Jan 31, 2007

Monday Photos: Thorns

Thorns, originally uploaded by Caughtilya.

Negative Trail

Look at a motorcycle spec sheet - not the ones on the back of the bike brochures from showrooms - the genuine ones with all of the little details. Scan down the list until you come a column called trail. That's right, we're going to talk about that inocuous looking number (usually in mm) today. First in general, and then in a specific, rather hazardous situation.

Trail, to define the term is a measured length. The first point of this length is the centre of the contact patch of the front tyre of the bike. The other is the point where the steering axis intersects the ground. Most engineering books usually simplify this by saying that 'for simplicity's sake, we'll assume that the steering axis passes through the axis of the wheel (axle).' Wheels can be mounted offset from the telescopic forks, which will affect the trail figure.

Now, then the front wheel turns, a fairly complex physics-type thing happens. It really is a complex thing and uses lots of long formulae to explain the entire event. But, the upshot is that motorcycles with a larger trail number usually exhibit a stronger self-righting effect. As in, the motorcycle will want to eliminate the deviation and if not corrected, will return the wheel to the centre automatically.

The most obvious example (and unfortunately) the most quoted one is that of a bike where the rider has fallen off. In most cases, the motorcycle will lean sickeningly and then correct it. If it's going fast enough, eventually, it'll actually settle into a straight path before falling over once the speed runs out, or crash into something. The leaning over, and then righting the lean is the effect of trail.

Too much trail is not a good thing either. It makes the steering feel heavy and the motorcycle feel like it does not want to change direction at all. Choppers and most cruisers sport fairly large trail numbers, so it isn't surprising that they don't really corner that well. On the other hand, notice what're called power cruisers (Yamaha Warrior, Harley V-Rod etc). You'll notice the lower trail figures.

Also note that since the front suspension dives and extends with acceleration, and also happens to flex a bit, trail, on the move is a moving target. It increases under acceleration (one of the reasons it is harder to turn on the throttle) and decreases under braking and off the throttle (which is why all riding skills gurus recommend turning into corners off throttle).

Now you have understood the basics of what trail is. We've also established that it's a great friend, always on the look out to help you. But there's a specific situation where it turns into the enemy.

And it's called negative trail. Imagine that the ground wasn't fully horizontal. Suppose you measured trail say halfway up the slope of a fairly steep speedbreaker. The rising surface would be move the contact patch centre ahead of the steering axes and the trail number would turn negative. Which explains the etymology of the name. In feel turns, the righting effect of the trail gets replaced by a destabilizing effect. If you were turning just a bit right (or left) as you hit the slope, the sudden arrival of negative trail would be felt as a sudden tendency of the bike to turn harder right (or left). If you didn't correct the unintended steering movement, the bar would roll all the way to the stop, and you'd either make an uninteded about turn, or more likely, topple into an ungainly heap.

Does this actually happen? Oh yes. I remember that I used to love blasting out of the underground parking lot of this five star hotel. The guard, who knew me (and my RD), would tell me in good time if there was any cross traffic (the exit ramp crossed the hotel entrance at right angles). So I could let it all hang out, so to speak. Once I crossed that, there would be a gentle downslope with a nasty, steep but small speedbreaker at the end. I only ever hit it at an angle once, one the brakes and the slightly turned to the left. And blow me down if the damn handle didn't turn all the way left. I must have been damn quick with the correction, so I didn't topple over, but I came damn close. That was the last time I hit the speedbreaker (and any others) at an angle. Now, the only time I recommend taking a speedbreaker at any angle other than perpendicular is if your bike is too low slung to clear it straight on.

Read more:
Tony Foale | American-V | Motorcycle dynamics - Wikipedia | Trail - msgroup.org

Photos: KTM/H Mitterbauer Ugly but effective graphics: rearset

Raise your forks!

You've read that long piece on trail, right? Assuming that your front suspension was cast in concrete (as in fixed - no possible alteration in steering angle or trail), could you fiddle with it? Actually, yes. Try this. Certain Indian bikes can't do this, but on most, if you loosen the bolts holding the fork stanchions, you can slowly work the forks higher up through the triple tree. If you are going to try this, do one fork at a time, and match both sides exactly, otherwise, you'll completely ruin the handling and render it unsafe. Even a tiny change will create an impact. The higher you raise the fork stanchions through the triple tree, the quicker your bike will turn. It will trade in overall stability for being able to turn into the corners much, much faster. Overdo it, and you'll end up with a bike that's as twitchy and nervous as the typecast schizophrenic from bollywood. So do this progressively and stop when you are comfortable. In most cases, you will end up a with a motorcycle that feels more alive, a bike returning more feedback and one that drops into corners so fast, you'll be laughing all the way. Physics wise, there are two things that happen when you raise the forks through the clamps. First, it tips the bike on its nose, just a little bit. Which makes the bike turn faster. It also sharpens the steering angle and in the process, reduces trail a bit as well. All you need, to do this, is some time, and the right size spanner.

Other links on this subject: webbikeworld

Lazy Fingers

We're lazy. You should already be riding so that you cover the front brake lever with two (Rossi prefers three) fingers, while gripping the handlebar grip with the other two fingers. The logic is simple. You can brake earlier in an emergency – I'm told the difference is half a second, which is quite a number of feet when you're going fast.

But we're lazy. When you're braking into a panic stop, two fingers are a good beginning, they're a bad end. As the weight begins to transfer forward, and the lever comes back towards the grip, you should also be adding a finger or two to the brake pressure end of things.

In the middle of the corner, where you need to be finessing the throttle, Rossi uses no fingers on the brake lever at all. The message is simple: don't get lazy. The fingers need to be moved around for best effect, so do it. Cover that lever. And when you need to add more fingers to the brake lever. And when you need to, take all of them off as well.

Images from Yamaha Racing

Cornering: Lean it in

There is a misconception that leaning out of the corner (as in letting the bike do the leaning while you don't) is a good idea. It isn't. Leaning out is only useful in two situations the first is in the dirt (if you have knobbly tyres) and when taking slow speed U-turns (this requires a bit of skill). In all other situations, you should lead into the corner with your shoulders. Which means you will lean into the corner. In effect, you lean angle should be greater than that of the bike. It allows the bike to stay more vertical (gives you more grip, and if you're fast enough, more clearance and time before stuff begins to scrape). Don't believe me? Rossi leans in too. In the pic, the dashed red line is the lean angle of the bike (always measured in degrees from the vertical (red line with arrowhead). The white line is Rossi's lean angle.

