Oct 22, 2007

RRR: rearset's on R&R

Sorry mates, but I'm thrilled to tell you that I'm taking a break. I may not post anything new on this blog, till, um... November 15, 2007. As usual, feel free to browse the archive.


Mantra #216.88

"Have patience, and endure"
-William Shakespeare, Much Ado, Act iv, Sc.1

Parallel-ytic attack

Try this. Take a friend along for a walk. Instruct him/her to walk exactly parallel to you, so that you are exactly two abreast. Now, as you walk, without turning your head, try to see what s/he is doing as they walk. You will find it nearly impossible.

Now, find a broken, gravelly patch and do the same thing. This time, allow yourself to turn the head. You will find that the going gets slower because every time you turn your head to gaze upon your friend, you lose the forward sight that is so crucial in the loose surface.

Can you already see the point? Never, ever, ride parallel to other people in traffic. You are only making yourself invisible. Which is why you will end up getting cut-off or sideswiped. Even in heavy traffic, it is possible to position and re-position yourself so that you are never running parallel to someone at the same speed.

Oct 20, 2007


You know, when I think about it, I'd rather ride an R1 slowly through
a pothole than not ride one at all...

Oct 19, 2007

New layout at the blog

The more I look at it, the new three-column layout looks bad. Like really cluttered and really bad. Sorry. I have, however, in the process, learnt a little bit about tweaking the template settings. Hopefully soon, I'll have some time to put all I've gathered to good use and pull off a better design.

On the other hand, if any of you (first_synn?) have design ideas on the blog and have the expertise to help implement it, please get in touch with me, I'd dearly appreciate the help.

Money does matter

I have a friend who is employed with one of our two-wheeler manufacturers. From the very start, I've heard him laugh at the idea of someone launching big bikes here. Once, I pointed out that the online discussion forums (fora?), email lists etc were full of enthusiasts practically begging for the stuff. Every other post laments the fact that new latest-greatest is basically 20cc more than the last one, makes 0.6 bhp more and promises to have better, um... grab rails than everyone else ever has.

His response was simple, 'And how many of these desperate enthusiasts will actually put down the money, then?' I have to admit that I do not have the answer to that question. In the ideal world, the response would be all-inclusive, but this isn't the ideal world.

Then he said, 'Suppose, by chance, a significant number did actually turn out to be desperate enough to BBS their way to a bike (that's beg-borrow-steal). Do you think they would be able to afford regular Rs 6,000 oil changes? Or be willing to shell out that Rs 40,000 they might need to replace a fairing after a minor off?' That's true enough. Even if I had scratched together the money to buy a big bike, a 6,000 buck service would probably mean a serious drop in the fuel budget for the month.

Upshot? The wheels of the motorcycle industry are turned by the same thing that turns every other industry on. Money. Yes, we enthusiasts do invest a lot of emotion into these machines, a lot more than you could with a more mundane product, like say soap. But the fact remains, the two wheels of progress must be powered by money. Your money. And if you haven't got enough already, progress will be slow. Sigh.


Perspective: Have we lost it?

It's a matter of perspective. When there is an earthquake, the usual warnings suggest that you mosey on far away from buildings. Why? Because they are big, huge things. If they fall on you, they cause pain and grief. However, no one says that during an earthquake stay away from, um... say a fountain pen. It isn't about to shatter into a million shards that will invade your sorry carcass. At worst, you'll end up with a splattered shirt. Right?

That's just a matter of perspective.

When it is this easy to grasp something so simple, why the heck do I see people on motorcycles taking chances with trucks and buses on a daily basis? It's like someone forgot to tell them that their all-up weight of 200-odd kgs is a matchstick in front of a 15-ton behemoth with bad brakes. That even the faintest of contact would probably be serious to fatal.

The other day, I was in a rick coming back from the airport and this autorickshaw driver basically hung a left sharpish across the nose of a fully loaded, sand-filled truck. We were ducking under a flyover (which I'd told him about three km in advance would be a good move, navigation wise), and the truck man was heading up the bridge.

I distinctly remember the staccato hissing of the brakes fighting to slow the mass of the truck. If the truck hadn't slowed, this blog would be history. Hey, who's that who yelled hurray?

This isn't just an obvious thing, not to realise it is just plain suicidial. Now and then, you will get squeezed in a bit between a bus or something. If you come away unscratched, please, don't try to teach the driver a lesson. It's an argument you cannot win.

Like General Hummel said in The Rock, 'Your unit is covered from an elevated position, Commander. I'm not gonna ask you again. Don't do anything stupid. No-one has to die here.'

Oct 17, 2007

Hero Honda Hunk: The full details

Hero Honda HunkJust returned from the unveiling of the newest motorcycle on the block, the Hero Honda Hunk. Hero Honda claims that the engine has been tweaked - 'piston pin is now inclined,' friction has been decimated further etc. However, the peak power and torque figures appear to be identical to the Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme. That's 14.2bhp at 8500 rpm and 12.8 nm at 6500 rpm. The information released at the event says that the engine now has tumble flow (like swirl, but vertical). If I understand correctly, that should have boosted torque. Maybe the torque curve sits higher everywhere, but has the same peak. Then again, if that were the case, I'd say as much... and they didn't. So, is the powertrain different from the CBZ X-Treme, no official word, but I think not. It is painted a nice grey, though.

Hero Honda HunkBut engine aside, there's a lot of pretty good stuff on the bike. The new gas charged rear shocks look good, for instance, although their dynamic benefit will become clear only after one swings a leg over. Similarly, the deeply dished saddle looks great and feels good to sit in. I do wish they'd gone the whole hog and split the seats, though. Staying with the seat, the seat lock is now separated from the helmet lock. The former is integrated (key operated) into the tailpiece, while the helmet lock is not part of the saree guard (like the CD-Deluxe? Not sure).

The styling is pretty interesting. The massive tank extensions look good, but once you are seated, it makes the tank look pretty big. On the other hand, if you like hanging off, the seat extensions offer a pretty secure place to lock in your thighs. The fairing looks neat too, although I think they could have been more adventurous with the headlamp shape and size. The rest of the bike is a striking interplay between matte black and painted panels, and I was faintly reminded of similar themes on the recent Hornet, and either a recent 600RR or a 1000RR... not sure. Upshot? Build quality is great and fit-finish is also great. Altogether, the bike does look pretty striking. Although, I will admit that it still is a far cry from what we were expecting - full fairing, monoshock, twin headlamps etc. None of which make an appearance.

