Nov 29, 2007

Osbe Tornado: What a cool lid!

From the time I first spotted this chap, I have wanted one. This chap used to own an ex-military, genuine fighter aircraft helmet, which he would happily wear on his battered old Chetak and ride around. The silver helmet, with the full, dark visor drove me insane with jealousy. And while I made feeble attempts at getting one, I never actually managed to mooch one.

But look, yesterday, I spotted the Osbe (an Italian helmet brand) Tornado, (look under demi-face) which is perfect. Okay, time to start collecting money again...

TVS Flame, RTR-Fi review: Link

TVS Flame 125 image from tvsflame.comYou guys have got to read this.

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Nov 28, 2007

Save Buckets: Living up to the name

I am, I think, a careful shopper. I like to take my time over shopping. And this is long before I actually enter a store. My time is spent figuring out what to buy, where to buy it, where are the best prices, who will deliver and so forth. Save Buckets is a site that was made for people like me. For instance, I'm looking for a digital camera right and just take a look at the selection at the website. Not only does it cover the entire price range and brand range, it allows me to browse the options, compare them, and it has good prices too. And here's the best bit, these prices are not from this one website, there are prices from various merchants so you are already a step closer to finding that sweet deal. That's probably where they got the name for the website, no? Ready to purchase your next new desirable? I suggest you take a look at this website, it is easy to navigate, has all the information you need, and crucially, the price you've been dreaming about.

Nov 26, 2007

Kinetic Flyte: Riding Impression

Kinetic Sym FlyteSo what is the Kinetic Flyte like, then?
I know I haven't written a Sym impression so far. I'm remiss, but I had other things that kept me busy. So here goes.

Fit/finish-Build quality
I have to say that I'm seriously impressed. And if you don't believe me, park a new Nova 135, a new Blaze and a new Sym next to each other. If you aren't blind, you'll see that the Sym is far, far ahead of the other two in every quality related aspect. In fact, park the Sym next to the Honda Activa (an acknowledged quality great) or a Suzuki Access (surprisingly similar to the Activa on the quality front; riding impression pending) and you will notice that the Sym is equal or nearly equal to either. Which, for Kinetic, is a massive, massive improvement.

Now, I know there are people who wonder if this quality parity will last over a period of time, in the ownership cycle. Honest answer? I don't know. Best guesstimate? Nothing in the scooter's demeanor suggests that the Kinetic Sym product will rapidly deteriorate.

It's a nice, likeable engine. It's pretty quiet engine at idle, but it does get throaty when you want nailed-to-the-stop acceleration. The transmission's pretty slick as well and frankly, this is probably Kinetic's slickest powertrain yet. I do think that the power output from the 125cc engine could have been more, er..., serious. That said, progress is adequately brisk. And that's just on its own. In traffic, the small size, agility and that slick powertrain feel really very good. I'm as surprised as I am happy to be surprised. A lot of people who've turned a blind eye to Kinetic need to open them peepers and take the Sym out for a spin. Seriously. You may not convert to the Kinetic camp, I admit, but you'll notice that the Flyte is pretty promising.

Ride quality/Handling
As I already mentioned, the Flyte is pretty agile. It turns quicker and harder than either the Honda or the Suzuki and that makes it a hoot to slice through traffic on. A good rider on a Flyte would be a pretty hard target to catch in traffic methinks. Ride quality is good too. The slightly plasticky thumping over the bumps (Access and Activa) is more subdued and the tele-forks up front really do the business. And you can brake as hard as you like too (No Activa can do that).

What I don't like
It isn't the complete scooter package by any means, of course. I get nervous watching the rather sudden popping of the otherwise convenient fuel tank lid. I don't particularly like the bottom swivel mirrors and that full-face helmet under the seat isn't true at all. Try it. You'll scratch the lid on the way in and way out and won't be able to shut the seat anyway. That magnetic thing is pretty silly/interesting too. A metallic flap cover the keyhole when you use the rear end of the key to theft-proof the scooter. Which is interesting, but you just know our thieves will get around it in a flash too, right?

I was quite surprised at how well the Kinetic-Sym Flyte works. I think it is a pretty interesting scooter and if Kinetic can hold on to (or improve on) this kind of quality and product specification, I think they can do wonders for their bottom lines and their product range. Can't wait to see this kind of quality on an ex-Italjet Dragster for instance. Or an equally effortless and much faster Sym Fighter, for that matter.

Suzuki Access: Riding Impression

So what is the Suzuki Access like, then?
It isn't much to look at, really. But, when you look close, the Access is a well-built, quality product... that's the inescapable conclusion.

Fit/finish-Build quality
Like the Zeus or the Heat, the one unquestionable quantity in the Access equation is the quality. It resembles the Activa in some ways, and the fit-finish, build quality are very much in that space. I can look at the Access and more or less assume that in three years time, with a little care and maintenance, not much will change. No rattles, no shakes and no worries.

