Jul 30, 2007

Sliding front: emergency maneuvers

Yamaha YZF-R1 Front BrakeSo, you need to brake hard, you use the front brake and now the front's sliding, is it game over? In most cases, unfortunately, yes, the game is over. You're a passenger now, and you're gonna get what's coming. But hold on. There is one thing you can do. It isn't easy, it takes a lot of guts and it may not actually change the outcome, but you really should try it.

Why did the front lock up? Braking force, or rather maximum braking force is a trade-off between the available traction at the contact patch and the available traction between the disc rotor and the pad. When the latter overwhelms the former, you got a lock up. So now that you have lock up, what do you do? You reduce the traction between rotor and pad and the wheel should start rotating again. Simple, right?

Not quite. What separates the men from the boys is how much pressure you release. The boys will tend to let off the front brake completely. Result? You fail to stop entirely and crash into whatever you were trying to avoid. The men, have practiced enough/are skilled enough, to release only a tiny bit of pressure... the exact amount needed to get the front wheel turning again. Nothing more. How close you can get to this is a function of how skilled you are. Do it perfectly and could probably outbrake Alex Barros.

Unfortunately, there is no way to actually practice this without falling off a couple of times at least. So what you do is practice braking hard, and then letting off some pressure to see what it feels like. I like to do this braking to a stop at traffic lights when there isn't anyone on my tail. I brake as hard as I can – just short of a stoppie – then start varying the pressure. Without letting off the front completely at any point, I try to modulate brake pressure towards a set goal. Like stopping an extra 10 metres ahead after having braked really hard (failure is stopping early).

Just watch for one thing. If you've let the brake off completely, you cannot grab a handful again. When you released the brake, the forks would have extended again, and you need to reapply pressure progressively. Grab the brake now, and you'll go down in a heap... just what you were trying to avoid.

Related posts:

Jul 27, 2007

GT5: Second impressive trailer

Is that impressive or what?

Jul 26, 2007

Rain song

When the first big blob of rain shattered off my impervious face shield, I felt a white-hot lance of pure pleasure intimately. Like someone had plunged it deep into my heart, after I'd begged them to do so for weeks. It was going to rain. I said so, the overcast, almost pregnant sky confirmed it and the pedestrians scurrying for cover confirmed it. Instinctively, I patted the tankbag to make sure I had the rain gear on top. And I aborted that motion halfway, lost in watching the sky break into half and prepare to dump a million gallons of water down. As I turned the corner onto the highway, the visibility dropped, the rain grew in volume and intensity. I remember a fleeting thought – I'm glad I didn't put any of the rain stuff on. This was going to be fun. The next fifteen minutes were pure and intense. The rain never let up. Neither did I. I think I was singing aloud at the top of my voice as I sliced through the rapidly slowing traffic. This is what a Saturday ride to work should be like, I screamed.

Mailbag #12: Karizma woes... P220?

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1What is the expected life of a modern bike (chassis to be more exact)?

I have a Karizma from 2003 ,one of the earliest. 4 years on the plastics certainly have deteriorated as there is some vibration in the fairings while idling which was not there ( or much less apparent ) earlier ; blame the Pune roads for that which are like monscape after every monsoon. Also the bike doesn't handle as well as it used to, the suspension seems much stiffer ( using same rear shock setting at #3 or medium for some 2+ years ) but the damping seems to have gone bad . I have had 2 crashes on the bike and have changed the fork stanchion few months ago. Yet the front doesn't feel like it should either. I could change the entire plastics for about 5.5K , the rear suspension for 2.2K and entire front fork assy is about 4.5K.

I know of Bullets that are over 30 years old and some HH CD-100s have lasted 12+ years with no major problems. I would assume that the chassis of upper segment bikes ( 150cc and over ) should be built stronger , more durable & longer lasting than the 100c bike's , so how much longer do you think this bike can carry on further without major trouble?

As such my bike handles OK enough , tracks straight sometimes but sometimes seems to veer left when I let go of the handlebar ( not sure whether this is because of the road camber or irregular surfaces but most roads I frequent are not smooth but rather patchy ) , sometimes it seems the rear is unstable under braking . HH showroom folks say everything is fine (suspension works alright they say ) even though I have noticed the rear tyre doesn't have a constant outline while rotating( the wheel has no left-right play ) , is this a wheel alignment problem or is it the wheel rim is bent or is the tyre shape irregular (Dunlop Geocruise , 2+ years old ). Or could this be caused by worn axle bearings?

HH folks haven't been able to diagnose the problem (it's not a major thing as the bike is reliable and apart from occasional gearshift problems has given no mechanical trouble) but I like my bike handle well , and it doesn't handle well consistently (am not sure if this inconsistency is caused by road surface being irregular). So I am thinking of a new bike (Pulsar 220 foremost in mind ) but being familiar with Bajaj's gremlins I am a bit hesitant to rely on the 220 alone in case it gives up one fine day. Other bikes I am considering as the CBZ-X , Apache RTR ( I don't think it's as good as the P180 but I liked the braking ) and Unicorn ,but don't really want to go lower down the cc scale . I like the 220's lights but is the P220 really worth going for... for an existing Karizma owner?

I have been told by a fairly reliable source that Honda will bring a CBF250 based machine late in 2007 or early 2008 , and that the P220 may itself be revised early into a version 2 , and that Yamaha has no plans and may well quit India while TVS has not 200cc + bike planned for 2008. So basically I have few options in the 200cc + segment , and the Honda 250 may well be worth the wait.

What do you suggest? Spend 12K and get my bike back in shape waiting for 2008 and the Honda 250, or get the 220 ( I do know the 220 is constantly plagued by some minor like fuel gauge fluctuation and LED lamp failures ,some more serious issues like the rear disc and ECU , plus long term reliability is yet unproven and there are very few places where it can be serviced).


Hi RevHard, sorry for the delay in replying... I've not been able to access my email for almost a week.

It's kind of hard to remotely diagnose a bike, but four years is a long time for suspension bits to hold together. Especially given our roads and the two crashes you have suffered. There are a couple of things you could do though. Try taking your bike to a HH showroom and take a new Karizma out for a spin (suspension is identical). Then, ride your bike immediately afterward and play with preload and try to recreate the same feel. If the feel does not come, its time to bin the bits and get new ones. Don't be tempted to buy a different brand from another bike... stick with the OEM bits. Also try to figure out which end is more troublesome for you. Forks can come back with a change of oil and if push comes to shove change the springs. Did the forks get bent badly in the crashes? If yes, they could be causing the bike run left and in that case, a full replacement may be needed.

