Lawyering Up

I’m not even gonna try to deal with this myself.  I got rear-ended in my SUV a couple of years ago, and I handled it myself, and I got screwed.

No, this time, I’ve already set the lawyer wheels in motion.  Their investigator is coming by today to look at the bike, and my hurty toe.

What really gets my goat is that the guy who hit me was a professional driver, working for a commercial livery service, not some stupid airhead soccer mom on a cell phone.  He should know better.  It’s his job.

So, I’m not gonna be some patsy for his company’s insurance carrier.  I’m gonna get someone who damn well knows how this stuff works, and can ensure that I am made whole again.  I want my bike fixed or replaced, my medical bills paid, my gear replaced, and to be repaid for the time away from work this is gonna cost me.

I was just out in the garage looking at Fidget, and I was just sick.  There’s this beautiful motorcycle I put my money and time into getting it just the way I wanted, and now she’s wrecked.

I’m pissed off.

Better Engines

The Norton post about rotary-engined motorcycles got me thinking about motorcycle engines in general. There haven’t been a lot of rotary motorcycle engines–or car engines for that matter.  Frankly, despite the valiant efforts of Mazda, the fact is that the Wankel engine has problems.

The seals at the three apexes of the rotor are always problematic.  The seal area is relatively small and prone to breakdown, and hence, leakage.  Heat differentials are a problem, too, in that the engine casing receives a big differential in heating.  Lots of engineering is required to make it reliable, and give it acceptably long engine life.  The heat from the exhaust will bake you as well. And efficiency has always been a problem with Wankels.  They just tend to use more fuel.  For instance, that old Norton commander only got about 30-35 MPG, which is pretty low for a motorcycle.  They also have high emissions due to incomplete fuel burning, which of course, contributes to the engine’s poor fuel efficiency.

But the advantages are really great, especially for motorcycles.

Vibration with a rotary engine is almost completely eliminated, because there are no reciprocating parts like a conventional engine.  You don’t have to convert the up and down motion of the cylinders to a revolving crankshaft.  That eliminates a huge number of moving parts, and, hence, weight.  Manufacturers have tried to reduce this vibration with counterbalancers and the like, but, of course, while they do a decent job, they add even more weight.  Conversely, the Wankel engine really has only one moving part, the rotor, and it’s already moving in a circle with the crankshaft. Rotary engines are, therefore, far more mechanically efficient.  Conventional engines only have about a 30% efficiency rating.  Much of the engine’s power is lost in converting reciprocating movement to revolving movement and whatnot.  A Wankel engine’s mechanical efficiency approaches 80%.  The Wankel engine also has instant power delivery, since the stroke movement of a conventional engine is eliminated.  And, of course, when something catastrophic goes wrong in a Wankel engine, it just tends to slow down to a stop.  A conventional engine tends to destroy itself and break large numbers of internal parts.

Still, until recently, the higher cost and lower fuel efficiency of the Wankel engine has made them a non-starter as a standard engine.  In recent years, Mazda has addressed the fuel efficiency problems with the RENESIS engine for the RX-8.  And even independent manufacturers have come up with more efficient designs that can meet modern emissions standards. For instance, Freedom Motors is a US company that has been working on more fuel-efficient and emmissions-compliant wankels.  They produce a 1300cc twin rotor engine that weighs 120 pounds, and puts out 120HP.

Still, the Wankel is comparitavely expensive, and less fuel efficient.

So, how do you get a rotary engine that keeps the advantages of the Wankel engine, while eliminating the disadvatages?  Is it even possible?

Well, it may be.

A new concept called the DART engine might just do it.

DART Engine
DART Engine

The DART engine has three moving parts.  It has two differently-sized rotors, and a sliding connector.

What makes it such a great concept is that, it uses the Atkinson cycle, rather than the Otto cycle for combustion, so there’s a power stroke in every revolution of the engine.  Every revolution also scavenges exhast gas, mixes it with intake air, and reburns it, resultion in more complete oxidation, meaning higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions.  The sealing problem of the Wankel is also eliminated since a significant portion of each rotor edge seals to the engine casing, as opposed to the small apex seals of the wankel rotor.

This is a very exciting concept and promises to deliver extremely high power output with excellent fuel efficiency, low emissions, instant power delivery, and no vibration from reciprocation.  In addition, it can use gas, diesel, ethanol, or any other kind of internal combustion fuel.  There’s even a hydrogen burning variant called the HART concept.

And you get the same power output of a conventional engine, with half of the physical size and weight.

You can learn more about the DART engine here.

This is a very exciting engine concept.

The Return of Norton?

Take a look at the motorcycle below.  Take a good look.  It is a 1991 Norton Commander F1.

1991 Norton Commander F1
1991 Norton Commander F1

This is one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever built.  It was powered by a 588cc twin-rotary Wankel engine. I think the 588cc is a bit of a misnomer.  It was a twin wankel, so it would more properly be an 1176cc equivalent.

This bike took the racing world by storm in the last few years of Norton’s existence. The civilian version of it originally cost about $48,000.  And they still sold like hotcakes.  There are currently about 60 left in the world.