Experientially learnt riding isn't always right, it only appears to be.

Image: Yamaha Racing. Ugly but effective graphics: rearset

Jan 29, 2007

Invisible Man

A very relevant traffic tip for new riders. An excerpt is below and there is lots more wisdom where that came from

On the street, you are invisible. You must always be aware that you are invisible.
I mostly agree with this tip. Riding high beam in India is not possible without a million people making the 'boob' sign at you. They all think you've forgotten to turn it off. And then, eventually, a cop will stop you and buttonhole you about it. For our situation, I use the full lamps through intersections and pilot lamps everywhere else. It's one of the reasons I think bikes with pilot lamps are safer... The full tip is at my favourite no bullshit motorcycle news site: motorcycledaily

Kinetic's Italiano Calendar

Here it is Ladies and Gentlemen, all the pics from Kinetic's Italiano Calendar launch. My comments at the end.

It's not what you think. The lady is wearing a
very becoming short dress in black. Scroll down...

Lots of photographers fought each other out to get this shot. The fighting got worse when the offending shot in the foreground was relocated to let the Lady in Black show off her legs...

The calendar was supposed to be a brand extension exercise for the Blaze (a man's scooter etc). What do I think? Well, an Indian company who purchased the rights to an Italian scooter, commissioned an ad agency, who hired out an Indian Location and three copies of PhotoShop, Ukranian (okay, East European) girls... Nice eh?
Photos by AC

Bajaj Pulsar 200: Full Specs

Technical specifications for Pulsar DTSi - 200
Specs sourced from here. For those who don't know, the BajajPulsar group on Yahoo is one of the most vibrant and insightful motorcycle groups on the web. Oh, and photo mooched from another Indian motorcycle blog: neo999

  • Type Four stroke, Natural air cooled/oil cooled.
  • No. of cylinders One.
  • Bore 67 mm Stroke 56.4 mm
  • Engine displacement 198.8 cc
  • Compression ratio 9.5 *+* 0.5 : 1
  • Idling Speed 1400 *+*100 rpm.
  • Maximum net power 18 Ps (Bajaj figures convert directly to bhp)/13.25Kw
  • Maximum net torque 17.17 Nm/1.75kg
  • Ignition system Digital CDI
  • Ignition Timing 10° 1400 rpm 28° 3500 rpm
  • Fuel Unleaded petrol. Carburettor UCAL MIKUNI BS29
  • Spark Plug : 2Nos. Champion RG4HC (Resistive)
  • Spark plug gap0.6 to 0.8 mm
  • Lubrication Wet sump, Forced
  • Starting Electric Start only
  • Clutch Wet, multidisc type.
  • Transmission 5 speed constant mesh.
  • Primary reduction 3.47 : 1 (66/19)
  • Gear Ratios 1st 26.04 : 1 (36/13) 2nd 17.67 : 1 (32/17) 3rd 12.97 : 1 (29/21) 4th 10.15: 1
  • (26/24) 5th 8.65 : 1 (24/26)
  • Final Drive Ratio 2.71 : 1 (38/14)
  • Frame type Double cradle type.
  • Suspension: Front Telescopic (Stroke - 130 mm.)
  • Rear Trailing arm with coaxial gas assisted hydraulic shock absorbers and coil springs.
  • Brakes:
  • Tyres: 90x90 X 17, 49P, Tubeless
  • Tyre pressure:
  • Rims : Front : 2.50 x 17
  • Fuel tank capacity15 litres.
  • Controls :* Steering Handle bar Accelerator Twist grip type on right hand side of handle bar. Gears Left foot pedal operated Clutch Lever operated on left side of handle bar. Choke Push-Pull knob on carburettor. Brakes Front :Lever operated on right side of handle bar. Rear : Pedal operated by right foot.
  • Length :2035 mm.
  • Width : 750 mm
  • Height :1165 mm.
  • Wheel base :1350 mm.
  • Turning circle radius : 2500 mm.
  • Ground Clearance:165mm.
  • Vehicle kerb weight: 145 Kg
  • Max. total weight : 280 Kg.
  • System 12 Volts (D.C.)
  • Battery 12V 9Ah MF type
  • Head lamp 35/35 W Pilot lamp( 2 nos ,5 W each)
  • Tail/stop lamp LED/LED
  • Turn signal lamp :10 W
  • Turn signal pilot lamp : LED
  • Side stand indicator lamp : LED
  • Hi beam indicator lamp : LED
  • Neutral indicator lamp : LED
  • Speedometer lamp : LCD Display
  • Rear No. plate Lamp : 5 W
  • Horn :12 V DC
  • Maximum speed :130 km/h with single rider (68 kg)
  • Climbing ability : 28 % (160)
Boring in parts, eh? Okay. Here's the stuff. Bajaj is likely to launch the bike very soon, and you could see an announcement as soon as the first week of February itself. As expected, the 200 has 18 bhp on offer and is going to slot in between the 180 and 220. Which should mean roughly Rs 75000 on-road (Pune). Which, again, is great value. It has all the gizmos from the 220 but for the fuel injection.

Of all the Pulsars, I think the tank extensions on the front make this my favourite Pulsar in looks terms. Although, I'd have junked the fairing for a MT-01/FZ-1N style naked headlamp. Would have looked more aggro and different... As usual, can't wait to get my grubby paws on it...

Jan 27, 2007

Brio: restaurant review

Hidden behind the Juhu Shoppers' Stop (Chandan Cinema) is a little nook of a Bistro Cafe called Brio. Owned jointly by Shoppers' Stop and Blue Foods, it's almost impossible to spot it from the front of the mall, especially if you didn't know it existed. Even if you were inside the Shoppers' it's hard to spot. The entrance is a hole in the wall with a glass door and guard. Hidden behind the Ladies Western Wear section.

