2 2 0 1
FORTY-EIGHT ® 1200 CUSTOM
Not available in all states. Check with your local H-D® dealer. ©2018 H-D or its afﬁliates. HARLEY-DAVIDSON, HARLEY, H-D, and the Bar and Shield Logo are among the trademarks of H-D U.S.A., LLC. Selection varies by dealership. ROADSTER™ and FORTY-EIGHT® models shown with Genuine Motor Parts + Accessories. Handlebar height is regulated in many locations. Check local laws to ensure your motorcycle meets applicable regulations. More power comparison made is between original equipment IRON 883™ and IRON 1200™ models. *Purchase a new or used 2012MY or newer H-D Street™ or Sportster® motorcycle available and in stock at a participating U.S. H-D® dealer between February 21, 2018 and August 31, 2018 and receive trade-in value of original Purchase Price towards the purchase of an eligible new H-D® motorcycle. Requires trade-in within one year of original purchase. Excludes Police Models. Purchase Price excludes fees, taxes, dealer charges and ancillary products. Non-transferable. Offer is subject to change without notice. Void where prohibited. Additional restrictions apply, see dealer or h-d.com/freedompromise for details.
BORN IN 1957 LAND SPEED RECORDS EPIC ROAD TRIPS HOOLIGAN RACING THE MACHINE THAT’S DONE IT ALL NOW DOES IT ALL BETTER MORE POWER QUICK HANDLING AUTHENTIC CUSTOM STYLE THE NEW SPORTSTER® MOTORCYCLES ARE READY TO RIDE
IRON 1200 ™
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/ CONTENTS /
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 7
10 UP FRONT
12 P H O T O E S S AY
LEFT MAKES RIGHT
THE KING S L AY E R
Riding Indianâ€™s Scout FTR1200 street tracker
Honda went dirt-tracking in the 1980s and did it well
By MARK HOYER
By KEVIN CAMERON
FULL WO R K S
THE WHITE A R R OW
DA N GURNEY
When factory motocrossers were hand-built exotics
Test: the 2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Remembering a hero and fellow rider
By BRETT SMITH
By ARI HENNING
By KEVIN CAMERON
112 AT T H E L I M I T
Indian Scout FTR1200 street-tracker. PREVIOUS PAGE: Mark “The Bomber” Barnett, Suzuki RM250, 1984.
FUNDAMENENTALS CONTENTS / WINTER ISSUE 2 2018 / 9
/ UP FRONT /
DEAR DA N A letter to Dan Gurney By MARK HOYER
D Dear Dan, Over the years, you were kind enough to write a few letters. As a letter writer myself, I’d always intended to write back to you, but somehow I didn’t feel as though I should, or maybe that I wasn’t important enough. Getting to know you a little better over the years should have shown me that it would have been fine, even welcome. You were always a model of civility, graciousness, respect, and humor. One of the best examples of this was when you invited Kevin Cameron and me to come talk about the moment-canceling twin you and
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Chuck Palmgren were building, and it felt like an actual conversation. You and your team asked us what we thought, and genuinely seemed to want to know. So it was my mistake not to write back. I wanted to share with you two things from the time I knew you that really made an impression. When we went to lunch back in 2002 while CW was testing the Alligator, I stopped by All American Racers to take a walk down that famous hallway of photos. At the restaurant, conversation turned to some two-stroke engine development, and I asked one of your guys about what he was working on. He and I went back and forth about combustion-chamber shapes based on some experimental stuff I’d seen, and I remarked to him, “Man, it must be a lot of fun working on this kind of stuff!” Without a pause, you turned, and with a searing focus in your eyes said, “It would
be a lot more fun if we were hitting our targets.” And in that moment, I thought maybe I saw a tiny piece of the drive and competitiveness that must have informed your entire life. I was also completely ready to go back to the shop and try to help hit those targets. The other thing was that even in the face of all your accomplishments in car racing, you told me about how your love of motorcycling started early, and you shared this: “When I was 15, I came really close to getting permission from my folks to buy a Royal Enfield 350cc single, but I didn’t get to. I’ve been getting even with them ever since!” I knew we were the same in this small way. You were the perfect example of how great humans are always human first. For so many of us, you were the noble America we all envisioned ourselves as being. I wish I’d written sooner. Thank you for improving our world. Q
/ PHOTOS /
G O O DWO O D R E V I VA L Yesteryear reborn in England Photography by AMY SHORE
T The feeling that you’ve walked back in time hits you the moment you pass through the gates. High heels walking past vintage cars, riders stretching out in their leathers before races, and tweed as far as the eye can see. The people and the machines often wear a similar sheen of time and oil. Old streetbikes clatter in and around the paddock too, valves shaking almost as loose as the wallet chains. Every way you turn takes you further into a different era. It’s a magical event to visit, but especially if you are a motorcyclist, when understanding the beauty of the machines and feeling the com-
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panionship of the other riders will be second nature. The noises and smells illustrate the roots of our pastime. Even surrounded by strangers—from the mods to the rockers, ’60s girls to Army boys—you will feel in some way that you have arrived at a home you never knew you had. And if you bring your camera, you will ﬁnd there is more to absorb than one lens can capture. Anyone who attends Goodwood will likely always have a special place in their heart for this event— going back in time can be jarring, but by the end of the weekend you’ll be wondering why we can’t just stay like this forever. Q
A Le Mans start means the race starts before the engines do—riders run across the track, then climb aboard to thunder back in time.
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 13
TOP: Young meets old, as an electric roller spins a dry clutch and a lap-time transponder rides next to a drum brake. ABOVE LEFT: The vintage feeling goes beyond just the bikes and into the paddock itself. ABOVE RIGHT: The anticipation, heels, and hemlines are all high in the assembly area before a race.
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Wherever there are air-cooled cylinders and carburetors, there will be a mechanic peering underneath. This is at least as important a tradition as the racing.
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 15
It’s not just about racers but rockabillies too. You’ll ﬁnd another kind of vintage in Gasoline Alley, reaching for only a slightly diferent ﬂavor of a bygone era. RIGHT: All riders, regardless of level, are shoulder to shoulder with the public as they push their bikes toward the pre-grid. ABOVE:
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TOP: The roar of air-cooled engines at full song is arguably the nucleus of what people loved about racing in the past and what brings people back to Goodwood. ABOVE: Team talks, tactics, and tunings will often be sketched out in the gravel of the paddock ﬂoor. RIGHT: Machines need ﬂuids, carefully measured and crafted—and so too do the people who keep them alive.
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 17
/ TDC /
GRASPING THE OBVIOUS When the evidence is hiding in plain sight By KEVIN CAMERON
W When Honda first went GP racing in the early 1960s, its four-cylinder 250 was built just as Honda’s production twins were—with a horizontally split crankcase having main bearing saddles bored half in one case, half in the other. When the crankshaft with its ball or roller main bearings was set into the upper case and then the lower case was bolted into place, the crank was well-supported by the entire structure. Honda’s early fours also included both gearbox shafts in this structure, the saddles for their bearings likewise being bored half in the upper, half in the lower case. For its racing engines, Honda soon gave up this apparently rational and robust construction, switching to
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one in which crankshaft main bearings, in the form of “pillow blocks” (a bearing in a footed housing that can be bolted to a flat surface), were bolted to the underside of the cylinder block. The whole idea of strongly supporting the crank bearings between upper and lower case halves was given up, and the lower case served only to contain oil, with no structural function. Its material was changed from the aluminum it had been in earlier designs to lower-strength magnesium. This is the way the RC165/166 in-line six-cylinder engines of 1964 to ’67 were built. This puzzled me, but I somehow dismissed the “why” question by noting that Honda, at the same time, gave up the use of heavy, large-diameter ball main bearings (on production twins of the 1960s, these are really hefty) in favor of much more compact small-diameter needle rollers. This saved both weight and friction. Yet that did not explain what made Honda engineers (probably none other than Shoichiro Irimajiri himself) willing
to give up the structural robustness of clamping crankshaft bearings between crankcase halves. A red herring also entered my thinking. When Gilera built its first air-cooled 500cc four in 1947, it was given pillow-block-style main roller bearings that bolted to the underside of the cylinder. This is similar to how countless millions of auto engines have been and still are built. Half of each main bearing housing is machined in the underside of the cylinder block (look at any traditional American V-8), and the other half is machined into a bolted-on main bearing cap. It’s not a pillow block but is the next thing to it. It’s no mystery why the early MV four-cylinder racers were designed the same way—Count Agusta had hired away Gilera’s designer Piero Remor. But when the MV Triples appeared, Remor had left the picture. The first Triple was a 350, but in rapid increases of bore and stroke, it became the 500 that would be Giacomo Agostini’s favorite machine. The Triples had full pillow-block
construction using small-diameter split-outer-race needle/roller main bearings—very similar in effect to what was coming from Honda’s race department. A simple-minded theory would propose that one company copied the other, but it’s far more likely that both were responding to common problems of high-rpm engines. In recent years, Japanese new-model brochures have made much of saving horsepower by putting vent holes through main-bearing saddle-support webs so air being pushed into the crankcase by a descending piston can more easily and with reduced pumping loss reach and follow the nearby rising piston. Without the holes, this back-and-forth pumping process is very much like those screen-door closers that hiss as they close because they keep the door from banging by pumping air through a restriction. At high rpm, several horsepower can be saved by providing cylinder-to-cylinder crankcase vent holes. Yamaha in MotoGP has used one Formula 1 approach to solving this pumping-loss problem: It provides a crankcase evacuation pump that pulls the pressure of crankcase air and vapor low enough to nearly eliminate pumping/windage loss. In the 1990s, when we cheered favorites in AMA 600 Supersport racing, we had no idea that similar crank-
Those jewellike sixes peaked at 18,000 rpm... case evac pumps had been cleverly hidden in the gearboxes of certain brands. Very hush-hush. The other approach is to isolate each cylinder’s (or each V pair’s, in the case of V engines) crankcase, provide each with its own scavenge oil pump, and just let the piston(s) compress and expand the air beneath without loss because it is not being forced through orifices or confined spaces. Honda engineers were well-aware of this kind of loss. A look at the lower crankcase of its RC-161 four shows fair-size holes to allow oil drain-back, and easy cylinder-to-cylinder crankcase air pumping. By adopting pillow-block construction, Irimajiri eliminated nearly all resistance to cylinder-to-cylinder crankcase airflow. I was embarrassed at how obvious it was. Those jewel-like sixes peaked at 18,000 rpm, so their potential for losses from crankcase pumping/
windage was huge. The pillow-block solution, by eliminating the traditional obstructive bearing saddles and their supporting webs between cylinders, must have saved a bunch of horsepower that would otherwise have been consumed huffing and puffing that air back and forth through restrictive holes, slots, or other half-measures. Then I remembered another thing. The V-5 four-stroke that Kenny Roberts’ GP team designed and built in the early to mid-2000s never came close to its horsepower goals, and the back chat was that the problem was “something to do with the crankcase.” Could it be that the missing horsepower was “gone with the wind,” blowing rapidly from cylinder to cylinder at 16,000 rpm? I believe that Honda’s present RC213V V-4 MotoGP engine employs the loss-free F1 separateand-sealed crankcase system. Instead of pushing crankcase air back and forth through restrictions, each V pair of pistons just compresses and expands the air under them—without loss. Each sealed crankcase has its own scavenge oil pump. Honda coyly calls this system a “semi-wet sump” because, although the two crankcases (one for each crankpin) are separated from one another, there is a common underengine oil sump below. Q
/ BY THE NUMBERS /
The four-stroke horsepower from Hailwood’s ’66 and ’67 250 GP title-winning Honda six-cylinders
The harder-to-ride two-stroke power available to his opponent, Phil Read on Yamaha four-cylinder
The power 250cc two-stroke twins made in 2009, the year before they were replaced by Moto2
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 19
/ CO M P O N E N T S / The Pieces of Motorcycles and Their History That Matter
D U C AT I 9 0 0 S S
FUNDAMENENTALS COMPONENTS / WINTER ISSUE 2 2018 / 21
/ ELEMENTS /
MORE THAN CARBON The history and use of the material that changed our world By KEVIN CAMERON / Photography by DREW RUIZ and JEFF ALLEN
T The finished parts that we casually call “carbon fiber” are more than that. They are composites made of super-strong crystalline carbon fibers, held together by an epoxy resin. The proper name is Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic, or CFRP. Luckily, no one insists on it. The idea of embedding fine, high-strength fibers in a plastic matrix goes back to 1920, when A.A. Griffith, employed in England’s Royal Aircraft Factory, showed that the low strengths of practical materials resulted from surface or internal defects. Without these defects, considerations of atomic bonding would predict tremendously greater strengths. A good example is glass, which in handling accumulates microscratches
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on its surfaces. Application of even moderate stress causes one or more of these to open and propagate as a crack. Also revealed by Griffith’s analysis was that below some critical size (the Griffith crack length), such microcracks did not propagate. Herein lay a path to practical super-strong materials—to produce fibers too small to contain defects of that size. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) found application as radomes during World War II, and fiberglass-bodied cars such as the Kaiser Darrin and Chevrolet Corvette debuted soon after. The beautiful, hand-beaten aluminum fairings of racing Guzzis and NSUs of the 1950s disappeared, replaced by easily molded fiberglass. You coated the inside of a mold with mold release, then gelcoat, then resin, after which you could lay in and “wet out” one or more layers of woven fiberglass cloth. Thousands of boats were built in similar fashion, but the method of fiberglass application was different: the dreaded “chopper gun,” which spewed forth a mixture of prickly chopped-glass fibers and resin.
