Oct 22, 2011

What's with Stopping Distance Tests?

Motorcycle Consumer News publishes a Performance Index summary on all of the bikes they have tested over recent years (for example: 2007/2008 and 2010). There are always some interesting statistics in those evaluations. For those of who are lazy and looking for an executive summary, skipping the list and heading for the Ten Best categories at the end of the article is the easy way to get a look at the year of motorcycling products.

One of the stats I've been most interested in is the 60-0 stopping time measurement, since that directly relates to safety performance. 0-60 is interesting and 0-100mph is information only for squids and racers, but stopping distance is a big deal for all of us. So, I manipulated the MCN data into a spreadsheet and played with it for a bit. what I found was an indirect correlation between what I expected and what actually happened. The ten quickest stopping bikes MCN tested in the last 5 years are:

Triumph Speed Triple 1050 '06 104.8 ft.
BMW Megamoto 106.4
Triumph Speed Triple '99 106.7
Honda F6 Valkyrie 107.4
Honda Marauder 800 107.6
Honda VFR800FI Interceptor '98 107.9
Yamaha YZF600R '97 108.2
Suzuki SV650 '99 108.8
Ducati Monster 750 109.1
Suzuki TL1000S 109.4

None of these bikes were among the lightest tested. In fact, five of the 50 fastest stoppers were over 700 pound porkers. All of those were metric cruisers (Honda's F6 Valkyrie, Valkyrie Tourer, VTX 1800, and Kawasaki's Vulcan 1500 Classic FI and Suzuki's VL1500 Intruder LC). Even Harley's 620 pound VRSC V-ROD puts on the brakes in 109.5 feet. The lightest of the quick stoppers is the '99 Suzuki SV650.

There is some connection between the lightest motorcycles and fuel efficiency. MCN's ten top fuel misers were:

Yamaha XT250 67.8 mpg
Yamaha Virago 250 66.9
Kawi Ninja 650R '06 65.3
Kawi Ninja 500 64
Honda Rebel 250 62.6
Honda CRF230L 61.6
Suzuki SV650S '07 58.3
BMW G650 Xcountry 56.4
Buel Blast 55.4
Moto Guzzi California 55.2

The Hondas and Yamahas were in the 10 lightest bike group, too. The Moto Guzzi was the heaviest miser at 540 pounds. You have to filter down to 45 mpg before you see the first over 600 pound bikes show up in the efficiency column. That was no surprise. Suzuiki's DR650 was the only light bike to push 40 mpg, which isn't a huge surprise, since the DR is also the quickest 0-60 mph bike in the group.

MCN does a lot of testing and collects all sorts of data on the bikes they test. I'm marginally embarassed to admit that I only care about one other measure; weight. MCN's ten lightest bikes were:

Yamaha XT250 288 pounds
Kawasaki KLX250S 294
Yamaha WR250X 301
Yamaha WR250R 302
Kawasaki KLX250SF 305
Suzuki DRZ400SM 319
Yamaha Virago 250 325
Suzuki GZ250 334
Suzuki DR650SE 358
Suzuki DR650SE '07 368

All things considered, the Virago 250 and the GZ250 are the only bikes of that bunch that I wouldn't like to own. So, maybe my first big issue is weight. If I only get to pick one value, maybe that would be the top of my motorcycle values. MCN doesn't rate suspension travel, turning radius, off-pavement handling, street vision (seat height), visibility, reliability, winter starting, ease of maintenance, parts cost, fuel tolerance, LD comfort, or many of the things I try to look at when I review a new motorcycle. Sometimes, I wonder if including a "can I pass a BRC on this thing" category would be helpful This was, however, an interesting experiment and I'm going to put the resulting Excel spreadsheet on my website.

Oct 9, 2011

Your Take?

