Monday, 11 December 2017

Ride Report: Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

"We have the Chieftain Dark Horse available at our HQ, would you like to ride it?"

It's fairly obvious what the answer to that proposal was going to be. Thus in due course, on an autumn morning that felt more like a spring day, I found myself on the train to La Garriga, the small town some 40 km (25 mi) north of Barcelona where Polaris, Indian's mother company, has its Spanish HQ. Once I had located the business park, a brief ten-minute walk from the railway station, I had no problems locating Polaris España's premises: the matte-black bagger that was going to be my ride for the next six days was already parked in the street, waiting for me to hop on board and rumble off into the middle distance.

A quick visit to the nearby petrol station and it was time to roll. Fire up the big 1800cc V-twin, switch on the radio (which I managed to do more by luck than by design - by the way, I still haven't worked out how one switches it off!), and hit the dual carriageway that snakes past the Montmeló Circuit de Catalunya F1/MotoGP track and on into Barcelona. Getting up to the speed limit, I instantly thumbed the button that controls the electrically adjustable screen and watched as the screen slid back and upwards into its fully-deployed position. That cut down buffeting and wind noise; adopting a slightly more recumbent seating position meant that I was in a pool of quiet air behind the swoopy "batwing" fairing; this was comfortable even with the open-face LS2 Spitfire helmet (read our review here) I was wearing on this mid-November day.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Tech: Cosmo Moto

As a motorcyclist, one of the best things you can do to improve your safety - apart from not riding like a knob, of course - is to make yourself more visible. That means high visibility colours and light-reflective inserts on jackets and crash helmets. Of course, it won't always work, but at the very least if you do get punted down the road by another vehicle, the other driver's standard-issue "sorry mate, I didn't see you" excuse will sound even more pathetic than usual. That said, some motorcyclists roll their eyes at the merest mention of hi-vis this and reflective that; sarcastically suggesting that we should all ride around with a flashing light stuck on our crash helmets.

Well in fact French startup Cosmo Connected do think that having a light on your lid may be a good thing. This company, founded by none other than Romain Afflelou (son of of the owner of the internationally-implanted Afflelou chain of High Street opticians), has developed a device called the Cosmo Moto, which is a sort of supplementary brake light that you fix to the back of your crash helmet.

But calling it a brake light is somewhat inexact and simplistic. Instead of lighting up when you squeeze the brake lever or push on the rear brake pedal, the Cosmo Moto's accelerometers detect when you slow down (either by braking or by rolling off the throttle) and light up the incorporated 24-LED light. The device is also connected to a complementary smartphone app that allows you to customise the unit's functions: as well as the basic configuration, you can choose to have the light on all the time with increased intensity when you slow down, or set it to flash continuously - this configuration can come in handy when filtering, in bad visibility conditions, or as a safety beacon if you're stopped by the roadside or on a motorway hard shoulder.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Gear Report: LS2 Spitfire OF599 helmet

When I got confirmation that I would be riding an Indian Scout Sixty at the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride in Barcelona (full road test here and DGR report here), I soon realised that wearing either a track-oriented full-face helmet or a a modular "flip-up" lid just wasn't going to cut the mustard. No, what was needed was an open-face crash hat. I looked at my scuffed, scratched and battered road-weary Airborn, but soon realised that it was now probably well past the end of its useful life (I've had it since 2007). I was left with only one option: to go on the blag for an open-face skull bucket.

