• Apr 30 2012

    Motovudu fights back against electronic trickery


    We found this amazing video over the weekend, and share Simon Crafar’s concern that motorcycling is being dulled by ABS, traction control, and other electronic gubbins.   We’ve spent time on two ABS-equipped bikes lately, and it’s a bummer when you find yourself on a fantastic mountain road with consistent corners and surfaces and want to have a go at backing it in, only to have ABS step-in and upset the bike (of course, it could come in handy if you’re braking and hit a patch of sand, etc.).



    Simon Crafar is an experienced motorcycle racer who won a 500 GP race in 1998 aboard a Yamaha YZR500, won the expert class at Redbull Romaniacs extreme enduro in 2007, and in 2011 created Motovudu, a book and DVD series aimed at teaching riders how to achieve peak on-track performance. This is a clip promoting his course and mindset.


    It looks to us like he’s getting the maximum enjoyment out of today’s analogue motorcycles.   Good thing too—the EU announced in 2010 that ABS will be mandatory for all new motorcycles over 125 cc by 2017.  We’d like to see and off-switch at the very least, so ABS could only be used in the rain or very slippery conditions.


    And here’s some more footage of bikes without too much in the way of electronics:





  • Apr 30 2012

    Riders the world over love Harleys


    After reading with interest about the Harley Rally in Cuba, we found ourselves curious about the events other Harely clubs around the world are holding.  We were aware of events in Canada, the UK, Germany, and the rest of Europe, but one event in particular proved to us that Harley’s appeal really is universal.


    Southeast Asia motorcycle culture often revolves around 125 cc Yamaha scooters and sidecars.  In Thailand, for instance, huge import duties on vehicles not  built in Thailand means that most of the bikes on the road are built there—the Yamaha 125, Honda’s CBR250R, and lots of Kawasakis (including the ER6-N, the Ninja 650, the Versys, and the KLR).


    In Malasia, import taxes on foreign-manufactured motorcycles changes from year to year, but hovers around 100%. Most of these Harleys then, cost more than twice as much as they would in America. Still, that doesn’t stop true afficianados who have a bit of spare change.


    In November, three-hundred Harley owners from across Southeast  Asia will ride a 1100 mile rout across Malasian Borneo, from Kuching to Miri and back.  The Malasian Ministry of Tourism is supporting the event, in the hope that more motorcyclists will come and enjoy the beautiful signs of Malasian Borneo.



    From The Borneo Post:


    The rally will commence with all the bikes shipped to Kuching via Port Klang. Participants would be hosted with a welcome dinner by the state government upon arrival.


    A two-day programme is planned with a grand parade through the streets of Kuching where the riders will savour the night sights the city has to offer, to be followed by a city tour the following day.


    After spending the first two days in Kuching, there will be a flag-off ceremony as the convoy will move on to Sibu, stopping in Sri Aman for lunch.


    On the fourth day, the convoy will head on to Miri where they will spend a night. They will then move to Brunei for a special event by Hog Brunei chapter, dealers and local authorities.


    The next day, they will head to Bintulu, taking on a route through picturesque countryside before spending the night at a hotel there.


    For the seventh day of the programme, they will ride 600km all the way back to Kuching, where they will be staying at the Damai Beach Resort for the next two days. The traditional Hog bike games and competition will be organised there.


    The grand finale and farewell dinner hosted by the state government will be held during the final night.


    Pictures from a previous year’s rally found on


  • Apr 27 2012

    Everyone is excited about Honda’s new CRF250L


    The spec sheet may leave something to be desired—the CRF250L comes in at just over 300 lbs and makes 23 bhp.   That gives it a power-to-weight ratio similar to that of it’s fraternal-twin, the CBR 250R.  Like the CBR, the CRF will be made at a Honda Factory in Thailand, it will also have a steel frame, and it will share a detuned version of the CBR’s motor.  The CRF250L engine makes 23 rather than 27 bhp, but will have more torque and be more useable on the trails.  The engine may not make a lot of power, but it does have neat design features like an offset cylinder (to decrease piston-ring wear and increase torque), and an advanced valve train that features roller rocker arms.