A fixture of the 1960s and ’70s California bike-racing scene was the one-man fiberglass shop. Its proprietor wore jeans so covered in half-cured resin and fiber that they stood up by themselves, and in a distressing number of cases, his mind had been altered by the fog of MEK peroxide (catalyst for the polyester resin used in fiberglass work) in which he spent his days. Even stronger fibers were on the way. When in doubt, look at atomic bond strengths and pick a likely element. Carbon got the nod. Let’s extrude tiny fibers of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and then heat the daylights out of it in a nonreactive atmosphere. Everything but the carbon is driven off, and the carbon assumes a strong crystalline form. Or, do the same with pitch—a heavy hydrocarbon.
OPPOSITE: The rigidity of the ﬁnal piece of CFRP can be tuned in part by the angle at which the ﬁbers cross—typically, lightness is paramount, and so we see thin pieces arranged in a 90-degree lattice.
As with so many things, the idea is just the beginning. When in 1976 an “information officer” at AVCO handed me a demo piece of unidirectional carbon prepreg (fibers already embedded in a layer of uncured resin), I was naturally thinking about carbon reed valves for two-strokes. Twenty years later, Erv Kanemoto was trying such valves in his Honda NSR500. And 41 years would pass before Boeing rolled out its 787 Dreamliner, most of whose structure is CFRP. Carbon fiber is available in many forms. So-called tow is bundled fibers wound onto a spool. John Britten used tow to make the “bones” of
BELOW LEFT: Uncured carbon weave up close feels soft, almost delicate. BELOW RIGHT: Carbon-ceramic brake discs (these from NCR) are more heat-tolerant and much lighter than metal counterparts.
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his “skin-and-bones” chassis structure of the early ’90s—wetting it out with resin after winding it in place. Fibers can also be woven into fabric, and it is this black fabric, seen through a perfectly smooth resin surface, that tells us if a nonstructural part such as a fender or rider’s heel guard is made of CFRP. Unfortunately, the stiffness of carbon prevents it from lying limply, conforming to a mold as fiberglass does. To force it into place, it is “bagged”—a vacuum pump pulls the air out of the bag, and atmospheric pressure holds bag and cloth in place against the mold surface. Best cures take place in a heated autoclave. For highest strength, CFRP laminates are made (like tires) from unidirectional fiber prepreg sheets whose fiber direction and number are planned to deliver the desired strengths in chosen directions. Prepreg has the advantage that the correct volume ratio of fiber-to-resin
is provided in advance—no “wetout” required. The sheets are coated with tackifier to enable easy assembly of the laminate. Prepreg is held under refrigeration until use to prevent cure from occurring in storage. The tremendous strength of CFRP has delivered a large improvement in racecar-driver safety. In the days of aluminum structural “tubs,” crashes burst or crushed fuel bladders, leading to fire and loss of life. Cured high-strength CFRP can have the tensile strength of alloy steel with one-fifth the weight. Why doesn’t every MotoGP bike have CFRP structure? There are two reasons, one of which was known in advance. First, the need for elaborate molding and curing arrangements meant that with a CFRP bike, Kenny Roberts and Kel Carruthers could not have sawn off their YZR Yamaha’s steering-head and welded it back on at a better angle. With CFRP, the teams would not be able to quickly
The cover machine, Indian’s FTR1200, uses CFRP bodywork—in part for lightness, and in part for the pure exoticism and appeal of glazed carbon weave.
fabricate improved chassis midseason—that would require changing all the tooling. Second, although full and informed use of directional materials has enabled wonderful aerostructures, the CFRP bike chassis built so far have been so stiff that they give no warning of grip loss. Speaking of Ducati’s 2009 pyramidal airbox/steering-head beam chassis, rider Casey Stoner says, “On that thing, you’re in the corner doing exactly the same thing you did last lap, but now you’re on the ground and don’t know how you got there.” The chassis problem is that three different stiffnesses are needed: 1) high longitudinal bending resistance
to handle braking force; 2) high twist resistance to keep the two wheels in plane; and 3) sufficient lateral flexibility to act as a primitive suspension when leaned-over in corners. The words of long-serving 500 GP engineer Mike Sinclair deserve our attention: “Something must isolate tire grip from the inertia
of the engine.” Rigidly attaching fork and swingarm to the engine has not worked. It might be that easy-to-use predictive software will appear that can guide the design of CFRP chassis to provide the required performance. Until then, teams will keep sawing and welding the heavier materials they’ve known for years. Q
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 25
/ ORIGINS /
THE A F F O R DA B L E FERRARI The 1990s Ducati 900SS By PETER EGAN / Photography by CW Archives
I If the 1980s was the age of Disco, then you might say the 1990s was the age of Ducati—at least for those of us who like the music of big-bore Desmo V-twins from Italy. For me and many of my riding friends, the bikes from Borgo Panigale are still perhaps the most enduring and colorful symbol of good times from that decade, as remembered through a lens of vibrant red or bright yellow—or
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maybe even ebony black, over a white trellis frame. Ducati, of course, turned out an unbroken string of charismatic street- and racebikes in that era, but the one that really took the world by storm was the 900SS, introduced in 1991. When it appeared on the cover of our July issue that year (“At Last! Italian, Awesome and Affordable!”), you could sense a worldwide barometric-pressure drop from the sharp intake of breath among sportbike fans who were on the brink of buying a modern Ducati but hadn’t quite been sold on the looks or practicality of previous models. On that cover photo, the new 900SS was leaned over hard to reveal the beautiful lines of its full
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 27
fairing, which flowed back from the rectangular headlight like red flames from a meteor hitting the atmosphere. Our test rider was, of course, wearing a tricolor Jimmy Adamo replica helmet, just to remind you that Ducati was a rising force in Superbike racing, in case you’d forgotten. The road test was laudatory and raved about the lightness (414 pounds dry), agility, fine handling, and deep, satisfying torque pumped out by the 904cc air-/oil-cooled Desmo Twin. A pair of Mikuni carbs had eliminated all the flat spots of previous Weber-fed models and— wonder of wonders—the thing was comfortable. The moderately high clip-ons, good seat, and dropped rearsets made this a Ducati you could ride all day. All three editors— Edwards, Canet, and Catterson— gave it the stamp of approval. It was nice to have my own instincts reinforced because I’d just flown to Italy a few months earlier for a First Ride and had immediately fallen under the bike’s spell.
Even though this was the beginning of Ducati’s true, modern-era success on the world’s racing stage, the 900SS was never about that. Still, knee pucks were ruined.
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Our gang of moto-journalists mounted up in a warehouse at the rear of the factory, and by the time we reached the front gate, I ﬂipped up my face shield, turned to Cycle magazine’s then-editor Steve Anderson, and shouted, “I must have one of these!” Steve just smiled and nodded. After a full day of riding over the Apennines, my enthusiasm remained undiminished. Steve and I had lunch at an outdoor cafe near
The ’90s were a time when motorcycle color schemes were as radical as the decade’s windbreakers. The 900SS paint job personiﬁed the machine—bright and powerful, yet stately and classic.
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the Futa Pass and spent most of the hour drinking espressos and silently staring at our bikes in the mountain sunshine. In child development, I believe this is called “imprinting.” Apparently, I was not imprinting alone; Ducati sold almost 28,000 of these bikes worldwide during their seven-year run, to include the solo-seat Superlight models, halffairing CR versions, and silver 1997 Final Editions. By the time I bought my own Supersport (red, full fairing, white frame) in 1992, about half the guys in our motorcycle club had bought one—or were about to. And by the mid-’90s, four out of the six members of our perpetually underrated garage band, the Defenders, owned nearly identical 900 Super
Sports. Even the late, famed gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson had one—and wrote an article about it for Cycle World. Some readers loved it, and others thought he was crazy as a bedbug. Imagine that. In 1996, I sold my ’92 model and bought a new SP (Sport Production) version—essentially the same bike but with upgraded brakes, bronze-painted frame and wheels, and a few carbon-ﬁber bits that lowered the weight a whopping 4 pounds. My buddy Pat Donnelly had one too, and we rode the two bikes out to Sturgis for Bike Week, with duffel bags strapped over the back seats. Thus equipped, they made perfectly comfortable long-distance touring bikes, but on
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winding roads through the Black Hills, they metamorphosed back into sportbikes of deep finesse, with killer, real-world midrange and light, intuitive handling. Beyond this functional versatility, the 900SS had a spare, mechanically direct charisma that could probably only have come out of Italy. For less than $9,000, you really could ride something that felt like the twowheeled equivalent of a Ferrari. In my double life as a car journalist I’d tested quite a few Ferraris, and felt this comparison was not the least bit strained.
