Kurt's Corner Monthly Motorcycle Blog Archives
The Anniversary Editions: Suzuki's New V-Strom 650 (10th Anniversary) and the Honda CBR1000RR (20th Anniversary of the CBR 900RR)
Suzuki’s Swiss-Army-knife-on-wheels DL650, also known as the Vstrom 650, (or the wee strom, since the DL 1000 is also back in production for 2012) is new and improved for 2012. Although none of the changes are earth-shattering, cumulatively they add up to what is effectively an all-new bike. Already one of Suzuki’s best-sellers even with a face only its designer could love, the new bike, at least to my eyes, is much better-looking than the previous model. Of course Suzuki cites numerous functional benefits such as the increased durability of the black resin body panels that have replaced the previous model’s painted plastic panels; or the improved mass-centralization resulting from pushing in the nose and tail sections and reducing the exhaust overhang, but the improvement in looks more than justifies any changes, notwithstanding any functional benefits. The new bike is narrower (by 5mm), lighter (by 13 lbs.), has more ground clearance (10mm), and a longer wheelbase (5mm) than the 2011 model. Part of the reduction in curb weight is unfortunately a result of a half-gallon reduction in fuel capacity, although Suzuki claims no loss of range due to a 10% increase in fuel mileage. The increased ground clearance along with a concomitant increase in suspension travel (.4 inch) are due to increases in preload at the front and spring rate at the rear, which also improve feel and bump absorption. The predictable increase in seat height (.6 inch), resulting from a combination of the suspension changes and a 25% increase in the amount of seat padding, has been offset by making the bike narrower at the tank/seat junction. The ABS system (still not switchable) is now 1.5 pounds lighter, and wind protection from the adjustable screen is improved. Additional weight is saved by the use of a resin luggage rack instead of aluminum. Optional accessories include lower (by .7 inch) and higher (by.8 inch) seats, hand guards, heated grips, centerstand, power outlet, lower cowling, chainguard, and two different pannier options; resin cases from Hepco and Becker and aluminum ones from SW-Motech. An all-new digital dash includes a gear position indicator, ambient temperature display, A/B fuel consumption readout, and a freeze-warning indicator, which options can be toggled through via the a switch on the left bar.
The engine in the previous model was based on that from the SV650, which has always been a peach. That engine was improved for the Gladius, however, and the new DL’s motor is based on that in the Gladius. The new motor is more powerful throughout the rev range, while revving faster and vibrating less. The oil cooler from the old bike (which was both ugly and exposed to damage from rocks and debris) has been replaced by a liquid-cooled heat exchanger located under the oil filter, an elegant piece of engineering of which I expect to see more in other applications. Overall, Suzuki has included a myriad of improvements for only $200.00 more than last year. Also new for 2012 is an Adventure version of the DL650, which includes engine guards, a touring windscreen, and the aforementioned aluminum panniers, any of which can be purchased separately for the base model. And did I mention that it’s way better looking than the old bike?
Another bike that has received a host of incremental improvements is Honda’s flagship litre bike, the CBR1000RR. 2012 is the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the CBR900RR, a bike that really changed the way open-class sportbikes were built. At the time, the big dogs were the GSX-R 1100, the FZR1000RR, and the ZX11, all sport-tourers by comparison. In their company, the CBR900RR felt like a 600 with litre-class power, which was not too far off. The CBR900RR opened the door for all of the current class of superbikes. You might think that Honda would celebrate this anniversary with the introduction of a brand new litre bike, but instead they have made small changes aimed at improving ridability. While Honda has not jumped on the traction control bandwagon, (although the new VFR1200 will have such a feature) the fuel mapping has been revised to improve the linearity of throttle response, especially at smaller throttle openings and just off idle. New 12-spoke wheels (which are way better-looking than the previous wheels- are you sensing a pattern here?) improve rigidity and make them more consistently rigid at different points on the wheel, but add an extra pound. Honda maintains, however, that the weight increase is at the hub, minimizing the effect on rotational inertia. The new bike has a “layered” fairing, similar to the concept behind that of the VFR1200, the idea being to provide a larger still-air pocket for the rider and more effectively extract heated air from the engine compartment. The nose of the bike is much pointier than the 2008 redesign, which was criticized at its introduction for being too flat. The instruments are all new as well, now utilizing a bar-graph tach that brings to mind that of the RC51, although this version is programmable for four different modes. The new dash also includes a gear indicator, a lap timer, a fastest lap recall mode, a programmable shift light, a fuel-consumption readout, and a highest revs-reached function, which we used to call a tell-tale back in the dark-ages.
The suspension is new front and rear as well. The CBR finally gets Showa’s Big-Piston fork, which first appeared on the 2009 ZX6-R. It is somewhat ironic that it took so long for Honda’s top sportbike to get these forks, as last I heard, Showa is owned by Honda. Instead of using a separate cartridge inside the fork legs where the damping orifices and adjusters are, the entire inside of the fork legs are the equivalent of a cartridge. This allows the use of a much larger volume of fluid at a lower pressure, resulting in more precise action, especially at the beginning of the stroke, smoother damping action, and more effective adjustment. The damping adjusters on the BPF are on the top of the fork leg, the compression damping adjusters having traded places with the preload adjusters, which are usually set and forget anyway. Showa’s new “Balance-Free” shock sees its first use on the 2012 CBR100RR. This shock is similar in concept to Ohlins’ TTX unit, separating rebound and compression damping into two different compartments, eliminating the pressure equalization, or “balance,” that can occur right at the transition between compression and rebound and vice-versa. Reports indicate that this is especially effective when the bike gets light, extending the suspension, when cresting a rise. The CBR1000RR has always been known as the “user-friendly” litre-bike, and that appears likely to continue with these most recent updates.
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DUCATI’S LEAP OF FAITH - 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale
Since 1987, all of Ducati’s superbikes have been a development of the 851, their first liquid-cooled 4-valve per cylinder machine. Many improvements have been made to that original design, but the basic elements have not changed. Ninety-degree L-twin, desmodromic valve actuation, belt-driven camshafts, dry clutch, trellis frame, and from the 916 on, under-seat exhaust; all iconic Ducati, but only the first two remain, and those two were not going to change no matter what. Ducati is a company that has always been very strongly tied to history and tradition, but in order to remain competitive in today’s world, the goals for this project were weight loss of 10 kg and a horsepower gain of 25. Meeting these goals required a clean-sheet design jettisoning many traditional Ducati design features, and for the new 1199 Panigale Ducati has done just that. This bike is revolutionary, not evolutionary.
