Mar 27, 2007

Busy be me X

Hi, I know I haven't posted in while, but I have been busy and away at the same time. More stuff coming but I need some more time.

Sorry for any inconvenience, folks. Trust me, the return will be worth it...

Mar 20, 2007

Honda Unicorn: Serious (cosmetic) upgrades!


I know I have backdated this so it fits, but it completes the chronology. Here's the Unicorn release in full.

Honda Revs Up For the Indian Two – Wheeler Market

  • Targets 27% growth in 2007-08
  • Launches New Sporty Unicorn
  • Launches “Unicorn Grand Prix” to celebrate 2006 Moto GP
    win by Honda
  • Eyes over a million sales to be a top group company
  • Aggressive sales strategy with introduction of new models in 100 cc
    & higher cc Bikes
  • Undertakes rapid Network expansion
New Delhi, March 19, 2007: Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. (HMSI), a 100% subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company, Japan - the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world – today announced the launch of a new look sporty 150 cc Honda UNICORN.

In 2006-07, HMSI sold 7.2 Lac units. In 2007-08, aggressively plans for 9 Lac units with a growth of 27% and eyes over a million sales to be a top group company.
“We have emerged as the 4th largest two-wheeler manufacturer in India by growing faster than the industry year after year. We are now targeting rapid expansion of our business in future to be one of the top group two wheeler companies in India by 2010”, said Mr. Yukihiro Aoshima, President & CEO, HMSI. New Sporty UNICORN Dressed with looks that surpass benchmarks of admiration and envy alike, the new Honda Unicorn exhibits international Sporty styling at its best. Apart from a classy double tail lamp and a masculine fuel tank, this racing wonder also flaunts a stylish front cowl, body gelling graphics, robust black plated engine and sporty alloy wheels.

According to Mr. Yoichi Mizutani, Director – Sales & Marketing, HMSI, “The New Sporty Unicorn is borne out of Honda’s belief to constantly innovate to fulfill aspirations and needs of the target customers. The consumer expectations have evolved since we launched Unicorn. Consumers today seek not only performance but also expect their products express their individuality. Existing Unicorn is already a benchmark for exhilarating performance in its category.

With its international Sporty look, the new Unicorn is now further strengthened to meet expectations of young customers in India.”
Powered by a Honda 4-stroke, 150cc engine and incorporating cutting-edge technologies developed by Honda’s global R&D team, Unicorn is an engineering masterpiece. With a powerful 13.3 bhp engine, Unicorn clocks 0-60 kmph in an amazing 5 seconds delivering the best pick-up in its class. It is engineered to ensure a perfect balance of pick up and mileage and delivers an incredible 60 kms to a litre with its aerodynamic body and a very refined engine from Honda that develops high torque at practical operating speeds.

Fitted with the state-of-the-art Mono-suspension and a strong and flexible Diamond frame, the Unicorn is crafted to render only the smoothest drive. The Unicorn is the first motorcycle in India to have puncture resistant Tuff-up tube.
The new Sporty Unicorn is priced competitively at Rs 58,150/- (ex-showroom Delhi), Rs 55950/- (ex-showroom Pune), Rs 57550/- (ex-showroom Bangalore), and Rs 58575/- (ex-showroom Kolkata).

The New Sporty Unicorn will be launched nationally on April 9th, 2007.
To celebrate Honda’s Moto GP sweeping win of all the titles of Team, Rider & Constructor championship, HMSI today also announced the launch of its “Unicorn Grand Prix” for the bike enthusiasts in India.

Present for this Launch function was Mr. Tadayuki Okada- the Chief Tester of Honda RC212V for Repsol Honda, Konica Minolta Honda, Camel Honda & Telefonica Movistar Honda racing teams, who actually tested the bike Honda RC211V that Nicky Hayden rode to win the 2006 Moto GP Championship. The Bookings for the “Unicorn Grand Prix” bike will start from second week of May 2007. A total of 2,500 units will be available till June 2007.

The “Unicorn Grand Prix” bike is priced at Rs59425 /- (ex-showroom Delhi)
“To achieve the growth target, we plan an aggressive Sales Strategy. Along with the introduction of new models in the market, we are undertaking rapid network expansion,” said Mr. Yoichi Mizutani. In 2006-07, HMSI has developed 100 Dealers & Branches, thus registering a total of 391 operational outlets.

In 2007-08, HMSI plans to rapidly expand network to 693 outlets which is 170% up than 2006-07. This will enable HMSI to reach closer to customers and to achieve the set aggressive targets.

Mar 17, 2007

Photography upgrade!

Sony Ericsson w300iYesterday was a funny day. But before I tell you more about that let me tell you about what I did. We went yesterday to our favourite gadget purchase place, ostensibly to purchase a phone for The Wife. I recently got me a Sony Ericsson w300i, which I must confess, I love. It's almost totally devoid of quirks and I love the fact that it plays music in the background and you can use the phone without pausing the music, unless you're getting a call or something, that is. I also love the fact that comes with some of the best earphones I have ever had the pleasure of assaulting my ears with. Not only are capable of mega volume (and mega, mega bass), they also happen to be exceedingly comfortable. (All usual disclaimers apply about loud music on earphones. And for The Wife: this is not too suggest that I actually listen to music very loud, just that if I wanted to, I could. But I don't want want to, so I don't... er....). Anyway, as it turns out, she wanted to replace her sweet Samsung D600, which is another brilliant phone. But crucially, has bitch-poor earphones (they don't fit and don't sound that great either) and won't multitask while playing the sweet music. In our budget (return Samsung, plus Rs 4000 only), the W300i was the only phone that fit. And she wanted a silver one, which obviously, the man didn't have. It seems Sony Ericsson doesn't sell the Silver coloured W300i in India (have you seen one? Let me know). I've added the pic so you can identify it.

Sony Cybershot DSC-H5While browsing the phones, I spotted a camera I've had my eye on for long... the Sony DSC-H5. I've always wanted (and still want) a proper lens-changing, all-seeing DSLR, but until I scrape together the dosh, I needed something more powerful than my superb, but limited Sony P200. So, out went the 7.2 megapixel, 3x P200, and in came the 7.2 megapixel, 12x H5. With all the goodness of a full manual mode, most of the functionality of a low-end DSLR and cheap too. That's the news. I haven't shot anything with it, of course. The Wife is, as we speak, purchasing a UV filter to keep the lens dust free (etc) and so hopefully, I'll get to fiddle with the H5 over the weekend. In the meantime, I've memorised the manual...

Contra: Play it now

Contra screenshot from wikipedia.orgAs a kid, I loved Konami's Contra, the first one. The one that opened with the jungle stage. So much so, that for the only time in my life, I raided my dad and mum's change on a daily basis, skimming as much as Rs 30 daily to go play. The vid game parlour chap recognised my ardour and would throw in cheat code that would give me 30 lives or some such. The only deal was that I surrender the arcade machine as soon as I complete the game the first time round (the second time round, enemy soldiers come from behind (as in from the left edge of the screen as well)...

