Saturday, October 31, 2009

US Government agrees to extend loans to manufacturers of ‘high efficiency’ two- and three-wheelers

The US government wants to encourage manufacturers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, regardless of whether these have four, three or two wheels!

US President Barack Obama recently signed legislation which makes high-efficiency two- and three-wheeled vehicles eligible for loans under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Earlier, only conventional four-wheeled cars were eligible to apply for loans under this program. Now, however, various companies that are in the process of developing hybrid and/or electric three-wheelers and two-wheelers will also be able to get loans.

As much as US$25 billion has been allocated to the DOE for its ATVM loan program, which is designed to provide cheap capital for retooling old factories to produce vehicles that are at least 25% more fuel-efficient than the average 2005-model car. With the new legislation having been signed, all fully enclosed vehicles (including three-wheelers and two-wheelers) that are capable of carrying two adults and achieving at least 75mpg (32km/l) in terms of fuel efficiency, are eligible for getting loans from the DOE.

With loans becoming available, it should be interesting to see whether more manufactures will start development work on new, more fuel-efficient three- and two-wheeled vehicles in the US. Also, it remains to be seen whether these vehicles will be commercially viable in the short- to mid-term future.
This video shows why we love three-wheelers so much! :-D

V12 Honda CBX redefines ‘awesome’

A V12-engined Honda CBX is just the thing you need to show those Yamaha VMax and Triumph Rocket III guys a thing or two...

We’ve said this often in the past and we’ll say it again – we absolutely love the Honda CBX 1000. With its elegant lines and screaming six-cylinder engine, the CBX was, and remains to this day, an incredibly special machine.

We suppose it would take incredible talent to ‘improve’ on a standard CBX. Or, in the case of Andreas Georgeades, make it twice as outrageous and mechanically over the top as a regular CBX. Twice as outrageous? Yes, that’s precisely what Andreas’ V12-engined CBX is.

In his mid-60s now, Andreas was a fairly successful motorcycle racer in the 1960s, having raced against the likes of Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. Later, when he retired from racing, he took up building his own custom specials, which include no less than three Ferrari-engined motorcycles – two of those with six-cylinder engines from the Ferrari Dino (one of which even features a supercharger), and one with a V8 from the Ferrari 308!

Of course, Andreas didn’t stop there – after building six- and eight-cylinder motorcycles, how could he not build a V12-engined machine? So he started with two six-cylinder CBX engines, welding them together to create a 2,000cc V12. And as these pictures show, it must have been a diabolically difficult task.

Unfortunately enough, we don’t have more details on the machine – we don’t know how much power that V12 makes and we don’t have any acceleration or top speed numbers. Still, we’re hugely impressed with Andreas’ V12 CBX. Watch the video below to see Andreas fire up the machine, warm it up and take it for a ride down the street. Awesome!!

The V12 Honda CBX in action. The engine sounds amazing...

Via DucCutters, Flickr

Also see: Cycle magazine's
test of the 1978 Honda CBX, Motorcycle Classics' story on the CBX, and a shootout between the CBX, Benelli Sei 900 and Kawasaki Z1300

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shinya Nakano retires from racing, might continue as a development rider

Shinya Nakano has announced his retirement from motorcycle racing

Japanese rider Shinya Nakano has announced his retirement from professional motorcycle racing. Nakano, 32 years old now, raced in World Superbikes with Aprilia this year and has earlier raced in the GPs in the 250cc, 500cc, 990cc and 800cc classes, with Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki.

‘I’ve concentrated on treatment after breaking my collarbone during Round 3 in Spain and straining my neck in Round 11 in Germany. By missing a few races, I’ve been a burden to my team as well as to others involved,’ said Nakano while announcing his retirement. ‘I feel that as a professional rider, it’s time to stop racing if I’m not in a perfect condition to do so. I’ve given this a lot of thought the past few weeks, and I’ve come to this decision through my own will,’ he added.

‘Because of your support, I’ve been able to ride professionally for 13 years and participate in the world championships for 11 years, and I have had many precious experiences. From now on, if I can use such experiences to good use, I would like to keep contributing to the motorcycle world. I am looking forward to seeing you all in racing circuits in the near future, under different circumstances from now on,’ said Nakano, hinting at the fact that he might still be involved with the sport, perhaps as a development rider or in some other capacity.