As an example, there was no way to meet the weight-loss target with a traditional steel-trellis frame. The trellis frame is perhaps the most recognizable of all the features left behind in this redesign. Non-enthusiasts who have no idea what a dry clutch is would recognize the difference between the old and new in this regard. Taking a cue from the design of their Moto GP bike, the engine is now the main load-bearing member, supporting a monocoque aluminum airbox/steering-head bracket at the front, with a minimalist subframe to support rider and passenger weight, footpeg brackets, shock mount, and the swingarm all bolted directly to the engine at the rear. Fully half of the weight loss from that of the 1198 is due to the elimination of the trellis frame. Numerous other steps were taken in order to make the bike as light as possible. The head covers, oil sump, and clutch covers are magnesium, and the fuel tank and fork tubes are aluminum. While an aluminum fuel tank was available on the 1198S/Sp/R, it is now stock on even the base model, and the aluminum fork tubes on the 50 millimeter Marzocchis are a production first. The battery and the new-design Brembo Monoblocs are smaller and the calipers are 7% lighter, and the wheels and subframe are also lighter than last year’s pieces. All in all, 22 pounds are saved from the curb weight of the Panigale over that of the 1198, even with an increase in fuel capacity of 1.5 liters, which adds about 3 pounds of fuel.
Ducati’s superbikes have always had a committed riding position, with a wrist-heavy stretch from seat to bars. That dimension is down by 1.25 inches, with the bars .375 inches higher and a little over a half-inch wider than before. This should make for a more comfortable riding position, especially on the street. The Panigale’s wheelbase is a smidge longer than the 1198’s, and it has a bit more trail. Although one would expect this to result in a slower-steering machine, Ducati say this effect is counteracted by the weight loss and wider bars. The Panigale engine is rotated rearward 6 degrees from the 1198, allowing it to be placed 1.26 inches further forward without the radiator fouling the front fender at full compression of the fork. In combination with the more forward seating position of the rider, this allows a 52/48 unladen front/rear weight distribution (from 50/50) which is 50/50 with rider. The swingarm is almost 1.6 inches longer than before, improving traction under acceleration and reducing rear-wheel lift under hard braking. A wider steering head allows the brake discs to ride outboard of the wheel edges, improving cooling. The new linkage for the Sachs shock allows the rider to easily choose between either flat or progressive rate rear suspension action, especially useful for the owner who goes from street with a passenger/luggage to track day. The Panigale is also equipped with a 200 millimeter rear tire, increasing traction and allowing more lean angle.
While the changes to the rest of the Panigale are revolutionary, they pale compared to the changes made to the engine. A twenty-five horsepower increase in one model year is a tall order, especially to an engine that is already pretty highly tuned. The new engine, dubbed “Superquadro” by Ducati (which is Italian for oversquare) certainly lives up to its name, with a bore/stroke ratio of 1.84 to 1(from 1.56 to 1 in the 1198). Of course this required a concomitant reduction in stroke to just 60.8 millimeters in order to maintain the sub-1200cc displacement required by superbike-racing rules. While making an engine more oversquare is a good way to raise its rev-limit without causing unreliability due to excessive mean piston speeds, such an oversquare design can cause other problems, especially in an engine with a high compression ratio. The resulting large-circumference but very flat and thin combustion chamber shape makes consistent, efficient combustion problematic. Maintaining the necessary intake charge velocity and imparting some lasting turbulence to that charge are difficult, especially at lower rpm levels. One way to help maintain combustion efficiency is a richer air/fuel mixture, the negative emissions consequences of which Ducati addresses with a new air-injection system. Ducati has learned much about running very oversquare dimensions in Moto GP, including the precise electronic engine controls necessary for efficient operation of an engine with these parameters. The extreme 112 millimeter bore also allows for larger valves, improving breathing. The intakes are titanium, allowing the larger size without an increase in inertia.
Full ride-by-wire throttle actuation allows different riding modes, in this case Race, Sport, and Wet, giving 195 horsepower (high, referring to throttle response), 195 (low), and 120, respectively. The Panigale motor, for the first time since the old bevel-drive engines, does not use a cambelt, instead using a combination chain/gear timing mechanism, which should obviate the need for periodic belt replacement, reducing the costs of ownership. Reducing the costs of ownership even further is the fact that this new engine doubles the valve lash check intervals to 15,000 miles, presumably through the use of the same harder valve-seat material as is used on the Diavel, Multistrada, and 848 Streetfighter. In a change that is bound to bring howls from the Ducatisti who bemoaned its use on other models, the Panigale finally uses a wet clutch, in this case a back-torque limiting unit with a servo assist for a lighter clutch pull. The new engine cases are manufactured using the same Vacural casting process that Ducati has been using in all of its redesigned engines of late. This casting method makes for a less porous result, dramatically increasing strength given the same weight of material. A new gerotor or “lobular” oil pump is used that evacuates the crankshaft chamber so effectively that it essentially creates a negative pressure zone, reducing friction losses and raising output. An external air-to-water heat exchanger mounts directly to the side of the engine, eliminating the need for an oil cooler and all of its associated plumbing, which should clean up the engine’s appearance. (This may be a hint that Ducati plans to use this engine design in applications without full-coverage bodywork). The aforementioned smaller battery and a smaller starter are made possible by a compression release, reducing cranking effort. The increased engine output, which hits the targeted 25 horsepower, also necessitated a change from the traditional roller-element main bearings to plain bearings allowing the required larger main crank journals. The engine in total weighs 1.1 pounds less than that of the 1198. If the weight and power claims prove to be correct, the Panigale may have the best power to weight ratio of any bike in its class.
The Panigale will be available starting in March in three different models, the base model, “S”, and “Tricolore.” Choosing a color will be easy, as the base model and the S will be available only in red, while the Tricolore speaks for itself. The base and S will be available with or without ABS, while ABS is standard on the Tricolore. The ABS system adds some rear braking force upon front lever application in Wet or Sport modes, along with lift-control to limit rear-wheel lift. In Race mode, there is no linking of front and rear, lift-control is disabled, and the anti-lock function only acts upon the front wheel. From the factory, the ABS modes are linked to the ride modes controlling mapping, but the two functions can be adjusted, or in the case of the ABS, disabled, independently of one another. The S and Tricolore models will come with DES (Ducati Electronic Suspension) which uses Ohlins’ mechatronic damper adjustment acting upon an Ohlins TTX shock and 43 millimeter forks. This is as in the Multistrada S which has preset values for each of the ride modes, but which can also be adjusted independently. All three models will come with DTC (Ducati Traction Control) an 8 level (plus off) system that also has presets for each ride mode but can be adjusted independently, along with DQS (Ducati Quick Shifter) and EBC (Engine Braking Control), which assists the slipper clutch by regulating the throttle aperture to reduce back torque. This alphabet soup of acronyms represents the fact that this is the most advanced sportbike ever produced, but not just with the goal of maximizing performance, which it does, but also to make the Panigale’s performance easy to access in any context, which Ducati’s previous superbikes have not always allowed. Deposits are being taken now.