And today, while Stumbling about, I located this site. And guess what, they have a Nintendo Emulator which allows you to play Contra. It's a tiny screen, but hey, the game works! Awesome! For those who'd like to read further about this absolute cult game, click here or here.

Image from wikipedia.com

Mar 15, 2007

Motorcycle Bloggers International: 2007 Awards

As I said, the voting's over and the 2007 Motorcycle Bloggers International awards have been announced (Here). Among the highlights, the Ducati Desmosedici RR wins the Object of Lust and Best Concept Motorcycle or Scooter awards. Among the blog awards, this one won the best blog award.

Time Attack Chennai Track Day Announcement

Below is the unedited (but maybe chopped for brevity) announcement.

Track Days
Experience life on a race track!!

Hello Track Dayers,
Welcome to the third Track Day organised by the MMSC. We are here to inaugurate the newly re-surfaced sections of the Full 3.75 km circuit.

TIME ATTACK Track Days are designed to allow motorcycle and sports car enthusiast to enjoy driving in controlled conditions without random traffic and law enforcement. Track Days are not races, but allow the driver to run at their pace and enjoy the capability of their car/bike/ATV.

‘Time Attack’ offers the man on the street an opportunity to experience being on a race track and gives them an insight into Motorsport. Its purely an experience and there is no competition involved.

The track days are even structured in such a way that a group of friends could come in a car and share the driving or even just Arrive and Drive from a choice of Racing cars ( FISSME and ESTEEM).

Motorcycles:

  1. Last year was great for bikes. We had a series of Exhibition races for the Group A “Fully Blown” RD 350, Royal Enfield Bullets and Superbikes.
  2. TIME ATTACK track day is a safer environment to explore these machines without having to worry about potential dangers of on coming traffic, bovine Intervention and their left overs , oil spills and dirt.
  3. Emergency doctors and Ambulance are on site and only minutes away.
Modified Sports/Race Cars:
  1. For cars that have been modded for the street, a track day is a perfect opportunity to see improvements come to life.
  2. Also a great place to drive fast.
  3. Pick up Cornering Lines and driving techniques that will ensure a safer drive on the street.
Arrive and Drive:

Race Cars and formulas are available for Hire on arrival


  • FISSME 800cc
    5 Laps, Short Loop – Rs. 500 (Approx Time 10Min, Distance 11 Km)
  • Formula LGB SWIFT 1300cc
    5 Laps, Short Loop – Rs. 700 ( Approx Time 10 Min, Distance 11 Km)
  • Formula LGB HYUNDAI 1500cc
    5 Laps, Short Loop – Rs. 700 ( Approx Time 10 Min, Distance 11
    Km)
  • Group N Race Esteem
    5 Laps, Full track – Rs. 1,000 (Approx Time 15 min, Distance 19km

    Note : Above prices are only for vehicle hire. Please see Track Time Rental
    Prices below.
TRANQUIL MOTORS SUPERCROSS TRAIL EXPERIENCE: NEW!!

The newly laid Motocross and Supercross track at the MMST facility will be OPEN FOR USE. Tranquil Motors will be launching a range of the POLARIS All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) which will be available to test on the Motocross Trail.

Enter into the awesome world of OFF ROADING
Model 2007 Sportsman 800 EFI Limited Edition of POLARIS ATV on Display. Test Drive an ATV on the Motocross Track on 4WD Magnum 355cc and Diesel 455cc Polaris ATV. If you like playing in the dirt this is where you want to be.

TIME ATTACK TRACK DAY is being organised on the 24th and 25th of March 2007.
REGISTER NOW!!

FACILITIES:
These Track Days are designed to allow motorcycle and sports car enthusiast enjoy driving in controlled conditions without random traffic and law enforcement. Track Days are not races, but allow the driver to run at their pace and enjoy the capability of their vehicle.
  • Hospitality and Lounge Area
  • TIME ATTACK TRACK DAY RADIO STATION
  • Fully Equipped Ambulance and Emergency Doctors
  • Recovery Vehicle
  • Chief Track Marshal and Track Cleaning Support
  • Great Food and Refreshments
  • Special Pricing for Accommodation near the Track
TRACK TIME RENTAL PRICING: Entries are charged per person and not per Vehicle.

Bikes (Upto 350cc, Full Track)
Single Session:
Rs. 300 - Non Members
Rs. 200 - Members/Group Rates
Full Day Pass 4 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 1000 - Non Members
Rs. 700 - Members/Group Rates
Two day Pass 8 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 1700 - Non Members
Rs. 1100 - Members/Group Rates

Superbikes (Full Track):
Single Session:
Rs. 400 – Non Members
Rs. 300 - Members/Group
Full Day Pass 4 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 1350 - Non Members
Rs. 1000 - Members/Group Rates
Two day Pass 8 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 2250 - Non Members
Rs. 1600 - Members/Group Rates

Cars (Full Track):
Single Session:
Rs. 400 – Non Members
Rs. 300 - Members/Group
Full Day Pass 4 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 1350 - Non Members
Rs. 1000 - Members/Group Rates
Two day Pass 8 x 30 Minute Sessions:
Rs. 2250 - Non Members
Rs. 1600 - Members/Group Rates

COMBINED ATV RENTAL AND MOTOCROSS INTRODUCTION: NEW!!

Tranquil Motors and Polaris are arranging an Off Road Experience using parts of the Motocross track with their 325 and 425 cc 4x4 ATV. Each session will be 5 minutes and is Rs. 300 per session. Be sure to check it out. Minimum 16 years of age.

Entry is category specific – if entered for Cars then can avail only car sessions. If entrant wants to ride as well then has to make a fresh entry.

No Refunds

Entry Closing date 22nd March 2007. For Entries, call or write for Entries, Bookings:
Farhan Vohra, Team-BHP: +91 98400 22029 fvohra@gmail.com
Praveen Shroff, Speedworks: +91 98402 40407 praveen@osaindia.com

For Groups, Corporate, Advertising, Promotional:
Poncho, ISBK: +91 98453 70309 isbkracing@gmail.com
Sawan Gupta, MMSC: +91 98842 80083 mmsc.chennai@gmail.com

For Technical Related Information:
Krupesh Patel, Electra Performance :+91 98840 49268. krupesh6@gmail.com

SAFETY REQUIREMENTS:
For bikes, the below safety precautions to be followed.
  1. The minimum protective gear is full face helmet, gloves, boots
    and full
    riding gear (leather or alternate).
For cars, the below safety precautions to be followed.
  1. The minimum protective gear is helmet and seat belt.
  2. Front passenger will be allowed - ALSO with helmet and seat belt.
  3. No Passengers will be allowed in Rear.
RULES:
There are some simple rules at Track Days.
  • Contact with anything is grounds for dismissal.
  • Drive within your skill and comfort level.
  • Pass only in designated passing zones.
  • All Vehicles must pass a 'Tech-Check'. Learn about preparing your car/bike.
  • Have FUN!
IF YOU WANT TO GO FASTER ………TAKE IT TO THE TRACK

400 posts You decide

This is my 400th post. So, I'm going to take a break. As in until the next post. In the meantime, I'd like to know which is(are) your favourite post(s) on this blog?