To be honest, the Access feels quicker than the Flyte or the Activa (which is now the slowest of the three). But not by as much as the 25 per cent extra displacement margin would suggest. The difference is, really, marginal. The Activa still 'feels' stronger off the bottom, but the Access will easily kill it. Again, it isn't a scooter I'd drag to a drag race. Refinenment is at or just above par and I wouldn't knock the powertrain... it feels fine. Not exceptional, but nothing you could shake a stick at either.

Ride quality/Handling
The handling is very much like the Activa. It favours stability over agility and it feels confident, but not exciting. It doesn't look exciting, it looks safe. And that, more or less, describes it's handling as well. It scooters had ages in human years, I'd say the Access was about 37-38, the Activa pushing 40 and the Kinetic Flyte would be about 24. Ride quality is pretty good, though and once again, the telescopic shocks make a massive difference to how hard you can brake when you need do.

What I don't like
I'm just wondering if Suzuki needed the Access to be so safe, so meek and so, um, un-stirring. What would have been the difference in sales in a year's time, if the Access had looked great? Or had more power?

Sum of all the words
Would I buy one? I'd have to say no. I might recommend it to an uncle in the building who was in the market for a new scooter to ride to the grocery store (or wherever else he liked). But if I were personally in the market for a scooter, I don't think I'm the right age yet.

Nov 24, 2007

Motorcycle Helmets: What is a helmet made of?

A helmet is generally made of layers. The outermost layer is usually a hard material. The best helmets today use composite materials which include fibreglass mixed will all manner of high-tech new-age materials ranging from aramids to carbon fibre. In every case, the new-age material is highly regarded for its strength and resistance to decay under abrasion and to penetration. The lower rung helmets can be fibreglass, polycarbonate or even ABS plastic. You generally get what you pay for in terms of helmet construction. The hard layer usually looks pretty industrial, so it usually covered with a decorative layer of paint and decals to make it look appealing. Any vents and diffusers on top are usually plastic. Point to remember is that many manufacturers still use industrial double-sided tape or glue to attach these bits. In really hot weather, the glue can literally melt off and the vents can fall off when you try to operate them. The hard layer's basic job is to spread an impact over a wider area, absorb all of the abrasion that comes with falling on the road and the rest of the time, to look good. Oh, and it also protects the EPS liner from minor knocks.

Inside the hard layer is a softer layer, made almost invariably of polysterene, technically called EPS, expanded poly styrene. Polystyrene is a normally a hard white plastic, usually seen in disposable coffee cups and ice boxes. However, when polystyrene is heated and a blowing agent is used (used to be CFC based, but is now eco-friendly), the result is a still hard-ish plastic 'foam' called EPS, which looks and feels a lot like thermocol (probably because it is... wikipedia redirect thermocol to polystyrene). In an impact, the EPS liner works more or less on the same principle as an airbag. It absorbs the energy of the impact, using that energy to crack, break, crush, rather than pass it on to your brain. Obviously, the acceleration of the brain inside the cranium is controlled better by this, and you should, if everything goes to plan, walk away with nothing worse than a headache and destroyed EPS to show for it. With the shells becoming harder and harder, it is today hard for the naked, unpracticed eye to tell if the EPS liner is destroyed or now. So, if you've had a fairly impressive knock on the lid, play it safe and retire it.

Still further inside is what everyone calls the comfort liner. This is usually foam (or several layers of foam) topped by terry-cloth or other new-age materials like MCoolMax (absorbs perspiration, but surface stays dry). Most big brand helmets today do the liner in two stages. The first (outer) stage is fixed and made of the hardest of the foams employed. The second (inner) stage is the one that touches your skin and is designed to be removable and washable. In most cases, the two cheek pads and a large skull cap come off (velcro and snap fasteners are the way to do it) to allow you to wash it. Some manufacturers, like Arai, allow you to separate the foam and the cloth itself.

The removable stuff is actually far more useful than most people imagine. I've personally owned two big-brand helmets one of which had removable liners. And I can vouch for the fact that after three years of use, the removable liner lid smelt and felt far, far, far better in fit as well as hygene terms. Also, removable pieces can be replaced, so a year down the line, you have the chance to alter/refresh the fit of your helmet if you need to.

That leaves the three other elements that make up a helmet, the retention mechanism, the visor and the venting. Which, we shall see in detail shortly.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What does the outer shell do?

If you have read the above, you already know. The basic job of the outer hard shell is five fold. First, it needs to absorb and spread any sharp impacts over a larger area to reduce the peak impact strength. As in, the same force, spread over a larger area will hurt less (or, to paraphrase, have less destructive energy). Second, it needs to offer excellent abrasion resistance so that the EPS liner inside does not come into contact with the road and wear away. Third, it needs to offer very little resistance to sliding along the road. If the helmet happens to resist sliding along, it can put unnatural forces on the neck area adding to the injuries. Fourth, it needs to protect the EPS liner from minor knocks that helmets tend to suffer in daily use. You know the ones I mean, the accidental brush with the elevator door, the careless put down when the lid nearly rolled all the way over etc. Fifth, finally, the helmet, being the highest point of a motorcycle-rider combination also needs to attract attention (getting noticed is a crucial component of safety in traffic) and look good (you'd rather look good, than shabby, right?).

