May 31, 2007

Well seasoned

I love the rains. I welcome the dread that invades the week before. The newspaper carries menacing little adverts that say 'MRF Rain Day is 6 days away' and sometimes I even think that the MRF man actually has a slight taunt in his smile.

Then, one day, I wake up and notice that the light outside isn't the almost obscenely bright Mumbai norm at all. The outdoors have turned into a still muggy, but now darker, more inviting looking hillstation type landscape. The sky has turned from its usual platinum-hard blue to a softer, but more invasive sort of grey. Then comes the mad scramble to rifle through the drawers, lofts, under-bed storage, old suitcases looking for my trust Rs 300 PVC rain oversuit, the waterproof gloves (Joe Rocket Ballistic – dry but not hot, a rare combo), the boot covers (from And the inevitable repack to find space for them in the tank bag. The extra set of clothes will already be in the office by this time... It's time to ride in the wet again.

The first day will always be the worst. Or I could say the worst day will always be the first. The roads go from dry to oily, Splendors slide around like 100 kpl snakes, lots of scared looking riders stop again and again to check if they have a puncture. It's a tragi-comic, really. As I slowly, steadily drone by, Sometimes their antics bring up a smile, and at other times, I feel for them.

And then it's over. We're in the thick of it. If we're lucky, the rain will come down hard, pelt down madly, stinging skin through two layers of protection. The smell of the wet and the sweat will become a mingled constant and the days will pass in a blur of smooth, studied, but still fast riding. Everyday will bring a new opportunity to learn something new about riding in high traffic and low traction. Last year, I learnt to remember what puddles ran how deep and use that to my benefit. What will I learn this year?

Some days, looking out of the office window, peering into the gathering clouds will be fun. The throttle hand will slowly unclench saying, 'I can't wait.' On other days, the 20 km that lie ahead will seem like a trip to neverland. And back. Every time I'll arrive wet only with my sweat, it will be a small victory, endorphins will flow and new bravura tales will born off their consequence.

The motorcycle will always, no matter how hard you try, be filthy. It will carefully clad itself in a ever larger coat of brown sludge, happy like an elephant on a hot day in a mud pool. The chaps who wash the bikes will stand beside it every morning and shake their heads in despair. Four months is too long, they will think.

And then suddenly, you'll catch yourself riding to work one day, wearing full waterproofs, not a cloud in sight, the bright sun burning a rather hot hole in your back, the sweat glands working overtime to keep things from reaching the red zone. And you will notice that at the bottom of potholes lies not mud, but dust. The rains are gone.

Your motorcycle skills have inched up another notch, and ahead lies the lovely, lovely winter. Your mind will leave your overheating waterproofs and linger over the prospect over crisp, cold mornings, of welcome heat from a ticking engine, gloved hands clasping a cup of hot highway tea, and the long look back at a clean, well-used motorcycle. I love the winter as well.

10 things that will instantly improve your riding

  1. Bend those elbows
    If they weren't meant to be bent, they wouldn't be there! The more horizontal your forearms are (parallel to the ground), the more responsive the motorcycle will fee

  2. Look further ahead
    In every situation, the further you look, the more you will see, the more you can anticipate, the smoother/faster/both you will become

  3. Grip the handlbar firmly but not like you were trying to choke it
    A firm, supple grip will let you receive feedback and help you relax mentally while riding. White knuckle grip will only elevate your stress levels

  4. Two fingers on the clutch and two on the brake
    The former allows far superior clutch modulation than a paw and the latter will save vital seconds in an emergency stop. And you still have two fingers and a thumb left to hold the grips firmly

  5. Sit about an inch from the tank
    If you're sitting halfway into the pillion seat, it totally destroys the bike's feel. You've effectively been riding the bike as if you always have a pillion on board

  6. Slow your hands down
    Operating the controls faster and faster does not make you a faster rider. Slow down the speed at which you twist, squeeze, push and pull and focus instead of finesse. You'll be smoother and faster

  7. Grip that tank like Xenia Sergeyevna Onatopp would
    As in tightly. The tighter you can, the more connected to the motorcycle you will feel

  8. Wiggle your elbows
    Now and then, wiggle your elbows. If you can, it's a sign that you haven't tensed up in the saddle. And when you do, in time, it will be a reminder to relax and have fun

  9. Learn to use your bodyweight to help the motorcycle out
    If you only use the handlebars to steer, you're missing out. Learn to put your shoulder, torso and legs into the mix, not only will it improve your riding, you will look better on the bike too, which always helps.

  10. Concentrate
    Sounds like the most basic of things, but is often the hardest to do. Focus on what you are doing and not what you forgot to do back in the office/home/wherever-you-went

Hero Honda Splendor NXG: Riding Impression

Hero Honda Splendor NXGI rode the new Splendor. It reminded me of the old Splendor. But it felt lighter. And slightly improved. Everything is adequate. Styling is new. Alloy wheels are optional. It feels light. Everything works all right. Passflasher is connected to the battery. Splendor buyers prefer buying Splendors. And this one serves them right.

Related posts:

Bajaj Pulsar 200: A forkful of thoughts

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Rearset Hi,

As you would have noticed,the Pulsar 200 fork episode has been highly publicized and much controversy revolves around the same.If you can put up a post and clear the issues and bring out FACTS it would help confused bikers who might be relying on hearsay stories!


The reason, Arpan, I haven't put up anything about the fork, is precisely because there are no hard facts beyond the photos. From what I know, the forks did break (a total of four reported on the Net), but some Bajaj dealers (mostly non-probiking, I think) don't even know that. I also know that Bajaj aggressively went out and replaced those forks with a redesigned one.

Manufacturers, unfortunately, are not infallible. This has been proved over and over and over again (and there are tons of examples, in both the brick-mortar world and in the online business). So to me, the issue, life threatening as it appears to be the average user, is not something I would get worked up about. Is it serious? Of course. But is it something that needs lots of debate? If what I hear about Bajaj's response is true, I think no debate is required. If I were really paranoid, I'd simply put off an impending P200 purchase and wait for a few more months to pass...

Yes, if I were a P200 customer and this happened to me, I'd be very cross as well, but as the saying goes, shit happens.

