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  • Nov 30 2011

    Husky’s Concept Strada rolls on Tourances

     

    Husqvarna has had a busy year.  They’ve debuted the Nuda 900 R, showed off the MOAB Concept, and taken a stab at electrics with the Concept E-go.  Now, Husky is in Paris with their Concept Strada.

     

     

    The Concept Strada looks like a cross between a KTM 690 SMC and a BMW G650GS, and shares the same 650cc engine as the 44bhp GS, though the Concept Strada apparently has a slightly tuned engine ‘breathed on’ by Husky engineers and should make a bit more power.  The Strada isn’t as light as a dirtbike, but at 375 lbs dry isn’t too terribly heavy; n fact, it is relatively light for a real street machine.

     

     

    Husqvarna chose to equip the Concept Strada with our excellent Tourance tires.    Powerful bikes like the Concept Strada can eat through knobbies in no time on pavement, but are likely to see some off-roading than a sport-tourer. Cue Metzeler’s Tourance series of tires.

     

    The Tourance is a dual-purpose tire developed for big, street-oriented enduros and adventure tourers. It boasts a special rubber compound that allows a lot of mileage and reasonable off-road traction.  We often see them on BMW GS1200s, and pleased—yet not surprised—that Husky’s chosen them for their beautiful new concept.

     

    Metzeler Tourance

     

     

    Hot on the heels of the Nuda 900 R that goes on sale worldwide this November, Husqvarna Motorcycles is proud to present already its next motorcycle – the Concept Strada – which will be unveiled at the Salon de la Moto show in Paris on 29 November.

     

    Just like the Nuda, the Concept Strada (Italian for ‘street’) will be targeted at youthful on-road motorcyclists who will appreciate its sharp styling, fun handling and great road manners. With a low weight, a punchy 650cc single-cylinder engine and quality components throughout, the Concept Strada is designed to provide a thrilling ride – whatever the distance.

     

    The starting point for the Concept Strada is the ultra-reliable 650cc engine originally developed by BMW for its ubiquitous F-Series range and in its latest incarnation now used to power the new G 650 GS . This engine has been ‘breathed on’ by specialist Husqvarna engineers and the subsequent power upgrade has resulted in an extremely lively machine that (at less than 170 kg dry) will put a smile back on the face of even the weariest commuter.

     

    This passionate mix of Husqvarna style and BMW engineering expertise is already in an advanced stage of planning and production is imminent. The Strada will be introduced into the market in 2012.

     

    Like the Nuda before it, and the Concept Moab that was unveiled in Husqvarna Motorcycles’ home territory at the recent EICMA show in Milan, the Concept Strada is further evidence of the company’s commitment to expanding its model portfolio and providing fans of the legendary Italian brand with a new series of road motorcycles.

     

    BMW-powered, but Husqvarna-driven, the Concept Strada will be the perfect machine for taking on the urban jungle. Its combination of easy handling, punchy engine and user-friendly ergonomics will make it appeal to both young and ‘young at heart’ male and female riders looking for an extra special motorcycle for everyday use. A wide range of accessories to cater for a variety of requirements will also be available when the Concept Strada goes on sale in 2012.

     

     

  • Nov 29 2011

    Harley’s My Time to Ride series

     

    An 8th grade math teacher, a mom, a motorhead businesswoman, and an artist. What did they have in common? They all secretly yearned to learn how to ride motorcycles. The mom wanted to relieve stress, the artist wanted to meet people, and the teacher just wanted a change of scene. Harley brought them all to Milwaukee and sent them to the Rider’s Edge Academy of Motorcycling.

     



     

    In Episode 2, the women first headed to the Harley museum, and were surprised to learn that women have been riding motorcycles for more than a century—it isn’t a new thing at all! Thus motivated, they headed to the classroom at the Rider’s Edge Academy. They learned about clutch control, proper visual scanning techniques, and the rest of the topics covered on the MSF written test.

     



     

    Of course, riding a motorcycle is about more than classroom instruction, and in the third episode the ladies spent some time in the friction zone as they stepped behind the controls of a motorcycle for the first time.

     

    Motorcycle advocacy is hugely important. TV shows about Freestyle motocross and stunt riding is exciting, but they can intimidate new riders and make motorcycling seem inaccessible. Harley’s series shows the other side of motorcycling—inexperienced riders feeling the joy of riding for the first time.