Chassis life is practically infinite, but it's the crashes that kill them. Even in a small off, you could bend forks, triple clamps and other small bits. The bike seems to run fine or a while, but as the bearings grow older the slight deviations begin to become more serious in the manifestations.

Also, check you rear wheel part by part. Compare the hub circumference while rotating to a fixed point, like some part of the suspension to see if that is bent. If that's allright, check the rim edge. And then check the tyre. If the outline, as you put it, is not constant, your handling ills could simply be cured by identifying and fixing the rear end.

To check for worn bearings, just slot the bike in gear on a center stand and try to move the rear wheel (not rotate, move). It should not have the slightest bit of play.

And just ignore the plastics... they will eventually rattle if the going is tough.

Should you plump for the 220, and does it constitute an upgrade from the Karizma. Hmm... I wouldn't. In performance terms, the 220 is definitely ahead, but not that far ahead. Technologically, it's leaps and bounds ahead and all that. But at the end of the day, you're upgrading from a lazy-fast 223 to a faster, sportier 220. And the rest, no matter how long the list of features is, is icing, and not cake. I would rather suggest you save up a bit and ride the Karizma one more year... and see what your choices are then.... There's more, faster stuff coming next year... As far as Honda CBF250 (that'd be great), Yamaha quitting India (no way, total rumour, watch out for them next year)... that's all just speculation.

Mailbag #11: Kit & RD350 as first bike

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Hi, I need to buy some riding gear and am wondering where i should get it from(i live in mumbai) what helmet do you recommend and what other riding should i get and what would be the approximate cost of the above. also would it be advisable to get an RD 350 as a first bike. i know how to ride but this is going to be the first bike that i will actually own.


Hmmm.... riding kit is easily sorted. Buy from cramster.in or planetdsg.com, I trust both sites and the kit they sell. You should aim to get a jacket, helmet and gloves. And if you still have cash left, buy at least a knee protector set, if not riding pants.

A jacket should cost you between Rs 5000 and Rs 15000 depending on what you pick, gloves should be Rs 1500-2500 and an Indian helmet (Vemar, AGV or Bieffe) should set you back Rs 2000-odd – contact Alibhai Premji near Minerva Cinema. 23099313 is the phone number I think. Funky in bandra also sells lids, I haven't the number, but search on google and it will pop up (try sulekha classifieds).

Yamaha RD350B 1973 from yamaha-france.comAn RD 350 as a first bike is a very interesting idea. It will need a bit more care in terms of maintenance as well as riding and return fuel economy that will close to a car's. But if you can live with that and be willing to ride gently until you're ready for harder riding, I don't see why not.

Related Links

Jul 21, 2007

Mailbag #10: Tyre and Wheels for CBZ

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Hi, please answer my queries;
Bike : Hero Honda CBZ | Age : 5-6 years

  1. Wanted to change my tyres...My old ones(Original fitting) are the Dunlop ones with specifications: Front- 2.75 , Back- 100 90. Now have almost finalised on the MRF Zapper FS (Front) and the Zapper Q (Back) Also considering the 120 for back (aesthetic purpose) Please enlighten me on benefits and drawbacks and any other option possible.

  2. Was interested in Mag wheels(only for aesthetic purpose).I got a deal of 3700 Rs. for Aluminium ones and 4700 for Casting ones. Firstly, what are the benefits and drawbacks of Mag wheels Secondly,which of them should i go for, budget also being important, but not the deciding factor

  3. Seems like my shock absorbers(back) are not good anymore,.... Firstly, how do i actually know if i need to change the shock absorbers Secondly,How is a substitute like a 'Gabriel' brand (6 month warranty)- (for the purpose of less expenditure)

Hero Honda CBZ X-TremeThe tyre brands choice is fine, but the 120 will slow the bike down when you try to turn into the corners. It will make the CBZ, which already feels like a bike with a fast front and a slow rear when you pushing along around corners, seem even more reluctant to turn in. As far as the mag alloy wheels go, sounds dicey. The only alloys I trust are the Enkeis that come OEM on the various bike today. While these are expensive, they last. The chinese ones just break. So I don't know... Also, the mags are heavier than the spoked rims, so that too will make the bike feel more lead-footed. If your shocks are not doing their job (and five-six years on, they probably aren't) then its time to bin them. Dont get them reconditioned, it isn't worth the money saved. Replacing them if non-OEM shocks (from the HH spares counter) again is dicey. If Gabriel replicates the CBZ OEM shock in terms of spring and damping rates, it should be fine. But if the rates don't match, your CBZ could end up feeling worse...

Jul 19, 2007

Slippery catch

Today was an interesting day to ride to work. It was raining (finally) and that instantly put me in very high spirits. So I was zooming along on my mooched Unicorn (er... yes, I'm on a Unicorn for a bit) when I hit the long stretch from the Andheri flyover (Western Express Highway) to the Airport signal. They've recently resurfaced the stretch with those concrete slabs that have holes in them. Pretty common in Delhi, the slabs, about two and half feet and one and half foot (I think) are riddled with orderly holes. The installation involves filling the holes with construction grade crushed granite pebbles and loads of tar. Supposed benefit is a really long life.

Anyway, so I took off when the pedestrian signal turned green and progressively worked my way to full throttle in fifth gear. And then the rear end went all greasy. Now, I was doing my smoothest best, and I swear I did not do anything to provoke the slide. It took me a few seconds to work out what happened. The tyre was spinning up! On a freaking Unicorn, which has the gentlest power delivery of the lot. That, is how slippery the stuff is. I also realised this moments later, when I was braking to stop at the signal. I started feathering the brakes with almost half a kilometre to go and still, the surface obstinately refused to offer any grip whatsoever. Bugger! I think dirty, muddy tarmac has more grip.

Got a bit scared, definitely. But I have a feeling, I will be provoking the wheelspin tomorrow and laughing inside the helmet...

Related posts:

Delhi belly: What is going on out there?

Call centre cab injures 5 school kids | Man thrashed to death in road rage | Bus hits 14-yr-old near PHQ | DTC bus crushes motorcyclist | and so forth. All of you in Delhi, please be careful...