The upcoming MV Augusta Lineup
If you follow sportbikes in general or MV Agusta specifically, you probably already know that they are producing a new middleweight sportbike called the F3. Until now all the information on the bike has been either internet speculation or selective leaks from MV, and telling which was which has been problematic. Two things that have been known all along are that the bike is a 675cc triple, and that it will be available in red and silver. The displacement was dictated by the maximum displacement of a triple in supersport racing in many series around the world, including World Supersport, not that racing has heretofore been a big priority for MV (of course Triumph had no plans to race the 675 Daytona either). The bike will be fully ride-by-wire, a first for a middleweight, with 4 different maps and traction control, the latter of which is also a first in the displacement class.
Notwithstanding these firsts, probably the most interesting technology utilized on the F3 is a counter-rotating crankshaft. This technology has appeared on race-bikes before, but I’m unaware of any previous street-bike applications. On a conventional multi-cylinder engine with a transverse (across-the-frame) crankshaft, the crankshaft rotates in the same direction as the wheels and tires; towards the front of the bike. The inertial mass of the crankshaft and that of the front wheel and tire assembly both create a gyroscopic effect that resists turning. Since the two masses are rotating in the same direction, their effects on handling are cumulative. With a counter-rotating crankshaft, the theory goes, the gyroscopic effects of these two masses are in opposite directions, at least partially cancelling each other out and making the motorcycle turn with much less counter-steering force because there is so much less total gyroscopic effect to overcome. MV is claiming 128 crank horsepower and 368 pounds dry weight, both of which are certainly competitive, if not class-leading. Suspension front and rear is Marzocchi and Sachs respectively, both fully adjustable of course. The base version of the F3 should be here in the spring at an MSRP of $13,498, which, considering the technology and the cachet is surprisingly competitive with an $11,599 GSX-R 600. A month or two prior to the release of the F3, MV will make available an Oro version with the same motor and upgraded chassis components. This machine will be VERY limited production, at the eye-watering MSRP of $27,900. Although details are still sketchy, a Brutale based on the 675 motor will appear later in the year at an as-yet-undetermined price.
Although the F3 has received the lion’s share of the publicity, MV has expanded its entire lineup, creating two versions of both the F4 and the 1090 Brutale. The F4 is now the F4R, and has received improvements over even the 2010 F4, which was already much improved over previous iterations of the F4. The 998cc inline-four is a more over-square design than previously, allowing a higher rev-limit while reducing mean piston-speed, giving more peak horsepower (195 vs. 183) while improving reliability. New this year is the F4RR. Engine tweaks, including larger titanium valves, redesigned intake and exhaust tracts, new thermodynamics, and larger diameter header pipes give a peak output of 201 horsepower. The F4RR has numerous other upgrades over the F4R, including Ohlins 43mm NIX forks with rebound damping in the right leg, compression damping in the left leg, and titanium nitride coated sliders, and an Ohlins TTX twin-tube shock and Ohlins steering damper. The F4R has to make do with 50mm Marzocchi forks up front and a Sachs shock, both of which are quality pieces in their own right, and the same CRC-branded steering damper as the 2010 F4. While both F4s share the same Brembo Monobloc calipers, big brother features radial master-cylinders for both clutch and front brakes. The forged aluminum wheels on the F4RR save 2 pounds over the cast wheels of the F4R. The F4RR has fully adjustable geometry, including steering head angle and swingarm pivot and axle height, while the F4R’s geometry is fixed. Both models retain MV’s 8-setting traction-control system and two engine modes. The upgrades on the F4RR will cost $5500 over the $19498 MSRP of the F4R. Whether they are worth the additional dosh or not is certainly an open question, although I have a suspicion that anyone seriously in the market for a $20,000 sportbike can probably afford a $25,000 one as well. I was so stunned by the red and white paint scheme being offered on the F4RR that in a moment of weakness I might pay $5500 for the paint alone!
For 2012, the 1090 Brutale 1090 will also be offered in R and RR forms at MSRPs of $16498 and $18998, respectively. The 990 Brutale has been deleted. The R model has replaced the 990 in the line-up, while the RR is an upscale model featuring Brembo Monoblocs instead of the two-piece calipers of the R model, forged rims instead of cast, 156 horsepower versus the 144 of the R, and a slipper clutch. The RR version is also being offered in a very limited edition that recreates the red, white and blue paint from the 750S of the 1970s. Very cool. If you see it, you’ll want it. MV has managed to expand its line-up by offering two versions of every platform and offering a bike in the F3 with the style and technology they are famous for at a more mass market price. Big doings in Varese, especially from a company so small it makes Ducati look like Honda.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
How to Maintain and Store Your Bike for the Coming Winter Months
October 2011As I write this, it’s the first day of autumn. As a result, we are all trying to maximize the amount of time we spend on two wheels, in anticipation of the cold and snow that soon will take out of our hands the decision of whether to ride or not. Although some people in this neck of the woods actually quit riding and store their motorcycles in the coming months, we are lucky enough that we don’t have to do so here in Colorado, at least in the metro area. We can’t ride every day, and within a month or so riding in the mountains will become impractical, but I can’t remember the last time I didn’t commute to work by motorcycle at least 1 or 2 days per month, even in January and February. Since recreational riding can be done at any time of day, and not just at 7:00am and 5:00pm, many winter weekend days are warm enough midday to allow rides of a couple of hours. I know some people store their bikes over the winter, and in some parts of the world that is almost a necessity, but I’ve done that once, and I ended up undoing all the steps necessary to store a bike safely just so I could ride it when a sunny 50 degree day came along. Instead I keep my bike ready both to ride and ready to not be ridden for a while by keeping it on a battery tender, and by keeping fuel stabilizer in the fuel all winter. This way the bike is ready to ride on any nice day that arises, but can also sit for 30 days or more if necessary. Remember, the best way to prep your motorcycle for winter is to ride it year round. If you decide you want to store your bike for the winter anyway, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you won’t be bringing it to us for repair in the spring before ever getting to ride it (not that we don’t want to see you).
