Quadro 4D Concept

One of the more interesting concepts that will be shown at the EICMA show in Italy this year are what appears to production-ready prototypes of a new scooter concept from Quadro Technologie, a new arm of Marabese Design. Marabese was the designer for the Piaggio MP3 scooter, but now they’ve gone one step beyond that with a 4-wheeled concept. The video makes it look very interesting.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2OJa-vWEaE

Essentially, what you have here is a 4-wheeled vehicle, but with each wheel independently suspended, allowing it to lean like any other scooter or motorcycle.  What you get from that combination is a much more sure-footed vehicle, with loads more traction, and more abilioty to take bad road conditions in stride.  At the same time, the ability to lean makes cornering safer by balancing the forces of gravity and inertia–unlike a normal trike, where cornering can be a bit riskier business.

I can certainly see the advantages this offers for a commuter bike.  Keep an eye on this technology.

California outlaws loud pipes

I guess now we’ll see if loud pipes really do save lives.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 435 yesterday that will authorize state law enforcement to ticket motorcyclists who have swapped out their stock pipes for an aftermarket exhaust. The new law will make it a crime to operate a motorcycle manufactured after January 1, 2013, that does not meet federal noise-emission standards. Motorcycles will be required to display a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) label certifying that the exhaust system is clean burning and does not exceed 80 decibels. First-time offenders will face fines up to $100 while subsequent infractions can run up to $250.

Now that it’s become law in California, you can expect this to be implemented in other states as well.

2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra

The Road Glide has always been my favorite Harley-Davidson.  I really don’t like the bat-wing fairing on the other big tourers, mainly because I hate the idea of an extra 50 pounds riding on the forks. But the Roag Glide, with its fixed fairing is the best-handling of the big Harleys I’ve ridden–with the exception of the Road King–and I absolutely hated the Electra Glide Ultra.

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra

For 2011, Harley has introduced a new Ultra version of the Road Glide, with all the touring amenities of the Electra- Glide Ultra.  Dain Gingerelli at Motorcycle.Com got his hands on one and was able to take it for a spin.  You can read his review at your leisure, but the thing I found interesting was that he highlighted the fact that for 2011, the MoCo is now offering a Power Pak package, the centerpiece of which is not the venerable TC96 powerplant H-D has produced for years, but a new 103ci motor, with increased torque and–to the extent that it matters on a big touring cruiser–horsepower.  And the Power Pak does seem like a pretty good value for the money, considering that you get more than just the engine:

Now for the even better news: the optional Power Pak costs $1,995, a bargain when you consider that the cost for upgrading a standard 96-cubic-inch engine is about that for parts and labor alone. Think of the ABS and security system as a bonus. Ditto for the engine ID emblem.

And the 103ci mill is a big improvement, with 102 ft-lbs of torque at 3,500 RPM. That’s just shy of a 10% increase over the TC96’s output.

However, you should probably be aware of this, before you buy:

Which begs the question: why doesn’t Harley-Davidson equip all of the Big Twin line with this bigger and better engine? Good question, and when asked, one Harley spokesman merely smiled.

The TC96 is not a bad engine, at all.  But a 1574cc engine for a big cruiser when the Big Four are running 1800cc – 2000cc mills–with signifigantly more power–in their competing bikes makes the TC96 a comparatively underpowered engine for such large bikes.  Even Victory has switched their entire model line over to a 106ci mill for their 2011 models. And by comparison, the 2011 Victorys’ engine will put out–depending on the factory options you want–up to 113 ft-lbs of torque, or nearly 10% more than the Harley’s 103ci mill does.

The TC96–despite being unveiled in 2007–is just a bit long in the tooth, in the sense that it produces torque and horsepower that reflect the standards of an engine generation ago. It’s better than the 93ci mill it replaced, but it still isn’t on a par with the big Japanese cruiser motors, or the motor that will grace this year’s Victory motorcycles.

I think that smile on the H-D representative’s face indicates that H-D is gearing up for another change to the engine line-up in the next model year or two.  With Victory doing so this year, I suspect that makes a change at Harley inevitable in the near future.

So, your question has to be, “Do I want the bigger engine now?, Or can I wait a season or two until it’s standard equipment, and most likely cheaper?”