Peripherique: The Prince Noir Video

This is the famous La Peripherique (Ring Road) video of Prince Noir (Prince of Darkness) lapping the Paris ring road, some 35 km, in 11 minutes at about 1500 hours – read in traffic. Scary vid. Hope you guys are not doing anything like this... Noir wiped himself out the second time, he'd set out to break his own record

Jul 17, 2007

Wet Riding: Read the Road

Reading the road is a very important part of turning yourself into a good rider. And practice for that, especially in the wet, begins at home. Sit down at any convenient place in the house and look around. That's all, just look around. Actually no, sit somewhere were getting up repeatedly will not be an issue. Beanbags, for instance, are a no-no. Where was I? Yeah, look around. You will see a sea of surfaces around you. The walls, that newspaper fluttering away, table cloths, the TV screen and so forth. In your head, try and feel what they would be like to ride a bike on. Don't imagine yourself crashing through your TV screen, just imagine what would happen if all the roads in the world were made of the same material as your TV screen. Close your eyes for a moment, and you'll see what I mean. Mentally, you should be able to construct that image and get a realistic feel for the smoothness, slippery-ness and grip levels of that surface.

And if you can do it at home, you should be able to replicate this on the street, right? The little exercise should help you judge road surfaces. All roads were not born equal, and even a well-surfaced, grippy patch of tarmac has slippery and grippy areas.

In the wet, this can mean a lot. Smoother tarmac is generally more slippery than rough looking. I mean this in texture terms, not surface finish quality terms. Concrete too, can be judged. Older tarmac usually has had its grooves (that appear during the casting) worn away by vehicles and tends to be slippery, while newer concrete can be quite grippy. How can you tell beyond this reasoning approach? Just look at it. The more mirror like it appears to be, the more the chances it is slippery.

There is, of course, an explanation to that. Grip in the wet is a function of the tread on the tyre and the irregular surface of the road allowing space for the tyre's design, contact patch and weight to squeeze the water out. Once the tread rubber meets the road, it contorts and adheres to the road surface, giving you grip. Simple. The more mirror-like the surface is, the less irregularities it has (a 'frozen' glass surface, by definition is finished so that a totally irregular surface gives 'anti-mirror' sort of properties), and therefore, the less space for your tyre to squeeze the offending water out.

So, what happens when you do end up in a situation where the tyres fails to squeeze out all the water. Welcome, to the greasy, scary world of aquaplaning. Because of the small contact patches, this is a hard to do on a bike, but not impossible. If it does happen to you, your panic reaction will be to either brake or steer. Since both inputs require traction (something you don't have), all that does is upset the fragile equilibrium you're passing through and cause a crash. So what do you do? Take a deep breath, pray and do nothing whatsoever. Let the bike handle it. Most of the time, you'll regain grip with nothing more than a scare to show for it. Also works for oil slicks, spilled diesel and plain stupidity in the wet.

Related posts:

Smelly Foods

This was sent in by an anonymous blog regular (photo credit: avravi[at]gmail[dot]com). In fact, I was deeply missing a camera today. For parked next to me was a dude on a powder blue Pulsar 150, who had a very special bike, indeed. The tank, under the Pulsar script, bore the legend, 'Limited Additional.' Oh and they just installed a new urinal at the office. It's branded too. Son 2000. Really

Bipasha Basu to endorse Kinetic scooters

Bipasha Basu from kineticOh nooo. rearset's plan to start selling a line of Indian-made scooters (actually copies of Chinese copies of European scooters) has come to nought even before it began. The hunt for an appropriate brand ambassador began, but it seems all the prospective act-stresses are already taken. Preity Zinta was gobbled up by TVS, Priyanka by Hero Honda, Trisha (who?) by TVS (also? Greedy!) and now Bengali sweetie Bipasha (or Bips as the Page 3 crowd insist on calling Ms Basu) has been snapped up by Kinetic (see the press release below). That leaves rearset's scooters with the princely and difficult choice betwen erm, Lara Dutta, Riya Sen, Celina Jaitley and Mallika Sherawat. Yippie-Ki-yay, almost. Ms Dutta, while Bengali like the Basu, is far too urbane, Sen, also Bengali like Basu and Dutta, is too short, Jaitley is too vacant and Sherawat as a brand ambassador will basically overpower my poor copies of Chinese copies of European scooters.... Enough. Here's the release:

Filmstar Bipasha Basu to endorse the upcoming Kinetic-SYM scooter

Mumbai, July 16, 2007: Popular Hindi cinema actor Bipasha Basu has been signed on by two wheeler manufacturer Kinetic Motor as brand ambassador. Though she can be the ambassador for all Kinetic brands, she would primarily be seen endorsing the upcoming Kinetic-SYM scooter, slated for launch next month.
The upcoming Kinetic-SYM scooter, from Kinetic's association with Taiwan's $1.1 billion automotive giant SYM, would be targeted at women riders. It would feature a 125cc engine and promises to offer best-in-class performance, technology and user friendly features. Bipasha Basu was identified as a great brand fit based on a comprehensive research among 1200 intending buyers of gearless scooters. The research also showed that college girls aspire to be confident and ambitious. Bipasha Basu is viewed as a woman who has made it on her own merit and signifies the independent modern woman. Especially her role in the movie Corporate was found to be the favourite portrayal of today's professional woman, and clinched her selection as the brand ambassador for the Kinetic-SYM scooter.

Bipasha will feature in the mainstream advertising campaign for the Kinetic-SYM scooter, including television, print and internet. An outdoor campaign of hoardings and contests is also part of the plan, and a special audio-visual that demonstrates the new scooter to be played in all Kinetic dealerships will also feature Bipasha – an innovative launch plan.
Ajinkya Firodia, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kinetic Motor Company, said, “Kinetic has been very selective about working with brand ambassadors and look for perfect synergy between product attributes and ambassador personality.

Our upcoming Kinetic-SYM scooter would appeal to women riders, and would be positioned accordingly. Our market research showed that Bipasha Basu, perceived as a modern and independent high-achiever, is the role model for many young girls who admire her style and success. In fact, the support for her was unanimous, with a 100% perfect brand fit! She was our first choice and I am glad that we were able to work out all details with her. With SYM's technology, Kinetic's brand presence and Bipasha Basu's dazzle, I am confident that the Kinetic-SYM scooter would be a winner!"