Hero Honda HunkHero Honda also chose two rather curious points to talk about. The Hunk (that name, oh that name) does not have a digital dash element, favouring a bright red speedo (chrome bezel) flanked by a revcounter and a fuel gauge. The other thing is that the Hunk reverts to a bulb type tail lamp, which again mystifies me. Hero Honda showed a fancy chart where the Karizma held down the Biker end, while the Achiever managed the commuter end of the scale. And while the CBZ X-Treme is positioned as appealing to the style conscious crowd, the Hunk is supposed to be a more raw kind of performance bike, and therefore labelled macho. The digi-dash and the LED omissions, evidently, are due to that thought, and no 'delicate' elements were incorporated in the Hunk.

Hero Honda HunkHero Honda will offer a 3 year warranty, and there will be two variants. The kick start model (features a kick back prevention device...) will set you back Rs 55,000 ex-showroom (not specified but usually Delhi), while the electric start model costs Rs 57,000.

Hero Honda HunkOkay, the chap in the pic. Just thought you guys should see this. The unveiling space was flanked by rigged up gyms with these hunks working out... to set the tone, so to speak. And the images are either mine (meters and hunk) or courtesyHero Honda

Hero Honda Hunk

Hunk: Er... sorry folks

Sorry to get hopes soaring. I know now that the hunk is a 14.2 bhp
150cc machine. The engine now has tumble induction so torque should
have improved. no full fairing... a more regular looking bikini
fairing is what i am now expecting... side on, the tail end looks neat
though... more later. posting this from my phone, so please excuse
grammar and spellings... pics and specs coming in a couple of hours...

Oct 15, 2007

Hero Honda Hunk: What the heck is going on?

Okay, the official launch of the new Hero Honda bike is scheduled for October 18, 2007. I'd written about it likely to be a twin. Well, I still have my fingers crossed. But sources are more or less sure that the bike is not going to be a large displacement player, but a 150cc-class bike. If you've been salivating over the prospect of a Honda CBX250 Twister, you could be drooling up the wrong tree. A 150cc Twin, even to a die-hard look up and ahead optimist like me, sounds like overkill. So, I'm now leaning away from the twin and increasingly towards a mildly hopped-up 150cc single cylinder engine.

Purely guessing, but here goes. I looked closely at the pics of the CBR150R that're up at various blogs. The wheels, front brake and all look very similar. However, the twin-spar style chassis may be hard to do in India within a reasonable cost structure. So I'm thinking of the Hunk as a 160-ishcc motorcycle, engine heavily based on the Unicorns, making around 16 bhp (similar to the RTR 160, but refinment may be slightly better). If Hero Honda have moved on and added an oil-cooler, it could make more at the expense of fuel economy.

The motorcycle's USP, will be its full fairing. The most common local mod appears to be slapping on a CBR-GSX-Busa-R1 fairing, and this should become a manufacturer-offered, and hence high quality fairing. I don't know whether the light cluster from the CBR150R will make it, but the CBR's fairing seems pretty much the ideal choice for a faired 150. No fuel injection, although a monoshock is a definite maybe.

All up, I expect this package to set the customer back, say, Rs 4,000-odd over the CBZ X-Treme. Which, for a crowd who want a fairing won't be too much extra dosh, since they're willing to spend anything from Rs 10,000 to Rs 45,000 on a lash-up fairing. Of course, this is purely speculation.

Why another 150? Well, with Bajaj's Pulsar numbers more or less refusing to slow down despite the competition's increasingly better spec-ed products and the consistent growth of the premium segment, Hero Honda cannot help but look at this segment for great margins on sales and a consequent top-line boost. Cost cutting on entry-level bikes isn't helping anyone's profits, really. With the Achiever being more or less a flop, and the CBZ X-Treme buzz having slowed down since the RTR 160 stole the thunder, I think the Hunk is what Hero Honda needs, although not necessarily what we want. In fact,

Then, of course, there is the name. Again, there is no official confirmation on the moniker, but Hunk is as daft a sobriquet as Joy, Dawn, Passion, Pleasure (!), Glamour and Achiever. And obviously, market research still insists that we're only mature enough to handle easy to pronounce names like Hunk (yes, Doc, the J, indeed lies suspiciously close to the H like you said), Dawn and Joy. Personally, a tuned version, the Hunk RR has a nice ring to it. If they do it right, I might even be Hunk RR-ing after it. Er... okay, bad one.

But again, let us not condemn the bike before we see it. Who knows how much a punk the Hunk will really turn out to be, eh?

MC Tech: The four-stroke internal combustion engine

What I'm learning this time:
There is a considerable difference in the actual application of the four-stroke cycle, from the simplified one we were taught in school.

You should already know that the Internal Combustion engine, specifically, the four-stroke one, operates on what the Americans like to call the Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow format of operation. The process is very well understood by engineers, who like to formalise the four steps by calling them Intake, Compression, Power and Exhaust. The animated gif, by the way, is from wikipedia.

To summarise what goes on inside the engine. The piston moves upwards, reducing the size of the combustion chamber, which is full of air mixed with fuel. This, obviously, compresses the mixture. Then, the spark plug fires, burning the fuel, and causing the air to heat up very fast. The fast rise in the temperature of the air causes the pressure it exerts on the combustion chamber (all sides of it) to rise very fast. The piston, being the only moving 'wall' is pushed down with considerable force. The piston is connected (by an imagintively named bar of metal – the connecting rod) to the crankshaft, which is rotated by the force that the piston experiences thanks to the expanding air. Some part of the rotational energy of the crankshaft goes into driving – though one mechanism or another – the rear wheel(s), the rest of it, the inertial component, pushed the piston back up the cylinder setting up another sequence. The engine designers' job (and the art part of it) is to make the process as efficient as possible with an eye on the design brief – economy, efficiency, performance or any combination thereof. Liquid-cooling, double overhead camshafts, four-valve heads, porting, twin plugs etc are all devices that help the basic process run better.

