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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

My Kingdom for a Paddock Pass

Given the ultra-regulated nature of MotoGP and of its parent body, DORNA, I'm fully aware that this is a long shot, and a futile one at best. But hey, if you don't ask...

"Please, sir..." Our E-in-C on the blag. Bless...

So anyway, I'm planning a road trip to Le Mans for the French Grand Prix in view of making a blog article of it. However, to make it really interesting and special, there's just one thing missing: a MotoGP paddock pass / invitation. I know, they're made out of 100% pure unobtanium, are as rare as rocking-horse shit and as such are only distributed to people who've jumped through all the hoops and have been vetted by DORNA. But be that as it may; if anybody with the right connections, or a MotoGP team, wants to make a small-time blog editor really happy, I'd be eternally grateful for a paddock pass.

In return, all I can promise is that you'll be glowingly mentioned in the article; naturally if you're a MotoGP team (or part of a team), you'll get a stand-alone article that will be published alongside the main piece.


Editor-in-Chief, The Thruxtonian

Photo credit: Rex