Kinetic has three decades of expertise in two wheelers, a nationwide distribution network and state of the art manufacturing plants. Currently, the company is preparing for the first and much anticipated launch from its association with Taiwanese two wheeler major SYM – a fast track Asian brand that is making rapid gains in Asian and European countries, riding on its R&D and quality strengths and aggressive global expansion strategy.

Images from Kinetic Motor
Bipasha Basu from kinetic

TVS' Indonesian factory inaugurated

The President of Indonesia has inaugurated the new TVS plant in, well, Indonesia. Here's the release.

President SBY inaugurates TVS Motor Company factory in Karawang

Producing TVS Neo, new generation of bebek motorcycles in Indonesia

Mumbai, 16 July 2007 – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurates the factory of PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia in the Surya Cipta Estate in Karawang this afternoon. The president was accompanied by Mrs. Ani Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Industry Fahmi Idris and West Java Governor Danny Setiawan. Chairman of TVS Motor Company India, Mr.Venu Srinivasan accompanied by Mrs. Mallika Srinivasan, and the President Commissioner of PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia, Mr.Nihal Kaviratne, were also on hand to greet the dignitaries.

The factory, located in 20 hectares of land with complete manufacturing facilities, is producing the TVS Neo, the new generation of bebeks for the Indonesian market. With a capacity of 300 thousand units per year, the company will be producing other variants and models. The factory has a track for testing motorcycles, a training center, quality laboratorium, offices and other support facilities. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono congratulates TVS Motor Company India and TVS Motor Company Indonesia for its success in building the motorcyle factory in Karawang, West Java. The President hopes that the company will continue to grow and contribute to Indonesia’s economy as well as the people’s efforts to improve their welfare. The President also wishes to see the cooperation between Indonesia and India growing in future.

“Our initial investment is about 50 million US Dollars, with local value addition of 40% at start up. This investment will be scaled up to 100 million US Dollars over the next 3 years, in order to achieve local value addition of 80%” said Mr. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman of PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia. “ We are long distance runners. Our interests in Indonesia are long term, and a two-half years and a great deal of effort to understand the needs of the Indonesian consumer before we put our first product on the market”. The first product from the factory introduced to the Indonesian market, the TVS Neo, is a new generation of bebek motorcycles, called the Gen-i, Intelligent Generation Bike, a combination of engine performance and durability, with the latest technology and elegant, sporty design. (please refer to fact sheet for more information).

The TVS Neo is a bebek motorcycle with many unique and sophisticated features. “We have spent more than three years researching and developing the revolutionary motorcycle aimed at Indonesian families, men and women. This is the first product from TVS and in future, there will be more models produced for our Indonesian consumers,” said Nihal Kaviratne CBE, President Commissioner of PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia.

A group of school children performed and sang in front of the President and guests. They are students from the Kutanegara elementary school located near the factory site. This school was in need of renovation, which PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia immediately look up and added two new classrooms built by TVS Motor Company Indonesia before the company began production.

Similar to the TVS Motor Company’s three factories in India, in the cities of Bangalore, Mysore and Himacal Pradesh, the ‘green plant’ concept is used in the construction of the factory in Karawang, paying due observance to the surrounding environment. The waste processing system will minimize environmental pollution as it is using the latest waste processing technology. Not only that, the selection of building materials and construction also pays due observance to the environment and to provide a place of work enjoyable to the employees. For example, the use of the flip lock roofing system, lets light into the factory area but prevents the sun’s rays during the afternoon from directly entering the factory.

About the TVS Group

The TVS Group, a large industrial group established in 1911, consists of more than 30 companies with a revenue in excess of USD 2.7 billion and more than 30,000 employees throughout the world.

The company has three world class factories with modern facilities in India, respectively in :

  • Hosur of 70 ha
  • Mysore of 110 ha
  • Himachal Pradesh of 20 ha (the newest)
and 2,500 customer service posts throughout India.
The company sold about more than 1,5 million motorcycles last year.

The company has received the Deming Prize for Total Quality Management from the Union of Japanese Scientists & Engineers. The company has also received TPM Excellence Award from the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance. The company’s R&D division consisting of over 400 technology experts creating revolutionary innovations, including the VT-i (Variable Timing Intelligent) and Economy-power mode, and has more than 80 patents. TVS Motor Company produces a range of motorcycles and scooters and exports to 40 countries, including the award winning TVS Apache and Scooty Pep+.

About PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia
PT TVS Motor Company Indonesia is the designated hub in Southeast Asia for TVS Motor Company India. TVS has set up an integrated manufacturing facility that includes engine assembly, vehicle assembly, testing and painting facility on a 20Ha land in Surya Cipta Industrial estate in Karawang West Java, with an installed capacity of 300,000 motorcycles. TVS plans a full manufacturing operation, complete with local research and development capabilities. TVS is committed to world class quality manufacturing and production from its Indonesian facility. The first phase of investment is USD 50 million and TVS plans to increase this amount to USD 100 million over the next five years.

Jul 16, 2007

Three superb MotoGP related websites

I wasn't planning this post, but these three sites appeared on my radar one after the other, so I don't really have a choice about it. And hey, they're all very good.

MotoGPNews If you haven't already heard about this one, MGPN is run by a Brit with a fairly twisted, politically incorrect sense of humour. He writes news in a wicked, twisted sort of fashion, and it makes for absolutely hilarious reading. I'll quote one line:

Farmboy Hayden was 13th on the grid, but catching a good-looking cousin on the way into turn 1 made him forget to brake. Don’t worry. He’d fall off or finish 11th. He always does.
Kropotkin Thinks I discovered this blog through MBI. I haven't bothered (my bad) to read up on who writes this blog, but this is a detailed, analytical MotoGP news blog that closely follows the racing every MotoGP weekend. Lovely and incisive.

Motorsport Mag: Rossi's Rise Article This is not as much a link to the website, as it is to Ivan Alonso's stunningly detailed and insightful article on Rossi. The story begins with the Rossi's entry into MotoGP and follows the background stories that finally ended with Rossi moving to Yamaha en famille. It also follows the first Yamaha season and analyses why the M1 suddenly turned into a winner. Superb.

Mailbag #9: Unicorn or CBZ X-Treme?