When you take that last ride (the leaves are turning right now), take a small bottle of fuel stabilizer with you. About ten miles from home, fill your fuel tank up completely, and then add the amount of stabilizer called for by the directions on the container for the size of your tank. Your bike should always be stored with a full tank, as this will prevent the build-up of condensation and the rusted tank that can be caused thereby. The ride home will allow the stabilizer to mix with the fuel in the entire fuel system. This is especially important on carbureted bikes, but with all the additives and detergents in modern gasoline, I do it in fuel injected bikes as well. I have heard that the “red” fuel stabilizer isn’t suitable for gas with ethanol in it, but it is all I’ve used and haven’t had any issues so far. Keep in mind though that I’m generally riding periodically and using up the fuel, so my experience may not be representative, especially if you’re storing the bike for a longer time.
When you get the bike home, let it cool a little, but not completely, and change the oil and filter. Changing the oil while it is still warm makes it drain more completely and keeps more of the contaminants suspended in the oil. Care obviously should be used when working on a warm/hot engine. A motorcycle should never be stored with dirty oil in the engine. I’ve even known people to use cheap oil for this oil change and change it again using synthetic in the spring before ever riding the bike, but I think that is probably overkill.
Don’t store your bike dirty. Give it a good wash and wax prior to storage, and store it under a quality, breathable cover. You don’t want the road grime and bug guts sitting on your pride and joy eating away at your paint and chrome all winter long. I always lubricate my chain, cables and pivot points when I wash my bike, so that gets done prior to storage as well. Also make sure that your tires are properly inflated to avoid flat-spotting during prolonged storage, and check them once in a while, topping them up if necessary. You might also want to plug the end of your exhaust pipe(s) and any other means of ingress into your bike. I’ve heard of critters bedding down for the winter inside the pipes and airboxes of motorcycles.
If you don’t already own a battery tender, GET ONE! (This is one of those products like Kleenex that the brand name has come to be used generically. There are many different brands.) They cost less than most motorcycle batteries, and regular use will extend greatly the life of any battery that goes weeks or months without use. A “trickle” charger will work, but requires that you manually turn it on and off, because if you leave it on all the time, it will overcharge your battery and boil off all the water, ruining it just as surely as letting it sit and discharge, and possibly causing a fire hazard. A tender senses when your battery needs a charge and, when required, does so at very low amperage (typically .5 to 1 amp) until fully charged, then shuts itself off. This is a no brainer, folks. Resist the temptation to start the motorcycle periodically during the winter, whether to charge the battery because you are too cheap to buy a battery tender, or just because you miss the sound. Starting the bike without it then getting up to full operating temperature for some period of time just increases the chance of causing condensation inside the engine without the heat necessary to boil it off. If you have to start it, then ride it.
If your bike will be stored for an extended period of time, especially in a humid climate or close to the ocean, you should disconnect your plug wires, remove your spark plugs, and spray the inside of each cylinder with fogging oil. This will keep moisture and the corrosion it can cause from attacking the cylinder walls and causing the rings to seize to the bores. (I’m not sure that this is necessary in our dry climate. I have never done it myself without any apparent ill effects.) You can also use a teaspoon of motor oil, but turn the engine over a few times without the wires connected (but do put the plugs back in finger tight unless you want to see an oil fountain from each cylinder) to distribute the oil evenly on the cylinder walls. Leave the wires off to remind you to properly torque your plugs in the spring. Now all you need is a collection of your favorite motorcycle movies and race series’ on DVD, and/or some motorcycle books and magazines, and you are ready for winter. Personally, I prefer a heated jacket liner and gloves and a neck gaiter, but to each his own.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
R.I.P. Gary Nixon
September 2011I, (along with many other motorcyclists for whom he was a hero), was saddened by the news that Gary Nixon shuffled off this mortal coil on August 5, 2011 while waiting for bypass surgery after having suffered a heart attack on July 29th. He was 70 years old.
Nixon was born on January 25, 1941 in Anadarko, Oklahoma. At 15, and all of 89 pounds, Nixon was winning drag races on a motorcycle, only to shortly thereafter take up scrambles racing, quickly winning there as well. He turned pro in 1958, and by 1960 was racing on the AMA Grand National circuit. For those of you who don’t remember or who haven’t seen On Any Sunday, Grand National racing was a season-long points chase incorporating four different types of dirt-track races (mile, half-mile, short-track, and TT) and asphalt road-racing. Grand National racing obviously favored riders who, like Nixon, were fast on any bike and any surface. Nixon’s first AMA national win was a road race at Windber, Pennsylvania on August 4, 1963. As a perfect example of his versatility, Nixon’s next national win came in a short-track race a mere three weeks later, leading to a sixth-place finish in the championship that same year.
Over the course of the next three years, Nixon finished on the podium twelve times including national wins in short-track and mile dirt-track races, and on road-race circuits, culminating in a runner-up finish to Bart Markel in the 1966 championship. Two successive Grand National championships followed in 1967 and 1968, with five national victories in 1967 (including the Daytona 200) and two the following year.
Numerous injuries limited his effectiveness (but didn’t keep him off the track) over the next three years, particularly on the dirt-track side of the ledger, where a steel rod holding his left leg together was a major hindrance. Nixon’s response was to focus on road-racing, participating in the Trans-Atlantic Match races throughout the early seventies, and he would have won the 1976 Formula 750 World Championship but for his nationality (look it up, it’ll make you angry). Nixon officially retired from racing in 1979, although he made numerous appearances in vintage and endurance racing thereafter. Nixon tallied 19 AMA National victories and 150 Grand National finishes over the course of his career, and was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998. More than his numbers, however, his grit and straight-talking lack of political correctness will be missed. Farewell, Gary.
September 2011 On August 12, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2715, which exempts kids ATV’s and dirt-bikes from the operation of the CPSIA of 2008, also known as the lead law. The CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) was intended to ban the sale, manufacture, or importation of items designed for children 12 years of age or younger that contained more than a specified amount of lead, to prevent lead poisoning. Though mostly aimed at toys, and despite a distinct lack of evidence of children ingesting motorcycle and ATV components and thereby poisoning themselves, Congress passed the CPSIA despite its over breadth, and the power sports industry has been attempting to ameliorate its effects ever since. Though they were ultimately successful, it took the better part of three years and who knows how many millions of dollars. The law of unintended consequences is apparently still in full force and effect in the halls of Congress.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
How's your Horsepower?
August 2011We live in an amazing time. It’s a time of 150 horsepower motorcycles available new for $14,000. New motorcycles with fuel injection list for $4000.00. Antilock brakes add only $500.00 to that same $4000.00 bike. Even traction control and electronically adjustable suspension are now available on motorcycles (although not at anywhere near the afore-mentioned $4k price point). But, does anyone really need 150 horsepower? Well of course we do. (Just kidding). If we don’t, would traction control even be relevant on a 90 horsepower bike? And electronically adjustable suspension? I’m pretty sure that most people don’t ever adjust their suspension, so is it just frippery to make it electronically adjustable, or is it a way of making it easier for people to utilize the adjustments available to them? Are they more likely to adjust their preload for luggage and/or passenger if they can do it from the seat with a button on the handlebar than risking barked knuckles with a C-spanner?