Imagine how blurry this photo could be and you would still know it was a Ducati, with the angular tank and yellow shock spring peeking through the trellis frame.
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Drawbacks to ownership? Not many. The dry clutches were always loud and chattery, the hydraulic slave cylinder for the clutch was shortlived—but easily replaced—and the Desmo valve adjusts were expensive, and generally best left to a skilled mechanic with the right tools and shims. Stock gearing was very tall—to get those booming pipes through a federal noise test—but a countershaft sprocket change (which I did) was a simple and effective cure. The stock rear suspension was a bit stiff over road seams, and the full fairing lowers (essentially two parallel airfoils afflicted with random stall and lift) could be a handful in gusting crosswinds. All rather minor stuff, however, that never diminished my enjoyment of the bike. Some later models suffered frame cracks
around the steering head (a recall, and always a good thing to check), but mine never did. After some time, I finally sold my 900SS to buy a Ducati ST3— and then an ST4S, with luggage— hoping to do more touring, but neither bike was ever as all-day comfortable as the 900SS. Nor was the less-beautiful and versatile Terblanche-designed 900 Super Sport that replaced it in 1998—and hence stiffed on the market. Would that I had kept my 1996 SP. There are others out there, of course, and at very reasonable prices, with $3,500 to $6,500 being the typical range. The reason I know that is I’m always looking at them online. I’ve found that very few bikes that win your heart at first sight lose the capacity to do it again. Q
/ F U N D A M E N TA L S /
THE MIXER The simple science behind the art of carburation By KEVIN CAMERON / Photography by JEFF ALLEN
T The carburetor ﬂickered out of existence in modern American automobiles in 1990, but nearly 30 years later, those of us with the inclination can walk into a motorcycle dealership and ride out on a brand-new carbureted machine. Despite the device’s longevity, it isn’t widely understood. To this day, when people talk of accelerating, they say, “I gave it the gas.” That’s a misnomer. Whether our vehicle’s engine has modern digital fuel injection or carburetors, the action we take to accelerate is to open the throttle, which controls only the ﬂow of air into our engine’s cylinders. Some other system then adds fuel in correct proportion to that airﬂow, resulting in a combustible air-fuel mixture being drawn into
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our engine. Before the digital-fuelinjection era, beginning in the late 1970s and completed in the 1990s, that system was a carburetor. Not all mixtures of gasoline and air can be ignited by the hot spark that jumps across the electrodes of spark plugs. Only mixtures between 10 parts air to one part fuel and 18 parts air to one part fuel ﬁt that bill. We want fuel to burn completely to get all the chemical energy it contains. That happens when all its carbon atoms join with oxygen from the air to form carbon dioxide, and all its hydrogen atoms combine with oxygen to form water. This occurs at a mixture of about 14 parts air to one part fuel—the so-called chemically correct mixture. Delivering this correct mixture across the range of engine speeds and throttle openings from idle to maximum is no easy problem. The earliest carburetors were simple evaporators, which passed airﬂow across a wick kept wet with fuel. Because evaporation is a cooling process, wick carburetors had to be heated. The vehicle operator had
to adjust how fast fuel was dripped onto the wick, and then correct the mixture by controlling an air bleed. It was difﬁcult to get smooth, steady operation. Wilhelm Maybach in Europe and Oscar Hedstrom at Indian in the U.S. had the idea of the spray carburetor. It uses Bernoulli’s Principle, which observes that when air moves, its pressure drops. The essence of their invention was to place one end of a small vertical tube in a cup of fuel, and then place the other end inside the pipe carrying engine airﬂow. Because pressure in the fast-moving
OPPOSITE: The name “Concentric” refers to the position of the ﬂoat, which encircles the main jet. When Triumph and BSA raced their Triples in 1970, they naturally gave them Amal’s respected, classic GP carburetors with remote ﬂoat bowl. When unpredictable fuel ﬂow resulted, in 1971 the GPs were replaced by these mass-produced Concentrics, which, by wrapping the ﬂoat bowl around its main fuel system, made fuel delivery more constant. Concentrics ﬁrst appeared in 1967.
intake flow was less than pressure outside it, fuel was driven up the small tube to spray out of its end, mixing with engine airflow. But Maybach and Hedstrom both found that the fuel-flow rate decreased as the gasoline level in the cup fell. The fuel had to be lifted farther up the pipe. That one was
This is Keihin’s venerable CR, which has existed since the 1960s. As you see them here, four CRs have been “racked” into a unit, keeping them aligned, and greatly simplifying the task of making a singleor dual-throttle cable accurately control all four throttle slides. It was Gilera in Italy that ﬁrst mounted carburetors this way. The CR, with its integral ﬂoat bowl, was a huge step forward from the notalways-predictable fuel ﬂow of carbs with separate ﬂoat bowls.
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easy—just provide a float-controlled valve like the one that keeps a constant level of water in toilet tanks. As the level of fuel fell, the float dropped, opening the fuel valve and restoring the fuel level. The little cup and its float-controlled valve are the carburetor’s float bowl, which keeps the liquid fuel at a constant height. There was another problem. The faster our engine runs or the more we open the throttle, the faster air moves through the intake pipe, and the air pressure drops. Why does air pressure fall as it moves faster through a pipe? In still air, all the motions of its molecules contribute to pressure by their constant random collisions. Air pressure is the sum of all those collisions. But when the air begins to move, some of its molecular motion becomes orga-
nized in the direction of the airflow, leaving less-random molecular motion to create pressure. This loss of pressure as air moves faster and faster is also a loss of density. That means that the ratio of air to fuel changes, becoming steadily richer (containing more fuel in proportion to air) as intake airflow speeds up. All simple carburetors enrich as engine airflow moves faster through them. If uncorrected, this natural enriching tendency wastes fuel, and eventually the mixture becomes too rich to ignite. A great many ingenious devices were invented to correct this natural enrichment—things such as spring-loaded air valves that let in extra air, or multiple fuel nozzles exposed in series as the air throttle opened—each one set leaner than
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the one before it. But the simple concept that worked best was to bleed some air into the fuel ﬂow. The faster the fuel ﬂowed, the more bleed air ﬂowed along with it, and by sizing everything correctly, a constant ratio of fuel ﬂow and airﬂow could be achieved. If the operator suddenly opens the throttle to accelerate, the fuel is momentarily left behind because it is 640 times denser than air, resulting in momentary leanness. The engine either stumbles or cuts out completely. To prevent this, some carburetors included an acceleration pump, whose little piston, moving with the throttle, forcibly squirted fuel into the airﬂow to prevent momentary leanness. Gasoline is a mixture of different hydrocarbons having a range of volatilities (ability to evaporate). At the temperature of a very cold engine, only about 10 percent of the fuel can evaporate, while the
In 1977, Lectrons suddenly appeared on Kenny Roberts’ TZ750. Riders praised their part-throttle response and ﬁne mixture formation. Yet they were a classic mass-production job, made of die castings assembled with self-tapping screws. The function was in the cylindrical needle, which instead of being tapered had one or more sloping ﬂats ground onto its downstream side. With the needle located on the vacuum side of the slide, Lectrons had the strongest Venturi vacuum in the business. Transparent ﬂoat bowls revealed the efects of carb vibration.
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rest remains incombustible in liquid form. The result is a mixture too lean to ﬁre. For cold starting, the mixture is enriched enough (by a choke, or starting carburetor) that there is enough volatile material evaporating to allow the engine to ﬁre and start. As the engine warms up, its intake system becomes warmer, evaporating more and more of the fuel, allowing this temporary enrichment to be reduced until, with the engine at operating temperature, it is able to evaporate all the fuel ﬂowing to it. Carburetors at their best weren’t very good because, being passive devices, they could not compensate for changes in atmospheric density from weather, altitude, or humidity.
They ran lean in winter and rich in summer—unless tuned for existing conditions by a human, adjusting fuel delivery by changing the sizes of fuel metering oriﬁces, called jets. Today’s digital fuel systems are active, making such adjustments automatically. But carburetors are cheap and well-understood by the engineers who still employ them. They are also relatively simple and robust, and while they might not always operate at peak performance, they will function well enough to get a machine down the road even while far out of tune. They propelled the motoring world for nearly 100 years, the small devices that took a simple principle and carried it far into the future, and us along with them. Q
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LIFE’S FULL OF
COMPROMISES. THIS ISN’T ONE OF THEM.
If you’re going to do something, do it right, or don’t do it at all. That’s our standard. And we make motorcycles for those who share it. By hand, here at home, since 1901.
We ride the Indian Scout FTR1200 Custom, the street-tracker weâ€™ve been dreaming of
By MARK HOYER Photography by JEFF ALLEN
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R ROI is the killer of dreams, the murderer of glory. “Return on Investment,” management’s typical test for so many things, when expressed to its fullest results in vehicles like the Toyota Camry, the car equivalent of the killer of dreams and murderer of glory. Not that it isn’t a decent way to get around. But “getting around” is not what we came for. “Decent” can go pound it. We came for dreams and glory. Which is clearly why Indian lit the fuse on the Scout FTR1200 Custom, this hand-made street-tracker a mashup of the Scout FTR750 racebike and the Scout cruiser that has served as the volume leader for the company’s on-road sales and is a much-loved laid-back American motorcycle. But as much love as we have for the laid-back American motorcycle, the collective streetbike
OPPOSITE: Dirt track done right, with a front brake and a headlight! Indian Scout FTR1200 wears the Scout 60-degree V-twin engine well.
consciousness is searching for something more laidforward but so essentially American it can be born in no other land. “The flat-track bike so ingrained in our brains because we’ve seen it for so long,” says Rich Christoph, the designer in charge of turning the notion of an FTR1200 into carbon-fiber, metal, and rubber. “And it’s kind of this American spirit, this fighting spirit of competition and simplicity and magic proportion of this motorcycle with 19-inch wheels and no front brake, like a chopper that’s dangerous. All these wonderful things, dangerous things, coming together to make this beautiful, perfect motorcycle.” If you can’t tell, Christoph is one of the more-firedup people in the motorcycle business. He’s also the guy who worked on the original Scout streetbike and the clay models of the Scout FTR750 with Jared Mees, getting the look, riding position, and the rest right for what’s become the most dominant current flat-track racebike with a championship in its first year. That familiarity helped with the ridiculously short build timeline. Indian started the project in September,
INDIAN SCOUT FTR1200 / ISSUE 2 2018 / 45
2017, and made the Milan Show debut in November. After sending it to a stunting-and-jumping video shoot in the Los Angeles River, “I was like, guys, this is one of one; we have no more! We don’t even have time to fix chipped paint,” Christoph says with a laugh. But it all worked out. And what’s this “custom” business? There’s been a bit of head-scratching about a bike like this being called a custom, for is it not really a “concept” when the factory builds something like this? “We didn’t do the normal design studies,” says Greg Brew, head of Indian’s industrial design. “I think part of it also is a lot of times concept bikes, whether you mean to or not, they wind up being, I won’t say overdone, but done to death. Part of doing this was to try to keep a little bit of that raw
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race edge to it.” Adds Ben Lindaman, international motorcycle product manager, “Yeah, it just wasn’t quite as formal as what we would typically call a concept, in my opinion, so we decided to call it the custom because it was a little bit more underground.” OK, call it what you will. We will call it loud! I must admit I felt slightly guilty about firing up the
TOP: Chrome-moly swingarm takes a single fully adjustable Öhlins shock. ABOVE LEFT: Beautiful fork caps hint at quality damping. ABOVE RIGHT: S&S exhaust delivers a pure message and a bump in power over a standard Scout 1200 engine.
