Turbocharged/Supercharged Motorcycles. Staging a Comeback?

Currently on display in the Martin Moto showroom is a 1983 Suzuki XN85 Turbo. This stunning bike, from a private collection, is a great example of the very brief “era” of forced induction bikes in the early 1980s.

DSCN7733In the early 1980s factory turbocharged motorcycles roamed the highways, promising the light weight and responsiveness of a middleweight, the power and performance of a liter bike, and a cost somewhere between the two. In addition to the Suzuki, Honda weighed in with it’s CX-500 Turbo in 1982 and later the 1983 CX-650 T.

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Then there were the ’84-’85 Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo

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and Yamaha’s XJ-650 Turbo Seca.

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Marketing department promises notwithstanding, what this group actually delivered was a somewhat difficult power delivery (the dreaded “turbo lag”) as well as the weight, cost, and mechanical complexity of of much bigger bikes. Sales were, frankly, anemic and the turbo bikes ultimately screeched to a halt at this dead end on the motorcycle evolutionary path by 1985.

Now let’s jump ahead some three decades, to today. An interesting dynamic has recently surfaced in the industry. Are supercharged motorcycles coming back? Two recent “concepts,” shown in conjunction with the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show introductions certainly beg that very question.

At the Tokyo show Suzuki took the wraps off of their Recursion concept bike.

Suzuki Recursion. Tokyo Motor Show 2014.

Suzuki Recursion. Tokyo Motor Show 2013.

Suzuki Recursion. Tokyo Motor Show 2014.

Suzuki Recursion. Tokyo Motor Show 2013.

Looking beyond the underslung exhaust and other obvious efforts at mass centralization (has Eric Buell seen this?) we find ourselves drawn to the completely new powerplant. It’s a 588cc inline twin with, get this, an intercooled turbo system. How else to easily deliver 100+ hp and 74 lb-ft of torque at just 4500 rpm from less than 600cc? Yes, we know that a GSXR delivers similar power (and less torque) but you’ve got to spin it into the 5 digit rpm stratosphere to deliver those numbers. Fold the claimed 50-ish MPG rating and low rpm reliability into the mix, and Suzuki’s Recursion comes into its own. Two questions stand out in our mind. Has thirty years of technical progress made a new generation Turbo bike a much more viable product than we remember from the 1980s? Is Suzuki daring enough to bring something like the Recursion to the market? Stay tuned.

Not to be trumped by their friends at Suzuki, Kawasaki also got into the act at the Tokyo show. With minimal fanfare, no hardware, nor much in the way of technical detail, the “Good Times” folks went the “press release only” route with their revelation of an inline four cylinder “motorcycle-use supercharged engine.”

Supercharged Kawasaki concept engine. Tokyo Motor Show 2013.

Supercharged Kawasaki concept engine. Tokyo Motor Show 2013.

  The text of the Kawasaki release reads like this, “Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. also has a long history of developing technologies for turbine engines. The lifeblood of these turbines is their blades, which need to be able to cope with extreme heat and vibration while spinning at high speeds. Know-how from years of designing turbine engine blades was instilled in the first supercharger developed by a motorcycle manufacturer. And of course, designing a motorcycle-use supercharged engine in-house means that maximum efficiency could be pursued.” Not much here to sink one’s teeth into, right? But then consider these three facts. 1. For some time now Kawasaki has been utilizing Roots type superchargers to reliably deliver over 300 HP from it’s 1498cc Ultra 310 watercraft.  2. Rumors of a forced induction replacement for the ZX14-R Ninja have swirled throughout the industry for several years. 3. In recent years the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers have taken to showing their new engines well before the motorcycles for which they were intended. Think Yamaha 3 cylinder engine shown well in advance of the FZ-09. Draw your own conclusions and , again, stay tuned.

Do we have any insider knowledge? Do we know that a supercharged bike is on it’s way from one of the major manufacturers? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, it just seems like there is way too much chatter (and action) on the forced induction front for it to all be smoke and mirrors. While we anxiously await the next development, we’re about ready to place our bet that the answer is yes. Time will, as it always does, tell the tale.

P.S. In the meantime, if you have an interest in the older bikes, including Turbos and all the other technical marvels of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s then put the Fourth Annual Modern Classics Bike Show on your calendar for March 1, 2014. www.modernclassicsbikeshow.com

EICMA Show 2013 – Some Show Bikes We Liked a Lot!

