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6 ❘ MOTOR CYCLE NEWS AUGUST 20, 2008

NEWS

Honda plans radical new big-bore single

Honda patent drawings reveal distinctive frame, seat and headlight designs

Monocoque-framed machine aims to take on KTM Duke

By Ben Purvis

H

ONDA is working on a stylish new single-cylinder naked sports bike that could become a rival to machines like KTM’s Duke. The firm’s designs for the bike have been revealed in a series of patents showing elements of the machine, including its front and rearend styling as well as a radical new aluminium chassis

which almost entirely removes the need for conventional bodywork. Details of the engine are still secret, but it’s clear from the images that it’s a largecapacity single, probably around 600cc, which would give the bike around 65bhp. More unusual is the frame. It’s a cast aluminium design that, rather than hiding behind plastic bodywork, is put on show. The monocoque design, like that used

on some Kawasakis such as the 1400GTR, has two side beams connected over the top by an extra section which incorporates the airbox, with stylised intakes on either side

‘The frame is a similar design to Kawasaki’s 1400GTR’

near the rider’s knees. A massive aluminium swingarm is also just visible in the images, although Honda has been careful to crop out sections of the bike that aren’t relevant to the chassis patent. Separate patents also reveal the design for a new headlight, featuring built-in indicators, which appears to be destined for the same bike, plus the machine’s seat unit and a radiator cowl.

The bike is a completely new design from the ground up, and looks likely to be a reaction to KTM’s all-new Duke 690 which went on sale last year. The original Duke was based on the Austrian firm’s four-stroke motocross bikes from the mid-1990s, using its LC4 motor and steel tube frame. The latest 690 uses an all-new frame and engine design and is a sales success throughout Europe.

CAN IT BETTER YAMAHA’S MT-03? WHEN Honda eventually unveils its new singlecylinder naked, it will be hailed as a breakthrough machine – but Yamaha is already ahead by two years with the MT-03. Developed from a wild concept bike, the funkylooking Yamaha is a nippy town bike with a finehandling chassis.

The Yamaha’s chassis isn’t as innovative as the Honda’s and its 660cc single traces its ancestry back to the first big Yamaha dirt bikes in the 1970s. But the Yamaha has never sold well, so Honda will need a solution to the relative unpopularity of single-cylinder bikes when it releases it in the UK.


32 ❘ MOTOR CYCLE NEWS AUGUST 20, 2008

KEVIN WING

FIRST RIDES WORLD FIRST TEST!

Muscle-flexing T

By Bryan Harley

We ride Harley’s new V-Rod Muscle to see what lies beneath its drag strip machismo

HE gap between me and the far hill at the end of the drag strip was a black void, a quarter-mile strip sticky with racing rubber left over from the day before. But I’d done my homework. Yesterday I watched pro NHRA Pro Stock racers Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines of the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines team as they catapulted their souped-up H-D Destroyer down the run at just under seven seconds. Now it was my turn aboard the newest motorcycle in the HarleyDavidson stable – the 2009 V-Rod Muscle. The throttle felt like it was directly connected to my heart. Every roll of the taut

‘It brings plenty of gusto to the table in the meat of the powerband, at 6000-8000rpm’ cable made my pulse race as the big cylinders of the 60° V-twin pumped between my legs. I rolled the 19-inch five-spoke cast aluminium front wheel to the line, then leant forward like Hines had done the day before, snuggled up to the Harley’s chest-wide tank. The revs climbed with every twist of my right hand, my left squeezed the clutch lever tight against the handgrip. ‘Roll and release, roll and release…’ the words of advice from Harley’s resident pro drag racer, Gene Thomason, ran through my head. Then I totally disregarded everything he said.

