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FS1E v GPR50
1977 Yamaha FS1E-DX PRICE £280 (now worth £2000) POWER (ClaImED) 4.8bhp @ 8000rpm mEaSURED WEIGHT 83kg FRamE Pressed steel backbone FRONT SUSPENSION Telescopic forks REaR SUSPENSION Twin shock WHEElBaSE 1160mm FRONT BRaKES Single disc with one-piston caliper PB lIKES The style PB DOESN’T lIKE That they cost so much to buy now
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2009 DERBI GPR50 PRICE £2499 POWER (ClaImEd) 9bhp@9000rpm (derestricted) mEaSUREd WEIGHT 120kg FRamE Alloy beam FRONT SUSPENSION Upside-down forks REaR SUSPENSION Monoshock WHEElBaSE 1310mm FRONT BRaKES 300mm disc with two-piston caliper PB lIKES The looks, the speed, the handling PB dOESN’T lIKE That it is wasted on most 16-year-olds
ARe MoDeRn 50s RUBBISh? woRDs matt wildee PIcs rory game
The Derbi GPR50 is the pinnacle of small bike engineering. There’s never been a fifty with the styling, the speed or the level of equipment that this one has. Built to ape current big-bore race replicas, from twenty paces the looks are convincing enough for car-driving mates to see a Fireblade. If you’re sixteen now the GPR should be heaven, but the days of two-stroke smoke wafting past the school gates seem for now to be over. In 1979 most teens rode 50s; just a fraction do the same now. So are the kids missing out on the carefree days of slip-streaming and pointless mucking about that we all loved? Why do they reject this high-tech wizardry? Is it because modern fifties are rubbish?
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DO OLD R1s GET FASTER... ...or do they wear out? Our Yamaha R1 hit 22,000 miles this month. Time to find out BY Matt Wildee Pics rory gaMe
ur R1 has had a hard life. In the last twenty months. It has covered 22,000 miles, been thrashed all over Europe, speed-tested half a dozen times, sprinted at the Brighton Speed Trials, been subjected to hundreds of clutch-ripping wheelies and ground its pegs to atoms on countless trackdays. Nothing has been easy. This is a fiveseasons use packed into two intense years.
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But how has it coped? We put our globe-trotting R1 against a low-mileage, factory prepared test bike from Yamaha’s press fleet. We raced them head to head at Bruntingthorpe and then stripped our R1 down just to find out what had happened to it.
THE HEAD TO HEAD
There’s a mile-and-a-half of runway ahead of us, and two R1s pointing their noses to the apex of a concrete vanishing point. I’m on the new, tidy 2008-spec R1. The shiny, fresh alloy and deep uncrazed paint show that it’s never lived a winter or been on a proper journey. It’s done a tenth of the miles our R1 has and spent every other week of its life being stripped, cleaned and fettled by Yamaha technicians. Johnny is on the PB 07 R1 – a bike that’s been bounced across fen roads then locked in the dark, damp PB lockup. Throttles are blipping, revs are rising, and we both dump clutches at the signal from Alex. I fluff the start with a wheelie. Johnny pulls a bike length in front, and then inches forward, his front wheel hovering through first. The 08 bike is surging now, pulling strongly, the
PB’s 2007 R1 (far left) and a low-mileage 2008 model. Matt and John seem to have lost concentration again
rev counter sweeping towards the 14,000rpm redline. I’ve spent a year on a 600, and the sheer power of the R1 is taking my breath away. Into second, the shift light’s flashing, 110mph proud on the clocks and our positions are now locked. Third gear and the new bike is beginning to creep up, pulling back the four-foot lead that the older bike made at the start. Johnny is tucked in as much as his tall frame will allow, his Arai bouncing off the screen’s trailing edge, his leathers visibly inflating as trapped air fights for a way out. By fifth gear and with 170mph showing on the clocks it is clear that the 08 bike is faster – it’s taken the lead now and is pulling away. Sixth gear cracks and the numbers on the digital display stop climbing when they reach
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189mph. But the bike is still slowly accelerating. I roll off when the bike hits the red line in top. The new bike has proved faster. Or has it? I’ve got a hunch that the bike’s top speed is more to do with aerodynamics than power and that the reason I went faster was because I’m more slippery. We swap bikes and race again. The results are closer, but the positions are reversed. Now the old bike is faster. It seems that a large amount of the top-end gain is down the difference in my personal aerodynamics. It’s too close to call to see which is actually faster. But I’m amazed at how different the bikes feel. The 20,000 miler feels loose, like every single chassis bearing has an imperceptible amount of play in it. If you rode the bike every day you
wouldn’t notice the deterioration. It steers better though – the extra rear ride height we dialled into the R1 18 months ago still makes it hold a line better than the newer one. The older bike seems stronger in the midrange; the engine looser and louder. The new bike feels stronger at the top end, but it that could just be down to the fact that it feels tighter in the midrange. Only the datalogger wil know. But then on my second run the clutch starts slipping. It’s not surprising – the best way to get an R1 off the line is to rev it past 10,000rpm and slip the clutch to about 70mph, to help avoid wheelies. And this has been done many times before. Our R1 just can’t handle the same abuse as the new one. MW
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onlY £1 19 PB 90s You are cordiallY invited to the third
cadwell Park, SundaY MaY 24 • Three groups per hour: novice, intermediate and advanced. Bikes must be pre-2000. • Camping and a bar will be available for both the Saturday and Sunday nights. Visit www. motorsportvision.co.uk/cbpbweekend for info. • Non-riding spectator passes and camping can be
pre-booked by those booking the trackday. • Camping: £5 for riders, £10 for non-riders. Spectator passes for all non-riders: £5. • PB’s sister title Classic Bike is running a Burn Up for even older and slower bikes on Saturday May 23. So why not, as they say, make a weekend of it?