My most recent Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly rant, titled "Motorcycle Bigot,"  drew a bit of fire from a couple of cruiser fans. One of the funnier replies of outrage said, "I love ya man, although I do believe that your tearing down of the rides of a good  percentage of the motorcycling world based solely on you narrow opinions is unwarranted.  I love them all, from the Amazonas to the Zero, from 50cc mopeds to the 2000cc sled, and though you would never catch me owning a Gold Wing, I'd never deride in public (other than as the subjective subject of a road test) any person's choice of ride.  I know that every rider has reasons for riding what they do and I may never understand those reasons, but it is not my business to understand, and it certainly not my place to call a whole group of motorcyclists' choice of rides 'hippobike' and liken them to Falstaff.  I'm almost positive that most of the 'cruiser' owners reading that article will think that you are describing them, not the bike, and I'm confident that they will take this very personal."

I don't have much faith in human capacity, but I'm interested to see how this plays out. So far, I have two flames and six attaboys and the magazine just came out this weekend. Of course, what he calls "tearing down of the rides" I call criticizing mediocre engineering. For a guy who often derides political correctness, he appears to be sort of wimpy when it comes to motorcycles. As I said in the article, "In respect to motorcycles, my first thought is, 'Get over yourselves.' Nothing about disliking a particular type of machine is anywhere near as despicable as racial hatred or intolerance." When it comes to cruisers, they are barely past toys and I really can't take a toy seriously. That would be as silly as considering banjos serious musical instruments.

Murderball or Football

This one's for you, Pat.

A while back, a friend commented that I was unable to appreciate the skill exhibited by a cop wallowing around a gymkhana course on his hippo-Harley. He said something about me being unable to appreciate the skill required to make this bloated tractor of a motorcycle maneuver almost as well as a motorcycle.

Pat, you're right and you're wrong. I do appreciate the cop's skill, for what it is. However, I'd rather see a great rider on a great motorcycle, because that is actually interesting. Who knows if the cops can actually ride well? Yeah, they're great considering their handicap, but why intentionally reach for a handicap?

I got another reminder of my preference for all around competence over being pretty good at a boring skill today when a local television station ran the 1931 "A Connecticut Yankee" with Will Rogers. I wish I could find a link to the jousting scene in this great movie. The king's man is on a draft horse, all duded up in armor and fringe, while Rogers is on a cutting horse, in working cowboy clothes, with a lariat for a "weapon."

Not only do Rogers and his cutting horse kick the cruiser . . . whoops!

Not only do Rogers and his cutting horse kick the knight's ass, the mobile pair are a lot more fun to watch. I wish I could find a link to the jousting scene. [Will Rogers rocks!]

It's Sunday afternoon as I write this and the whole argument reminded me of  sports of all types. Yeah, it's really impressive that the guys who play Murderball are as good as they are at their sport. But what are the chances that Murderball will be on prime-time television Monday night or Sunday afternoon? What do you want to watch, guys in wheelchairs or guys who can throw a football 90 yards, run 100 yards in 9 seconds, knock other 250 pound monsters flat on their asses, or move like a ballerina hooked up to a freight train engine? Last I heard, the Special Olympics didn't get any television coverage, let alone major station attention. I must not be the only one out here more interested in the "best of the best" rather than "pretty good in mediocre conditions." Harsh words, but someone needed to say them and it might as well be me.

Oct 7, 2011

Marketing = Engineering/Invention?

This sort of off-topic, but . . . live with it. It's my blog.

All the media hand-wringing about Steve Jobs, "the 21st Century's Thomas Edison," is going a long way toward explaining to me why the country is going down the tubes. To be sure, it's a sad thing when a relatively young (55) man dies of a terrible disease (pancreatic cancer). However, I can't help but get a little cranky when a marketing guy whose claim to fame is based on his response to colors and rounded corners is regarded as a brilliant inventor. Even worse, when that marketing guy is getting credit for "inventing the personal computer" (not even close), being first to produce a portable digital audio device (not even in the running), and for creating a whole new market for "smartphones" (again, Apple was practically last to the market). This is a guy who lied to his partner about the payment for an early product design assignment with Atari, took credit for doing the design work when he was only the delivery boy, and cheated his partner (Steve Wozniak, the real founder of Apple and the only genius of the two Apple founders) out of $2,250 of the $5,000 contract.