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1I know you have answered such questions before, but please advise. I am planning to buy a 150 and I have zeroed in on the Honda Unicorn and the Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme. I have ridden both, but I cannot decide which to buy. I think you can help me decide.

  1. Everyone seems to saying that the X-Treme engine is rough above 60-70 kph and that vibration is passed on to the rider. Is this true? How bad is it?
  2. The suspension seems to be hard according to some reports, is that true?
  3. The most important thing is: How is the pillion comfort? Especially for the ladies? (I know this is a wrong question to ask about a hooligan bike like the CBZX... but we can only own one bike at a time and use it for the most purposes, right?)
I am waiting for your reply before I decide what to buy?

-Name Withheld

Hero Honda CBZ X-TremeIf you are going to carry a pillion often, you should definitely buy the Unicorn. The CBZX vibrations are not that bad at all. Have ridden it hard over fair distances without any discomfort. I have no problem with the suspension either, but adding preload helps when you are riding with a pillion on the CBZX. The Unicorn betters the CBZX in pillion comfort terms, but never feels as fast as the CBZX... Also see Unicorn vs CBZ X-Treme: Sibling rivalry

Jul 14, 2007

Gyroscopic precession, from the engine

Yamaha YZF-R1The spinning of the wheels with the axis of rotation perpendicular to the direction of motion, generates gyroscopic precession and consquently stability. The engine's crankshaft does exactly the same thing too. It rotates on an axis perpendicular to the direction of motion... yes, it also aids stability. So if you're in a tricky situation, you are probably better off revving the engine higher than lower...

Of course, if you have ridden a boxer BMW, you will know the effect is noticeable, but not significant. The BMW boxer crank has its axis parallel to the direction of motion, and at idle, blipping the throttle is enough to rock the near-200 kg bike from side to side gently.

But there is a counter argument. There always is. If you were seated on your motorcycle at standstill, and rocked the bike from side to side while raising the engine speed (rpm) in neutral, would you need more force to rock it as the revs climbed?

Book Review: Heat, by Bill Buford

A friend of mine, who works in New York, purchased a copy of Bill Buford's book, Heat, for me recently. We were out walking the Manhattan streets, and had just walked into Strand, which advertises its 18 miles of books, before continuing to the Titanic memorial thingy and then to Pier 17 (we were going to end up more or less walking all the way up about halfway into Central Park... but didn't know it yet). Anyway, a food lover beyond compare, the other book he purchased was A Cook's Tour, by Anthony Bourdain, and more on that book in another post.

Heat, turned out to be a surprisingly good read. Well, coming from Kautilya, I wouldn't expect anything less. But what I mean is that instead of being a foodie-oriented great read, the book is almost an action-adventure located in a busy restaurant kitchen. There's blood, heat, tension, pressure and good grub, just a little bit more than the average thriller provides. Buford was a Fiction Editor at the NYTimes before he quit and embarked on the journey that is Heat.

It all started with Mario Batali, a genious cook and Buford's inspiration, and his restaurant Babbo (at which I ate, thanks to Kautilya; post coming), which drove Buford into this rather strange journey. Buford offers a very colourful, action-packed read. You should try it.

Die Hard 4: I saw it

Just saw Die Hard 4.0, as it is called here. Am told it's labelled Live Free or Die Hard elsewhere. It's a good movie. I am not sure it's gonna be as cherish-worthy as the first two Die Hard films, but it isn't crap. John McLane, older, still reckless and foul-mouthed, is brilliant to watch and Bruce Willis fits into that role so effortlessly, they might as well have added 'John McLane as himself' in the cast listing. There are hardly any distractions in the film, the action is unrelenting and the real stunts ('You... you just took out a chopper with a car!') make it a good watch.

However, the flyover sequence with the F-35 is too far out. In a world where missiles can evidently be targetted to explode 2.66 microns inside your left ear, John McLane must radiate some sort of fifth dimensional force field, because the pilot, in a yet-to-be-deployed F-35 next-generation fighter aircraft, aims for McLane's bald head and ends up with his missile taking out the flyover ramp McLane's trucking along on. At a range of 15 feet or something. Ridiculous. This too-far-out action is, in my opinion, completely new to the Die Hard franchise.

That aside, though, it's vintage McLane, still reluctant, still effective and still with a bagful of curt but appropriate one-liners. Nice. And yeah, Maggie Q who? I can't even remember if she spoke a single word in the movie.

Overall? Attending one movie screening is a good idea, although I am not sure if you would want to go back and see it again. I will probably end up purchasing the DVD at some point, but I will only buy it because it completes the Die Hard movie set.

The Ballad of John McLane – a silent movie version of Die Hard. ~10 min

Trailer: Die Hard 4.0 / Live Free or Die Hard.~2 min

A Die Hard music vid by Guyznite, from YouTube via kautilya

GT5 preview is out

My favourite driving game on the PS2, GT4 is growing old. And the new one is getting ready to come and blow everybody's valves through the power bump. Get ready, GT fans, for GT5

Ceat Vertigo: Upsize tyres now available

Ceat Rage tyreCeat has launched a new series of tyres called Vertigo. The tyres are supposed to be higher performance replacements for your stock tyres with wider tread areas (wider sections) and lower profiles (slimmer sidewalls). Available in 17- and 18-inch diameters, Ceat says they will improve traction, stability, offer better grip through a bigger contact patch. The latter will also offer more cornering and braking grip. Ceat also claim better aesthetics and steering response.

They also say that the Vertigo's drawbacks are that the tyres are expensive (though no price is specified), wider sizes may not directly fit all mobikes and require modification and there will be a corresponding drop in the fuel economy. Ceat also says the prospective buyers should ensure that the upsize tyres fit the rim they have, or upgrade to the correct rim spec, that the tyre clears the vehicle body. There could also be calibration issues with the odometer, speedo and yes, even the gearbox.

Ceat Sport TyreInflation is to remain the same as stock. Ceat says the tyres will come with a Lifetime Replacement Guarantee (tyres will be replaced if found to have defects, 'after adjusting for consumer's tyre usage).

Digital Photo Frames

Digital Photo Frame from digitalframez.comRecently, a colleague returned from Germany bearing a large white box. Being a total technophobe, he handed the box to me and said, 'Make it work.' I was holding my first digital picture frame in my hands. It looks only a bit thicker than a regular frame, but once we hooked it up and loaded stuff into it, the results were startlingly good. All we had to do was drag and drop the images (and this colleagues baby vids) onto the frame via USB.