In the international community, as long as a manufacturer comes forward and fixes the problem as fast as they can, it is considered par for the course. If you like, visit NHTSA (american safety agency) and see the number of recalls. The difference purely is that in the US, recalls are posted up, and in India, they are handled quietly. As long as they are handled, I don't think it is a big deal. Again, I must reiterate that announcing the recall and making it public is the better way to handle it, but given that P200 sales volumes aren't really that high, probiking dealers, I assume, would have no trouble locating the owners and informing them of the replacement.

Xenergy ad: Monica

Put a motorcycle and a girl together and you could sell anything. Really.
Oh and if you've just turned into a fan of the mechanic,
she has another, hotter ad at YouTube.

Mailbag #5: tyre pressures

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1From this mail onwards, I'm switching the font convention. Since my answers are always waay longer than the questions, I'm going to take the regular font for my text and that italics font for the queries.

Long time. Got a question for your mailbag : )

This one is about tyre pressure. Your post on unidirectional tyres got me thinking. This one is in two parts…

Q1 While the recommended front tyre pressure stays the same, the rear tyre has 2 'settings', for single and pillion riding. More often than not, I find myself doing a mix of riding. Whether to drop people off or to pick them up. What's the solution for this? Do you go with one setting and ignore the other or do you average the air pressure? Currently, I use the pillion setting when I know that I'm going to have a 'mixed' ride.

Q2 Ok, I'm sure you've seen the blaze tyres. maybe its just me, but when I look at them, their 'ground contact patch' seems circular rather than the 'flat' of a pulsar etc. I've not had a problem with them in the dry, but add some water on the road and I feel the rear acting up. I first felt that while riding in the wet sand at Gorai (the waves were coming in... no, i was not recreating some movie scene, I got caught in the high tide) and then again on regular road which had water splattered on it. do I have to be extra careful with this near circular cross-section tyres? any other recommendations?


A1 I actually tend to ignore manufacturer recommendations (I'll call it MRP, manufacturer recommended pressure) almost entirely, and when I do use them, I look at them as a guideline. I am told this isn't the best way to do this, but I'm comfortable with it. One component in the MRP is the superior puncture resistance of a more inflated tyre. Another, is the best compromise between a larger contact patch and higher fuel economy. But the crucial one, is the rider's weight (or in the case of pillion+rider) their combined weight. As is with many things motorcycling, the MRP, therefore, is the best compromise for the rider/combination they profiled for that machine. Which isn't me in many ways.

For instance, I ride much harder than the average rider, so my tyre loads must be different. I use a lot more lean angle, a lot more brake force (I brake later, and harder, rather than softly and earlier). For this, I need more grip, and not more economy, I find that keeping the front tyre to about 24 PSI works for most bikes. On days when I knew I was going to go hell for leather, I'd take my RD350's front tyre down to as little as 18. And my mechanic, an ex-racer, prefered 14! Similarly, I tend to let the rear tyre pressure also be far lower than MRP. It varies with the front, but the difference is usually between 7-10 PSI more than the front tyre. Now, when I have a passenger, I will always alter the pressure. Since I don't ride anywhere close to as hard when I am two-up, I find it convenient to let the pressure be the MRP.

Since tyres are one of the most crucial parts of the ride, I tend not to look at changing/refilling tyre pressure as a chore. You already know I am an OCD case, so I carry my own digital tyre pressure gauge with me...

But to answer you question, if I had to pick between the solo and pillion for a mixed ride, I would also pick the pillion setting.

A2 It's just you. The tyre profile, to reduce it to a very simplistic level, has but one effect. The more rounded it is, the easier the bike will lean. Race bikes, for instance, have tyre profiles that look almost like cones so that they can go from the vertical to knee down in no time at all. So, the Blaze's more rounded tyre, versus Pulsar's more flat tyre? It's in your head as far as acting up in the wet is concerned.

However, when you are riding in the wet, tyre pressures are an interesting debate.

One school of thought says, over-inflated tyres work best. The extra tyre pressure reduces the contact patch, increasing traction (the theory is that the same weight over a smaller patch produces more force pushing downward and therefore more grip) and reducing the chances of hydroplaning (extension of the same logic). The other school of thought says, underinflate. Lower tyre pressure makes for a softer tyre (sidewalls become more absorbent to shocks and help the transition of power from the bike to the road smoother). The wider contact patch offers more grip (force per square inch goes down, but a larger contact patch means more braking or accelerating force can be applied). Any extra heat is taken care, because the tyre is water cooled and while hydroplaning will occur earlier, you only need to be really cautious through standing water. And of course, there is the third school that believes both theories are total bull and only the recommended pressures are the best path. I don't know if I am right or wrong (which is why this is a debate), I subscribe to the underinflate school of thought... But maybe this season, I'll try the recommended pressure school and see.

Here are some links on this subject that I found interesting

May 28, 2007 Opportunity knocks!

I just signed up with Bloggerwave. This is a website that offers cash for posts. These posts (like this one) are effective paid advertisements. Essentially, you get money to post adverts to your blog. What could be simpler? The posts could be on general topics like this one, or on topics more relevant to your blog. I highly recommend it to you fellow bloggers. Try it today!

Hero Honda Splendor NXG: What you've been dying to see

Intro vids part 1 (mostly audio, dark video, some strobe effects)

Intro vids part 2 (audio/video, dancing)

Intro vids part 3 (audio/video, dancing, bike enters)

Hero Honda Splendor NXG: What you've been dying to know

Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Hero Honda Splendor NXG
Yes, like many of you predicted, it is indeed a new Splendor. Not the Super Duper Splendor, not the Super Splendor+, or the Super Splendor Deluxe ++, but the Splendor NXG. Like I had thought, it is essentially the Splendor with the new motor from the CD-Deluxe, but there's more. The panels, tank etc are all new, the motor sounds quite authoritative, and hell I'll ride it and tell you if 7.7 bhp is the new creme de la creme. But for the moment, here are some moments from the launch (please note that vids and images are unedited and untouched, so more horrible than usual even, excuse kindly).