Now, for a little more detail. The top of the engine, often called the head, has at least two valves. One is to let the air-fuel mixture in (referred to as mixture from here on out). The other is to let the spent gases out. The third (and fourth if you have a twin spark head) hole is for the spark plug, which simply put, ignites the mixture in the first place. For now, we'll not go into how the valves are opened and closed. We'll simply assume that they open and close according to a pre-determined schedule – which we see in a minute.

We will also, for the moment, ignore what all happens as the crankshaft rotates and focus only on the cylinder and its elements. I'm also going to assume this is a simple two-valve four-stroke motor. Also, inside the cylinder, each cycle is counted off in degress of crank rotation. Hence, all events are timed in degrees (of crank rotation.

In the intake stroke, the intake valve opens as the piston moves from the top postion (called Top Dead Center, or TDC) to the bottom position (called Bottom Dead Center or BDC). The motion of the piston creates suction, which draws in fresh mixture through the open valve.

As the piston reaches BDC, the intake valve closes. The motion of the piston upwards, now heading for TDC, compresses the air. The mixture when it is drawn in is roughly at atmospheric pressure. The motion of the piston will compress it by ten or more times in a high-performance engine. Just before the piston reaches TDC, the spark plug fires.

The mixture, now burning, needs some time to complete the combustion. This is usually between 30 and 70 degrees. In this time, the temperature of the mixture goes from more or less atmospheric to thousands of degrees (this is why you've seen those videos of engines on bench tests running glowing red hot). With the spike in temperature comes a rise in pressure – which, really, is the part we're interested in. Good engines see a four or five-time rise in pressure. At full throttle, the original intake mix (at roughly 15 psi, atmospheric pressure), that was compressed, say 10-13 times (150-200 psi) will jump to as much as hundred times the compression ratio (1000-1300 psi).

The piston, meanwhile, passes TDC and the pressure forces it down the cylinder. The piston's motion (and in consequence, the crankshaft's motion) will consume most of the this pressure energy, leaving the spent gases with about 100 psi. When the piston closes in on BDC, the exhaust valve opens to let the spent gases out. Usually, the valves open before the piston has reached BDC to help the gases leave. Once at BDC, the inertia of the crank starts to push the piston back up the cylinder, effectively shooing the spent gases out of the chamber. As the piston reaches TDC, the exhaust closes and the intake opens to start this dance all over again.

Now, as you can imagine (and this is point of this MC Tech post), the process isn't quite this cut and dry. Like the employees of an office, even one's with routine jobs, the process needs time. The mixture, for instance, has inertia like everything else. It needs time to start flowing into the cylinder. And once flowing, it needs time to stop flowing as well. So, it is quite common for the intake valve to actually close after the piston has passed BDC and started the compression stroke.

Further, at the end of the exhaust stroke, it is common for engineers to start opening the intake valves before the exhaust valve has fully closed – a period known simply as overlap. If this were a simple system, you would expect some intake to pass right through and get exhaust-ed. But, the engineers use the exhaust system to correct this.

As the exhaust gases leave the chamber, they are still under pressure and pressure waves emanate from the cylinder. These will bounce off obstructions in the pipe and get reflected. Obstructions include a joint in the pipe (like when two exhaust headers join into one) or the end of the tuned length pipe. When they get reflected, the pressure wave also becomes negative. If the original wave was, say, a suction wave, the reflected one becomes a expansion wave. If the original's a push wave, the reflection becomes a pull. If a pull wave arrives at the right time, it will help the exhaust gases (pull) leave the chamber more efficiently. But again, a pull wave won't sit down having helped the spent gases leave either. It will usually pass into the chamber and then into the intake header, pulling intake gases into the chamber, working, in effect, as a supercharger. Good overlap and exhaust design will create a beautiful torque boost. Good design will also start the lazy mixture to start flowing early, sometimes before the piston has actually arrived at TDC to begin the intake stroke. Early bird gets the burn.

Bad overlap design can happen. A push wave can arrive, carrying the spent gases back into the chamber (push) and reducing the amount of burn-able mixture in the chamber. And like, the pull wave, it will travel into the intake header, slowing or blocking incoming mixture. The result is weak combustion, and a flat spot. You open the throttle in this rev range, and literally, not much happens.

Due the inertia of the gases, this time in the case of the spent gases, the exhaust valve is usually opened early too. Most engines, therefore, open the exhaust valve before the power stroke ends formally at BDC. The pressure energy left in the spent gas helps begin the scavenging process. Whatever gases leave on their own reduce the work the piston has to do while coming back up to TDC in terms to pushing the spent gases out. One could argue that this reduces the efficiency of the power stroke.

However, the exhaust opens just before TDC. At this point, the piston is slowing to a near stop, and the leverage angle (the angle at which the connecting rod is driving the crankshaft) is not really conducive to using the motive force to turn the crank harder anyway. Any force running down the con-rod at this point will only try to push the entire crankshaft away from the piston (down) rather than try to make it rotate. Further, as the piston nears BDC, it doesn't have all of that energy left in any case. So the loss is minimal. The early opening does help with the efficiency of the next cycle, and will usually cause more useable power to be 'manufactured' in the overall scenario.

Oh, and while I never thought this might actually be useful, double-clicking any word should pop-up and explanation from answers.com

King's beer: I'm lovin' it

Kings Beer 3A very dear person just returned from Goa, bearing the sweetest of all gifts from that lush land... King's Beer. As I noted in this post, King's is one of the nicest beers I've ever tasted. Kautilya and I, were in Goa on a college trip, sometime in 1995 or so. We left our classmates to go have a gander at this island thing. As luck would have it, he and I arrived at the ferry literally minutes after the one we wanted to catch had pushed off, headed for its umpteenth trip across the lazy Mandovi. With not much to do, we found a run-down shack near the jetty and ordered a beer. He only had local brew – Kings. I am happy to state the forty minutes (or was it an hour) were spent in a happy state, tasting a really, really good beer, enjoying very good company and great scenery in lazy, lovely old Goa.

Kings Beer 1Of late, though, King's has become really hard to find. This person, evidently, spent a fair while searching for my five bottles worth (heck, I even love the shape of it, now echoed by the almost equally elusive Kingfisher Stubby).

Well, I'd like to thank her for taking the time to look for it. Oh, and I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm going home to five super-chilled bottles of the stuff. Yippee!