This is also (still, sadly) an economically precarious time. Although sales of motorcycles are up from last year, the numbers are still nowhere near where they were five years ago. Manufacturers have slowed dramatically their research and development and the resulting introduction of new models. This is especially true of the Japanese companies. It used to be that the Japanese sportbikes were given minor updates every two years, completely new models every four. That pace has slowed dramatically, perhaps exacerbated by the earthquake/tsunami. The case can be made that there is a chicken-and-the-egg problem here, i.e., which came first, the lack of updates or the slowing of sales? Since development time for a new bike has tended to be 2-4 years, we’re only starting to see the true impact of the economic situation on new bike introductions. In two years we will know more.
Of course, antilock brakes are relatively inexpensive and available on many different types of motorcycles, though still more so in Europe. The safety benefits of ABS are applicable to any size roadgoing machine with enough braking force to lock a wheel (if there are any younger readers out there, in the old days many could not without the application of herculean grip-force.) There has even been talk legislatively here and in Europe of mandating ABS on motorcycles. Regardless, ABS is bound to appear on more and more bikes in the future. Traction control made its first appearance on sportbikes and is still probably most relevant in that context, but big, powerful touring bikes and sport-tourers are also a natural fit. The additional expense of such a feature is most easily borne within the cost structure of a more expensive motorcycle, but functionally speaking, it is only useful on a motorcycle with enough torque to relatively easily spin the rear tire. So, while the cost of traction control is dependent more upon the cost of computing power than anything else, and will therefor continue to go down, it will probably never appear on smaller, less powerful machines regardless of its cost. Electronic suspension adjustment is likely to remain expensive enough for quite a while to be available only on motorcycles at the very top levels.
Horsepower and its usability are a bit more difficult to evaluate. Horsepower numbers tend to be the very first thing people discuss about a motorcycle, especially sportbikes. Since about 2003 or 2004, liter-class sportbikes have been producing between 150 and 160 rear-wheel horsepower at sea-level as measured on a dynamometer. With the introduction of BMW’s S1000RR last year, and to a lesser extent Kawasaki’s 2011 ZX-10R (the Euro version at least) those numbers have moved upward again. But does it matter? I don’t know any motorcyclists who would say they want less power, but most of the recent gains have come at the expense of the usability of that power. We all love (I assume) the feeling of acceleration of a fast motorcycle, and in fact it’s one of the big reasons I ride. But modern sportbike horsepower gains have come from increasing the bore and reducing the stroke, thus reducing piston speeds and allowing more revs. While this approach is effective in giving big numbers on paper, it happens at ever-higher RPM levels that are really only usable on the track, especially on a liter-bike. To feel that push-in-the back of acceleration on a modern liter-class sportbike, particularly in any gear but first or second, requires speeds sufficient to get a very expensive ticket, or even have your bike impounded. There will always be a market for bikes like this, even if the number of places one can get away with riding such a machine even close to its capabilities on public roads is infinitesimal and becoming smaller. After all, Ferrari still sells every car it can build.
Manufacturers are starting to look for ways to make power more usable, in bikes like Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000/Z1000, Honda’s CB1000R, and Ducati’s Monster 1100evo. While there are aerodynamic and handling benefits to the sportbike- crouch riding position, as with top-end biased power delivery, utilizing these benefits on the road requires riding at speeds frowned-upon by law enforcement. Especially given the aging of the motorcycle-buying demographic, a more upright riding position seems like a better compromise. While these bikes lack the 150 horsepower top end of liter-bikes, they do have a more midrange-biased power delivery, making their power far more usable on the street. They also have the benefit of being very reasonably priced-with MSRP’s between $10K-$12K. A broader-focused, more usable, more comfortable and cheaper motorcycle may be just the ticket for these times. As if in recognition of this fact Motorcyclist magazine’s editors just named the Ninja 1000 its bike of the year. Last year’s winner was the S1000RR, so maybe this group is getting older and more practical like the rest of us.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
The Relationship Between Motorcycle Riders of Different Styles
July 2011 The uneasy relationship that exists between riders of different styles of motorcycles has always puzzled and surprised me. I’ve always thought that I have more in common when out on the road with the rider of any type of two-wheeled vehicle (PTW, or powered two-wheeler in the vernacular), from scooter to Gold Wing, than with any cage driver. All motorcyclists, and I include scooter riders in that number, face the same threats and inconveniences, from inattentive drivers trying to kill us to overzealous and ill-informed politicians trying to regulate us, all of which stem from the very fact that we ride. Those commonalities should bring us together, but instead it seems we sometimes focus on the differences between how we choose to participate in motorcycling.
This was brought home to me (again) by a couple of things I’ve read recently on the internet. The recently-announced purchase of the Indian brand by Polaris Industries was greeted with much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth based on the assumption that Polaris would “sully” the performance heritage of that storied name by turning Indian into some upmarket version of Victory, instead of using their admittedly impressive R&D capabilities to make Indian into some kind of American performance brand. The undercurrent of much of the commentary I saw was that the cruiser market is somehow unworthy of the Indian name, which apparently should only (in these people’s view) be applied to a “performance” motorcycle as they define that term. This notwithstanding the fact that most, if not all, of the bikes that the original Indian made would fall into the category of a cruiser according to today’s definitions. More surprisingly, the tone of the commentary I saw was very negative toward cruisers and those who ride them, to the point of being insulting, with comments implying that cruiser riders are uninformed, less-than-skilled riders, or worse.
The other recent occurrence that revealed this schism within motorcycling was Ducati’s introduction of the Diavel, which has been pitched as a competitor for “power cruisers” such as the Harley V-rod Muscle and the Yamaha V-max. I’ve seen this bike called a betrayal of Ducati’s brand heritage, and I’ve seen it’s buyers referred to as “low-information “buyers, which I would find insulting If I owned one and cared at all what others think. As an example, I recently saw a picture posted of a gentleman riding a Diavel Carbon wearing a Ducati-branded leather jacket and roadrace boots, a half-helmet and no gloves. This picture is taken as proof that Diavel buyers are essentially idiots and posers who know nothing about “real” motorcycles (presumably like those manufactured by Ducati up to now?). The implicit comparison being made here is to HD buyers and their tendency to buy and wear lots of H-D branded gear, not all of which is purchased for its protective qualities. One of the ironies here is that the Diavel is definitely a “performance” bike, although apparently some people define that term more narrowly than I do. If we are honest with ourselves, the vast majority of the additional performance available from an 1198 versus a Diavel cannot be accessed on public roads anyway, at least not if one possesses any semblance of a self-preservation instinct. So what is really being said by these people is not that Diavel buyers, and cruiser buyers in general, are wrong for buying their bikes because of how the bikes make them feel or what they say to others about them instead of what the bike is capable of, but rather that it’s only ok to buy a bike for those reasons if you are trying to feel or convey the right things, as I define them. This is a pretty exclusionary attitude to be adopted by members of a group that is already a small minority that is regularly under attack from the rest of society, both out on the road and politically. We need to be careful about who we exclude or deride within motorcycling. The other irony is that 25 years ago it was sportbike riders who used to be looked down upon as not knowing what a “real” motorcycle was by riders of cruisers (especially Harley-Davidson riders). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
What Should You Look for When Buying Your First Bike?