Officially Hero Honda says

Hero Honda unveils the next generation 'Splendor NXG'

Spendor NXG with engine & irrestible features,
takes Splendor lineage to the next level

Highlights of engine performance characterisitcs of Splendor NXG

  • New engine which delivers power of 7.7 PS

  • Better power & torque at lower engine RPM for comfortable city riding

  • Optimum gear ratios for better pickup

Product features of Splendor NXG

  • Powerful & stylish trapezoidal mutlireflector headlight that provides better visibility even at lower speeds

  • Large & stylish tail light

  • 160mm ground clearance for smooth ride on all types of roads
  • Unique & stylish visor

  • New design fuel tank with knee grip

  • Sleek instrument panel with trip meter

  • Attractive aluminium die cast rear grip

Splendor NXG will be available for test driver and bookings immediately. The Delhi ex-showroom price is Rs 40,990 for the spoke version and Rs 41,990 for the
alloy wheel version.

May 27, 2007

Two Lane Changes... second attempt

Sometime when you're riding in traffic, you will feel the urge to change two lanes at one time. You will want to go, say, from the top lane to the slowest lane, or the other way round. Now, in my book of things you just have to do sometimes, this is one of the most hazardous. It requires a lot more attention than you think and there's a lot of things than can go wrong. And if they do, it will (I think) be quite a pile up. So here's my thoughts.

But. Before I go into this, I want to touch on something else. Every time I have approached the issue of aggression as one of a motorcyclist's assets, I've had people jump up in horror about it. Well, first let us talk about aggression then. Anything, as you have heard/read, in excess is not good for you. And that applies to defensive riding (and driving) as well.

Let me explain. I will use two analogies. Here's the first. Ever played Civilisation, the Sid Meier game? I have. And I've never won by playing fair (which is besides the point). I've never won because I don't know how to attack - the game makes it a little complicated. I've become very good at defending my civilisation as a consequence, but I still cannot attack. Which sucks. As an aside, I now win because I know the flaws in the game... lopsided strategy does not work. Pure defence? All you get us centuries of attacks from rival civilisations. Here's the second analogy, ever see a boxing coach/game sequence? The trick, from whatever I can tell, is to keep your gloves high (defence) and jab/hook/whatever whenever the other guy takes his gloves down (aggression). No bout was ever won on pure aggression, or pure defence. Mike Tyson's ear-chewing episode does not count.

What I am getting at is that aggression is as important as defence for good riding in traffic. However, I go agree that aggression is a lot harder to employ well and requires a hell of a lot of judgement and balance than say, in Civilisation or Boxing.

A motorcycle is a tiny little vehicle compared to even the smallest of cars out there, so aggression has to deployed very carefully. My favourite way of explaining that is to first take a position that allows easy, immediate defence, and then show aggression, always ready to take cover. I know it sounds like combat and all, but stay with me here.

The final nuance in this dance, is that a lot of the aggression I am talking about is visual - call it posturing, histrionics, whatever. There's isn't actually any substance in it. I wouldn't actually do this, but to give you a rather graphic example. Think of the motorcyclist as a tiny, armour-clad figure holding a big,realistic,but ultimately fake gun. The trucker he is up against has a titanium baseball bat the normal size, and the trucker himself is six foot three. The trucker's a bit worried about the gun... the motorcyclist looks brave, but is sh***ing bricks. Get it? As my favourite motorcycle skills book says, occupy your space like you were a truck. But give like a bicycle.

Now, to the two lane change.

The reason why the two lane change is so dangerous is that it involves three, sometimes four separate elements that are travelling at speed, and only one of them is in your full control. You can influence usually one of the other two by a small margin, but you can never count on it. First, the speeding element farthest from you is the one in the second lane from you. The chap who is the place you're going to. I am not going to discuss him in detail, because I assume you will know enough not to make the move while he's in your spot. Or, you will split the move into two single lane changes.

Now, when you're passing through the middle lane on your way to the top lane, you're in maximum danger, because it requires you to track two cars, one ahead of you and one behind you at the same time. In the ideal world, you would pass through with exactly the same space behind and ahead of you. But that requires way more attention, so I personally do not recommend it.

What you do is, first switch your indicator on, so every around you knows your intention. Second, you cover your brakes and downshift so you're in the meat of the powerband.

The easy one is when the chap in the car behind you simply sees that indicator and backs off a little and lets you pass. That's great, but never happens, right?

So how do you make space?

That's where the aggression comes in. I usually square my shoulders a little, hunch forward purposefully, and then I will make two or three very purposefully head turned checks for space. If you're in the middle of your current lane, moving a little to the right, so that you're aligned with the tail lamp of the car you're following at the moment also helps. You're now close enough to the chap to appear aggressive and serious about taking his lane. You also have three quarters of your lane available on your left should you need it.

Most of the time, staying in this position for about half a second will cause the car to back off (This is also very useful with autorickshaws and taxis. Before you change a lane ahead of them, just run parallel for about half a second, it gives them time to know you're there and to realise what you are about to do. Your peripheral vision will tell you that they're backing off, or not). If it is a truck, you need to ensure that he saw you. Wave your hand, if needed. Once the car backs off, you're clear to take up space. However, if you find that the chap is not backing off, it's time to return to your space and think of another way around the problem (I will usually hang back, let this chap go past and then try again).

As you pass through the middle lane, remember two things, the higher the speed, the shallower that angle you want to pass through with. You should never block both tail lamps of the car ahead, the chap behind should be able to see your tail lamp and at least one of the car ahead of you at all times. Instead of passing with equal space behind and ahead of you, go a little bit closer to the car ahead - your brakes are stronger than your engine.

In all of this, I am assuming that you know how to work the details - checking your mirrors, waving a small thank you to the chap behind you when he gives you space...

Does that read better, then Anon?

May 26, 2007

Hilarious telemarket prank: Tom Mabe

I'm sorry about the sheer number of funny posts over the past couple of days, but StumbleUpon has been a bad, bad tool...


Shanghai | BMW
Roaring down the flyover, I changed lanes and took up my favourite position, left half of top lane. Just before I reach the bottom, I'd passed everyone in the two lanes to my left and decided to take the right at the intersection looming some 400 metres ahead. I switch on my indicators (check), scan the mirrors (no one there, check) and pull smoothly into the left most lane just as I exit the flyover. Now, I have to negotiate one more two-lane change to get to the outer lane so that I can make my turn.