For now.

Brit businessman Stuart garner already owns Norton racing, and he intends to buy all of the remaining parts of the old Norton Motorcycle Co., that are now for sale.  Garner has already built a brand new version of the twin-rotary Norton, and has created a racing team that will be entering the new bike at the Isle of Man TT race in 2009.

Norton NER 588 Racer
Norton NRV 588 Racer

Garner seems serious about bringing Norton back to life. In addition to the NRV 588, he’s also producing a new version of the Norton Commando.

2008 Norton Commando 961SS
2008 Norton Commando 961SS

In addition to the Commando, Garner says he intends to bring the rotary commander back to life, too.  it will be a road-going version of the NRV 588.

I just hopes he takes his styling cues from the 1991 F1, and brings that magically beautiful bike back to life again.

The Next Day

Holy Judas frickin’ Priest on a Popsicle stick!

I am experiencing some discomfort in my legs and foot.  In much the same way that the residents of Hiroshima experienced discomfort in august of 1945.

Fortunately, I only experience this discomfort in the islands of lucidity I have between Percosets.  So far, the cycle has been:  Hurt, waken Percoset, sleep.  Repeat.

You gotta hand it to narcotics, boy. They don’t futz around with any silliness.  They just go right to work.  “I sense you are uncomfortable.  Here, let me bludgeon you into foggy bliss.”

Don’t mind if I do, thanks.

Actually, I’m not doing too bad.  The Percs eliminate the pain so that I can limp around on my dorky cast and crutches.  So, I can still do stuff.

It’s kinda nice though, just to lay on the couch and have my chick wait on me.  She’s gone to the store to get me some goodies, and is bringing me back a double Whopper, so I’m good.

The only bad moment I had, really, was when I was stepping over the baby gate we use to keep the monster dogs in the den.  Somehow, when I brought by hurty foot down, I jammed my tow right into the edge of their water dish.  I got a few seconds crash course in astronomy when that happened.  I think I can now recognize all the main sequence stars.

All things considered, though, I’d rather be up in Long Beach today, filling my CF card with pics of booth babes.

Wrecked (Updated)

I was almost home.

I turned off of Center City onto El Norte Parkway, and as I was crossing Escondido Boulevard, I saw him pull out.  I could see the driver very clearly, or rather, I could see the back of his head.  With two lanes of traffic and a turn lane approaching him from his left, he was looking to the right to see what traffic was coming that way.  I was in the edge of right lane, and I pulled into the left lane in an attempt to go around him, but it was too late.

He hit me on the right side, impacting the right touring bag, just behind my leg. The rear of the bike was knocked out out to the left, and, fortunately, low-sided on the right side.  It did a 270-degree spin on the ground, ending up on the right side, laying perpendicular to the lane.

The left side of my right shin got whacked against the fairing, giving me a softball-sized bump on the shin.  I guess I put out my hand to help break my fall, so the bone at the base of the hand, near the thumb is bruised up.

I was thrown clear of the bike at some point, and the impact drove the edge of my composite toe on my left boot right into the base of my big toenail, which I expect I’ll lose, in due course, and my left knee got wrenched a little bit, probably from rolling on the ground. I remember my helmet hitting the pavement and sliding along a bit,  and thinking, “Man, I’m glad I have a full face helmet.”

Fortunately, I was wearing–as I always do–full gear:  Olympia Motosports armored jacket and pants.  So, no road rash, or anything like that.

As far as the bike goes, the right footpeg was sheared off.  The right touring bag destroyed, and the mountings bent pretty badly.  Right mirror bent into uselessness, part of the fairing badly scratched.

Fortunately, my frame slider took the brunt of the slide damage, with about one inch and a half ground off, and the mounting bent.

I rode her home, with my right foot hanging off the right passenger footpeg.

I’m pretty bruised up, and my toe is killing me.  I think I might be in a lot more pain tomorrow, and probably won’t make it to the Long Beach motorcycle show.

Mirror Damage
Mirror Damage
 Missing Footpeg
Missing Footpeg
Ground Slider
Ground Slider
Trashed Bag
Trashed Bag
Trashed Bag and Muffler
Trashed Bag and Muffler
Broken Fairing and Mirror Mounting
Broken Fairing and Mirror Mounting
Ow! Ow! Ow!
Ow! Ow! Ow!

I just know I’m gonna lose that toenail.  Dammit.

Fortunately, the other driver is–or, perhaps, was–a commercial livery driver, so they have full insurance coverage.


It’s 4:50 am on Saturday morning.  I just got back from the emergency room.

Turns out my toe is really broken.   It wouldn’t stop bleeding last evening, so at about 11:00pm, I went to Palomar Medical Center to have them look me over.  The verdict:  Broken left big toe, bruised right shin,  hyperextended left knee ligaments, bruised wrist.

Anyway, I’m now in one of those fiberglass ankle and foot splint dealies, and the doc says I’ll probably be in it for about 6 weeks.  On the plus side, my prescription zipped right past Vicodin, and on to Percoset.  I took one a few minutes ago.  In another 20, I expect to be seeing the other side of consciousness.