Motorcycle Bloggers International: Accepted!

I've just been informed that I'm now a member of the Motorcycle Bloggers International. The website is a place for riders who blog about bikes to discuss stuff that riders who blog about bikes discuss. And now, I'm one of them, and proud to be sure. Click on the logo to see their website. The MBI gives away awards every year which are open to the public for voting. The nomination lists are up now and you could have voted. I've been tardy about applying and the voting for the 2007 awards in now closed. Sorry. Will have a post on the awards and the 2008 voting as and when, though. The awards span a range of motorcycle related items including best motorcycle, best show, best concept etc. There are the awards for er... the not so good things/developments. I browsed the members lists and these two three blogs (Faster & Faster | Praveen KM | Indian Two Wheels)are members as well. Go ahead and vote, then!

Mar 14, 2007

Riding Mantra: #398.001

"Flags and handlebars should never touch the ground"
- On a Red Wing Shoes sidestand puck
(free if you try on a shoe... Cycle World, April 2007)

Vespa: Coming to India?

Vespa GTS 250Check this out. This is good news, I think.

“We are certainly looking at entering the domestic scooter and motorcycle market. We will announce our plans in a few months,” Piaggio Vehicles Pvt Ltd managing director Ravi Chopra told FE. This will be the third time that the 60-year-old Italian brand enters the Indian market. Synonymous with geared scooters around the world, Vespa was first introduced in India in 1960 in technical collaboration with Bajaj Auto.
Go here for the full article. I found the original story here. If this works out, hang on to your knickers (as the Brits like to yell before doing something wild). I happened to ride a couple of Piaggios a while ago and they absolutely rocked. As do Aprilias...

Motorcycle-Animal situations

Kangaroo SignRecently, a dog who escaped with no injuries let to the birth of this post. As is rapidly becoming a trend, I decided to turn that into a post of my own. Not mooching it, of course, but expanding on the seed of inspiration. etc. The following is a collection of animals, and what I know about how they mix with motorcycles. I can say with confidence that since I have never actually intersected the time-space plane with an animal, I've no idea if any of these are true, they work, or are just old wives tales (they ride bikes too?). But for what its worth, here goes...

Squirrels: The little buggers are cute as buttons, change direction seventy five times a second and are nearly impossible to run over with the mobike. Ignore and continue. 99.95 per cent, you won't even come close to hitting them. Girlfriend who screams, 'but you didn't even roll off the throttle!' needs to be told to shut up.

Dogs: These are deadly. When you're cuddling one at someone's house, or its humping your leg or drooling all over you gazillion buck Armani/Alpinestars, they range from cuddly-bear to annoyance. But when they dart across the road, they're killers. If you hit a dog, you're going down. No question. If you're lucky (remember, relative term), it'll just bounce off your shin or something and give you a hell of a – hopefully temporary – limp. Hit it square, and you're kissing it today, bub. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Brake, swerve... whatever... don't hit it. Oh, the bast**ds rarely ever get damaged in crashes, so save those tears.

Cats: I find it hard to believe that you could potentially run over something as fast, agile and situationally aware as a cat. But most animals of that size (the house dog size of thereabouts) will and can cause a heap big crash. See dogs for strategy.

Sheep/Goats: Not only do they travel in herds most of the time, they also tend to follow each other almost blindly. You're safest at ultra-low speed or stopped. Stop, look, go. Again, since they're only marginally larger than dogs, if you hit one, you're going down.

Cows: These are complete idiots. They won't move and are usually oblivious to both the motorcycle bearing down at them at top speed and injury. But they hurt. Best best? Lay it (your shiny pride and joy, that is) down if you're wearing kit. Or avoid by swerving. Sometimes the horn will get a movement out of the cow. From what I've heard, cows rarely turn around and bolt, so they're likely to move forward. Aim to avoid from the rear. Bulls, as an aside, are known to attack RD350s without provocation. I have been chased once, and I remember a chap in the Bahamas/Caribbean who was also also chased by a Bull (met him on the old two-stroke forum).

Buffalos: Same as cows, but they can turn around and bolt. So you need to be real careful. Also, they're usually black in colour, so spotting them after dark can be tough.

Chicken: They're usually easy enough to kill without falling off the bike. Don't hit one while on the brakes though, it might tip you over. On the throttle is usually much better. If the chicken survives, pull over, walk back and ask it why it decided to cross the road.

Snakes: Yes, snakes. I've seen them cross roads, and I've also seen basking snakes crawl across the road when surprised. Slipper buggers, if you're on the throttle throughout (and very lucky) you should get nothing more than a wobble. If the insides get smeared on the tyre, slow to a stop gently and look for leaves/stick to unglue the muck. In most cases, slowing down and passing on a closed throttle will allow the snake and you to get by without incident.

Asses: They never use zebra crossings and are liable to jump into your path without any warning. Even if you make eye contact. Usually live in settlements called towns, they're everywhere. Be very careful. The horn is known to work on them, and if all else fails, hurl abuse. They're far from endangered (actually there's too many of them around), but hitting one, even if you don't get injured will mean that you will get surrounded by more asses and eventually the cops will also take the ass's side. Best avoided by riding more carefully through ass populations.

Donkeys: Are a bit unpredictable so you need to be on your guard. They're large enough to cause serious crashes also. They are usually slow moving and almost never without the owner so you shouldn't have too much trouble with these. Personally, I've never heard of anyone crashing with a donkey.


Deer: Quite common as a motorcycle hazard abroad, and endangered almost everywhere else. Camouflage colours work and the buggers are hard to spot. They also happen to travel in herds. Be very, very careful. Hitting one with a bike is gonna lay you up in traction for a while.

Kangaroos: These are a real danger. But are restricted to zoos around the world and Australia. Their skin makes excellent riding gear. Again, these are large, fast animals and your best defense is to avoid contact.

Elk/Moose: Another set of completely invisible animals. They also cause innumerable crashes, especially in the areas they inhabit. Like Canada. I think. Strategies are the same as with all large animals, avoid contact.

Camels: You'll never come up on a camel and get surprised. They're too big for that. If you do suddenly notice that a camel has materialised in the middle in the road some twenty feet away, stop. Then slowly turn around, stick it in first and ride to your eye doctor.