Which is sad, because it is a great place to eat. The Wife and I went there for dinner last night and had the best Bruschetta I've had the pleasure of inhaling so far. It was so good, we had two of those. We also had a non-Hershey's choc syrup Chocolate Shake, a nifty Cold Iced Coffee, a brilliant, fresh Spicy Chicken Paprika & Cheese Crepe, a great Focaccia Sandwich and a so-so Tiramisu. For 600 bucks. Good job, yeah?

It's a nice place. It was crowded yesterday (table wait was forty minutes!) and that gave us time to head into the Crossword and pick up some stuff. We ended up buying Rang De Basanti DVD, Jamiroquai's High Times (greatest hits) and Andrea Bocelli's superb Amore. All in all a great evening. Try it, you won't regret it.

Jan 25, 2007

New Zeus and Heat from Suzuki

Like I (and about 6 million other people - who voted by not buying any) have said in the past, Suzuki's Zeus and Heat were good enough motorcycle-wise but complete duds value-wise. Well, here's a pic that could change that a bit...New Suzuki Heat

“The Joy Of Riding” Comes True Suzuki unleashes its upgraded motorcycles

Mumbai, 23rd Jan 07: Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of one of the world’s leading two-wheeler manufacturer Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan has upgraded their existing two motorcycles Zeus and Heat. The Zeus will now be available in three exciting variants Zeus DU, Zeus EU and at the top end the Zeus CD. Entering the two-wheeler segment recently, SMIPL has strategically planned to upgrade their motorcycles to meet the demands of the 125cc segment.

The three variants of Zeus will target young college students and executives, who want contemporary styling clubbed with excellent performance. Zeus CD the top end variant will be fitted with attractive new features like Alloy wheels, Self-Start, Disc Brakes & Top of the line body graphics. The Zeus EU will be equipped with alloy wheels, self-start & new body graphics. The Zeus DU will now be fitted with a self-starter. The commonality of all three bikes is a clear lens indicator and an all-aluminum engine powered with the state-of-the art XTP technology (Extra Torque Performance) engine that boasts of Suzuki’s cutting edge technology. The Zeus CD, Zeus EU and Zeus DU will be priced at Rs. 46326, Rs. 44726 and Rs. 42725 respectively, ex-showroom Delhi.

In addition to upgrading the Zeus, SMIPL has also enhanced the Heat motorcycle. This product will have all new body graphics and alloy wheels, which will give the motorcycle a new look and feel. The new Heat will be priced at Rs 35100, ex- showroom Delhi.

The three new Zeus variants and the Heat will be available in four exciting colors at the 105 Suzuki dealerships across India, and would for the first time carry the metallic S logo emblem on the fuel tank.

“Zeus & Heat our two motorcycles which were launched in 2006 have had a very positive response from consumers. At Suzuki we always believe in innovating and re- inventing our products and therefore we have upgraded our two motorcycles Zeus & Heat to offer consumers an advanced riding experience. Sales to-date of our motorcycles has been phenomenal and we are sure that the upgraded versions will exceed customer expectations in all aspects.”, said - Mr. Katsumi Takata, Joint Managing Director Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd.
New Suzuki Zeus

What should TVS do in 2008?

It's an interesting question, no? For the uninitiated, let me paint up a quick perspective for that question. Until launching the Apache, TVS wasn't known for many things. On that list, and near the top, were items like styling, enthusiast appeal and crucially, timing. With the Apache, TVS proved that they could actually style up a product to tickle the enthusiast. Yes, there has been some debate about how much of the Apache resembles the Pulsar etc. But we shall not go there right now. The Apache also proved that timing remains an issue. The Apache came out at the fag end of the first 150 skirmishes, missing most of the action. And then, within a few months (just as TVS were getting into the full productions swing of things), Bajaj had the digitally boosted 150 (Phantom) out. Oo er...

Now, the question is, what should TVS do in 2008. First the generals and the specifics. In general, TVS should work faster, and ramp up production quicker. I've seen the months it takes for the company to bring up production numbers to match demand and by that time a fair number of prospective customers have already made other purchases. And are busy telling their friends funny tales about how the TVS dealer hadn't a bike to sell him! They should also launch products quicker. Some development and upgrade cycles are too long. Thorough engineering (a traditional TVS strength) is great, but if it means you will always, perpetually, play catch up, it isn't really worth much in sales terms, is it? Third, TVS needs to commit to a stance. The Apache, for instance, was for the enthusiast. So why, oh why, did they stop just short and give it commuter ergos? Who were they aiming to please?

Now to the specifics. Since the question is too open ended let's add some restrictors. It should be a premium segment bike – since I couldn't be bothered to dissect future trends in the commuter market. It should be reasonable. Which means saying that TVS should make a 16000cc inline 16 with 6000 bhp and two wheels isn't gonna cut it. (It'd be nice, eh?). It should not be outrageously expensive. And it should be a real, saleable bike.

Let's see. If I were TVS, I'd start by looking at what would bring me image. Why? Because if TVS are to play the premium segment game with any success then they must be perceived as a dashing, smashing sort of brand.

So, what would I do. If the market forecasts that float about are correct, Bajaj will have a 300-odd cc product in the market during that year. But obviously, if the 220 is priced at Rs 84,000 on-road (Pune), then the 300 should touch the lakh mark.

Should TVS aim for a 500, then? I would. But it isn't a reasonable proposition, so forget it. In which case, what I would do is to launch a superb 250. It won't be cheap, but it'd be incomparable. And that will bring the sales. That means 25 kpl, RD350 beating performance (please don't give my any horseshit about that not being possible), and single-minded performance focus. With Intensity.

Plus it would have to have all the goodies. That means, sexy alloy wheels, tubeless tyres (ideally low profile, performance spec), upside down forks, monoshock, clip-ons, standard seat cowl (to convert it to a single seater), fuel injection, maintenance-free battery, digital dash and a sexy (foreign bike aping) exhaust.

Basically, it'd have to match (ideally outdo) the 220 for features and beat it for performance. The price could be a bit more, and that would be just fine. I would also take the bike way ahead of the Apache on styling and give it a new name entirely. I'd look at it as the smallest product from a platform that could yeild products up 400-500cc in the future. I'm a little cross-eyed about whether I'd put a fairing on it or not, but I think I would. I'm not convinced other manufacturers would have done that by then, in which case, it would be another feather in the TVS cap.