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Motorcycle Helmets: What does the inner shell do?

Again, if read the above, you already know. The inner shell is soft and it has one sole, life-saving function. It absorbs the forces of the impact by self-destructing using these very forces. The inner shell, also allows helmet makers to 'tunnel' in and make pathways for air to enter and exit helmets and promote ventilation. Lately, the inner shell also has the task of hosting various certification and manufacturing labels.

Taking care of the inner shell is very simple and absolutely crucial. Keep the helmet away from small knocks, don't drop it and don't be careless with it. Do not use/store sharp objects inside the lid. Do not place the helmet on your rear view mirror like you usually do. Do not use any chemicals/sprays inside the lid. Do you use deo to 'sanitise' the comfort lining? Well, don't do it. Finally, be mentally prepared to replace the helmet every three to five years. They are consumables (that's EPS lining, again) and like a perfectly good seeming oil filter, there comes a time when you need a new one no matter what the old one looks like.

Image from

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Motorcycle Helmets: What is comfort padding? Why is it important? How to take care of it?

You already know enough about the comfort padding from above. It is important because no one wants to be uncomfortable. If your helmet gets in the way of your motorcycling, you'd stop using it. The comfort lining needs very little care, actually. It needs to be washed now and then. And that's about it.

If your helmet does not come with removable interiors, I've usually found that soaking the helmet in a bucket works fine. To keep the lining soft, avoid using a heater or blower to dry the helmet faster. Just ignore it for a couple of days and let it dry naturally.

If your helmet does have removable insides, well, just whip out the instructions, do the business and wash them. Remember, helmets like neutral pH stuff, so baby shampoo or detergents meant for delicate fabrics are the ones to go for. Most materials will come clean just with soap, you don't need to scrub anything hard.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What is a retention mechanism? What does it do? How to take care of it?

In most cases, helmets use two kinds of retention mechanisms. The one more common in Indian helmets is the quick release buckle (QRB). Which is essentially the same mechanism that secures your three-point seatbelt in the car. A little sewing machine oil now and then is about all it needs. And if you did oil your QRB, you're obsessive-complusive. Even I don't do that. QRBs are easier to use than the other type of mechanism, but the tightness cannot be adjusted on the fly. You usually have to take the lid off and fidget a fair bit to tighten or loosen the straps.

The other, and probably the better mechanism is the Double D-Ring (DDR), which is the de facto standard in all 'serious' helmets. The reason why DDRs are considered better is because it isn't possible to loosely fasten a DDR. It has to be snug. Why is snug important? I'll tell you in a minute. DDRs are a little more fiddly to use than QRBs. But again, my experience says it's matter of getting used to and within a couple of days you will not notice any difference in ease of use. The DDR is usually equipped with a small catch that secures the loose end and stops it from flapping around.

Most helmet standards require that the helmet retention mechanism, specifically, the nylon straps that host the QRB or DDRs, are not attached directly to the shell itself. Usually, a metal ring (usually a triangle) is attached to the shell and the nylon strap is stitched to this ring. I don't fully comprehend why this should be, but there it is. Further, in most cases, the nylon strap is lined with a softer material to prevent chafing skin.

Open face helmets, or jet helmets may sometimes have a chip cups incorporated in their retention straps, usually with a QRB.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What is the visor made of? What is it for? How to take care of it?

I'm a little short of data on this one, but here goes. The cheapest visors are usually acrylic. Among Indian brands, most use acrylic visors. These shatter pretty easily, are light and almost too easy to scratch. They are, however, inexpensive. The better, more expensive shields, almost without exception are polycarbonate. In feel, they feel like hard plastic and when you flick your index finger (carrom striker style) against it, you should hear a clear, almost musical ting. An acrylic one will respond with a dull tick sound.

The perfect helmet impact safety-wise would have the hard shell going all-round. But to look through the shell, we need a hole. Again, a hole isn't perfect because you can be blinded by flying debris or worse, bleed when a stone chip finds skin to collide with. The faceshield or visor's primary task is to be optically perfect and protect against this kind of flying debris. And lest you be worried, most helmet standards specify the hole's dimensions so that visbility, focal and peripheral is not hampered. Among the list of growing secondary tasks is to stay fog free (your breath can fog up the visor), UV protection (really), contract adjustment (dark visors, or the new age amber coloured hi-def ones) and yes look good (reflective finishes look great!).