Kinetic Flyte: launch release

Kinetic Sym FlyteHere's the original release. There were too many bold and underlined elements in the original release... I've removed them all to make it readable...

Kinetic-SYM launch feature packed 125cc scooter - FLYTE

  • First launch from Kinetic- SYM association, Flyte aims at being the best scooter in India

  • Feature and technology packed Flyte to be targeted at women, and endorsed by Bipasha Basu

  • Special 3 year warranty offer
New Delhi, October 15th 2007: The much-awaited scooter “Flyte”, from the Kinetic-SYM association, was launched in Delhi today. Flyte is the first launch from the collaboration between India’s pioneering scooter manufacturer Kinetic Motor and Taiwan’s $1.1 billion automotive giant SYM.

The Kinetic SYM Flyte is targeted at women, the fastest growing two-wheeler buyer segment today. Accordingly, the Flyte campaign is calibrated to ‘Ride The Change’, and marketing communication will target the modern, confident and ambitious women, with actress Bipasha Basu as the brand ambassador.

The 125cc Flyte is based on the SYM X’pro, SYM’s current international bestseller across 62 countries. Flyte takes the gearless scooter proposition significantly forward on every scootering parameter – design, styling, technology, ride, engine smoothness, handling, fit-finish, and quality that has been benchmarked to international standards. Flyte brings several first-time convenience features to this segment such as: easy front-fueling with a pop up lid, 4-in-1 anti-theft magnetic key, convenient mobile chargepoint, crash resistant mirrors and huge (22 litres, 2 level) brightly lit underseat storage. Flyte also boasts of a high technology quotient with a highly refined engine, secondary air injection technology, imported front telescopic suspension, and 9 AH battery for instant start.

Flyte, available in five attractive colors, is priced at a value-for-money Rs. 37,499 (ex showroom, Delhi) and will come with a 3-year warranty - a pioneering initiative that reflects Kinetic’ – SYM’s quality confidence and customer commitment.

At the launch, Ms. Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Managing Director, Kinetic Motor Company said,” It is a great feeling to bring the Flyte for today’s confident young women who are looking for a set of wheels as cool as themselves! Gearless scooters has been the only segment in two wheelers to post consistent growth over last several months, and I am confident that the high quality Flyte would be well-received. We are committed to evolving the “scooter” in India and our association with SYM is key for that. Working closely with the SYM team on Flyte has been a wonderful experience. “

Also present, Mr. Harrison Liu, Executive VP from SYM’s headquarters in Taiwan, said, “A year ago, Kinetic and SYM together embarked on an important task – to bring the next best scooter in India. It is indeed wonderful for me to be here to present the Flyte to you. I hope to achieve the same level of success in India as we did in Taiwan, Vietnam and China. We expect that gearless scooters will continue to post strong growth in India, and will become the perfect urban transport here like it has done in Taiwan, Japan and other countries. SYM is happy to be part of the impending gearless scooter revolution of India.”
Related links

Oct 13, 2007

Thoughts on the blog


I started blogging with a clear purpose in mind. While a large part of my day job involves writing reports (technical and perception oriented) about motorcycles and related products and services, I realised increasingly that there was a lot more I wanted to write about in that area. Stuff that I had limited or no outlets for. Stuff that I found fascinating, but not many others in the professional area would have the time for. Once I started, of course, I realised that the web log is extremely interesting in its informal nature and the breadth of scope that I could choose to explore. There were no limits.

The blog is now almost 18 months or so old now, nearing 650 posts and just crossed the 3 million page impressions mark (from March 2007 to date; previous data has been lost in the switch from StatCounter to Google Analytics). In that time, here are few things I've noticed.
  • Maximum traffic is invariably generated by/goes to the news related posts, whether they be launch news, riding impressions or that kind of material

  • Any new bike launch will usually sustain a fairly gratifying level of traffic for as little as a week, to as much as a month

  • There's a noticeable ebb and flow to traffic that depends on posts. If I consistently most three or more posts a day, there will be a rise in traffic. For a while. After that it reverts to its normal state. However, if I put up a bunch of posts in a spurt over two days or so, the resulting spurt in traffic takes a lot longer to die down. I haven't understood the reason behind this so far

  • Traffic is always the lowest on the weekend

  • Beer posts always generate a healthy comment spree, quite at odds with the kind of traffic the posts actually get

  • The most commented on post is the DTS-FI images and specs post (39), followed by Milestone 500 (25) and Yamaha Alba (25) (!!)

Forewarning: complicated posts in the offing


Over the next few days (or months, or years...) you will see a series of extremely technical (but hopefully easy to understand) posts on detailed aspects of motorcycles. Stuff that goes on inside the engines, inside the telescopic shocks and so forth. I will create a new category for these posts, called MC Technical or some such. I'm reading an extremely well-written, fundamentally clear book on the subject, but having a little trouble evaluating whether I comprehend fully what the author is saying – aspersions, here, are being cast on my ability to understand the material, rather than this highly respected (and deservedly so) author. Writing things down, I find, helps me grasp complicated material better and more firmly, and I've simply chosen not to drag out that pile of old one-side used papers, this time, and type into Blogger, instead. Some of you will find this material disturbingly detailed and involved. Apologies in advance.

The Hunk?: What is Hero Honda launching?

Monsoon_Sunset_3Hero Honda Hunk? The buzz says Hero Honda launches its next product on October 17. The buzz says its big. But Buzz always says that. It's almost like he's a stuck record.

But wait there's more. Call it tangential, but visit the Roadies 5.0 site. You will notice that while the site clearly shows that Hero Honda is the lead sponsor, there's not a hint of Karizma anywhere. What gives? From whatever I can remember, and I could be mistaken, the Karizma was a in-the-forefront thing with the show, right? Does that mean Hero Honda has a (serious) Karizma upgrade, or blow me down, something bigger in the wings?

One reliable-ish source said that his reading was, 'a bike that could change the face of Indian motorcycling. Or something like that. A twin, maybe?'

Now that I have built up my hopes to a towering house of cards, I just hope Hero Honda's bike proves to be the super-glue to hold up the damn thing, rather than a puff of weak wind that blows the house down

Oct 12, 2007

Domestic sales: Stats from SIAM

I've always had trouble finding sales numbers. So I decided to post what I've got. Data is courtesy of SIAM. The graphs are OpenOffice. Any mistakes are mine, and mine alone. In case there are errors, I will try to fix the graphs, failing which, I will mark the errors in bold red in the tables below. Please excuse.