Cripes, but my toe hurts!  And, oh, yeah, that big toenal’s coming off.

Anyway, now, I have to make a doctor’s appointment for Monday so my regular doc can look me over.  And I might need physical therapy for my left knee, and see an orthopedist.

All because one idiot–and a professional driver at that–couldn’t be bothered to look both ways at a stop sign.

Long Beach Motorcycle Show

I guess this weekend I’m going to have to shell out the sawbuck and head up to Long Beach.  It’s the weekend of the big International Motorcycle Show, and I’ve decided to go.  Chris hasn’t decided whether to go or not.  If she doesn’t, I’ll ride the FJR up.

Both Moto Guzzi and Kawasaki will evidently be there in force this weekend, giving test rides of their various models.  I think I’d really like to try a  Norge and a Breva 1200 to compare and contrast.

I’ll also be taking the camera up, so there’ll probably be a little photo show here when I get back.

KTM: 2-Wheel Drive Patent

Via RILYSI, it looks like KTM, the respected  Austrian Motorcycle manufacturer, has applied for a patent for a 2-Wheel drive, hybrid motorcycle.  Even more interesting is that they’ve apparently fast-tracked it to production sometime in the next 24 months.

The word is that it will have an internal combustion engine driving the rear wheel, and an electric engine driving the front wheel.

Coming on the heels of KTM’s expected zero-emissions Enduro racer, it looks like KTM should change its flagship color from orange to green.

Except that Kawasaki already took that color.

Modular Helmet Testing Results

I’m one of those people that needs to wear a modular (flip-up) helmet.  I have two of them, a Harley-Davidson Stealth, which is OK, and an HJC Sy-Max II, which I like a bit better for the lower wind noise.  Unfortunately, I have to wear glasses or contact lenses, and, even with my contacts, I’m kind of light-sensitive, so I need to wear sunglasses.  A full-face helmet makes that a bit difficult.

But there’s always been some controversy as to how well modular helmets poerform in a crash.  This is kind of important, since about a fifth of crashes involve the biker taking one to the chin.  I’d kind of like that bit protected,  since chicks dig guys with chins.

So, I am interested to learn that, over in the UK, SHARP is testing modular helmets for crashworthiness, and rating them.  They’ve already started putting ratings up, so you may want to amble over and see if your helmet appears, and how it did in testing.

If you are wearing a KBC FFR, or a Duchinni D601…well…you may want to go to the dealership and see how much a BMW System 5 helmet or a Caberg Trip will set you back.

I’m just saying…

Versys: 50-State Legal

Well, it only took two years after its introduction in the rest of the world, but the Kawasaki Versys is finally California-legal for the 2009 model year!

2009 Kawasaki Versys
2009 Kawasaki Versys

I’ll make a special trip to the dealership to take a look at this one.  Everything I’ve read about this bike is that it is a fantastic all-rounder.  It’s zippy and fun, but well balanced, light, handles responsively, and…well…everything.

It’s said to be a great commuter bike due to its lightness and maneuverability.  It’s very economical, too, getting 60 MPG from the 650cc, counter-balanced, Parallel-Twin power plant.  Everything I’ve read says that this is a great all-rounder.

One shortcoming, however, is the 33-inch seat height.  That’s a bit lofty for smaller riders, and perhaps a little intimidating to newer ones as well.

But it’s reputed to be a dream to ride, so I think I’m going to try to wrangle a test ride, if possible, to see if I agree.

Odd Harley XR1200 Test

I’m not sure, exactly, what the point was to this test.  The guys at MCN took a few days to ride and compare the Harley-Davdison XR1200, the Ducati GT1000, and the Moto Guzzi Griso 1200.  Their conclusion:  The XR1200 isn’t a benchmark sportbike.

A look of shocked surprise failed to cross my face upon hearing this.

First, it’s really an odd test.  In what possible world is a cruiser, even a retro, race-inspired cruiser, going to be a benchmark sportbike?

In Harley terms, the XR1200 is a pretty powerful machine.  At 90HP, it packs about 15 more horses than an XL1200.  And, as one of the reviewers notes, it handles way better than any Harley ever built.  Harley isn’t trying to appeal to the liter-bike crowd.  They are trying to get some younger appeal going with riders that want some more sportiness and better handling than is currently available anywhere in the HD line, with the possible exception of the V-Rod, and still have a bike that is recognizeably a Harley-Davidson.

And at that, it looks to me like the XR1200 delivers.

And, as they also note, it has a presence that none of the other bikes have.

You can bitch and moan about Harley’s all you want, and denigrate them to a fair-thee-well, but at the end of the day, all around the world, the Harley-Davidson has a cachet that no other motorcycle has.  Their bikes are the ones that the other cruiser manufacturers take styling cues from.

If you can now get a Sportster with signifigantly more muscle and better handling, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  And, I’ll bet Harley sells the initial run of 750 like hotcakes.  They seem excited over at HDForums, anyway.