Taking care is quite simple. Remove the shield from the helmet, wash it out with running water (to sweep away dust) and then hand wash with a mild soap (baby shampoo, as usual is where it's at). I tend to first pat dry with a regular towel before a more comprehensive wipe down with a lint-free cloth. In my experience, used dhotis/vests work wonders. I also remember a Swagat Baniyan ad that claimed that it was lint-free but I never got around to trying that. Then remount the shield.

Mounting the shield, actually is a topic in itself. But we'll come to that.

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Motorcycle Helmets: Why do all the big names harp on and on about vents and airflow?

At the end of the day, no matter how much technology goes into your helmet. You are still placing your head in an enclosed, tightly-fitted spherical box. So the least the helmet makers can do is make you comfortable, right? Vents are the accepted way to control airflow through the helmet. Initially, there were only intake vents, but with wind tunnel testing (really) the latest and greatest lids emphasize exit vents as much as intake vents. The massive diffusers you see nowadays on some of the lids exist for that purpose, and to smooth the aero profile of the helmet. Most top-line lids today, in fact, offer as much control to the rider over air intake as over air exit.

Most often, the helmet will have one chin vent at the bottom center of the visor, and one or two vents above, ranging from just above the visor center to the crown of the helmet itself. On the back, similarly, there can be sets of exit vents on top, at the bottom and sometimes, there is even one on the bottom of the helmet, a little inset from the bottom rubber ring on the lining. Does it work? Leaving an airconditioned room having worn the lid inside for five minutes or so, you can actually feel cold air on your shoulders when you start riding.

Airflow refers to the aerodynamic profile of the helmet. The first time you cross 150 kph on a motorcycle (don't scoff, you'll be doing that sooner than you think), you will how good or otherwise your helmet is. The AGV Pacific, for instance, my personal pick for the best Indian lid, squashes flat against your nose at anything over 130 kph. Designers can design the helmet to smooth airflow. There's a reason for this. As the air leaves the helmet, the smooth flow breaks up behind the helmet, and that's the deep bass fluttering you hear inside. Diffusers can help cure this.

Similarly, helmets with plastic plates over the visor mounting (Arai, Suomy, Vega etc) tend to be noisier because the air catches on the edges and adds whistling sounds. Further, top of the helmet vents also tends to add noise. The plates also make the process of changing visors – I ride with a dark on in the day and a clear one at night – fiddly and cumbersome.

Wear a helmet and stand in a closed, silent room. You will hear nothing – the helmet makes no sound of its own. All the noise you hear is just wind. Given that wind noise can reach almost a 100 dB, well past the safe hearing limit, I think it's important to pick quiet helmets.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What happens when your head hits the ground with the helmet on?

Again, you should already know most of this. When you impact the ground, the solid ground applies a pretty serious brake on your downward (and usually forward) acceleration. The helmet will absorb an astonishing part of this force, destroying itself in the process, if the need arises. The danger to you, serious trauma apart, is the acceleration of your brain inside your cranium. Snell tests helmets so that only 290gs or less (no kidding) is recorded inside the helmet by the test headform. That's the peak and 150gs cannot be exceeded for more than 4 or 5 ms at a time. The ECE 22-05 is, evidently, even tighter, not allowing more than 275gs. That much, you can handle. I am given to understand that 150gs, roughly equals a headache.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What happens when your head hits the ground without a helmet?

If your brain accelerates at past 300Gs, you're going to be seriously injured. That's assuming that the cranium has the strength to stay together from the impact... I think you can work the rest out.

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Motorcycle Helmets: Do helmets cause hairloss?


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Motorcycle Helmets: Can I hear clearly despite wearing a helmet?

Yes. In fact, most helmets don't deaden sound as much as they should. So many doctors now recommend that earplugs be worn inside helmets. Earplugs block out the louder wind noise related sounds, but you can still hear traffic noises. I, for one, highly recommend earplugs and I never ride without them.

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Motorcycle Helmets: I understand and I still don't want to wear one..

That's up to you.

What is needed is an informed decision, rather than agreement with me and my standpoint. You should know that in every single study ever done, people wearing lids always came off better than those riding without one. That in bad weather, dust and various other natural conditions, a helmeted head is usually far more comfortable, far more perceptive and less likely to make an error of judgment brought on by the impairment of vision or other sensory organ.

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Motorcycle Helmets: What has rearset worn and loved/hated?

My first lid was a Vega Formula HP
This was before the shell size came down, and it was a hefty helmet, pretty heavy and good-looking too in a menacing sort of way. The chin vent was a b*****d and needed to be taped up for the northern Indian winters. The visor quality was crap and you couldn't get dark visors at all. Crashed once, but didn't touch the helmet down. A friend rode, more or less, into a tree at nearly 120 kph and walked away wearing his Formula HP, though. Oh, and the interior material turns brown and shiny pretty quickly. But hey, I paid Rs 550 for the lid.

My second and third Bieffe BR15s, both Stefan Everts Replicas
Again, impressive helmets compared to what was available before it. Very heavy too. But decals and shell were both great. Venting went unnoticed, so must have worked. Visors were quite good compared to the old ones and were polycarbonate. Quite liked these lids, actually.