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Review

Since I bought my FJR1300 two  years ago, I’ve been religious about keeping her maintained at the proper service intervals, using OEM parts.  You can skimp on auto maintenance a bit–though you really shouldn’t–and it might cost you some money.  Skimp on motorcycle maintenance, and you could find yourself rapidly transported to that Great Laguna Seca in the Sky.  part of my regular maintenance has always been replacing the OEM Bhe last ridgestone BT 021 tires regularly.

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram
Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram

Until the last service at 24,000 miles.  I’d been talking with Randy at North County House of Motorcycles–where I always get my maintenance done; great crew!–about switching away from the Bridgestones to the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  At my 24k service, both tires were ready to go, so I made the switch.

I’ve now done 5,000 miles on the PR2’s and I think I’m ready to give my review.  The short version: They have transformed the handling of the bike.

The Bridgestones aren’t bad tires.  They were certainly grippy, and allowed you to attack the twisties with confidence. But after 5k miles on the PR2s, I’ve learned that the BT021s really make the steering on the FJR far harder than it has to be. They’re certainly stable tires.  Too stable.  They required significant steering input to put the bike into the right line, and were resistant to changes in body position as a way to lean/steer the bike.  All of the inputs had to come through the handlebars.

The PR2s on the other hand, are an extremely responsive tire.  Shifting your upper body, or sliding your butt over on the seat is enough to initiate a lean, with no input on the bars at all. Prior to my experience with the PR2s, I assumed that the FJR was just too heavy to accept anything but extreme body movement as a steering input.  With the PR2s, I’ve learned that the bike is actually quite responsive to the rider’s movement…with the right tires.

The Michelins have really made riding the FJR a more…uh…sportbikey experience, responsing to shifts in rider position by falling right into the desired line on a curve.  Obviously, the handling on a 650 lb. sport-tourer will never match an R6, or a GSX-R1000 for that matter, but the improvement was immediately noticeable.  And by that, I mean within a single city block, I could tell that the handling was vastly improved.

While responsive, the PR2s are not twitchy. The bike still does exactly what you tell it to do. It’s just easier to tell it what to do. After 5,000 miles, I’ve never gotten a sense of instability from the Michelins. Nor have I ever gotten a sense that the traction of the PR2s are any less reliable than the BT021s.  Indeed, I’ve surprised myself by dragging peg feelers on a couple of occasions without any drama at all, and my chicken strips on the rear tire are down to about 1/4 inch.

What has really surprised me has been the lack of wear on either the front or rear tire.  After 5,000 miles, the rear tire is hardly noticeably flattened at all. I was getting about 6k off the BT021 rear, but it’s looking like the PR2 rear is going to be good for somewhere between 8k-10k, if not more.  I have no idea how long the front will last, as it still looks new.  I’m nowhere near the wear marks on either tire. Usually, a tire compound that resists wear, also resists grip, but I simply haven’t found that to be the case for the Michelins.

Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  They offer vastly improved handling and wear over the Bridgestone BT021, without sacrificing stability or grip.  I think it’s fair to say that my FJR1300 won’t be riding on the OEM Bridgestones in the future.

The Michelins may cost more, but with better performance and longer life, they’re well worth the extra cost.

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Review

This weekend, I took the FJR in for its 24,000 mile service, and while I was there, decided to try a new set of tires.  I’ve heard lots of good things about the Michelin Pilot Road 2CT tire, but the price was a bit offputting.  So I’ve been on Bridgestone BT021s since I bought it.  North County House of Motorcycles has a good deal on the PR2s, however, so, I decided to try them out.  I’ve only put about 100 miles on them since I picked the bike up Saturday evening, but I have to say…wow!

The difference in handling was immediately noticeable.  With the BT021s, the FJR had to be pushed a fair amount to drop into a turn.  Steady as a rock once you found your angle, but a little effort was needed.  Not so with the PR2s.  Simply moving your upper body, and shifting on the seat is enough to initiate the lean.  In fact, it falls in so easily, I still haven’t gotten used to it.

What really saurpises me is how grippy they are, though.  As I was riding back home, I was racing against an incoming rainstorm…and I lost.  About 10 miles from the house, riding down Highway 78 in San Marcos, I got hammered with a downpour.  I never got the feeling that I was anything less than firmly planted, even with less than 10 miles on the new tires.  Indeed, at one point, a car in front of me slammed on his brakes, and I applied mine firmly–fortunately, I was hanging back far enough so that I didn’t have to panic stop–and the tires performed flawlessly.

