Thursday, 30 October 2014

EICMA 2014

Well, it’s that time of year again. In the motorcycling world, early November is EICMA time – two days of stampeding from one stand to another as the manufacturers present their new offerings with varying levels of pomp and circumstance, punctuated by brief stops to gulp down an overpriced, soggy pseudo-panino and a Nastro Azzuro. And once again, I’ll be making the trip out to Milan to see – and drool over, in some cases – all the new and shiny bikes that the manufacturers will be unleashing on the high street in 2015. Naturally I’ll also be checking out some of the brand-new riding gear that we’ll all be wanting to find under the Christmas tree this year.


However, to spice things up a bit, this year I’ll be going by bike (hey, I didn’t go on a holiday road trip this summer, so this ought to make up for it). Let’s see: one man, his bike and three countries – what could possibly go wrong? As I wend my merry way across southern Europe, I’ll be posting to Instagram (@Thruxtonian) and live-tweeting (when I’m not riding, that is: I’m one head and a couple of arms short of being able to faff around with a smartphone and keep a 150 bhp – at the crank – bike on the straight and narrow), as well as posting a daily summary of my trials and tribulations on our Facebook page.

Anyway, enough hot air; I’d better get back to packing my bags and brushing up on my Pidgin Italian. Ci vediamo in Milano!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

CT Scuderia

Precision timepieces and motor vehicles - be they cars, motorcycles, ‘planes or boats - have always gone hand-in-hand, since it’s vitally important to be able to record speed, distance and time. Indeed, the first gauges to find their way onto dashboards were mechanical and, more often than not, made by watch manufacturers, which meant that for many years speedometers and tachometers closely resembled the chronometers from which they evolved.
 
Not surprisingly, this one's called the "Dashboard"
As the years went by, many watch manufacturers underlined the close ties between both worlds, with such masterpieces as the Rolex Daytona, and the TAG Heuer Monaco (which was even made in Gulf Racing colours).
 
The Corsa wouldn't look out of place at the Goodwood Revival
Fast forward to the present day and we have watch company Contatempo Scuderia: with a name like that their intentions and inspiration are clear. And their products not only breathe technological precision, with their superb mechanisms, but also suggest a heady scent made up of hot rubber, petrol and warm clutch plates, underlined by a sharp tang of Bonneville salt. [...]

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Icon Cloverleaf

Icon Motorsports, based in Portland, Oregon (USA), have always accustomed us to expect slightly left-field clothing and equipment. Helmets, jackets, trousers, gloves or boots: if you’re wearing Icon gear it’s that you want to turn some heads. But don’t let the flashy exteriors mislead you – beneath the in-your-face designs lies pukka protective gear.
Darth Vader wears them...

Icon’s latest offering, the Cloverleaf knee protectors, are no exception to the above. These consist of kneepads with sliders that fit over jeans or over riding trousers that don’t have kneesliders, held in place by a system of straps and Velcro, somewhat like skateboarding kneepads.[...]

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 Café 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.

Thanks,

Marc
Editor-in-Chief, The Thruxtonian

Photo credit: Rex

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Addio, Ingeniere...

We are very saddened to hear of the passing of Massimo Tamburini. Born in Rimini, he ran a heating company, but quickly made a name for himself tuning bikes, which eventually led him to co-found Bimota (he was the "ta"). After leaving Bimota and having spent some time working in Roberto Gallina's 500cc GP team, he was head-hunted by Claudio Castiglione to work for Cagiva. It was during his time as head of Cagiva's CRC department that he came up with two eye-opening designs for Ducati: the Paso, with its fully enclosed fairing, and the 916, which even today is still considered by many to be one of the most beautiful bikes ever designed.



Once the Castiglione brothers sold Ducati, he began designing bikes for another brand they had bought, MV Agusta. There, he designed a whole string of striking machines, from the first 1000cc F4 to his last bike for them, the 675cc F3 Brutale. In fact, it can be said that most of MV's range bears Ingeniere Tamburini's mark.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

#TripleTuesday

Whilst others are busy publishing tall stories today (look at the date...), we thought we'd publish a pretty picture of a trio of Triumph Speed Triples, one of which belongs to Roberto Carta, from Sardinia, a fellow member of the "Speed Triple Riders & Fans" Facebook page.



