Monday, January 31, 2011

New Moto-Guzzi bikes - spy pics leaked

These photos, taken by the mobile phone camera, have been posted on an Italian Moto-Guzzi forum.
Pictures are taken at the Piaggo's annual dealers meeting.
Shown bikes are the new V7 Scrambler and the new California, and rumor says they will be ready for 2012.
There are also speculations California has all 1200cc engine, but someone mentioned possibility of even larger engine.
If I get more information I will post it ASAP.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

MV Agusta F3 – an exotic spice for the 600 class

All new MV Agusta F3 is the bike I accidentally dropped of the “New 600cc bikes for 2011" article. Now I believe it’s better that way. New Agusta F3 looks so fantastic to me, that it definitely deserves separate article.
The F3 powerplant brings most advanced electronic engine control system specifically designed for this bike. It’s the first bike in this class with Ride By Wire multi-maps system that optimizes the power output in all riding conditions, which also includes traction control. The mixed steel tube / aluminums frame offers superb rigidity and ultimate compactness, again the best in the class. Other components are also top notch; completely adjustable Marzocchi front fork and high-end Sach rear shock. The front brakes consist Nissin master cylinder, Brembo discs and radially mounted Brembo calipers, which is, again, probably the most expensive brake set in the class.

Engine configuration is also a little bit specific – basically, it is very similar to the engine used by Triumph Daytona 675/R, which means: three cylinders packed in 675cc. In my opinion, Triumph has proved this engine configuration is fantastic, offering same power as 4-cylinder 599cc bikes, but adding some extra grunt. This concept made Triumph Daytona multiple winner of the 600cc comparo tests during several years. Now with Agusta F3 with got one bike with the same engine concept, but with even higher spec and exclusive high end components.

I admit I am impressed with the 3-cylinder sport bike engines. I just love the sound of the Triumph's triplet engines and I can't wait to hear the sound of the new F3... it could be even better.
Well, there is one more sky high thing about this motorcycle. You probably guessed - it's the price. They didn’t announce the price yet, but since the MV Agusta make exclusive and exotic top notch bikes, you can count with the quiete big bunch of bucks.
The weight and power output also haven’t been released yet, but it will not be surprise if it turns out to be lightest in the class, and maybe even the most powerful. Since all the data is not announced yet and the bike is not included in the MV Agusta's fantastic bike configurator on their website, I guess they still didn't sort out all the marketing details, but you can expect the bike in free sell during the next few months. When this happens we'll have much more information and I will make another article about it, for sure.
There’s almost nothing to say about esthetics of the bike. It’s simply needless. Famous Italian motorcycle designers… which made Agusta F4 model, the bike that was awarded as the most beautiful motorcycle in the world for 2010... Well, I attached the photos, so take a look.

As I said before, Augusta’s are rarely included in comparison tests, probably for being too expensive and exclusive for trashing around the track by the bunch of journalists. I can only hope someone will be effective enough to manage to get one an F3 from the factory and to put her on the test with the others.
The ultimate competitor of the F3 will definitely be the improved version Triumph's Daytona 675– the 675R! 675R was mentioned here earlier - it’s the best Daytona so far. I am so curious to see these two bikes together on the race track. I guess I’m not the only one, so let’s hope someone will fulfill our wish, soon.
Somehow I doubt I will ever get a chance to ride one of the MV bikes, but you never know. Running a famous blog has some advantages, you know! Yeah right! ;)

Template update... and what's coming

Last few days I've been busy trying to fix some things on the blog. More precisely I've been setting up a new template, because the old one couldn't support some gadgets and the template setting features of Blogger. Anyway, in its original state that template was built for Wordpress, and later it was converted in Blogger format. I was asking for problems from the moment I picked it and recent Blogger updates made it almost unusable.
So, here's the new one, I hope there's anyone else out there except me who likes it.

Anyway, in the article about 600cc bikes I missed to mention the new MV Agusta F3, which seem to be a brilliant motorcycle. MV Agustas are kind of exotic bikes, and sometimes I just forget to put them in the same line with the others, just like they're out of competition. But they are not, they shouldn't be.
It would be really good and fair for these bikes to be included in group tests, especially within super sport 600 and 1000cc comparison tests, but that rarely happens. Is this because they're to expensive for the journalists to trash them around the track or it is the factory policy? I couldn't say. I only know I would love to see how F3 and F4 would compare with other "R" bikes.