Elephants: Wait for them to pass. If they come towards you, turn around and ride as hard as you can. After dark, Elephants are very hard to spot. So you're better off not riding through areas where you know/have been warned that Pachyderms roam.

Dinosaurs: Get back in the time machine and press fast forward. Do not stop to get DNA sample so someone can clone them later. If it's really big and looks creepy, do everything quietly. Dinos are known to eat motorcyclists, even those who haven't actually crashed into them. Will chase if they spot you running, but are usually too large to fit into the time vortex in the wake of the time machine.

Summary: Animals smaller than dogs can usually be hit without causing a fall. Dogs upwards, if there is contact, a crash will usually follow. Animals larger than dogs cause big, bone-breaking crashes, so your strategy has to be to avoid contact at all costs. Still larger animals might even chase you down...

General tips:
  • If you don't have traffic around you, do everything you can to avoid contact

  • If you see an animal in the road ahead (and it's alive), downshift, slow down and approach slowly. If it's dead, do not compound its misery by running over it. Its disrespectful, and you could fall... and that'd be just dumb.

  • You should be looking for a place to safely swerve around the animal already.

  • If its a small animal, speeding up as you pass it helps. If they do chase, they'll give up sooner.

  • If you have a dog chasing you, don't attempt to kick it, you could fall off. Instead, vary the speed, it confuses the dog and in most cases, it will give up.
  • If you are in traffic, swerving may not be an option. Ditto for stopping. In which case, you have to... er...
Links on this subject: MSGroup | eHow | MotorcycleCruiser

Mar 13, 2007

User review: planetdsg.com

Blog reader Vyom purchased a pair of Alpinestars SP-2 gloves (manufacturer site | planetdsg product page) from planetdsg.com and wrote a comment on this post saying he got the link from my blog. I commented him a questionnaire asking for information on his product purchase experience. He just reverted, so I thought I'd post his 'site review' so that all of you can have a read. Normal text is mine, Arial is Vyom's.

  1. How did you like the website?

    The look of the website was ok and i found the site easy to navigate. however there is no search box on the front page and should be there rather than as a link.

  2. What did you think of the product range on offer?

    The product range is all Alpinestars. When i had spoken on ordering the products, i had been told by their person that they carry more brands also which will be online soon.

  3. Do you perceive planetdsg as an expensive place to buy kit?

    I didn't find the site expensive. Though prices are higher than US rates but a lot cheaper than what people quote over here in Chennai. They should try reducing further.

  4. Did the goods live up the promise? In terms of product description, price, shipping cost and shipping time

    The gloves I bought were original alpinestars SP-2 and they charged Rs 95 for shipping from pune. i think it's OK. The gloves arrived on the second day of order. Someone had called to confirm order when I had placed it and paid online.

  5. Would you buy from planetdsg again? Would you recommend planetdsg to a friend?

    I have recommended the site to many colleagues and don't mind buying for my requirements again. In fact i plan to buy knee guards next month.

  6. If you don't mind... what was the total cost of purchasing the gloves (including any and all charges)

    When i bought gloves, at that time the costs were split into price + tax + shipping. Today i saw they have displayed price+tax directly which i find better. My total cost of purchase was Rs 5045 including shipping charges of Rs 95.

Hope that was helpful. Will let you know if i buy my knee pads also

Okay, I did some more digging. My favourite motorcycle kit website in the world, newenough.com – which has a brand new look – offers the same gloves for $79.95 in the US. At Rs 46.50 that's Rs 3718, according to xe.com, right now, its Rs 3522. So, if newenough.com offers the gloves with shipping at Rs 1327 or Rs 1523, they're about even. So did they? Here goes, I'm going to search this now... Okay. The total cost is $103.71 which is Rs 4822.5 or Rs 4569.5. Hmm... so newenough.com is actually cheaper by Rs 223. Given that customs is a fairly moody thing most of the time, I'd say planetdsg.com's Sp2 gloves are a good buy!

However, empirically checking, I found the Alpinestars SM-X R boots, for instance, differed much more. They're roughly Rs 13,000 at newenough.com, including shipping, but not including customs. But they're a whopping Rs Rs 17,750 at planetdsg. However, the last time a someone I know purchased a pair of Sidi Verterbra 2 boots from newenough.com, the customs slapped a Rs 9000 duty on them... Decisions, decisions...

Elephanta Festival 2007

As is rapidly becoming an annual fixation, we went to the latest iteration of the Elephanta Festival. The Wife being culturally steeped and all of that sort of things, and I being in love with the ferry ride and the monkeys that tend to shake the trees right above the stage at all of the juiciest parts of the performances.

We usually choose which day(s) we want to attend, since the artists, while usually great, aren't always the type The Wife wants to bestow with her audience. This time, however, Day 1 was a supertreat. A lady called Alarmel Valli was performing (Bharatnatyam) and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (Flute) and Pandit Bhavani Shankar Kathak (Pakhawaj) were the two sessions. The Wife's sparkling eyes said that at least two out of three would be superb. And as all Erich Segal readers should know, two of three is not bad. It's two out of three.

My flickr visitors will already have spotted the sixteen thousand-odd sunsets I shot in the ferry ride over to the Elephanta Island. It was lovely as usual. We got our cherished seats on top of the rickety ferry boat (both rides are included in the Rs 300 ticket) and shot our heads off. The three tickets are because The Wife dragged a friend along as well.

1024x768 image of Pt Chaurasia performing. All right reservedThe performances, from what I can tell were good. Valli was damn good (The Wife says) and Pandit Chaurasia was God himself. While I can't tell good classical music from bad jhankar beat remixes, even I thought he was damn good. So he must have been absolutely superb. The monkeys didn't shake anything either, so they must have been enthralled as well. Too bad, the fat lady who sat beside me sniggering through the entire flute performance didn't even have the same dignity as the monkeys. If I were the vindictive type, I'd put up her sorry mug here in a flash. But I won't.

1024x768 image of Alarmel Valli performing. All right reservedThe ferry ride back was even more magnificent. The music calms people down, and the forty-five odd minute ride is usually quiet. And when you hop off, you're on Cafe Mondegar's doorstep... Basically, we're going back again next year. If you're even half inclined towards the arts, try this one for size.

Mar 12, 2007

The R is for?

We didn't need a 190 bhp Karizma to award it this R. We just wanted a proper 25 bhp one... The image opens out to a 500Kb large photo of an advertisement for the 2007 Yamaha YZF-R1 from the April 2007 issue of Cycle World... This is what the R could have stood for. Instead of these

TVS STaR Sport Launch

Well, hello there. Sorry for the little break in posts, but I've been a little bit tied up. Partly concerned at fairly lurid guesswork all round about this blog and the other part being loads of work at the old office. In any case, not much has happened in my online absence, I'd like to believe. This new announcement, however, snapped me clean out my lethargy. I mean, give it up people, for a new bike. Meet the new TVS StaR Sport, a new sports style motorcycle at an affordable price. Anyway. Here's the full text of the release.