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007
Bajaj 669196249356962664955121767217
Hero Honda 239594251965224841178268214362285539
Kinetic 460242201218127133
TVS 433803839534875263232847232659
Yamaha 806160495756672381307446

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007
Bajaj 595756723166311498107015299653
Hero Honda 1581417567133548580717912253
Honda 156852133620744199062075222986
Suzuki 427950124569508053435714
TVS 4678332955048914766610239
Yamaha 213916582049205623912140

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007
Enfield 250726242610263129112837

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007
Kinetic 260508537570653290
TVS 239829922518365830683515

Apr 2007 May 2007 Jun 2007 Jul 2007Aug 2007Sep 2007
Bajaj 138823152506292027182056
Hero Honda 12918136884278611130910765
Honda 426404816746728447824597848917
Kinetic 296120332063225217121399
TVS 155832146322493195072057623179

Rocking! : Mekaal Hasan Band thrills Mumbai

Mekaal Hasan BandMy head's still ringing with the music. And it isn't only because my iPod's playing the very notes that're running amuck gleefully in my head either. The iPod, and the tender notes on it are, for once, vastly outclassed. The passion and tenderness in the studio album cannot match the power, aggression and sheer vitality of the live performance I've just absorbed like a hungry sponge. And left wanting for more. If I could, the world would stop in this instant, and those boys from Pakistan would play live endlessly. A shuffle and repeat button on life, even.

There is nothing I could write that would describe the power and control of Javed Basheer's voice as it leaps effortlessly from note to note in fractions of a second. On the stage, in the heat of the arclights, he stands, looking slightly awkward in a formal-ish suit. And his voice, the powerful, slightly raspy, immensely authoritative voice, never fails to reach its mark, taking the superb music to another level altogether.

Then there is Mohammed Ehsan 'Pappu' whose flute is filled, it would seem, with a mixture of equal parts sugar and honey, with some sugar-free sweetener thrown in to keep the slim end of the crowd happy. From it issues a honeyed highlight in the music that is as inescapable as it is inevitable. He changes the flute now and then, reaching into his boxful of them, each one sounding nicer than the other.

In the background is Sameer, dancing, it would appear to his tune. His fingers strum the bass guitar with a feathery lightness. And what power those fat strings have. They make the two-storey tall towers of speakers in the auditorium burst into orgiastic, rhythmic deep thrums that form the foundation, as it were, on which Javed's power and Pappu's delicate notes are delivered. Gumby, the slim, ever-so-shy, and obviously popular drummer is the chap who weaves the instruments together. His drumming is effortless, crisp and not without its own, highly entertaining and skilled artistry. His blur of stabs and dabs keep the taut skins on the drums from stopping for breath and the Zildjian logo on the cymbal sets are almost never sharply in focus.

The keyboard man, Farhan Albert, who looks shy and reserved no matter what distance you see him over is there too, doing his bit, adding highlights to the solo guitar or the flute all the time, and getting to play his own solo in some songs.

Mekaal Hasan BandBut the quiet man on the right, the one with the curly hair is the mastermind. It is his name the band bears. Meet Mekaal Hasan. He plays the lead guitar as naturally as you and I comb hair or brush teeth, with far more spectacular results. He is also largely responsible for digging up old classic music, poems and similar material where his slim fingers can work their magic. He deftly suppresses the old instruments our generation (and those that follow) is losing touch with and replaced them with more familiar sounds, crafted perfectly to bring out the original beauty. To add a suitable backdrop for todays age, while retaining the ageless beauty of the twisted, tortuous notes that have held our fathers and theirs in perfect frozen ecstasy.

Much as I'd like to be hopping up and down during the songs, the tidal wave of the music keeps me pinned to the seat. Imagine a sensation where you're stuck in a chair with a gale blowing so strong that you cannot get up. Such is the power of the music. Like a giant bouncers hand in a bar, one that inevitably sets you next course of motion. Out the door with dignity, or through it without.

Such is the force of the music that I'm almost scared of having to go back to listen the studio album. After this electric performance, the album, though no less an achievement seems almost, er... sleepy. Where songs like Ya Ali or Darbari are power ballads to the nth power when they explode off the stage, they're almost soothing lullabies on the CD. Where Saanwal is a monster of a song with lots of twists and turns vocally and otherwise from the stage, it almost sounds like a normal MHB songs on the album. I love the band, and I know for a fact, that anyone who hears the album and loves it will come home to an empty house after a live performance. The difference is almost the same as someone halved the voltage and then unplugged the subwoofer. And plugged one of your ears.

Mekaal Hasan BandI am ecstatic to say that EMI will be selling MHB's sole album, Sampooran in stores shortly. If you have a deep-seated, unquenched love for Indian music (no, not Himesh), you must give it a listen. Not willing to spend Rs 195 on a risk? Download some of the live performance singles from the MHB media site (see Sajan and Raba at YouTube). I am also happy the Channel [V] and Radio City will be playing the sweet, sweet music these boys make, and more live performance are scheduled. I hear Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore are on the agenda. This is a must attend, seriously. I've seen MHB live three times now, and I will attend every performance I can.

Oh, and lest I forget, Mekaal and the boys played two numbers from their second, as-yet-unreleased album. One of them blows clean out of the water anything you think is superb on Sampooran. The other one is at least as good as anything you think highly of on the Sampooran CD. So stay tuned for more great music from these Pakistani boys.

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Haywards Black: I like it

Haywards Black PintsWikipedia says stouts and porters are dark beers, made with roasted malts or barleys. As would be the case with anything that's so old (1677!), it now has varieties and flavours.

SAB Miller, the chaps who brew Haywards 5K & 2K, Royal Challenge, Knock Out and Castle Lager (international brands include Miller, Peroni Nastro Azzure (Rossi's ex-sponsor) and Pilsner Urquell (quite nice, The Wife purchased some for me from Prague, not so long ago) recently launched Haywards Black, which is India's first stout beer.