My fourth one was a Bieffe BR16, Biaggi Replica
Worn only twice before I replaced it with my fourth one. More or less the same as the Bieffe BR15. The one I got (unlike the pic) had a diffuser type of thing built into the shell shape. This the rear parts stuck out in a pointy sort of ridge.

My fifth lid was a Shoei RF800
Spectacular! This helmet looked mean in a plain, glossy black. It cost about seven times as much as the Bieffes, but was light, airy and felt great to wear for hours together. With a black visor, it looked as cool as Ghost Rider. The venting worked amazingly well and the visor is legend. It was Rs 4,500 to replace a visor but at the end of the mandated five year period, the visibily scratched clear visor was still, um, clear. No glare, no stars around street lights. Brilliant! Fixed interiors meant that the insides got pretty grimy (my commute included loads of trucks) and the RF stood up to a six-monthly dunking without a whimper.

Then came the AGV Pacific, numbers six and seven
It was quite a comedown from the Shoei, but still above the Bieffe. The AGV fitted better than the Steelbird and the visor quality was good enough for me to compare with the Shoei (which was, of course, still better). Both had finish quality problems, though. The foam on the inside of the chin area was cut very crudely and the vents, effective, though they were, broke. The chin vent is especially irritating because the filter material is extremely porous. Ride behind a truck, and you'll soon be chewing grit. Visor didn't seal properly, though, so you get rain drops on the inside during a wet ride. Thankfully, the visor was pretty easy to remove and remount, so cleaning and swapping with dark (and now reflective blue as well) wasn't too hard.

I still don't like the fact that the first design (the one with the eyes) was only partially brought to India. The back of the helmet wasn't complete! The same pattern abroad looked better because the rear of the lid didn't look empty.

My ninth helmet is a Shoei X-9
Fits snug and looks great. This is one of the quietest helmets I've ever worn. Visor quality is absolutely superb and with luck, this will be another blissful five years to come.

My tenth helmet is a Shoei X-11
This is currently the top Shoei helmet on sale. The venting is absolutely beautiful and you can actually feel the air run through your hair inside this. I bought this one size smaller than the X-9 and it feels great to wear. Racetight fit means no squiggle-shake in fast lifesaver checks, no wind buffeting at 180 kph-ish speeds. This is just perfect.

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Nov 23, 2007

Festive season not ending for Bajaj

Press release from Bajaj...

Festive season goes on for Bajaj.
  • Demand upsurge continues for Platina and the XCD (Exceed) 125 DTS-Si
  • Platina festive offer extended till December 2007
Mumbai 23rd November 2007: The festive season beginning with Navratri and ending with Diwali as expected saw a massive demand jump for the range of Bajaj Motorcycles. So much so that many dealerships ran out of stocks of the Bajaj Platina and the recently launched XCD 125 DTS-Si. However, what is hugely encouraging is that this demand upsurge continues even post the festive season with an estimated 50,000 customers waiting to buy the Platina and 20,000 numbers waiting for XCD 125 DTS-Si.

Bajaj Auto’s newly launched XCD has proved to be a huge hit with the customers with 100,000 bikes to be on road within three months of launch. To meet this sustained demand the company is rapidly ramping up the production for XCD to 75,000 numbers per month. The attractive price-off on the Platina has also met with a stunning response resulting in a waiting of 15 days or more at several dealerships even post the festive season.

According to Amit Nandi, GM Marketing Bajaj Auto, “The XCD’s compelling package of outstanding fuel efficiency, 125cc performance and fresh-new styling has received very high degree of consumer acceptance across the country. Our ability to sell is only constrained by our inability to produce more. On the basis of the market response and sales growth, ‘XCD’ is proving to be a ‘knock-out-performer.”

Added, Amit Nandi, “There has been a tremendous response from our customers on the Platina festive offer. The bike offers unbeatable value at an ex-showroom price of Rs30,000. We have extended this offer till the year end so as not to disappoint our committed customers.“

The Festive period it seems does not end for Bajaj.

Nov 20, 2007

What really happens while you are running-in your engine?

What I'm learning this time:
I've heard over and over about hard throttle for short periods produces the best run-in engines. The way lubricants and metals work together is why this works.

When an engine is new, all the metal bits inside it are new. A number of them are designed to touch each other during operation. You should already know a fair bit about which parts are being referred to here.

Now, the oil in the motor is meant to perform lubrication, primarily. But it also has other functions. It carries heat away from hot parts and washes away sludge (which is usually a slurry formed by oil additives designed to keep impurities, like metal shavings afloat till they can be trapped in the filter). Lubrication itself takes two forms.