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EICMA. Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori. If you are in any way interested in motorcycles , you have likely heard of it. If not, here’s the scoop. EICMA is the world’s largest motorcycle show. Think Disneyland, specifically remade for motorcyclists.  This annual festival of the two wheeled sport commandeers the Milan, Italy convention center just about this time every November. This year over 1000 exhibitors – representing manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers from abound the globe (not to mention over a half a million attendees,) have just completed the 71st edition of the show. If you missed the excitement (again!) maybe you ought to give thought to a trip to Italy next year. In the meantime we thought we’d draw your attention to just a smattering of our favorite new bikes that were revealed at this year’s show.

Ducati Monster 1200 & 1200S

M-1200S_2014_Amb-02_R_1920x1080.mediagallery_output_image_[750x423]Can you believe it’s been over two decades now since that first groundbreaking Ducati Monster? Who would have thought that first 900 would spawn an entire family of Monsters great and small. Now come the latest Monster-osities , sitting on the top branch of the family tree. In the spring of 2014 Ducati will be delivering the Monster 1200 and the even further upscale “S” variant. Both offer the latest liquid cooled,  four valve, desmo powerplant, wrapped up in the signature trellis frame, and packaged with all the electronic toys – selectable power modes, traction control, abs, etal. The standard version of the Monster 1200 starts at $13,495 and the higher spec “S”, with it’s Ohlins, Brembo superbike spec brakes, carbon bits and all (plus a touch more power and torque)  carries a price tag starting at $15.995. Available after the first of the year! The Ducati Monster 1200 twins were hot enough to have been voted “The Most Beautiful Bike” at the EICMA show by the thousands of attendees.

Harley Davidson Street 500 and 750

harley streetIt’s only the first totally new Harley Davidson platform in 13 years. Harley took the occasion of EICMA 2013 to introduce the 2014 “Street” 500 and 750cc variants. Powered by the (also) all-new liquid cooled SOHC 4 valve Revolution X engine, the Street represents Harley’s lowest price point offering for the new year. Intended as both an American style urban cruiser and also as a vehicle to gain entry to markets in the rest of the world, The Street will be manufactured both in HD’s Kansas City plant as well as in India. Competition for Yamaha’s recently introduced (and very successful) Bolt? Maybe.

BMW S1000R

K47_Outdoor_07Naked sportbikes seem to follow a very specific pattern as they evolve from their plastic-fantastic progenitors. BMW follows to a T with the introduction of their own version of a streetfighter based on their world class S1000RR sportbike. Upright, comfy seating position? Check. Reduced peak power but a broadening (and fattening) of the low to mid range torque? Check. Here’s a sportbike that people can comfortably ride for longer than those 20 minute track day sessions. And it retains all the electronic magic first show on the RR – ABS, rider selectable power and traction control modes, gear shift assistant, and such. Ultimate sportbike for the real world? Perhaps.

Brough Superior SS100

Brough-Superior-TopLike the retro look but hunger for thoroughly modern performance? Maybe this is for you, but bring your wallet. Once known as “The Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” the honored Brough Superior marque returns for 2014 as an extremely limited edition build. With a signature liquid cooled 997 V-Twin powerplant that just oozes nostalgia, this modern treatment of the classic features the engine as a stressed chassis member, innovative disc brakes, and the classic look of the essentially cylindrical fuel tank. Unfortunately, it may already be too late to order for 2014 as the Brit manufacturer plans just 20 units for the first year build. At a paltry $100 K per, they’re probably all spoken for. Perhaps in 2015 – and you’ll have another year to save up the necessary funds.

Triumph 250

x06-daytona250.jpg.pagespeed.ic.kMf2sFN4o4Triumph didn’t exactly pull the cover off of this motorcycle at EICMA. All they did was confirm the long standing rumor that there will be a 250cc Triumph in the pipeline by the time 2015 rolls around. Discussion mostly centered around a naked bike and a sporting variant as shown in this computer generated rendering. Not much detail was provided to hang one’s hat on but it was revealed that the assembly site will be India to meet a global demand. We do understand that it will be coming to the US, perhaps in the naked version. Stay tuned on this one. Better yet, take up a spot loitering around your Triumph dealer’s showroom. And keep your eyes peeled.