The taste is a bit strange to start out with. Especially if you're beer-lover and beer-novice rolled into one. So unlike my friend Kautilya, I haven't been intimate with old Guinness so far. Please, please hold those collective groans, I'm working on that. Anyway, there's a strange taste I found hard to identify, but after reading through SABMiller's site, I think yes, it is that hint of caramel. The beer is just a tiny bit more viscous than normal beer and hence, tends to sit a bit heavy. It's no Guinness class meal yet, but you will notice the extra weight at the end of the pint. There is some extra alcohol, but again, it's not like the extra pint is going to knock the steadiness out of your legs or anything. On the whole, I like the beer a lot. That's why my fridge is now equally divided between HBs and Buds (Yes, I like the Indian Bud a lot too.)

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Oct 11, 2007

Bajaj Avenger 200: Launched!

Here's the release. Personally, I quite like the loping along sort of feel of the 200 engine, so it should fit right into the Avenger format.

Bajaj Auto launches the new 200 cc Avenger DTS-i

Mumbai 11th October 2007: Bajaj Auto Ltd., India's premier two-wheeler automobile company has introduced the new 200cc Avenger DTS-i with the bike now available in Pro-broking showrooms across the country.

The Bajaj Auto R&D team has yet again delivered a bike with the ultimate riding experience. The new Avenger now comes with a powerful 200 cc oil cooled engine capable of generating a top-speed of 115 km/h. This engine delivers 17.5 ps at 8000 rpm with outstanding torque of 16.78 Nm at 6000 rpm. The Oil cooler helps this hi-performance engine to maintain the engine Oil Temperature even at high rpms, which in turn maintains the Engine oil viscosity. Thus, at high speed, the engine oil maintains its lubrication quality even at high speeds.

The tank-set neatly houses the all-new sleek tank mounted fuel gauge along with the other indicators. The bike also comes with the international standards windshield option. The windshield adds to the aesthetic value of the new Avenger.

A new low maintenance battery is incorporated to provide a hassle free ownership of the bike. It has unique vent mechanism that allows gas / vapors etc. to escape, but at the same time does not allow loss of electrolyte. Electrolyte spillage / evaporation are drastically reduced as there is no drainpipe. Electrolyte level check once a year is enough to ensure that the cells are always immersed in electrolyte.

Says Mr. S. Sridhar, CEO(2WH), "The new 200cc Avenger DTS-i surpasses by far the performance of the of the 180 cc original. A typically low-slung cruiser, the Avenger 200 DTS-i compares to the finest in the world."

Added Mr. Amit Nandi, General Manager (Marketing), "We expect that this initiative will further enhance the pleasure of riding on Indian roads. We have also been able to offer it at an attractive price of 64830/- ex-showroom New Delhi. This upgrade will further strengthen Bajaj Auto's position in the Premium segment.."

More about New Avenger 200 DTSi

List of features
Engine displacement : 198.8 cc
Maximum Net Power : 17.51 PS(12.88 Kw)at 8000 rpm
Maximum Net Torque : 16.78 Nm at 6000rpm
Length : 2195 mm
Width : 750 mm
Height : 1070 mm/1300 mm (with windshield)
Wheel base : 1475 mm
Front : Telescopic (140mm travel)
Rear : Swing arm with 5-step adjustable Shock absorbers with triple rated Spring (90mm travel)
Front : 90/90 – 17 49 P
Rear : 130/90 – 15 M/C 66P
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Flying Kinetics!

Kinetic sent out this release today...

Buy a Kinetic scooter this festive season, get two roundtrip air tickets to anywhere in India

Mumbai, October 11, 2007: Kinetic Motor, pioneers of gearless scooters in India, is celebrating the festive season by offering two roundtrip air tickets free with purchase of its gearless scooters.

The special promotion will be on from Navaratri through Diwali - it kicks in on October 12th and will go on until November 15th. The two roundtrip air tickets can be used to travel to any destination within India as per the customer’s choice. The offer is available on Kinetic’s existing range of gearless scooters – Nova 135, Kinetic 4s, Kinetic Blaze and Kine’.

Announcing the promotion, Ajinkya Firodia, VP sales & marketing, Kinetic Motor Company said,” This special offer is Kinetic’s way of participating in the festive season cheer and celebrations. The offer is on four of our major scooter brands –the macho motoscooter Italiano Blaze, light and easy Kine’, as well as family scooters Nova and 4s. Since the range addresses a wide demographic, I thought the best thing would be to let the customer choose the travel destination for themselves and their companion.”

Kinetic Motor Company is India’s pioneering gearless scooter company with over 65 lakh Kinetic owners. Kinetic was recently ranked among India’s 100 most valuable brands in the 4P’s Business & Marketing magazine’s independent research of nearly 39,000 brands. Kinetic has a comprehensive nationwide distribution network and over 35 years of experience in two wheelers. Kinetic makes a range of gearless scooters and is committed to evolving the scooter segment in India by introducing world class designs, technology and features for benefit of scooter riders.

For more information, visit Kinetic's website.

Mekaal Hasan Band: One more time!

Mekaal Hasan Band Bombay Performance InvitationI managed to mooch some passes, and I am off to the concert. Those who don't know what the fuss is about, visit the band's website and click on the media link. A number of their songs from the Sampooran album are online for free download (live recordings mostly). You will be impressed. MHB's only album, Sampooran is also available at iTunes.

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Oct 9, 2007

Norick Abe: 1975-2007

It's taken me a day to come to grips with it, which is why this obituary comes so late. Norifumi Abe, popularly known as Norick Abe, burst into the 500cc class with a wild, wild ride as a wildcard at the 1994 Japanese GP. He left quite an impression, and I'm not just talking about this hair streaming from his helmet either. Soon after, he became a premier class regular. Among his fans is Valentino Rossi, who obviously loved Abe enough to go through the RossiFumi phase.

The newsreports say Norick was riding a 500cc scooter near the city of Kawasaki in Japan, when a truck pulled an illegal U-turn in front of Norick. Norick collided with the truck and fought for his life for two and a half hours at the hospital. I'd like to offer my condolences to his friends and family.

But tell me something, if a GP-class rider like Norick was no match for a truck turning illegally in a country with traffic as disciplined as Japan... when his phenomenal skills was negated by something as daily-event here as a truck behaving badly... what chance do people like you and me have?

Be very careful out there guys.