Pics looks bright and fresh and it even plays videos. But my favourite part is the fact that the pics cycle around on their own. Really. You see, I am a bit lazy. I cannot be bothered to change the photos in the regular frames. Besides, sometimes the photos stick to the glass and become sort of permanent... you know what I mean? On this frame, I loved the idea of having a colourful looking slideshow that runs on its own. Such a simple idea! Since then, I've been wondering where I could get one. Well, digitalframez.com sells digital picture frames, ranging from $99 to $199. You can choose between 7- through 10-inch photo frames and I think at the moment, the site offers a free 256 Mb SD card.

Blog advertising service: Smorty

I just signed up with Smorty, my second attempt to get paid for blogging. The format is simple. Smorty sends out campaign notices, I pick stuff that I'd like to write about. And when I do, someone from Smorty checks out the post and either approves or rejects it. If it gets approved, they send me money for the post. Simple. So far, I've not seen any suggestions that the posts themselves have to be anything but my opinion on the subject. It is a form of blog advertising, certainly, but hey, I love blogging, and a blog for money's even better, eh?

I blog pretty often, right? I mean I have regular three to four post days now. So I was wondering about how I could make blogging a little more worth my while. Then I heard about an opportunity to blog for money. What an awesome idea. I am told the Internet's leading exponent of the art is Smorty. I wasn't confident of this whole thing until I read the rules and process of doing this. They seemed simple enough, so here goes. Smorty, it turns out, is a service that allows advertisers to post up notices. As a blogger, I can zero in on campaigns that I like/are relevant and post up a simple write up on that product or service. Unlike another service I tried, the post is usually an opinion piece, rather than a 'try this.' If the advertiser likes what you wrote, you get paid. Simple. Smorty requires that your blog be three months or older, indexed with Yahoo and Google and that you post at least two times per week. As in normal with these kind of services, they pay into your paypal account.

Do you have a blog? Why not try Smorty?

Jul 10, 2007

TVS Apache RTR 160: Official Words

Apache RTR 160 Offical picHere it is, the official release from TVS. I think I've said enough about the bike already... heh heh:

TVS APACHE RTR 160 Unleashed
Packed with 15.2 BHP and first time features, this Bike speaks pure aggression

New Delhi, July 9, 2007…Two-wheeler major and leaders of bike racing in India, TVS Motor Company, today unveiled the Apache RTR 160. The Apache RTR (Racing Throttle Response) has been created to be a premier street bike, high on performance by combining TVS Racing's technology with R&D know how.

According to Mr. K N Radhakrishnan, President, TVS Motor Company, "The priority in every step of the Apache RTR 160's development has been Performance. Every system, detail and component has been tuned to maximize performance. If it didn't make the RTR 160 faster or deliver quicker lap times, it wasn't considered".

The Apache RTR's, 160 CC Oversquare engine is programmed to ooze out an astonishing 15.2 Brake Horse Power (BHP) making it the most powerful bike of its class on Indian roads. The bike has a top speed of 118kph and can reach 60kph in just 4.8 sec and 100kph in 17.7 sec, making it the fastest two-wheeler in its class.

This enormous power, coupled with the well-sculpted tank and chiseled design of the Apache RTR 160, has been created to ignite the aspirations of today's adventurous youth. Additionally, the Apache RTR comes with host of new features that are first time in India and are normally found only in high-end International bikes. This bike with its razor-sharp agility and riding dynamics will set a new standard yet again. The sporty ergonomically designed rear set aluminum foot pegs, adjustable split handlebars and sculpted seats allow exceptional control and maneuverability of the bike and is sure to thrill discerning riders of the Apache RTR.

Some of the first time in India features on a bike includes:
  • Digital console with service due reminder, clock, dual trip meter
  • Adjustable clip on handlebar
  • Rotor petal disc 270 mm
  • Self illuminating wheel rim – In titanium grey & yellow
  • Rear set aluminum foot pegs (Sporty ergonomics)
  • Racing stripes
  • Matt paints – titanium grey
  • Mono tube Inverted Gas filled Canister shocks with PU block
Additional sporty features include:
  • Titanium black engine with engine fairing
  • Engine fairing
  • LED tail lamp
  • Split grab rail
  • New turn signal lamps
  • Race crouch mirrors
  • Longer wheelbase
  • New rear fender
  • Sound engineered silencer.
Apache RTR 160 offical picThe previous Apache 150 was an all out success, testimony of which was the 7 'bike of the year' awards it won in its first year of launch. Now the new Apache RTR 160 transforms that riding experience to Racetrack experience. A combination of powerful racing inspired engine with leading edge technology, design and enhanced technological features ensure the man machine interaction are as close in real life as on a track. Apache RTR 160 is ready to race and ignite passions like never before.

The Apache RTR will come in 5 aggressive and sporty colors namely Titanium Grey with matt finish, yellow, silver, black and red. Electric start and disc brakes are standard features on the Apache RTR. With all these features the bike will be priced at Rs.58,584/- ex-showroom, Delhi.
Related posts

Jul 9, 2007

Nailed it!

There's many reasons usually given out about nail hygiene. Usually, they revolve around bacterial or other infections. On the Internet, you will also find a whole sackful of reasons why you should be cutting then, how you should be cutting them... and what is this doing in a motorcycle blog?

Well, the glove pic should give the game away, but here goes. When I started playing basketball in school, one of the first things I learnt was that the coach would not allow long nails (even slightly objectionable ones) on the court. You could painfully scratch others in the heat of battle (unintentionally, of course) or worse, an awkwardly caught pass could rip the nail right off your finger... bloody and intensely painful.

Since I started motorcycling, I've found the same hygiene quite useful as well. You see, long fingernails and motorcycle gloves don't really get along. A racing-type snug glove (like my recently expired Spidi similar to these) fits really tight. Over a longish ride, the seam can ride into the space between the finger and the nail – distracting, irritating, and if you don't stop to stretch the glove out now and then, very painful too. And here's the nub, if you've just spent a thousand or two buying a pair (congrats!) you would be happier if they lasted as long as possible, right? Well, short nails don't 'cut' into the leather at full stretch. In my experience, badly trimmed nails, tend to lead to tears in gloves at the finger tip. Personal experience – I've used Joe Rocket Razor gloves for the past five years now and they last roughly fifteen-eighteen months. If I don't obsess over the length on my nails (as in don't bite them), the gloves tear above the seam about two months earlier. Short nails also tend to survive crashes better.