I also want to write about some bikes that could be rather good, but inexpensive alternative for beginners or the people with a tiny budget. In my opinion it is easy to choose a bike when you have 20,000 bucks in your pocket. The problem is how to get yourself a bike that will serve you well (and safe) if your budget is very limited. There are various alternatives, but quality differs, so you better be careful with these. The good news is that it is possible to find just the right balance between the affordable price and the quality.

I hope for some more time and material for writing, soon. Cheers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011 – Motorcycle Ergonomics Simulator

A few weeks ago I found out about this web page and I think it’s a fantastic tool for any kind of a biker. It’s inspired by the real world needs, well planned and rather well technically realized.
After few minutes of testing it I was pleasantly surprised with usability of the service and I started wondering why nobody made this before. I believe that most of people will need just few minutes of playing with it to completely understand all the options.
As you all experienced riders know, there is no bike that fits everyone. As for me, I’m quite short (about 5.7” – 171 cm) and I regularly have problems with bikes with higher seat… people of my size know what I’m talking about; getting on/off the bike and stopping at crossroads, such common operations, can become pain in the ass for us with short legs. There are different stories that some tall guys will tell you – on undersized bikes (for them) their knees are bended too much and on some bikes they feel like riding a children's toy-bike.
The seating position is not serious problem for riding around town, but going a bit further can easily give you pain in the back and/or wrists...

This web page can really help you choosing your next bike. You can eliminate some bikes before even seeing them in person.

A brief guide

Before choosing a motorbike, enter your height and set the other options the way you like. Choose a motorcycle. Now you can play with the options as you wish, for example, test "Place feet on the ground” option, “Bar rise”, “Bar pullback” and “Seat rise”. You can also involve some more bikes and compare the ergonomics between them.

When you enter the mode with more than one bike, there is a cool feature you'll probably like: place mouse cursor over the motorbike image and just scroll the mouse wheel slowly... and see what happens - an almost perfect and very easy method to compare one or more bikes.

And that’s it.
Above the picture of the bike there are three links you could eventually need, check them out.

Suggestions and critics

I actually don't have any real critics; I only have few suggestions that could help these guys to make their service even better.
First of all, I would like to have the possibility to see the seating position of the passenger – the position of passenger’s knees and feet could tell me how often I will have to make a break while traveling – on my passenger request.
Another option would be the information if the bike has the passenger’s grab rails and possibility to show the passenger with hands on the grab rails or with the hands holding the rider. I hope I'm not asking too much.
Since I intent to inform the authors about this little description of their website, I really encourage you guys, if you have any more good ideas that could improve this website - please write it down as a comment. Let’s hope they will read this, and if there are anymore ideas, I will include them all within the message that intent to send... Just try to be realistic and to stick with the topic. 
A short story – a few years ago I got myself a new bike, and I wasn't really worried about the seat height, it never occurred to me that it could be the problem. I’ve picked the tall one. After one clumsy, but successful climbing on the bike, I went straight to the gas station. On my way there, I forgot about the "climbing", as it felt fine during the ride. As I arrived, I tried to get off the bike, and wasn't expecting what came next... I couldn't reach the ground, and I let the bike lean on the side, but I was still holding it… then I tried to pull over the other leg but my foot grazed against the seat and I lost the balance. The bike fell down, not too hard though – I protected him with my leg! Fortunately, there wasn’t a single scratch on the bike… the leg wasn’t that lucky.
Next time I was buying a bike, I was much pickier. I also learned how important seating position is for longer rides, and not only for me, but for the passenger as well.
More than half of the time I spend on the bike I have a passenger behind me, and that’s almost always my lovely wife. I’m telling you – this passenger does not hesitate to complain on any kind of discomfort during any ride, and those complaints are sometimes capable to ruin all my joy.
Therefore, whenever I get chance to test a bike, or at least to seat on it to check the comfort, I try to have her near me, so she can express her opinion as well. You young riders may be laughing at this right now, but if you plan to keep riding, soon you will have a lady who will want you consider her opinion... or just buy a single-seater - in that case keep it safe and good luck! ;)

Bye for now and ride safe!

P.S. And check the website:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vyrus M2 986 presented at Motor Bike Expo 2011

At Motor Bike Expo 2011 fair, in Verona (Italy) one motorcycle has particularly drawn attention of the visitors – a new track ready Vyrus M2 986.