I went to YouTube to look for some vids, but there are too many to post. So click this link to see various Abe videos, including 10-minute clips of his wild ride at the 1994 Japanese GP. Image courtesy: Yamaha Racing

Conscious thought

Walking into the office, I am usually loaded with stuff – two lids, two riding jackets (one, thankfully, I'm wearing), plus a pair of formal office pants to change into (even the mesh overpants feel better without an under-layer in Mumbai weather) and so forth.

Point is, I pass a long, slim corridor between cubicles on the way to mine. The walls of this corridor aren't plain either, consisting of a series of cupboards stuffed full with papers. The paper always causes one door or the other to be ajar. And I walk into/snag something in a door handle more or less on a daily basis.

But today, when I walked in, I (don't know why) focussed on the handles consciously for the first time and made it to the cubicle without a hitch.

Which led me to thinking about this. I remember reading (Hurt report?) that most motorcycle crashes occue close to your place of work or home. Could the door handles have something to do with that? You see, I see them handles everyday. After a while, I get 'desensitised' to them. My brain says, 'I know every important thing about them. They're red, spherical and utterly pointless.' And so, I fail to notice the one sticking out on the given day, waiting to catch me out.

It's probably the same thing on a bike. You pass this set of roads daily. Roads so close to your house that you've had time to absorb everything in great detail (why do you think racers like to walk the track, ride a scooter around it and won't say no to a bus ride around a new track?). You've used the road(s) in various forms — you've walked to the shops, cycled to the laundry, ridden past on your way to work, bussed it along one stretch... you've gathered physical information on that stretch in many different ways. So your brain shuts down, and idles along, thinking that it'll restart processing visual and audio information once the roads becomes a little less familiar, or once you get faster on the main roads. Et voila, some idiot catches you out, you have a crash, and prove poor Harry Hurt right once more.

Do you agree?

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Oct 8, 2007

Spider tales

Giant Spider 2

Hi all! I have been busy moving my photos from Flickr to Zooomr. I realise that Flickr is more popular, supported by a big website and extremely convenient to use, but I prefer the philosophical standpoint of Zooomr. Besides, I've heard too many complaints about Flickr censoring images now and then, something I don't like much. Not only is the site free of all bandwidth restrictions, I like Thomas Hawk's blog and what he says. Good enough for me, I say. Needless to say, while the Flickr account will continue, I may not be uploading the latest pics there from now on.

Oct 5, 2007

Rubber: why you should look after your tyres

Ceat Rage tyreWhen was the last time you took a long, considered look at your tyres? Yes, it's been a long time, hasn't it? You already know that your motorcycle's tyres are probably the most crucial component of its handling. If you're riding around on a four-year old Pulsar with 25,000-km old tyres, you really are wasting away. Indian tyres have a design life of about 35,000 km. Which is one of the reasons why they aren't very sticky and even relatively cheesy tyres like Shinkos and Duro's feel better to ride on. By 25,000 km, they've probably lost their original contour, hardened (lost grip) and in general are functional, but well past their best.

Usually, a weekly pressure check (remembering to vary the pressures as per manufacturer recommendation whether you're riding solo or two-up) is about all that is needed. However, once a month, you should ideally pull up a stool and sit down next to the tyres and take a long look at them. First, look at the tread. Start out by looking for foreign matter. You will find stones, pebbles and all stuck in the tread. Take a screwdriver and gently eject these. Remember to temper your force, you don't want to damage the tread block.

Second, look for tread block damage. You're looking for spots with excessive tread wear (locked the rear badly lately?). Bad flat spots will be susceptible to punctures, and will cause vibration. If you ride hard, keep an eye out for longitudinal cracks and tears that may have been caused by riding over a nail, while tore up the tread for but didn't get to the tube. Badly damaged tyres should be replaced pronto. Tread blocks can also be broken (shattered leading edges), uneven (one of the edges is less worn than the other)... It goes without saying that you're tyre's gone bald or squared out, it need to be thrown and replaced with a fresh one. You will be amazed at how much difference it makes to the handling of your bike.

My first RD came with a worn rear tyre and I rode it because I was running in the engine. I kept wondering why people were singing praises of this stupid motorcycle. Then one day, the engine loosened up and power went up. Next payday, I went and got fresh tyres spooned on. Best 1500 bucks I ever spent. It cleared up exactly why the RD was considered great on the handling front. My first high-speed wobble came much later, of course, heh heh.

Once you've given the tread a detailed once over, look at the sidewall and the slightly exposed part of the beading. The sidewall should look fresh and supple. If you can see cracks (normal if you've had the bike awhile but it doesn't get ridden too much), it's time for a new tyre. The cracks develop as the tyre hardens. At this point, your tyre is more or less useless. In bad causes, the pressure in the tube will punch through the sidewall and make it look like it has goitre (don't ask how I know). Think of sidewall cracks as a minor emergency, it's that serious. The beading should sit evenly around the rim and not be frayed. Sometimes a fast puncture-walla will manage to dig his screwdriver (since they never have tyre irons anyway) into the bead. In time, the rubber will get scraped away allowing the structural wires and thread to start peel off. This is rare, but weakens the tyre-rim seal and the tyre should instantly be discarded.

The final check, of course, is to see that rim (especially spoked steel rims) are running true and that both wheels line up properly. First part is easy, hold a screwdriver so that end is close to the rim, and the rest of it rests firmly against a fixed bit (like a fork leg or the rear shock). Spin the wheel, and look at the distance between the screwdriver tip and the rim – it should be constant. While there are involved wheel alignment tips, but I simple walk away from the bike with the handlebar straight and then kneel and look at the bike from a distance. It should look straight, and in most cases, unless you've had a serious crash, it will. If you think one of the wheels looks askew, start by checking if the handlebar is straight (perpendicular to chassis) and not bent out of shape. Then look up one of the detailed alignment discussions and figure out if the chassis is bent. Front forks can be kicked back into alignment – a crude way to do it, but it works.

All of this takes about half an hour on a Sunday morning, but is well worth the effort. Michelin has a fairly comprehensive section about tyre tips here.