Really? This is what passes for a great man in what's left of the United States of America?

"The Woz," as always was exceptionally generous about his memories of his "friend" when interviewed yesterday. I met Steve Wozniak in the 80's and thought he was one of the coolest, nicest, most humble brilliant and rich guys I've ever met. Another corporate CEO I knew pretty well at the time was a Jobs-worshiper, which was all I needed to know at the time about Steve Jobs. This guy was a lazy, credit-absorbing, blame-shifting shark and anything he liked I was probably not going to want to be near. Later, I got to know a few design engineers who had worked for Apple and they had been trashed and burned by Jobs at Apple and had nothing but bad things to say about the guy and nothing but hero worship for Wozniak.  Wozniak's analysis of Jobs was that he "was a good marketer and understood the benefits of technology." I think that's a near-perfect analysis of Jobs' contribution.

But that's not my point. The point is the boys and girls (none competent enough to described in adult terms) of our mass media no longer know the difference between inventors, engineers, scientists, and the people who take advantage of those skills. If perception has become that knowing how to sell crap is the same as knowing how to make it, what's the point in going through the effort to learn how to do actual productive work? Obviously, this is the conclusion young people make when they blow off science, engineering, and technology and take the easy route to business and finance degrees.

When a character like Keith Wandell, who can barely be described as a rider let alone a motorcycle engineer,  can be put in charge of a genius like Eric Buell and can conjure up the gall to shut down the only progressive division of an otherwise backwards, failing, obsolete product line, we are heading for membership in the long list of failed empires. Wandell isn't fit to take on the task of being Buell's secretary, but that's not the way business works in the declining US of A. Secretaries are running the asylum and inventors are sidelined as an unnecessary evil in a country that imagines product invention, R&D, design, and manufacturing can be farmed overseas and the easy part, marketing, will remain a US-only task.

In my experience, if you can do the hard parts you can do the easy parts. IBM discovered that when they shipped PC production to Japan and, suddenly, produced a truckload of competitors for themselves. Apple doesn't build anything these days. If you can find a "Made in the USA" sticker on anything with an Apple logo, I'd like to see it. If you can't make it, you can't design it. If you didn't design it, you're just a salesman and salesmen are a dime a dozen.

Oct 5, 2011

Product Review: GIVI E36N Touring Side (or top) Cases

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

[Right: The big-butt look of a Suzukli DL-650 and a pair of GIVI E36 side cases. Now I can take up as much room in a parking space as a Goldwing.]

It's hard to imagine a product that has been more written about than GIVI Monokey™ cases, but here I am writing about them. The GIVI E36N USA Monokey™ cases are side loading, 36 liter capacity, touring cases. The 36 liter cases are the smallest touring cases GIVI offers and because of that they are the narrowest touring cases available from GIVI. This was important to me because the Suzuki V-Strom has a high, large exhaust pipe and GIVI's mounting system attempts to make the silhouette and balance as symmetrical as possible. As you can see from the back view picture, that adds a lot of width to my motorcycle's rear-end profile.

Since I planned about 1,000 miles of fire-roading on my 2007 Alaska-Canada trip-Northwest USA trip, I was concerned that the added girth would result in some unnecessary "adventures" added to my adventure tour. The off-road stuff turned out to be pretty tame and there were only a few narrow passages, between 4-wheel vehicle guards, where the cases were a problem. On the other hand, I managed to cut a few filling station and motel corners close enough that I bounced the cases off of posts, buildings, and other "obstacles."

