati icons, like the 750 Sport and the F1, and especially the Montjuich, Laguna Seca, and Santamonica variants. Development of the first of the Supersports series of air-cooled desmo sportbikes, in all of its various displacements, also took place on Cagiva’s watch, as did the desmoquatro sportbikes, starting with the 851/888, and even the supermono. These bikes were all dedicated sportbikes, with all that that implies in terms of ergonomics and costs of operation, as well as potential sales volume. Castiglione had not forgotten the concept of an Italian cruiser. This time however, the bike was not to be an attempt to copy a Harley, but a minimalist, easy to ride and personalize bike that was nonetheless unmistakably Italian and Ducati, meant to appeal to recreational riders who didn’t want the ergos or the operating costs of a dedicated sport bike. Thus was born “Il Mostro” (The Monster, of course).

Monster 1200 rearThe Monster was a parts-bin special, based on the engine of the 900 Supersport, and the frame of the 851/888. A Cagiva stylist named Miguel Angel Galuzzi penned the original design, which, he has said, started with the idea that “…all you need is a saddle, tank, engine, two wheels, and a handlebar.” He also said at the launch that the name of the bike was a nod to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, another parts-bin special. The bike was first revealed at a show in 1992, and the response was so dramatic and positive that Ducati was basically forced to build it. Because of its use of existing components from other models it was much cheaper to build, and therefore buy, than any of Ducati’s other products. First produced for the 1993 model year the bike was an immediate hit, and has since sold far more than any bike in Ducati’s history. In fact, Ducati certainly wouldn’t be what it is today, and may not exist at all if not for the success of the Monster. The same can also probably be said of the entire class of bikes known as “nakeds,” or “naked sport-bikes.”

Monster 1200 Tires and ExhaustAlthough the 696 and 796 Monsters are the only air-cooled bikes left in Ducati’s line-up for 2014, and maintain their positions as Ducati’s entry level bikes, this year brings the debut of a pair of bikes that move the Monster to a whole new level, the M1200 and M1200S. The Monster 1200 adds 5 horsepower (and far more importantly, 11 lb./ft. of torque) to what was heretofore the most powerful Monster ever, the Monster S4Rs, introduced to the US for 2006. That bike was, however, expensive to buy (14,999 in 2006 dollars) and maintain, and demanding to ride. The new M1200 incorporates the improved version of the 11-degree Testastretta engine from the 2013 Multistrada, (though with higher compression) which incorporates the dual plug set-up and air-injection that make the engine so smooth and flexible in the Multistrada, though in the Monster 1200 the engine is rated at 135hp instead of the Multi’s 150. The 1200 is marginally heavier than the S4Rs, but offers a 2.5inch longer wheelbase, and more trail for increased stability. Between the power output (the delivery of which favored high-rpm operation) and close-coupled chassis geometry, the S4Rs could be a handful. It was also quite sensitive to set-up changes due to those factors along with what was effectively race-level suspension. Once set-up properly, the S4Rs could be an awesome weapon in the hands of an expert rider, but was definitely not an all-rounder.

2014 Ducati Monster 1200 Profile

The changes to chassis geometry and the improved engine flexibility should make the bike better to ride most of the time, for most riders, especially since the 1200 includes the suite of electronic rider aids available on most Ducatis, including traction control, three engine modes, and anti-lock brakes. The 1200 will also be friendlier on the wallet, with 18000-mile valve clearance check intervals. The 1200S adds an additional 10hpand 4lb/ft of torque, Ohlins suspension front and rear, and Brembo’s M50 monobloc calipers (the same calipers as on the Panigale). Ducati will be here on February 8, 2014, with a Monster 1200 for viewing, with examples available for sale shortly thereafter. Call and speak to one our Sales Consultants with any other questions.

Next Month: The Dreams Become Reality. Kurt finishes our two-part special on Sochiro Honda's Dream......REALLY!

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

Feature: Fay Myers Salesmen Bryan Penney

January 2014

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt gives us a look at the history of one of our great salesmen, Bryan Penney


Fay Myers Salesman Bryan PenneyWe would like for our community to get to know our staff better, so toward that end we will be periodically featuring one of our employees in our e-newsletter. This month I would like to introduce a member of our Sales staff- Bryan Penney. Bryan started in the motorcycle business in the parts department at The Dirt Broker, a KTM/Husaberg/Husqvarna dealer in Lakewood. A few months after he started working there, Fay Myers Motorcycle World acquired The Dirt Broker (and Bryan). He worked in the parts department until 1997 while attending Metropolitan State’s business school, then moved to bike sales. As with most people in this business, Bryan is a true motorcycle enthusiast, and started riding at the age of 7. Although his first “bike” was a Honda ATC 70, his father Jary traded a neighbor the ATC for a KX60, and Bryan has been on two wheels pretty much ever since. A couple of years later, he moved up to a KTM MX80, but at that point he was still riding mostly on trails and in the context of family camping trips.

Bryan Penney in the Avalanche Enduro 2005Bryan started racing motocross at the age of twelve on a KX80. While at this point he loved riding, the addition of the competitive aspect of racing dramatically raised the level of his enthusiasm, along with honing his skills. His dad was racing off road and Bryan was racing motocross, seemingly always doing one or the other. By the time he was eighteen, he had marked out to the pro class, even though at fifteen, Bryan started competing in offroad racing on a CR125, under the auspices of the RMEC (Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit) and it quickly became his true passion. During the period when he was doing both, more and more schedule conflicts were resolved in favor of the RMEC with motocross becoming more and more part-time. By the time he was 21, he was the youngest AA class rider in the RMEC, finishing 7th overall and 6th in class in 1998, competing in his last motocross race the same year. The transformation from motocrosser to off road racer was now complete, and the next year he won both the AA class championship and the overall title. This while working and attending college as well! Over the next four seasons, Bryan never finished worse for the season than 5th in class or overall in the RMEC, finishing 3rd in class and 4th overall in 2002 and 2003.

Bryan Penney racing in the ISDE

In 2003, Bryan was also able to finish in thirteenth in his two-day qualifier for the American team for the ISDE (International Six Day Enduro) to be held that year in Fortaleza, Brazil. This competition is on the bucket-list of every off road racer, and is possibly the most prestigious off road competition there is, in part because of the opportunity to represent one’s country as in the Olympics. The level of competition is also very high, the riders representing the best off road racers in the world. Bryan earned a silver medal at the ISDE, finishing 170th overall out of over 400 competitors from around the world. The ISDE is not just a test of riding ability or speed either, as there are very strict rules regarding maintenance and repairs to the motorcycle, and thus is also a test of one’s mechanical ability and endurance. Bryan is justifiably proud of his accomplishment in Brazil, but in general is still a pretty humble and down-to-earth guy. Bryan has tried his hand at numerous other forms of two-wheeled competition, including supermoto and endurocross, finishing well in both disciplines. He has even won the sport-bike class of the civilian Top Gun competition both times he has competed; in 2009 and 2013.

Bryan Penney in the VDR Harescrambles - October 2012Bryan was able to cross another item off of his bucket-list in 2008, when he qualified 7th out of 16 competitors in his class at the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. Unfortunately, in the race itself, Bryan misjudged a corner and went off the course, (demonstrating the difficulty of learning a course consisting of twelve miles of corners) and if you have ever been to the top of Pikes Peak you know there are really no good places to do that. Bryan suffered a concussion with bleeding on his brain, a fractured collarbone and scapula, and fractured four ribs on each side. His on-board video is still viewable on you-tube. Even given the serious injuries he suffered on the mountain, (and if you’ve ever had a broken rib, even the thought of having eight of them will turn your stomach) that pain was nothing compared to what he went through the next year, when his father suffered a fatal motorcycle accident, or as Bryan puts it, “passed away doing what he loved…” in August of 2009. Between the injuries he suffered on Pikes Peak, and what happened to his dad, Bryan was prompted to sell all his bikes, and really didn’t ride at all for about three years. Having a wife who loves him and of course worries about his safety, along with two beautiful little boys made it easier to stay away than it would’ve been otherwise. Of course, he wasn’t able to stay away forever. Although he still races off road, it’s less regularly and a little more recreational than it used to be. That being said, he and another sales consultant from Fay Myers Motorcycle World teamed up to win the Team Class in the Valley Dirt Riders’ Winter Hare Scrambles in 2012. Just goes to show that it’s almost as hard for a fast guy to go slow as it is for a slow guy to go fast. He’s also riding a streetbike, a KTM 690SM-R, although it’s currently for sale, probably to make room for a new KTM 1190 Adventure R. Bryan’s huge knowledge base and enthusiasm for all aspects of our sport are obvious, and at your service. Bryan is currently in charge of Fay Myers’ Internet motorcycle sales department in addition to his regular sales duties. If you want to say hi to him, look for the desk surrounded by KTMs on our sales floor.