It’s easy to get the fat 240mm rear tyre squirrelling around if you dump the clutch on a big handful of throttle

Suddenly I lost my focal point down the track and became fixated on the ‘Christmas tree’ in the corner of my left eye. The trio of yellow lights flashed and I unceremoniously dumped the clutch, causing the 240mm rear tyre to pitch violently to the right as I held onto the cast aluminium bars like a cowboy with a bull by the horns. The rear did its best to overtake the front but, somehow, I managed to keep the 43mm inverted forks pointed forward. With the throttle still open, the V-Rod Muscle’s claimed 85ftlb of torque was still spinning the tyre as the back end whipped around to the left. Trailing my legs behind me, the bike strafed the centre wall before I backed off the throttle and clipped the black box at the 60ft marker for good measure. All I could think was: “Damn, now that’s a Harley!” At that moment, I couldn’t think of a single name for this motorcycle that would be more appropriate than the V-Rod Muscle. Were it not for a little muscle and a lot of luck, the power of the 1250cc Revolution engine would have given me the old heave-ho. And though this new Hog has plenty of shoulder-popping power down low, it’s even more impressive up top. First gear keeps giving for a long time. It didn’t even reach the redline after a long period of sustained revs when I was fighting to get my big legs back on the pegs against the g-force of a good launch. Granted, it’s a stretch to the forward-mounted foot controls for me at six foot tall, even though they are moved in slightly more than on the standard V-Rod (the VRSCAW, in Harley code). But that’s no excuse. The 2009 V-Rod Muscle just

Our man puts the V-Rod Muscle to a proper drag-strip test


AUGUST 20, 2008 MOTOR CYCLE NEWS ❘ 33

www.motorcyclenews.com

‘A slipper-style clutch keeps chirps to a minimum on downshifts and the Brembo brakes have no trouble shaving off speed’

It can do the drag strip and go round corners, too! brings plenty of gusto to the table, especially when revs climb into the meat of the powerband between 60008000rpm. But it’s not just about the engine – this new version of the V-Rod is macho in every way. The old, smooth tank has received a brawny, chiselled makeover that gives it a mean streak. While big air scoops with wire mesh screens on both sides of the tank give its mid-section more mass. The Muscle’s colour-matched radiator shrouds are styled differently as well, being more noticeable than before. Interesting pub nugget: The sheetmolded compound used on the Muscle’s bodywork is the same durable stuff they use on the front of Japanese bullet trains. The Muscle looks longer than the standard V-Rod but is actually a fifth of an inch shorter. What’s more, the seat is two fifths of an inch lower and has a new, deeper design to give riders more support in the small of their back while they lean forward in an aggressive arms-up riding position. The clean design of the new clipped rear mudguard makes the bike appear longer as well. It’s wide but short, allowing the fat rear tyre to prominently trail behind the bike. Perhaps most striking

of all is the combined stop/ tail/turn LED light which has been integrated into the guard, tucked neatly just under its edge. It looks fantastic – but only three lights blink when the indicator is on, making it a little difficult to see at an angle (ie from an adjoining lane). At distance, the brightness of the LEDs are easily visible, though. The number plate mount has been moved to the left,

‘Pro racer Andrew Hines laid down an impressive 11.3secs run on the drag strip’ keeping the view from the rear clean and uncluttered. The long, low look of the new V-Rod is accentuated by the Muscle’s new satin chrome pipes streaking down both sides of the bike. The fat, turn-out silencers shoot out a little past the rear axle and rumble with each shift of the five-speed gearbox. Running through the gears quickly in drag mode, the gearchange didn’t miss a shift. A race-bred ‘slipperstyle’ clutch keeps chirps to a minimum on downshifts and

when coming to the end of our drag strip test after a triple-digit run, the potent Brembo triple-disc brake set-up had no problems shaving off speed. And in case you feel the need, all members of the V-Rod family have the option of being equipped with factoryinstalled ABS, too. Pro-racers Krawiec and Hines both took turns on the Muscle down the drag strip. Krawiec immediately set the fastest time of the day with an 11.5secs run on his first attempt. Not to be outdone, Hines demonstrated why he’s leading the Pro Stock Motorcycle class by calmly laying down an impressive 11.3secs run. But if all that brute drag style is too much, fans of the old-style VRSC need not worry. The traditional, rounded-tank V-Rod continues with the 2009 VRSCAW. The sinister Night Rod Special also returns with a slew of blacked-out components and a few extra horsepower from its 1250cc liquidcooled Revolution engine. But the release of the Muscle is the big news coming from the V-Rod camp. The stylistic changes have been eight years coming, and the 2009 Muscle rings in at the top of its class with a retail price of £12,595.