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bike one early weekday morning at my house. There is really no muffling going on in those giant stacked S&S pipes, but any guilt melted away because the engine sounded so good. The standard Scout 60-degree 1,133cc V-twin is pressed into duty here with no internal mods. Intake is pretty much wide-open, with air inlets in the top of the carbon-fiber “fuel tank” bodywork, and the exhaust is— ahem—less restrictive than stock. Output on our dyno was 99 horsepower and 77 pound-feet of torque, with the same broad spread of the stock Scout but with a lot more urgency. It also sounds amazing on throttle.
LEFT: The easy part on this custom street-tracker? Billet machined 19-inch wheels. RIGHT: Scout speedo gives a view we’d like to see more of. OPPOSITE: Mile eater: playing the part on a desert road between stints on the dry lakebed.
DOHC 60-DEGREE, 1,133CC V-TWIN
98.83 @ 7,640 RPM
76.60 @ 5,720 RPM
SINGLE-PIECE CARBON-FIBER TANK/SEAT
HAND-FABRICATED CHROME-MOLY STEEL
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The bigger surprise was the overall civility of this handmade bike. Most “customs” don’t see much engineering, but the engine mapping and Öhlins suspension and fundamental geometry of this bike have clearly been worked on by people who build and engineer motorcycles for a living. So aside from a bit of nervousness when I did my customary “shake the handlebars” test at various speeds (if something is prone to headshake, I want to know early), this was a polished and wonderful all-around naked motorcycle. I commuted on it. I rode it on winding backroads, sat in traffic, and lanesplit. It’s just a great-feeling bike. Roll the throttle open wide, and the sound and speed are richly rewarding, the narrow, light chassis and chunky dirt-track tires giving it a fun and forgiving feel. The chrome-moly steel tube frame and swingarm echo those of the dirt-tracker, and it shows dynamically. Even better, we sent it out to a dry lakebed with a
“The bigger surprise was the overall civility of this handmade bike.”
former AMA Superbike racer and his steel shoe. Within minutes, he had it pitched sideways down to the footpeg and was laying huge arcs. We also sent it to Perris Raceway’s half-mile oval to ride alongside a Scout FTR750, where it did exactly what you’d want a 19-inch-wheel flat-track-inspired street bike to do: rip! But it is clearly a custom or a concept and not a production bike. The seat foam is laughably thin and, in fact, thinner than that of the FTR750 race bike. Those great-looking pipes burned the right leg of every person who rode the FTR1200. So, what’s it all mean? Indian is coy about what this bike represents, but as much as we love this sport for its passion, Indian is in
INDIAN SCOUT FTR1200 / ISSUE 2 2018 / 51
TOP: FTR1200 with the 750 and street Scout at Perris Raceway. ABOVE: The FTR750 in its natural habitat. RIGHT: FTR1200 showing its lineage with a whole lot of style.
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the motorcycle business. It doesn’t seem to us that there is much ROI in making a custom for no reason at all except that it’s awesome. “There are a couple of things going on,” says Reid Wilson, senior director of marketing and product planning. “We have a commitment to compete globally, not only in North America, but all over the world. And that requires different types of motorcycles a lot of the time. We also have a commitment to live up to the legacy of our founders, who were highly innovative and pushed the category forward when the Indian Motorcycle Company ﬁrst started. And that’s what we want to do— push forward.” Christoph elaborates: “Indian is tied to history and heritage, but we’re never handcuffed. It’s our natural beneﬁt of being small and hungry. We’ve ruled out absolutely nothing. Indian Motorcycle is about exploration and delivering a lot of satisfaction to our customers,
whoever they are.” Why do we love the Scout FTR1200? It think it’s because the ﬂat-tracker reminds us of ourselves at our best, the lean athleticism of our sportiest self. And if it doesn’t remind us of ourselves at our best, it gives us something to strive for, like seeing a picture of a world-class athlete moving with intent in their prime. That is our attraction to the FTR1200. Even if this bike wasn’t built for racing and it’s assembled around a “cruiser” engine, the beautiful powerplant is strong visually and mechanically, and is only augmented by the lean nature of the rest of the bike. And, as far as ROI goes, I’d say Indian’s already got that. I know I have felt the return on the investment in this product. But like any other passionate motorcycle business, the company needs build bikes people will buy. OK, that’s what you’ve done. Hurry up and tell the accountants, then get with it. Q
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Powerful, head-turning Suzuki Boulevard Cruisers. Because blending in isn’t your style. Go on. Make them look twice at the sleek lines. Watch necks swivel when they hear that low, menacing growl pull away from the curb. Feel the impressive torque and rock-solid handling. Enjoy advanced Suzuki engineering that delivers true reliability, mile after glorious mile. And take secret pleasure knowing this: all that big performance didn’t come with a big price tag. For those who ride with the pack, there’s a cruiser. For those who lead it, there’s a Boulevard. Find yours.
See the full Boulevard Cruiser lineup at SuzukiCycles.com Suzuki, the “S” logo, and Suzuki model and product names are Suzuki Trademarks or ®. © 2018 Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.
By KEVIN CAMERON Photography by DREW RUIZ
The Honda RS750 Dirt-Tracker
irt-track racingâ€”on mile and half-mile ovals plus TTâ€”is uniquely American. It comes to us from the earliest days of motoring, when the horse tracks of county fairgrounds were the natural place to race motorcycles from Harley-Davidson, Indian, Reading-Standard, and others. Dirt track survived competition from the super-fast and dangerous banked board tracks of 1910 to 1925, and it is having a rebirth today.
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Why does a motorcycle manufacturer go racing? Harley keeps at it because, having been there forever, it would be seriously strange to stop, like a beautiful smile spoiled by a missing front tooth. Indian jumped in two years ago. Why? Inscrutable corporate reasons? To say they’re more American than Harley? Because it’s a way to get more people excited about motorcycles in general? Pick one. Long before the present Indian revival, another company decided to go dirt-track racing, then rapidly refined what they were building until top riders could win the AMA’s Grand National Championship on it. That company was Honda, and the machine it built was the RS750. The program began in earnest when Jerry Griffith built a framer around a Honda XR500 single for Jeff Haney to ride. It did well, coming to the attention of race boss Dennis McKay, who wanted to see Honda get further into the dirt-track scene. Harley had that scene pretty well sewed up with its aluminum XR-750 of 1972, a bike that every year became more and more intimately adapted to dirt as maybe a dozen ingenious tuners and the Harley factory team worked to improve it. No one aspect of bike design
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can win dirt-track races. The winning machine has to be adapted to dirt in all its parts. This meant that degreed engineers backed by computers were not a winning play. What it takes is people who understand racing, backed by R&D. For Honda, those people included Gene Romero, the highly respected Jim Dour of Megacycle Cams, the late airflow maestro Kenny Augustine, and machinists and fabricators. The first hardware was unlikely—Honda’s CX500 V-twin, which mounts in its frame like a Guzzi, with its crank fore and aft. It was shorn of its shaft drive, then rotated 90 degrees to the left, and given a chain drive. Both pipes were on the left, both carbs on the right. Soichiro Irimajiri, the designer of Honda’s legendary RC165 18,000 rpm 250cc six, saw this “homebuilt” race and took an interest. Getting a full 750cc from the CX’s 500cc conflicted with good cooling. The necessary
BELOW: This is the rider’s-eye view—brakeless front wheel, hot exhaust pipes, and Goodyear’s classic rain-pattern dirt-track tire.
oversize cylinder liners trapped steam bubbles, causing overheating that cut power after 10 to 12 laps. This was the 90 hp NS750 of 1981 and ’82—a tool for learning. The tale I was told related a growing respect between the informal American team and the Japanese side, made up of Tokyo University graduate engineers. Parts and assemblies sent to the U.S. for evaluation were modiﬁed here in ways that earned respect once returned to Japan. A mutual understanding and cooperation developed. The two NS years prepared Honda for the RS750. The game was to produce the same torque characteristics as the dominant XR-750 Harley, but with room for improvement. The advantages would be four valves per cylinder, which do what the cams tell them more
TOP: The RS’s engine is set high to transfer weight to the rear tire during acceleration. Inverted tuning-fork forward frame adds “softness” to keep the front hooked up.
obediently than the XR’s two heavier valves; plain bearings, which are immune to the fatigue failures that haunted the XR’s roller rods; and smoothness, coming from Honda’s offset crankpin balancing. Honda people told me: “First you go for torque, and when you got it all, you spin it up. Then you get into a range where the combustion chamber [that’s best] for torque is in conﬂict with high rpm breathing.” The engine was OK at 10,000 rpm with the same 79.5 x 75.5mm bore and stroke as the XR-750. Cylinders were chrome on aluminum—no low-conductivity iron liner to push up piston temperature. Team engines had titanium intake and exhaust valves, with exhausts being changed after four races. The goals were simple. First, to make more power. The RS was up 5 hp on Harley-Davidson peak power, and Honda was close on the bottom. Plus, because four valves make it possible, the RS had an extra 1,000 revs. Second, the RS750 had to be stronger mechanically than the Harley, which has crank and rod problems above 8500 (Harley race manager Dick O’Brien didn’t like to see XRs on the far side of 9000). Finally, the Honda
HONDA RS750 DIRT-TRACKER
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 59
45-degree air-cooled carbureted V-twin
4 valves per cylinder
100 horspower at more than 8,500 rpm
Dual crankpins at 90-degree ofset
needed to have a good dirt-track torque curve. The RS could be ridden away in fourth gear. On the same graph with an XR torque curve, the XR’s is higher but the RS turns more revs, so at the rear wheel it’s close. In both cases, the curves fall at about 6 pound-feet per 1,000 revs. The RS was given a modern ﬂat combustion chamber with forged, ﬂat-top three-ring pistons ﬁtted at the usual Japanese engine clearance of 0.0012 to 0.0016 inch.
TOP: The slender swingarm is part of the soft-chassis concept. Rear brake isn’t just for slowing down—riders use it to modify the engine’s torque delivery. ABOVE: A dzus quarter-turn fastener exempliﬁes what every race bike needs: quick serviceability. OPPOSITE: The RS750 engine applied sportbike technology to the dirt track just as sportbikes were taking form.