     

    All four of the women wind up passing the test and riding off on their own Harleys. We’re always encouraging our friends to take up riding and these videos do an excellent job of capturing the initial stages of the learning process.

     

    Episode 3

     

    Episode 4

     

    Episode 5

     

    Episode 6

     

  • Nov 28 2011

    The Great Winter Bike Hunt

     

    It’s that time of year again.  If you don’t have heated grips and Hippo Hands (a.k.a “if you’re not out riding”), you’re probably daydreaming about the next bike.   Years ago, that meant searching through classified ads in the back of the newspaper or getting lucky through word of mouth.  Today there’s crazedlist feeds fed into an RSS reader, and bikefinds.com.  Yes, boutique ads-as-content sites like throttleyard.com and raresportsbikesforsale.com make great reading, but when you’re looking for a specific bike, you’ve got to get creative, and these are the most powerful tools available.

     

     

    Crazedlist.org:

     

     

    Crazedlist feeds are so powerful that they’re almost dorky.  They’ll turn you into a professional shopper and fill your garage with bikes you hitherto hadn’t known existed.  Crazedlist searches any craigslist you want, and makes it possible to save the feeds.  Firefox is the only browser that works with this site, and configuration instructions are available upon visiting.    Once configured, the search logic works like this—each separate term is an “AND” operator and the “|” symbol is an “OR” operator.

     

     

    To search for KTM 250 and 200 EXCs from 2003-2007, the search box should contain the following:

    KTM (250 | 200) (2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 |2007)

     

    Then copy and paste the contents of the top box into a text file and save it as “search.opml”  Import that file into your favorite RSS reader.  We like Google Reader, where the file is imported under the “Manage Subscriptions” tab.  Move all the subscriptions into a new folder and click on the folder to have a live, updated search of all the bikes that match what you want!

     

     

     

    Bikefinds.com:

     

     

    Bikefinds is easier to use than crazedlist, but it’s limited to dirtbikes.  Just click the bike you want and zoom the embedded Google Map to the area you’re willing to buy from.  Icons will pop up that represent bikes for sale, and clicking them will open the corresponding eBay or craigslist ads.  It’s as simple as that.

     

    Of course, bikes that are maintained better are liable to pop up on owners forums first, but for quick and dirty research of what’s available, the resources above are hard to beat.

     

  • Nov 24 2011

    American Supercamp, or how to ride sideways in just two days

     

    That TW200 slide story we wrote about yesterday? The only reason it wasn’t a crash is because of a class we took at a dirtbike cornering school called American Supercamp.  Here’s a recap: we had washed our TW200 and started off around the block for one last thrill before putting it to bed for the night.  We went to lean it over into the first corner, staying on top of the bike and, crucially, with our inside elbow straightened and our outside elbow up.  Whoosh–the rear end slid way out, and our ears immediately pricked up.  We didn’t quite lowside, and then we didn’t quite highside.  Since our body had been positioned properly, the whole ordeal just gave us a rush rather than a parts bill.  Our mistake?  Riding too hard on soaking wet tires.  What kept it undramatic us was that weekend well spent at Danny Walker’s American Supercamp

     

     

    Danny Walker likes to teach people who know how to ride motorcycles to ride  them better.  Specifically, he focuses on cornering, and aims to get his students comfortable sliding a motorcycle dirtrack-style into corners.  He created American Supercamp to do just that and has been at it for the past fifteen years.  Danny and his team cross the country in a toterhome full of Yamaha TTR-125’s; we met up with them at their Harrington, DE class.

     

    The Delaware class was held in an “animal area” of a state fairgrounds—a huge pen of hard-packed dirt.  There were four or five instructors for the nine students in our class, and after introductions Danny handed out packets explaining his method of cornering.  Mastery of this method is the point of the class and the goal of the entire class.

     

    The Supercamp method breaks each corner into four parts as seen in the following image:

     

     

    As they explained the fourth step, one of the instructors hopped on a Yamaha and gave it a go right in front of us—he did exactly what we all hoped to do—neatly backed it in with his foot out, inner arm straight, outside elbow up, and looking for all the world like a supermoto racer. We wondered if we’d ever get it right.

     

    Riding so well takes a concerted effort, so we had to spend a lot of time out on the track (Supercamp provides protective gear).  The entire first day was spent doing drills and mastering the proper body position.  The first drill was just heading around a small oval and trying the same two corners again and again—drive in, brake, lean over and get the bike turned, straighten it up and power out.