SPECS 2009 HARLEY DAVIDSON VRSCF V-ROD MUSCLE Cost:

£12,595 (solid colour), £12,745 (pearl metallic) Power: 120bhp Torque: 85ftlb Weight: 292kg Availability: November Colours: Black, blue, red, silver Insurance group: 17 Info: 0870-904-1540 Fuel capacity: 18.9 litres Seat height: 640mm Rake: 34º Trail: 142.2mm Wheelbase: 1700mm

TECHNICAL SPEC

Muscle looks longer than stock V-Rod, but actually there’s only a fraction of an inch in it LED indicators in mirror stems are a neat touch

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 1250cc (105 x 72mm), DOHC, four-valve, 60° V-twin. Fuel injection. Five gears. Belt final drive. Chassis: Tubular steel perimeter frame. Inverted 43mm forks . Twin rear shock, preload-adjustable. Brakes: 2 x 300mm front discs with four-piston calipers. 300mm rear disc with four-piston caliper. Tyres: 120/70 x 19 front, 240/40 x 18 rear.

Revised V-Rod clocks include white-faced tacho


58 ❘ MOTOR CYCLE NEWS AUGUST 20, 2008

SPORT

James Toseland’s expression says it all as his crew tries in vain to come up with a solution to his tyre woes

Toseland misery continues Brit rider says Michelin tyre issue is threatenening his career matthew.birt @motorcyclenews.com

J

AMES TOSELAND is in serious danger of fading to a miserable conclusion to his rookie MotoGP campaign after limping home in a bitterly disappointing 13th place in Brno. And the British Tech 3 Yamaha rider left no doubt where he lay the blame as his patience with Michelin was pushed to the limit. The 27-year-old never threatened the top 10 as he struggled to overcome an appalling lack of front-end grip, and slipped out of the top 10 in the points standings for the first time this season after another calamitous Michelin performance. Toseland is already conceding his morale is taking a battering, much like his fellow Michelin riders, who have rounded on the French tyre company with fierce criticism in recent weeks. He said: “On the first four laps I had my elbow down six

times at least, picking it up off the floor. I have never ridden on anything like it. It is a serious, serious problem. I am out of the top 10 now because of these problems. I truly feel I don’t deserve that. I am good at keeping my head high and not letting things get me down. But unfortunately it is out of my hands and to say it’s frustrating is an understatement. But Toseland vowed to keep on fighting to get Michelin back on track: “We have six rounds left and there is still a lot that can happen. We can’t be finishing at the back – at the start of the season Colin [Edwards] was on the podium. This is nothing other than a tyre problem. “This has been another disaster and we have got to try and save everybody’s confidence. This is a severe problem for people’s careers. “Fair play to Bridgestone, because they have really put the hammer down. But it is ruining people’s careers. The lack of consistency is unacceptable.