Next Month: The Dreams Become Reality. Kurt finishes our two-part special on Sochiro Honda's Dream

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

Sochiro Honda's Dream (Part 1)

December 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt takes a look at Sochiro Honda's first motorcycles


1947 Honda A-TypeThe model name “Dream” is most closely associated with Honda Motor Co., especially among motorcycle enthusiasts of a “certain” age. Numerous models produced throughout Honda’s history have had that moniker, but the adoption of the name relates to the beginnings of the company and its founder’s aspirations for it. The first Honda referred to as the Dream was Honda’s first full-fledged motorcycle (as opposed to a bicycle with a motor attached to it, i.e. the A-type) otherwise known as the D-Type.

Honda's D-Type DreamSoichiro Honda, or “the old man,” as his employees referred to him (though I don’t know that it was done to his face), had many dreams. The first was the dream of working with engines. Honda always said that the smell of the oil from the first automobile he saw as a child growing up stuck with him, as if it sealed his fate. His father was a blacksmith, who saw a business opportunity in the popularity of bicycles as transportation in the Japan of the early 20th century, opening a bicycle repair business. Soichiro’s first mechanical experience came helping his father in their bike shop. He gave an early indication of both his ingenuity and his disinterest in a traditional academic education, when, to avoid his parents finding out about his poor grades, he forged a stamp of his family name and used it to confirm his parents’ receipt of his grades (which of course they hadn’t seen). Because the pictographs representing his family name were symmetrical, and therefore when written vertically were the Japanese equivalent of a palindrome, looking the same even if reversed, Honda didn’t realize was that the stamp had to be created as a mirror image. His scheme was discovered when he tried to do the same for a classmate whose name was not symmetrical. Although this story may be apocryphal, it is certainly illustrative.

The young Honda pursued his first dream by becoming an apprentice at a top Tokyo auto and motorcycle repair concern called Art Shokai at the age of 15. The owner (for whom Soichiro would express great admiration and respect even years later) soon noticed his talents, and by the time he was 21 years old, Honda was opening and then running, his own branch of Art Shokai closer to home, in Hamamatsu.
The Hamamatsu Art Shokai in 1935
The Hamamatsu Art Shokai in 1935. Soichiro Honda is in sunglasses next to the racecar.

Though his boss also encouraged Honda’s burgeoning interest in motor sports, his involvement, at least as a driver, came to an end after a wreck in which he was not seriously injured, but his brother and mechanic fractured his spine (these were the days of the ride-along mechanic). Although he later claimed that his wife made him quit, she claimed it was Soichiro’s father who talked him out of racing again.

The next dream pursued by Soichiro Honda was to get into the manufacturing end of the business by manufacturing piston rings. Although he continued working for Art Shokai all day, he worked on developing rings at night, often late into the night. Undaunted (as usual) by numerous technical problems, Honda decided to attend college part-time to learn more about metallurgy, while continuing to work of course. After two years of studying and working so hard that even his appearance had changed, Honda finally left Art Shokai to pursue his ring business, now called Tokai Seiki. It took another 2-3 years of trial and error, research, and education for him to get the company’s manufacturing techniques up to the level required by his customers, which by this time, included Toyota. After the escalation of Japan’s participation in World War II, the company’s output was essentially nationalized for the war effort, as were most of the male employees over the course of the war. Though he was not drafted (he was disqualified for service due to color-blindness), Honda stayed, though demoted from President to a director, and calibrated machinery and further automated manufacturing to make it easier for what was now an inexperienced workforce. By the end of the war of course, most of the country had been bombed into ruins, including two of Tokai Seiki’s three manufacturing facilities, while the third was destroyed in an earthquake. This left plenty of time for the fertile mind of Soichiro Honda to dream.

While visiting a friend whom he had met while with Art Shokai, Honda chanced upon an Army surplus generator engine. This 50cc two-cycle engine immediately stoked his imagination, and he was inspired to attach a modified version of the engine to a bicycle. At this point, he had already started a new company, called Honda Technical Research Institute and had a location and employees; all he needed was an idea for a product that inspired him, and now he had it. According to one of his employees of the time, he worked for four days, straight through; solving the technical challenges involved in the project, including where to mount the engine, the nature of the final drive, etc. When he was finished with the first prototype, he brought it home and asked his wife to try riding it. Whether he did this to see if a woman could ride it, or for the advertising value of the public seeing her ride around on it is unknown, but he immediately set about buying up all of these surplus motors he could find (they were originally manufactured by Mikuni, later to become famous for their carburetors). In line with Honda’s reputation for build quality, each engine was dismantled and checked out, reassembled, and attached to a bicycle and test-ridden, then removed from the bike, and sold with a kit to attach it to an existing bicycle. While the idea of attaching an auxiliary motor to a bicycle was not exclusively Honda’s (in fact Ducati got its start in motorcycles the same way, with the Cucciolo, or puppy), the limited number of these engines available (about 500) forced Honda to design his own engines, and thus began Honda Motor Company. Next Month: The Dreams Become Reality.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

Incredibly Rare 1993 Ducati Supermono

November 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt gives us some background on the very rare Ducati Supermono that recently arrived at Fay Myers Motorcycle World


1993 Ducati Supermono

Ducati’s Supermono was a track-only 550cc single cylinder machine built to race in the series of the same name, run as a support class to World Superbike. The machine was also to serve as a rolling test-bed for parts for Ducati’s race program. Production commenced in 1993, when thirty examples were produced. Another 35 were built in 1994 and 1995, the 1995 model being a 570cc version. This bike weighs 269 lbs dry, and produces 78 horsepower, or a little over 60 hp at the rear wheel according to Cycle World in 1993. The design heavily influenced that of the 916, which came out the following year. Pierre Terblanche, who eventually became Ducati’s design chief, did the design work, and it’s thought by many to be one of the most beautiful motorcycles of all time. Ironically, he also designed the 999, the poor sales of which almost killed Ducati, and the original Multistrada, which to my eye is one of the ugliest. In a further bit of irony, the 999’s design has apparently aged well, as they don’t sit on our floor very long when we get one. The original Multi is still ugly though.

Duacti Supermono number 30 of 30
There was a time not to long ago (wait, it was about 50 years ago) that all Ducatis were singles. They were generally fast for their displacement and always pretty. They were also somewhat idiosyncratic and fragile. The strengths of a single are simplicity, light weight, and when configured in a “lay down” format with the cylinder horizontal or nearly so, a low center of gravity. The downside, of course, is vibration. Without multiple cylinders to cancel out at least the primary vibration, the incessant shaking is hard on bike and rider alike, loosening fasteners, aerating fuel, and numbing fingers. Twins and multis are easier both because the additional pistons, with the appropriate timing and crankpin angles, can be used to cancel each others vibration, and because the lighter weight of multiple small pistons create smaller amplitude vibrations than one big piston of the same displacement, thus making them easier to cancel out. Although there are ways to reduce a single’s characteristic vibration, they tend to be incomplete fixes, or to be complicated enough to defeat the purpose of building a single. When Ducati decided to build the Supermono, they were obviously very familiar with the characteristics of twins, and utilized the crankcase of the 851’s v –twin with only the horizontal cylinder producing power, while the vertical cylinder contained a dummy piston to balance the vibration produced by the power piston. Although from the perspective of vibration, the idea worked, as the engine was very smooth, power output was disappointing, and would not be competitive in singles racing.

1993 Ducati Supermono at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in Denver, Colorado
As one might surmise, power was being robbed by the reciprocating mass, pumping losses from crankcase pressure effects, and additional friction that come with the dummy cylinder that isn’t contributing anything power-wise. The solution was to replace the dummy piston with a lever attached to the small end of the con-rod, with the far end of the lever pivoting on a pin on the inner surface of the crankcase. This approach was called doppia bielletta(double con-rod), and also had the salutary benefits of making the engine more compact and lighter by removing the height necessary to house the dummy piston and reducing the center of gravity accordingly. The con-rod small end’s weight along with the oscillating mass of the lever dynamically “equaled” the previously reciprocating mass of the dummy piston. The balance was retained so well that the big single was able to be mounted solidly in the frame, very unusual for a big single, which would normally require rubber mounts or beefed-up components just to enable them to survive the vibration. Solidly mounting the engine allows the engine to add rigidity without a weight penalty. Power losses were reduced to the extent that the bikes won in just about every class in which they raced.