So, EICMA 2013, as it always does, provided a mix of product introductions – entry level stuff like the Harley and Triumph, premium priced units like the Ducati and BMW, and ultra exclusive offerings like the Brough. For sure, there were more than what you see here and maybe those are your personal favorites.  Nonetheless, these are the ones that talked to us the most. If you were there, or maybe you have just read the show reviews, then please tell us about your favorites. Most importantly, make your travel plans for EICMA 2014 soon. The area around the Milan Convention Center sells out early when EICMA comes to town.

Off the beaten path? A Rokon was capable of taking you very far off the beaten path!?

In the last post we spoke about some of the fascinating two stroke bikes that we’ve on the lookout for as we put together the fourth annual Modern Classics Motorcycle Show coming up on March 1, 2014 at Martin Moto in Boyertown, Pa.  Then just yesterday our attention was drawn to yet another possibly forgotten bike from the 1970s that we had overlooked. Simply couldn’t resist posting this one too!

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Rokon RT 340

Yup. It’s a Rokon! Chock full of unusual features like pull cord starting (think lawnmower) and a fully automatic and clutchless snowmobile-like drive system, Rokons laid claim to a market position pretty far off the beaten path. Nonetheless they earned their stripes as serious dirtbikes by regularly winning various enduro and trials competitions

Roko OverallWin And through the middle part of the 1970s they were even serious competitors in International Six Day Trials (ISDT) events in both the US and Europe.

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Rokon at the 1973 ISDT

Interestingly Rokon was a New England based manufacturer, with headquarters in New Hampshire where they pushed out the sturdy bikes equipped with a 337cc Sachs two stroke engine that put out some 30+ horsepower in stock form.

CaptureWhile Rokons never sold in huge numbers and while the parent company had its ups and downs, including a visit into receivership, it is interesting to note that Rokon continues on to this day with a line of “Trail Breaker” 2 wheel drive utility vehicles that remain popular with hunters, outdoorsmen, forest service types and even some military users.

Anyone got (or know of)  a Rokon RT 340 to nominate for the 2014 Modern Classics Motorcycle Show?

We would love to hear from you.  For more information go to www.modernclassicsbikehow.com

Wanted Dead or Alive! The Search Is On For the 100 Stunning Classic Bikes That Will Be Presented at the 4th Annual Martin Motorsports “Modern Classics” Show, March 1, 2014.

?????It’s just over four months now until the Fourth Annual Martin Motorsports “Modern Classics” Bike Show. In just three years this one day, indoor show has has gained a hefty regional following and has even begun to attract some national attention. Check out what the local papers had to say about last year’s show HERE. Then take a look at the coverage in Modern Classics magazine.

MC-Parting Shots

Do you want to even consider missing this year’s show? Uuhhhh, don’t think so!

So here are some important details. The showroom doors open at 9:00AM and the show runs until 5:00PM. As in past years, Modern Classics is an invitational show – entries are nominated to the show planning committee which then determines the 100 bikes that will be this year’s “Modern Classics.” “Modern Classics” is an unjudged show but there are Peoples’ Choice awards in both the primary group – classics from the 60s, 70s, and 80s as well in the featured supplemental class. For the 2014 show the featured supplemental class is Two Stroke bikes! The planning committee is soliciting the nominations of Two Stroke Classics from the same era, meaning the 60s through the 80s. The bikes that the committee is looking for are 2-cycle engined motorcycles offered for sale between 1960 and 1990. Historically significant bikes from slightly before and after this time frame may be considered if they are helpful in telling the story of two strokes and their place in motorcycle history. The show is primarily focused on “street” models but a limited number of off-road and racing models may also be considered. Thinking about nominating your bike? For all the information you need go  HERE.

2 stroke wantedposterHere are a few of the Two Stroke Classics we’re seeking for Modern Classics 2014. If you have one of these bikes or know where there is one that might be a candidate for the show, the by all means give us a shout. You can either go directly to the “want to show your bike” page or contact jack@martinmoto.com. Here ya go…….

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Possibly the Zenith of Two Stroke history? Of course we’re looking for a Suzuki GT 750 Water Buffalo. Or Steam Kettle if you prefer.

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Yamaha Catalina or Big Bear? Among the first of the “big” Japanese Two Strokes and we’d love to have a great example of either one. 250 or 305cc? Doesn’t matter.

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Was the Suzuki X-6 Hustler the first 250 capable of going 100mph? The debate rages. Nonetheless, if you have a nice example then please nominate it for our show.

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Kawi H2. Mach IV 750. “The Widowmaker.” By any name or alias, we’d like to see one. A nice Mach III 500 would be welcome too – especially a first year white one! Yeah we like 350s too.