TVS Motor Company Launches 'StaR Sport', a new 100 CC motorcycle
  • All new sports style motorcycle at affordable price
  • Widens its economy segment portfolio, offers multiple choice to customers
March 12, 2007, Mumbai: Two-wheeler major, TVS Motor Company today expanded its economy segment offering with the launch of a new motorcycle, 'StaR Sport'. StaR Sport is a stylish, compact and affordable 100 cc motorcycle, aimed at discerning urban motorcycle customers who are on the look out for sleek and compact style. The Bike has been built to deliver punchy four-stroke performance with excellent mileage and effortless maneuverability that will have customers tackle busy city traffic with absolute ease.

With the launch of StaR Sport, Indian customers will have a choice of a bike that offers a rare combination of easy handling agility and ownership costs that will make this model a force to be reckoned with in the entry level motorcycle category. The motorcycle comes in eye pleasing colours with chrome graphics, which adds to the contemporary design of the motorcycle. It has a well-sculpted petrol tank, which seamlessly flows into a sleek and continous side panels culminating into a flush type tail lamp unit. The freshly updated instrument panel, the alloy wheels and for the first time position lamps in this price segment will complement the Sporty look of the bike.


TVS StaR Sport will be retailed alongside the TVS StaR City and TVS StaR basic models but targeted at customers who prefer a 'compact sized' motorcycle. In terms of the style and ergonomics StaR Sport possesses a different character compared to StaR City or the base model StaR. However, it retains the same proven engine and the toughness for which the current line of the StaR brand stands for.


The TVS StaR Sport will come in two versions. The base version will come with alloy wheels in 2 colours – Red and Black. The deluxe version with alloy wheels will have fuel gauge, chrome graphics and will be available in three colours – Silver, Black and Blue. The base version will be priced at Rs. 33,990/- (ex showroom) and the deluxe version at Rs. 35,490/- (ex showroom).


In addition to the excellent functionality offered, TVS StaR Sport will be covered under the unique 5 year warranty scheme offered to all the 'StaR' customers, a reassurance of top quality undertaking by the company.

Mar 9, 2007

Who will break the mold?

I met up with a few of the Indian motorcycle industry greats from the fourth estate and got talking. While trying to look informed and a man of considered, and weighty, opinion, I grasped that the discussion was not only about motorcycles, but also about what was going to happen to us in the coming days in India.

The consensus was that the Industry was in a product innovation slump of sorts. The picture I get is of a herd wildebeest, all gathered at the edge of what appears to be a deep stream. Every now and then, one of them takes a brave step forward. Okay, just shuffles forward. And then, someone else outdoes him by stepping another few millimeters into the water. At this rate, it will take years for the herd to get across.

So who's gonna break the mold? I must explain at this point that I am using the American spelling of mould because I somehow associate 'mold' more with the green stuff that grows on old break. Although both mold and mould mean format also. But as usual, I digress.

So who's gonna break the mold? The unanimous agreement was that Yamaha would break the mold. As an aside, the Yamaha shutting shop was ascribed to some jackass who got left out in the restructuring or some similar thing and decided to create a bit of a scene for the company. I am wagging one finger at this person (whoever he is), and you should be able to guess which one's wagging. Anyway, I digress some more. Yamaha, the discussion highlighted, is the company that has the means and the motive to break said mold. They are desperate enough to look at borrowing something spectacular from their considerable, formidable international line up and the new management is certainly not shy. The other prospect is Suzuki. It's a dimmer prospect, but if their first products' reception is anything to go by, they'll be desperate soon too. Which essentially, also says (without saying) that Honda, Hero Honda and surprise, Bajaj will not break the mold. Inch up, inch up will primarily remain their game unless someone else, yes, breaks the mold and gets them to change strategies.

And now that we're on the subject. The other thing that became clear is that Bajaj's product strategy is good, but in the long run, their quality levels, especially when you talk of mechanical bits needs to climb steeply and fast. I believe an or else was leveled... on behalf of the customers. TVS, on the other hand, were patted on the back for being a methodical manufacturer. They are admittedly a bit slow, but the group agreed that this would pay off in the long run. Interesting discussion, I gathered, so I thought I'd post it up.

More posts on Yamaha here

Mar 8, 2007

Hero Honda Karizma R: Official Word

Here it is. On my request, I received this official note on the new Hero Honda Karizma. Read (and enjoy – I did). Everyone who likes writing ROTFL in their blogs and emails... this one's for you!

THE NEW KARIZMA

Karizma has been the most aspirational motorcycle in the country, and it enjoys a die-hard patronage with young bike enthusiasts for a simple reason – unmatched performance coupled with unparalleled styling and the assurance of the tried and tested Hero Honda equity.

Simply put, Karizma with its 225cc of raw power and commanding street presence is nothing less than a fantasy come true for young adults who yearn to have a very powerful bike with international styling and comfort and riding safety.

Keeping this sentiment in mind, Hero Honda has now launched the ‘New Karizma’. Karizma, in its new avatar, comes with swashbuckling new looks and international styling which will drive every young and passionate biker in the fast lane of power biking.

Some of the most striking features of the New Karizma include the following: -
  • A striking new Karizma logo which represents the bike’s cutting edge imagery of being racy

  • International styling which includes state-of-the art graphics with a pronounced ‘R’ on the tank and an asymmetrical one on the visor in keeping with the latest international trend

  • A stunning feature of this bike is its new sporty under-cowl which makes the bike look more powerful and mean

  • The digital console of the bike comes with a night vision, which illuminates the console in a bright neon yellow color to reveal the speedometer which stands out in the dark to form a stunning contrast

  • The engine now sports an exciting matt-axis grey color which makes it look very rugged and ready to take on anything

  • What’s more, the New Karizma comes with a special edition version which has a set of racy-red mag wheels which make it the most stunning bike on Indian roads.

  • Other notable features in the bike are the red rear suspensions, stylish fender with sizzling graphics, alloy wheels and front disc brakes as a standard fitment, powerful multi-reflector headlight with two stunning remote lamps for that added beam, Integrated clear lamp tail light to make sure every other bike keeps safe distance.
Here’s a bike which comes fully loaded with impeccable styling and unmatched performance which reiterates Hero Honda’s continuous commitment to offer the best biking experience across diverse consumer segments.

Coupled with its Brand Ambassador, hot-shot Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, Karizma’s personality is all about: ‘Cool & Confidence’

Mar 5, 2007

Fiat Yamaha MotoGP Team

It's official, the new prime sponsor for the Yamaha Factory MotoGP Team is Fiat. Here's the first of the images. I, for one, like the new blue/white colour scheme... you? Here is the full press release from Fiat. The contract is for two years and in many ways is a first. I can't even remember the last time a car maker became a prime sponsor. Also, Fiat owns Ferrari, who in turn own an F1 team...