For inspiration, I'd look at the following bikes:
Ducati Monster, Cagiva Raptor, Cagiva Mito, Aprilia RS50

TVS Apache: 70 kpl?

TVS ApacheWhoa baby! I've just been told that a TVS dealer in Mira Road, Mumbai told one of my office colleagues some incredible news. He claimed that the Apache returned 70 kpl in real world riding.

No it isn't a new variant (or a real world where all roads run downhill). It's just one of those dealers-will-say-anything type of situations. Do you have a story like this to tell as well? Mail me.

Incredible India: The Photo

This is a photo of an alleged vintage photo of erm, forgein tourists at some event in Rajasthan. I say alleged because the chap in the middle seems to be holding a fairly recent digital camera.

Jan 23, 2007

Great Nurburgring Film by BMW USA

It seems BMW USA commissioned this great Nürbürgring film (Autoblog calls it the track that has claimed numerous lives and Niki Lauda's ears... heh heh). Check it out.

Jan 22, 2007

Riding Mantra: #999.99

and did they get you to trade
your heros for ghosts?
hot ashes for trees?
hot air for a cool breeze?
cold comfort for change?
and did you exchange
a walk on part in the war
for a lead role in a cage?
-Pink Floyd in
Wish You Were Here

Monday Photo: MusaBhai

MusaBhai, originally uploaded by Caughtilya.

Jat Musa Ghulam. Perhaps the best Jodia Pawa player in India today. And the only musician of his kind left in Kutchh

MotoGP 2007: Wild predictions

You stand a better chance of fighting your way through the field from a poor grid position on a good race tire, than you do defending a front row position on a race tire which isn't working. This will turn out to be the most underestimated factor in MotoGP for 2007.
Nice article on a wild guesses and speculation on what will happen in MotoGP 2007.

Original article is here. I found the link here

Jan 20, 2007

Intensity: that's what we don't get any more

Yamaha RD350B 1973 from yamaha-france.comToday, I realize that we have steadily been anesthetized. That we've buried the wealth of experiences that we had gathered. And never returned to the grave. We've forgotten the joy of unbridled acceleration. We've lost the feeling of treading on the very edge, just about in control. We no longer recall the smell of motorcycles. And we've lost our ability to hear them as well. And not just because they've lost their voices.

I rode home on a Honda Shine today - I didn't feel a thing. With me, a colleague rode an RD350 exactly halfway. Sometimes he was ahead, and sometimes, out of politeness (or respect for my seniority), he'd let me pass. Sometimes I'd feel the warm scent of freshly burnt premix wafting deliciously around me, sometimes I'd hear two pistons hammering away just a few feet away. All the time unlocking unused, dusty chests of memories. Of hard rides. Of near misses. Of adrenaline. Of fear. And of unwavering intensity.

It wasn't a light ride. There was traffic and we were both making time through it. While the Shine slipped through traffic like an assassin's blade, the RD350 attacked it full and frontal. Like it feared no one. Like an absolute. Like it held no fear of what it was and what people and their laws thought of it. Naked and proud.

It's voice jabbing this way and that. The tearing wave of sound that leapt over buses, screamed under them, wrapped itself around air-conditioned cars... it was everywhere. And then, in a flash, gone. Leaving behind only a sepia contrail of nostalgia. Curling in the shocked wind for a moment.

Many heads that turned wondered what memory awoke fleetingly in their minds. But they forgot the smell before they could remember. The source, by then, a shrieking fury disappearing rapidly in the distance. A meaningless smoky shape spearing towards a dark horizon that lies just beyond the last streetlight. A flash of daylight in the gathering night, already gone.

We've gotten used to congratulating ourselves on our little toys. We've forgotten the time when bikes would literally wrench your arms out of their little sockets. When we feared our steeds. When eye-opening performance was dearer than fuel. But today I smelt it again. I tasted it. I bathed in it. I felt it.

Yamaha RD350B from bsmotoring.comHere's the only other RD350 post I've ever put up.
Image from bsmotoring.com

The Review: Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi

Offical image of the launch spec Bajaj Pulsar DTS-FiYes, I rode it. The 220, that is. And I'm remiss on the riding impression. So here goes. First of all, the two big questions.

  1. Is it impressive?
    Oh yes it is. Very much so. Without a doubt, it gets my vote for the best motorcycle in the country today. Overall. I still have a couple of bones to pick with it....

  2. Karizma beater?
    What's a Karizma? You mean that little yellow speck in my fold-away, fairing-mounted, shapely mirrors?
Now for the guts and glory bits, eh?

Mechanically speaking
This is easily the most well-engineered Bajaj bike yet. It has an almost disappointing Honda-like civility. It's not as noisy as the older Pulsars. And you could keep a coin on the tank and rev it to the moon (or rev limiter, whichever is earlier) without aforementioned coin sliding off. Gears snick into place with minimal fuss, the clutch take up is very progressive. Despite trying, I could not trick the gearbox into missing a shift, had no trouble finding neutral and it all worked just the way it should.

Which is why the bike (as I said) didn't leave me as excited as I could have been. It's too civil. Not that I want a harsh, vibey old thing, but that its too smooth in its power delivery. You almost don't notice the speed. Not until I found a helpfully aggressive chap (220? Bajaj? Pchah! Race lagaayega?) on the aforementioned yellow Karizma did it become emphatically obvious how fast the thing really is (all usual disclaimers against racing on streets apply. Only did it because of the lack of space - to ride - and time - owner was getting itchy).

On its own, the digital tacho shows perpetually climbing numbers, the sounds rise a bit, the scenery blurs by a bit quicker. That's it. I wish the FI curves were a bit more aggro. I don't know if that's possible but I do wish the bike blew harder from the word go. As in its too much of a gentlemen. I wish it'd punched me in the nose a couple of times, that would have helped the love and the excitement, eh?

On any terrain, nothing in India's gonna catch it. Its surefooted, confident and can be relied on to get a move on. A couple of times, I caught myself not backing off even in dirty corners, expecting the whole package to just samba on without a twitch. And both times, that's exactly what happened. Absolutely amazing. Astoundingly good, even. The chassis re-tune works. Period.