     

     

    During the drill, three instructors were standing around and in the track, yelling out instructions like “keep your outside elbow up” “look where you’re going” or “straighten your inside arm!”  Their tips always zeroed right in on the mistakes we were making, and heeding their advice led to quick progress.  The semi-slick rear tires and weak rear drum brakes on the Yamahas made sliding easy and predictable, and we were pleasantly surprised by some nice progressive slides in our first practice session.  It felt great to be sliding!

     

    Sliding a motorcycle had been a totally unfamiliar skill just an hour before, but the next drill was to ride with one hand on the tank and slide into both left and right turns.  We’d expected it to be awkward, but smooth control inputs were rewarded and it was possible to wrestle the bike bake straight even if it got out of shape.  We learned to slouch down into the bike and control it with our hips rather than our arms.

     

    Throughout these drills, the instructors were offering words of encouragement, and even holding broomsticks to nudge our elbows up while we were cornering.  Even though the speeds are so low (~5-15mph in this first drill), it is nearly impossible to execute a perfect corner—which would include a foot out, the proper slouch, arms and bike in the proper position, and the bike sliding just as intended.  That difficulty is why riding in circles all day never came close to getting boring.

     

    Midway through the day there was some classroom instruction on the bleachers.  One of the most interesting things we learned is that the vocabulary of bike handling is important.  A student would ask a question like “so I grab the brakes and throw the bike down into the corner and it should slide, right?”  Danny and Chris Carr would explain that we should be thinking “squeeze” rather than “grab” and “push” rather than “throw.”  Even though the riding style presented at Supercamp is aggressive, the movements used to execute it are subtle.

     

    The day finished up with some low-grip riding, with one corner of the oval sprayed down—it was unbelievably slippery on the wet corner, and the contrast between the aggressive and ginger riding styles made trying to catch the guy in front of us interesting indeed.  We managed not to fall in the mud, but came awfully close.

     

    Day 2:

     



     

    Day two did away with the small oval and got us out of our comfort zones.  We rode through cones, and did starting and cornering drills where we’d come in from a straightaway, click down a gear, and ease the bike into a slide.   Video review of each session let us compare how we felt to how we looked.

     

    Then Danny expanded the track to take up the entire animal area.  It was now a large kidney bean with a squiggle into the infield on one of the straights.  Chris car said something interesting as we stared slack-jawed at the complex 5-corner course:  “You look at this track and see more corners.  I see more straightaways.  You gotta change how you see it.”

     

     

    At around 2pm, our bike was beginning to get an attitude.  We highsided it once and generally weren’t feeling in control.  Of course, it was just our fatigue and sloppy riding rather than anything actually being wrong with the bike.

     

    It was the final outing on the track when it all came together.  It was maybe ten minutes, with five campers and three instructors riding the full course with fast and slow corners in both directions. We’d try to slide the bike into every corner and get a late apex in order to drive out of the corner and be set up for the next one.  The sun was setting, and by the end of the session we were left wondering how we’d possibly learned so much about riding in just two days.  That last ten-minute session was more interesting and more exciting than any other riding we’d done on a motorcycle ever before, and we were hooked.

     

     

    Looking back, it seems like there are three secrets that make the Supercamp experience so effective.  The first is that the bikes are manageable and don’t belong to the riders.  The second is that the track surface is very consistent, and the bikes are setup with weak rear brakes and a conservative rear tire, so sliding them isn’t magic.  The third secret is the excellent instruction.  Danny Walker and Chris Carr do this all the time and everything they said throughout the entire weekend was worth listening to.  Being able to ride in such a controlled, productive learning environment was a real treat, and we wholeheartedly recommend the camp to anyone who is interested.

     

    American Supercamp

     

  • Nov 23 2011

    Contrasto: Ducati 900SS vs. Yamaha TW200 vs. Honda Cub

    In competitions, the choice of motorcycles is severely limited. Only a few different bikes are eligible for a given racing class and only one or two of those will generally be competitive.

     

    On the street, anything from a 50cc moped (or indeed, a bicycle or a subway ticket) on up is a legitimate possibility, and the decision of what to ride is made as much by emotions as it is by practicality and cost. That’s why people cross-shop entire categories, rather than the three or so nearly identical bikes typically featured in a “comparo.” An R1, a GSXR, and a ZX-10? We’d just buy whichever one we could find a deal on, used and in good condition. The trouble with comparos is that the bikes are all basically the same. What about a contrasto?