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There are piston-cooling oil jets. Engine weight was 151 pounds, about 8 less than the H-D. Chain drives to the two single overhead cams are on opposite sides of the engine. Early engines had leakage-prone external oil lines, but they were later cast into the right-hand cover. Oil pressure was 80 psi—hot. The C&J chassis looks like dirt-track chassis seen to this day, in that a single downtube drops from the steering head, then becomes two tubes that curve under the engine and back to the swingarm pivot. Steering-head angle is adjustable with offset cups between 24 and 27 degrees, with 2.3 to 2.6 inches trail. Suspension was Showa—a 41mm fork with U.S.-made crowns to allow offset adjustment. The Japanese built what they learned into the RS750, which appeared in 1983, and Hank Scott won du Quoin that year.
For 1984, Honda did just what Indian did last year— they put front-row talent on their bikes: Ricky Graham and Hank Scott, who then finished 1-2 in the GN Championship. Then Bubba Shobert took the No. 1 plate in 1985, ’86, and ’87. The RS in these photos is his, and it resides in the Honda museum in Torrance, California. How did folks see these newcomers? As adding welcome diversity to Harley’s 27 GNC titles in 38 years? Or as destroyers, unfairly buying success? In 1986, the AMA engaged airflow pioneer Jerry Branch to study the practicality of “leveling the playing field” by the application of intake restrictors. Restrictors were imposed, and Honda left the series in 1988. Ricky Graham won one last AMA Grand National Championship on an RS750 in 1993. Q
By BRETT SMITH
FU Photography by DAVID DEWHURST
RKS Motocross and supercross bikes of the early ’80s— handbuilt exotics in one of the greatest motorcycle arms races ever seen on dirt.
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In January 1982, David Bailey stood in an airport hangar next to a wooden shipping crate, anxiously waiting to see what was inside. His mechanic, Paul Turner, jammed a crowbar into the seam of the lid. The wood cracked and splintered and the nails squeaked as they bent to reveal the contents: a “works” motocross bike. The smell, the look, the unpainted pipe, the red plastic, the blue seat that drifted high up onto the aluminum gas tank— the image of the moment is burned into Bailey’s mind. It was rolling exotica: a handmade motorcycle composed of rubber and plastic—and metals most people had never heard of. The subframe was removable, the cone exhaust was unpainted and hand-formed, the airbox was aluminum, the swingarm extended, the silencer stubby, and the welding job on both was of masterful quality; the “lowboy” fuel tank transitioned from red to black and dropped all the way down to the engine cases, giving it a low center of gravity; the left-side kickstarter disappeared into a niche molded in the fuel tank. “It was coolest thing I’d ever seen, and it was mine,” Bailey says of the unforgettable day he saw the first Honda Racing Corporation motocross bike made
specifically for him. “There was never a bike quite like that one. You mean to tell me I get to ride this thing? Are you sure it’s OK?” What Bailey really couldn’t wait for, however, was to hear how it sounded. For him that was the equivalent of being 8 years old and wondering what was in the biggest box beneath the Christmas tree. As a kid in the early 1970s, he traveled to the Trans-AMA races with his father, “The Professor” Gary Bailey, a professional racer and instructor. At those fall classics, where Europe’s best schooled America’s best, Bailey always ran straight to Suzuki, where World Champion Roger DeCoster was pitted. He wanted to see the simplistic design and hand-formed parts of the one-off RN Suzuki and hear DeCoster ride away. Then he’d run to the next big name and ogle that bike. “I wanted to have what they had,” he says, remembering his boyhood desires. “What do I need to do? It was a big part of my motivation as a young rider.” Bailey was a 19-year-old support rider for Kawasaki in fall 1981 when DeCoster called. DeCoster had retired a five-time world champion and joined Honda as an adviser. He offered Bailey a position with the team that, only a couple of weeks earlier, had taken four riders to Europe and shocked the world, becoming the first Americans to win the Motocross/ Trophee des Nations. Honda had a radical and completely new race bike coming out in 1982, a result of the company’s 10-year all-in commitment to off-road motorcycle racing with the ultimate goal of annihilating Kawasaki, Suzuki, and, especially, Yamaha. Bailey accepted and didn’t even ask about money (a whopping $12,000). The bike was so good, in hindsight he claims he would have paid them $12,000 to ride it. When it fired up in the hangar, he couldn’t believe
OPPOSITE: David Bailey at the 1985 Daytona Supercross event, wearing the No. 1 plate (a style that was only his, and the last year of factory MX bikes). Note the raw metal exhaust, blued from welding.
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 67
how the motor cracked. “Raspy, crisp, a bark that sounded sharper than anything I’d heard before,” he says. The damn thing was intimidating and exhilarating. Each new works model had unique developments and sounds. Four years later, the “works”-bike era of priceless, unobtainable machinery ended. In 1986, production regulations were enforced, limiting the custom parts on race bikes. Major pieces such as frames and swingarms had to be the same as found on production bikes. Crankcases, cylinders, and heads had to be of the same casting and material as the stock bikes. And so on. The production rule has been in effect twice as long as the works era existed in America, but the nostalgia isn’t lost. A few bikes avoided the crusher, which was their company-mandated fate. Mechanics often absconded with them and hid them away. They’ve
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resurfaced as collector’s pieces in museums. In the nascent days of American motocross, the best place to see a works bike naked was in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. Nobody remembers exactly why, but that was the accommodations brand of choice for race teams while traveling. As a result, white hand towels from Sacramento to St. Petersburg ended their lives as shop rags. The American Motorcyclist Association even
Kent Howerton wrangles his Kawasaki, in typical aggressive style, around the track in Orlando, 1984. ABOVE CENTER: Kawasaki Mechanic Tom Morgan in Bufalo, 1984—back when they brought most of a bike out to the track in case something needed a swap.
Rick Johnson in Orlando, 1984. By this point, Yamaha was already moving toward production bikes—a Simons fork was the big diference here. BELOW: A start in 1983, with Glover (No. 6), Hannah (No. 12), King (No. 17), Holley (No. 49), Ryan (No. 56), and Kehoe (No. 32).
held its tech inspection in the parking lots instead of at the racetrack. Hundreds of people would randomly show up to watch the mechanics at work. The teams couldn’t hide; the colorful box vans marked their presence. “It almost reminded you of the circus coming to town,” says Keith McCarty, who spun wrenches in the 1970s and ’80s for championship riders such as Tony DiStefano and Bob Hannah before moving into management at Yamaha. People wanted a glimpse of a works bike. While the gawkers were in awe of the trick pieces and parts, none of which appeared on the same-model bikes in their own garages, the mechanics of the era worked in a constant state of development. Yamaha mechanics were given boxes at the beginning of each season filled with parts, such as extra cylinders, clutch covers, and the pieces of a custom exhaust pipe, which had to be welded together. To be effective, the mechanics had to be skilled fabricators, possess some engineering acumen, and get the race truck to the events. McCarty once made a major rear-suspension modification to Hannah’s 1977 Yamaha YZ250 in the middle of the National Motocross season. Between rounds, he worked with Joe Zappa in Atlanta to marry the shock from a production bike to the OW works frame. This
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required a major frame modification along with changes to the production shock body. “You could control the damping better,” McCarty says. “It had better characteristics than the works one, which was very complex.” The field development never stopped, even in midseason, and mechanics were constantly handed or shipped new parts to try. That’s where the fabrication skills came into play. “We joked that ‘works’ meant it didn’t fit,” says Dave Arnold, a Honda mechanic in the 1970s, who became the team manager in 1981. “Every mount and fitting would have to be changed or altered when replacement parts came in. The bike you started the year with was very different than what you ended the year with.” McCarty enjoyed employing gimmicks and decoys on his motorcycles, just to make other teams anxious. He once rigged a Schrader valve to the airbox of his bike. It served absolutely no purpose, but he fiddled and
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TOP RIGHT: Roger DeCoster (left), former world champion and then-Honda team manager, imparting the knowledge and will of a champion to David Bailey. TOP LEFT: Most of Honda’s “dream team” in 1984: Lechein, Hannah (No. 6), and O’Mara (No. 5).
pumped air into it, to give the impression he had something nobody else did. “Since we did a lot of winning, everyone else wanted to know what we were doing,” McCarty says. “That’s the stuff that would eat at people, and they’d ask themselves, ‘Why don’t we have that?’” The rapid pace of development was breakneck in the 1970s and early 1980s. Major modifications were implemented every year: single shock rear suspension, reed valves, power valves, cartridge forks, disc brakes, and water-cooled engines, which weren’t even allowed until 1980 for fear of loose hoses and hot liquid. At the end of
1979, Suzuki’s Team Manager, Mark Blackwell, went to Japan to build a bike specifically for stadium racing. The supercross series was still young, but Suzuki had zero championships and only four wins. Its top American rider, Kent Howerton, also came over, and Suzuki began a marathon development session. They burned daylight at the track and ground until midnight in the shop. “We cut steering heads off frames, there were guys cutting exhaust pipes and rewelding them, swingarms were modified, cylinders, engine compression, gear ratios,” Blackwell says. “We did a year’s worth of normal development cycle in 10 days—it was crazy, absolutely crazy.” A high-level engineer observed from a cheap lawn chair, arms folded, saying very little but the message was clear: “Give these guys whatever they need.” When they were finished, they had a bike with a shorter wheelbase, a lower seat height, crisper steering, and quicker acceleration that was easier to slow down. The team won four supercross races in 1980 and 10 of 12 in 1981, finishing first and third in the championship.
TOP: Bob Hannah doing his typical thing, ﬂamboyant and on the edge, in Anaheim, 1984 LEFT: Three-time 125cc champion Mark Barnett on the full-factory RM250 Suzuki, attacking the 1984 outdoor national in Gainesville, Florida.
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The rapid development, however, didn’t always create harmony within the companies. The race bikes were absolutely nothing like what consumers were buying. Blackwell remembers the pressure of being asked to advance technology yet keep the cost of racing from getting too high. In May 1980, the Suzukis of Howerton and Darrell Shultz rolled to tech inspection of the High Point National draped with horse blankets. Underneath were the ﬁrst RM models in America to feature a single shock with rising-rate linkage, which the other factories were already employing. Suzuki’s version, however, used a ﬂoating linkage on the shock’s top and bottom and a set of pull rods connecting the system to the swingarm. Howerton won both motos, and Shultz ﬁnished third overall. This created a headache for the sales department, which was concerned about the number of twin shock
BELOW: A factory Honda in Pontiac, Michigan, 1984—with the seat removed the shock was exposed, one of the biggest diferences between production and factory bikes. RIGHT: Kent Howerton with his mechanic and the works Kawasaki— Gatorback Park in Gainesville, Florida, 1984.