1993 Ducati Supermono Numberplate 30 of 30
The bike we have on display at Fay Myers is number 30 of the 30 manufactured in 1993, and has never been ridden. It may in fact be the best example extant of what is probably the most collectible model Ducati has ever built. When new, the bike retailed at $30,000, a no-compromise price for a no-compromise factory racebike. The original plan was to offer a street-legal version based on the frame of the 900ss, which would’ve undoubtedly been slower, heavier, and cheaper. A prototype was even built in 1998 (which, including the original prototype built in 1992 brings the total built to 67). I think it’s probably fitting that the plan for a street-legal version never came to fruition, as the compromises necessary would’ve contradicted the entire purpose of the bike, potentially diluting the original like God mass-producing a unicorn with no horn, which, after all, would just be a horse.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

KTM's New 2014 1190 Adventure

October 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt takes a look at the new 1190 Adventure and Adventure R from KTM


2014 KTM 1190 Adventure

KTM’s 990 Adventure, in standard and R trim, has long been the most dirt-worthy of the category now known as “Adventure” bikes, a category of motorcycle the beginnings of which are often attributed to the BMW R80G/S. Arguably, however, bikes as diverse as The Triumph TR5 Trophy and Honda’s SLs were the real beginnings of the category. As a practical matter, before the increasing specialization we now see in the motorcycle market, all motorcycles were “adventure” bikes. If you see any old videos from The Isle of Man TT about a hundred years ago, the course was all dirt. Not quite the “Road of Bones,” but not exactly the proverbial billiard-table-smooth road either. KTM has always split its adventure offerings into a more road-oriented version and a more dirt-oriented version (first the “S” version, later changed to the “R”). The differences between the two have always been mostly additional suspension travel, and therefor seat height, engine guards, and some years, a little hotter engine. In recognition of the often-times conflicting demands made by off-road and on-road riding, for their new 1190 Adventure KTM have apparently decided to move the standard model a little closer to the street side of the equation, with a change to a 19” front/17”rear setup. This bike should provide some competition to the Ducati Multistrada, with 150 horsepower and electronic suspension adjustment, while presumably maintaining the dirt-worthiness of the “R” by combining the 21” front/ 18”rear wheel combo of the 990 with the additional suspension travel of the 990 “R” (in this case, 40mm). Up to now, someone who wanted real dirt ability from an adventure bike bought the KTM, while someone who wanted a comfortable touring bike that looked like it could go off-road bought a BMW R1200GS, and the 50 year-old sportbike refugee with a bad back bought a Multistrada 1200. The new division of labor in the Adventure line-up is KTM’s attempt to give buyers in the latter two categories a choice in orange.

KTM 1190 Adventure
The 1195cc engine is a development of that in the RC8, retuned to offer more pull at street speeds and smoother, more refined operation. Although it lost about 20 horses in the transformation, I can’t imagine anybody will miss them. As a matter of fact, it’s significantly faster than any sportbike I’ve ever owned, (but then so is the Multistrada 1200, among others). The changes made to the engine for this application include a revised head with dual sparkplugs for improved combustion and smoothness, reduced friction via a DLC coating on parts of the valvetrain and pistons with minimal skirts. A ride-by-wire throttle allows the inclusion of engine power modes and traction control, cutting power both in response to the rider’s choice of riding mode and collected data regarding longitudinal and lateral acceleration, wheel speeds, lean angle and engine management parameters. The available modes are sport, street, off-road, and rain. Both sport and street modes offer the full complement of 150 horsepower, but street mode uses a more interventionist traction control setting than sport. Off-road and rain reduce maximum horsepower to 100, but the TC system allows the rear to spin at up to twice the rotational speed of the front in the former, while allowing none in the latter. ABS is standard, and has 2 modes, street and off-road. The street mode is combined, and links some rear brake if only the front is actuated, while in offroad mode the brakes are independent and the ABS is only active at the front, although with a higher slippage threshold prior to intervention. Both ABS and TC can also be turned off. The Adventure also allows three different settings for the damping: comfort, street, and sport, from softer to firmer. These settings can be changed on the fly, while the four different preload settings, also adjustable at the bars, must be changed when the bike is stopped. The R model does not have the electronic suspension (EDS), presumably to allow the finer and independent damping adjustments available manually and that one might need offroad, rather than limiting the settings to just three as the EDS does. All of the various adjustments are controllable with a four-button (up, down, back, and set) control located just above the turn indicator switch, and are displayed on a screen on the left of the dash. Controlling the options is more intuitive than any other setup I’ve tried. While the 1190 is much faster than its 990 predecessor and has gained about 20 pounds (although I couldn’t feel it) it is also much more comfortable, in line with its more on-road intent. The 990’s seat was designed for standing up, which is kind of like having a face designed for radio. Also consistent with its more on-road intent are the Continental Trail Attack 2 tires with which both versions are equipped as standard, although I expect to see many, especially Rs, equipped with something more aggressive, like the TKC80.

KTM 1190 Adventure and 1190 Adventure R
I recently had the opportunity to sample the new Adventure over about 70 miles of my favorite mountain roads (God I love my job) and I must say I was mightily impressed. So that you can better evaluate my opinion, the two bikes in the category that I have spent the most time on are the 990 Adventure and the Multistrada 1200, so while I was riding the 1190 I was unavoidably using those bikes as my frame of reference. Also, I did not get to sample the bike off road, which is fitting, since I didn’t ride the R. On asphalt at least, the 1190 is better than the 990 in every way, much better. I’m not certain whether it’s better than the Multistrada (especially since I’ve not spent any appreciable amount of time on the most recent version of the Multi) but I think it depends on the rider. The KTM is smoother, more flexible, especially below 4000 rpm, and more stable. The Multi turns quicker and feels sportier, and in tight corners it’s probably marginally, if irrelevantly, faster. For my size and shape, The KTM is roomier, and therefore more comfortable than the Duc, but again it’s a closely-run thing. In light of the fact that the Ducati for 2013 has been improved in the areas of comfort (seat) and low speed flexibility and smoothness (twin plugs heads and air injection), if I was in the market for an adventure bike (or “tall-rounder” as the Brits call them) I would be in quite a quandary. Maybe it’s a good thing I can’t afford either one….NOT, as Borat would say.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

The Birth of Motocross

September 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

In this Issue...

Kurt goes into a brief history of the sport of Motocross


The Birth of Motocross
Motocross started primarily as an evolution of trials events held in the U.K. starting in the early 20th century, the most famous and oldest of which is the Scottish Six Day Trial, the first of which was held in 1909 (ironically, over five days.) These events were not so much a test of speed as a test of the bikes’ reliability and the riders’ endurance and mechanical abilities. In fact, the full name of the “Scottish” (as it is often called by aficionados) is The Scottish Six Day Open Reliability Trial.

As the machinery became faster, better suspended(meaning suspended at all), and more reliable, a new form of competition known as “scrambles” developed in which the goal was merely to finish the prescribed distance first. Scrambles started being held with regularity in the 1930s, and shortly thereafter the sport made its way across the channel, where the term motocross was coined as a combination of the French word for motorcycle, and cross-country. The sport took off in Europe, especially in France and Belgium (to date Belgium has more than double the number of European/World Motocross Championships and medals than its next closest competitor- pretty impressive given the statistical improbability.) Although World War II put the kibosh on most motorsports for the duration, after the war things picked up where they left off when Germany invaded Poland, with British riders and marques like Norton, Matchless, and especially BSA, dominating the proceedings. At this time, the bikes were all 4-strokes; heavy and not far removed from the street bikes upon which they were all based.

The Birth of Motocross Shortly after the FIM added a 250cc class to the existing 500cc class in the World Championships, manufacturers such as CZ, Greeves, Husqvarna, and Maico introduced 2-stroke machines in the 250cc class, which shortly began to dominate due to their higher specific output and light weight, eventually relegating four-strokes to more specialized types of competition in the 500cc class as well. Motocross wasn’t introduced to the United States until 1966, when Husqvarna and their American distributor, Edison Dye brought their multi-time World Champion, Swede Torsten Hallman, to the U.S. for exhibition races. Up to that point, closed-course motorcycle racing on dirt took the form of flat-track racing and TTs (basically a flat-track race with a jump and a right turn), so the American competitors were severely outclassed, as were their machines, even though the races were mostly on American-style TT courses. The new form of competition proved so popular in the U.S. that a series of races was formalized as the “Inter-Ams” (for International-American), and in 1967, other Europeans like Joel Robert, Dave Bickers, and Roger DeCoster joined Hallman for the Inter-Ams, which fueled an explosion of demand for both the machines and series to race them in the U.S. The motocross bikes available at that time tended to be temperamental, expensive, and underdeveloped, and required a good tool set and some mechanical know-how of their riders. The Japanese started looking across the Pacific at an untapped market for motocross bikes, and geared-up to satisfy the demand. By 1972, Suzuki was winning both the 250 and 500cc world championships under Robert and DeCoster respectively, though with bikes that were essentially factory prototypes, while the bikes they sold to the public were the heavy and uncompetitive TMs. Yamahas and Kawasakis weren’t much, if any better, though cheaper and marginally more reliable than the Europeans. Meanwhile, Honda was selling bulletproof but heavy four-strokes based on street bikes that were more playbike than motocross bike.