The first is called hydrodynamic lubrication. This is the situation when a film of lubricant (thickness of the film usually is in inverse proportion to the pressure between the two surfaces. As in, the higher the pressure, the thinner the fil tends to be) separates two surfaces from each other without interrupting their interaction. The piston ring, for instance, will usually ride along the cylinder bore without touching it thanks to a film of oil that seals the two from each other. You can also think of hydrodynamic lubrication as a sort of planned hydroplaning of one metal surface over another, an altogether more desirable hydroplaning than the one we usually fear in the wet.

The other form of lubrication (there are more, but this should be enough for our purposes) is called boundary lubrication. This is the situation when the film becomes too thin to separate the surfaces fully. This can happen due to high loads, highs speed difference between the two surfaces or a change in the character of the lubricant itself. When boundary lubrication happens, contact betwen the two metal bits actually takes place.

The surfaces of even the most finely crafted metals have surface imperfections. Zoomed in close, you will be able to see a line of hills and valleys that are so tiny that to our eyes and fingers, they look like a uniform surface. Lubrication in this case becomes the responsibility of certain compounds in the lubricant whose task it is to have chemical reactions with the surface of the metal and form chemical bonds that create a lubricant surface of sorts and helps preserve the two metal surfaces. Most often, when you start a cold engine, the engine starts with boundary lubrication before the oil pump kicks in proper and full film lubrication, or hydrodynamic lubrication can take place.

We return to our brand new engine, then. When new, the piston ring and bore surfaces, no matter how well finished are all hills and valleys. The reason why most race technicians suggest short, hard pulls on the throttle lies in the lubrication aspect of the engine, and these imperfections.

The objective of the run-in process is to file these hills and valleys down, so that the hills become lower and flatter on top. Effectively, like plateaus. The valleys, which still remain serve to store oil should the film of lubricant give way, while the flat tops of the plateau make the film's job a lot easier. When done well, the plateau-ed surfaces allow better chamber seal and therefore more efficiency and power.

So, how to do this?

Under normal loads, the engine is able to maintain full film lubrication. Which means that the hills on both sides never actually touch. What is needed is to break the film lubrication up. The easiest way is to load the engine. Which is why, the suggestion is hard throttle for short periods. The short periods are because metal-metal contact generates heat. The short and periodical nature of throttle application gives the lubricants (and any other cooling systems available) to cool down the agitated bits and prepare the motor for another set of pulls.

Naturally, manufacturers, who have warranty costs to think of won't trust the ability of all and sundry to pull off these hard throttle applications without messing up. And a number of silent, decent-power, reliable engines are far better than a few extremely powerful ones and a vast number of blown ones from the warranty perspective, right?

You must also remember that just like hard throttle pulls help bed in the cylinder area, various other metal surfaces, like within the gearbox also need help to mate.

The other thing in this mix is the kind of oil you are using. Obviously, since our purpose in life is to break the lubrication up, using better oils would be a little counterproductive, right? My understanding now, is that many experienced race techs also suggest older oils (as in less effective, and therefore easier to break up) with oil changes scheduled relatively often rather than long periods of the latest and greatest full-synth oils. The explanation is pretty involved and I will return to it one day. The upshot is that the latest oils are engineered to generate films that are ever harder to break. So while their cooling, cleaning and anti-corrosion properties might be gobsmacking, their contribution to the run-in process is detrimental.

Also, older engines, like RD350s, which were designed to run a little loose should be run-in on mineral oils for best post-run-in performance, although after the engine has bedded-in you can do whatever you think is best oilwise.

Here's the link to the famous mototune run-in secrets page

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The animation is from wikipedia

Nov 19, 2007

Dani Pedrosa: 10,9,8...

Heh, heh. Someone forgot to switch on launch control... 8-D

Smoother: wasted

Sheesh, what a waste. Today, I decided that I wouldn't go fast, and instead, I would focus on being smooth. Smooth with the throttle, smooth with the brakes and smooth with my steering inputs and so forth. Speed, if it happened naturally would be nice... you get the drift.

For a while it went really well. I may have been 20 or 30 kph in places, but I was the essence of smooth. But I did notice two things, it was much harder to focus on the road, and at least two times in 22 km, I found my mind wandering a bit. Still, it was going well.

Then, while crossing a four-way junction where might is right (no cops or signal to help, and heavy traffic from three sides, including mine), I indicated clearly to a slow, approaching autorickshaw and moved ahead to forge a path across to the other side. The jackass came to a stop, as expected, but not before his rick touched my exhaust. And he looks dumbly through the dirty glass and says, 'Well, go on!.' The resouding crack of carbon knuckle on glass is still in my head.

Then, almost 18 km later, it happened again! This time a cabbie kissed that poor exhaust again. His excuse? Allegedly, I cut him off. Explain this to me. I'm in my lane, he's in the next lane, to my right. I am to the right of the centerline of the car ahead of me, but well left of his tail lamps. So how, pray did I cut him off? Aargh.

Logic says my going slower and smoother had nothing to do with yelling match. My fairly angry brain says that slower doesn't work for me, and that's why both things happened. If I had set myself the goal of being smoother at my normal speed, neither would have happened. Damn.