So far, I haven’t pushed it really hard, even on the curvy route I take to and from work, but the Pilot road 2 has so far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve been told the BT021 is a grippier, sportier tire, so we’ll see how the PR2 works when I start to really blaze through the valley road, but so far, I’m very impressed and pleased with the Michelins.

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BMW S1000RR: 200HP+?

BMW S1000RR Dyno Chart
BMW S1000RR Dyno Chart

Motorcycle Daily reports that the BMW S1000RR appears to be a real superbike.

Apparently, our Brit cousins at MCN strapped the S1000RR to a dyno, and got the HP/Torque results shown over at the right (click to enlarge).  The results show 183HP at the rear wheel with stock exhaust, and 185.5 with an Akraprovic setup.

Oh, and about 81 lb-ft of torque, if anyone cares.

So, if they’re putting out 185 at the wheel, then they’ve got to be pushing 200+ HP at the crank, which is…a lot.  A lot more, in fact, than BMW even admits to.

As Gabe Ets-Hokin notes:

Used to be 180 hp at the back wheel was the result of tens of thousands of dollars of soup-up work: a turbo or nitrous, or just getting your hands on a megabucks works racebike.

Back when I was a kid in the 70s, we thought a 70HP bike was wicked fast.  200HP would have been seen as…insane.

BTW, the nearest competitor–according to the dyno-tested models, at least–to the S1000RR was the Suzuki Hayabusa at 179.5 HP.

Yet, with all that horsepower on tap, Troy Corser is being beaten like an egg-sucking dog in WSBK by guys riding 170.6 HP Fireblades.

Loser.

Electric Motorcycles Are Not Practical

Paul Crowe, over at the Kneeslider, addresses one of my personal hobby horses: electric motorcycles, and makes a key point.

The engineering expertise available today made short work of the obvious, designs began to make the bikes look good, powerful electric motors were built, the suspension is just adapted from standard models, nothing unusual there, it’s those pesky batteries. We need a small, light, fast charging, long lasting battery with big capacity. That, definitely, is not one of those easy parts, that’s a real head scratcher and, though there is a huge reward waiting for anyone who can design one, we’re just not there yet, which, itself, tells us a lot. Anyone who takes a cursory look at electric vehicles quickly sees the potential and monetary windfall waiting and still, no battery that takes the performance leap has been developed.

That last phrase is the key point.  No matter how much we might want or need electric vehicles–or some other zero-emissions technology–it will not magically appear simply because we want it…or because politicians mandate it by fiat.

Back in the 90’s, when I was hosting The Business Day on KMNY in Los Angeles, the state of California approved a mandate that required something like 40% of all vehicles be zero-emissions by 2006.  I spent an entire week talking to the big electric and alternate fuels execs at GM, Chrysler and Ford, and they all told me the same thing.  The technology to make electric vehicles with range and performance similar to internal combustion engined vehicles does not exist.

It didn’t exist in 1995.  It doesn’t exist today.  And despite the Olympian pronouncements of politicians in Sacramento, the zero-emissions mandate was superseded by that reality. And even if you get the range and power, there’s still the inconvenient 8-hour wait for the battery to recharge.

Somewhere, there’s a breakthrough in zero-emissions technology waiting to be found.  Until it is, though, all this electric motorcycle stuff is pure, feelgood, hype

Plastic Engines?

Here’s something I didn’t know.  There’s a compnay that’s been around for several years, and it makes plastic internal combustion engines.  The New York Times reports on Matti Holtzberg, an engineer in New Jersey, whose been building these things for quite a while.

Apparently, back in 1984 and 1985, he even raced a Ford Pinto with a plastic engine, and its only failure in the International Motor Sports Association’s Camel Lights series was a busted con rod–a bad part from a supplier (I wonder if it’s the same one that supplied the con rods for the Aprilia RSV4 Rs that went TU during the press launch?).

Anyway, the guy took an 88HP Pinto, pulled the 415-lb hunk of Ford iron from under the hood, and replaced it with a 152-lb plastic engine that put out 300 HP.

Obviously, there are difficulties replacing steel and aluminum in current engines.  And, of course, with aluminum engines, the plastic–polymer, actually–bits would only cut the weight by 30%.  Still, 30% is a signifigant savings. Imagine, if you will, a 250HP motorcycle that weighs 340 pounds.

Uh.  Hmmm.  Actually…that’s kind of scary.