The Birth of MotocrossIn 1973, Honda was to introduce a bike that was to turn the entire situation on its head. The CR250M “Elsinore” was very light (213 lbs dry), and very fast (29hp). More importantly, the bike handled well out-of the box and was reliable. In fact, when the bike won the AMA 250cc championship under Gary Jones in 1973, the bike was purported to be basically stock. While the fact that he also won in 1972 and 1974 on two other brands (Yamaha and Can Am respectively-no one since has won three consecutive AMA MX championships on three different makes) might argue that rider skill might have had something to do with the 1973 championship, The Elsinore was nonetheless a revolutionary machine. Honda was the first manufacturer, European or Japanese, to sell to the public a bike that was able to win right out of the box, as equipped. Honda was determined to win, as shown by the hiring of Jones, the defending champion. At a more grassroots level, for the first time, a talented rider with little mechanical skill and not much of a budget could win races, and suddenly motocross was a sport for “everyman,” and the U.S. market exploded accordingly. Yamaha responded in 1974 with the YZ250A, which was faster than the Elsinore and chock full of lightweight aluminum and magnesium componentry, but sold for almost twice what the Honda cost. The arms race for motocross supremacy among the Japanese manufacturers was on, and it wasn’t very long before the Japanese factories were trading podium spots with each other in the AMA, and to a lesser degree, the Worlds, and the European companies were either out of business, or at least winning far fewer races and championships. In a span of twenty years, the world of motocross went from a European sport exclusively made up of European riders on European bikes, to a sport where the highest level of competition was in the AMA, with mostly American riders on almost exclusively Japanese machinery. Although KTM and a few European riders have lately made some inroads, that situation still obtains, and it all started with the Elsinore, a name that still resonates for those who grew up in the seventies. There is an impressive example of this legendary machine on display in the showroom here at Fay Myers Motorcycle World. Stop in and see it.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

The 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy

August 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

This month Kurt brings us the history of the 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy on display at Fay Myers Motorcycle World

In this Issue...

Continuing Kurt's overview on some of the very rare motorcycles at Fay Myers Motorcycle World, we take a look at the 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy


1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy at Fay Myers in Denver
Within a few years after the end of World War II, Triumph had regained its position as one of the world’s most successful motorcycle manufacturers, both in terms of production volume and competition, this despite the destruction of its factory in Coventry (along with the rest of the town) at the hands of the Luftwaffe in 1941. What tooling and machinery could be salvaged was moved to Meriden, where production resumed in 1942. By 1948, the factory team of three all won gold medals at that year’s ISDT (held in San Remo, Italy), and Triumph won the manufacturer’s team trophy with a 500cc twin based on Edward Turner’s prewar Speed Twin design, thus the name “Trophy.” Astonishingly, the bike had no rear suspension, although it was equipped with an optional “sprung hub” (which wasn’t much better) in 1951. Production started for the 1949 model year, and the bike was intended to serve as everything from a competition off-roader (winning the ISDT manufacturer’s trophy a total of four years running) to an everyday road bike (it even had a luggage rack on the tank). Clearly the adventure bike of its day. The fact that the frame was based on a design intended for a single cylinder engine made it very light (295 lbs for the 1949 model).

1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy

The Trophy was originally equipped with a square-head and -barreled engine with parallel and closely spaced exhaust ports, so closely spaced in fact that the head pipe was “siamesed.” This engine was originally used in portable generators and as the source of electricity for airplanes in the war by the RAF. The story goes that the engines proved so reliable that after the war they were “liberated” to serve as race engines, such a machine even winning the Manx Grand Prix in 1946. The win prompted the factory to build its own version, called the GP. Only 175 were built, one of which won the 100 mile race at Daytona in 1950. Although durable and apparently fast, the engine suffered from two maladies, one technical and one aesthetic. The former was a cooling issue aggravated by tuning; the proximity of the two exhaust ports (invariably the hottest part of an engine) to one another. While not an issue when roadraced, off-road racing, because of the reduced speeds at which the races are run, caused overheating. The latter was the fact that the lump looked like just that, a lump. In order to rectify these problems, in 1951 a new engine was introduced for the Trophy.

1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy before restoration

The new engine had more traditional splayed exhaust ports, which aided cooling vis-à-vis the parallel ports of the previous engine. The new engine had finer-pitch cooling fins, which helped with both problems, and a more tapered barrel which was more aesthetically pleasing. The alloy head and cylinder block of the new engine were die-cast instead of the sand-casting of the previous unit. Although there may have been a cost benefit to die-casting, the smoother finish lent to the parts by die-casting were also (again) more aesthetically pleasing. Larger inlet valves improved breathing while stronger con-rods from the 650 twin improved durability, especially if the bike was equipped with the factory race kit, which included race camshafts, higher compression pistons, twin carbs with remote float bowls, a tachometer kit, and megaphone exhaust, all for the princely sum of 35 pounds sterling in the UK. The full race kit raised horsepower to 42 (from 24), while a heavier crank gave a bit more flywheel effect. 1951 was also the first year the sprung hub rear suspension was available. Model years 1952-54 saw few changes, all of them minor. In 1955, Triumph completely redesigned the Trophy, adapting the swingarm rear suspension frame that had been fitted to the Tiger 100 and 110 the previous year. This change completed the Trophy’s transformation from trials bike/road bike to desert racer/road bike, especially as the factory added some race kit parts to the stock bike, namely more aggressive cams and high-compression pistons.

1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy after restoration at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in Denver, CO

Although the Trophy started life as a trials bike (which in the fifties was a completely different beast than trials today-more like a rally/endurance/reliability test), in the USA at the time the most popular form of off-road racing was “enduro” racing, or desert racing in California. Races like the Big Bear Enduro would sometimes attract 900 starters (picture the start of the desert race in On Any Sunday), and Triumph’s dominance of such races was total. So much so that in the 1956 running of this demanding 150 mile race across the Mojave Desert the first twelve finishers were Trophy-mounted, and in 1957 it was twenty of the first twenty-five on Triumphs with the winner being Bud Ekins, who later became Steve McQueen’s stunt double for The Great Escape. In fact, by 1966, Triumph had won more cross-country championships than all other makes combined. Since at the time 70% of Triumph’s production was sold in the US, the bike had become more and more of an enduro bike and less and less a trials bike. For 1955, the Trophy could still be special-ordered in stripped-down trials form, but very few were sold. The Trophy became even better known to the non-motorcycling public when a series of iconic photos were published of James Dean on his TR5. Production of the Trophy continued through the 1958 model year, and was replaced in 1959 by Triumph’s range of unit construction twins.

James Dean on his 1955 Triumph
James Dean on his Triumph TR5 - Photo by Phil Stern

The 1955 TR5 Trophy on display here in our showroom was purchased in 1987 by a local gentleman with a fondness for the bikes of his youth that he couldn’t afford when they were new. (I’ve heard that somewhere before.) The bike was purchased from Baxter Cycles in Marne, Iowa for $1600.00, September 4, 1987 with the agreement that Baxter would also do the restoration work on the bike “… by February 1st, 1988 at a cost not to exceed $2250.00.” Needless to say, the bike was not done by February, and the cost did exceed $2250.00, and by quite some ways. The list of parts replaced reads like a list of parts required to build a motorcycle from scratch, so neither the delay nor the cost is surprising. Take a look at the before and after pictures below, and it all makes sense. Actually, any of you who have attempted a restoration know that it always takes longer and costs more than expected, even for a pessimist. As far as I can learn, the bike appears to be correct other than the bars which are7/8s, instead of the original 1 inch bars necked-down for the throttle tube. Please stop in and take a look at it and all the other rare bikes on display in our showroom.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

Congratulations Mike Folken on 25,000 Builds!

Special Edition

By: Kurt Hertel

Today Kurt introduces us to Mike Folken, the man behind every build at Fay Myers Motorcycle World.


An unbuilt 2013 Honda CB1100 at Fay Myers Motorcycle WorldMost people outside of the motorcycle industry don’t know, and maybe don’t even want to know, how the new motorcycle, ATV, utility vehicle, watercraft, or trailer they just bought goes from a shipping crate full of parts (in varying states of assembly) to the gleaming new fun machine that they can’t wait to ride. Most modern powersports dealerships, especially ones the size of Fay Myers, have a department devoted to just that task, usually called “set-up” or something similar, sometimes with some help from the service department. Our set-up department consists of one gentleman, and his name is Mike Folken. Mike passed something of a milestone when, on June 28th, he built his 25,000th unit, a CB1100, Honda’s new retro roadster. Mike chose this bike because it so much resembles the bikes that he was building when he started building bikes in the late 80’s-early 90’s. Besides, he said, “I like it.” It is a testament to his meticulousness and attention to detail (qualities that have stood him in good stead in his chosen vocation) that he even knew he had reached such a lofty number, as he has recorded every single one of those 25,000 units. The reasons he chose that particular model as number 25,000 are indicative of why and how he does what he does. Mike is an old-school motorcycle enthusiast, with a fondness for naked sportbikes (since 2010 his personal ride has been, in order and one at a time, a GSX1250, a Z1000, a 990 SMT, a Versys, and now a CB1000R) although his longest term 2-wheeled companion has been his beloved 2000 “EJ” as he and Kawasaki call it, but better known as the W650, which he bought new. He obviously has a soft spot for retros, too. In other words, he is one of us.