Book now at www.motorsportvision.co.uk/cbpbweekend
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obsession Who is... Laurie smith
SuSpenSIon SpecIaLISt and former tree Surgeon In canberra, auStraLIa. the 43-year-oLd favourS bIg engIneS In SmaLL packageS. We thought So.
Need to sort out your special’s weight distribution? You could start by junking everything to the rear of the rider’s rear except for the can.
frames to get to here
honda rrW blade engines
horsepower at the wheel
152 kilograms 50:50 distribution with rider on board
ou love your little sports 400. Why wouldn’t you? but use the bike as its maker intended and it will eventually succumb to the inevitable. What happens when you’ve razzed the rev-hungry rascal’s engine beyond the point of economical repair? You could ring round the breakers or trawl ebay for a suitable donor motor for transplant. or you could follow the path that Pb Forum stalwart Laurie smith took when his Yamaha 3TJ FZR400RR sP could take no more of the punishment the Aussie meted out to it.
‘I’d bought the FZR as a road bike in 1999. It was a jewel of a thing and I rode the wheels off of it until quite soon I’d worn the engine out,’ says Laurie. ‘Inspired by a special I’d seen in PB around the time I bought the bike, I figured I’d have a go at fitting a Blade engine.’ Not a completely crazy idea. After all, if Honda’s original Fireblade mandate had been to deliver 900cc performance in a 600cc-size package, then surely shoe-horning the big engine into a 400cc chassis was the next (almost) logical step? Laurie set his sights on a 918cc RR-W unit ‘the ultimate Blade engine, Honda didn’t stay focused enough with the Blade
and allowed the R1, ZX-9R and GSX-R1000 to eclipse it’. Eclipsed it may have been but Laurie was out to resend the Blade’s star into the ascendant. He was more than confident of the chassis’ ability to handle Blade power. ‘For its time the 400RR SP had very decent suspension as well as brakes,’ he says. ‘The standard FZR frame is way over-engineered for the 400. It weighs 11.4kg as standard which is a whole lot of metal and the castings and frame rails looked plenty stiff enough. There’s a weight difference of only 10kg between the two engines.’ So far so good, and when Laurie found that the rear engine mounts lined up near perfectly with just enough space between the frame rails and the top of the motor, the conversion was definitely on. Fabricated front mounts and an alloy air intake finished the main part of the chassis. The Blade’s higher output shaft position gave the chain a perfect run over the swingarm pivot, which Laurie plated up for extra strength. A TZ250 17/5.5in rear wheel with a beefed up cush drive allowed the fitment of a decent-size 180 rear tyre. Laurie’s first incarnation of The Hybrid, as he’s dubbed it, was street legal and weighed in at 160kg wet, comparing very favourably to the 180kg (dry) Blade that donated the engine.
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Triumph Daytona 675 bodywork never looked so good as it does on The Hybrid.
Nicely blued Bridgestone Battlax slick gives a clue to The Hydrid’s career as a track terror Down Under.