There is much involved in finding a bike for someone who has never owned one before, some of the considerations are obvious, some are less so. The first and most important one is what they want. People tend to get into riding with a mental image of themselves riding a particular kind of motorcycle, and usually don’t want a bike inconsistent with that mental picture. If one gets into motorcycling by picturing oneself as Captain America (or Billy), that person is not going to be looking for a 250 Ninja. But a custom chopper is rarely a good choice as a first bike.
The problem here is that there isn’t much available in the cruiser market between a Honda 250 Rebel/ Suzuki GZ250 and a 750 or 800. While the 250s are great bikes, they are very small for anyone over 5’10” or so, and somewhat underpowered for use on any road where the speed limit is over 55 mph. A better 250 for a taller person is Suzuki’s TU250, although it still is better in town than on the interstate, and looks more like an old BSA than a cruiser. The 750/800/900 cruisers all weigh at least 500 pounds, and most are over 600, which is a lot of weight for a new rider to deal with, especially if the rider is small. Maybe more important than the actual weight of the bike is the perception of its size. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched someone struggle to lift a 750/800 class cruiser off of its side stand and watched the enthusiasm drain from her face. (I use “her” because this is particularly common with women because of their size and strength. Women also tend to have less ego tied up in what motorcycle they want than men do. Few men will allow their intimidation by the size of a motorcycle to be known.) Riders in this situation also typically don’t have enough experience to know that how heavy a bike feels sitting on it in a showroom often has very little relationship to how it feels to ride. First time cruiser buyers then are left with a choice between buying a 250 that their improving skills may make them grow out of in pretty short order, or buying a 500-600 pound bike, that at least initially, is pretty intimidating. The one “halfway” bike on the market that bridges this gap, at least for smaller people, is Suzuki’s S40, which is narrow, under 500 pounds, and being a 650, capable of highway use. It’s a little small for larger people though.
First-time buyers whose mental picture is more Valentino or Jason Britton than Easy Rider face different issues. The first issue is seat height. Most sportbikes over 250cc have seat heights over 32 inches, forcing someone less than 5’6” into a tippy-toe situation that often will result in a dropped bike. Although lowering kits are available for most sportbikes, installing them always results in a loss of ground clearance and/or suspension travel, and also can result in changes in the geometry that affect the handling of the motorcycle, not ideal for someone still learning how to control a bike. Seat height becomes much less of an issue with seat time. I know many very experienced riders who are on their toes at stops. Of course, when you’re moving, a tall seat just means more legroom. The Honda CBR250 and Kawasaki Ninja 250 both have low enough seats for most people over 5’ tall to be comfortable, and are both under 400 pounds, making them ideal first bikes, at least with respect to size and weight. They are also both capable of speeds sufficient for travel on any highway, as both will do pretty close to 90 mph. Many first time sportbike buyers opt for one of these bikes, especially women. Men, especially young men, (and some women too) often want to jump directly to a 600 sportbike. The problem with this approach is that because of their top-end biased power delivery and aggressive riding position, modern 600 sportbikes are among the most demanding motorcycles to ride, which complicates the task of actually becoming a better rider. In some ways, even a liter-class sportbike, with much more torque available at lower rpm, is an easier bike to ride than a 600. Unfortunately, most novices don’t have the throttle-control skills, and many (most?) young men don’t have the self-preservation instincts, to ride a 160 hp motorcycle safely. A better option than any race replica sportbike for a new rider is one of the 650-class twins like Kawasaki’s Ninja 650, Suzuki’s SV/SVF 650s, or Ducati’s 696 Monster. These bikes have a combination of usable low-end grunt, a less aggressive riding position, and seat heights lower than a sportbike’s that make them close to ideal for a first-time buyer to improve their riding skills for a year or two prior to buying a sportbike.
In the end, I believe that any bike can be safely ridden by a novice, if the rider is willing to approach their limits very carefully, but being scared is rarely fun, and fun is what our shared avocation of motorcycling is all about. Buying too much bike, either in terms of size, power, or both, or buying a bike that is too difficult to ride for a novice to have much fun on is the surest way to have a new rider become an ex-rider before they experience the pleasure that makes us riders for life.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to
Your Two Wheel Commute
Until this morning, it had been upwards of a week since I'd been able to ride my motorcycle, either because of weather or commitments requiring a car (just say no!). I'd been feeling out-of-sorts for a couple of days, and my ride in to work today showed me why. Even though it's only a twenty minute ride, it was transcendent. Every song that came up on my Zune was awesome and somehow matched the rhythm of the road I was on at the time, and at every set of corners, cars magically turned off to allow me to follow those rhythms unimpeded. The air was brisk, but the sun was warm, and for that short time, all was right with the world. There is truth in the old saw about no motorcycles parked outside the psychiatrist's office.
With the recent news that fuel prices will be rising, possibly to levels heretofore unseen, at least in the U.S., people have been reexamining the idea of commuting on two wheels. Most motorcycles are far more fuel-efficient than most cars and probably any truck, and of course the comparison is even stronger with respect to small-displacement motorcycles and scooters. One can ride a Kawasaki EX650, for example, with a great deal of gusto (read large throttle openings) and still easily attain 45-50 mpg. This bike will accelerate to 60 mph faster than most cars on the road without breathing hard, and only lists for $7199.00, half the price of even the cheapest new car. These are all very rational (left-brained, if you will) reasons for riding instead of driving. They are not, however, the best reasons.