The Karizma upgrade will need to answer some hard, hard questions in corners when it comes.

And it isn't a sportsbike for only the greatest of roads either. The 220 has gained a nice balance on the ride front too. It feels sporty and absorbs almost everything without as much as a raised eyebrow. I rode it through a stretch where cars and trucks has pretty much blasted off chunks of tarmac from the top layer. At high speed and at low speed. And I have nothing to report. No worries, no problems, no shocks, nothing. This is a truly great package.

More love for the brakes as well. They're great. They talk to you through the fingers, have great power, and should stoppie the 220 easy (I didn't try - I'd mooched the bike from a fairly reluctant owner; which is also not to say that I can, in fact, stoppie it in the first place).

It's comfy all right, but there is a hitch. The fixed fairing comes back a bit too much and unless you're sitting so that the tailbone is touching the seatstep, your knees will be rubbing on the fairing. That's a bit uncomfortable.I guess when you are riding it in jeans, I'd grip the tank quite hard before hitting the brakes hard. In riding pants, the armour has that privilege of being very intimate with the fairing end. Shorties - I'm guessing 5'5" and below won't notice this.


Other niggles
  • Why have a removable seat with storage space and then put the release under lock and key in the side panel?

  • White wheels instead of silver?

  • Tubeless tyres look identical to normal ones. Why? A different pattern, or name or something would have been a nice differentiator.

  • Why no clock in the dash?
    I for one found the Kari's clock damn useful on longer trips...

  • Eyesore of a front numberplate

  • Looks identical to every other Pulsar except for the front fairing

  • Don't think the bike's too pretty front on either

  • Clear indicators look naff all. Would've preffered orange LED ones, a slim line integrated in the mirror... lovely!

  • Clips not too adjustable

  • External tubing for the oil cooler looks plenty ugly

  • Engine kill switch is upside down. And ugly brown

  • From what I know, they're coming in unadventurous colours. Why? Why not a orange one? Pearl white? Metalflake silver? Gixxer blue? Kawa green?

  • Returns almost 40 kpl! What nonsense! I want only 25 kpl. And 25 bhp to go with that.
Phenomenal! Dirt cheap, even.

(Oh! we're giving verdicts now?) In a nutshell, if it weren't for the utter civility and the neutrality of the bike, I'd buy it. Right now. If I weren't such a rush-head, this would be my bike. A keeper for a year or two at the very least. By then, of course, some 300s, 400s would have come and I'd be ready to upgrade...

Other posts about the DTS-Fi

Indicative reasoning

Ever had a crash because you forgot you had the indicator on and the chap behind you assumed you were actually going to take a turn? Riding the Honda Shine today, I came upon a simple solution. When you're about to take a left turn, you thumb the indicator switch to the left, right? And to take a right turn... you do the opposite. Correct? Try this. When you come up on a major intersection and intend to go straight, get in the habit of pushing the indicator switch. In effect, you 'indicate' that you intend to go straight. While does no turn on any 'I'm going straight lights' it does switch off any errant turn indications. Great idea, eh? Motorcyclist magazine once recommended that you actually push indicator button (to cancel) every five seconds as a reflex.

Note: This does not work on Harleys, BMWs (indicator switches next to left and right grips) and will not work on the P220 either (no push-cancel switch at all). It will also not work on any old switchgear that does have a push to cancel switch set. P220? Its got self-cancelling indicators, so you shouldn't have to worry about it.

TVS wins a fight against Bajaj!

Sorry for the sensationalist headline, but here's a story that says racing through traffic is futile:

Sonali Gajne and her friend Madhuri Davende, both 21, were riding a TVS Scooty on a clear Kalyan road when Sonali received a mobile call. She let Madhuri attend the call since she was driving. As Madhuri took the call, two thieves on a Bajaj Pulsar - rider Naseem Khan, 21, and Vikas Pande, 17, came close to them and the pillion rider, Vikas, snatched their mobile phone and sped away.
Click here to read what happened next... More power to you girls!

Orange Trap? Oh, that's just what TVS calls the colour option. As it turns out, that's exactly how it turned out for the numpties on the Pulsar, eh? Pic taken from tvsmotor.in and link found at BajajPulsar on Yahoo

Jan 19, 2007

Try it: Hit the bottle

Elisabeth, who stopped drinking three rounds ago, had managed to burn her blood alcohol concentration back down to legal at .066. Interestingly, she was riding more poorly than she had at .123. When we asked the experts about this they explained that it made sense because alcohol was a biphasic chemical. The first phase stimulates the central nervous system and the second stage depresses it. The stimulation had run it course and left her run down.
That quote is from this article. Read the whole thing, it'll put you off beer for a while... But then, it should.

Riding Mantra #001.01

Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice - and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man - by choice; he has to hold his life as a value - by choice; he has to learn to sustain it - by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues - by choice.

–Ayn Rand, "Galt's Speech," Atlas Shrugged


Not taking a Shine to it... Sorry

Honda Shine 125Rode the Honda Shine again after a really long time today. Had a big surprise. Especially since I've basically been riding a mooched Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme, and another even more mooched Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi. Here's what I learnt

  • What the...? This thing has quite a bit of vibration at city speeds. The corner cut by not adding vibe dampers wasn't a good one to cut

  • It feels absolutely tiny and under-fleshed to ride. Almost malnourished. But I guess, compared to the girth of both of the other bikes I've been on, that's to be expected, right?

  • The Shine's a first batch one, so I had to kick start it. I could not, for the life of me, remember the last time I kick started a motorcycle

  • Brakes felt spongy too. The 220 and the XTreme both have sharper, stronger units.

  • And what's with the ride quality? I thought I got bumped around a fair bit more than I remember from the last Shine ride

  • I stick by what I said. I still wouldn't buy one

Beer: best when cold!

Child Beer Served Here

Dakar 2007: Flashback Video

Superb Dakar vid from the 2003 edition. Amazing, amazing race...

Jan 18, 2007

Don-a-Darko: The Dark Visor Story

I just purchased a dark visor for my helmet. I have never worn once before and it was a big change. Since my choice in the degree of darkness was restricted, I was forced to purchase a really dark one. If I were a car manufacturer, I'd probably call it something appropriately flowery like midnight chocolate black or darkest hour black or don-a-darko or something like that. I just say black. Like pitch.

