It’s All About The Torque

That’s the main characteristic of diesel engines.  “Meh” horsepower, but brutal torque.  As a result, you don’t see many motorcycles with diesel engines.  Oh, there’ve been a  few, of course, but mostly as limited-quantity specialty bikes, or concepts.

EVA Trak Diesel Motorcycle
EVA Trak Diesel Motorcycle

But now, a Dutch manufacturer, E.V.A, plans to produce a diesel-powered adventurer tourer this year.  Called the “Trak”, this bike will be powered by an 800cc turbo diesel with a CVT transmission (No shifting?). It’ll weight about 500 pounds dry, and put out 54 horsepower and 74 ft/lbs of torque at–get ready for it–1800RPM.  That’s an engine speed that barely registers on the tach of a modern sportbike.  It also has optional ABS brakes.  Although not shown in this picture, EVA will have a nice set of aluminum luggage to mount on it, hence the “tourer” in “adventure tourer”.

It’s not the prettiest motorcycle in the world, but it apparently does have one big advantage, which is a claimed 100 miles per gallon.  That assumes you’re running the bike on diesel.  According to EVA, it will also run on vegetable oil.  With a 6-gallon tank, a 500+ mile range is pretty respectable.  You won’t get there fast, but you’ll certainly get there cheaply.

You will not, alas, get the bike cheaply.  EVA’s planned MSRP on the Trak is €17,500, which comes out to somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000 at the current rate of exchange.  So, you’ll have to ride it a lot to offset the steep sticker price with fuel savings.

EVA plans to release the bike in Europe first, but it could be coming to the US in September of this year.

Brave Scary New World

Bruce McLaughlan, writing in his Detroit News column, warns motorcycle dealers that, with the economy winding down, they may have to change some practices if they want to continue selling motorcycles.

You hear a lot of excuses about why dealers don’t allow test-rides: Liability, potential for damage, wildly varying skill levels among riders, etc.

Some brands are definitely better at providing this opportunity than others. Harley-Davidson, for example, has recognized the value to the point of promoting rentals — you can live with a Harley model for a weekend, maybe try two or three this way, then buy the one that really fits your needs.

I have found some of the European brands such as Triumph, Aprilia and Ducati promoting test ride events.

My Buell dealer, Ray C’s Harley-Davidson in Lapeer, encouraged me to test-ride the bike I eventually purchased.

But I have seen multi-line dealers — these typically are the guys who carry some or all of the Japanese brands — who won’t give you the time of day, let alone a test ride…

So how do the multi-line sport bike guys stay in business? I think the answer can be found in Japan, where the factories keep kicking out new bikes — the life cycle between major makeovers is only about two years, or less than half the life cycle of a typical car or truck. These new bikes offer significant gains in nearly every aspect of performance every time…

With the economy imposing significant new factors in the latter part of 2008 and heading into 2009, will this dynamic change?

What if the factories decide it’s too expensive to pour R&D money into their bikes?

Given the perceptible drop off in traffic at this year’s motorcycle show, smart dealers had better take note. Bikes may not sell themselves for much longer!

The reticence that some dealers–mainly the Big Four–have against allowing terst rides is a real turn-off.  not only to me, but, according to JD Power, for nearly everybody.  It can be a make-or-break customer satisfaction item.  At a time when BMW, Triumph, Aprilia, and others are offering test rides, it’ll be interesting to see how long the UJM dealers resist giving their customers a taste of how a prospective bike suits them.

The economy is slowing down quite a lot, so the sales staffs at the dealers better learn some new customer service practices, or it might be a mighty lean couple of years for them.

Style Evolves

As you can see, I’ve ditched the old theme I was using on the blog, and switched to one of the free WordPress motorcycle themes I designed last week.  I’ve tweaked that design a little bit, and done some monkeying around with the CSS stylesheet to change some things, but in general it’s the same theme I designed previously.

I liked the old theme, but it was a commercial theme that required I maintain some links in the footer for marketing sites that I didn’t really want to sponsor.  There’s still a marketing link, but now it goes to my company, which, of course, I don’t mind at all.

I designed this theme with a new tool called Artisteer, which is supposed to be a design tool for not only WordPress themes, but regular HTML web sites as well, with future support for designing Joomla and Drupal themes.

The software is in Version 1.0, so obviously it’s got a ways to go to get to where I can use it professionally.  For a first release though, Artisteer really does take a lot of the headaches out of designing themes, and web site templates.

Except that you really can’t use it to design web site templates.  Artisteer has some growing up to do before it’s ready for that.  But for slapping together a decent WordPress theme, there really isn’t much out there that’s better.

Still, it could use some improvement.  Because I do web development for a living, I would love a tool that would allow me to slap together a great template in a very short time, using a simple but powerful WYSIWYG interface.  Unfortunately, Artisteer is not that tool.  Not yet, at least.

First, it combines the formatting for both posts and sidebar into the same section, and formats them the same.  This is a bad idea, because the content column, and the sidebar column do completely different things.  They are completely separate entities, and should be treated as such.  Artisteer formats them both in fell swoop.