Mike Folken's 10,000 build on May, 18th 2002
Mike Folken's 10,000 build on May, 18th 2002 was a 2002 Honda RVT1000

He started in this business as a lot tech at Lakewood Yamaha, which was across the street from Lakewood Fordland on Colfax, in 1988. Shortly after being pressed into service building bikes to help keep up with demand, he got a call from the management telling him that if he wanted to keep his tools he better go get them from the store immediately as Yamaha was about to padlock the doors. Something about non-payment for a large order of snowmobiles that were sold for cash to Vail. Must’ve been some kind of misunderstanding. Since he needed a job if he wanted to continue to satisfy his roadracing jones, and it was apparent that Lakewood Yamaha wasn’t reopening anytime soon (in fact it never did) Mike got a job at Golden Cycles. By March of 1991, after his time at Golden Cycles, a couple stints outside the motorcycle business and one at a dealer in Houston, where his father was living at the time, Mike ended up working on the sales floor at Fay Myers (on Alameda, of course.) After being a salesman for about four years (which he doesn’t seem to have liked much, nor feel like he was very good at) the then-current G.M. approached him with a proposal; if he could arrange to start a new business warehousing and building to order the inventory of as many Denver area powersports dealers as he could get to sign-up, as well as that of Fay Myers, would Mike like to manage that operation? Apparently this was a common arrangement in other cities at the time, especially in California. Although Mike accepted the offer, the plan never came to fruition (imagine that, Denver dealers didn’t want their biggest competitor storing and building their inventory!), Mike started building bikes for Fay Myers, and other than a four-and–a- half year period from 2001-2006 when he went to work for another dealer (let’s just say he and the then- current management had a disagreement), has done so ever since.


Mike Folken builds his 15,000 unit at Fay Myers Motorcycle World on May, 16th 2006
Mike Folken builds his 15,000 unit at Fay Myers Motorcycle World on May, 16th 2006

Mike Folken's 20,000th build at Fay Myers Motorcycle World
Mike Folken's 20,000th build at Fay Myers Motorcycle World on January, 16th 
2009


Mike’s father, although an airline pilot by trade, both raced motocross and sold motorcycles under the aegis of “Rink a dinks,”(a Lakewood dealer that closed up around 1980,) avocations that he passed on to Mike and his brother Scott, who is two years older than Mike. Dad brought home their first dirt bike, (according to Mike, if his memory serves) a Yamaha MX60. When I was a kid we called it a Mini-Enduro. Soon enough, Mike and Scott were racing motocross, and to this day Mike spends as much time as he can manage on a motorcycle, much of it on one wheel. Although Fay Myers numbers many good riders among its employees, Mike is one of, if not the, best, although I’m sure he would not make that claim himself. Every bike he’s built has been perfect since I’ve known him, and lest you think I just haven’t known him that long, people who’ve worked here longer than Mike say the same thing. Starting with that first MX60, Mike’s father made them clean the bike after every ride, and said “if you can’t fix it, you can’t ride it.” Thus started Mike’s insistence upon a clean and well-prepared machine (his own bikes are always immaculate). If you’ve bought a machine from Fay Myers in the last 20 years or so, chances are it was built by the guy in the cleanest, most well organized part of the service department. The current management team would like to express its sincere appreciation for Mike’s years of loyal service and hard work. Here’s to the next 25,000.


Mike Folken builds his 25,000 unit at Fay Myers Motorcycle World on June, 28th 2013
Mike Folken builds his 25,000 unit, a 2013 Honda CB1100, at Fay Myers Motorcycle World on June, 28th 2013

 DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

The Honda RC45

July 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

This month Kurt takes a look at the very rare Honda RC45. Drop in to Fay Myers to see our RC45 and other collectible bikes on our showroom floor.

 

In this Issue...

Continuing Kurt's overview on some of the very rare motorcycles at Fay Myers Motorcycle World, we come to the Honda RC45


Honda RC45 at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in DenverWhen last we left our friends at Honda, they were dominating the world of production-based roadracing with their homologation special RC30. By 1993, Ducati’s 916, in the hands of Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser, had caught up with and passed the four-cylinder Japanese bikes in World Superbike competition, so Honda heavily revised their 750cc V4, resulting in the RVF750R (internally known as the RC45) for the 1994 model year. Only 200 were manufactured over the total production run from 1994-1999, making it one of, if not the, rarest of Hondas. Only 50 were imported to the U.S. (the minimum production number to homologate a bike for AMA Superbike at the time), and twenty went directly to race teams. Few remain in the U.S. It makes the RC30 look positively ubiquitous.

Like the RC30, the machine was not that impressive in as-delivered form, especially at the MSRP of $27,000. In U.S. trim, the bike made around 100hp, while snipping a wire freed up another few ponies. European models were rated at 118hp, and the factory race kit brought it up to about 150. When fully developed in its final season of 1999, the best race versions were over 190hp, not bad for a 750. Of course the full HRC race kit cost more than the bike itself, and by the end changed pretty much everything about the bike that could be changed under Superbike rules while remaining race legal (it even came with blueprints for porting ), but when Honda wants to win races, cost is usually no object.

Honda RC45 at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in DenverOne of Honda’s goals with the RC45 was to allow it to rev higher than the RC30. Toward that end, they used a more oversquare bore/stroke ratio (72mmx46mm versus the RC30’s 70mmx48.6mm) to reduce piston speeds, and reduced friction by relocating the cam drive mechanism (still by gears, of course) to the end of the crankshaft from its central location on the RC30, meaning one less crankshaft bearing and four less camshaft bearings. While still using titanium conrods like the RC30, the RC45’s were lighter and stronger. Low friction materials used on pistons and bores also contributed, as did low-friction rings. Breathing was improved through the use of a reduced valve angle, which allowed for straighter intake ports, while increasing the size of the intake valves by 2 mm. In order to take full advantage of the RC45’s improved breathing, Honda adapted its PGM fuel injection from the NR750 for use on the RC45, incorporating sensors for throttle position, crankshaft position, manifold pressure, camshaft position, air temperature, coolant temperature, barometric pressure, and battery voltage. While such systems are now commonplace, it was exotica of the first order on a motorcycle in 1994. Also adapted from the NR750 was the back-torque limiting clutch.

Aaron Slight on his Honda RC45Aaron Slight on the Honda RC45

The chassis dimensions also changed, with a longer wheelbase and longer swingarm than the RC30, along with a revised engine mounting position. Whether the geometry changes were for better or worse is apparently a point of contention, with some riders claiming that the engine’s weight was carried too far forward, and others claiming the opposite. What is clear is that the front-end feel of the RC30 did not immediately translate directly to the RC45. Given the level of racing success that Honda enjoyed with the RC30, simple regression analysis would show that it would be a tough act to follow. In the case of the RC45 though, it took a lot of work to get the bike to where the RC30 was almost immediately after its introduction. The RC45 didn’t win its first World Superbike race until 1996 (ridden by Aaron Slight), and only won one World Superbike championship (John Kocinski), in 1997. It did, however, win two AMA Superbike championships in 1995 (Miguel DuHamel) and 1998 (Ben Bostrom, without winning a race all season), and finished second in ’96 and ’97 (both DuHamel). While numerous bikes have never won either of these championships, Honda is probably the only manufacturer that would see such a record as a failure. After struggling against the 250cc advantage given to V-twins (read Ducati) over four cylinder bikes from the inception of World Superbike competition through 1999, Honda finally decided that since they couldn’t beat them, they would join them, building the RVT1000R, usually called the RC51, a 999cc V-twin that won the championship in 2000 and 2002 (both Colin Edwards). In fact, only 4 750cc 4-cylinder bikes have won the World Superbike championship, and three of those four were won by the RC30 and RC45 (the other was the Kawasaki ZXR750 ridden by Scott Russell in 1993). While the RC51 was very successful on the track and still has a cult following to this day, it was not the technological tour de force that the V-fours were in their day, and I think it unlikely that a Japanese factory will again produce such an exotic and expensive road bike merely to homologate it for racing. One can only hope.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

The Honda RC30

May 2013

By: Kurt Hertel 

This month Kurt takes a look at the history of the Honda RC30. Drop in to Fay Myers to see our RC30 and other collectible bikes on our showroom floor.

 

In this Issue...