Problem. There is a motorcyclist, doing about thirty kph in the right most of the two lanes that are merging with the three that just came off the flyover. He isn't a problem because I need him to move or speed up. He has a problem because he is lost.

Habitually, many Mumbai motorcyclists beleive that their god-given riding place is about four inches to the left of the median, in top lane, with cars and trucks whizzing by at amazing velocities with inches to spare. As you can tell, I do not subscribe to this view. We are not indestructible.

So this poor motorcyclist, was essentially just riding in top lane, when suddenly, he is effectively vomited into the middle lane, with traffic merging at speed from both sides, in the usual melee that comes with traffic lights and everyone jockeying for position. From being four inches from the median, he has suddenly gone to the middle of effing nowhere. He is lost. Has this happened to you?

Oh the pic. It's a pretty famous bridge in Shanghai that BMW sent out with a press release about Urban Mobility. I can't find it now, so I can't post it... sorry about that. And apologies for the pic... it was just there to get your attention.

Two lane changes...

I've been witness to a remarkable array of riding skills and attitudes over the years. And I am sure, so have you. Yesterday, I didn't realise for quite a while that I was in a race. As in, I didn't even know that the chap dodging and burning sometimes ahead of me and the sometimes behind me was actually racing me.

However, watching him change lanes at four lanes every two seconds and in both directions, set me thinking about how I would change lanes, if I had to do so at the that sort of pace. Here's my thoughts.

I simply couldn't. There's no way I can change four lanes every two seconds even if I were going in one direction. He was obviously my superior

What I would do if I did for some reason is the following
I would be in the meat of the powerband and covering the brakes. You don't want to run short of braking or accleration in the middle of a lane change.

If there was a vehicle which I needed to get out of the way, I would overtake him first, and then move into his lane. Or, if that weren't possible, I'd fall back, see if there was space behind him, and if there was, then I would pull the change. But here's the gem. Suppose he was exactly where I didn't want to him, I pull just the slightest bit closer and give every visual indication possible that I was about to violently swerve into the his lane without warning. This usually means a fairly emphatic head turned lane space check or two. Indicators flashing away help. And the best is when you can time a downshift into the power also.

In most cases, this will cause the driver to at least lift off the accelerator pedal, which will, more than 90 per cent of the time, create the space you've been looking for. (International readers: Indian driving is a lot more aggressive than all of the developed world, so this much aggression, which would be considered anti-social is probably borderline normal).

If he doesn't back off, you make a mental note that this car/bus/bike/taxi/auto is a hardball driver, so you need to put some distance between him/her and yourself. Pronto. May or may not work with women drivers (please reserve your feminist comments, I'm all for women being better drivers than men. But in traffic bad drivers give me the chills, and most often I find a lady at the wheel when this happens. I also stereotype older drivers, chauffeurs, teenage drivers in dad's car etc. I am like that only. Kindly excuse).

But this is the easy bit. The really hard part is managing a two lane change (in the pic, the white car should be mentally replaced by a motorcycles...), passing through a (moving) gap marked by two vehicles, one for'ard of you and the other behind you. You then need to manage three velocities, two of which are more or less out of your control. So, you want to go through with the largest space possible. One trick is to do the above manouver to get the aft driver to slow down, this will increase the gap you have to play with. Another is to focus on one of the two, and then pass closer to him and keep a larger gap to other driver. So if you choose to focus on the chap ahead (I usually do), leave a smaller gap to him and a larger one behind. This way, you can react if he decided to brake and there is some space behind you to absorb the change. You do not want to cross the space at such an angle as to block both of tail lights of the car ahead. Also remember, that this move is more hazardous at low speeds when the car ahead, on the brakes, may come to a complete halt...

Focussing on the driver behind takes up too much attention, and I don't recommend it. Riding closer to his front bumper is not a great idea, neither is having to constantly check the rear view mirror... at the expense of forward vision. Again, this is a really, really hazardous move, not to be made unless under serious duress.

Oh and don't forget to ensure that the third lane is ready to receive you. A perfectly executed pass through and lands you on the side of a bus isn't so perfect after all, eh?

Other things to consider

  • You know there isn't anyone else in your blind spot, right?
  • You checked that some idiot biker isn't going for the very same space, right?
  • I re-wrote this post here...

May 25, 2007

Funny: Superhero cartoon bloopers

Amazing, amazing collection of hilarious cartoon panels from superhero comics that said more than they intended. Or better yet, not what they meant. Seriously good, mildy adult and very, very funny. Click the pic to jump...

Hero Honda: What's for launch?

Fill in the blanks:

Hero Honda is all set to launch _______ ______ on Monday, May 28, 2007 in New Delhi.

You choices are:

  1. New Hero Honda Splendor
    With the engine from the new CD-Deluxe... sales have been flagging and a rather serious upgrade is needed. Alloy wheels will definitely be on
  2. New CBZ X-Treme
    Too soon?
  3. New Karimza
    Finally with more power, fuel injection... no, too optimistic...
  4. Other
    Please specify

Short film: Spin

I was really impressed by this eight minute film... No motorcycles inside...

Gas giggler: Some fuel price humour

Link to Gas Price Humour post at Custom Motorcycle TalkHere's a funny post at Custom Motorcycle Talk by BeachCruiser . The post is a collection of cartoons that look like they came out after US gas prices hit the proverbial roof. And then proceeded to crash through it and settle just below the CumuloNimbus...

May 24, 2007

SphiMX ready for launch: Mummy!

SphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingSphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingSphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingSphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingSphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingSphiMX: King Tut goes motocrossingThese are the first pics of an Egyptian (obviously) motocrosser that is set for launch. India plans remain a little iffy, the company spokesman said, 'We're calling it the SphiMX. Which is a fairly obvious pun on the famous Egyptian icon, The Sphinx and the role intended for the motorcycle, motocross. Our inspirations include King Tut's death mask and the Honda CRF250X. We believe the combination is what every warm blooded, fez-wearing Egyptian motocross fan has been waiting for.'

