Monday, 1 September 2014

MASH Five Hundred

Earlier this year, Yamaha revived their fabled SR (albeit in 400cc form instead of with the original 500cc lump), a bike that has become a bit of a cult object amongst the ranks of neo-retro riders, petrolhead hipsters and modern-day ton-up boys. Indian manufacturer Royal Enfield fell into step shortly afterwards, presenting their 535cc Continental GT. Now it’s the turn of MASH to jump onto the neo-retro big thumper bandwagon with their new Five Hundred, which despite the name is powered by a 400cc powerplant – go figure, as they say across the pond.
 
The sidestand comes as standard; this is just an arty-farty photo

MASH is the name under which the French motorcycle, parts & accessories importer SIMA markets motorcycles made in China on the French, Belgian, Portuguese and Spanish markets. The bikes are however available in other countries, albeit under various different brand names. Now, before you all tell me to take my Chinese bikes and “Foxtrot Oscar”, I should point out that Chinese products have improved quite a bit in recent years: I very much doubt that a company with SIMA’s history and reputation would distribute duff bikes. For example, my new smartphone is Chinese-made (although with R&D and design done in Europe) and compares very favourably with a similar ‘phone made by a well-known Korean brand. But I digress: let’s get back to the bike.
 
Back...
The MASH Five Hundred is impeccably retro-styled, even more so that the SR400, bearing a passing resemblance to the Triumph Bonneville T120. The engine is a fuel-injected 400cc SOHC, dry-sump single-cylinder with twin exhaust ports and a kickstart (don’t worry, there’s also an electric starter) developing 27 bhp @ 7,000 rpm and 3.05 m/kg (29.9 Nm) @ 5,500 rpm. That might sound like a pretty ridiculous power figure, but then again bikes like this aren’t about humongous power – it’s enough to get you around town at a respectable speed, and even ensures satisfactory progress along small back roads. On the down side, you’re best advised to stay away from motorways, dual carriageways and large A-roads. The retro look is accentuated by chromed steel mudguards, a two-tone paint job on the 13-litre (2.8 UK gallon) tank and a “banana” seat not unlike the one found on the Kawasaki W800.

The stopping power on this bike that weighs in at 150 kg (330 lbs) is entrusted to a 280 mm (11-inch) brake disc with a twin parallel piston calliper up front, and a 160 mm (6-inch) drum brake on the rear wheel, which should provide reasonable braking under normal use. As for the wheels and tyres, the 19-inch front wears a 100/90 boot and the 18-inch rear is fitted with 130/70 rubber. A parcel rack/grab handle completes the Five Hundred’s equipment. One of the downsides of the 2-into-2 exhaust is that there’s no room to fit a centre stand.
 
...to the front

The MASH Five Hundred is aimed at urban and novice riders looking for something stylish to get them round town or to cut their teeth on. That said, with a power figure similar to the Royal Enfield Bullet, it ought to be quite a pleasant machine with which to go for a sedate Sunday ride in the countryside. It will be available as of 1st October at a launch price of 3,990 € (£ 3,157)*.

*Bear in mind this price is quoted by MASH for the French market.

All photographs: © MASH Motors

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Helmet with a (rear) view

I don't know about you, but one of my recurring gripes about motorcycles - any motorcycle - is about rearward vision or, rather, the lack of it. On every bike I've ever ridden, whether my own or bikes I've borrowed for road tests, I've always spent a good five to ten minutes fiddling around with the mirrors in order to get a satisfactory view of what's behind my back - indeed, many a time I've been known to whip out the toolkit in order to find the best adjustments possible (OK, so I might be just a tad obsessive about it, but I really like to know what's going on behind my back). But at the end of the day, I have to admit that try as I might, a fair proportion of both mirrors is taken up by my shoulders. I mean, I wouldn't mind if I was narcissistic, but I'm not - anyway I'm pretty sure that my shoulders aren't the best part of me (don't ask me what is, I haven't the foggiest; but I digress...). To date, the best compromise I've found are the bar-end mirrors on the Triumph Thruxton; the only downside is that they make the bike rather wide, which can cause problems when it comes to lane-splitting.


Over the years, various solutions have been dreamed up, from small convex mirrors that you stick into the corner of the stock item, to little brackets that offset the mirror stalks a bit. But trying to make sense of the distorted image in a tiny convex mirror can be a bit confusing, whilst extender brackets aren't very pretty and can't be fitted to some bikes.


However, at last year's EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, I was introduced to what might just be the best answer yet to the quest for all-round vision on a bike. I'm talking of the Reevu MSX-1 crash helmet, which incorporates a rearview mirror. Basically the Reevu system works on the principle of the periscope: there's a window on the back of the helmet that leads to a light-reflecting channel that goes over the top of the helmet. The image is reflected onto a small adjustable mirror in the upper part of the eyeport. The result is that you can see exactly what's going on behind your back, with a surprisingly wide field of vision. In theory, when combined with a half-decent set of mirrors, you should get something approaching all-round vision, with just an upward flick of the eyes needed to check the helmet's built-in mirror. And despite what one might expect, the whole rearview system takes very little space indeed, which means that the MSX-1 is barely bulkier than your average helmet - good news for your neck muscles and for those of you who store their lid in a topcase or under the seat of their maxiscooter.


Unfortunately, I was only able to try the helmet for a couple of minutes at the Reevu stand in Milan, so I don't know what the helmet is like to wear when actually riding a bike, or whether the rearview system is effective when riding a sportsbike; all these questions and more will be answered soon when we road-test the helmet.


All photos courtesy of Reevu helmets

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

"Nadia" Sportster by TJ Moto

India isn’t a country that I – or many people, for that matter – readily associate with the art of building custom bikes. So the first time I saw this neat little Sportster I instantly assumed that it had to be a European creation (inferred from what I could see of the artistically-blurred backdrop of the photos). However, after having done a bit of searching on the internet, I was rather surprised to learn of its actual origin.



It was built by TJ Moto, a company run by Tushar Jaitly, who recently graduated from an auto design school in Italy (so in a way I wasn’t that far from the mark when I thought the bike was a Euro build: it definitely does bear many elements of that Euro-custom look). It isn’t a recent build, either; the bike was completed in September ’13, but it went under my radar as being just another of the myriad Euro-customs that you can find almost on every street corner nowadays. But enough gloating over my ignorance: let’s talk about the bike.




The base for the build is an 883cc Harley-Davidson Sportster. The first thing Jaitly did was scrap the stock rear loop of the frame and replace it with a hardtail rear end. From there, he went for a vintage flat-tanker look, and added a dummy top tube that arches over the bespoke tank, which is garnished with two leather straps. The retro theme is continued with handcrafted brass fittings on the top tube (engraved with the bike’s name and “date of birth”), tank and oil pan. Along with the Firestone Champion Deluxe tyres, British Racing Green & cream paint job and leather handlebar wrap on the grips, this gives a definitely “steampunk” flavour, as if it was built back in the early 1900s around a 21st-century Sportster powertrain, and that Tushar Jaitly simply discovered it in somebody’s barn under a dust sheet. It’s just the type of bike a “Promenade Percy” (the direct ancestor of the CafĂ© Racer, who terrorised British seaside resorts back in the late 1920s and 1930s) would have ridden.

This is definitely one of the nicest and most original custom Sporties I’ve seen in quite some time, and I really hope we see more of TJ Moto’s work in the future.

Photo credits: TJ Moto