May 28, 2008


Kawasaki ZephyrMan! It isn't mine. This is a publicly posted private message to a private individual who happens to have been possessed by this lovely Kawasaki Zephyr. Thanks to all of those of you who thought this was mine and congratulated me, and promptly demanded a ride as well. Dream on, buddies... just like me...

2009 Yamaha V-Max: First details at MCN!

Yamaha V-Max ConceptMotorcycle News, the British motorcycle newspaper that knows more than anyone else about the two-wheelers coming in the next decade, have pulled off a coup by getting the details of the V-Max, which was due for an unveil on June 4 as a 2009 model for Yamaha.

The pics on this post are courtesy Yamaha and of the VMAX concept. MCN has the picture here, if you'd like to see it and are saying that the bike is a 1800cc V4 making 200 bhp, which should probably make it the fastest quartermiler again, just like the old one.

Yamaha V-Max Concept

May 27, 2008

Ducati comes to India

Ducati has landed in India. So should we, really, be celebrating?

This is a question I've faced in the recent days from a number of people. And why not. A product range, spanning the stratospheric Rs 15-50 lakh price range, is nothing to be scoffed at. Even as a motorcycle enthusiast, you have to wonder if you should be investing Rs 50 lakh in a depreciating, if gorgeous asset or in property/stocks or something. More to the point still, is a Ducati 1098R, arguably the fastest, trickest Ducati money can buy right now (Desmosedici RR is formally out of production and all of that sort of thing), is a Ducati 1098R really worth, um, let's see, three R1s? Or for the that matter, two 848s and change?

But we'll come back to that in a bit. First of all, have a beer on me. That Ducati is here, with a full range, with plans for showrooms in all major cities and with the full intention of staying on is a good thing. Ducati, you have to remember is no doddering, floundering Italian company any more. Their last year was their best year so far, so on the face of it, they are in a position where they could relax, sit back, knock back some classy Chianti and congratulate themselves. They also happened to knock the entire Japanese clique off their MotoGP feet in 2007 and the tiny company (one way or another) has made it a habit of keeping everyone else embarrased in the World Superbikes paddock.

So what we have here is a significant event. Now, you could argue that Bentley/Lamborghini launching in India is insignificant. After all, how many people can really afford Rs 2 Crore cars. And I'd have to agree. Ducati is a pretty similar company in profile, actually. Not only are they a specialist manufacturer - despite the Multistrada and other oddities, they are firmly a sportsbike maker, they are also certified exotica. If the Yamaha R1 was the two-wheeled equivalent of a Nissan GT-R, the Ducati 1098, would actually be the Ferrari F430. That's sexy, exotic, powerful and not completely devoid of quirks.

But the heart of the matter is that while Lamborghini, Bentley etc are already here, Ducati is the first exotic bike maker that thinks 110 per cent duties, all manner of bureaucratic hurdles etc are all worth tackling to enter our market. They might only sell 50 bikes this year, but they are confident that those numbers will rise. Slowly, maybe, but steadily. And if Ducati thinks so, believe me, they are hardly likely to be alone in the room. You can bet your hard-earned rupee that everyone else in the room is paying attention as well. More of the same will follow, especially if Ducati pull of a coup by selling off all of their bikes before the year is out. I believe that may not be impossible. Every single exotic brand you can think of is running well ahead of their targets and I cannot see why Ducati should be any different. And yes, it is a luxury good. So just like you don't expect to use a Bentley or Patek Phillipe in daily use, Ducati owners will also use their bikes sparingly.

Again, I must remind you that when you look at the prices and shake your head, remember that Ducati is actually simply charging you government duties. If you consider the US prices for Ducati and add 114 per cent plus the dollar-rupee conversion, you'll pretty much land on Ducati's Indian price list. Which is about as fair as it can be, until duties come down, right?

Update: Since I wrote the above paragraph I found out that the Ducati 1098 (biposto) is US$14,999, which works out to about Rs 6.5 Lakh, so 114 per cent duties still pegs it at roughly Rs 15 lakh. Ducati's official tag is about Rs 25 lakh (ex-showroom, but includes VAT) for the bike... so that paragraph is not valid. Ducati is obviously aiming for the only business model that can sustain itself in the absence of bidg sales volumes – big margins. Hold on, more confusion. This site has the 1098 pegged at £11,250, which, still, is about Rs 9.5 lakh, and that's about Rs 20 lakh.... Oh dear.

Obviously, most of you, and that includes me, will not be able to afford these prices, but look at it this way. If you use a needle to make a hole in the wall, only a little of anything can cross the wall. But if you take a 70mm howitzer to the wall, many other things can also cross over. As in, if you have bikes between Rs 15-50 lakh on sale, someone is sure to realise that a gap in product offerings between Rs 95,000 to Rs 15,00,000 is an unusually large hole in a booming market. A gap like that cannot remain ignored for long.