When prodded further most painfully, he added, 'India plans are still at a very nascent stage. We're not sure Indian MX enthusiasts actually exist in commercially viable numbers – just look at what happened to the Kawasaki SX100 and the Funduro. In any case, Rustom Patel wins everything. Besides, despite the obvious success of The Mummy series of films, we're told that having Akbar's mug on the bike would probably make it more viable for sales. But then we will not be able to market the SphiMX name, it would to be something like AkMX, which you can see doesn't quite have the same ring...'

No, no, of course I'm kidding. first_synn who did the trellis CBZ, sent in this rather good looking motorcycle... Thanks first_synn, it looks gorgeous. Impractical, totally unsaleable, but gorgeous.

I plan to have a custom bike built soon, with a Bollywood theme called ChakMX. Will be in touch...

May 23, 2007

Product review: EZI Extra Powelube

EZI Extra PowerLubeI tried this very reluctantly on the CBZ X-Treme recently and it worked wonders. The little bottle says the benefits are (verbatim, including punctuation or lack thereof)

  • Reduces friction and heat
  • Reduces wear prolong engine life
  • Smooth running and top-up horse power
directions are
  • Just pour EZI directly into engine
  • It is not necessary to change the oil before using
  • Can be use with synthetic & mineral engine oil for 4 stroke engine only

And since I am busy giving details, the bottle further says that it contains no PTFE, is manufactured by Pheeramas, Thailand (pheeramas[at] and is marketed by The MotoShop (Mumbai-8, 23019292/93). I purchased it from my favourite workshop in Mumbai, Zubinn Designs, Plot 8, Gopi Tank Crossroad #5, Shivaji Park, in Mahim (9820325593). Rs 110.

Almost from the word go, the motor felt smoother, easier to rev and in general, more ready than before for anything. Bar vibes are down a bit and in general I'm very happy to have done the deed. The mechanics also say that it actually does work, coating all the parts as it heats up and is not washed away with an oil change, so it is a one-time thing. Further, the friction reduction is so good that many bikes actually take time to lose revs when you close throttle. I haven't observed that last one, but everything else promised came true.

Pop Tate's Powai Review

I went there last night en famille to grab some grub. Given how good the food at Juhu Pop Tate's is, I was expecting a stellar meal, slow service, a slight wait for the table and a noisy, boisterous ambience... nothing like it. Tables were empty (you'll see why in a minute), service was prompt (though the waiter was like totally clueless), and meal was crap. The Wife and I tried to remember when was the last time we had a meal this bad. The question stumped us. My squid was as thick as a stack of coins, and about as edible. The chicken she had was pliable like rubber, and tasted roughly the same (do not ask how I know that). We also ordered some Arrabiata – a six year old given some tomatoes would have made it better. Basically, a giant, unwavering, totally disgusted thumbs down. We were so unhappy about the meal that we refused to accept any offered discounts, paid the amount in full and vowed never to return. You've been warned.

Motorsport: Castrol Power1 Throttle Max

Here is the announcement for the 2007 Castrol Throttle Max series

  • Throttle Max in second season
  • 11 city biking championship
  • Champion to witness Moto GP in Malaysia
Mumbai, 22 May 2007 — Castrol India Ltd. is back with maximum throttle yet again to identify India’s most passionate and skillful biker with Castrol Power1Throttle Max 2007. After the success of Throttle Max 2006 across eight cities, the hunt for the most skillful rider now spans eleven cities in India. Two winners from each of these cities will compete against each other at the finals which will be held in Indore on 16 June 2007. The Castrol Throttle Max event provides a platform to passionate bikers to prove their grit, determination and skill. This weekend the event will take place on Saturday, 26 May 2007 at the Chitrakoot Grounds located near Fun Republic at Andheri West from 9:00 am onwards. Registrations for the event will take place at the same venue on Friday, 25 May 2007 between 3 pm and 6 pm

Actor and brand ambassador for Castrol Power1, John Abraham said, “Castrol is inextricably linked with the spirit of biking and adventure and Castrol Power1 Throttle Max is the perfect platform for bikers to unleash their talent and passion for biking. I am happy that Castrol is pursuing this challenge this year as well so as to reach out to every biker and to increasingly promote the spirit of biking in India. Throttle Max has also proved to be an event that brings the entire biking brotherhood of India together. The two winning bikers are going to get that once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the Moto GP in Malaysia along with me. I am certain that passionate bikers are not going to miss this exciting chance to participate in the event”.

Mr. A. S. Ramchander, Executive Director, Castrol India Ltd. said, “Castrol Power1 Throttle Max was conceptualized because we at Castrol understand and associate with the passion of bikers – given our own passion to create cutting edge products and services that allow bikers to get the best out of their vehicles. The Trizone Technology, which goes into our motorcycle oils, exemplifies that “with Castrol”, its more than just oil, its Liquid Engineering.”

Around 1000 riders are expected to participate in this exciting event across the country.

The finals will be held at Indore on 16 June 2007. The participants have to complete three stages on a dirt track - an open straight stretch, obstacle course and a wiggle-woggle section. The winner will be chosen based on a point system.

Participants can compete in two categories:
  • Stock bikes up to 125 cc (4 stroke, Indian made)
  • 126 cc to 250 cc (4 stroke, Indian made)
The Castrol Power1 Throttle Max champion in each category will get to travel to Malaysia with John Abraham to watch the Moto GP 2007.

Further details about the event and entry forms can be obtained from

Schedule of Castrol Power1 Throttle Max:
Location I
Location II
28 April 2007
5 May 2007
12 May 2007
19 May 2007
26 May 2007

2 June 2007
Jaipur Ahmedabad
16 June 2007
Finals at Indore

About Castrol Power1 Throttle Max:
Castrol Power1 Throttle Max is a 12 city mega event organised by Castrol India Ltd. The event aims to discover the most skilled rider in the country. The Castrol Power1 Throttle Max National champions (one in each category – up to 125 cc and between 126 – 250cc) will get an opportunity to be Castrol’s guest at to watch the Moto GP 2007 in Malaysia.

About Castrol Power1:
Castrol Power1 is a top grade bike lubricant specially engineered to meet the high performance requirements of latest 4 stroke bikes. Castrol has been associated with Moto GP – the ultimate contest of man and machine in the biking world, for several years. Castrol Power1 – which is available globally in over 30 countries, incorporates all the learning that Castrol has gained over the years while developing racing technology. Along with a unique Power Release formula it incorporates Castrol’s trade marked Trizone technology, which ensures optimum protection for a bike’s three most critical parts – engine, clutch and gear. For enthusiast bikers, Castrol Power1 makes the difference.