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RMs still sitting in dealer showrooms in spring 1980. Cycle News even ran a bike test on the twin-shocked 1980 Suzuki RM250 two weeks after its High Point MX coverage. In 1981, production RMs featured single shocks, a system that became known as the Full Floater. With OEM race budgets hemorrhaging cash, a recession looming, and Honda winning nine of the 15 championships between 1982 and 1985, the works-bike era eventually hit a boiling point. In a November 1984 meeting, the decision to enact the production rule was ﬁnalized; Yamaha team manager Kenny Clark was the catalyst. As a company, Yamaha was already racing what it sold. Late-1984 product ads trumpeting the 1985 YZ motocrossers mocked the stark differences between the other brands’ race and production bikes. “The two are about as similar as ﬁsh sticks and lobster,” the ad said. “Motocrossers that not only
perform at least as well as anybody else’s factory bikes. But do it for $98,000 less,” another line read, jabbing at the estimated (and exaggerated) cost of a works bike. Arnold says it felt like a corporate war, and it wasn’t only about motocross bikes. “It was ego-driven; it wasn’t just sales-driven. It was about Honda and everyone putting a stake in the ground to say ‘We are the smart guys.’” When the production rule went into effect in January 1986, it was widely believed that Honda wouldn’t dominate without its works bikes. “Kenny Clark said straight to my face: ‘You’re going to lose. It’s over,’” Arnold remembers. “It can do nothing but help the sport and benefit the customers,” Clark said in the October 1985 issue of Motocross Action. “They say no factory bikes will hurt progress. I think we made a fool out of that statement this year.” (Yamaha won the 1984 250 National Motocross title.) By 1985, Honda was running exhaust valves with
electronic servos; engineers gathered data between motos via laptops. Laptops! Bailey used to make sure his competitors were looking when he flipped the servo switch. They always shook their heads. “The race for Japanese factories to develop and showcase superior technology was relentless, but it was very expensive and ultimately could not be sustained,” Arnold says. While the ogling at the Holiday Inns across America may have become less interesting with the death of works bikes, there is no doubt that the consumers were the ultimate winners of the production regulation; they eventually wound up with better motorcycles. And Team Honda? Embarrassingly good in 1986. Between the four major championships (250SX, 125/250/500MX) they won them all and claimed nine of the 12 top-three positions in the standings. “In a way, all the factories needed the production regulations,” Arnold recalls. “The factories could limit spending and put their egos back in check, almost an excuse to not be at war with each other.” Q
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By ARI HENNING
Photography by JEFF ALLEN
Husqvarnaâ€™s avant garde return to road bikes
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T To the casual observer, Husqvarna is an off-road brand, and always has been. The Swedish marque was in the vanguard of motocross in the 1960s and will forever be associated with legends like Bud Edkins and Malcolm Smith, but Husqvarna’s history is far more extensive and varied. Husqvarna is one of the oldest companies in the world, founded as an arms manufacturer in 1689. Husky made muskets, sewing machines, and bicycles before it produced its first motor-driven cycle in 1903, the same year Harley-Davidson opened shop. As a maker of road-going singles and V-twins, Husqvarna enjoyed Grand Prix success at hallowed venues—even the Isle of Man. All of this was decades before the company’s lightweight two-strokes began embarrassing the heavy four-stroke off-roaders that dominated competition in post-World War II Europe. All of this is to say that when Husqvarna brass ordered up a streetbike that would satisfy the neoretro aesthetic millennials crave while adhering to Husqvarna’s tradition of performance and innovation, the design team had more heritage to work with than most people realize. The result is the Vitpilen 701. It’s futuristic yet classic, and adamantly shirks classification. Is it a café racer, a street tracker, or an eccentric naked?
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Does it matter? What does matter is that it presents an exciting and unique way for riders to take to two wheels, and for Husqvarna, the Vitpilen represents the brand’s bold return to streetbikes, as well assertion of what motorcycles should be: simple, functional, and fun. I’ll admit that I figured the Vit was just another style-over-substance fashion statement—maybe in part because it does, in fact, make such a strong visual statement. Then I rode this Husky in Barcelona, Spain, at the bike’s international press launch, and even hammered the lone homologation model in the U.S. at our test facility in California. In doing so, I learned this machine is rooted firmly in function. Perhaps that’s because the tube-steel frame and 693cc single-cylinder engine are culled from the “ready to race” 690 Duke built by KTM, Husqvarna’s parent company. Outfitted with adjustable WP suspension, top-shelf Italian braking components, and enough torque to loft the front wheel in first or second gear, the Vitpilen’s performance is as decisive as its appearance.
And boy, what an appearance. Except for big DOT-mandated turn signals in place of sleek LED units, this production Vitpilen is the spitting image of the concept bike Husqvarna debuted at EICMA in 2015. Rigid, almost-industrial lines intersect with suprematist shapes at the tank and tail, creating an image that is captivating and complex, yet incredibly clean. It looks lean. It looks like a sculpture. It looks uncomfortable. Thankfully, it’s not. The seat skews toward hard and high, and the clip-on bars that angle off the triple clamp are wide and low, but the riding position isn’t too aggressive, and as a package it’s surprisingly comfortable,
That round headlight might say retro, but the LED headlight and perimeter ring are as modern as lighting comes. Note the Day-Glo diagonal “split” that runs from the tank through the passenger rearsets, separating the front of the machine from the rear. OPPOSITE: The Vitpilen is a competent do-it-all, but it’s most at home on city streets.
2018 HUSQVARNA VITPILEN 701 PRICE:
692.7CC, LIQUID-COOLED SINGLE
BORE & STROKE:
105 X 80MM
KEIHIN THROTTLE BODY, RIDE-BY-WIRE
WP 43MM FORK ADJUSTABLE FOR COMPRESSION AND REBOUND DAMPING; 5.3 IN. TRAVEL
WP SHOCK ADJUSTABLE FOR SPRING PRE-LOAD AND REBOUND DAMPING; 5.3 IN. TRAVEL
BREMBO FOUR-PISTON CALIPER, 320MM DISC WITH ABS
BREMBO ONE-PISTON CALIPER, 240MM DISC WITH ABS
71.0 HP @ 8,200 RPM
51.0 LB.-FT. @ 6,750 RPM
12.1 SEC. @ 112.6 MPH
6,200 MILES (OIL AND FILTER AND VALVE-CLEARANCE CHECK)
24 MONTHS OR 24,000 MILES
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even after a full day of riding. Well-calibrated suspension helps here—the fork and shock are sportbike taut yet mercifully compliant, smoothing out the worst hits Barcelona threw at me. That’s a hard balance to strike, especially with a low-mass motorcycle, so credit to Husqvarna and WP for nailing the suspension setup. If the settings aren’t to your liking, there’s plenty of adjustability. “Vitpilen” is Swedish for “white arrow,” and the bike pays visual, eponymic, and ideologic homage to the 1955 Silverpilen, a do-it-all machine that Husqvarna designed around the fresh (at the time) idea that less weight would improve performance and usability. It’s a concept that became an ethos that helped make Husqvarna off-roaders so potent, and it’s evident in the Vitpilen too. At just 362 pounds full of all necessary fluids, the 701 is impressively light. Lighter than an RC390, actually, yet
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the Vit makes 75 percent more power thanks to a big, feisty engine. Singles aren’t typically exciting, but this one has gobs of tractable power, and it’s been laced with the latest technologies. Throttling is ride-by-wire, the intake charge is ignited by twin spark plugs, a slipper clutch copes with excess back torque, and there’s switchable traction control and ABS for safety. Plus a quickshifter and auto-blip downshifting, just for the joy of it. What’s most impressive about this engine is its lack of annoying vibration. Instead of buzzing, it throbs like a V-twin at idle and at speed, the result of comprehensive counterbalancing that includes a weighted shaft in the
A compact, semi-aggressive riding position splits the diference between a sportbike and a supermoto. RIGHT: It’s hard to take a bad photo of the Vitpilen, but those stark lines deﬁnitely look best in an industrial setting.
valvetrain where an exhaust cam would normally reside. Combine that smooth-spinning engine with a riding posture that balances you against the windblast, and the Husqvarna is pretty well-suited to cruising down the freeway at an indicated 80 mph. But the city is where this bike belongs. Incredibly compact and deliciously nimble, the Vitpilen’s demeanor has a way of making traffic fun. With a light-action hydraulic clutch and instant grunt, you can’t help but treat stoplights like race starts. Manhole covers become apexes, speed bumps are little launch ramps, and roundabouts morph into chicanes. This is one of just a handful of bikes that has perfect line feel—once you set the bike on an arc, the only reason to maintain your grip on the bars is to keep the throttle open. That intuitiveness makes the Vitpilen so much fun to ride. There’s an essence to this bike, a sentiment and an experience that’s not available anywhere else in
motorcycling. Husqvarna has combined the approachability and fun factor of a beginner bike like Honda’s CBR300R with serious performance and a style that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen. It’s striking, exciting, and sophisticated. At $11,999, it’s also very expensive for what it is. And as excellent as this bike is—to my surprise, I might add—that price point is liable to turn more than a few people away. I hope I’m wrong, because I love what this bike means. For one, it’s a daring re-entry into the street market by one of the world’s oldest motorcycle brands. And for the market, it’s a move toward simple, light, potent machines that are both easy to handle and endlessly fun to ride. Sure, it uses some familiar parts, but the company has done something original with them, like an artist using common colors to create a unique painting. Husqvarna has pressed the reset button on what a street motorcycle can be, and there’s magic in the result. Q
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D A N By KEVIN CAMERON Photography from THE DAN GURNEY COLLECTION
G U R An American Life
N E Y DAN GURNEY
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D Dan Gurney—champion racecar driver, vehicle engineer, motorcyclist, and racing-car builder—died this year at age 86. He came to greatness at a time when American industry, innovation, and power were peaking. His father, retiring from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 1947, moved the family to Southern California. The gigantic U.S. aircraft industry—much of it located in that state—had just produced 302,000 military aircraft and 810,000 aircraft engines for World War II, and the plants, tooling, and people who accomplished that miracle remained active. Surplus outlets were bursting with rolling bearings, hydraulics, electronics, and more. A brand-new twin-engine P-38 fighter with full gas tanks was $1,200. Men got rich recovering the platinum electrodes from hundreds of thousands of surplus aircraft spark plugs. Technology in 1947 was almost free. Want trick aluminum or steel alloys? It was everywhere. Americans had acquired a worldwide reputation as innately innovative and creative, mainly because U.S. industry had incidentally put technology and information within the reach of every interested American youngster. Children grew up in a rich environment, taking apart and putting together clocks, building and flying model airplanes, experimenting with Erector and chemistry
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sets, and then going on to weld and fabricate hot-rod cars—or creating an industry. For Americans, play could be a highly sophisticated activity. Teenage Dan Gurney immersed himself in the hot-rod culture: building cars, taking them to the dry lakes, and then branching into other forms of racing. He could drive, but he could also build, and the interaction between the two activities would inform his whole life. Motorcycle enthusiasts know that Gurney also loved bikes. In recent decades, he could be found at speed on SoCal’s “racer roads,” enjoying the series of ever-improving feet-first bikes his shop engineered and built under the name Alligator. “I had a Montesa,” Gurney said to me once. “A good bike—it would do 100 mph. But I was never quite comfortable. I’m tall!” Worst was going downhill on dirt: “I always felt as if I were going to tip over forward! I did, a couple of times.”