The Fiat Yamaha Team is born

For the next two MotoGP world championships, Fiat Automobiles SpA will be the new Title Sponsor of Yamaha which, starting this season, will be called the Fiat Yamaha Team. This is an original sponsorship deal which, for the very first time, links the four-wheel with the two-wheel worlds in the form of two brands that have played memorable roles in the history of racing and of industry.

In addition, the setting up of the Fiat Yamaha Team moves forward the strategy of Fiat Automobiles SpA aimed at targeting a younger clientèle with innovative, accessible products, but also with initiatives of great appeal and high emotive impact. The Fiat Automobiles SpA sponsorship deal for the next two MotoGP seasons fits into this context, for the MotoGP championship is the event which attracts young racing fans more than any other. Undisputed icon of the two-wheel circus is Valentino Rossi, creative rider of the Fiat Yamaha Team, who has carried the banner of a victorious Italy on international circuits in recent times.

So, manufacturers of great cars and great bikes, endowed with enduring character and appeal, Fiat Automobiles SpA and Yamaha have given life to an innovative cooperation arrangement which abandons the confines of a sponsorship deal pure and simple to reach out to a broader platform of communication and advertising. For the occasion a new logo has been created consisting of the wording “team”, the Italian flag and the Fiat and Yamaha logos, as well as a series of liveries that will alternate on the two works bikes of Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards. The identity of the two brands thus finds an ideal place in which to develop a new graphic and chromatic language capable of speaking directly to a dynamic, young public.

Operative worldwide, the sponsorship deal will enable Fiat Automobiles SpA to promote campaigns using the sporting image of the riders and that of the Fiat Yamaha Team technicians. In detail, the two works Yamaha bikes will carry the Fiat logo and the Italian flag on the side fairings, the front windshield and the fuel tank. In addition, the race suits of the two riders as well as the clothing of staff and mechanics will be signed Fiat in the central, front and rear parts and on the legs. Finally, the Fiat logo will be present in the official communications of the team and will be highlighted inside the hospitality area, the pits and in the trucks used for transporting bikes and materials.

Turin 5 March 2007

Pics and release courtesy: FIAT

Yamaha TZ350: The one that went bleauggghhh

Yamaha TZ350, courtesy Yamaha Europe

I am trapped inside the fairing with; all that noise and here comes a corner. I let off the gas and try to get my weight to the inside, but I am trapped on the seat too, and finally I jerk the handlebars to the left and the TZ leans reluctantly to the right. One down. I turn the gas back on and the engine goes bleauggghhh. I downshift, losing speed, let out the clutch, and the engine goes bleaugghhh again. I downshift again and I am in first gear in the middle of a part of the track usually negotiated at speeds over 100 mph. I turn on the gas, watch the revs build to 7,000, 8,000, and hoooeeeyyy! 9,000 and right up to 10,500, grab another gear, 10,300, another, 10,300 and all of a sudden we're going just too damn fast. I put on the brakes. The bike stops. Instantly...
One of the best articles on a two-stroke bike I have ever read. And now that they're nearly dead, all the better a read. Thanks to Cook Nielson for writing it. Thanks to tz350.net for hosting it. Awesome, awesome read for smokeheads. I just found a link to a recent interview with Cook Nielson. Visit motohistory, click here

Conscious decisions

You come home and put the keys in the usual place, right? Now, can you remember what was lying/mounted to the left of the key? No? You placed those keys unconsciously... Get it? When we get used to doing the same thing repeatedly (like pulling out of the driveway or society gate onto the main road), we tend to not do that consciously.

First, how to spot these unconscious things. Try and remember everything you did over the past hour. The more detail you can remember, the more stuff you did consciously. The stuff that you can't is what you did without taking any active effort to think about that 'process.' On a motorcycle, these are usually straight stretches between the lights, where you are effectively just 'passing through.'

Second, why is this crucial? Because decisions you make unconsciously can be bad decisions. And if they're made unconcsiously, they could slip through your bad decision filter and snowball into something more serious altogether. Basically, you start eliminating stuff, at least, on the motorcycle that you do without thinking about it. The only things that are exceptions, are the actual control operations. As in, you should not need to actively think about how much clutch actuation you need, or how far to twist the throttle. These should be 'automatic' operations that follow from your conscious reading of the situation ahead (and behind).

Third, how do you do this? I don't know. What I do is that everytime I fail to recall, I aim to remember next time. As in, when The Wife suddenly asks where I kept the keys/money/her lemonade/etc and I can't recall, I make a mental note to not do that thing unconsciously again. In the long term, I find that locating that absconding credit cart statement, bijli ka bill and what have you has become easier. I'd go so far as to say that I remember more today than I used to forget before.

On the bike, this means you can't divert even a fraction of your mind into thinking about other stuff. Like you to-do list for the day. Or whether you locked the house properly. When this happens to me, I've found it useful and relaxing to actually stop and figure this out. Even if it means calling someone at home and checking on the particulars. I'm a bit of freak, of course, and I don't let my concentration and focus waver even at long traffic lights. Sometimes, when I am very distracted, I find it helpful to actually speak whatever I see. As in a running commentary in the lid, 'the white car has lots of scratches on the left side.... probably has troubly judging spaces on the his left, stay away... oh look, that idiot's helmet's been pre-crashed, ride's like a squid too... and here's the old uncle slowly making his way to wherever on his Chetak... need to find a place to pass without honking...' and so on.

The other hidden benefit will become obvious much later. You will start remembering details you didn't know you picked up. Like potholes, like places where water tankers usually leave a slippery trail, all of which either increase your safety quotient, or boost your speed. And if you really put some thought into it, both.

Space-Time for Motorcycles

Everytime someone posts something anywhere about anything to do with bigger bikes, there is always one (nit?)wit who has to up and post about how there are no roads. Or something smart alecky to the same effect. This one's for you.

I have a space-time theory of my own. Not that I'm Einstein on anything, but that the Theory of Relativity... okay I'll stop with this rapidly souring chain of thought and get to the point. In essence, what I'm saying is that space (on the road, for instance) and how you can use it varies with time (as in, if a car is parked in the space you intend to cross the road through, you can't. But if there were no cars coming at all, you could even have breakfast in the middle of the road in perfect safety if you chose to).