About Castrol India Limited
Castrol India Limited is a public limited company in which 70.92 % of the paid-up capital is held by Castrol Limited, U.K which is a part of BP Group worldwide. Starting off as a trading unit in India, Castrol has grown to become the largest lubricant company in the retail automotive segment. Castrol has constantly demonstrated its commitment to Indian consumers by offering world class products, backed by the highest level of customer service. Castrol India is acknowledged as the technology leader in the Indian lubricant industry.

May 22, 2007

Unidirectional Tyres: Musings

tyresTyres, when it comes down to it, are a lot more difficult to understand than most other parts of a motorcycle. And, they also happen to be perhaps the most crucial part of the motorcycle as well. My sudden urge to think about rubber is not incidental though, having been prompted by this thread at bcmtouring. The first post says that a unidirectional tyre with a V-shaped tread had certain benefits and so forth. I write this not to slight the writer, but to correct some of the conclusions being drawn.

First, the tread. Tread (and blocks and sipes) are added to tyres for one purpose and one purpose alone – to move standing water away from the interface between the rubber and the road. The only exception are knobblies, where the exaggerated height of each tread (knobble) allows the tyre to dig in a bit and provide grip where a loose/varying surface would not allow the generation of grip. If this were not the case (treads for water), the fastest machines would not yearn for slicks. And then dump slicks for treaded tyres at the hint of a cloud unable to hold it back any more. As far as the handling effect of the tread, I would like to believe that the tread design does not significantly affect the handling of the motorcycle. Compound, contour and profile have a lot more to do with handling than the shape of the tread blocks themselves. Yes, on really high performance machinery, tyres tend to have larger contact patches (bigger tread blocks) and fewer gaps in the tread because the tread flexing makes the bike feel funny (and smaller tread blocks also limit the amount of engine power than can be laid on the ground). Also, in really fast machinery, the water grooves are pretty large and there aren't any sipes and all because the tyre moving at optimum speed will be unable to utilise sipes.

Second, unidirectional tyres. From what I understand, uni-tyres are designed to give their best performance while rolling in one, specific, well-marked direction. Among the benefits are lower rolling resistance (heat losses generated by sidewall flex, not what you are thinking) and great overall grip. However, other resources also suggest that at least in bias ply construction (all of our motorcycle tyres so far), a unidirectional tyre also tends to resist ply separation (the ply layers peel off each other, I think) when rolling in the marked direction.

Third, the V-shaped tread. I was looking for a long time at the Unicorn's tyres and both tyres have V-shaped tread with the outside ends pointing backward. The middle point of the V arrives at water first and as the surrounding tread comes down, it forces the water into the V-channel, drawing it away from the contact patch. Simple. Central grooves, in my experience (I can't find any corroboration or denials) do help in the wet. Hell, I've cut grooves into the rear tyre with a hack saw blade and seen grip levels improve noticeably. Not dramatically, but noticeably. However, I have also seen uni-tyres that have Vs that point forward (as in the centre of the V arrives last). Since I can't find any technical explanation so far, I have to assume that at speed, the pressure of the tyre tread is enough to have the same effect in either direction of the V. If you know more about this... please post a comment?

Mailbag #4: Trellis another story

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Yo rearset...

Your take on the Uni V/s X-Treme comparo got me thinking, so WHY wouldn't I buy an X over the Uni? Trust me, i thrive on performance, but this is one rare case where the lower powered bike wins my vote.

So, here's why the Uni gets my vote: The more i look at the X, the more i hate it's "Oh no, somebody dropped a cement beam on me" looks. Nothing that Uncle Photoshop can't fix. 10 mins of tinkering, and i arrive at this. Nice, no? Yeah, me digs trellis frames.!

Add a set of proper rearsets for the rider (after junking that fugly footpeg sub frame. The CBZ classic's sub frame looked a lot more, er.. classier) and a set of high mounted pegs, a la SBKs for the pillion (pillion ergonomics aren't exactly topping my list of priorities), and may be a higher angled exhaust, and of course, goiter removal, and we have a winner....

Till then, it's the Uni with the aforementioned set of footpegs (or even the CBZ classic sets. They are timeless) for me. And maybe, a little work on the cyl head to make her whoop the X to Gurgaon and back. Now can i swap the fairing with that of the older Uni please?


Interesting... It's a far-fetched dream, unfortunately. Most Hondas use a twin spar or a 'diamond' frame, and ours gets the latter. What I don't get is why our manufacturers don't sell aftermarket parts. Someone who returned from Indonesia recently tells me that Yamaha, for instance, sells the Gladiator there (under another name, I think). And you can buy a pair of bolt on rearsets for the bike off the shelf at any Yamaha showroom....

May 21, 2007

Unicorn vs CBZ X-Treme: Sibling rivalry

I rode the new Unicorn today after having ridden the CBZ-Xtreme, so I thought I would post up a sort of quick comparison.

I was immediately amazed at how different the two siblings feel. Think about it, they're basically the same motorcycle wearing a different set of body panels, but they couldn't be further apart in feel terms.

The CBZX rocks. It feels like it is in a hurry, loves the open throttle, braps forwards at the slightest provocation and is generally a bit of a hooligan with extra hormones. The Unicorn, is the diametric opposite. It feels calm, unhurried, frowns at full throttle work, surges forward when needed and is generally the sorted, laid-back chap who usually gets his work done without drama. In more tangible terms, the Unicorn (which does not have bar-end dampers and all) feels way, way, way more refined, has noticeably less vibration, a bit more torque at really low revs and a gruff, low voice. The CBZX vibrates a bit despite the dampers (fifteen minutes at full throttle will have you pinkie tingling), is not refined, has a proper, audible voice when on it and has much more thrust than the Unicorn once the revs cross about 4500 rpm. At the upper end of the revs, the Unicorn will totally lose the game to the almost savage CBZX.