The suspension and frame follow previous Vyrus creations, while the engine is proven V-Twin from Ducati. The shocks absorbers are made by Öhlins, type TTX46. On the front wheel they put two radially mounted Brembo calipers GP4RX to squeeze 310mm high quality discs. The exhaust system was especially for this model designed by Zard. Top notch 10-spoke 17” Marchesini wheels wear Dunlop slick tyres.
No need to mention all that carbon fiber… aw well, I just mentioned it.

Everything about this exotic bike is top notch.
Vyrus claims incredible power-to-weight ratio: 125HP (93kW) / 135kg.
Sounds crazy enough to me!

Just look at it!

Motor Bike Expo at Verona was held from 21st to 23rd January 2011.


Friday, January 21, 2011

New 600cc bikes for 2011

Suzuki GSX-R 600 2011

The top news in 600cc class for 2011 is Suzuki’s all-new  GSX-R 600. Suzuki engineers are very proud for bikes 9kg (20 pounds) loss, and that's a lot for this class. They also emphasize new Brembo monoblock brake calipers and Showa big piston forks (last year, Kawa was the first in the class with these type of forks, and it seems the improvement is noticeable). 

Results of first tests suggest that we are getting new 600cc king this year. It's that good. According to British first quick comparison test, new GSX-R is a bit better than Kawa, their last year winner. They put on the test all four super sport Japanese bikes and famous Triumph Daytona 675 (not new 675R). You can find the video on their youtube channel.

Now, this is not really the topic of this article, but I must say that there is also new GSX-R 750, which is one hell of a bike - in the class of its own. As you probably suppose, it is very similar to 600cc model, with same main new features.

GSX-R 600 in brief:
-          Color: White, Blue/White, Black
-          Seat Height: 810 mm (31.9 in)
-          Curb Weight: 187 kg (412 lbs)
-          Power: 125.8 HP (93 kW)
-          Price:
o       UK: 8,175 BRP
o       US: 11,599 USD
o       DE: 13,299 EUR

Triumph Daytona 675R

This is an updated Daytona 675, mostly targeted for the track use. They put new high-end forks on it, especially for this bike developed by Öhlins (43mm NIX30). Just like Suzuki, it got new Brembo monoblock calipers. It is also equipped with quick shifter, and bodywork was enriched with some carbon fiber. Instrumentation now includes a lap timer and programmable gear change lights.
Engine remained the same. This model is available exclusively in one special color scheme – Crystal White with Jet Black Belly Pan Split.

I wonder how test would end up if they got 675R instead of standard 675. Triumph claims new 675R is “the ultimate track tool”. :)

Daytona 675R in brief:
-          Color: Crystal White with Jet Black Belly Pan Split
-          Seat Height: 830 mm (32.7 in)
-          Curb Weight: 185 kg (412 lbs)
-          Power: 125 HP (92 kW)
-          Price:
o       UK: 9,799 BRP
o       US: 11,999 USD
o       DE: 12,740 EUR

Honda CBR600F

The legend is back, and I can’t tell you how glad I am. This time it’s derived directly from CB600F Hornet - and that’s not a bad thing at all. Honda’s 600F used to be top notch 600 bike for long time. It was quick, light and fun to ride, but at the same time it was practical and comfy enough daily use, commuting, and even some easy touring. Modern high spec 600s are faster, but you actually need them only if you want to race… and if racing is not most important to you, and you want full faired 600 sport bike, now you have a choice.

I must say I am more excited about new Honda CBR600F than about Suzuki or Triumph. If I could order a new 600cc bike right now, it would be this baby. I hope it will be worthy successor of CBR 600F4i.
Additionally – I am kinda astonished by Honda’s marketing; 600F and Crossrunner didn’t get almost any attention, while CBR250R ads, reviews and comments almost began boring me.

CBR600F in brief:
-          Color: Red-white, Blue-white, Black
-          Seat Height: 800 mm (31.5 in)
-          Curb Weight: 203 kg (210kg for the ABS model)
-          Power: 100.5 HP (75 kW)
-          Price:
o       UK: price not listed yet on Honda UK website
o       US: not available in USA
o       DE: 8,990 EUR

The others

Kawasaki ZX-6R, Yamaha R6 and Honda CBR600RR remained unchanged for 2011 and these are all fantastic bikes. Among lower spec 600 bikes there were no major changes, at least I couldn’t find any – somebody let me know if I missed something.

I am waiting for more comprehensive tests and hoping to get the chance to try some of these babies myself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New CBR 250R video

I believe this is the first video that clearly presents new CBR250R riding experiance. All the videos before this one were Honda's boring official video, and few others that shows nothing much, excpet empty talking about how great the bike is.