    Honda claims about 100 mpg, but that’s on level ground at 38 mph—we’d expect something between 70 and 80 in real life (no matter, the savings tail off as economy increases).


    What’s so exciting is that this bike is inexpensive (it shouldn’t cost more than a CBR250R, which is $4199), should be capable (with bits like 43 mm Showa forks), and should be easy to ride.  That means it will appeal to a wide range of riders—just the thing to get more people back on motorcycles.  Expert riders will find the bike capable enough to flick down the trails, new riders will be able to afford it, and city types will take full advantage of the upright riding position, good steering lock, and fuel economy.


    The only question is whether or not it’ll be imported into the US. Hell for Leather notes that it has a spark arrestor (which are required for US bikes) so it’s not beyond the realm of the possible.  We can hope!


    Here’s MCN’s test of the Japanese version of the bike here and Hell for Leather’s thoughts here.

  • Apr 25 2012

    Cuban Harlistas hold Cuba’s first-ever nationwide Harley rally


    There are Harleys in Cuba, but nearly all of them arrived before the 1959 revolution.  That means there aren’t any Shovelheads, Road Kings, Electra Glides or V-Rods.  Every Harley in Cuba then, is a classic machine.  The pictures and videos from Cuba’s first-ever nationwide Harley rally last week bear this out, put on by the Cuban Harlistas.


    Around 70 Harleys were in attendance, of the 300 that are currently on the roads (there were as many as 2000 back in 1959).   Not only have no Harleys been sold in Cuba since 1959, but until recently no new parts had been sold either. That means it took incredible creativity to keep these 50+ year old bikes on the road.  Stories about of retrofitting Alfa Romeo pistons, making makeshift exhausts from water pipes, and bikes that roll on car wheels.



    Apparently, the alternator on Panheads is the same as the alternator on a Ural—a brand of bike which has been gaining popularity lately.  The Ural version is less than a thirtieth the price.



    We loved the description of the contests—they sounded like a blast.


    The Harlistas also faced off in skill competitions like catching hot dogs in their mouths from bike-back and seeing who could ride the slowest without putting his feet down. There were also awards for the oldest, best-restored and most classic bikes, and the greatest distance traveled.


    In one contest, Gonzalez guided his bike slowly along the plaza while his wife, Maribel, tried to slip straws into five beer bottles. At low speeds, it’s particularly tricky to keep precise control of a vintage bike with a foot-clutch and hand-gearshift, he said.


    “You need like eight hands to really ride well. It’s a very interesting acrobatic feat,” said Gonzalez, an electromechanical engineer from Havana who has been riding Harleys for 25 years. Second place was “not bad for a veteran like me.”



    Read more at kcci and thebostonchannel and abc and Cuban Harlistas

  • Apr 23 2012

    82% of pilots ride: Riding a motorcycle is the first step becoming a pilot


    We have a few pilot friends and are about two-thirds of the way to earning our own Sport Pilot Certificate.  One thing we’ve noticed after meeting fifty or so pilots over the years is that a huge number of them ride motorcycles.  Someone even told us that 85% of pilots ride motorcycles.




    We decided to find out, and posted a poll on our favorite aviation forum, Back Country Pilot.   The poll asks pilots to indicate whether or not  they have a motorcycle license.   Fully 82% of respondents so far (107 out of 131) have licenses.  That’s an awfully high percentage, but right in line with what we expected.



    Why do so many pilots ride motorcycles (or rather, why do so many motorcyclists fly planes)?  The two activities appeal to the same type of person—someone who enjoys manipulating controls, who enjoys freedom, and who looks at a difficult task and thinks “I could do that.”   A Sport License can be had for as little as 20 hours of instruction and for right around $4000.


    The pictures here (except for the top one are from

    For more information about becoming a pilot, check out the FAA website