Need cash fast? Try cashadvance1500.com

Looking for quick cash to tide over until you get paid? Cashadvance1500.com has the solution for you. The website is a specialist in payday loans, and offers a comprehensive array of loan products for every need. With loans ranging from $100 to $1500, there is a fair variety available if you meet the eligibility criteria. As you can guess, the loans are also very convenient, since there are no checks to be given out, a simple online form or two to be filled out and the money is wired overnight to your account should you meet the criteria and get approval.

The site offers links to a number of linked website, all of whom offer more specific loans, like loans for women, small amount short term loans, and you should be worried about what the Joneses will think if they find out you're getting a loan, there is even a secure loan where you anonymity is guaranteed.

Loans may sound scary, but if used with care, a tiny pay day loan could be the medicine you need to tide over an immediate cash flow crunch.

Oct 1, 2007

Rear disc brake: how to stay unlocked

Someone asked about the rear disc brake and how to use it best. This post presumes that you've already gotten over the misconception that using the front brake will throw you over the handlebar and the rear brake is the real lifesaver...

Sometime ago, I got lucky and was handed a gorgeously orange phantom generation Pulsar 180 to ride at the Bajaj track in Chakan. The bike had normal brakes, of course, with a drum at the rear.

Over the first few laps, I found the rear wheel skipping about annoyingly under braking for corners. Then, I remembered that the same thing had actually happened before. So I responded with the same solution – I took my foot off the rear brake entirely. This halted the skipping and only created a feeling of instability that faded (either that, or I got used to it) after a couple more laps. What it brought home is what I've known since my RD350 riding days: the faster you are going, the more useless the rear brakes are as a means of stopping.

Yes, I mean that.

To understand the rest of this, you need to know (without me explaining the full physics of it) that when you use the rear brake, it tends to slow the expansion of the rear shock absorber under hard braking.

Now, if you remember the taper braking tip, you use the rear brake to begin your weight transfer (notice, how no one ever gives the rear brake any credit for slowing the bike down). Then you progressively brake harder with the front brake, scrubbing off the biggest chunk of speed with it and then just before you come to a complete stop, you bleed the pressure off the front brake (because it becomes grabby at low speeds and tends to cause the front suspension to pogo up and down to a stop... ungainly) and re-engage the rear brake to produce a smooth stop.

When you add a rear disc brake into this, especially a sensitive one, it only serves to complicate matters – one of the reasons I've never thought that anything under 40-odd bhp deserves or needs anything more than a good drum brake at the rear. Like I told someone who was asking about the optional rear disc on the RTR FI, I'd save my money and stick with a drum brake instead.

Anyway, so now you have a P220 and the first time you needed a panic stop, you ended up with a sliding rear end, eh? First, practice. There's no way around it. Second, the next time you get your bike serviced, ask the service chap to try and either increase the lever travel (may not be possible) or set the lever so that it sits much lower (should be possible).

Essentially the problem is that the lever effort to braking effort ratio changes quite drastically when you move from a lever-actuated drum brake to a hydraulic disc brake. What is happening is that you muscle memory is causing you to depress the lever too hard and causing the lock up. You can teach yourself to be more gentle in time, but in the short term, you will get more benefit by simply moving the lever further away from your foot (adjust lever position) or by allowing yourself more room by increasing the distance between the normal lever position and the fully depressed lever position (harder to do with a hydraulic unit).

Ideally, get on the bike and do a couple of slow speed stops with the rear brake only, noting the angle of the pedal at which the wheel locks. And then, get him to set the lever just below that. In an emergency, if you stand on the pedal, you still should not be able to lock the rear wheel. A locked rear wheel is as useless as onion-flavoured ice cream. On a side note, while my more mechanically inclined colleague tells me this does not work, the last time I rode a Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi I ran into the no travel in the rear brake lever problem. In my case, ejecting the pads, grinding them up a bit created the extra travel I wanted.

Then you practice. Practice hard stops where you do no more that feather the rear brake. The sole purpose is to achieve a light pressure between the pads and disc, just enough to stop the rear suspension from extending too much and making the bike go all nose heavy. Maximum braking must come from the front brake, and with practice, you should be able to produce hard stops where both wheels leave a trace skid, also called a threshold skid mark (grey coloured, not black like a locked wheel).

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Ashopcommerce: Shopping Cart for you

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The peripherals of motorcycling

When you're playing a game like Doom, where enemies come at you from any and all directions, one of the things that don't get any rest is... you fingers... Yes, but also your eyes. They are perpetually moving across the screen scanning for the enemy, right?

Well, my point is that motorcycling in traffic isn't that different. Usually, when we concentrate, our vision tends to start 'stabilising.' This is further bolstered by the rising speed we're travelling at. As the rate of information flow rises, the brain tends to tell the eyes to stop 'wavering' and focus on the point where the bike is heading towards. This effect is pronounced if you are accelerating very hard (think superbike/supercar) where it produces tunnel vision.

This is not necessarily a good thing, and you need to actively, consciously counter it. Just like I depress the push-cancel indicators periodically to stop any stray indications (and scan the meters, mirrors at a more or less fixed rate), I also 'remind' the eyes to keep scanning. As the speeds rise, actual eyeball motion may be replaced by a detailed mental scan of the blurred peripheral vision (almost as effective, but much faster). I find that whenever I stop this – it happens – I find a hazard that I didn't spot in time. Usually I'm lucky (and it doesn't happen very often), but luck has a way of running out...

While active scanning is just a matter of being regular at it until you get in the habit, peripheral scans need a bit of practice. Keith Code (or was it Nick Ienatsch) offer a neat practice drill. Sit in front of a wall and focus on a fixed spot. Now, without any actual physical ocular activity, move the mental focus to other points on the wall. As in, roam the full image in your mind, absorbing what you can see. You will notice that a lot of the 'information' you gathered is out of focus, but, your brain is able to interpret/recognise these things/patterns with remarkable clarity.

For instance, right now, as I type this, the text on the word processor is in focus. And yet, I can clearly make out (as opposed to see) The Wife's lid on the right of the monitor, resting on top of the Cramster tankbag, which I can see, has one of the side pockets zippered halfway. I can also spot various other objects clearly enough to recognise them.

And these are all static objects. Peripheral vision scan work even better with moving objects. Moving objects get picked up faster and if the brain thinks there's danger (or it is worth looking at), recentering your focus takes a sec.

Try it, this complex sounding thing is actually very easy to learn, and has the potential to be a lifesaver.