     

    Yesterday we blasted around Brooklyn for a few hours on three very different machines: a 900cc Ducati superbike from ’94, the cult-classic Yamaha TW200, and the most popular vehicle ever produced, the Honda Cub.

     

    Ducati 900SS

     

    We first rode the big 900ss, a Ducati from 1994. It looks like it should be in the Smithsonian, and makes a terrific cacophony when fired up. Big, powerful bikes like this one are a blast on country roads, but around the city they aren’t quite so much fun. The addictive whirring of the desmodromic valves, the bellowing exhausts and the dry clutch rattle make it difficult to communicate with other riders, and the suspension has difficulty dealing with Brooklyn’s 3rd-world road surfaces. Difficulty to the point where this particular bike has a bent front rim and a hairline crack in the frame around the headstock. It also has a shockingly poor turning radius. The carbs cough anywhere below 3k and tall gears mean a fair amount of clutch slippage is necessary to keep things rolling at low speeds. Still, it looks fabulous and makes you feel incredibly special when aboard. We felt as if a race team tasked us with transporting a race bike across town. We’d squirt through yellow lights, the front tire would paw at the air, and we’d get the odd stare from passersby. We’d never say no to a go on a bike like this but halfway though a city ride it’s easy to long for something more suited to the landscape. And forget about riding in the snow or popping it up on a sidewalk to lock it up.

     

    It goes about 135mph, has 80bhp, weights 415lbs, and gets 40 mpg.

     

    Yamaha TW200

     

    Yamaha’s TW200 is a perfect bike for city riding. It looks tough, but isn’t as focused as a proper motocross bike. The famously fat tires add some cush to a fairly firm five inches of travel. Small, manageable bikes like the TW are often thought of as learner bikes, but there is huge fun to be had practicing wheelies and donuts on them. We’ve been wheelieng ours and have yet to drop it; it’s been vertical a few times, and each time we’ve been able to put our feet down and run behind it until it came down. Around the city the upright riding position, relatively light weight, and suspension travel means it’s never frustrating. It’s also is the best of the three for carrying a passenger in the city. As always, the best thing about a bike that’s easy to ride is that it can be ridden harder.

     

    We rode the TW200 in the dirt a few weeks ago and rinsed some sand off it afterwards. We started off around the block before putting it away for the night, and leaned it over into the first corner American Supercamp style. Whoosh—the rear end slid way out. We didn’t lowside it, but rather stayed on top of the bike as it turned. Our mistake was riding hard on soaked tires, but the slide was awesome; we’d never been so sideways on a bike. You just can’t throw bigger bikes around like that.

     

    It can be wound out to ~80 mph, weighs 280lbs, and has 13bhp and gets 70mpg.

     

    Honda Cub


     

    The Honda Cub has been called the best motorcycle ever made and it’s easy to see why. They’ve made 60 million of them, and on first glance it’s hard to see what’s so special about them. They’re also very easy to ride—we’ve taught five of our friends motorcycling basics on the Cub—but it isn’t until after spending some time on it that its true genius shows through.

     

    It’s made to last. The hand controls are integrated and everything that’s plastic on a modern bike is made from aluminum. The drivetrain is completely enclosed, and the front suspension isn’t telescoping—it’s a leading-link and the front jacks up when the brake is applied. That means the suspension keeps working when the bike is overloaded. A short first gear means that the tiny engine can move two full-grown adults, but the best part is the auto clutch.

     

    Basically, you ride it like there is a clutch but there isn’t a lever. At idle, click it into gear and roll onto the gas. The clutch will bite. When it’s time to shift, roll off the throttle, click up a gear, and then roll back on. With no clutch lever to manipulate, the rider has a hand free to carry huge bags, or even to hold a bicycle.

     

    Besides that, it’s quiet and looks totally unintimidating. The Cub has the best spirit of the three bikes and is our favorite to ride around the city, even if the TW is immeasurably better for wheelies and the Ducati is better for the odd speed hit. It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow and the Cub proves that on every ride.

     

    The Cub weighs 180lbs, gets 100mpg, makes 4.5bhp, and can go 45mph, downhill

     

ROAD RACING 2014

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