Second, when you aren’t exporting a WordPress template, Artisteer still uses the insanely unecessary WordPress DIV tag setup.  It’s so complicated that, when you open up your exported HTML file in Dreamweaver, it takes two or three minutes for Dreamweaver to render all of the insanely nested DIV tags into the preview screen.  Sure, WordPress is complicated, because it’s a full-scale CMS system.  But designing a web page should result in a lot less complicated output.  As a result, the tool is useless to me for web template design, despite having purchased the “Standard” rather than the “Home” version.

Maybe, as this product evolves, it will become more useful over time.

BMW K Bikes Coming

I’ve spoken to the guys down at the ‘Ol BMW motorcycle dealership about the arrival dates for the new K-series bikes, The K130GT, K1300s, and K1300R.  They say that they are expecting to begin getting them in in late February or early March.  They still don’t have any firm word on what the MSRP will be, but considering that they’re getting close to delivering the the bikes, presumably they’ll have a price up very soon.  Looking over the bikes, I think BMW has a hit with two out of the three, in terms of looks and styling.

BMW K1300R
BMW K1300R

I’ll be the first to admit that I just can’t get past the looks of the K1300R.  I’m sure it’s sporty and fun, and whatnot–all the things the naked bike enthusiast really wants in a motorcycle–but it just looks goofy.

The flyscreen is literally that; just a tiny windshield to keep the bug guts out of the cables and wiring that sprout off the top of the triple tree (if that is indeed what it’s called on a BMW).  The two headlights, with their odd shape and mismatched sizes between the low- and hi-beams look goofy.  And what is that little grille-like thing below the headlights?  Does it even have a purpose?  And the styling of the front forks looks like someone stuck a dog’s leg on backwards.

I understand that there is a loyal customer base for this Frankenstein’s monster of a bike.  So, I’m sure you’ll like it, if this is the sort of thing you like.

BMW K1300S
BMW K1300S

Ah, the K1300S.  I can never own this bike, of course.  Just like I can’t own a Hayabusa, a ZX-14 Ninja, A CBR, or, really, any liter bike.  If I ever own a bike like this, I will go to jail.

Yes, I like to think I’m a grown-up, and I’m too mature for any of that bad-boy silliness.  I also know that’s a load of crap.  I’d flog this 180 horsepower monster worse than Captain Bligh would flog an insubordinate seaman, right up until the CHP grabbed me, and tossed me in the clink.

Either that, or I’d just kill myself on it, doing something outrageously stupid.

In any event, It looks great, and this factory paint job is one of the best out of Bavaria in a few years.

BMW K1300GT
BMW K1300GT

My personal choice between these three is, as I’ve mentioned before, the K1300GT.  It’s more powerful than most bikes, but not as shockingly bad as the S model.  The engine has been detuned a bit to provide lower horsepower, but greater torque, which is what you want in a touring bike.

I especially like how they’ve shanged the tank insert on the side from dark gray to silver, which matches up much better with the steel blue color.

My only quibble is that BMW has designed the fairing in such a way as to make installing frame sliders difficult.  As I learned from my accident, the frame sliders are worth far more than their weight in gold in keeping damage to the fairing at a minimum.  The bike does have frame sliders, but BMW has installed them under the fairing.  They protect the engine, but not much else.  So, a bad foot slip in oil or gravel in a parking lot or at a stoplight will be about $1,0o0.

If I got the GT, I’d want to have the Automatic Stability Control, Electronic Suspension control, and the whole deal.

All I need is about $25,000, including tax, title, and license, to pull that off.

The one down side is that for 2009, BMW is ditching the traditional BMW turn signal switches for the standard, UJM-style switch on the left handlebar.  I dislike that a lot.  Indeed, one of the things I really liked about my Harley was having the separate switches on each handlebar.

Still, that’s the only thing I don’t like about this bike.

The State of Things

I am a little perturbed.  The lack of progress of any sort in clearing up the aftermath of my motorcycle accident is bothering me. I still haven’t been contacted, after a month, by the insurer of the livery company that employed the driver who ran the stop sign and hit me.  My motorcycle still sits, broken, in my garage.

My lawyer is difficult to get hold of, and seems too busy with other cases to tend to mind with any regularity.  Which I don’t understand at all.  A professional driver for a commercial livery company negligently ran a stop sign and struck my vehicle, broke my toe, sprained my knee, and badly hurt my leg and wrist.  I spent two weeks on crutches and a cane.  and, being a commercial livery company, they are required to have $1,000,000 in liability coverage.  You’d think a lawyer would be on that like gangbusters, but apparently not.  I had to call this week and light a fire under them to get on it.

As for my health, I am recovering, finally, from the accident.  I’m not 100% even yet, though.  My wrist is still pretty painful, and I have a line of pain that runs right up my shin to my knee.  My broken toe is still tender, too, which is to be expected, but last week I was able to start wearing regular shoes again.  So, I finally got to ditch the wierd, orthopedic, open shoe with the hard sole.

I have an appointment with an orthopedist on Tuesday, and he’ll look at my banged-up bits, to be sure everything is coming along OK.

After calling my lawyer this week, and now that the holidays are over, I’m hoping that the adjuster from the other insurance company will get in contact with me, and we can see if my FJR is reparable…or if it’s gonna get sent to the breakers.