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From the late 60s well into the 1970s two stroke enduros were a huge contributor to the explosive growth of motorcycling. Suzuki TS’s all welcome – 125, 185, 250 – we love ’em all. Of course the Yamaha enduro series is on our hit list too. Where is that one stunning white1968, first year DT1 we’ve been waiting years for? Kawis too – How about a nice Bighorn?

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It’s easy to forget Bridgestone was a major player back in the day. A 350GTR would be a great show addition as would any of the smaller Bridgestone offerings. 90s. 175s. Who learned to ride on a Bridgestone?

We're not just on the lookout for Japanese Two Strokes. Europeans figured mightily in the Two Stroke story. And a hefty part of that story was was scooters. Vespa? Lambretta? Harley Davidson Topper?

We’re not just on the lookout for Japanese Two Strokes. Europeans figured mightily in the Two Stroke story. And a hefty part of that story was was scooters. Vespa? Lambretta? Harley Davidson Topper?

Silk. The Ultimate Evolution of the old Scott 2 strokes from England. This would be a cool add!

Silk. The Ultimate Evolution of the old Scott 2 strokes from England. This would be a cool add!

All American Brand Harley even had two strokes badged as their own. They were really an Italian-American hybrid cooked up by partner Aermacchi.

All American Brand Harley even had two strokes badged as their own. They were really an Italian-American hybrid cooked up with partner Aermacchi.

We'd very much like to snag a Scott Flying Squirrel. Though produced considerably earlier than our target 60s through 80s time frame, these Brit Classics are important in telling the two stroke history story.

We’d very much like to snag a Scott Flying Squirrel. Though produced considerably earlier than our target 60s through 80s time frame, these Brit Classics are important in telling the two stroke history story.

So there you have a few examples of the kind of things that we are on the lookout for. Two Strokes. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em! You can review the entire list of two stroke candidate bikes for the 2014 Modern Classics by clicking HERE. If you know where these bikes are, or you have one, please nominate your bike!! And if you think there’s something we’ve forgotten, we’d like to hear about that too.

Just a reminder though – Two Strokes represent just a portion of the magic that is the Modern Classics. We are also trying to run down a new and exciting collection of all the rest of the 60s through 80s bike population. Here are just a couple of the bikes were looking to score for this year’s show.

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Long before there were Hayabusas and ZX14s there were Kawasaki Ninjas. Arguably the first hyperbike (Tom Cruise thought so in “Top Gun”) the first Kawasaki Gpz900 Ninja was introduced in 1984. Can it really be 30 years? And when will we score a first year Ninja for Modern Classics? Hopefully 2014.

A bike that we've had on our search list for all four years of The Modern Classisc - the Munch Mammut. Had kind of forgotten about this rare breed until we saw one recently. If there's one, there must be more. Help us find one for Modern Classics 2014!

A bike that we’ve had on our search list for all four years of The Modern Classisc – the Munch Mammut (Mammoth.) Had kind of forgotten about this rare breed until we saw one recently. If there’s one, there must be more. Help us find one for Modern Classics 2014!

So there you have it. Hopefully a preview of the sort of stunning bikes you’ll be seeing in just about four months. The 4th Annual MartinMoto “Modern Classics” Bike Show. It’s coming sooner than you think! If you can help us in any way find the classic bikes we’re searching for don’t hesitate to contact us! We’re as close as modernclassicsbikeshow.com

Do You Ride At Night? A Handful of Night Riding Tips

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One morning about a week ago, while on the road and enjoying a “delicious” complimentary hotel breakfast (An aside – what are those “egg like” things really made from? Eggs? Plastic? I’m just askin’.) I picked up a local newspaper when my attention was drawn to a headline article about an unusually high number of motorcycle accidents. Somewhere in Tennessee I think. The story described much of the usual carnage with which we are familiar – unsignaled left turns and such. While it didn’t specifically zero in on the issue, I observed that an awfully high percentage of that story’s accidents happened under the cover of darkness. A high incidence of nighttime motorcycle incidents is, in fact, a fairly well documented phenomena. Lately, I’ve found myself riding more during the nighttime hours.  My iPhone girlfriend Siri tells me that sunset today will come at 6:07 PM. Even worse, next weekend daylight saving time will take its winter leave and the sun will commence its disappearing act even earlier. I guess this means that if we are to continue riding for the next few months, ridng in the dark is just going to be part of the deal.  That being said, there are some key strategies that we can  employ to make night riding a safer and more enjoyable experience.