Well, it's great. The shop owner was kind enough to warn me that I wouldn't be a able to see a thing (this was at 20:00). And I told him not to worry, because I do intend to only and unfailingly use it during the day. It has actually changed the way I ride a bit. For one, I haven't worn a pair of sunglasses inside the lid since. Which is actually a big deal for two reasons. Even you bought the widest, most wrappedaround pair of shades you could find, you would still see the frame in peripheral vision. Which is like having a frame to your peripheral sight and a distra/obstruction. Second, I've now heard of a few cases where a fall and an impact on the helmet either shattered the spectacle lens or the frame with (fortunately) minor but potential grievous injury. Now I don't have to wear them. They also look a bit dorky, if you ask me (especially if you got a pair of foakleys or Oakleys with pearl white frames and blue mirror-tint lenses).

It also means I now have to carry around a transparent visor. Which, it turns, out is surprisingly easy. Just shove it into an old sock (airline socks work best) and tuck it into your jacket so it sits around you love handles. Works a treat. Of course, one smart aleck colleague who was reading this post over my shoulder pointed out that when I crash, the visor would be a potential injury, right? Uh oh. But then I thought back and remembered that while you are very likely to hit your head in a crash, the abdomen area just over the belt is one place where despite numerous crashes, I haven't even had an abrasion spot. Touch wood. Britain, however, has outlawed dark visors...

Motorcycling in groups

As far as I can remember, I've been afraid of riding a motorcycle as part of a groups. I've been a member of a number of online motorcycle groups and never once, did I feel the urge to go for one of the numerous group rides. Anti social? Me? Hardly.

But everytime I have gone out for a ride with other people, they're riders I know. I know a bit about the their skill levels, I have a clue about their reaction times, I have an inkling about how they like to ride (I'd go on but you get the drift, I think). This makes me comfortable. It also tells me whether I fit in or not. If I don't, I don't continue.

There have only been two rides I did actually join up on. The first was an impromptu RD club ride from somewhere in Andheri East to a food place (amazingly, most urban rides go to food places. But I guess I should just be thankful they go to eat places, as opposed to drink places). One chap dragged along a friend on a Bajaj Eliminator. This poor sod was stuck with a 14 bhp cruiser in a sea of 20+ bhp street bikes of a fair reputation. And decided to prove just how great a rider he was by riding the most amazing ride I have ever seen. If I had a video recording (and I wish I did), it would be the greatest addition to this blog ever. In a fifteen minute vid, I'd demonstrate with a grating voiceover every single thing you should not be doing on public roads. And a few things you shouldn't even try at a race track!

The other time, I rode with a gang (crew or group would be too polite) up to the outskirts of Bombay. By which point they had amply demonstrated their utter lack of coordination, skill, competence and the instinct for self preservation. Hence, I dutifully turned the handlebar, made a smart U-turn and without as much as a second look, bade goodbye.

What I am saying is that it is currently in vogue to go riding with groups. But the risks are very high. So be careful, and it you get uncomfortable, either ride your own ride (slower or faster) or just leave the group. Flaming on email is a hell of a lot less risky than a flaming bike (or two) on the highway at the end of a fifty foot skid mark.

Which is not to say that riding in groups can't be fun. When I'm out riding with the group I normally ride with, there isn't a single thing in the world I'd rather be doing.

Photo borrowed from here. Do check it out, it's a very comprehensive site. Also check out msgroup.org which has a bunch of group riding tips and a PDF document James R Davis would be happy to mail to you.

Jan 17, 2007

Riding Solo: Screening on Sunday

Gaurav Jani, Riding Solo To the Top Of The WorldJust got a mail from Dirt Track Productions. They, 60 kph and Mocha's bike club are screening the film on Sunday, January 28, between 1200 and 1400 at the Juhu Mocha. Entry is free. I assume that Gaurav will be there. So turn up people, you won't spend a better two hours... and have a junior/senior chocolate avalanche while you're there...

Want a preview? Click here to see the video at 60 kph
Riding Solo Teaser

Here's the links to my previous posts on the film
Riding Solo: The film, full review
Riding Solo: The Film

Jan 16, 2007

Monday Photo: Dona Paula

Dona Paula, originally uploaded by Caughtilya.

We (The Wife and I) were sitting at the top floor of a restaurant at Dona Paula, alone. Rain was in the air and evening was gathering around us. She was contemplating my antics, while I was taking this pic... how romantic...

Jan 9, 2007

Campgna T-Rex: Not about the car

I don't think I've seen Tiff Needel have this much fun in a car!

Jan 8, 2007

Monday Photo: Morning

Morning, originally uploaded by Caughtilya.

We went to Kala Dungar in Kutchh to see a glorious sunrise over the land horizon. At the Rann. Didn't happen. What we got instead was a glorious cloudy sky and a slow sunrise. While waiting, I found the camera (Olympus C750 Ultra Zoom) had a manual white balance...

Dodge this!

Here's a situation. You're coming up on a long queue of traffic stopped at the average traffic intersection. The footpath/sidewalk is not accessible and you decide to filter on the extreme right to the front row. Seems normal enough, right? You do this at your usual pace. Which could be very fast for some, and walking pace for others like me. Suddenly, without warning, a passenger in the front seat of the Maruti Van you're passing opens the door to get off. You're, say three feet, from his foot which is now dangling out of the van and another few inches from a solidly mounted door made of metal. What do you do? What did you do wrong? How could you have avoided it?

1) Walking pace:
If you're half good on your brakes. You have enough time to stop without a chirp from the tyres, and then time and composure to yell the crap out of the guy who did this to you. Try not to hit him, though.

2) Mid pace:
You have two options. The first is to brake hard and try to stop. If you can simultaeneously honk, there's a chance chap will pull that leg in, at least. The second is a swerve around the door. This obviously implies that there must be space to do this.

If there is space, a little conscious countersteering can work wonders. Basically, the idea is to push and pull on the handlebars at the same time. Usually, countersteering lessons or discussions say push left to go left. For an emergency, I say push left and pull right as well. Together, it will almost snap the bike in half to change direction. With luck, you'll do it quick enough to get the widest part of the bike around the door and then the opposite will have you back in a line.