For me at least, commuting by car is an exercise in boredom and frustration. I can see why most drivers seem to be somnambulant or angry. The best reason to ride to work instead of driving is because it's fun. When I get to work on my motorcycle I feel good (except for the fact that I have to stop at work and not continue to ride). Even the slowest, least performance-oriented two-wheeled vehicle (Metropolitan, anyone?) is more fun than the vast majority of cars. I think this is the result of two things: the fact that you are exposed to the elements (coincidentally also the biggest downside to two-wheeled commuting in our climate); and the fact that turning involves leaning into corners. Something in the kinesthetics of cornering on a motorcycle is pleasurable beyond my ability to describe, and to be able to do it on the way to work seems almost unfair. The rest of my day is invariably more pleasant having ridden to work. I think this is more of a right-brain-based phenomenon, maybe because of my inability to describe it as anything other than a feeling. Even if riding a scooter/motorcycle cost more than driving a car, it would be worth it. Since it actually costs less, it's a no-brainer.
If anyone has any questions or comments, send emails to
Your Pre-Season Reading Guide to Riding
Although I’ve been commuting to work on my motorcycle for a couple of months now, at least off and on, we’re still a month and a half or two months away from being able to take to the hills on our bikes. In some ways, it’s the hardest time of the year, as we can ride just often and long enough to be a tease, without being able to hit the twisties due to the remaining cold/snow/ice/ gravel. It seems that every year about this time I’m looking for ways to occupy myself during the times I can’t ride, but all I can think about is riding. Often, I end up reading about riding and/or motorcycles. The following is a list of books (in completely random order) I’ve enjoyed during the winter/early spring down-time. All have invariably gotten me pumped up for the coming riding season. Enjoy.
Riding Man-Mark Gardiner, I just finished this book, which is about a forty-something ad exec who quits his job and moves to the Isle of Man in order to learn the course and compete in the TT. The book is very entertaining and inspiring (although I’m not writing this from a bed and
breakfast along Sulby straight) with quite a bit of TT history included. A movie was also made about Gardiner’s experience, called “One Man’s Island.”
Jupiter’s Travels-Ted Simon, The subtitle of this book is “Four years around the world on a Triumph,” and that is also an apt description of the book. Simon is an excellent writer, although when he left the U.K. on his journey he was a motorcycling neophyte. Enough so that he had no idea how unsuitable a mid-seventies-era Triumph was for a round-the-world trip. The difference in how people treat travelers just because they are on a motorcycle was the lasting impression left on me by this book. Simon followed up by retracing his journey in 2001, at the age of 69, recounting the changes in the locations visited and himself over the intervening years.
Sport Riding Techniques: How to Develop Real World Skills for Speed, Safety, and Confidence on the Street and Track-Nick Ienatsch, My favorite of the numerous books available on riding techniques. Concise and easy to understand, most of the techniques described don’t require racetrack speeds to utilize. See also Twist of the Wrist and its progeny by Keith Code, Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques by Lee Parks, and Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way by Reg Pridmore and Geoff Drake. All of these books have something to offer even the most experienced rider.
Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well; More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride; and Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists, all by David L. Hough. These books are all oriented toward street riding, especially in traffic They are great for new(ish) riders, and also very good for “mental practice” even for experienced riders, especially for alleviating the off-season “rust.”
Motorcycle Design and Technology, Gaetano Cocco and Motorcycle Handling and Chassis Design: The Art and Science, by Tony Foale. These two books have all the answers about why a particular geometry will lead to particular handling characteristics. I think they are both out of print, although the former is available used for a reasonable price at Amazon.com. The Cocco book is also less technical, though both have numerous mathematical formulae.
Two of Cycle World’s columnists, Kevin Cameron and Peter Egan, have published collections of their columns recently. Egan’s is called Leanings, and Cameron’s is called Top Dead Center, after his column. Both are excellent writers, and their work is highly readable and entertaining. Cameron does a very good job of writing about complex technologies in a manner that is understandable to laymen.
Finally, a magazine that I highly recommend; Motorcycle Consumer News. This magazine contains articles about bikes, gear, and all things motorcycling, but no advertising, making it unbiased but expensive. Worth it though. If anyone has any questions or comments, emails to
The 2011 Ducati Diavel!
In this market, two companies stand out for their performance in terms of 2010 sales and resultant increases in market share; Ducati and BMW. Both companies achieved these results partly through continuing upgrades to existing models, but mostly by introducing new models in categories in which neither had previously had a successful offering. Ironically, each company's new model increased market share by competing in a category that is traditionally the others bread and butter; for BMW a litre class, full-on sportbike (the S1000RR) and for Ducati, an adventure tourer (the Multistrada 1200). Although Ducati did produce a previous version of the Multistrada, the combination of unconventional styling and a serious lack of promotion by Ducati doomed the bike to paltry sales. The new Multistrada, by contrast, has been a roaring success.
On the heels of this success, Ducati is introducing another new model, the Diavel. As with the Multistrada 1200, the Diavel uses the 11 degree Testastretta motor. The 11 signifies the amount of valve overlap, down from 41 degrees in the 1198. The reduced overlap and a lower compression ratio produce a far more tractable motor, capable of pulling from much lower rpm without the shudder characteristic of highly tuned big v-twins under load at low rpm. Along with the use of a new harder material in the valve seats, the new tune results in a doubling of the mileage between valve lash checks, now 15,000 miles. Freer breathing and improved engine-management electronics result in ten more peak horsepower than this motor as used in the Multistrada 1200, up to 160 at the crankshaft.
Not only is the Diavel Ducati's first entry into its category, it may be the first bike in this category from any manufacturer, if it even has a category. While its 240/45 ZR17 rear tire (specially designed for the Diavel by Pirelli) sounds more like something from a custom chopper, its potential for 41 degrees of lean (same as the Monster 696) is sportbike territory. Wheelbase, rake, and trail numbers are somewhere between sportbike and cruiser, but the brakes are sportbike spec and the base model's curb weight is under 500 pounds, or less than an 800 Interceptor. The low seat height (just over 30 inches)is more like a cruiser, and makes the bike very accessible, but the suspension is fully adjustable front and rear. The Diavel is definitely a category-buster.
It certainly does not look like anything else. Its combination of a front-biased visual center of gravity, waspish waist, and minimalist tail section is unique, although the steel trellis frame screams Ducati. According to Bert Janssen Groesbeek, Ducati's senior designer and the man most responsible for the Diavel's dimensions, it's a positive that people don't look at it and say "I don't mind it." Polarization of opinion as a design goal, then? There is something to be said for originality, of course, and Ducati has never been shy about going its own way.
Regardless of what category one places it in, there can be very little dispute about 160 hp and 94 lb/ft of torque. Ducati claims that because of the fat rear tire and long wheelbase, the Diavel accelerates to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds, faster than the 1198, and darn near any other street legal vehicle I can think of. The Diavel's list price starts at $16,995, and it should be unveiled the 4th weekend in March. Once again, questions or comments to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
What do Motorcycles Have In Store For 2011?