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2010 Kawasaki Concours14 First look

Pete Brissette of Motorcycle.Com got to spend a day with a brand new 2010 Concours14 that had all the trimmings, including Kawasaki’s new linked ABS system and Traction control.  He really liked it, for a number of reasons.

First kawasaki really seems to have listed to their customers about what was good and bad on the 1st-Gen C14.  The top complaints were heat management and wind protection…not enough of either.  Both issues seem to have been addressed, with a completely new front fairing design, and a taller, wider windscreen that even  has a bit of a Cee bailey-type lip at the top.

Second, Kawi stuck factory grip heater on it (they look like they come from exactly the same parts supplier as the ones on my FJR), dumped the useless little tank box, and put a real storage box in the front of the fairing.

But the big news is the linked ABS and traction control. The linked ABS system runs as follows:

But what really sets the new linked-ABS apart is the rider-selectable level of linking. For starters, ABS cannot be disabled, but by pressing the orange K-ACT button (bike must be stopped to select modes) the rider can choose the “high-combined” effect in Mode 2 or the lesser-combined effect in Mode 1.

K-ACT mode selection impacts the amount of front brake application (only one of the two front calipers are involved regardless of Mode 1 or 2) when applying only the rear brake. The amount of linking applied to the rear when using the front brake remains constant.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of this type of linking system.  I prefer the BMW partially linked system, where the rear brake doesn’t engage the front at all, while the front lever engages both.  I realize this is probably a simple matter of preference, but I don’t want the front end to dive when I hit the back brake.

The traction control system seems like a neat safety feature, as long as you remember that it is just a safety feature.  It’s not the Troy Bayliss Ducati 1098 system that’s designed to make you faster.  It’s the “you’re getting a little crazy, let’s apply some sanity” system.

By controlling airflow (via secondary butterfly valves in the throttle body), fuel delivery and ignition timing, three parameters as opposed to the two of competitors according to Kawasaki, the system limits engine output when it senses the rear wheel spinning faster than the front.

And for those wondering, yes, it is a wheelie nanny, but only when enabled. Phew!

Most impressive was how seamlessly and unobtrusively KTRC performed. When power is cut, it isn’t done abruptly, nor is reapplication of power. Rather than a stumbly on/off throttle experience, the bike simply feels like it has a fraction of its available power.

All in all, it looks like Kawi has made an already well-received bike even better.

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Honda Unveils the VFR Transmission

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Honda Motorcycles gave us a much more detailed look at the multi-function transmission that they’ll be putting into the the new VFR1200 today.  As mentioned previously, the new transmission will operate in three modes: a 6-speed manual mode, which works like a standard motorcyle transmission, and two automatic modes–one for regular and one for sport riding.

The tranmission is also a duel-clutch transmission, i.e., it has two independent clutches, one of which operates on the even gears, with the other operating on odd gears.  Honda says that the two clutches provide seamless gear changes, and, unlike previous dual-clutch transmissions, avoids the usual bulk penalties by using dual input shafts, an in-line clutch design, and concentrating the hydraulic circuitry under the engine cover.

And the VFR isn’t the only place you’ll be seeing it.  Honda states that it “intends to gradually expand the deployment of the new transmission to more and more of its large-displacement motorcycles, particularly sports models destined for use in developed countries.”

In addition to the technical details, Honda has released a number of crawings to go along with them, which I append below, and which you can click to enlarge.

Those BMW Guys Get All the Nice Stuff

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BMW and Garmin have released a new motorcycle navigation device for BMW motorcycles, the BMW Navigator IV. It sounds very nice.

With a new slim design and custom BMW four-button mount cradle, the BMW Navigator IV includes a bright widescreen 4.3 inch display and waterproof design, configurable fields and display, stereo Bluetooth for hands-free calling, turn-by-turn directions and lane assist features with lane guidance and junction view.

 BMW Motorrad Navigator IV
BMW Motorrad Navigator IV

Of course, it’s specifically designed to be used while wearing gloves, too. It’s also got a lane assist feature that guides you through multiple lanes, and even displays road signs on the screen that look like the actual signs you see over the highway.

And, since it’s a BMW device, plan on shelling out about $1,000 for it, too.

BMWs are really the Swiss Army Knives of motorcycles.  BMW riders get spoken, turn by turn navigation through their Bluetooth-linked helmets.  Meanwhile, a gentleman such as myself, who rides an FJR, has to carry around paper maps like an animal.