‘The Hybrid is 20kg lighter wet than an RR-W Blade is dry’ taking things to the next level
‘It was a very happy marriage from the off,’ says Laurie. ‘FZR handling and all its good bits with the power and user-friendliness of the Fireblade.’ But as with any PB Obsession he wasn’t done yet and The Hybrid is a constant work in progress that has gone through many evolutions and is currently on its third engine and second frame. In 2002 the racetrack beckoned and Laurie prepped the beast for a season in Formula Extreme, consistently picking up second and third places. A crash at Eastern Creek left him with a singed wreck to rebuild for the next round at Oran Park. Next a hydraulic fuel lock caused the engine to throw a rod – that was the first engine gone. Where the original’s tuning had been limited to an
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exhaust and jet kit, this one had been ported too and kicked out a useful 130bhp. The Hybrid’s current 150bhp rear wheel output wouldn’t be realised until Laurie wore out the second engine and built one from the crankcases up featuring a 997cc JE piston kit, 39mm Keihin flatslides, porting work, reprofiled cams, a sealed ram-air box and an Akrapovic exhaust with custom tailpipe. Laurie ditched the alternator but retained the electric start with a lightened starter clutch, running that, the ignition and an electric coolant pump from a total loss battery. The electric pump comes from a KTM 500, lessens drag losses and saves a kilo in weight. As The Hybrid evolved, Laurie abandoned his career as a tree surgeon – ‘a young man’s game, I’m 43 now and old injuries hurt’ – to live the dream with a bike-related career, setting up his Suspension Smith concern. The company focuses less on high-end stuff and more on keeping his countrymen’s bikes on the road. ‘A guy comes in with a GPz1100R and the only cost-effective solution is to rebuild a shock to suit,’ says Laurie. All the same The Hybrid has become a showcase for what Laurie can do. An Öhlins TTX36 08 ZX-10R shock lives at the rear in a custom linear linkage. At the front there are Öhlins FGR700 gas forks in 02 Yamaha R1 outers to allow the use of 02 R1 yokes.
modeRn legend words ben miller Pics rory game
ducati 888 special as an Rc30 cheap as a used 600 Ducati’s 888 is the thoroughbred you have to have. Get on board for under £5k or have the best of the best for 12 grand
hile the 916 has become a little obvious and ubiquitous in recent years as the italian modern legend of choice, the 888 has quietly established itself as the most desirable of ducati’s desmoquattro superbikes. masculine and exclusive where the 916 is commonplace and almost girly, the 888 is, in the words of steve hillary of ducati specialists moto Rapido: ‘a man’s bike. if a 916 can be your lover, an 888 is your sparring partner.’ and while used values have undoubtedly already begun to climb, you can still pick up an 888 strada for £4000. grab hold of the classifieds and seize the day.
Ducati’s model history, always baffling, was never more confused than in the early 1990s. As a road bike the 888 officially arrived in 1993 with the Strada, though in effect they began turning up in late 1992 and trickled in well into 1994. But the array of Sport Production models and race replica models, which began as early as 1988 with the Lucchinelli Replicas and kit 851s, were 888cc from day one. Ducati’s obsession with ultra-trick halo models can be traced back to the 851 Sport Production 2, which debuted at the 1989 Tokyo show and was a faithful copy of the Corsa Roche Replicas Bologna had made available to privateer racers. Essentially a race bike made street legal, the SP2 was far lighter and more powerful than the standard bike and also saw the introduction of fabulously sophisticated Öhlins race suspension on SP and R models, in this case 42mm upsidedown FG9050s. From here on the performance gulf between the Strada and Sport Production models widened significantly, a chasm neatly illustrated by the 1992 888 SPS, which used a carbon fibre fuel tank, carbon tail unit, carbon 068 070
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The joy of Ducati 888 ownership can be revisited every time you open the garage door
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The 2009 R1 has a wobbly crank just like Rossi’s bike. It’s been designed to beat the Ducati 1198. They’ve both got grip. words ben wilkins Pics paul bryant & ben wilkins
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control i ’m Aaron Slight. not literally you understand but today, on this bike, i am he of the brightly coloured Mohican all the same. throttle pinned and accelerating absolutely flat out away from a level crossing, the drone of the 2009 r1 and the bark of the chasing Ducati 1198 have taken me right back WSB’s late-90s glory days.