My following year's trip to Nova Scotia was less eventful, but the backroads between the far east end of the country and here put a significant vibration test to the cases and mounting. In 2009, I really put a pounding on the GIVI gear on my 3,500 mile North Dakota "ghost town tour" and the stuff held up without a moment of problem. At a filling station in Bismarck, ND, a cruising hip-hopper in a 70's Buick side-swiped my left side case, pinning me between the pump and the bike, hard enough that the lower hinge sprung open and left a 1/4" gap at the bottom of the case. I was sure that damage was permanent, but when I opened up the case, the hinge popped back into place and no injury was done, other than some bumper scratches on the side of the case. (Of course, the Buick driver, being the responsible citizen he was, sped away when he heard his car hit my bike and he saw me squashed against the pump. I'm sure, if he reads this, he'll be happy to know he didn't kill me.) Last year, my grandson and I racked up another 3,800 miles in the Rockies and on Midwest states' backroads and I have begun to treat my luggage like the most durable part of the motorcycle. 50,000 miles after snapping on the E36's, they are going strong and as utilitarian as the day I installed them.

I met another V-Strom rider on my 2007 Alaska trip who had laid his bike down at 30mph on the Alaska Highway and, while the cover of the case was nicely road-rashed, it was still solid and in one piece. He also had an E46 top case and noted that the seal was so tight on that case that he had trouble opening it when going from a high-altitude campsite to a sea level site. He claimed that when he opened the case he could hear a "pop" as the air escaped. We were both impressed with the extreme waterproof qualities of our GIVI hardware, especially considering the fact that we'd been rained on for more than 20 days straight..

The GIVI mounting frame is something worth discussing. It's built to take abuse and to support substantial weight. The frames are designed to accept any of the GIVI Monokey™ cases, which means anything from 21 liters to 52 liters could be mounted to the same frames. In all of the above crash and fender-bender scenarios, the GIVI mounting system was undamaged. For a 4-day vacation trip with my wife this summer, I added the GIVI E528 tail-case mount. Like the side-case mounting system, the tail-case mount is easy to install and built to withstand abuse and support any of the GIVI Monokey™ cases. Attaching the cases to the mounting system is simple, quick, and almost foolproof. All you need to do is align the bottom of the case into the two tabs and snap the top keyed-section into the Monokey™ lock.

[Right: The E36 containing clothing, towels, food, spare parts, and a sleeping bag with room to spare.]

I'm totally impressed with GIVI's Monokey™ mounting system and never, even once, had a problem with the case attachment; durability or security-wise. These are tough cases that aren't quite deep enough to hold a helmet, but are plenty big enough for a significant amount of luggage. My wife and I managed to cram all of our clothing and necessities for our 4-day trip into one E36N case, which gave her more passenger peg leg room and a back support.

You'd think that a measly 30 liters capacity increase would be pretty meaningless with a load like mine, but you'd be wrong. Being able to load the cases from the side, meant that my packing was organized, accessible, and logical. The E36N cases, however, make perfect sense for adventure touring or vacation trips with a passenger.

My wife complains that the location and width of the cases make it difficult for a passenger to mount the bike. I haven't found a solution to the wife-comfort problem, but my grandson didn't have any complaints. However, passenger comfort aside I have depended on my GIVI cases for more than 50,000 hard miles and they have never let me down.

Protesting China

My WR250's rear wheel requires a 27mm wrench to break the wheel loose for tire repairs or chain adjustments. The Yamaha tool is a POS that couldn't possible crack the specified torque for that nut. Motion Pro makes a very nice combination 27mm wrench and tire tool , but after looking at it I suspected the quality and torque capacity of the wrench end of the tool, plus the $30+shipping price tag put me off. I found a perfectly good 27mm wrench at Fleet Farm for $9, cut off the open-end end, and ground out a tire tool in about 20 minutes.

I know, my time was worth thousands of $ and I could have saved the world while I was making an over-capacity, less-than-hip looking tool, but I had fun, got exactly what I wanted, and it works really well at both ends. Motion Pro's tool is slicker looking, but Bob's didn't carry it and I wanted it in the tool kit this weekend. Now I'm ready for a road test.