Again, Honda has the refinement edge. I think the reason why the CBZX gearshift feels a bit notchier is because the Unicorn's shift lever is mounted direct, while the CBZX uses a linkage because the pegs are rearset.

The CBZX all the way. The Unicorn feels too soft engine wise to actually even participate in this comparison. Before I bring in the stopwatch, the Unicorn feels 'wrong' on this front. You don't want to rev the needle to the horsepower peak and all of that. The CBZX, on the other hand, feels quite happy to rev as hard for as long as you like.

The CBZX feels more agile and planted, but the Honda feels lighter. Despite the addition of the alloy wheels and all, I consistently felt that the Unicorn requires less physical effort to change direction, lean all the way over. However, if it came to a situation where I had to pick one and take it to a race track or closed off mountain road, I'd pick the CBZX in an instant.

Ride Quality:
I still think the Unicorn's monoshock is way too stiff for most situations. It becomes sublime with a pillion or a heavy rider alone, but in most other situations, I think it makes my back work hard. Which is not to say that the CBZX is the epitome, but I know which one I would rather take on a potholed road with.

There isn't much difference, but on the two bikes I rode, the CBZX's brakes were better bled (both bikes fresh from their first services...)

Build Quality:
Compared to the Unicorn, the CBZX is crap. The Unicorn still sports exemplary build quality, great finish levels and all. But the CBZX is like a wart on Hero Honda's otherwise superhigh build and finish reputation. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but the CBZX deserves no compliments on this front.

I think they're even. I don't like either. The CBZX has goitre in front and too many lines on the rest of it. The Unicorn doesn't have any distinguishing features whatsoever. I think the Unicorn looks quite handsome in black though, and the CBZX, similarly in silver. Black alloys are a terrible idea, though. They never stay black, always dirty brown...

I don't really like the width of the Unicorn tank, and that remains a sort point. It makes the motorcycle feel bulky, spread my legs out too much and in general, makes me fidgety. On the other hand, the wide tank mounts tank bags more securely. Pegs are normally set on the Unicorn, and that too, in my opinion takes away from the experience. In comparison, the CBZX is far, far better. The riding position is sportier, the tank feels good to grip with the thighs and the seat, which looks decidedly odd, feels good as well.

They all invariably prefer the Unicorn. Although truth be told, the CBZX isn't half bad (buzzy pegs and hard seat ruin it a bit for the second rider).

Anyone who thinks a couple thousand (that's about 3 percent) should sway a buying decision at this level is a freaking miser. Pick the one you like, mister.

The Unicorn is just right for the older rider, I think. By older rider, I don't necessarily mean 65-year old dodder-abouts. I mean anyone who is happy to thrum along at steady, medium-fast speeds. People who like low-effort, mid-rev riding. It can be a very fast way of getting about town, mind you, just not frenetic. The CBZX is a hooligan. It's for the chap who will slip through traffic with a vengeance, like revs, likes speed and thinks the odd, big-ass wheelie is a celebration. Therefore, I pick the CBZX for myself.

Stuff I hate about the CBZX (apart from above)

  • Heatshield on exhaust feels cheap
  • Allen bolts on exhaust end cap keep falling off
  • Sidepanels rattle
  • Goitre
  • Pilot light is too large!
  • Cheap looking instrument cluster
  • The TVS Apache RTR 160 is probably going to kill it...
Stuff I hate about the new Unicorn (apart from above)
  • No pilot light!
  • New fairing details (chrome strip, coloured stip at the top...)
  • 13.3 bhp only... why not 14?
  • The TVS Apache RTR 160 is probably going to kill it...

Related posts:
Photos: Honda and Hero Honda

Indian Motorcyclist Abroad: Dilip Rogger

Anyone knows anyone who can help?

Dilip Rogger on Honda CBR600RRIndia top bike racer Dilip Rogger moves into top gear internationally
1st Indian racer to compete in Asian GP
India’s topmost international two wheeler racer Dilip Rogger from Chennai is all set for a hectic season in the Asian arena. The 22 year college going computer science student will become the first Indian to compete in the 6 round Asian GP races this year. The first round of this event will be held at the Sentul Circuit in Indonesia on 2nd and 3rd June. This will be Dilip Rogger’s first season in the higher level of the sport. He will be racing on a Honda CBR 600 cc motorcycle.

Over 20 riders from Indonesia, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, India and a few European countries* will be seen in action in the championship. Dilip Rogger will be the sole Indian taking part in this event. Despite his best efforts Dilip has still not been able to get a full fledged sponsor. One of his well wishers is the current Chief Minister of Pondicherry, Mr. Rangasamy who has done his bit for this promising young racer.

Among those in action this weekend will be 5 times ASIAN GP champion Hamaguchi, and top contenders like Fuiad, Inakaki, and Yashuda.

Leading teams like Team Petronas Racing,
AG Hammer Singapore, Suzuki Indonesia and Yamaha Thailand are some of the big teams participating in this year’s Asian GP.

Well known riders in the European circuit will racing on behalf of the teams participating or as privateers since this championship has been drawing some of the best international bike racers regularly.

Race Calendar

Round 1
2/3 June
Round 2
7/8 July
Round 3
4/5 August
Round 4
8/9 September
to be announced
Round 5
27/28 October
Round 6
1/2 December

Mailbag #3: New engine in old frame?

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Hello rearset, fantastic blog you have up. It's always a pleasure visiting your site.

I had a small query, wondering if you would know something about it..

Can one change the engine of a bike into a higher capacity one? For eg. : Please consider a Classic Pulsar 150. Is it possible to fit an engine of the 200cc or 220 cc Pulsar on that same chassis? Is it going to be the same cost as buying a new bike itself?

Hey if you feel like putting up a post about something like this it would be great..


Thanks for the compliments about the blog. But, I'm sorry it isn't possible.

  1. The chasses are completely different, so the engine will not directly bolt on to your 150 chassis.

  2. The chasses are also built to handle two different loads. Since the 200 and 220 engines produce much more power, they have stronger (and longer) chasses. Which could mean two things – your 150 chassis could break under the stress and cause a fairly serious accident, or you will need to brace the chassis to handle the extra loads. Bracing a chassis is no walk in the park, so you will either have to learn what amounts to a black art, or you will have to find someone who knows, and they will probably charge you a hefty sum to do this for you.