We wish you all the best, Shinya!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

V8-engined Cosmos 4RWF, 2RWF from Brazil

475kg dry weight, 350bhp V8 engine, four wheels and hub-centre steering: The Cosmos 4RWF can't be for the faint of heart

Brazilian motorcycle nut Amadeu Ferreira Junior probably isn’t the kind of man who’d be happy with a stock Yamaha VMax or Triumph Rocket III – he’d want a bigger motor, with a bit more power. So, of course, he’s built his own V8-engined bikes, one of which actually has four wheels!

Ferreira’s (yes, the name sounds suitably close to Ferrari’s) bikes – the Cosmos 4RWF and 2RWF are fitted with 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8 engines that produce 350 horsepower at 5,250rpm. Which is just as well because the 4RWF weighs an almighty 475 kilos dry, while the 2RWF is a relative lightweight at just 420kg.

Apart from the massive engines, the Cosmos 4RWF is also fitted with four wheels – two each at the front and back – with hub-centre steering. If you want one of these, be prepared to shell out about US$93,000. And if that’s a bit too much, there’s the cheaper 2RWF for only $82,000. Visit the Cosmos website for more details.

The rather more conventional 2RWF is also $10,000 cheaper than the 4RWF. That side-stand could be a problem though...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Piaggio to invest 12 million euros towards the revival of Moto Guzzi

Piaggio will help Moto Guzzi with new bike development...

Roberto Colaninno, President of the Piaggio Group, recently announced that a new business plan is being worked out for Moto Guzzi and the company will be ready with some new bikes by 2011-12. Piaggio, which owns Moto Guzzi, was sanctioned a loan of 150 million euros from the European Investment Bank last year. Of this, about 12 million euros will be invested towards developing new bikes for Moto Guzzi.

Guzzi’s R&D activities will be moved to Piaggio’s facility in Noale, while production will continue at Mandello. The company, which currently produces around 3,500 bikes per annum, hopes to boost production to at least 4,500 bikes by 2010, at which point it will reach break-even point.

Established in the early-1920s, Moto Guzzi is one of Italy’s great, iconic motorcycle manufacturers who’ve fallen upon hard times. The company has produced some great machines over the years (we are great fans of the 1970s Le Mans 850) and we certainly hope Piaggio will be successful in resurrecting M-G.

Friday, October 23, 2009

2010 Kawasaki 1400 GTR riding impression

The much improved Kawasaki 1400GTR is a brilliant sports-tourer...

It’s been a terribly boring week. Nothing much seems to be happening at the Tokyo Motor Show – Kawasaki aren’t there, Suzuki are showing a fuel cell-powered scooter and Yamaha are showing a chassis wrapped in a bunch of rags. Indeed, apart from the Honda VFR1200F and CB1100 (both of which had already been unveiled before the Tokyo Show), nothing new or exciting seems to be happening this year. Guess we’ll have to wait for the EICMA in Milan next month for some real action…

In the meanwhile, Motociclismo recently had the opportunity to ride the 2010 Kawasaki 1400GTR, which comes with traction control this year. Here are some excerpts from what they have to say about Kawasaki’s hyper-tourer:

Thanks to the electronics, the 1400GTR has taken a big step forward this year. Kawasaki have listened to their customers and the result is that the bike now comes with second-generation ABS and a traction control system. The bodywork has been given a minor redesign for better dissipation of engine heat, the windscreen has been reshaped and its height has been increased by a bit, heated grips have been added, the glove compartment has been made more spacious and on-board computer can now be controlled via controls mounted on the handlebar.

The new 1400GTR’s chassis remains unchanged, but the suspension has been revised so that it works better with the bike’s anti-lock braking system. The new set-up works very well and is very communicative, and the bike feels very stable on the highway at high speeds. Of course, it’s a heavy bike (304kg claimed kerb weight) and you have to be careful with how you maneouver it at lower speeds and while suddenly braking hard.