Kurt continues his series on some of the rare/collectible motorcycles on display at Fay Myers Motorcycle World with the Honda RC30


Giacomo Agostini When the refusal of then-World Champion Giacomo Agostini to race at the Isle of Man in response to the racing death there of his friend Gilberto Parlotti in 1972 (then only the latest of many) led to more and more top-level riders boycotting the race, the FIM was forced after the 1976 event to declare that the TT would no longer pay World Championship points. The organizers, along with the Auto Cycle Union (essentially then the UK’s equivalent of the AMA in the U.S.), in an effort to keep the races on Mona’s Isle relevant, started their own “World Championship”, called the Formula TT, notwithstanding the fact that for the first five years of its existence the entire championship consisted of the fortnight on the Island. In any event, the classes were based on those for the TT of course, which in the case of the four strokes were all based on production bikes. Thus, the Formula TT Championship was really the first production-based World Championship and the spiritual forebear of World Superbike (even though the two series were competitors during World Superbikes’ first few years of existence in the late 80’s).

As with most, if not all, production-based race series, (other than NASCAR, which only pretends to be production-based), Formula TT and World Superbikes rules required that race bikes be based on machines available for sale to the public, although this rule has been bent to suit the wishes of the organizers when they saw fit. (Have you ever seen a Petronas going down the Road?) Usually certain parts must remain stock production pieces, and certain production numbers for the model must be met. The process of having a model approved for inclusion in the series by the organizers according to those criteria is referred to as homologation. Manufacturers absolutely love production-based racing, because the win on Sunday, sell on Monday effect is much greater in the case of a bike that looks exactly like one for sale in the showroom, and that the customer knows must by rule share some parts with it as well. The manufacturers love it more though, when they are winning. Toward that end, the factories have all, at some point or another, created “homologation specials.” If a factory wants to add titanium conrods or an adjustable swingarm pivot and/or engine mounts, they build a run of production bikes with these features and build only enough to qualify for homologation (currently 500 in World Superbikes). Ducati has made such a version of every generation of their superbike, from the 888SPO (which was actually something of a meta-homologation bike, since the 888 was already a homologation special based on the 851) to the current 1199R. Yamaha had their OWO1(FZR750RR) and OWO2 (R7), Kawasaki the ZXR750RR. Aprilia even went so far as to change the bore/stroke dimensions from those of the more pedestrian model RSVs for its World Superbike homologation special, the RSV Mille SP.

Honda went down this road in 1987, when it released the VFR750R, known as the RC30. Initially released in Japan only, then Europe in 1988, finally making it to the U.S.A. in 1990, it was inspired by the RVF endurance racer, but the engine was loosely based on that in the 1986-7 VFR750F. When I say loosely, I mean it shares cases, but very few internal parts. Honda equipped the RC30 with a 360 degree crank instead of the 180 degree crank from the “F” model. Although the street-going engine was smoother and sounded better than the RC30’s flat droning exhaust note, the improved throttle/traction patch connection imparted by the “big bang” crank arrangement was one of the things that made the RC30 the dominant production-based racer of its day. By the time the bike arrived in the U.S.A. in 1990, it had already won two World Superbike Championships under American Fred Merkel, The Formula TT F1 Championship in 1989 with Carl Fogarty, and become the first bike top lap the Mountain course at the Isle of Man at over 120 mph. Each RC30 was essentially hand-built by Honda Racing at the rate of 60 units per week. Although only about 100hp as delivered, on track with Honda’s race kit installed the figure was closer to 150. Titanium con-rods, magnesium valve covers, and hand-laid fiber-reinforced plastic bodywork added to the performance, cachet, and the price, which was an eye-watering $14,998 at its introduction in 1990, rising to about $21,000 by the end of production. Mint examples trade hands for more now, sometimes substantially so. This despite some quirks, such as a propensity for cold seizures if not properly warmed up due to extremely close machining tolerances, a tendency to stretch valves under race conditions, and a reputation for running quite hot despite its dual radiators. None of these issues are uncommon on a bike produced so close to race spec, however, and affect not a whit my desire to own one. Come and see the example we have in our showroom while it’s still here, and check out this promotional video Honda produced for the bike.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

The Rare Honda NR750

April 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

Starting this month, we will be featuring some articles about the history and significance of various rare/collectible motorcycles that are on display here at Fay Myers Motorcycle World. Although the bikes on display will change periodically, you are cordially invited to visit our showroom for a closer look at these machines, along with our current inventory.

Honda NR750 at Fay Myers

In 1950’s, Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing was dominated by European companies, like MV Agusta , Gilera, and Moto Guzzi. During this time and into the sixties all displacement classes were ruled by four-stroke motorcycles with increasing numbers of smaller cylinders and more gears, allowing narrower powerbands and ever- higher revs. As an example of this approach, Honda won the 250 class with the RC166, an inline-6 250 with peak power of 62 hp at 18000 rpm and 7 gears, and the RC111 was a 50cc racer with a 17000 rpm redline, producing 10 hp through a 9(!) speed gearbox. Check out the jewel-like piston/conrod assembly from the RC166 in the accompanying photo, and listen to the youtube video below allowing you to hear the machine wail. You won’t regret it.

1966 RC166 Piston


Yamaha , Suzuki, and a couple of European manufacturers, most notably MZ (from whom Suzuki got most of its early designs when MZ’s East German rider Ernst Degner defected to the west in 1961)and Kreidler, started to develop 2-stroke technology that would come to dominate the smaller classes, and eventually the larger ones as well. The domination of the 2-strokes was hastened by the 1968 rules changes instituted by the FIM in the name of cost savings (where have we heard that before?) that limited gears to six, and cylinders to two (four in the 350 and 500 classes). This change in the rules immediately made four-strokes uncompetitive, as four larger pistons with the concomitant valvetrain, cannot be revved as fast as six smaller cylinders. Since a two-stroke has no valvetrain and the complete combustion cycle only takes on crankshaft rotation instead of two, the four-strokes were doomed. This is shown by the fact that when four-strokes started racing against two-stroke 500s at the start of the MotoGP era, they were allowed a displacement of up to 990cc, almost double that of the 500 two strokes. Honda, which had been loath to join the two-stroke brigade, simply withdrew from Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Although at the time, Honda credited the decision to the desire to focus on their automobile division (which effort, if this is true, was obviously very fruitful) Honda had always seemed to display the corporate attitude that two-strokes were dirty, inefficient and, from an engineering perspective, an inelegant solution to producing the most power from the smallest displacement. If they truly felt this way, I imagine it started right at the top with Soichiro Honda. While this may be apocryphal, it is certainly in line with his character. In any event, Honda did not return to Grand Prix Racing. They would not return to the premier class until 1979.

1979 Honda NR500 When Honda did finally return it was with a four-stroke (of course), the NR500(NR for “New Racing”). This was, however, a four-stroke with a difference. The only way to make a 4-stroke 500 limited to 4 cylinders competitive power-wise with a two-stroke 500, was to make it breathe twice as well, allowing it to burn more fuel. Since super- and turbo- charging was illegal under the rules, the only way to accomplish that was to dramatically increase the total valve area per cylinder. Since the maximum valve area dictates a maximum number of round valves in a round cylinder to be 4 or 5, some new thinking was in order.

Oval Piston Honda’s idea was an oval-pistoned engine (see photo). As you can see, this shape allowed for 8 valves per cylinder, or 32 valves for the entire v-4 engine. Essentially this strategy was a way to allow the engine to breathe like a v-8 without running afoul of the FIMs rule limiting 500s to 4 cylinders. Each piston had 2 connecting rods and 2 wrist pins to control longitudinal fore/aft rocking, making each piston effectively 2 round pistons welded together. This design was not without engineering challenges, however. In fact, the Honda engineers were not even sure whether an engine with oval pistons would turn over. Development started with a single two-valve cylinder, and once it was determined that the oval piston would, in fact, move through the bore, the number of valves and cylinders could be increased. The initial calculations assumed a maximum output of 130 hp and a 23,000 rpm rev limit. The competition’s 2-strokes were producing approximately 120 hp at the time, so this was thought to be sufficient, although the first example produced only 90 hp on the test bench. Clearly there was a long way to go.

Two of the biggest manufacturing challenges involved in the manufacture of an oval piston engine (and it must be kept in mind that this was before the days of CAD/CAM) were the accurate machining of the piston bores and piston rings and the grooves therefor. Although the Grand Prix bike never met with the success they had hoped for (a highest finish of thirteenth), Honda put much study, testing, and resources into new materials and machining techniques in order to meet the challenges inherent in such an untried idea, and what they learned had widespread application. In fact, the NR500’s only victory on track took place in a 500km endurance race at Suzuka, capitalizing on one of a four-stroke’s biggest advantages over a two-stroke; improved fuel-economy. The two-strokes all had to stop at least once for refueling; while the NR did the race on one tank. Accordingly, the final iteration of the “New Racing” concept was an endurance racer of 750cc displacement, to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1987. Although it qualified well, it retired during the race. Its last appearance, ironically, was a win in Australia. After nine years of development, the NR concept bowed out with a win. It was soon to resurface in a completely different context.