You see, I think every road is a potential fast road. But there's a specific time and space to do that. Let me give you an example. My commute in Delhi used to be through a fairly large portion of the Outer Ring Road, between the IIT campus and Nehru Place. After about three months of commuting, I planned it so that I could hit the road exactly between 0817 and 0822 in the morning. This four minute window (a time window) was the door to speed nirvana. The four minute window, on an RD350 would allow you to hold a wildly illegal 130 kph for most of the commute. In perfect safety. The one chap who's about to write about the practice what you preach, hold your tongue. Or I will write another 1500 word piece justifying it. That was a four minute run from IIT to Nehru Place. However, on days when I missed that window, the ride was very different. A minute after, there would be traffic, people, pedestrians. I have never been able to fathom why those four minutes were so empty, but over a year and a half of hard commuting, I was never proven wrong. In Mumbai, you know I commute from Juhu to town. Again, leaving my house between 0919 and 0927 is the window...

Sometime ago I rode a friend's GSX-R1000 on a stretch of highway just outside Mumbai. When I first got on the road, I believed that the maximum speed for that time-space window was about 140 kph. Which, if nothing else, is a waste of the Gixxer. However, after two moderate rides, I found a time-space hole that would allow me to go much faster. There were only two places where people could cross that divided carriageway. I needed to slow to 80 kph for those two places and everywhere else... Et voila. 260+ kph. In perfect safety.

What I'm saying is not speed at all cost. I do not endorse speeding for the sake of speed, at the cost of everything else. However, I do believe that if you are a rational rider, and are willing to invest time and thought looking for it, you will find a safe place to go as fast as you want to.

As is usual with all things motorcycling, when you make bad decisions, they will bite back. So you have to be absolutely confident that the decision you just made was exactly right. This is especially true when you are looking for a hole in the time-space.

Okay, hit me with the barrage of outrage...

Rider Error 4

"Approximately one-fourth of these motorcycle accidents were single vehicle accidents involving the motorcycle colliding with the roadway or some fixed object in the environment"

-Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report, Hurt, H.H., Ouellet, J.V. and Thom, D.R., Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles,

Translation:
Basically, that means you are on your own. Roughly a quarter of all motorcycle crashes involved nothing more than the motorcycle itself and some piece of fixed street furniture. Interesting eh? That means your judgement, or the lack thereof, is likely to cause a crash. Which means you need to make better decisions. And stick with them.

The next Rider Error post is here

Mar 3, 2007

500cc Cud, Chewed

Was thinking about this blog post. 500cc hi-tech twin, eh? Let us analyse that in a bit of detail. I picked up a handy copy of bike magazine (my favourite magazine in all of the world. Not the Indian edition, the UK one) and looked it up. These are the bikes that sprang forth (whoa!).

Aprilia SXV
This is a brand new bike from Aprilia. It's V-twin 450 that comes in the form of a supermotard and as a dirt bike. The chances of Aprilia coming to India with this would be slim from whatever I know. Unless they find a worthy partner. Yes, I've heard of the Hero Group association with them, but I'll believe the pudding exists and functions after I taste some.

Honda CBF500
If there was ever a solid commuter that was worth its weight in gold, this would be it. The CBF has been around since the dinosaurs left for the party upstairs. Still regarded as a good egg, this would make an interesting choice for Honda India to make. But I'd say it would not be a good pick for us. It's too basic and too close to our naked commuter format. It does make 55 bhp, and look more or less modern though. If I were Honda, would I pick a CBF500? Maybe.

Hyosung Comet 650
If the Comet 250 was anything to go by, I'd want Kinetic-Hyosung to do something with this. The Comet (and the strange but attractive Aquila 650) make a strong launch case for themselves. Question is, will Kinetic stick its neck out and pull it off? I hope they do. I were Kinetic, I would. And while I was at it, I'd make the Comet a regular feature on the line up. There is a faired version, but it's unspeakably ugly, so I'll stick with the naked one.

Kawasaki ER-6N
I picked the 6N despite the fact that it doesn't really fit the 500cc criteria. But it makes sense. The 64 bhp parallel twin is new enough for India. What I mean is that if Honda launched the CBF500, we'd turn out and say, 'They're dumping old bikes on us!' That won't happen with this one. The reviews also suggest a fast-enough, cool-enough, comfortable-enough package . Very interesting. If I were... I would.

Kawasaki ER-5
This is the most promising of the bikes in my opinion. Again, the ER-5, in Brit terms, is a effing dinosaur. But in our context, it has a fairing and a fairly easy to like 500cc twin motor as well. 46 bhp is a nice number too. If I were Bajaj, I'd stop tinkering with the Ninja 250 (which makes a rumour-appearance every n months and then vaporises...) and think seriously about the ER-6 and ER-5.

Suzuki GS500
No way dude. This bike has been around for too long and at 44 bhp, will simply feel too soft for us. I for one would not bother. On the other hand, I'd look at the GS500F (the new faired version) carefully. It's a bit awkward compared to the smooth, sleek litre class Suzukis, but still, by our standards...

What's high-tech? The original report is British let's look at it by their standard. By British standards, a high-tech half litre twin would have er... fuel injection, radial brakes, an aluminium spar frame, a good link-ed monoshock. By our standard, a high tech twin would have two cylinders. Oh well.

500cc. A twin cylinder Bullet? No. However, Bajaj for one do have a larger displacement platform in development – they've said as much. If they do, the others couldn't be far behind. Or far forward for that matter.

But here's the thing. I believe, this report, if true, is a sign that a bike is closing in on final development somewhere. Look at the three Japanese manufacturers in India. They're effectively sitting on their butts and not doing a thing about their rather low sales. Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki, you would imagine, would be a lot more eager to start making money in the second largest market in the world, wouldn't they? But look, they're not moving as fast as Bajaj, or for that matter, Hero Honda.

MotoGP 2007: MGPN predicts

I've always loved this website. And now, they've given the most accurate MotoGP 2007 prediction I've read yet. Check this out... here's an excerpt:

June

It’s the British Grand Prix and 47,000 people suffer from e-coli poisoning after eating some ‘food’ from the cafĂ©. It’s worse as the queues to get out of Donny are so long that 20 people die through malnutrition. The Doctor wins at his second home, much to the delight of those people who think that Rossi is the only rider in the championship (i.e. British fans)

Carl Fogarty announces that his 2007 plans are coming together and he’ll win a championship by the end of the year.

Mar 2, 2007

Indian high-tech, fuel-injected 500cc twin coming

There, there. Did you get your hopes up high, just there? Well, I did too. This is the excerpt from this newspiece at this motorcycle news website. Or should that be this Motor Cycle News website?

India is already one of the world’s largest producers of bikes, although virtually all of them are sold in their home market rather than exported. Now companies there are starting to move away from the 125cc singles
Really?

Mar 1, 2007

Hero Honda Karizma R

Idiots. I have unofficial word that Hrithik Roshan's diet supplements are the only new thing on the Karizma. And they only make the man's considerable musculature ripply. The bike has the self same engine with the addition of a new R on the tank (R-edundant? R-etiring? R-...), a black engine cowl that looks decidedly aftermarket and er... that's it. No wait, I forgot the yellow (now there's an interesting colour choice) meters and colours springs too. In other words, they've killed it. Always game? The ad should have read Game Over.