Photo credits: Roberto Carta

Monday, 31 March 2014

Ducati Monster 1200

The Monster 1200S.You can have it in any colour you like, as long as it's rosso. Or bianco.

A couple of weeks ago, our local Ducati dealership held a little event to present the new Monster 1200. Naturally, since no other plans figured in The Thruxtonian's agenda that evening, we decided to drop by and have a look.

The local Ducatisti were so excited they were dropping to their knees

Although 21 years separate the original 900 Mostro, designed by Miguel-Ángel Galuzzi, and the latest version, the visual filiation is still highly present. The two analogue gauges have been replaced by an all-singing, all-dancing TFT screen with three different display modes depending whether you're riding about town, out on the open road, or posting fast lap times on a trackday. Other electronic gizmos include ABS, Ducati's bespoke DTC traction control system, three different power curves and a ride-by-wire throttle.

We're still not sold on these new "mudflap" reg plate mounts. What do you think?
The Monster 1200 is available in two versions: the 135 hp standard version and the "S" version, which features an extra 10 hp, Öhlins suspension and upgraded Brembo brakes, amongst other niceties. Prices range from around 14,000 Euros for the standard version to around 17,000 € for the "S" version (approximative prices based on figures from Ducati Spain), and is already available in the showrooms.

Our Editor-in-Chief was very tempted to ride home on this one

Naturally, The Thruxtonian will do its all to try to bring you a full road test of this wonderful machine as soon as possible.


Bonus Track: Some lucky bloke turned up to the event aboard this little scoot just as our E-in-C was parking up his bike. It's the first time we've ever seen a Desmosedici actually in the street, being used, rather than in a show or as a flashy piece of furniture/art object:





Photo credits: Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A and Marc Michon / The Thruxtonian

Monday, 17 March 2014

Historic win for a Triumph at Daytona 200

The last running of the Daytona 200 as a Supersport race saw a historic win for Triumph when Danny Eslick, on the Riders Discount Team's Daytona 675R, took the chequered flag after a race that he controlled right from the first few laps.


Danny Eslick dominated this year's Daytona 200 race


Eslick started the race from pole position (another historic milestone for the British manufacturer - the last time a Triumph was on pole was in 1971) and immediately began applying his dominance on proceedings, in a lead group that also included Garett Gerloff, fellow Triumph Daytona rider Jason DiSalvo and Dane Westby amongst others. Gerloff briefly led the race after the first round of pitstops but unfortunately dropped his Yamaha soon afterwards. He was able to rejoin the race, though, and crossed the line in a very respectable 5th place.

DiSalvo and Westby were less fortunate, however. Just before the second round of ptistops, Westby highsided his Yamaha and DiSalvo dropped his bike when he ran off into the dirt at the edge of the track in an attempt to avoid Westby. Bikes and riders finished in the airfence but whereas the riders walked away unharmed, the bikes had sustained damage and were unrideable.

After the second round of stops, the rider from Broken Arrow, in Oklahoma, gradually put the hammer down and pulled away inexorably from his pursuers. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, the chequered flag came out, sealing a significant victory both for Triumph and, on a more personal note, for Danny Eslick.

Eslick dedicated his victory to close friends who passed recently, including the racer Tommy Aquino, and was overcome by the emotion. 


Danny Eslick dedicated his race to close friends who passed away, including Tommy Aquino


Meanwhile, this Daytona 200 win was the first for Triumph since 1967, when Gary Nixon won the race on a Triumph Daytona 500 twin-cylinder machine. However, given that next year the 200 will be a Superbike race, it would appear that this might well be the British manufacturer's last victory in this iconic event.

The podium was completed by Jake Gagne and Jake Lewis, both on Yamaha R6 machinery. There were two other Triumphs in the top 10: Bobby Fong, in 4th, and British rider Luke Stapleford, in 7th.

Photo credits: Cycle World (upper photo) and Brian J. Nelson (lower photo)