Appalling lack of front grip led to Toseland languishing in 13th

‘You can’t stand still, but unfortunately Michelin has’ JAMES TOSELAND “This is the pinnacle of technology and development where you can’t stand still, but unfortunately Michelin has.” Toseland’s Tech 3 teammate Edwards also floundered way off the pace in Brno, ending up one place and 10 seconds behind Tose-

land. The Texan had a serious vibration issue, too. He said: “The front was sh*t and it was tearing, but we knew it was going to be terrible. The Michelin guys told me there would not be a safety issue, it was just a wear issue. But before halfway I was going down the front straight and it was vibrating like crazy. I was like ‘what the f**k is that?’ I couldn’t do anything with the right side of the rear tyre – I just couldn’t get on the gas. Every lap the vibration was getting bigger and bigger. I wasn’t sure whether to stay out there and prove a

point and let the f**ker blow up. I have never seen a rear tyre as bad as mine – except maybe a qualifier after one lap when they look terrible. The vibration scared the sh*t out of me – I was doing 180mph down the straight.” Edwards wasn’t sure if he would finish the race and added: “I was going down the front and back straight with my hand on the clutch for the last five laps. I thought it might snap the chain, go through the crankcase and the gearbox seize up. I’m so f**king demoralised right now.” Edwards said Michelin’s failure to produce competitive tyres was a huge issue, adding it was inevitable a one-make tyre rule would be implemented unless the situation drastically improved. “It’s like a train wreck. What sucks is you go out there and one lap on this thing is risky. So to go out there and risk 22 laps to maybe just end up in the top ten if you’re lucky, that’s not really why I’m here.”


62 ❘ MOTOR CYCLE NEWS AUGUST 20, 2008

SPORT

Stoner crash gives Rossi a 50-point lead Valentino cruises to victory after his main rival hits the Brno gravel

V

ALENTINO ROSSI denied Casey Stoner had cracked under the pressure as the Italian took a giant leap towards claiming his first MotoGP crown since 2005. Unable to cut Rossi adrift after a stunning start, Stoner’s own title hopes all but ended when he crashed out of the lead on lap seven. It left Rossi to cruise to the biggest-ever dry victory in the four-stroke MotoGP era, while crucially opening up a comfortable 50-point cushion over Aussie Stoner. Win number 67 in MotoGP also moved him to within one victory of equalling Italian legend Giacomo Agostini’s all-time premier class winning record of 68. With Stoner a massive 1.339s clear on lap five, Rossi took 0.3s out of Stoner on the next lap, but denied his pressure had forced Stoner into a rare unforced error for the second successive race. Stoner finished second to Rossi in a classic American GP, but only after he had crashed out of contention for the lead. “For me, the race in Laguna Seca is not bad for his mind but it is very good for

my mind,” said Rossi, 29. “After Barcelona, Casey and Ducati made a great step and they had three races where they were very strong. But in Laguna I demonstrated to my team that if all is okay and we work at the maxi-

‘He lost the front carrying too much corner speed ’ VALENTINO ROSSI mum it is possible to beat him. Rossi got a front row seat of Stoner’s costly crash and his initial diagnosis of the cause was later confirmed by the Aussie. “I think he lost the front,” said Rossi. “But maybe just because he carried too much corner speed.” Rossi had also suggested Stoner’s amazing lean angle might have seen him touch down a gear lever. “Looking

at the race in Laguna, sometimes he was much more leaned over than me,” he said. “But sometimes he is more on the ground so maybe he did touch something. Sometimes you can see the sparks so maybe the gear lever touched down. “For me the problem is he made a lap of 57.2 and he could see it was not possible to go away. So he tried to make a 56 but in a normal world it is not possible.” Rossi admitted he had been worried by Stoner’s blistering start as he got out-dragged to the first corner by John Hopkins’ factory Kawasaki. “I lost half a second with John at the first corner but the next half a second because Casey rode incredible on the first lap,” he said. “He gave me one second on the first lap and he was impressive. I was quite worried but after the second lap I understood it was possible for me to try and catch him because I had a great pace. “After the warm-up we modified the front so the bike turned better and I was faster in some corners where before I was losing a lot. “Lap by lap I thought it was possible to catch him. I was expecting another great battle but unfortunately he crashed.”