Night Riding Strategy #1 – make yourself more visible.

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  • We all know that the drivers of cars and trucks seem to have trouble seeing us. That problem is magnified considerably at night. Consider hi viz gear, including jackets, pants, and helmets with reflective stripes or inserts. Reflective stickers and such on your bike itself is not a bad idea either.
  • Positioning yourself in the travel lanes, as you learned in your MSF course, is even more important at night. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots. Please!

Night Riding Strategy #2 – enhance your ability to see

RCU05060 HID Test Golf Course 1-12-08 009 640 X 480 P Headlight Passing Lamp compairson 326X300 w discription

  • Gonna ride a lot at night? Consider installing some auxiliary lighting. OEM motorcycle headlamps generally do a poorer job of lighting the roadway ahead than do cars. The aftermarket happily offers lighting products that can fade your jeans at 100 yards or more!
  • Make sure that whatever lights you do have are functional. Long distance riders might want to carry spare bulbs.
  • Keep your visor clean and scratch free. Lots of small scratches will set off a kind of prism effect in your vision, effectively blurring your sight. Ditch the tinted visor.
  • Lose the sunglasses

Night Riding Strategy #3 – modify your riding technique

  • Wild animals are more active between dusk and dawn. Be aware of this, especially when passing through woodland areas.
  • Reduced visibility makes it even harder to see road hazards – gravel, wet leaves, coolant spills in intersections, potholes. If you are a “spirited” rider consider taking it down a notch or two.

A portion of the riding population simply adopts the strategy of avoiding riding at night. There are others who either by necessity (commuters) or choice have elected to enjoy the unique sensations that come with riding at night. If you are one of those night riders, make sure you give some thought to these night riding tips.

Got any other tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear ’em.

A Visit to The Barber. Barber Motorsports Museum. OMG!!!

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You know how sometimes you’ll see something so compelling that it leaves you speechless? Well, if you are in any way fascinated by motorcycles and the history of motorcycling then you absolutely need to make the trip to the Barber Motorports Museum near Birmingham, Alabama. This remarkable collection, housed on five levels a beautiful and modern facility, is America’s shrine to our two wheeled sport. From the turn of the 20th Century to today, and gathered from Europe, Asia, and America this amazing collection stuns with every step through the immaculate and spacious edifice, No long winded text here today, just a selection of powerful images – after all, the Barber Museum has left us speechless too!!!   Learn much more at http://www.barbermuseum.org/

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Homage to John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on both two and four wheels!

Homage to John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on both two and four wheels!

Sweepers or Hairpins. What’s Your Favorite Ride Road Made Of?

Just last weekend I found myself engaged in an  animated discussion on an interesting topic related to (surprise!) motorcycling. The beer fueled, arm waving chatter focused on the “not controversial at all” subject of “what constitutes the best riding roads?” In particular, the group narrowed the subject down to an even more basic question. What’s better/more fun/more challenging? Hairpins or sweepers?

The debate was catalyzed innocently enough by a rider who expressed his desire to someday “ride the Alps” and , in particular, ride the famous Stelvio Pass. Now If you don’t know of the Stelvio Pass in the eastern Alps, near the Italian/Austrian Border, then you should. Aside from being the highest paved mountain pass in the eastern Alps,  the northern approach to the Passo della Stelvio (or Stilfser Joch if you prefer the German name) features 48 hairpins while climbing 1871 meters to the top of the pass. The Brit TV show Top Gear, at one point, anointed Stelvio the “greatest driving road in the world.” Take a look and see what you think.

 

Challenging? Oh yeah. Remarkable vistas? Most certainly. But the “greatest driving road in the world?” The contrarians in our tiny debating society took issue. The argument kinda went like this – “Where’s the challenge in hairpins? You accelerate in a straight line, then you brake, downshift, wobble through some ridiculously tight little corner, and then accelerate up through the gears again. Ad infinitum.” This sect asserted that medium and high speed sweeping corners are “the real deal” for motorcyclists. For them it’s all about the higher speeds, linked corners, line selection, the rhythm and the sustained lateral g’s. On roads like this – the famous Mountain Course at the Isle of Man.

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So, once again we pose a question. Which is better? This? Sweepers?

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Or this? Hairpins?

sign-94966_640We’d like to hear the arguments for each. Got any thoughts?  If so, share ’em here!