And finally, is a Ducati 1098R really worth three R1s. Maybe if you lived right next to Monza and were dating the circuit security chief's daughter. You couldn't drive a Ferrari to work everyday even if you wanted to. A GT-R on the other hand, is very useable, if a little harder to live with than a Corolla. Which is what the R1 would turn out to be. So, if you have the cash for the 1098R, I suggest you buy an 848 (sporty, fast but not really a prima donna) or a hypermotard (fun, fast-ish, up for it, real) instead. Not only will you save a bunch of cash, you'll be far happier with them.

If there's any ambiguity left, I'll tell you this. I've looked up my family tree and there ain't no uncles lolling about in the branches, waiting to drop into graves, leaving me tons of cash to buy the 1098R with. Despite which, I'm off to buy a Bud to celebrate... Exorbitant, exotic and all of that, but atleast I can exercise my freedom to buy a Ducati when/if I had the money...

Images courtesy:

May 26, 2008

Big screen Sundays

Just heard the most interesting radio advert I've ever had the pleasure of allowing my ears to tune into. For the record, I hate radio. Well, no, actually, I'd love to listen, but I cannot handle the utterly banal chatter that the RJs seem to specialise in. Add the inane callers and the amout of time they take away from music (not to mention the Bollywood-jhankar beat fixation) and radio, basically, sucks.

However, today, on Radio 1 (I think), the ad went something like, 'Why do you need to go out to watch MotoGP?' Er... MotoGP? Well, yes, the good folks at Sports Bar are showing MotoGP live in the Andheri place on a big screen. There's some contest which will send three people to a race at some point, but more importantly, here's to the first attempt to make MotoGP a mainstream social event. Now, to dig out that yellow 46 shirt and spend Sunday productively...

TVS Flame: Oh no, what happened?

TVS Flame 125 image from

Finally, I got to ride the TVS Flame, and I must say, that it is as much a 'triumph' of marketing as it is a blip on the otherwise unblemished radar of TVS R&D. Everytime I look at the bike, I find that the looks are the best part of the bike. Which, as you can imagine, is a dangerous place for a new product in a highly competitive market to be in. Handling is good and all that, but that engine, and its ability to not go anywhere while making an utter racket deflates all the possiblities. The Flame feels best ridden at 40 kph in top gear (which is fourth, unfortunately, not fifth). Uh oh. At the moment, in my personal 125cc ratings, the Honda Shine and the Yamaha Gladiator remain the motorcycles to purchase. Sorry, TVS, better luck next time. Aag lagegi? No, actually, I'd beg to differ.

May 24, 2008

New poll: Exactly when do you wear your helmet, then?

When do you wear your helmet?

Poll results: What kit do you own?

So there's 11 of you riding around without a lid, eh? Tch, tch...

Anyway, I am very happy with what I see in this poll. In a market like ours, I believe that owning riding kit points to mature riders, who understand motorcycles and what risks they bring to our lives. More than half of you not only own helmets, but have riding jackets and gloves. Word of advice, think seriously about knee protection. It's a complicated joint, one that we need badly everyday and one that usually gets a knock or two no matter how you crash.

Now to more interesting matters, when do you use the stuff you own? Will post that poll separately in a bit...

May 23, 2008


The innovative new British helmet rating system is moving forward. Actually, it isn't as much innovative as it is overdue. In any case, they recently out this missive...
Thank you for registering your interest in SHARP - the new safety rating for motorcycle helmets in the UK.

Sorry we have been so quiet since SHARP was announced in November last year. We've been very busy testing helmets and the first ratings will be announced very soon. Ratings will include helmets from AGV, Airoh, Arai, Arashi, Bell, Box, HJC, KBC, Lazer, Nitro, Nolan, Premier, Roof, RST, Shark, Shoei, Suomy, Takachi, Urban, X-Lite and Vemar.

We recently added the SHARP presentational video (right-click to download 10Mb video) to our website, which you may find of interest. We've also introduced a 'news' page and added the 'search' tools we hope you'll use when considering your next helmet purchase.

We will keep you informed of all the SHARP news as it happens.

Best regards,
The SHARP Team

May 6, 2008

Yamaha introduces Alba with Electric Start

New Yamaha launched...

New Delhi, May 6, 2008: India Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd. has announced the launch of all new Yamaha Alba106 cc with electric start and stylish and trendy graphics, thus offering robustness and solidity to its existing product range.

The unique design of Yamaha Alba 106 blends youthful style and modernism with thoughtful decency. Giving it a sturdy, macho image are the new aerodynamic cowl, well sculptured tank, well-built side and rear panel. While the exciting graphics with the smooth flowing design give the bike its stylish, super cool looks.