During the 1968 South African Grand Prix, Gurney takes a seat on Mike Hailwood’s Honda 250cc Six.
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So in 1976 he built something that did fit him, the ultralow Alligator A1, with a Honda 350 engine up front. Singles were compact, but he came to want more power than would fit into a one-cylinder space. Some beautiful CNC parts went into those singles all the same. Gurney’s accomplishments are burned into our collective motorsports culture. With Mario Andretti, he was one of just two Americans to win races in the four major racing categories: Formula One, Champ cars, the FIA sports-car championship, and NASCAR. How? It came naturally, and it came by accident.
1. Gurney at the ﬂowbench. 2. Slacks, loafers, and no helmet during his time as Montesa importer. The ad appeared in Cycle World. 3. Flying a Porsche 1600 Speedster in Riverside, California, 1956. Gurney gave Porsche its only F1 success with his French GP win in 1962. 4. Always ready with a smile, particularly after one of his NASCAR victories.
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Racing and winning expanded as sponsors, seeing his energy, expanded his opportunities. The biggest of all was truly an accident. Goodyear, wanting to break the Firestone race-tire monopoly, came knocking at Indianapolis only to have all their sponsored drivers switch tires. Remember, this wasn’t now, where everything has to be PC and certified perfectly safe. You could promote cars and tires and gasoline based on glamorous success in racing. Goodyear decided it needed its own cars. Who could build them? In those days, big corporations had no idea about racing, so they had to find and trust those who did. It was a time of sharp culture shock, such as stock-car-builder Smoky Yunick getting a call to get to the airport where a corporate jet waited to whisk him—dirty shop pants and all—to Detroit to tell the boys with big engineering degrees how to win races. So in 1965, with Carroll Shelby and Goodyear funding, Gurney started the racecar production facility that
“Dan Gurney’s life tells us that it’s essential to have many interests and the energy to pursue them.” would soon be named All-American Racers. AAR today occupies 75,000 square feet in Santa Ana, California. While Gurney was racing in just about every series he could ﬁnd during a driving career running from 1957 to 1970, he was also beginning to build 158 racing cars under the name Eagle. AAR is the only builder in the U.S. to have designed and built a winning F1 car, winning Champ cars, and winning FIA sports cars. When it came time to look for an outﬁt to build a 3.0-liter V-12 to power Gurney’s F1 car, he knew that English airﬂow specialist Harry Weslake had done a promising high-rpm project for Shell. Implemented as ﬁrst a 375cc and then a 500cc four-valve-per-cylinder twin, and with a nearly ﬂat combustion chamber thanks to narrow valve angle and steep ports, the 500 gave 76 hp
TOP: Eagle F1 cars and other products from AAR were innovated and often dominant. ABOVE RIGHT: Gurney described lifelong passion for motorcycles as his “malady.”
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at just over 10,000 rpm. Sound familiar? It was very close in concept to what Keith Duckworth would unleash in 1967 in the Cosworth DFV F1 V-8. Six of those 500 twins, built in V-12 form, could add up to over 400 hp! That would become the engine in Gurney’s Eagle F1 car, which he drove to victory at the 1967 Belgian GP at Spa, averaging more than 145 mph. A few days previously he had won the Le Mans 24-hour Sports Car Championship race in France, where instead of swigging the champagne presented to him on the podium, he put a thumb over the mouth of the bottle, gave it a shake, and shot celebratory foam over everyone in reach. It became instant tradition, continuing on podiums to this day. When Yvon DuHamel’s Team Hansen race tuner Steve Whitelock saw Indy cars with drilled brake discs, he saw them as a ﬁx for Kawasaki’s hefty brakes. He drove over to Gurney’s shop where the staff enthusiastically worked up a pattern of half-inch holes. When people saw Yvon’s “holey rotors” at AMA road races, they became an instant must-have.
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Gurney built a big, narrow-angle V-twin to power his latest Alligator motorcycle but was offended by its heavy natural vibration—something that requires balance shafts to quell. He said of it, “My experience is that things vibrate for a while, then fatigue, and fall off or fall apart.” He knew something better was possible because he’d devoted his life to better and knew how to get to it. In 2015, he revealed AAR’s “moment-canceling engine”—a compact parallel-twin with two geared contra-rotating crankshafts that zero out primary shaking and leave no rocking moment—without balance shafts. “Big” means 110 cubic inches from a 5.14-by-2.65-inch bore and stroke. “Smooth” means being able to reach high revs without shaking itself to pieces. “Power” means 260 hp. With now-common variable cam timing, this engine will pull hard from low revs to peak. When I say “build,” I mean in-house—because the shop has everything required, including not only the usual machine shop equipment but also specialized apparatus such as a large-scale autoclave for carbon-fiber-reinforced-polymer
Aboard the Honda-powered Alligator at All American Racers. ABOVE RIGHT: Line drawing of the “momentcanceling” twin to power the next Alligator. ABOVE LEFT:
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structures. You need one if you plan to make racecar tubs—or advanced airframe parts. Gurney and his leading staff would show up at Yamaha’s Monterey Aquarium MotoGP celebrations, parking several Alligator versions at the curb outside. He knew everyone because he had been everywhere, always. His office is rich with memorabilia; when I was there in 1997, I spotted what I thought was a sleevevalve cylinder from the Centaurus engine of a Sea Fury-based air racer. Warplane models covered a long bookcase. History is dense in these buildings—the Hall of Photos and the Eagle Museum’s long line of race cars. At lunch, Gurney and his men had endless topics to discuss; on and on we went, hopping from subject to fascinating subject. These men were interested in mist lubrication of gears and rolling bearings, supplying just enough oil to lubricate and cool, not enough to lose power to churning. It was clear they were reading everything. I felt seriously privileged to be there. You might think such a busy man, designing and building a series of unique motorcycles while designing, building, and driving race cars, would be the classic, driven Type-A male whose family is an afterthought and whose rising blood pressure puts an end to it all at age 60. No such thing. Type-A’s compete with their children, but Dan passed control of his company to son Justin in
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2002, then himself carried on to age 86. The attractive conclusion that for Gurney, life was not a compulsion but a pleasure. A feast. Dan Gurney’s life tells us that it’s essential to have many interests and the energy to pursue them. AAR has taken on much besides racing in recent years. California was long a center of U.S. aircraft production, with milelong plants surrounded by concentric rings of subcontractors and job shops. As that has ceased to be the case, organizations such as AAR, which can literally take on any project, have become less common and more valuable. Gurney said,
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“Justin saved the company”—meaning that by taking on specialized aviation projects, AAR and its people have remained busy. Dan Gurney’s career has been a long series of successes that have unlocked further opportunity. He saw his moment-canceling engine as another such key— as he put it, “One more chance to make an impression.” As if it were needed. Q
On the podium at the 1962 French Grand Prix after his victory in the eight-cylinder Porsche.
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By MARK HOYER
Photography by DREW RUIZ
Shoei NeoTec II, a luxury dwelling for your head
ere’s what tends to happen after you’ve worn a great modular helmet for a while: Your standard non-flip-up full-face helmet begins to look like a house without doors. An open-face seems like a house with holes for doors but no doors, so there is reduced security, and it’s absolutely not weatherproof. I’m not knocking either style of helmet because I wear both, but when I am going on a multiday ride for work or play, a modular such as the Shoei NeoTec is what I grab. This is even truer with the introduction of the NeoTec II this spring. The updates were focused on improved aerodynamics, quietness, and watertightness. Avoiding extra weight in a modular isn’t easy. Hinges and latches not only must be present, of course, but they also must be exceptionally strong and secure. Pivots and the 360-Degree Locking System parts that hold the flip portion of the helmet closed
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THE MODULAR HELMET
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$699 (solid colors); $799 (graphics)
are stainless steel. So you get bank-vault security, but thankfully the latch mechanism doesn’t require a combination to open. In fact, this is the best, easiest-to-use latch currently available, and now it has a larger release button. The Dual Locking System is much better at holding open the flip portion of the helmet. No more inadvertent slams like on the old helmet. New shell shape and Noise Isolator cheek pads are key quiet-makers, while a vortex generator on the chin bar helps reduce wind noise from the seams where the chin bar meets the main helmet. And check out the sort of sports-car splitter on either side of the flip-release button—those are there for wind control. The new faceshield shape and improved rubber seal also improve the rider environment, though the first detent when lifting the shield off its seal is too wide for riding as when you might like to clear fog. It’s Pinlock anti-fog equipped, but we’d still like a lower first detent. We love the internal drop-down tinted visor. The helmet strap is no longer D-ring but a MicroRatchet buckle with smooth action and easy release. It works invisibly great and had similar performance as a D-ring in testing, says Shoei.
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Integrating the Sena SRL or Shoei Rider Link (similar internals as 20S) does streamline installation and eliminates the protrusion caused by the typical clip-mount unit. This reduces wind noise, for example, which is good. It doesn’t theoretically lock you into the tech long-term since (we would hope) Sena could package later units such as the new 30K (with mesh intercom technology). Still, if you want this helmet and a communications system, you will be using only the Sena 20S type (with less-effective Bluetooth-intercom tech). The advantages of mesh intercom are that the network gets stronger with additional users, whereas Bluetooth intercom gets weaker. The joy of connecting with my son via communicator when riding together makes it an exceptionally cooler shared experience. I’ve also used it as a great tool communicating with a new-rider co-worker who tipped over at a stoplight. He was completely wigged out, and after we regrouped and started riding again, I could see how tense and afraid he was as the road got twistier. So in my best “therapy voice,” I said: “OK, man, you need
The modular helmet ﬁnally becomes sporty. OPPOSITE: Three-button interface with the Sena makes it all work. Main SRL unit clicks into rear of helmet.
