I just finished watching the F1 parade in Monte Carlo. Watching the massive, modern F1 cars (so wide they practically fill the road) following each other through the streets of Monte Carlo reminded me why I’ve been watching MotoGP instead. It’s not uncommon to see multiple lead changes on a single lap in MotoGP, and dozens of mid-field overtakings during a race. It’s uncommon to see any lead changes in an F1 race and a driver climbing through the field has become a rarity. At Monte Carlo this morning the only overtaking was political. I started watching F1 during Michael Schumacher‘s rookie year and followed him all the way through his career. My favourite race of his was ’94 in Spain where he managed second place while stuck in one gear. Spain a couple of years later was a master class in keeping an F1 car on the pavement in torrential rain. While the engineering is interesting in F1 it’s not why I watched it regularly for over two decades, it was because of the brilliance of the drivers. I’m now into my second season of watching Motogp. The first race I watched had a resurgent 34(!) year old Valentino Rossi chasing the astonishing Marc Marquez (beginning a record breaking run of wins) to a one two finish with multiple lead changes in a single lap.
It’s hard to see just how much a MotoGP racer works their tires.
Slow motion is the way to go if you want to see just how much
they drift on a single wheel.
In one of the early races an announcer mentioned how in Formula One the car is the majority of the equation whereas in Motogp the rider is the key component. From that moment on I made an effort to understand the complexities of riding a race bike. Motosports that are decided by operator skill over engineering prowess (and budget) are what I’m into. Schumi got that second place in Spain driving a second tier car. When he started winning championships with a massive budget I was less interested. Watching the parade around Monte Carlo reminded me of why I enjoy the bikes more. With the rider such a big part of the equation, you’ll see human excellence much more clearly on two wheels than you will with four. There is much less between a rider and the road than there is between a driver and the road. While one is wrestling with their machine the other is setting suspension settings and adjusting engine maps. With the Isle of Man TT coming up I’ll also be able to see bikes battling on public roads just as the F1 cars didn’t do on the streets of Monte Carlo. You see a lot of precision in Monte Carlo but you don’t see the breath taking bravery that you’ll see in the TT. If you’ve never watched one before, give it a go. This has me thinking about vehicle dynamics and the differences between motorcycles and cars… fodder for my next post…
Another wish list… we were talking about what we’d do with a lotto win while camping last weekend. I’d be aiming to expand into road racing and off road riding. Here’s what my cost-no-object-moto-summer would look like.
I’ve been thinking about a Ford Transit van, Guy Martin style, but now I’m thinking about a trailer. Stealth Trailers make an aluminium bike trailer that is pretty awesome. It weighs about 1200lbs and carries another 1700lbs, so something with a three thousand pound towing capacity would manage it. Fortunately, the Jeep Cherokee I’m currently fixated on can tow 4500lbs. Trailer: ~$6000 Jeep: ~$36500 ———————- ~$42,500
I’d also pick up a custom pop up tent with Mechanical Sympathy printed on it. They look like they go for about a thousand bucks plus whatever the custom screening costs. Setup off the back of the trailer I’d have an instant pit stand.
Track Bike (newer) Kawasaki ZX-6R if I wanted to keep it Kawi as I have thus far. Other short listed bikes would be the Honda CBR600RR or the Triumph Daytona 675R. All three are mid-displacement bikes that would allow for an engrossing track experience. A litre bike is a bit much for track day riding, unless you’re either an ex-professional or compensating for something. Price range (new) : $12,500 (Honda) to $14,500 (Triumph) with the Kawi in between. I’d pick the one that fits best. Rather than a new one I’d probably find a used one and then strip it down to race. I could find a lightly used one of these for about six grand and spend another four to get it race ready. ~$10,000
Track Training & Track Days Racer5: The three day intro-weekend would do the trick giving me the basics on a rented Honda. $1000 Getting in some laps at Grand Bend… $100 a pop x 5 a summer = $500 Pro6 Cycle track days at Calabogie $350 a pop x3 a summer (x2 meet up with Jason) = $2100 Vintage Racer Join the VRRA and take their racing school. $475 A mid-80s Honda Interceptor would be my classic bike of choice. I couldn’t care less how competitive it might be, this is an exercise in nostalgia. You can find well kept ones for a couple of thousand dollars online. Converting it to a race bike would cost that much again. $4000 Road racing ain’t cheap… ————————– ~$18,000 + race costs (tires, etc)
Join OFTR ~$65 Trail Tours Dual Sport Training $250 Smart Adventures All Day Training $260 $2000 competition budget ————– $16,575 Forty-two, eighteen and sixteen and a half thousand (~$76k) and I’d be having a very busy summer expanding my motorbiking repertoire both on and off road. That’s only a two thirds of the price of a new Range Rover! What a deal!