Okay, you can start commenting about how OCD I am (yet again) now, if you like.

Mailbag #8: Apache RTR 160 – Not Convincing

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1From a Vibrator to a smooth 'no' vibe engine, to seeing 120 kph "very" easily on the speedo, to the best handling 150cc in the market, to be feeling 30 kph less at 76 kmph.... is there more to this than what meets the eye? Did TVS suddenly get a magic wand or has the bike come straight from the gods.... I for one am not convinced. Over to you...

TVS Apache RTR 160Actually, the answer to that question is quite simple. And no magic wands are being waved either. To a manufacturer conversant with good engineering, eliminating vibration is a very simple matter. You either attack the primary vibes from the motor, or you add a set of dampers that ensure that not much vibes appear in the three-odd places where a rider might feel it – pegs, bars and tank.

Adding displacement is another fairly straight-forward game too. You can use computers to model a whole bunch of (bigger) bore, stroke combinations and select the one you like. Run it on prototypes, see if you like it and when you do, more power is there for the asking. 120 kph? They could have got more. I, for one, would not be surprised to see a TVS Apache 160 Racebike touch much, much higher speeds.

What was wrong with the 150 handling? Stability. Stability, for ages, has been solved by lengthening the wheelbase. And the best, most productive way to lengthen the wheelbase is by increasing the swingarm length, which brings more stability and increases the ability of the rear tyre to 'hook up' better. For a manufacturer, this is the equivalent of a patch for a set of small niggles in a new operating system, so to speak. All of this takes time, agreed, but it isn't magic, magical or a miracle of sorts.

What I am saying is that the primary thing that TVS has done with the 160, is solve the problems that stopped the 150 from being truly jaw-dropping. The potential was always there. Another example of a similar bike, although still-born, was the Graptor. There was so much that LML could have done with that bike.

However, the biggest change, the real reason why the Apache 160 is such a great ride, is a change in stance. You see, as a small manufacturer (compared to Bajaj and HH), TVS always needed to consolidate its volumes and that was an overriding consideration. This, usually, means engineering and motorcycling compromises aimed at snaring the largest possible number of prospective customers. It means you cannot give your bike special abilities. You focus on making it adept and comfortable in a variety of roles. Would a small air force benefit from having a bunch of pilots who were okay fighter jocks, decent bomber captains and passable chopper flyers as well?

What happened with the 160, is that someone at TVS woke up and realised that the reason the TVS Apache
(like many, many bikes all over the world) wasn't doing as well as they had expected was the fact that the bike didn't really have a focus beyond good sales. That approach never works. Look at most of the 1000cc or 600cc bikes, and you will see that the popular ones are almost always good at one thing, and borderline crap at others. It's the focus that brings riders to the point where they reach into their pockets.

With the RTR, I think, TVS decided to go radical and make an all-out sporty bike, rather than a sporty commuter, that could also handle and would also race and would also... and so forth.

The R&D team, now had a clear focus. Clear focii usually mean solutions to problems are found faster and are easier to implement without interference from other involved departments (like marketing and sales). That's what happened, in my opinion. And for once, it has come together in spectacular fashion.

If you are still not convinced, my friend, just hop over to the nearest TVS dealer, I promise you will not have wasted your time.

Related posts

Jul 6, 2007

TVS Apache RTR 160: Real Deal

TVS Apache RTR 160I rode the TVS Apache RTR 160 again today. And once more, I am amazed at what TVS have managed to do with the old Apache. And amazed at what more they could have done, but haven't. I mooched a bike off a dealer and managed to take it out for a solo spin. A 25 km solo spin.

Once more, the Apache makes an eye-opening amount of power with remarkable ease. The engine is very refined, there aren't any vibes, and the smoooth gearbox is one of the best in the market today without any doubt (Yamaha still makes the best of the lot, I think). Compared to my first riding impression (link below) which was in a more sterile environment, this time I was out in the real world. Where you and I are expected to get our kicks/commute. And I did. Get my kicks that is. While initially you don't notice the performance itself, there's no getting away from the strong convex power curve.

The Apache can blow up a typhoon in no time at all (by 150cc standards, that is). How do you find this out? You have to look for subtle clues. Like managing to overtake cars going at a fair clip without any undue effort on your part. Like seeing 76 kph where you expect the speedo to read about 30 kph less. Like seeing a hapless, smaller rider on a CBZ X-Treme struggle very hard to keep up and fail. Like finding out that a last-gen Pulsar 180 will get embarrassed almost too easily. Like a Pulsar 200 won't be able to disappear on the 160 (Well-ridden Shoguns used to do this to RD350s also – they can't get past, but RDs would find it very hard to get rid of the irritating Shogun). Like thinking you just past 100 kph, and it took a while, and looking down and seen 123 kph on the digital speedo.

Handling's great too. The bike feels taut, pegs are quite seriously rearset, the seat is lower than most of the competition and the bike feels compact and ready to rock. Which is does. Enter a corner hard (in the wet), and the confidence, the agility is marvellous. I thought the CBZ X-Treme was the best 150-class handler there is. Well, ascending to the top spot, ladies and gentlemen is the RTR. Good job! Oh and I could write thousands of words about the disc brake on the front axle. Superb. Superb. Superb.

I no longer care whether it has flaws (like tankbags don't fit the tank all that well and tend to slide forward into the handle, or the lack of space for a pillion to sit comfortably). I have to have one around to ride for a while at least. And I working on that now. That it looks smashing is a bonus, as is the fact that it probably returns 50 kpl when ridden gently. I also happen to love the fact that it wheelies without provocation, loves to be thrashed and in the wet, is able to find a stunning amount of traction.

Is that review over the top? Perhaps. The only flaw in the Apache RTR's tall fort walls is that when you get off, you're thrilled. But. But you wonder what would have happened if TVS had let just a bit of the vibes leak into the pegs and bars at speed to enhance the sensation of velocity. I have a feeling that we would have appreciated it even more. And I hate the white tail lamp with the red reflector. I cannot help but think that a clear or red outer lens would have looked a heck of a lot classier.