to relax your arms—just flap your elbows a little. Take a few deep breaths. That motorcycle will lean over in these corners until the footpegs scrape, so pick up your eyes, and look through the corners and farther up the road, and steer the motorcycle without fear of losing grip.” Our ride improved, and he was grateful for the help. Sure makes planning gas stops a lot easier too. Having installed a few helmet communicators over the years, doing the usual job of putting in the Velcro for the earphones and mic and running the wires is really not super challenging. But the NeoTec II’s click-in setup makes it exceptionally easy and super tidy. Even the boom mic just snaps into place. Speaker position was excellent, and volume and sound quality are great, even with earplugs in place. Packaging here reduces claimed battery life from 13 to 10 hours, and intercom range from 1.2 to 1 mile versus the 20S. Comfort is among the best for any helmet on the market. A couple of 18-hour days in the saddle proved this again. Interior padding is fully removable, and different-thickness cheek pads and top pad help tune fit. The helmet is DOT-certified. Shoei says it would be technically possible to make it pass Snell also, but it would result in an unrealistically large and heavy helmet given the modular system, and he feels this design is more beneficial for the customer. A couple of knocks against this otherwise sano setup is the fact that you can’t swap the comm system to another helmet, and it’s a minor pain that you’ll have to plug in your whole lid, as it were, when charging, because the unit doesn’t just pop off. The helmet with comm system is, of course, relatively heavy at 4 pounds, 5 ounces ready to ride. I find the convenience benefit far outweighs increased mass. The NeoTec II is not inexpensive on its own, and adding the communicator ups the investment more, but when I am looking for a convenient dwelling for my head, this is the top choice. It opens the door to more-social riding both with the flip open and closed. Q
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/ MAK ERS/ T h e P e o p l e B e h i n d t h e M a c h i n e s We L o v e
2 The TUNER
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 99
/ The LEADER /
M AT T L E VAT I C H By MARK HOYER / Photography by SAVERIO TRUGLIA
L Leader of the free motorcycling world? Hard to argue against Matt Levatich, a 52-year-old engineerturned-executive at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. After climbing through the ranks starting in 1994, Levatich was made president and CEO in 2015, and his charge has been to navigate this $5-billion-ayear motorcycle-maker and cultural icon through the challenges and uncertainty that face the industry. On the increasing strength of the used market and how it influences Harley-Davidson’s widely publicized initiative to add 2 million new riders in 10 years. The biggest competitor to Harley
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is used Harleys: timeless, reliable, durable, classic, beautiful, affordable. And that’s this “total demand” thing [of new and used]. But when you’re in the business of “building riders,” you love the used marketplace. It’s probably the biggest asset we have, because a 20-year-old can get on a Sportster and fiddle with it and make it his own for $2,500, and it’s a great motorcycle. As a manufacturer, how do we embrace it psychologically when it doesn’t do a lot [directly] for our business? The “universals” that bring us to motorcycling. Why do you love to ride? The Japanese have this technique of the
five whys, that you don’t really get to the root cause of anything until you ask why five times. So, I love to ride. Why? Then you’re like, well, I like the wind in my hair. Why? Well, because I’m… When you ask the five whys about riding, you get to things like freedom, independence. I know I’m an individual; I’m not part of the herd. You get to these very deep human elements across cultures, across generations, across genders, and are written about by Aristotle and Socrates. So these are human values. Why does riding elicit that for people? This is the promised land, but it is hard to communicate to nonriders. HarleyDavidson calls it personal freedom.
â€œTake nothing for granted. Now more than ever, you have to be great at everything you do, and you have to be on your toes, on your front foot, questioning everything: Is it good enough?â€?
Regarding the LiveWire prototype and Harley-Davidson’s ability to deviate from its classic V-twin form. The biggest thing [LiveWire] demonstrated to us is that the customers are much more willing to see innovative and progressive things from Harley than probably we are allowing ourselves to do. On the 115th anniversary celebration this August. The emphasis for the 115th in Milwaukee is on riding. There will be rides from four corners of the United
Levatich is a die-hard rider and owner of four bikes: a 2018 Fat Bob, 2014 Softail Slim, 2012 XR1200X, and 2017 Road Glide Special.
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States to Milwaukee, for example. [Once here], now we are shifting the emphasis of the 115th entirely to participation in moto culture—beach racing on Lake Michigan, hill climb, an indoor flat track. We’re giving people a reason to go to every area dealer to try the new product, and giving people no reasons to sit down but to move about. What do you think of when you hear “autonomous vehicle”? I think of things that have nothing to do with motorcycling. I think basic transportation. I think utility. I think boring. I think commodity. I think necessary. I think inevitable. What’s the negotiation between all that and motorcycling? Coexistence with autonomous
vehicles because people don’t ride motorcycles for transportation, commodity, boredom, utility. It’s the antidote to all that, right? Student debt, housing costs, new necessities, and pressure on people’s time. All of these things are forces that are placing economic pressure on people. When I was growing up, I didn’t have an $800 phone and a $100-a-month data plan. These things are necessities now. So there’s a lot of competition for the money, whether it’s cost of housing or lower wages or things that people need that they didn’t used to need, and there is a lot of competition for people’s time. How “big data” on riders will drive Harley-Davidson’s future planning.
The motorcycle and car industry —think Polk and IHS Markit—are entirely focused on the machine view of the world. How many Harleys in operation, how many cars, used cars, new cars, right? It is useful information but not sufficient given that we need to understand what riders are doing. How are they entering the sport? New, used, this brand, that brand, this size, that size? How are they participating in the sport? How long are they owning their first bike? Are they adding to their fleet or de-fleeting? Where are they demographically when they’re doing these things? We have accumulated and aggregated a lot of data assets. And it’s a strategic advantage for us because we now have a rider-migration knowledge base—we don’t know your name, but we know your demographics—
we know exactly how many motorcycles you’ve bought and sold from 2000 to today. It’s a little bit more of a long-term vision, but it helps us in the mindset shift from bikes to people. And I’m excited about that because that’s what this is about. This is a people business, and this is a sport business. And, of course, we are in the machine business too. But when we understand [riders], we understand better how to channel our energy. What would 1994 Matt Levatich tell 2018 Matt Levatich? Take nothing for granted. Now more than ever, you have to be great at everything you do, and you have to be on your toes, on your front foot, questioning everything: Is it good enough? Because tomorrow it might not be. Everything’s
moving so fast. Would I have been that crystal-clear on that in 2015 taking over as CEO? That’s much nearer [than 1994 Levatich], and no, no I wouldn’t have. Am I clear about it now? Yes, I am. At the end of the day, it goes right back to what this company has always been: great products engineered, manufactured, and distributed to create a marketplace for something you know people don’t really need. Even back then [in the early days of Harley-Davidson], maybe there was more of a need in 1912 or something, but pretty quickly, once the Ford Model T came along, motorcycling became a sport. And sport needs passion. Sport needs inspiration. Sport needs creativity and innovation. Q Read the full interview on our website, cycleworld.com.
/ The TUNER /
D O N S A KA KU R A By KENT KUNITSUGU / Photography by DREW RUIZ
M Motorcycle road racing in America has changed drastically from the romantic bygone days of a rider and mechanic crammed into a van full of bikes and spare parts, scurrying across the nation trying to eke out a living. Motorcycle manufacturers’ increasing involvement in racing during the 1980s saw an inﬂux of money and resources that eventually transformed the paddock a decade later into a bustling hive of big transporters, swarms of team personnel, and star riders with seven-ﬁgure salaries. But that evolution was merciless over the years; scant few who were involved in that earlier era remain in professional racing today. There is still one veteran from
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those days of oil-stained coveralls, greasy ﬁngernails, and engine rebuilds in the back of the van. Don Sakakura has been at the helm of famed industry powerhouse Yoshimura R&D for nearly two decades, while also having the role of team manager for Yoshimura Suzuki racing for another 17 years before that. His 38-year career with Yoshimura has witnessed the continuing changes in racing— and motorcycling in general—over that time. Riding dirt bikes with his family at an early age fostered Sakakura’s love of motorcycling, in more ways than one. “I not only loved riding, but also the technical front…I really
enjoyed working on the motorcycles, ﬁnding out what improved performance,” says the native Californian. Sakakura’s racing journey began when American Honda poached some of the Yoshimura Suzuki mechanics to help staff its upcoming factory superbike effort. He joined Yoshimura in January 1980, and soon found himself under the tutelage of legendary racing tuner Hideo “Pops” Yoshimura, son Fujio, and Suehiro “Nabe” Watanabe—the core of Yoshimura R&D. “Pop(s) had that ‘never die, never give up’ attitude,” recalls Sakakura. “He never accepted losing; it was always, ‘Why can’t we?’ or ‘What can we do to make more power,
“The tools and techniques seem archaic now, but that’s what we had to do to make what we wanted.” MAKERS
/ ISSUE 2 2018 / 105
or go faster around the racetrack?’ He would work and work until he got what he wanted to achieve.” Of course, that work ethic was expected of everyone else, and those who didn’t follow suit wouldn’t last very long. “If you didn’t get a hammer or something thrown at you, along with the abuse and pounding he’d dish out, then you knew you were accepted as part of the team,” Sakakura says with a laugh. Yoshimura also taught him the value of old-school craftsmanship. “He actually would ﬁle camshaft proﬁles by hand,” reveals Sakakura. “Put [soft blank shafts] in the engine, check the degree wheel timing, turn the engine. He had an idea in his mind of how he would like to see the valve movement in relation
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to the bore and stroke of the engine. Then he would build a template off that for the cam grinder.” Because the early superbikes were basically converted streetbikes, manual fabrication and construction skills were a must. “The tools and techniques seem archaic now, but that’s what we had to do to make what we wanted. Like stufﬁng exhaust-pipe headers with sand and bending them by hand, working with metals in various ways to build what was needed.” Sakakura progressed from mechanic for two-time AMA Superbike champion Wes Cooley (winning the title with him in 1980) to Yoshimura Suzuki race-team manager in 1993. The soft-spoken Japanese-American oversaw what would eventually be
a racing dynasty; the Yoshimura and Suzuki partnership that began in 1978 has since racked up more than 35 national championships, including the motocross and offroad segment. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the partnership between the two companies, and Sakakura is well-aware of its significance. “We certainly wouldn’t be where we are now without the partnership and support we’ve received from Suzuki over the years.” Yoshimura’s success on the racetrack translated to commercial success as well, but it wasn’t just a matter of “winning races and then waiting for the phone to ring back at the shop,” as Sakakura half-jokingly describes the early days. He eventually ended up supervising a rapidly growing staff to handle a thriving performance-product business, in addition to race-team management duties. Sakakura’s learning curve on the commercial side was steep, but the result is that the Yoshimura brand is now a household name in the motorcycle world. The increasing demands of running both a major performanceproduct business and one of the pre-eminent professional race teams in the USA were beginning to force compromises that didn’t sit well with Sakakura, so now the commercial Yoshimura R&D of America part of the business has been turned over to Yusaku Yoshimura, Pops’ grandson. Sakakura still will be running the Yoshimura Suzuki racing team “until they decide to kick me out,” jokes the 59-year-old. That likely won’t be anytime soon, judging by his recent continued success in that arena (team rider Toni Elias is the current MotoAmerica Superbike champion). But regardless of where Sakakura goes from here, his inﬂuence on racing and motorcycling in this country won’t be forgotten. Q
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“I love the sport more and more as time goes by.”
B E R T S H E PA R D
NICKY HAYDEN, CW SEPTEMBER 2008
T 112 / CYCLE WORLD
There are more than a few iconic photographs of Nicky Hayden, and they all feel more special since his passing in May 2017. This image encapsulates what so many loved about him as a rider: staggering skill delivered with an ease that
captured the essence of cool—as well as the timelessness and pure Americana that he wore so well. His style and grit buoyed him to the top of the world, where somehow he always seemed as he is here: a kid, sideways, getting dirty. Q
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