Well, acceleration and top speed showed here are bit better than I expected. Top speed of 164 kmh (101 mph) should be taken with reserve, because we all know how speed gauges can lie. Real speed they achieved is probably about 155-160 kmh. Also, the best way to check out its capabilites is to directly confront it with its rivals: Ninja 250R, Hyosung GT250(R) and its cousin VTR 250.
The only thing I didn't like in this video is that lawnmower sound. Replacing that ugly exhaust that makes ugly noise is the first change I would make.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New 125/250 ccs a rumor… that’s it!

Only 1 hour after posting an article about final abandoning two stroke engines and revival of 250cc bikes I ran into this:

Famous French motorcycle e-zine published today this article with rumors about incoming Suzuki's 125/250cc models. That 250cc mini B-King looks really nice.

I also found this link about future KTM Duke 250:

Total disappearance of 2-strokers and come back of 250cc bikes

2-stroke engine powered bikes are officially dead. Aprilia RS125 and Derbi GPR 125 are among latest “victims”. The only road motorcycle (that I can remember at the moment) that still uses 2-stroke engine is Cagiva Mito, but I guess this will have to change soon as well. All 2-stroke engines that might still be in production are going to be replaced with modern 4-strokers. The only exceptions are 50cc engines, but you can find a lot four stroke engines among these tiny ones as well.

Two strokers failed to follow modern anti pollution standard. This is the main reason why this happens. Other faults would be high fuel consumption, requirement of oil addition in fuel (which is partly fixed by automatic mixing devices, but good oil remained expensive), and I would say durability was also often under suspicion.

They also had some positives sides, such as much more power from the same volume comparing to 4 strokers (double rate of power strokes), very simple design (no valves, no camshafts) - which make them light weight, and also cheaper to produce and easier to maintain.

Few years ago I was reading about new kind of 2-strokers, that will bring them back to the scene, but that never happened. Maybe the development or production of these turned to be too expensive, I don't know.

In the last few years I read several comparison tests between various 125cc bikes, with mixed two-strokers and four-strokers. I really didn’t like those tests. Comparing such bikes with different engine types is illogical and unfair. These two types of engines are radically different, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, but most important nonsense was huge horse power difference. 12-15 Hp (about 9-11 Kw) was typical for 4-strokers while 2 strokers normally double those values.

Some of you would say: “yes, but they’ve been using restricted 2-stroke version, with similar power”… but that also does not make them equal. 2-stroke powered bikes were designed to handle much more power and speed, so all the parts were at higher spec level - frame, brakes, tyres... so the comparisons were illogical in any case.

Soon, among 125s, we’ll have Cagiva Mito in the class of its own, and all the others are now 4-strokers, with the newcomer – Aprilia RS4. I was hoping Aprilia would release it this year, but most probably it will be ready for 2012. Knowing Aprilia, and especially after seeing the photos of it, I think all the others will be in trouble. That's why I like Aprilia - they make every motorcycle, even the smallest ones, with the same quality and attention to details. Probably the only disadvantage of Aprilia RS4 will be the price. But we shall wait and see.

There are more things that will change because of 4-strokers total take over. I believe one of them is reviving of 250cc class. Why? Well, the total disappearance of 125cc 2 strokers is creating the gap, since new 4-strokers typically produce about 10-15 Hp. The result is total shortage in road motorcycles with power between 20 – 40 Hp (15-30 Kw).

I believe that this will lead4 to increased popularity of 250cc bikes. Honda joined Kawasaki and Hyosung at this piece of market with brand new CBR 250R, and I expect there will be more newcomers in this class, from Yamaha, Suzuki, maybe Aprilia. There is also rumor that KTM is preparing 250cc sporty naked bike. Kawasaki will be under great pressure in order to save the throne in this class, so it is possible that Ninja 250 will be slightly updated within next 2 years.

Among larger bikes 2 strokers have disappeared long time ago, so there’s nothing to say there.

Recent economy crisis that still keeps pushing down economy in most countries is one more reason why I believe that 125s, and even more 250s will become more popular. They are cheaper to buy and maintain, they are easy on fuel and easy to live with. They are not rockets, but are practical and still can be fun.

In my opinion there is also total lack of bikes 250-600cc, which is a shame.
Most of people actually do not need more than 70 ponies, but manufacturers today do not give us much choice. It's either 15-30 Hp or you can go to 100+. There is almost nothing in between.