So which manufacturer should I go to, cap in hand, to be lent a helmet? I thought of approaching one of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride global sponsors, Hedon, but realised that it was probably too short notice. I also thought about reaching out to Davida, but there again, time was at a premium. Finally, as I was taking a break from a particularly tedious translation, I checked my browser history to see which manufacturer's website I had last visited. And so I ended up surfing LS2's website. Almost immediately, I saw the answer to my problems: the brand-new Spitfire helmet. I saw the name as a good omen - guess what my favourite warbird is - and in due course I sent an email to David Foschi, their design guru; a few days later a courier knocked on Thruxton Towers' portcullis and I unboxed the Spitfire.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Ride review: Indian Scout Sixty

As I laboriously made my way out of central Barcelona, which was already seething with demonstrations and protest marches in view of the independence referendum that was to take place three days later, I reflected upon how fate has a strange way of doing things. At the same time, one of the Indian's mirrors was reflecting - well, nothing much, at least nothing of what I wanted it to reflect. But that would have to wait until I got back to Thruxtonian HQ.

This was the weekend of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. I had originally planned to ride Black Douglas' new Euro-4 compliant 125cc Sterling, but minor technical issues sunk that option with all hands on deck. At first I thought about cancelling my participation in the DGR, but I thought that now that I was registered to ride, I might as well go through with it. Only one problem remained: what bike should I ride? One of my bikes (the one that gave this blog its current name) is currently off the road* and the other doesn't really fit in with the whole "Distinguished Gentleman" philosophy. It was obvious that I was going to have to beg, borrow or - umm no, we'll leave it at those two options - a ride from somebody. By the next day, Polaris España had kindly accepted to lend me a Scout Sixty for the weekend.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Sneak peek: Ruroc Atlas

Ever since since the very public failure of the Skully AR-1 project and the subsequent revelation of the company founders' misuse of capital obtained from crowdfunding, I've been very wary of Kickstarter and similar projects, whether bike-related or not. While the guys behind these projects might make you starry-eyed with promises of an all-singing, all-dancing product, chances for many of these products actually making it to the production stage are usually at the "slim to none" end of the probability scale.

Which is why, when the crowdfunding drive for the Atlas helmet project from Ruroc came to my attention, I greeted it with my habitual scepticism. Yes, sure, the helmet looks the dog's whatsits, and the glowing product description made me think "hmm, not bad", but at the same time I reckoned that this was yet another bit of bike gear that would never actually make it to the shops. After a bit of ferreting around on the internet I discovered that the Ruroc company already markets a helmet designed for snowboarding, freestyle skiing and downhill mountain-biking - all of which are sports that I'm not really very clued up on. And if I had paid more attention, I would have recognised their "extreme sport" lid as the one used by the works Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP™ team for its pit crew.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Royal Enfield Himalayan

Just over a year after it was launched on the Indian domestic market, Royal Enfield are releasing the Himalayan internationally.

The Himalayan is the Chennai-based manufacturer's first all-new motorcycle for quite some time, and is a departure from the bikes that have made up their range for decades. As its name suggests, this is a purpose-built trails bike, a totally new market segment for Royal Enfield, who are better known for manufacturing characterful retro-styled motorcycles. The Harris-designed frame houses a brand-new Euro-4 compliant 410cc single-cylinder, fuel-injected engine with a claimed 24.5 BHP @ 6,500 rpm, and has ditched the company's habitual twinshock rear suspension in favour of a more contemporary monoshock layout. Front suspension is entrusted to 41mm RWU forks that embrace a 21-inch spoked front wheel (the rear wheel, also spoked, is a 17" item). The bike has disc brakes all round: a 300mm single disc/two-piston floating calliper at the front and a 240mm/single-piston floating calliper astern. As per Euro-4 specs, the brakes are equipped with ABS.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rockin' at the Ace... in Barcelona!

Barcelona: the Ramblas, the Sagrada Familia, the Camp Nou… and the Ace Cafe! That’s right, the Catalan capital is now home to the first Ace Cafe brand franchise on the Iberian peninsula (hmm, something other than Messi for the Madrileños to get hot under the collar about). Behind this lie three years of negotiations and hard graft, along with several million Euros’ worth of investments before the dream of Fernando Sanchez-Crespo and his associates (amongst which the Owner of the Barcelona dealership of a well-known British motorcycle brand) came true.