Kawasaki’s K-ACT combined braking system, with ABS, works very well and with the bike fully loaded, provides powerful stopping performance from the twin 310mm front discs and single 240mm rear disc. While riding alone, however, and with the luggage bags removed (hence reduced weight), the ABS can be a bit more intrusive at times. The traction control also made a very positive impression – at no time does it cut in abruptly or suddenly interrupt the bike’s power delivery. It’s smooth and effective, allowing you to ride with more confidence on wet, slippery surfaces.

The Kawasaki 1400GTR’s 1,352cc inline-four remains perfect as ever – 155bhp and 136Nm of torque is a lot of power. But the engine is free from vibes and power delivery is smooth and consistent. Also, there is an eco mode that’ll help you get up to 10% better fuel efficiency, though performance suffers a bit. But it’s nice to be able to make that choice.

The new GTR will be priced at around 17,000 euros (US$25,500) and seems to be quite worth the money. Now the only question is if it’s a better sports-tourer than the new Honda VFR1200F. For that, you’ll have to wait for a few more weeks – a shootout between the two bikes should settle that one!

For the original article, visit the Motociclismo website here
A promo video for the new 2010 Kawasaki 1400GTR

Monday, October 19, 2009

2010 Honda VFR1200F: First ride by CMG Online

Can the new Honda VFR1200F live up to its pre-launch hype? Hmmm....

Right now, Costa Mouzouris has to be one of the luckiest motorcyclists in the world – he has filed what we think is the world’s first riding impression of the 2010 Honda VFR1200F, for the Canadian Motorcycle Guide. Here are some excerpts from what Mouzouris has to say about the new Honda:

‘Physically, the VFR1200 feels slimmer and lighter than bikes like the BMW K1300GT, the Yamaha FJR1300 and the Kawasaki Concours 14 – machines which the Honda will inevitably be compared with. It’s also lighter, according to the spec sheet, which puts its wet weight at 21 kilos lighter than the BMW K1300GT,’ says Mouzouris, who adds that the VFR’s fit and finish are impeccable and that the bike looks quite sleek.

Going on to compare the new bike’s riding position with that of the Honda ST1300’s, Mouzouris says the VFR’s riding position is not as relaxed and upright, though it’s still much closer to a grand-touring machine than that of a supersport. ‘The seat is wide and supportive, but more time in the saddle will reveal if the ergonomics can sustain long-distance travel. Reach to the ground will be easy for average sized riders,’ he says.

Of course, that brand-new V4 engine is what most people have been waiting for, and it doesn’t fail to impress. ‘The engine is remarkably torquey and very powerful. Throttle response is instantaneous but easily manageable,’ says Mouzouris. However, he seems to have been a bit disappointed with the Honda’s low-rpm pulling power. ‘I rolled on the throttle full from about 2,000rpm in second gear, expecting to have my arms stretched straight, but was surprised to discover that the engine pulled in a subdued manner,’ he says.

For those who aren’t convinced with Honda’s decision to go with shaft – rather than chain – drive on the new VFR, Mouzouris offers some reassurance. ‘Honda has done a remarkable job of controlling driveline lash, and rolling on and off the throttle is exceptionally smooth. As well, the gearbox on the manual-shift model we rode was light-shifting, precise and quiet. Also, the new drive shaft system, which locates the transmission output shaft below the swingarm pivot to reduce driveshaft jacking, works as claimed, with no noticeable hopping or squatting,’ he says.

Mouzouris concludes his report saying that he wasn’t too impressed with the VFR’s exhaust note when the engine was idling, though the sound improved under hard acceleration, at higher revs. He also says a more comprehensive riding impression might be on the way soon. So, of course, stay tuned…

See the original article on CMG Online here

Promo video for the VFR1200F. It's a bit dull, but you still might want to take a look anyway...

Mega Machines: SR-71 Blackbird vs Ducati Desmosedici GP9

In their own way, the Ducati Desmosedici GP9 MotoGP bike and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird military aircraft are two of the most badass machines ever made by man...