Did I mention that the Apache will probably kill a CBZ X-Treme? It's more powerful (1 bhp), makes more torque (3 Nm) and happens to weigh a not insignificant 5-odd kgs less as well. It is also about Rs 1,000 cheaper than the CBZ X-Treme in Bombay.

Related posts

Jul 4, 2007

Risk: how we blind ourselves

rearset or caughtilyaAs is rapidly becoming the normal course of events, the rains have arrived, Mumbai is up the creek in a leaky boat and no paddle; and we're slogging through all of that trying to meet deadlines. It is undeniably beautiful outside and yet, there is a new fear of the falling rain that I don't remember having felt before. But that's just a thought I wanted to toss up into the air and so I have.

Anyway, the other day I was riding home on the CBZ X-Treme with The Wife perched on the rear seat. It had been raining earlier, so the roads were wet and Mumbai looked shiny and quite pretty actually. We stopped at this traffic light and ahead of us was another couple on their Pulsar, clad in casuals, lidless, it goes without saying. I saw the chap pull out a bottle of water from somewhere, and take a long swig. Having emptied the bottle, he dropped the bottle with practiced ease and kicked it half-volleyed over a barrier into the deep hole dug up for a subway. All without rocking the bike or upsetting his pillion. Admirable skill and deplorable civic attitude in one shot.

For an instant, I thought I might point out the latter to the chap, but it would have been futile. You know how they are. They shrug, smile and moments later they will do it again. It sucks. I'd like to believe you can change the world one person at a time, but frankly the path is steeply uphill and I'm increasingly leaning over into the cynic side. So I pointed this chap out to The Wife, muttered something like, 'What a total, effing idiot!' and continued.

Once the light changed, and we crawled back into the rush hour traffic, I more or less forgot this chap. We were having a good ride. Then I hit my favourite stretch. This almost five kilometre stretch of road is wide open, well-surfaced, safe to speed on when empty and well lit too. I love the CBZ X-Treme's two-up buzz around 80-90 kph on this stretch and feel very happy when I come to a stop on the front row of the traffic light that just precedes this stretch.

Normally, I am the second or third of the lights – making sure no one's jumping the lights across – but once I hit my stride, very few vehicles come past. To my surprise, the first bike off the greasy line was, you guessed it, our lidless hero and his hapless pillion.

As I saw his bike weave wildly in the wet before gripping and shooting off into the night, it occurred to me that we humans are conditioned to ignoring the risk of daily activity. As in, we use the sharpest knife casually without considering the damage it could cause for no better reason than because we use it daily. We forget, in this chaps case, that you are endangering at least two lives. That a simple fall could kill him or worse. That full throttle when two-up in the rain is the same as asking for someone to come and clobber you with a blunt object. That a lid not only protects you when you fall, but it restores your vision at speed and in the wet.

That four kilometres of unbridled speed is not worth a human life.

A rain song

Blog reader Rahul wanted me to post this piece he wrote to the blog. So I didn't refuse. Especially since it is a nice, evocative letter. So here it is.

Hello E,

Come out into the verandah and look below.

What do you see? I see you and me, caught in a time warp some 10 years back, splashing water at each other with our hands and legs. The same water that is below your verandah today. We have bathed in what we consider untouchable today.

I have fond memories of you and I. On my dad's Yezdi, soaking in the rain. One barely legal rider with one pillion clinging on to his back. The rain drops drawing shapes on your slender body!

Soaking in the storm water drains under makeshift bamboo bridges. The startled birds and the angry frogs, despising our intrusion in their monsoon sex lives!

As I sit and watch these myriad reruns of our life in my mind's eye, I think of the little adventures we cherished in the swamps. The water hyacinth islands where we chased the migratory birds. Man's need for growth has lain that place with concrete and tarmac now. But no one can pour cement on my memories.

And you know what? The birds live on. The frogs have found their own new water hole, and they are waiting. For the right season. Expecting us to return just like the migratory birds.

If you ever come by here. I want you to know that I still love you!


rearset makes it to monoshock's emag!

Caughtilya-Rearset Stamp 1Hello hello dear blog regulars, rearset and (my photo-shooting alter ego) Caughtilya have made it to the pages of monoshock's emag. Check it out here. I'd post an excerpt, but it feels kind of odd to excerpt my own work...

Jul 3, 2007

Bajaj Sales: Still falling, but no worries

Bajaj sent out a note saying that it recorded a 12 per cent fall in sales last month, but that they aren't worried. Bajaj, it seems, are proto-testing the new bike slated for a September launch. The bike is expected to offer an alternative to the 100cc customer and is being called a 'breakthrough' bike by Bajaj. I won't go into the numbers, but here are the three important points the note made:

  1. First quarter sales have been disappointing; the focus has been on enhancing market and product mix to safeguard profitability.

  2. Existing motorcycle owners desirous of repurchase represent over half of all new sales, and there is increasing evidence of their diminishing interest in the fundamentally unchanged 100 cc motorcycles currently available, contributing significantly thereby towards the industry-wide slowdown in sales.

  3. In the build-up to its product-centric endeavour to reverse this trend, Bajaj successfully completed the pre-production of its all new motorcycle in June'07; a national launch is scheduled for September'07 with an initial target of 50.000 motorcycles/month to be achieved by January'08.

Hero Honda Pleasure: Freshened up

Actress Priyanka Chopra on a Hero Honda PleasureHero Honda announced that it managed to hold dropping sales to -8.4 per cent over the year. Selling 2.55 lakh bikes, India's biggest bike maker is still selling around a lakh more than Bajaj, and reported 50+ per cent market share as well. Hidden in the release though was the news of a re-freshed new Pleasure. Which means altered stickering, and whether you like it or not, Priyanka Chopra will not be attached at the hip to the scooter like in the pick. She is the new brand ambassador, though. I quite like Ms Chopra in the ad, I must admit.

For those who came in late, the Pleasure is the Honda Activa/Dio with slinkier new bodywork aimed solely at women riders. That usually won't stop the man of the house from taking it out for a spin, but that's the spiel. Hero Honda has also created some 'manned' by women showrooms for the ladies, including a pick-up service in the event of a breakdown and a lady-rider club of sorts as well.

Jul 2, 2007

Apache RTR 160: Another Video