Rare Honda NR750 at Fay Myers Motorcycle World in Denver

In 1991 Honda displayed at the Geneva Auto show a production (well, kind of) motorcycle using the NR concept. Although it was obviously a road bike (weighing in at almost 500 pounds dry) the cost of the technology incorporated in this machine meant it was only ever going to be a rolling showcase for Honda’s technical abilities, as the $65,000 buy-in, not to mention the maintenance and spares costs, (which don’t even bear thinking about) eliminated the vast majority of potential buyers. Called the NR750, (the actual model designation internally was RC40, except in France, where it was the RC41 due to a different engine tune to limit output to 100 hp in compliance with France’s law at the time) the bike featured numerous features that are now commonplace but were innovative at the time, like PGM fuel injection, inverted forks, a back torque limiting clutch, and a one piece tank cover/seat made of hand-laid carbon fiber. The design of the NR750 even provided some of the inspiration for Massimo Tamburini’s iconic Ducati 916.

Oval PistonIt also had some features that are still rare, or even unheard of, on a street-bike, like a titanium-coated windscreen, magnesium wheels (in the sixteen-inch size at the front that Honda was so fond of at the time) and of course, those oval pistons. As you can tell by comparing the picture here to the one above of that from the NR500, Honda made the pistons of the NR750 slightly more elliptical (note the slight bulges on the long sides), presumably to solve the manufacturing difficulties they had experienced with going from a constant radius curve to a totally straight section with the piston rings. As you can see, this shape has no straight sections, only curves of different radii.

In the end, the NR750 is most significant as a symbol, not so much of Honda’s engineering prowess (although it is that), but of its tenacity, or maybe stubbornness, in insisting on doing things their own way. Come by and check it out.


DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

UNDER THE CURVE

March 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

Under the CurveHow one defines “performance” varies with one’s goals. For some, performance is defined primarily by costs of operation; at least once certain basic requirements are met. This variation accounts for the market success of powered two-wheelers ranging from the Honda Metropolitan to the BMW S1000RR. The former is clearly aimed at those with cost at the top of their list of performance characteristics, while the latter appeals to those who define performance more with respect to vehicle dynamics. Ironically, my definition of performance when it comes to cars is the four-wheeled equivalent of a Metropolitan, (okay, maybe a CBR 250). This is because I define performance in cars like I do washing machines; does it get my cloth… er… me from point A to point B as cheaply and efficiently as possible? In the end, I evaluate motorcycles based on a ratio calculation (which makes it sound far more scientific than it actually is) I call “fun per dollar.” The numerator, fun, is a wholly subjective evaluation of everything that you might think; acceleration, handling, comfort, practicality, reliability (because breakdowns are no fun), etc. The denominator is cost of operation, just like it sounds.

Twenty-five years ago the first two listed components of “fun,” plus top speed, were weighted far more heavily than any other factors, to the point where if it was fast enough and/or handled well enough, it could be an impractical, temperamental torture-rack and I’d still be OK with it. This was especially so because there were only two possible denominators then: 2, which meant “must be homeless to afford;” and 1, which meant “I can live on ramen.” Note that top speed isn’t even part of the thought process anymore. Since a Kawasaki 300 Ninja is rated as having a top speed of 104 mph, (ironically about the top speed of the ZX-10R in first gear) every street bike that I would ever consider has more top speed than I will ever use. At my age and place in life, acceleration and engine flexibility are the engine characteristics that determine how fun a motorcycle is. The combination of these aspects of engine character is best represented by the concept of “area under the curve.” If RPM and torque are graphed with torque as the x-axis and RPM as the y-axis, the area under the curve is the area under the curve as a percentage of the area of the whole graph.

While modern inline four-cylinder sportbike engines put out big horsepower numbers, because peak torque output tends to come at higher RPM levels than with an engine tuned more for flexibility, the area “under the curve” tends to be accordingly smaller; graphically appearing more like a mountain peak than a mesa,( thus the term “peaky”?). As an example of this phenomenon, a comparison of the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and the ZX-10R is illustrative. The peak torque output of the Ninja 1000 is about 73 lb/ft at 7800 RPM, while the ZX-10R comes in at about 80 at somewhere between 11,000 and 11,500 RPM (depends on the dyno run you see, but the shape of the curve should be very close from unit to unit and dyno to dyno). Aside from the lower RPM at which peak torque is reached on the Ninja 1000, the more interesting thing is that the Ninja puts out 60lb/ft, or 82% of peak torque starting at 4000 RPM, and not dipping below that figure all the way to redline at 11,000 RPM. The ZX-10R does not reach 60lb/ft of torque until about 7000 RPM, and stays above that until 13,000 RPM, 1000 RPM short of redline. The spread of RPM during which the ZX-10R exceeds 60lb/ft is 1000 RPM shorter than the same spread on the Ninja. In absolute terms, the ZX-10’s torque output only exceeds that of the Ninja between 8000 RPM and 12000 RPM. Because of taller gearing, much of the time spent at over 7000 RPM translates to “go to jail” speeds, especially in higher gears. To be sure, the ZX-10R is faster (by some ways) than the Ninja 1000, and is packed with technology and features that aren’t available at the price point of the Ninja 1000, including traction control, power modes, and better, more adjustable suspension. The geometry of the ZX-10R and the fact that it is 70 lbs. lighter mean it also handles better, and if someone wants the look of a dedicated sportbike they probably wouldn’t be happy with the Ninja, but all of these benefits of the ZX-10R over the Ninja 1000 are very much at the margins. So much so that in order to exploit these benefits on the street, one must ride much harder than is prudent. I suppose none of this is really news, as the seemingly geometric advance of technology has made the same thing true of a Honda Accord and with fewer compromises to comfort and practicality.

In fact, the “under the curve” concept applies to suspension and handling as well as power delivery. While the suspension and handling of a bike like the Ninja 1000 may lose composure at maybe an 8/10ths pace, during normal street riding at traffic pace on less than smooth roads, it may actually work better, and I spend far more time riding in the latter conditions. There are many buyers for whom a ZX-10R is the absolute best choice on the market. In fact, everyone whose intended use of a bike requires a liter-class dedicated sportbike would find little if anything to complain about in the ZX-10R, and the results of most of the magazine reviews and shootouts confirm this. If I could afford to satisfy all of my motorcycling needs by having numerous bikes (oh, would that it were) I would own one. But having only one bike and wanting to ride it as much as possible necessitates a broader spread of capabilities than a bike as focused as a dedicated sportbike; more area under the curve. That’s how I define performance in my dotage.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

SUSPENSION FOR DUMMIES

February 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

Suspension for DummiesWhile automobile manufacturers have long offered “active” suspension systems, such technology is new to the motorcycle market for the 2013 model year. Both BMW, with the HP4, and Ducati, with the various Multistrada S models, have introduced what they call “semi-active” suspension systems. Although you may have read (I know I did, but don’t remember where) that these systems are referred to as “semi-active” because they only adjust damping automatically, not pre-load, I don’t think this is correct. I think the ”semi-“ refers to the fact that the damping characteristics change automatically based on certain parameters measured by the system, like throttle-position, road speed, gear position, rate of acceleration (both of the bike and the suspension itself), rpm, engine mode, suspension position, traction control status, lean angle (BMW), and front wheel position (Ducati.) Truly “active” suspension would denote a system that would positively extend and retract the suspension in response to road-surface irregularities rather than merely using passive damping to control the rate of suspension movement. These systems are probably more accurately described as “adaptive,” rather than “active,” whether semi- or otherwise. Semantics aside, it’s hard to imagine a truly active suspension that didn’t add weight, probably unsprung or partially so, making such a system more problematic on a motorcycle than a car.