My WSB recollection might not be entirely accurate (I’m on an R1 after all) but it is fitting because the 2009 R1 is like it is for one reason – to help Yamaha win WSB. And that involves beating the Ducati twins. Tough job. Yamaha has a history of innovation and the new ‘crossplane’ crankshaft in the 2009 bike is certainly innovative. And it’s also proven: Yamaha won the 2008 MotoGP World Championship with Rossi aboard a bike with an odd firing order crank spinning in its cases. Journalists came back from the launch at the ridiculously hot Eastern Creek circuit wowed, talking about more ‘grip feel’ and ‘drive’. But the real question is not what it’s like on what is essentially some foreign trackday with sticky tyres in mid-summer. No, we want to know is what the new bike is like on British roads.
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it’s 11.15pm who’s afraid of the dark? words mick phillips pic kar lee
the nights are drawing out and there’s a tentative air of spring about. suddenly everything’s not only out there but at it. keep em peeled...
and you thought you knew this road. the night hides a million mysteries. and doggers.
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here’s something intense and focused about riding at night, and while early-hours city rides can deliver on many levels, it’s those dark and demanding rural blasts that bring the richest rewards. Gone is the peripheral distraction of landscape, allowing your brain to zoom in on what really matters – the road. If only it were simply clear tarmac up ahead, feeding under your tyres like a snaking black ribbon. Unfortunately, the night brings with it those dark masters of having you off. Furry things, slimy things, things that really shouldn’t be hit at any speed, let alone on a back lane 10 lonely miles from Great Fondle-under-Brarr. Thankfully, RoSPA’s figures show that motorcyclists are the group least likely to have a serious accident on country roads at night, so let’s not run scared just yet. But it pays to stay sharp. Here’s PB’s guide to rural Britain’s dark forces. Darkness
Not as daft as it sounds. In this overly-lit world, most people spend the majority of their night rides bathed in light and suddenly having to rely on your headlight alone can be unnerving. Make sure your headlight is clean, well-adjusted and fitted with the best bulb possible. Become slick at flicking from main beam to dip and back to help avoid being embroiled in a dazzle-off. Fronting up to an arctic will simply get your retinas melted by 40,000 watts of halogen. Becoming hypnotised while charging through a black tunnel chasing a beam of light is also a potential hazard. It’s like being part of a video game, although having a close encounter with 18 stone of tweed and sideburns soon snaps you out of it, which brings us to...
‘if only it were simply clear tarmac up ahead’ PeDesTrians
Yes, they’re bothersome at the best of times, but on the lanes at night they’re a positive menace. Drunken farmers stumbling home after putting the Land Rover in a ditch. Highly-medicated housewives, heads full of Fearnley-Whittingstall, wandering aimlessly having stuffed the Yaris into a sycamore while swerving to avoid a vole. Cow taunters, goat botherers, disoriented doggers. Encountering any one of these at speed will take the edge off your evening. WilDlife
We’re talking small and furry or big and furry, those that can be squashed under the Pirelli of fate and those which wreck your no claims bonus, among other things. It’s worth conditioning yourself to be prepared to mow down the little critters (rabbits, weasels, rats, mice) if taking evasive action risks putting you in a hedge. There are few things more dispiriting than limping back to the road as your bike revs its tits off in a field, and seeing an unruffled stoat sitting on a cats eye preening its whiskers. Big stuff (foxes, sheep, deer) will leave you with more than fur in your calipers and a nice joint for the pot, so always have an escape plan. Be on the lookout, too, for cars swerving into your path to avoid hurting a likkul cutey bunny wabbit. For some, smashing headlong into a motorcyclist seems far less distressing. false sense of securiTy
It’s easy to feel that you have the roads to yourself, especially when you start to rely on being able to anticipate the presence of other vehicles by their headlights. But you might be surprised at how many car drivers deliberately turn off their lights for a laugh. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these are bike riders, robbed, as we are, of the choice to turn off the lights on most modern bikes. Look out, too, for local lads living a rally-driving dream and unlit, badly-parked vehicles. I mean, if you’ve got some serious dogging to get on with, the Highway Code is probably low on your priorities. roaD surface
Rural roads are a lottery. The bad ones will have been simply forgotten by the local authority, perhaps deliberately so if they’ve just lost a few million quid in some Icelandic money pit. Look out, too, for mud, animal dung, wet leaves, rock slides and, on windy nights, fallen branches or entire trees. If that sounds like a typical evening’s blast, we’d suggest you change your route. Dos anD Don’Ts
• Do make sure you can stop in the distance you can see ahead. At least until it gets boring. • Don’t assume that between you and the lights in the distance there’s a straight road. • Do accept that a dead rabbit is better than chamfered engine cases. • Don’t ride when you’re overly tired. Sounds obvious and nannying, and that’s because it is, but... • Do ride country roads at night. It’s superb.
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