We love fast motorcycles more than airplanes, no question about that. For most journeys, if we could, we’d rather ride a Ducati 1198S than sit in the first class section of the latest Boeing passenger aircraft. Even the best of food, drink and smiling, pampering airhostesses aren’t really enough to outweigh the sheer adrenaline rush of riding a 180 horsepower motorcycle at full chat…

But there is indeed one aircraft that we lust after – the mighty SR-71 Blackbird – which makes even MotoGP bikes look as dull as 50cc Chinese-built mopeds. Designed by Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson and his team, the SR-71 was built by Lockheed Skunk Works, first flew in 1964 and was finally retired in 1998. Only 32 were ever built, of which about 20 are still supposed to exist in aviation museums, NASA research centres and the like.

So why is the SR-71 so special? Hmmm… built for ‘strategic reconnaissance’ (hence the ‘SR’ in its name), this US military aircraft was fitted with twin Pratt & Whitney J58-P4 turbojet/ramjet engines, which together produced 65,000 pounds of thrust. While we can’t quote the equivalent horsepower figure (to find out why, see here), the thrust was enough to allow the Blackbird to accelerate away from most missiles. Yes, standard evasive action for SR-71 pilots, if they ever detected a missile coming towards the plane, was simply to accelerate away!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Darren Haley builds ‘night vision’ system for his BMW R1150GS

In the dark, Darren Hayley's night vision system improves visibility beyond what a conventional headlamp can provide
Via Wired

Back in June this year, we had speculated that the 2010 Kawasaki 1400GTR might get ‘night vision’ technology, which is already being fitted to some high-end cars. Now while that hasn’t happened, 34-year-old Darren Haley – who works at Flir, a leader in thermal imaging technology – has prepared his own ‘night vision’ system for his BMW R1150GS.

Haley’s system consists of an infrared camera mounted above the bike’s right turn indicator (see pic above), which feeds its video stream on to the on-board GPS unit’s screen. In the dark, the camera picks up objects that can’t be seen with the naked eye and which the bike’s headlamp fails to reveal. ‘I use it like I would a rear-view or side-view mirror. The display allows you to see the lines of the road without having to look at oncoming cars’ headlights,’ says Haley. Indeed, used judiciously, the infrared camera-based night vision system might be an invaluable safety feature on bikes.

The camera used on Haley’s system is shockproof and weatherproof, though the GPS unit’s display has to be protected from bad weather. Still, that can’t be an insurmountable challenge and Haley continues to develop and refine the system. He thinks a mainstream manufacturer could produce this system and sell it for less than $2,000. We think it’s a brilliant idea and we hope some motorcycle manufacturer likes it, picks it up and develops it further.

Claudio Castiglioni: ‘We must now go forward and resume interrupted work!’

Claudio Castiglioni, former owner of MV Agusta, remains confident that the company will continue to operate without trouble and will only grow in the near future

Within hours of Harley-Davidson announcing that they will shut down Buell and sell MV Agusta, Motociclismo were able to speak to Claudio Castiglioni, from whom Harley had bought MV last year and who still continues to head MV operations in Italy.

‘We are preparing to put up a great show at EICMA in Milan this year, where MV will unveil two new bikes. It would have been better for us had this news [of Harley’s decision to sell MV] come out later. But I am told this news had to be released immediately due to the requirements of the American Stock Exchange. But, perhaps, it’s just as well. MV is a strong brand, loved by all. The bikes that we will present at EICMA will be even more appreciated,’ said Castiglioni.

‘After Tamburini left us, our capacity to do another great bike had been diminished. So we must now go forward and resume interrupted work. To be honest, I think it would be logical – from the business perspective – that MV should move back into Italian ownership,’ said Castiglioni, perhaps implying that he might actually purchase MV back from Harley!

Here at Faster and Faster, we are very big fans of MV Agusta – we absolutely love the marque, the brand and their utterly gorgeous motorcycles – and we’d certainly be happy to see MV ownership return to Italy. It would also be great to see Massimo Tamburini return to MV and design their next supersports machine. Wishful thinking? Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn’t stop us from dreaming…

Buell to be shut down, MV Agusta to be sold: Harley-Davidson unveils new business strategy

In a shocking statement released to the press yesterday, Harley-Davidson have announced that they will shut down Buell completely and stop production of all Buell motorcycles. The company will also sell MV Agusta, which it only acquired in 2008.