TITLE TABLE

GP

GOLD AND GOOSE

matthew.birt @motorcyclenews.com

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Rossi Stoner Pedrosa Lorenzo Dovizioso Edwards Vermeulen Hayden Nakano Capirossi

Brno ROUND 12/18 ITA AUS ESP ESP ITA USA AUS USA JPN ITA

237 187 172 120 110 102 99 84 83 77

Victory wheelie from Rossi now comfortably ahead in the table

Stoner: “I’ll just keep fighting and try to win every race” THIS is the moment, right, when Casey Stoner’s bid to retain his MotoGP world title suffered a hammer blow as a rare mistake gifted Valentino Rossi victory in Brno. Stoner had threatened one of his trademark runaway victories before he crashed out of the lead on lap seven to end his incredible record of making the chequered flag in all of his previous 29 races for Ducati. Stoner’s rare blunder leaves him trailing Rossi by a massive 50-points with only six races remaining. But he has refused to throw in the towel, saying: “It’s race by race. I’ll try to win every race until the end of the season.

We still have some opportunities left, maybe someone else will have some bad luck. I did the best job I could and now have to fight to take this championship to the end.” Is a 50-point gap too great for even Stoner to overturn? “Even at these final races I know I have got to attack because we gave away the upper hand this season,” said Stoner. “We gave too much of an advantage early and we’ve been chasing it back and now its gone back to 50 points. I gained about 30 points back at one stage in about four races so who knows. I’ll just keep fighting, that’s all I can do.” Asked if he would have

done anything different, the 22-year-old said: “No. In practice you push to find the limits but in the race you don’t and this is why this caught me by surprise. In

‘I didn’t push too hard – it went quickly, I had no chance’ CASEY STONER Laguna my mistake was that I didn’t expect Valentino to brake so early but I wasn’t pushing too hard and here, I didn’t think I was a pushing

too hard and lost it.” He denied trying to surge away from Rossi. “If I can do the same lap times over and over then it is not too aggressive,” said Stoner. “I was happy with the pace and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t crash. This corner had been simple and easy to do. I don’t usually push the front there, and normally at this track you feel the front tyre but it went very quickly. I had no chance to save it,” said Stoner. He added: “It was my first big mistake in a race with Ducati, my first DNF. We can be impressed with the run we’ve had and it had to come to an end sometime.”

Stoner crashes out on lap seven as Valentino was relentlessly cutting into his lead


AUGUST 20, 2008 MOTOR CYCLE NEWS ❘ 63

www.motorcyclenews.com STONER’S APOLOGY TO ROSSI DUCATI denied exerting pressure on Casey Stoner to make a public apology to Valentino Rossi after the Aussie instigated a shock truce in Brno. Stoner quickly moved to draw a line under his controversial attack on Rossi following their classic Laguna Seca scrap, apologising to the Italian in Brno’s pre-event press conference. Stoner leaned over to apologise to Rossi and the pair shook hands. The Aussie came in for scathing criticism after his American GP verbal assault on stunned Rossi, whom he accused of overaggressive riding. Rossi revealed: “He said sorry. But sincerely I am not angry with him. I know when you lose that type of battle you are p****d off. After the race you are hot with a lot of adrenaline and it is possible to say something that is wrong. I have done the same in the past. I wasn’t upset or angry with him. For me the relationship is the same.” Stoner conceded that on reflection he had overreacted when he said he had “lost a little bit of respect” for Rossi. “I think it is like all riders we react in the way that we do sometimes. I have always had the greatest respect for Valentino. Ducati denied Stoner had needed prompting to apologise. Factory boss Livio Suppo said: “Casey is mature enough to understand by himself. “Riders can overreact, that’s normal. With Valentino and Casey, everything is finished now. I’m sure they have a lot of respect for each other.”