After banging my head against a non-starting PW80 for the better part of two weeks I went back to basic troubleshooting. The one thing I changed prior to it dying entirely was the spark plug. The only NGK I could find was a BPR6HS, the bike is supposed to take a BP6HS. The difference is a resistor which prevents feedback to electronic equipment in the system (important if you’ve got a machine that uses computers and other finicky components – the PW80 is nothing like that complicated). I’d read that the resistor doesn’t matter, but after swapping back to the old plug the bike fired up immediately. I’ve got to look further into resistor effects on simple two stroke machines like the PW80, but the troubleshooting still stands: when you change something and it suddenly stops working, change it back even if you think it’s supposed to be an improvement! I’m going to regap and try the newer plug again, but if it kills it again I’ll have to accept that the PW80 doesn’t like (and doesn’t need) a plug with a resistor in it. After it was up and running we had a throttle lesson, walking next to the bike while my son got a feel for rolling on the throttle gently. I then tore around in circles on it – it’s a zippy little machine!
This changes moment to moment, but based on bikes I’ve actually thrown a leg over, and the shear avalanche of reports on the Ninja H2, I’ve got a couple of new machines on my wish list.
Sport Tourer: Honda VFR800 It’s a jewel like machine with beautiful finish. It’ll run all day, has a magic variable valve engine, and can corner with the best of them. It also hits a nostalgic button with me. $14,500
Bonkers Super Bike: Kawasaki Ninja H2 A supercharger? 200+ horsepower? It has wings for godsake! It’s a technological tour-de-force and one of a kind. I used to be all wobbly over Hayabusas, but the H2 is a daring step in another direction. It ain’t cheap, but it’ll be collectable one day. If I were ever to do Bonneville, this’d be the bike to bring. $27,500
Back To Basics: Ducati Scrambler An air cooled single that does the business and reminds you what motorbiking is all about. Just you and the wind. It’s light, engaging and charismatic. I’m in even if I do have trouble connecting with the demographic they are aiming at. Under all the marketing the Scrambler is a lovely little machine that does the business. Urban Enduro $9995
I finally found KW Honda today! It’s hidden around back of the big Honda car dealer peddling bland people movers. If you head around back you find Repsol themed race bikes and jewel like VFRs. On a much needed lunch break from Skills Ontario provincial championships with thousands of boisterous teenagers watching a few hundred wonderfully talented ones, I got some head space wandering through the Hondas.
The bike I longed for as a teenager was the VFR750, so I was hoping to find its spiritual successor at the Honda dealer, and I wasn’t disappointed. The white VFR800 they had on the floor was breathtaking. The paint has a subtle pearl iridescence that gives it fantastic depth. Every detail of the machine has a finished quality to it that I’ve found lacking in a lot of other bikes; it’s a bike worthy of desire.
Stealth fighter cool front end on the VFR800…
They had a number of older Hondas as well, including this astonishing 1970s CBX with a massive air cooled six in it! If I had thirteen grand to throw around a VFR would be in the garage right quick. Sitting on it, my legs are about as folded as the Concours, I’m leaned forward more but it’s a substantial bike, I don’t feel like a circus bear on it.