Wading through the information regarding new bikes for 2011 has revealed a sharing of a design feature between products at opposite ends of the spectrum. The feature is offset, or desaxe, cylinders, and the bikes are Honda's CBR250R and Kawasaki's ZX10R.
A conventional alignment of crankshaft and piston, where the piston is centered over the centerline of the crankshaft, results in only two points in the rotation of the crankshaft where the connecting rod is centered in the bore; top dead center and bottom dead center. At all other points of crankshaft rotation, the conrod is "tilted" toward one side or the other of the bore, causing lateral force to be exerted against the cylinder wall, thus increasing friction, sapping power and requiring stronger and therefore heavier components. The fix is to offset the cylinder(s) so that when the piston is descending on the power stroke the conrod is closer to parallel to the bore centerline, reducing lateral resistance and therefor friction, allowing shorter piston skirts and smaller rods and bearings. While the difference is incremental, it is essentially free power.
Honda is using this design on the new CBR250R. The quarter-litre sportbike market has been owned by Kawasaki's Ninja 250 since at least 1990, the last year that Honda imported the VTR250. Not only is this a profitable market segment in its own right (the Ninja 250 was the fifth-best selling bike in the U.S. in 2009), but is perhaps even more important as the entry point for young/new riders, more of which the industry is in desperate need. While the little Ninja uses a carbureted twin-cylinder engine, the CBR's engine is a fuel-injected single, giving up a few top-end horsepower to the Ninja, but hopefully providing a higher torque peak at a lower rpm.
Also unlike the Ninja, the CBR is available with optional Combined ABS, for a $500.00 premium over the base MSRP of $3999.00. The CBR also utilizes DOHC valve actuation via forked roller rocker arms (an industry first)for a compact, low friction valve train. Operating costs are reduced by the fact that valve-adjustment shims can be changed without cam removal. A "spiny" cylinder sleeve is utilized for improved cylinder cooling and reduced distortion. Styling is like a three-quarter scale VFR1200. Available in the Spring in black and red/silver.
While Honda is using the offset cylinder design in order to maximize power output from minimum displacement, Kawasaki is using the design to maximize power output, period. Kawasaki is the first of the Japanese manufacturers to answer the shot fired across their bow by BMW with their S1000RR. While Kawasaki has undoubtedly increased power output comensurate with BMW's challenge, the more relevant issue is the ability to control all that power. In top-tier roadracing, especially since the advent of the 800cc formula in Moto GP, most of the competitors make more horsepower than can be effectively used. Litre-class sportbikes have reached the same point. The key is delivering the power to the ground in a controllable rider-friendly manner. Toward that end, the ZX10R is equipped with S-KTRC, a traction control system with three levels of intervention. Level 1 is the least intrusive, designed for grippy tires in racetrack conditions. Level 2 allows less slip before intervention, and level 3 is for wet conditions. The system compares wheel speeds to determine spin, then looks at throttle position, crank position, rpm, and gear every .0005 second, comparing the data to stored past events to predict wheelspin and subtly retarding ignition to maintain traction. The bike also has 3 different riding modes, full power, middle (75% power), and low (50-60% power). In combination with the optional race-spec ABS($1000.00)this bike is bound to be confidence-inspiring, although no bike is idiot-proof. Even with all the electronics, the 2011 machine weighs in at over 20 pounds lighter than last year's model. The footpegs even adjust by 15mm. What will they think of next? Available now in black and green/black starting at $13799.00. Call or come in for more information. As always, email questions or comments to KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.
Welcome to Kurt's Corner: A Motorcycle Blog
Starting with this issue and going forward, I have been given the opportunity to share with you information about exciting new products and developments in motorcycling and the lifestyle surrounding it. My name is Kurt, and while my vocation is as a powersports salesmen at Fay Myers, my avocation is as a motorcycle enthusiast (some would say to an extent which approaches annoying). Although I've been in the industry for about three years, I've been an enthusiast and consumer for over thirty years.
My hope for this forum is to convey my love of the sport. If you want a sales pitch, come into the store and I or my colleagues will gladly give you a doozy regarding any of the products that we sell. If you want to get some information from the consumer's perspective, watch this space. The intent here is to inform and, hopefully, entertain.
The 2011 model year looks to be a promising one. Kawasaki and Honda have both announced very exciting products in a segment that is near and dear to my heart. This market segment has been somewhat underserved in the marketplace of late; the big-bore naked-sportbike/all-arounder. Honda's stylish offering, the CB1000R, has been on the market in Europe for a couple of years. (I know, why does Europe get all the cool stuff first, right?) With an engine developed from that of the '07 CBR1000RR and fully adjustable suspension front and rear, this machine is bound to be the answer for the rider who would love a liter-class sportbike, but doesn't want a butt-in-the-air riding position. Unlike Honda's previous big-bore standard, the CB900, ( commonly known as the 919), this machine promises real sporting potential in a package with modern styling, While the 919 was a nice motorcycle, it was more of a retro/standard than a naked sportbike. I, like you, haven't had a chance to ride this bike yet. However, based on the information coming from Europe, it seems that the "retune(d) for torque" was actually successful on this machine, also unlike the 919, where it meant "detuned." MSRP of the CB1000R is $10,999 and it will be available this Spring.
Kawasaki's Ninja 1000 is at Fay Myers now, and boy is it a stunner; especially in the Ebony and Candy Fire Red color-option. It's also available in Ebony (black to you and me.) This machine is basically a faired version of Kawasaki's all-new-for-2010 Z1000. While the Z1000 is a great hooligan and sporting mount, especially in the new-for-2011 green (you must see it in person) its lack of wind protection and relatively short fuel-range limit its sport-touring abilities. Kawasaki has addressed these shortcomings by adding a fairing and 3-position adjustable windscreen, while increasing fuel capacity by.9 gallon and lowering the final drive ratio (down one at the rear). This motor needs no retuning as it was completely redesigned for 2010 specifically for use in the Z1000. It's dimensions were designed for torque production at low rpm (81 lb-ft @ 7800 rpm) rather than sharing a sportbike's horsepower-at-high-rpm bias. This is one of the best streetbike engines ever; smooth and torquey. The cherry on the sundae is the availability from Kawasaki of color-matched hard luggage. Makes me want to plan a road trip! MSRP for the Ninja 1000 is $10,999, only $400 more than the Z1000. Both are all-time bargains.
More information on 2011 products will appear in the near future. In the meantime come in, introduce yourself, and see the new Ninja 1000 in our showroom. See you in the twisties. Got a question for Kurt? Email him at KurtsCorner@faymyers.com.