The hardware and technology for both systems are from Sachs, which has provided BMW’s automotive division with a comparable setup since 1997, and will also supply Aprilia for their upcoming Caponord replacement. The control software is left to the manufacturers themselves, with Ducati calling its set of algorithms “Skyhook,” while BMW’s is called “Dynamic Damping Control.” As these two bikes are built for very different purposes, the systems are accordingly programmed very differently, but the implications of the technology are far-reaching in any context. BMW and Ducati have led the way in electronically adjustable suspension for motorcycles, and continue that trend with self-adjusting suspension. Being able to adjust the damping by pushing a button is only helpful if one knows what type of adjustment to make to address a particular issue, although it does make trial and error easier than with a c-spanner and screwdrivers. Unfortunately it also makes it easier to screw it up. Suspension adjustment has a somewhat well-deserved reputation as a black art, and I think most people leave their suspension on the stock settings, with the exception of rear preload to either lower seat height or account for passenger/luggage. Both BMW and Ducati tried to simplify the process by using preset ride modes, but there were inherent compromises. In the case of the early BMW system, the parameters within each mode were fixed, while the Multi’s original Ohlins DES setup still gave the rider enough rope to hang herself. More crucially, whatever the settings, conditions can change fast enough on the road that suspension settings can instantly become inappropriate. For instance, riding hard on smooth pavement in the twisties in Sport mode when some torn-up pavement suddenly appears on the exit of a corner, the stiff settings of Sport mode are now totally wrong for the situation, if not dangerous. Similarly, imagine cruising along in a softer, more comfort-oriented mode (like Urban on the Multi, with which I am more familiar than the BMW setup) when an animal runs out in front of you, forcing hard braking, causing extreme brake dive because of the lack of compression damping. The bottom line is that electronic damping adjustment isn’t fast enough even if one knows what change to make. The Sachs system allows damping settings to be adjusted every 11 milliseconds, one millisecond to analyze the data from all the sensors, and ten milliseconds to make the change. Being fully electronic, the available settings for compression and rebound, from full hard to full soft, are far broader than the range available in a more conventional setup.


Ducati Skyhook Suspenion on the Multistrada 1200

The end result is far less inherent compromise when conditions change. In the scenarios above, the sensor array that controls the system softens or stiffens the damping ten milliseconds after encountering feedback indicating the change in conditions. It’s like having a suspension technician implanted in the bike. Hammer the front brake and the system almost immediately firms up the compression damping, long before the fork reaches maximum compression, then just as quickly, returns to the baseline setting for that riding mode. In fact, when changing riding modes what is being changed are the baseline settings; the system still can and will use, when appropriate, the entire range of settings represented in the graph above regardless of mode setting. The default baseline setting (called medium on the display) for each mode can also be changed, with two harder options and two softer options.

Although I’m certain there are some folks of the Luddite persuasion who will say they don’t want a computer making decisions about their suspension settings, it wouldn’t take much of a computer to be smarter than me when it comes to suspension settings, and the range of possible settings cannot be matched by any expert working with even the best non-adaptive suspension setup. Of course the bikes that come with adaptive suspension are not cheap, but 10 years ago a 40” HDTV cost $4000 too. And at least with the Multistrada, if you compare the price of the “S” model with adaptive suspension to a standard ABS model similarly equipped but for the suspension, the adaptive suspension costs about $1500.00. This is not much more than a high-end aftermarket shock from Ohlins or Penske without any adaptive capabilities. Speaking of Ohlins, they have announced the availability of an aftermarket adaptive shock based on their TTX36 that utilizes the OEM electronics suite on the 2011-2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R to adapt to conditions and engine modes (fitments for other models will presumably follow) called the Mechatronic electronic shock, for a price only a few hundred dollars more than the non-electronic version of same shock. I believe this technology will have far-reaching effects on the marketplace in the long-term, and on people’s enjoyment of their motorcycles in the short term. In fact, if I was making a living as a suspension technician, I’d probably be seeking retraining alongside newspaper editors and carburetor specialists.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 

THE SLEEPING GIANT AWAKENS

January 2013

By: Kurt Hertel

The new 2013 CBR500R, CB500F and CB500XSince the start of the current economic situation in 2007, the Japanese manufacturers have dramatically slowed down the introduction of new models and updates to existing models. Prior to the 2012 model year, there were very few new models introduced, and the formerly 2/4 year product cycles in sportbikes (2 years after introduction-minor updates, 4 years after introduction-wholesale revisions) have become much longer, giving way to much BNG (bold new graphics) engineering. As an example, the current generation of the CBR600RR is almost unchanged from its introduction for the 2007 model year, a six-year lifespan. Although the CBR600RR is revised for 2013, the updates are mostly cosmetic with the exception of the adoption of Showa’s now-ubiquitous Big-Piston Forks. The big news from Big Red is the introduction of 5 new models in addition to the revised CBR, with the emphasis seemingly on practicality, usability, and economy (with one glaring exception).

The new 2013 Honda CB1100 coming to Fay Myers Motorcycle World2013 Honda CB1100
The concept that led to the production CB1100 was first shown in 2007, and it immediately drew raves for its retro-UJM styling. When word leaked that the bike would be produced but only sold in Japan and Australia, much gnashing of teeth ensued among American enthusiasts, especially those of a certain age (mine), who came of age in the 70’s. Once again, it seemed, the U.S. wasn’t getting the cool stuff. Now it is coming after all, and the level of interest has been very high. The look isn’t all that’s retro either. The bike is decidedly low-tech, utilizing an 1140cc, DOHC air/oil-cooled across-the-frame inline 4-cylinder engine. The bore/stroke ratio of 1.09 and relatively low redline of 8500 rpm indicates that the engine is designed for grunt and flexibility rather than peak horsepower; I wouldn’t imagine much more than 85-95 hp. These design parameters also made a sixth gear in the tranny superfluous, so it only has five. Although the conventional forks, dual shocks, and steel double-cradle frame look period-correct, thankfully modern design and build-quality should also give modern performance. Tire sizes are also 70’s-like, with a 110/80-18 front and 140/70-18 rear. In addition to looking right, the thinner tires should offer quicker handling for this 540 lb. wet package. Brakes are modern 4-piston calipers at front, although not radial mounted. At an MSRP of $9999.00 without ABS ($10,999 with), I’m sure Honda won’t be able to make enough to satisfy all the 50-somethings and urban hipsters that are bound to be attracted to it. I’m already picturing a café racer.

The new 2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B coming to Fay Myers Motorcycle World2013 Honda Gold Wing F6B
Last time I checked, “baggers,” like the Harley Street Glide, the Kawasaki Vaquero, and seemingly half of Victory’s model lineup, are very popular. Usually these bikes are built on a touring bike platform, deleting the top-box and plush passenger back- and arm-rests usually attached thereto, and cutting down the windshield to make the bike look more like a custom cruiser and less like a touring bike. Honda has now followed that recipe with the new Gold Wing F6B (flat six bagger?). The difference between the F6B and the other baggers will come down to power, smoothness, and refinement, just like the difference between the Wing and its competition. If you’ve never ridden a Wing, you owe it to yourself to do so. No bike that weighs 900 lbs. has any right to be as fast and handle as well as the Wing, and there is no smoother engine in motorcycling. When I first heard about this bike but hadn’t seen it I was a bit skeptical. Having now seen pictures of the bike in both red and black, I actually like the look. It looks aggressive in a way I never would’ve thought possible for a Wing. This bike is also a good way to get most of the good stuff of a Gold Wing for $4000 less than the cheapest model of that bike, especially if you rarely or never ride with a passenger. A taller screen is available as an accessory. There will also be a Deluxe model of the F6B, which for a $1000.00 premium includes a passenger backrest, centerstand, heated grips, and self-cancelling turn signals, all but the last of which are available separately. I wonder who will be first to offer an ear-splitting 6 into 6 shorty exhaust for it.

The new 2013 Honda CBR500R, CB500F and CB500x coming to Fay Myers Motorcycle World2013 Honda CBR500R, CB500F and CB500X
While the F6B is clearly the exception to Honda’s recent focus on practicality and economy, this new family of bikes is possibly the best exemplar, along with 2011’s CBR250 and 2012’s NC700X, of this new direction. The CBR500R is the sportiest version of this platform, with full-coverage bodywork and lower (though still not dedicated sportbike low) bars. The CB500F is the naked version, and the CB500X has adventure-bike styling very similar to that of the NC700X, along with .6 inch more suspension travel, a 1-inch taller seat height (31.9 inches instead of 30.9) and a more upright riding position. All three share the same new 180 degree counter-balanced DOHC liquid-cooled parallel twin engine, and a diamond-shaped frame made of 35mm steel tubing. It would seem that the three even share their engine tune. Such commonality of parts is, of course, a very cost effective way to create 3 different models, as evidenced by the fact that without ABS (which will be available on all three for a $500.00 premium), the CB500F’s MSRP is $5499.00, and the CBR500R’s $5999.00. Although the MSRP of the X model has not yet been announced, I would expect it to be between the two others. 500cc used to be a very popular displacement category, and was kind of the prototypical middleweight displacement; enough power to do anything but not so much as to be intimidating or terribly expensive. This is a sweet spot in the market that has been empty for a long time other than Kawasaki’s EX500 and EN500, which were actually 20-year-old designs, and which have been gone for a while now in any event. With their modern fuel injected engine these bikes are bound to be both more economical than the Kawasakis and also more refined. I expect these bikes, along with the CB1100, to sell by the boatload.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS FOR KURT OR ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE DISCUSSED ON THE PIT STOP? Please email him at kurt.hertel@faymyers.com

 




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