Better Caring: Arranging care for the elders

Is there someone at home who needs constant care and attention? Are you feeling guilty of not being able to give them the time, attention and most importantly, the care they should be getting? is a dedicated web-based service for people just like you. The website helps you find the solutions to these problems without fuss. The site allows to you browse available care options, like a nursing home, for instance, so that you can start arranging the right kind of care. When your loved ones have spent a lifetime doting on you, it's the very least you can do to ensure that they are comfortable and happy as they grow older. The site is comprehensive, with daily care news and view from members as well as tips from experts in the field which help you take better care. There is also a vast forum that allows users, people like you, to discuss your own experiences with the care system, get valuable feedback from other members or just find answers to your questions.

Nov 17, 2007

Yamaha R1: It's been 10 years!

It's been ten years since I fell in love with the R1. Thought I'd have a celebration of sorts. However, I have to say that this race replica paint is hardly the way I would celebrate 10 years of something so iconic... That said. Congrats!

Anyone know if November 28 is the final, frozen, launch date?

TVS Apache RTR 160: The water under the bridge

TVS Apache RTR 160Yes, yes, I know I haven't written on motorcycles for a while. Well here goes.

Let me tell you about my love-hate relationship with my TVS Apache RTR 160. I've put nearly a thousand kilometres on it since I got me grubby paws on it and here's the story.

I've said before the RTR vibrates less than before, and that is true. However, a two hour highway stint with speeds in excess of 90 kph will give you the famous tingling fingers sensation and a bit of a numb hand. 70-85 kph is best for long distance work, for the engine runs smoother. The sweet spot, I think, expands a bit if you turn up the fuel a bit and run it slightly richer than the factory setting. This will, obviously, impact the economy a bit.

Lke I've said before, I like the sportbike crouch and am very comfortable in that position for a fairly long time, so the bike suits me just fine. However, I am convinced that this won't be the case for all riders. The riding position is pretty committed, so if you're thinking RTR, think it through. Pillions are comfortable at intermediate speeds, but higher speeds will send vibes up the pillion pegs

My particular machine isn't in the best of health, actually. It seems that someone dropped it (all of the usual suspects say: not me). Apart from a minor scratch on the fairing and still missing left side mirror though, there is no damage. However. Today I found that the left side L-clip inside the fairing wasn't attached at all – no bolt securing it to anything.

Also, there is something funny about the handling at speed with a pillion. The Wife and I cannot ride corners at more than about 80 kph because the machine begins to weave gently.

Two up, ground clearance is a real issue. Forget hard cornering, you can get the center stand grounding out without trying. Which sucks. Also, when you're storm water drain filtering through a traffic jam, the RTR grounds out completely on two-three inch high manhole covers – so you have to ride around them. Don't ask how I know.

I love the engine. It's a bit rough sounding for a TVS motor, but heck, it goes. Open the throttle and the rest is easy. The speedo, a bit optimistic in my opinion, regularly shows in excess on 118 kph with single rider, and about 112 kph with The Wife on board.

The thing is quick to change direction, that I will admit. But it cannot handle a flick-flack kind of situation. When you have two direction changes in sequence, the RTR sorts of loses the plot on the second change and will either run a bit wide, or flop in too sharply. Nothing alarming, but despite trying to refine my inputs, complete control over the second direction change proves elusive.

The brakes are superb, though I still think they don't return as much feedback as they should. But try this, try braking hard over a bumpy stretch while you try to persuade the RTR to make a tiny direction change. You will notice that the RTR can brake, but you can feel the chassis begin to wind up like a spring. This feel very uncomfortable, although this has, so far, produced no ill effects.

Haven't had one yet, but am quite cross because there doesn't seem to be a TVS service shop (to buy a replacement left mirror) on my commute. And I pass three Hero Honda places and two Honda places that I can recall without consulting the net.

Related links

OSO Good!

What a totally enjoyable film! Okay, serious cinema types, those seeking social or moral messages etc can exit stage left now. Om Shanti Om is not for you.

Those who have seen Main Hoon Na, understood Farah Khan's rather jovial and irreverent approach to cinema and all of her subtle and not-so-subtle digs at various celluloid figures, will absolutely love it. SRK, Deepika et al are in super form and the film is funny almost throughout. The pace is quite fast up to the intermission, after which it slows down a little bit. But still, I did not check my watch until after the credits, so it isn't boring. You already know the story and other reviews so I won't go into that.

Special mention to Abhishek Bachhan and huge shout for Akshaye Kumar, both have stellar cameos and Big B, once more, has overacted in his three second cameo (sigh!).

Finally, Deepika Padukone could not have gotten a better debut, even if she had paid for it! She looks abso gorgeous, sort of like Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na, but without the flowing saree pallus and soft focus, slow-mo shots. The young model is extremely good-looking, acts decently enough to be future star material and most importantly, looks great in practically every single shot. Truth be told, I did not notice SRK in the first dream sequence song when DP was on the screen. I recovered soon after, it goes without saying.