  3. Where will you get the engine? Bajaj, without a doubt, will not sell you an engine, so you will have to browse chor bazaars, look in insurance salvage yards and so forth to locate a new motor, with carb and airbox. Since the 200 and 220 use a much larger airbox, said airbox will also not fit in and you will end up having to run an open air filter, which means fiddling with jets to get it to run right.

  4. All of the above will cost a fair bit, which may actually turn out to be way more than your 150 is worth.

  5. I've so far not even touched upon the legality of the mod. Technically, I suspect that it would void your registration and everything a cop stops you, you'll be in fairly thick gravy.

  6. Is it really worth the hassle?

  7. If you're just looking for a naked headlamp on the 200, buy one and throw the fairing away

  8. If you're looking for save money on the upgrade to a 200, this isn't going to be a good way to go about it.

Riding Mantra: #217.66

"Buy the best jacket and helmet you can afford.
And buy the bike with the money that is left"

- Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books:
by Ted Bishop. ISBN-10: 0670063851 | ISBN-13: 978-0670063857

May 18, 2007

Mailbag #2: Should you buy kit while learning?

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1I've been following your blog closely. Thanks for all the gyan that you've been sharing with the world. Let me tell you, you're simply great at it. Your blog is a great read.

Are there any places in Bangalore that you're aware of, where one gets good riding gear? I'm a rookie biker. Have bought my first bike - the new Honda Unicorn - and have been riding it for nearly a fortnight now (and I've done ~950 kms so far. :-)). I was wondering about getting a riding gear set; Admittedly, I haven't apparently mastered the art of riding as much before I can call myself an average rider. Is it advisable to invest much on it? Cramster jackets + gloves come around to Rs 6000.

1. Is it really necessary?
2. Is it worth the investment?
3. What about getting a bit cheaper - i mean getting a
foam leather jacket and cheaper pair of gloves?

Please let me know what you think about a learner getting riding gear and stuff.

Sorry for the trouble. Thanks a ton, for what you've been providing us with so far and even more for whats to come. :-)

High res image of Cramster Riding GearDear TS,

Thanks for the compliments and I'm glad you asked that question. The short answer is as follows. Riding kit, at a fundamental level, is protective in nature. It is designed to form a layer that absorbs impact (the thud when you fall) and abrasion (the scraping noise) when you fall. So, when is it a good idea to wear riding kit (which presumes that you own some, of course)? That's easy, wear kit when you intend to fall. And since you never intend to fall, and cannot predict when you will, the only way is to wear it every time you go out for a spin.

The bush I'm beating frantically around, basically says that riding kit is the best investment you could possibly make. The better kit you buy the sounder your investment. If you're a newbie, you're more likely to have a fall as you come to grips with the whole riding thing, and so, you need kit a lot more as a newbie. In most cases, your riding jacket will absorb a small fall or two without any visible damage, so you'll be fine. To return to your questions

  1. Is it really necessary?
    In my opinion and experience, yes. I'd go so far as to say it is vital.

  2. Is it worth the investment?
    Absolutely. You're lucky that there are now Indian brands offering inexpensive, good quality kit. This was not the case as recently as two or three years ago. I've scrounged for months, bought stuff online, waited months for relatives/friends to come back with the booty... And having now spent (cumulative over the past 13 years of riding) more than Rs 75K on kit, I don't regret a paisa.

  3. Foam leather/Gloves?
    Dude, you're asking a question like, 'Would it be okay if I went to a cheaper school? They teach you poorer english (and science etc), have no facilities whatsoever... do you think it would affect my career?' There's an obvious answer, right? Foam leather has no protective qualities whatsoever (it is still better than nothing, of course), ditto the cheap gloves. If the money is tight, split the purchase. Get the jacket now and the gloves in a month or two. And wear cheap gloves until you get proper ones. If money isn't an issue, buy the best kit you can find.
Riding gear is like insurance, you think it's a waste of money until you need it. And when you need it, you'd better have the best you can afford.

Related posts:

TVS Neo X 115: Indonesian firebreather?

TVS Neo X 115 Bebek Indonesia
TVS Neo X 115 Bebek Indonesia
TVS Neo X 115 Bebek Indonesia
TVS Neo X 115 Bebek Indonesia
TVS Neo X 115 Bebek Indonesia
Engine: 109.7cc single cylinder four-stroke (horizontally mounted)
Max power: 8.5 bhp@8000
Max torque: 8.5 nm@4500
Ignition: Digital CDI
Fuel supply system: Carburettor
Transmission: Double automatic clutch, wet type
Gearbox: 4 speed constant mesh
Brakes: 220mm two-callier disc/110mm hydraulic drum (f), 110mm drum
Tyres: 2.50x17 (much, much stickier than our Indian goop, made by IRC, a local firm)
Length: 1940mm
Wheelbase: 1260mm
Ground clearance: 150mm
Weight: ~100 kg (± 1 kg between variants)

Aha, now don't go all like a deflating balloon, for in this case, appearances are deceptive. This 'Bebek' (the standard Indonesian way to call a step-through, directly translated means Donald) is the new TVS Neo X 115, which will never get launched in India. Currently, the engines are made in India and sent to Indo, but that too will change, and the whole thing will be made there. The quality of usual TVS – excellent and despite the looks, the Neo X is actually quite a nice ride. Big shout out to the sticky tyres for making the handling such fun. Looking at the rather silly 2.50x17 tyres is not for the faint hearted. Especially for us, who're bang in the land of 'Isme 400 ka tyre daal sakta hai kya?' But unlike the majority Indian customer who demands a remarkable 35,000 km from this tyres (and actually uses them for 60k km), the Indos apparently are quite happy to chuck the tyres at 5,000 km and replace them with new goopys. Which means the manufacturers can put greater quality compounds out there. So, scraping hard parts on 2.50x17s? Oh yes sir.

The competition is from Yamaha, Suzuki et al who manufacture similar, in some case, jazzier bebeks. The market is loaded with aftermarket bits for bebeks, including rim-mounted discs, bolt-on filters, exhausts, cams, CDIs etc. Swingarms. Basically, if you could to your bike what the average Indo can do to his Bebek, you'll never need to bethe front wheel down only.