Since the bike has been designed for daily commuting, special emphasis has been given on shaping it for the maximum comfort of the rider. That is why, Yamaha Alba 106 boasts of broad seat for comfortable riding of the pillion rider too. The ideal ergonomics of seat, handlebar, and knee recess on the petrol tank are all designed for comfortable riding by giving the right posture to the rider.

Keeping the Indian driving conditions in consideration, Alba 106 has perfectly spaced gear ratio for driving in congested conditions without changing gears repeatedly.

At the heart of the machine is the Yamaha’s ever reliable 106cc engine, which gives good combination of low end torque and mileage leading to less strain on the engine and therefore longer life. Other features include the innovatively designed indicators and tail light and easy to read instrument consol including fuel meter.

"The launch of new Alba with electric start is in line with Yamaha’s true commitment to provide world class products to its customers. A lot of emphasis has been laid on shaping Alba for maximum comfort of the rider and its premium features will give consumers a new thrill in biking pleasure.

Alba delivers comfort, style and solidity, which will make it the right choice for the discerning customers, “said Mr. Takahiro Maeda Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Executive Vice President.

The Yamaha Alba 106, billed as the family bike comes in two colours - Deep Red Metallic K and Yamaha Black at Rs. 37,500 (Ex-showroom-All India).
Alba 106 is a low maintenance bike with high fuel efficiency that enhances its value-for-money appeal manifold.

About India Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd.
Yamaha made its initial foray into India in 1985. Subsequently, it entered into a 50:50 joint venture with the Escorts Group in 1996. However, in August 2001, Yamaha acquired its remaining stake becoming a 100% subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd, Japan (YMC). In 2008, YMC entered into an agreement with Mitsui & Co., Ltd. to become a joint investor in the motorcycle manufacturing company "India Yamaha Motor Private Limited (IYM)".

IYM operates from its state-of-the-art-manufacturing units at Surajpur in Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana and produces motorcycles both for domestic and export markets. With a strong workforce of more than 2000 employees, IYM is highly customer-driven and has a countrywide network of over 400 dealers. Presently, its product portfolio includes Gladiator Type SS & RS (125 cc), YZF-R1 (998 cc) and MT01 (1670 cc), Crux (106 cc), Alba (106 cc), G5 (106 cc). IYM is also planning to launch 150 cc liquid-cooled YZF-R15 and 150cc air-cooled FZ in 2008

Better Late Than Early!

I am currently reading a book by Mark Gardiner called Riding Man and totally in love with the book. The basic story is of a Gardiner, who decides fairly late in life, that he must go racing at the Isle of Man, and what happens from then on. In there lay a superb piece of riding advice that bears serious pondering.

In the book, the scene is the Gardiner is hanging about somewhere when a grizzled old ex-racer gives him a stunning piece of advice about riding the TT. Before I unveil the nugget though, let me just touch upon why the advice is stunning.

The piece of advice relates to the Isle of Man TT, a race that takes place on public road. A place you and I come out to anoint everyday with our wheels.

'Be late everywhere.'

That in essence is the piece of advice. Let us dig into that, now.

The idea being offered is that it is safer to ride the TT by performing the required actions a bit later than you would at a racetrack. What actions? Turning into a corner, apexing the corner, getting back on the gas and so forth.

When you enter a corner on the street, being late is good. Selecting a turn in point later usually offers you the biggest safety-related advantage you can really ask for – a better sightline. Turning in later will allow you to see deeper into the corner. A racetrack has no oncoming traffic, rarely has dirty tarmac and you are never in danger of crashing into something you didn't see – like a parked truck in the night. On the street, turning in late allows you to commit more to corners because you can see more. Or, it allows you to keep your normal pace, but maintain a greater safety envelope.

Apex late. A late apex creates a shallower exit line. That means you run less wide out of the corner on the throttle. Which again reduces the chances of running off the road – if it were a one-way street, or running into the oncoming lane – far more likely and inherently dangerous.

Open the throttle later. Riding fast on the street isn't harmful per se, racing is. And now that you aren't racing, you can afford to get on the throttle later. Again, you might lose a couple of feet of acceleration on the corner exit, but those fractions you waited might just allow you to spot another hazard as you look to where you are headed next.

Being late is of the greatest use when you are riding a road you don't really know that well. Running late allows you to read corners better, keep greater safety margins at hand in an unfamiliar environment and frankly, try it and you will realise that you don't actually lose much in terms of time. On the other hand, a later turn-in produces greater lean angles – makes the ride more exciting, but reduces the amount of time you spend leaned over – at a lower traction level. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes and the more things I spot that promote a quick, safer ride.

And apologies for not posting for nearly a month. I was out of the loop for a long while and it's taken me time to get back to posting here. Let us hope that this post sees us return to normal pace.