Which brings me to the lovely, cheery credits sequence, another Farah Khan speciality. Great work, keep it up! Would have loved to see some out-takes, for the entire cast seemed to have a superb time during the shoot. Hopefully, they will be on the DVD which I will be buying (including the Main Hoon Na, one to complete my Farah Khan anthology... my that sounds odd).

Pics from: OSO official site

Visorganizer: Another Onion Stroke of Genius

There's this delightful store called The Onion. It sells offbeat items like an Atlas entitled 'Our Dumb World' and Coffee Cups that say 'You Are Dumb.' They've become quite famous for their Gotchaboxes, like the one above, that're quite popular for Christmas, when people run out of gift ideas. You pick a box, like the one above, order it. And when it comes, you can fill it with the cliched old gift and surprise your friends!

Metro Adlabs: Not customer savvy/friendly

Let me make this clear. I quite enjoy watching movies at Fame Adlabs in Andheri. Yesterday, I watched Om Shanti Om at Metro Adlabs. And I have to say, it has to be one of the most terrible experiences hall-wise. Allow me to elucidate.

The Wife called up the telebooking numbers. The chap on the other side claimed that the film was sold out and he had no tickets left save for the Ebony Class, that's Rs 280.00 a ticket. The Wife, being a seasoned film aficionado, reasoned that a major hit like OSO would still not be likely to be filling halls in the late night show (2000 to 0100) this far after the launch. So instead of being sold ludicrously expensive ticket, she hopped on down to the counter and booked the second most expensive class of tickets, and only because the cheapest is simply the first row, and even those have prices over Rs 200. Which totals up to the fact that Metro Adlabs' telebooking guy was lying to The Wife.

We had a nice goan dinner at New Martins (awesome, cheap Goan food. Must try the Beef Curry. Dal and Papad are the only veggie offerings) near Strand Cinema and turned up at about 2110 for the 2200 movie.

After metal detecting, respectful feeling-up and taking a considered gander into my bags, the guard told me to come back later, because the entry into Metro Adlabs is only allowed 15 min before the film actually begins. That was surreal! It was almost as if management was concerned that we might overuse their toilets, breathe in too much of their precious air-conditioned air, or god help, gatecrash the climax of some other film and occupy an empty seat. Maybe they were worried that we might actually end up buying some expensive popcorn or Pepsi. So much for customer respect.

Being the seasoned Mumbaikar that I am, I promptly went back out and parked my butt on the slender, swaying good old municipal railing outside. Withing minutes, a senior guard asked me to get off the railing. I refused, quizzing him in response as to who said I could/should not sit on top.

Evidently the Metro Adlabs management thinks the fence-sitters are not welcome. Perhaps because the rusty water tankers, haphazardly parked cabs, atrocious parking behavior on the part of their patrons and all spoil the look of the hall. All of which they can do bugger-all about. At least they can get chaps who sit in the fence to stand, instead, right?

I told the chap that since the railing did not belong to this management I would continue to be seated on it, unless he allowed us into the theater and park ourselves in one of the two empty 4-seater benches in the absolutely deserted, unoccupied lobby. I pulled the usual trick of raising my voice while doing this negotiation, which got us the benches pronto.

Once seated inside the theater at the appointed hour, one usher actually tried to get us to move from the seats we had purchased so some effing latecomer would not disturb the rest of the 'patrons.'

Metro Adlabs, in my opinion, sucks. I'm never going back.

Nov 16, 2007

Domestic sales: Stats from SIAM, October 2007

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 May Jun JulAugSepOct
Bajaj 66,91962,49356,96266,49551,21767,21769,992
Hero Honda 2395,94251,965224,841178,268214,362285,539332,276
Kinetic 460242201218127133270
TVS 43,38038,39534,87526,32328,47232,65947,247
Yamaha 8,0616,0495,7566,7238,1307,4469,001

Apr May Jun JulAugSepOct
Hero Honda 15,81417,56713,3548,5807,17912,25314,940
Honda 15,68521,33620,74419,90620,75222,98623,307
Suzuki 4,2795,0124,5695,0805,3435,7147,006
TVS 4,6783,3295,5048,9147,66610,23911,347
Yamaha 2,1391,6582,0492,0562,3912,1403,970

Apr May Jun JulAugSepOct
Enfield 2,5072,6242,6102,6312,9112,8373,506

Apr May Jun JulAugSepOct

Apr May Jun JulAugSepOct
Kinetic 260508537570653290395
TVS 2,3982,9922,5183,6583,0683,5153,171

AprMay JunJulAugSepOct
Bajaj 1,3882,3152,5062,9202,7182,0561,866
Hero Honda 1,2918,1368,8427,86111,30910,76512,099
Honda 42,64048,16746,72844,78245,97848,91748,289
TVS 15,58321,46322,49319,50720,57623,17923,600