These decisions come in the wake of declining sales and revenues for Harley. Sales were down 21% during the third quarter this year, net income was down 84% and earnings per share were down 84.5% for Harley-Davidson. ‘Moving forward, our strategy is designed to strengthen Harley-Davidson for long-term growth and deliver results through increased focus,’ said Keith Wandell, CEO, Harley-Davidson Inc.

‘As our announcement regarding Buell and MV Agusta indicates, we are moving with the speed and decisiveness required to bring our business strategy to life. The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful, long-term growth. We believe we can create a bright long-term future for our stakeholders through a single-minded focus on the Harley-Davidson brand,’ said Wandell.

Harley-Davidson expect to incur about $125 million in one-time costs related to the discontinuation of the Buell product line. The company expects to incur about $115 million of that amount this year. Remaining inventories of Buell motorcycles, accessories and apparel, while they last, will continue to be sold through authorized dealerships. Warranty coverage will continue as normal for Buell motorcycles and Harley will provide replacement parts and service through its dealerships.

Harley will, with immediate effect, also begin efforts to find a suitable buyer for MV Agusta, which is based in Varese, Italy. 'Our objective in acquiring MV Agusta last year was primarily to expand our presence in Europe, and was a recognition of MV Agusta's proud legacy. While growth in Europe and other global markets remains highly important to us, we believe that focusing our efforts on the Harley-Davidson brand is the optimal path to sustainable growth," said Matt Levatich, President and COO, Harley-Davidson. 'This decision was not made lightly, [however] with a streamlined business and an exciting product pipeline. we sincerely believe that MV Agusta is well positioned for the future,' he added.

We really don’t know how to react to this piece of news. Harley deciding to sell MV isn’t that big a deal – in fact we wonder why they bought Harley at all since there seem to be no business synergies whatsoever between the two brands. If anything, MV will probably be better off being sold to a more appropriate (preferably European) buyer who can focus completely on the MV brand.

However, Buell being shut down is a major shock. The company has, over the last few years, built some truly exciting, innovative motorcycles and the brand to suddenly disappear is certainly a terrible thing to happen. (Some might remember, UK's BIKE magazine once rated the Buell XB12R Firebolt as the world's best handling motorcycle, ahead of various GSX-Rs, Ducatis, KTMs, Hondas and Yamahas!) Our understanding of the business of motorcycles may be limited, but we do wonder why Harley wouldn’t sell – rather than shut down – Buell to an outside investor who’s prepared to invest in the brand and continue growing it?

Definitely a dark, sad day for the motorcycle industry and for motorcyclists everywhere, regardless of whether or not you actually own or ride a Buell motorcycle. Our sympathies are with Buell employees, most of whom will lose their current jobs by mid-December this year.

Erik Buell speaks about Harley's decision to discontinue the Buell brand. Erik may continue to work with Harley-Davidson in an advisory capacity

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan ride in Melbourne to promote the Australian MotoGP

Aussie legends Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan put on a 'demo ride' in Melbourne today, as part of a build-up to this weekend's Australian MotoGP


As part of a build-up for this weekend’s Australian MotoGP, Wayne Gardner (1987 500cc MotoGP world champ) and Mick Doohan (1994-1998 500cc MotoGP world champ) rode across the city of Melbourne today, on their Honda Fireblades.

Wayne Gardner was in the news recently, when he expressed his views on Casey Stoner’s mysterious break from racing. However, Gardner also said his money would be on Stoner for winning this year’s Australian MotoGP.

In an interesting aside, Valentino Rossi’s chief mechanic, Jeremy Burgess recently spoke of how multi-time MotoGP world champs Rossi and Doohan are different. ‘When a rider like Mick or Valentino strings a number of world championships together, it’s clear that they are in a different group. Certainly, they are very different in the box. Valentino is happy-go-lucky, but still very serious about his job and enjoys it very much. Mick certainly was more intense. He was serious about what he did and achieved plenty. You could look at it in one sentence and say that Valentino enjoys the racing whereas Mick Doohan enjoyed the winning,’ said Burgess, who has worked with both riders and has been instrumental in their success over the years.



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