MATTHEW BIRT

PIT PASS

A new written offer is set to be handed to Vermeulen

Vermeulen expected to sign Suzuki contract AUSSIE Chris Vermeulen will agree terms to extend his Suzuki contract this week. Despite late interest from Honda to take Nicky Hayden’s coveted seat in the official HRC squad, Vermeulen is expected to get a new offer in writing from Suzuki management today (Wednesday). His manager Phil Baker said: “We are looking at all options, including Suzuki, for Chris and weighing them up and are hoping to have a positive outcome by Wednesday.” Vermeulen has never wanted to quit his factory GSV-R slot. But rumours intensified in Brno that he might be axed, despite being Suzuki’s most successful rider since Kenny Roberts Junior won the 500cc world crown in 2000. The rumours led to Vermeulen being linked with a ride next to Dani Pedrosa in the Repsol Honda squad, which has been hotly-tipped to be earmarked for Andrea Dovizioso. Baker added: “I have had discussions with HRC and one of their satellite teams, Gresini Honda, and that is one of the options we are weighing up.” Severe front tyre grip issues at Brno cost Vermeulen his

notch to claim three successive podiums for Suzuki, but he said: “I want my future decided sooner rather than later and some discussions last weekend have been very positive and productive and by later this week I hope to know a lot more, but nothing is signed. As I said before I have a really good relationship with Suzuki and hope that can continue.” Vermeulen, who limped home in sixth place, said: “After five laps I was thinking of coming in and changing the front tyre but there was nothing else to put in. I was fighting for third place, and then second when Casey (Stoner) went out. It was really devastating, I was riding well and the bike was working well everywhere else except the right side of the front tyre, I couldn’t lean it over. It was destroyed.” Team-mate Loris Capirossi, who moved a step closer to notching a century of podiums, said his first Suzuki top three felt as good as a victory in Brno. After an injury-hit campaign, the Italian claimed his 99th podium as he equalled Alex Barros’s incredible record of 276 GP appearances in the Czech Republic. Capirossi is also close to finalising a Suzuki contract for 2009.

A one-make tyre rule can’t come soon enough. We want exciting races to sort out who is the best MAKE no mistake, MotoGP will switch to a one-make tyre rule in 2009. And unlike last year, there will be no howls of derision about betraying the competition ethos. There’s a watertight case for a one-make tyre rule anyway given the woeful showing of Michelin, and there is going to be little sympathy when Bridgestone gets the contract. Who thinks Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner are going to want to be back on Michelins? There’s more chance of me replacing Nicky Hayden at Honda. Michelin has had plenty of time to right the embarrassing wrongs of last year and now the situation is worse. They’ve had their chance and blown it spectacularly. In Laguna and Brno, there were only the Bridgestone riders really racing. And it can’t continue. James Toseland has only got another year on his Tech 3 Yamaha so he needs results to retain his place in MotoGP. People’s careers are at stake, and years of hard graft to get where he is are being seriously undermined by the failure of Michelin to provide half decent tyres. And who wants to tune in and watch world champions and MotoGP race winners Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa struggling to make the top ten? That’s not racing. Fans want to see the best riders fighting at the

front, and not just two of them. I’m not surprised Pedrosa blew his top on Sunday. Everybody knows he is not a 15th place rider who can’t lap within five seconds of Rossi and Stoner. It must have been a humbling experience. His only consolation is he has only six races left with Michelin. Now the word safety has been mentioned. That means a one-make tyre rule is a shoe-in for next season, and it can’t come soon enough. Nobody is going to protest against a one-make tyre rule if it is deemed

‘Michelin had their chance to improve and they blew it’ the only way to slow down the incredible developments already made by the new generation 800 machines. The riders are the show, and if they want changes on safety grounds, they will get them. Tyre development will be sacrificed and MotoGP will no longer be the last bastion of open tyre competition in world motorsport. But who cares? All people want is close and exciting racing and to see who is the best rider on the best bike. Nobody would care if the field was running around on pink tyres with ribbons on as long as they got some excitement.

Riders will get the changes to the tyre rules that they want

Stoner slides off the track after losing the front and careers on to the gravel before being helped back upright. His mistake left him with a mountain to climb

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