What the poor Karizma needed was a full working over. It needed a power boost, it needed to become a more taut handler and it needed a style update. Instead, they gave it a embroidered handkerchief to weep into. Blast.

Pics at Maltesh Ashrit's Flickr account | Also see this post

Yamaha: The Road Ahead

Recently, ET carried a story that suggested that Yamaha was going to shut shop in India. If true, this is really sad. The company that created the highest point in Indian motorcycling, the RD350, is ready to pack it bags and go home. There was a minor peak with the RX100 as well, but its been steadily, even doggedly downhill from then on. Which is really terrible news.

However, if untrue, it could mean that Yamaha is finally ready to come back and really play the game. So far, Yamaha has been like the nerd on the sideline with great ideas but no idea how to execute them. They've been bimbling about on the sidelines, while Bajaj and Hero Honda have been carving unprecedented ground in the Indian market. I love the brand and what it stands for. Unfortunately, Yamaha India isn't even a shadow of the mighty presence it enjoys abroad. Which is just stupid.

But is it true, I'd say not. It doesn't make rational sense. We are the world's second largest motorcycle economy and we're heading towards being number one. Who in their right minds, no matter what the situation on the ground is, would pull out at a cusp like that? Especially, after having recently invested a fair amount of funds in the country.

No, I think Yamaha's getting ready for the big push. There are two rumours doing the rounds right now, both seem credible enough. The first is a 165cc bike that is allegedly already in the homologation process. As a proposition, it makes a lot of sense. Especially if Yamaha prices the bike just above the 150cc competition. But there is only one situation where a motorcycle like that would succeed. It would have to have blazing performance. I'm saying a machine that nears or beats the 220cc Pulsar. Seems impossible? It isn't. The first enemy of performance is weight. And all of our bikes can stand to lose lots. A 165cc motorcycle could easily be tuned for around 16 bhp. This will still run on regular, adulterated pump gas, will be a nicely stressed motor and will return 35 kpl. It addition to being light, it would have to handle like lightning. This part Yamaha knows lots about, so I'm not really worried. Product packaging wise, I'd specify a digital dash (including a clock and a stopwatch), monoshock, tubeless tyres, and light alloy wheels. I'd make it fully faired if it didn't compromise the weight criteria, else I'd leave it naked. Basically, it must be a small race bike for the street. It'd be nice, eh? If launched, I'd buy one in a flash. If not, it'd be a flash in the pan.

The other is a 250cc single. Once again, everything I've said about the 165 applies. It must be a no-prisoners style fast machine. Anything else, and it might as well ride itself over a cliff. The 250 has a special burden, though. It not only has to outperform the 220, it must do so with authority. In a drag, the Yamaha 250 will have to leave the 220 for dead. It must also at least come close to the venerable RD350 in performance terms. Ideally, it must kick the RDs arse. Then, it would be god.

Why the emphasis on performance?

Because Yamaha needs a leg to stand on in India. Right now, it's a toothless old wrestler with dull eyes. The most secure footing it will ever find is its international image – a young, exuberant, performance oriented brand.

Because Yamaha needs a big bang. It needs the product equivalent of a jump start. Another 100cc commuter isn't going to be it.

Because that's the need Yamaha can fulfill. Emotionally, we still associate the brand with performance bikes. No matter how many Cruxes they try to cram down our throats. And if anyone can make a sales success of a 35 kpl, 16 bhp, 165 cc bike, or for that matter a 25 kpl, 29 bhp, 250cc motorcycle. As long as its mindlessly performance oriented, I'm buying.

Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme: How's it going

Someone asked how the Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme is doing. Well, it's doing rather well. I haven't been with a bike this extroverted (or ugly, for that matter) in quite a while. Since I can't see its warts from the saddle, I'm quite happy with it. In fact, I'm actually thrilled with it.

My favourite bit is the engine. As I've said before, the engine isn't a run of the mill. It's noisy, barky, throaty, stressed out, torquey and exciting. Very un-HH, really. I love it. It turns everyone of my rides, local or extra-urban, into a thrilling, full-chat-hard-brake-full-chat sort of thing. It sounds like I'm on a pogo stick, but it's lovely. It also happens to handle exceedingly well, is a bit flighty in a crosswind and good on the brakes. In my on-off throttle mode, it manages to drag the litre out satisfactorily and I can't complain. On any front.

However, as I've said before also, build quality isn't that great. There's a centimetre between the side panels and the tank and it looks horrid. The seat always looks like it is unlocked and the unsightly fairing is just that. I'm seriously thinking of spending some money and buying the poor thing a face lift. A naked headlamp, if the meter pod shape is all right. I removed the astonishingly heavy crash guard and saree guards (so heavy I had a tough time holding them in the lift while I came up to chuck them in the attic) and the bike actually feels lighter. They're that heavy.

What would I change? Dog leg levers. The CBZ-X will make your hands hurt in traffic. Not because the levers are heavy to use, but because they're far away. I'd also upchuck those stupid orange mirrors for more subtle ones (the only mirrors worthy of individual attention are the ones on an MV Agusta, dig?) and that gigantic rubber mudflap in the back. I'll get around to hacking it in half one of these days.

I also fell into love with the seat lock again. I no longer wear my fanny pack, preferring to just hook the straps under the seat and let it lie on the pillion seat. Very liberating.

Kinetic Blaze: Glaze of Blory

A simple bulleted list should do

  • Throttle spring makes my hands hurt
    It's a hard spring. Add the fact that you really have to twist it (variomatics need more throttle wringing)...

  • Fit finish is hard on the eye
    I've taken to not really looking at the bike while it warms up. Too many edges, too much stuff not fitted together properly... It isn't pretty. One wag I met recently said he'd taken his Blaze apart from paint it. Nothing fitted back easily! Amazing.

  • Forty nuts to a puncture
    The same wag tells me it took two spanners that are not in the very downmarket underseat toolkit and forty nuts to remove the rear wheel after a puncture!

  • The underseat cavity isn't water proof
    I washed the thing down with my gloves inside and guess what, the place where the seat is split into two leaks water in. That means come monsoon time, It would be prudent not to leave anything under the seat overnight.

  • Bloody thing drinks. Or does it?
    Maybe. I filled in two litres and it jumped from nothing at all to more than half tank. And in a hour and half riding, it returned to just above red.

  • It's too small!
    Really. I was trying to fold my feet into a comfortably position, and found it very hard. I'm 5'11"

  • It's too big
    Really. After a long time, I found myself actively 'managing' the scooter in traffic. I can't remember the last time I thought about whether the gap I just snuck into was large enough for my bike.

  • Corners funny
    The bike I have seems to wallow through the turn. I'm going to jack the preload up and see...

  • Great ride quality
    It truly is. I love the soft, cushioned feel of the Blaze.