The trick, of course, is to practice. Next time you're on a empty road, look around and confirm that no one is close by. Then try riding on a lane marking line (check that this is not illegal in your country). Try and 'snap' the bike around every second of third long mark. If you're with a friend, take turns doing this. When he's at it, you observe and correct his mistakes, and vice versa. More than a couple of times now, the swerve has taken me around a hazard which would otherwise have me on my arse, either in hospital, or at least, right there.

Added note:
Okay, basic countersteering says, you push the left handlebar grip away from you when you want to turn left. We all do this unconsciously. The theory is that if you know you are doing this, you could improve your technique etc. Usually countersteering articles will also explain that you can achieve the same thing by pulling the right handlebar grip towards you to initiate a left turn as well. However, they recommend pushing left because it is more precise, and more controllable. And that is true.

What I'm saying is that in an emergency when you need the bike to turn quickly, you do both together. You pull the left grip and push the right grip at the same time. In effect, you magnify the torque your applying on the handlebar and make the bike turn quicker. This results in a very fast change of direction and lean angle. In the situation above, it could be crucial.

To practice this, you need a fair amount of space. Begin by only pushing or pulling until you know how both feel when done alone. Then, when you are ready, do both at the same time. Result!

Want to read this in greater detail? Try these: msgroup.org | wikipedia | Motorcycle Cruiser

3)Race pace:
Which hospital do I send the flowers too?

SRK as Don


That's the shortest movie review I'll ever write. That review is reserved for some very special films. Movies that're not worth the jhankar beats that they're stars gyrate on. Other stellar attempts at this include Yeh Dillagi (Writhik Roshan, Kareena etc) and thankfully, I've forgotten the rest.

Don, the new one, was just the most concentrated dose of style without substance movie I have ever had the displeasure of receiving. So bad was the film, that I was looking at my watch from about the third minute of the film. And now, I think I've already wasted enough time on this. Oh, and Priyanka Chopra looks gorgeous.

Next by Michael Crichton

I just finished reading Michael Crichton's Next. He is one of the few authors whose work I've loved without exception. I've always read his novels from cover to cover in a single gasp and I've only ever employed a book mark when interrupted for meals. In short, I love his work. Terminal Man remains one of my favourite books of all time (although I haven't seen my (dad's) copy in years) and his other books (including the now-cliched Jurassic Park) are all just great. Every one of them is a great read.

For Next, Crichton's broken up the formula a little and his book is more like a novel of our times. Chapters are Dan Brown short, they're rudely interrupted by 'news pieces' that usually quote a brainless celebrity or two and the effect is pretty devastating.

For those of us, who have always loved the man's work, Next, is quite at odds with the more story-telling style I've come to love. On the other hand, the novel has lost none of Crichton's grasp on science, its leading edge and the triumphs, tragedies and transgressions that come with treading that fine line. It includes all of the complexity of emerging technology, and the inability of our social systems to incorporate them as fast as they come up. In short, it's still a good read. Oh, the book is about genetic engineering. Get your copy today.

Jan 5, 2007


Jodhpur, originally uploaded by Caughtilya.

I just kicked off my Flickr adventure (thanks to inspiration from VictorTango) so here's one of the seven photos I posted to open my innings. The pic, of course, is the standard Jodhpur skyline, as shot from the lovely Mehrangarh Fort.

Autocar India awards

Bajaj Pulsar DTS-Fi 220cc due Diwali
They have only bike award, I'm told. Which, has gone to the Bajaj Pulsar DTS-Fi (the 220).

The other awards include: Car Of the Year: Honda Civic. Manufacturer Of The Year: Honda Siel Cars; CEO Of The Year: Dr Wilfred Aulbur (DaimlerChrysler India); Technology Car Of The Year (not the exact sobriquet): Merc S Class; Import Car Of The Year: Audi Q7... That's all I know.

Jan 4, 2007

What The Duck.net

Can you believe that this started as an idea for a blog filler? Makes me want to weep... I wish I was as good with pen and ink as these guys

Google Porn

ADAM [thinking]: “Hmm... how about a ’personalized Google porn page’?”
LARRY: “Yeah, like a Google info portal. Like Google Finance. But for dirty pictures.”
SERGEY: “And videos.”
Hoo boy. Another funny post. This time from Google Blogoscoped

Wide Open Source!

He said a top official from Microsoft India had met him twice to convince him to continue with MS products. The official offered the XP operating system for about Rs.7000 while he quoted Rs.500. “I explained to her that for a mere Rs.300, I could get the entire operating system, office productivity software and a wide range of utility tools, such as DVD/CD writing software, database software, multimedia editing software, vector map-drawing software plus a whole range of software development tools. Also, I have the option of downloading this entire package in DVD media and not even pay that Rs.300, which is the media cost and not the software charges,” said the ELCOT chief, an IT expert himself besides being a senior IAS bureaucrat.
That is a quote from this post which quotes a Deccan Herald article. And as you will see when you read it. That is amazing! I cannot remember reading something on these lines from anywhere on Earth so far. More power to... us! Open Source ki jai... and all that sort of thing!

Er... Linux Penguin used for representational purposes only. Objectors leave a comment. Will replace with something handy if needed.

Overdrive Mags 2007 Awards

Overdrive magazine just announced their 2007 awards last night. Details are skimpy, but here's what I know.

Bike of the Year: CBZ X-Treme
Er... sorry to use BSMotoring's pic. OD's website has no CBZ X-Treme pics.

Scooter of the Year: Kinetic Blaze

Bike Maker of the Year: Bajaj
Pic courtesy: Overdrive

Other awards
Hyundai Verna: Car of the Year; Honda CR-V: SUV of the Year; GM: Car Maker of the Year

Jan 3, 2007

New Year Wishlist

Here's my expanded (as in non-bullet point-ed) wishlist for 2007. Wish me luck!