I hope to see more of new fine125cc bikes – they’re good for learning, let’s attract more people to ride with us.

250cc, 400cc, 500cc ... these could work for most of people.

I believe, with solid quality and accessible price, factories can make a good job with some of these. I think it’s about time. Those who quickly involve with these almost forgotten small-medium classes will have a real advantage. And I think they should all really try and push them - worldwide! The buyers are waiting, I’m sure.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The VFR story

One the most buzzed motorbikes last year certainly was new Honda VFR 1200. Some guys liked it, some hated it. Actually, I think most of journalists liked it, but while reading regular (non-journalists) people comments, I've noticed there were various reactions – and surprisingly lots of negative ones.

I must say I wasn’t pleasantly surprised when I saw new VFR for the first time. I wasn't happy when I checked out the technical specifications.

No, I don’t think it was because they made a bad motorcycle, I think it was because they made something that nobody wanted them to make, nobody asked for that, nobody expected that. I don't know what Honda's market researchers were thinking!
I believe most of  VFR 750-800 owners never wished for bike like that. I’m a great fan of VFR series, and I met many VFR owners.

Let’s see… I think VFRs in the past never tried to compete with any kind of hyperbikes, never claimed to be among the biggest ones, the heavy weight. And with the new VFR 1200 Honda it acted like they wanted to change that. OK, generally, it is not a bad thing to have big engine and bunch of ponies... but most previous VFR owners were like: "WTF is that thing?”

First… they added torque and power. But, also made it look like a truck, comparing to the old VFRs. They gave it shaft drive instead of chain... well, ok, it is great for touring, no maintenance, durable... but somehow, it is more for heavy tourers or heavy adventure bikes. It seems like they wanted to combine Blackbird and Pan European, with V4 engine, and I think that was a mistake. Instead of merging touring and sport capabilities, the bike seems not to have enough of any… especially with that tiny tank paired with such big (means thirsty) engine. And then… wtf... Automatic transmission? Damn... sounds like a big scooter, right ?

Now, to be honest - it is a good motorcycle, in general. Standing next to it makes it look much better than on the pictures. Finish is amazing. Quality is everywhere. It is powerful and comfy. But that’s it. It is not where most of previous VFR owner wanted to go.

VFR 750 was the bike to fall in love with. It looked really good at that time, it was powerful enough for anything, it was agile and nimble, not as ZXRs, but it was able to keep up. It became a classic, a legend. 800 was also very good, although many riders didn't like the linked brakes. They are safe, but the problem is that you can use to it too much, and you can get in trouble when you switch to a bike with regular brakes. They should make CBS optional. My opinion was that plain ABS brakes would be a better solution. Second 800cc generation brought improved CBS brakes and VTEC technology that really worked well, although, it made engine more complex (involving more thingies that can go wrong) and heavier. But it was still VFR everybody loved. If you don't trust me, just ask any 750-800 owner how does he feel about the bike - 99% were in love with it and many of them never wanted to sell it.
Those bikes were comfy, but they also let you play together with “R” bikes. You can take a real it to a long trip, and you could make it spit some fire whenever you want.

Now, let’s go back to 1200. With all the power and size, it reminds me on BMW K1300S, but it seems to be somehow calmer and lazier… sounds like more boring, doesn’t it? It also somehow comes close to Pan European and Yamaha’s FJR, but not that comfy and equipped. With that size it doesn't look that nimble and playful either.
Automatic transmission? Ugh, that reminds on scooters, bleahhh !!
That is not what VFRs should evolve into. I think it was a mistake.

Next generation VFR should be different than this. Smaller, more compact, more playful… but yes, with comfy seats, nice wind protection, and better equipped than “R “ bikes. No automatic transmission, because that’s not what we wanted.

It wasn’t that hard, Honda.

VFR 1200, if we ignore the fact that it has V-4 engine, is more like next generation of Blackbird, but somehow, I don't think they are very happy with the VFR 1200 as well.

For the end, I think VFR 1200 is not that bad (except the fuel tank, fix that please, Honda!), but it shoots to the different audience. And therefore it should be called differently. Honda’s engineers are capable, their work is wonderful. Manufacturing quality is wonderful as well. On the other hand, market research department and designers are a little bit confused… aren't you guys?

VFR 750 1994
VFR 750 1991
VFR 800 2003

VFR 800 1998

VFR 1200 2010
VFR 1200 2010