Bajaj begins greater production of the 220 DTS-Fi. Which proves to be a hit, with the company unable to figure out where the damn demand is coming from. Hero Honda is on a high, with the CBZ X-Treme and the new CD-Deluxe both over reaching their sales projections. Both customers are excited about the products. Which is a good sign. Honda sits on the fence and watches this. Yamaha plays hush hush even as news of a powerful, exciting model begins to filter out. Suzuki plays their strange game, holding its 125cc scooter close and not releasing any information whatsoever. Enfield push back the launch of their unit gearbox (again). Hopefully, March, they say. TVS is suprised at the sudden slump in December sales. Hopes to regain momentum in January. The CD-Deluxe and the CBZ X-Treme hit TVS' star performers - Star and Apache hard.

TVS unveils the first glimpse of their updated Apache. It's promising and expected to go on regular sale by early April. Till then, sales and enthusiasts likely to hold their horses. Yamaha plays hush hush as more news filters out regarding a performance oriented premium segment player. Suzuki quietly readies their scooter. Bajaj starts selling the Kristal, which is a mild success. Women seem to like the TVS Scooty Pep more. On the other hand, the new Bajaj 200 does rather well. At the expense of the 180, but still. The new bike is well received.

Suzuki unveil their scooter. Yamaha finally takes the wraps off their bike too. It turns out not to be a CBZ X-Treme beater at all. It's much bigger! Yamaha's stock with enthusiasts appears to be on the return. Bajaj unveil the first details of the Blade, expect to begin selling it by March. Kinetic resnares the spotlight by launching their first SYM-line scooter. It turns out similar to Suzuki's baby, the scooter battle is on.

The financial year rolls over with Hero Honda and Bajaj inches away from each other in sales terms. Hero Honda still leads. But only just. Bajaj consolidates its market share with unexpectedly strong sales for the bigger sales, and the Blade is another huge hit. The Blaze takes quite a hit from the Bajaj. The fuel injected Karizma comes out and proves to be qualitatively superior to the Bajaj, but expensive. Market outlook is uncertain. Yamaha take the wraps of a powerful new motorcycle, which easily bests both the Karizma and the P220. Enthusiasts, RD350 fans especially, celebrate late into the night. The Yamaha turns out to be expensive, and worth the expense. Suzuki's scooter is a minor hit, and proves to be the most popular of the manufacturer's line in India. Which isn't saying much, of course. Enfield is finally ready to take the wraps off its new line of integrated-box Bullets. Honda unveils an updated more aggressive Unicorn with alloy wheels and all. Sales finally edge upward.

Enfield shows off the more powerful, more sorted unit-gearbox Bullets. It works well and is quite powerful, but Bullet fans are unable to digest the slick shifts and clamour for the old gearbox. Sigh. Bajaj goes quiet for a while, notching up sales and keeps itself busy stabilising the supply. Meanwhile, Yamaha is under pressure to supply more and more of their bike. Smiles reappear on Yamaha faces. Suzuki wonders what they need to do and look to the Hayabusa for help. The sudden spurt in premium segment numbers catches Honda and TVS off-guard and both are unable to capitalise for now. TVS finally start selling the upgraded Apache. The Pulsar 150 remains the market leader, while the Unicorn, Apache slot into a scrappy third and fourth behind the CBZ X-Treme which is now doing an easy 22,000 units per month, without taking any sales away from the P150.

The slowest month in the calendar brings only one news. But it's big. New norms for 550cc and above multi-cylinder motorcycles are under consideration. On the table are emission and homologation waivers for these bikes, as long as sale price abroad is north of US$4500. Enthusiasts can finally start dreaming real dreams. CD100 buyers wonder what the fuss is. While naysayers smirk snidely.

Harley Davidson announces their India plans, naming the most unexpected of Indian partners. Honda also announce India plans, the CBR600RR is announced as the primary candidate. Kinetic launches the Euro, their second Italjet.

Yamaha joins the big bike wagon and decides to go the whole hog launching the R1 and becomes the first manufacturer to actually have a big bike on sale. The response, once more, is unexpectedly warm. Honda, HD et al put their CBU programs into high gear. Yamaha announces the launch of the R6 by December also. Rearset runs out to arrange the downpayment needed to get his grubby hands on the bike. The Wife looks on amused. But not disapproving.

Bajaj steals the March on all but Yamaha by putting up the Kawasaki ZX-6R and the ER-5 as the twin CBU inning openers. Enthiusiasts cannot believe the turn the year has suddenly taken. Rearset, meanwhile, finally gets his dream R1. Gets a numberplate with the obligatory small line at the bottom that reads 'We two R1.' rearset thinks that's funny. The Wife does not. rearset also feels sad that he can't plug his blog on the numberplate for two reasons 1) no space 2) that wouldn't be anonymous, right?

Suzuki, Honda, Harley and KTM launch bikes in India at one go. It's a packed month as the action hits the roof. Hayabusa? CBR600RR? Fat-Boy? SuperDuke? Oh yeah, baby. TVS launches their 200cc Apache with fuel injection. It's a great bike, but is lost in the glitter of the bigger products.

Kinetic launches the Jupiter 250 in India. The launch comes when Big bikes have stolen scooter thunder (again). Uh oh. The festive season sees a whole bunch of variants, upgrades and restickered small bikes. But the big news is huge discounts on the 2007 models of the big bikes, even as the motorcycle shows unwraps the latest 2008 goodies. All the manufacturer also announce plans for more models. And cruisers seem to be the flavour of 2008.

Press reports unnecessarily dramatic reports of MotoGP coming to India. Inside sources are quoted as saying that talks are far along. Sales of the big bikes are growing, and all those people who asked 'where are the roads?' are still asking that same question, but seem to grasp that big bike buyers are not looking for the answer. They're looking to upgrade to better, faster machinery already. Hooray!

Jan 2, 2007

In the new year...

  • I shall write better, employing words like hubris, ethos, pathos and clique
  • I shall waver between motorcycle-related and other posts
  • I shall start posting photos to my flickr account also (look for Caughtilya)
  • I shall get my knee down
  • I shall learn to perform a perfect balance point wheelie, complete with soft landing
  • I shall dig deeper
  • I shall ride even more bikes than I did last year
  • I shall ride farther than I did last year as well
  • I shall start going to the gym
  • I shall learn to swim and then, I'll swim back into rippling shape
  • I shall watch The Wife laugh uncontrollably when she reads the above resolution