Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cafe Motos: life in Colorado.

About Cafe Motos
"Just 2 guys with a love of cafe racers. We specialize in 70's vintage Honda CB750 and CB550 motorcycles. We design and fabricate our own components and want to share them with anyone who loves the cafe style. If you have come to this site, you have probably seen the bikes. Please, let us know what you think."

The "Zeke" $4500

•pod air filters
•re-jetting and carb. Cleaning
•polishing engine components
•engine seals
•seat cowl with taillight
•seat cover
•license plate mount and light
•Flat side covers or hide elect.
•paint on body parts
•Frame modification under cowl
•relocation of choke and ignition
•fender modification

Custom parts:
•speedo and indicator lights
•speedo mount
•handlebars and bar clamps
•pod air filters
•seat cowl with taillight
•seat cover
•license plate mount and light
•Flat side covers

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shut-ins and shy people: the solar Cafe Racer of your dreams is here.

From Autoblog Green:

"Is it a snail? Is it a two-wheeled version of the Sidney Opera house? Nope... It's a solar-powered motorbike designed by SunRed, a Spanish automotive development company, that got a prize for Best Innovative Technology during the Barcelona Int'l Auto Show.

The project, which will result in a life-size prototype in the near future, consisted in creating a model able to capture sunlight, store electrical power and power the motorbike in the most environmentally respectful way. Instead of deploying panels that might occupy too much space, SunRed decided to adopt a clamshell structure that would optimize the panels surface while not making the vehicle bulky. When the bike is stopped, the solar panels surface tops up to 3.1 m2 (25 sq. ft) and it can store energy for up to 20km (13 miles) at 50km/h (30 mph). The motor, as in most modern electric bikes, is brushless and it's placed right in the axle of the wheel, saving transmission components.

Although this is just a concept, SunRed pretends to serve it as a benchmark for future developments of solar applications in all kinds of vehicles. We'll surely keep an eye on them"

My heros: "The Artful Dodgers"

By Mark Gardiner, From

"The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the doorways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands." --Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist The painted lines on the pavement mean "no stopping." Still, London cops cut bike couriers a little slack since, without them, the business of central London would slow to a crawl. Charles Dickens set his 1837 novel, Oliver Twist in the Southwark district of London. Locals pronounce the neighborhood "Suvurk." It's across the Thames river from "The City," which is London's financial and legal center. In Dickens' time, pubs, theaters, entertainment and prostitution were banned from the highbrow financial district, but they flourished here, just south of the river."

I found myself in Southwark earlier this spring in search of "Chasbikes," a repair shop that could easily have been described in a Dickens novel itself had motorcycles been invented a few years earlier. It's a dingy shop, jammed under a couple of soot-blackened brick arches supporting a 19th-century railway bridge.

The index in London A-Z, the courier's bible, lists more than 25,000 streets. Good thing.
"Chas" is Charles Holt. When he shrugs, a droopy moustache and bags under his eyes combine to create the vague impression of a basset hound. His shop is what London's motorcycle couriers call a "roll-on/roll-off" shop. No appointments necessary. A half-dozen mechanics work while customers wait. Even Chas admits his shop's specialty is "vinegar and brown paper"--Cockney slang for makeshift repairs. But if you're a courier with a flat, every minute costs you, so you'll be happy with a quick patch job at Chasbikes, even though the mechanics'd laugh out loud if you asked them to balance your wheel.

For a while, Chasbikes only worked on Honda's workhorse CX500 V-twin, which London's couriers affectionately call "maggots." Nowadays, however, the shop is crammed with slightly newer models also favored by working riders. Hanging around in here you quickly realize that most couriers care not a whit for style. What they want is bulletproof reliability first and foremost, preferably with a shaft drive. So would you if you rode 50,000 miles a year, in all weather, in one of the world's most congested cities.

That's Crudgie, whose vintage cork and leather "Everoak" helmet still meets legal requirements.
In Dickens' time, the population of New York was about 800,000. London was already a sprawling metropolis of nearly three million. Virtually all of central London was built up before the invention of the automobile. Its streets, to this day, are much too narrow and winding to adequately handle car traffic. Now that the Greater London's population has reached about 14 million, rush hour lasts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. With traffic too congested for cars, and distances too great for bicycles, London's 2000 or so motorcycle couriers play a key role in keeping business moving.

There are always ads in Motor Cycle News looking for riders. Companies lure employees with guarantees of up to 500 pounds (more than $1000) a week, and promises of affordable company bikes and insurance. Britain has triple the U.S. rate of unemployment, so that kind of money talks.

Dickens died before the invention of the motorcycle, but he'd have found plenty to write about at Chasbikes (above), which is right in his old haunts. Courier machines like this GT550 Kawasaki limp in for "roll-on/ roll-off" service; work is done while riders wait, slumped in greasy office furniture rescued from neighborhood dumpsters.
It's not an easy job. British weather is often wet and cold. Cobblestones are still a common road surface. Diesel spills are everywhere. London is a maze of narrow, winding streets that rarely meet at right angles. Most streets are only a few blocks long, and street names seem to change in the middle of blocks. Even people born here don't try to find a new address without bringing their copy of London A-Z, the thick book of neighborhood maps that is the courier's bible.

All in all, it's not for the faint of heart. Whether it's true or not, several couriers told me the same story: "A few years ago, they did a survey of the most dangerous jobs in Britain, mate, and the three most dangerous jobs were bomb disposal, deep-sea diving--and being a courier!" That has the ring of an urban myth, but the reality is bad enough that there's no need to exaggerate the risks. When I asked a group of couriers how often they actually made physical contact with other vehicles in traffic--banging mirrors, booting cars in frustration--they looked at me curiously; "Every day, of course." The average courier lasts less than two years, but the lifers I interviewed, with from six to 20 years' experience, almost all had stories of broken bones. There are one or two fatalities a year.

That's Crudgie, whose vintage cork and leather "Everoak" helmet still meets legal requirements.

The hazards are everywhere. Most couriers cite taxicabs first, though it's the empty ones that are dangerous. They'll slam on the brakes or make sudden U-turns to pick up fares. When they're carrying passengers, most London cabbies--imagine this-- drive like chauffeurs, taking care not to throw their passengers around. If you're going to survive as a courier, you learn to check the back seat for a passenger. But the worst complaints were reserved for drivers of Royal Mail vans. If you can believe the couriers, the drivers of these vans are allowed three accidents a year before being disciplined, and they all use up all three free passes.

Nico who leases a bike from his employer, told me "I have a Yamaha XT600 back in Italy, but I couldn't bring it here, because I'd just lose my license. At home, I wheelie everywhere."
Street survival skills become second nature to long-term couriers. Most told me that they'd had their serious accidents early on. They learned quickly to assume other drivers can't see them until eye contact has been made--and once eye contact has been made, to assume the driver will purposely attempt to run them down. Veterans notice even the subtlest body language from drivers; things like the slight upward hunching of drivers' shoulders when they tense up before a desperate lane change.

Even the most skilled rider can be had. Dan Walsh, an ex-courier who now writes for the British magazine Bike, told me some crashes are inevitable. "There are two times a year when everyone crashes. The first is in February, when London always gets a day or two of snow. The second is the first really hot day in June, when the secretaries are out in their miniskirts; bang! you ride into the back of a van."

In Dickens' time, Smithfield Market was London's live cattle market. While they no longer drive cattle into central London, it's still the city's major wholesale meat market. The building covers an entire city block. Like most London markets, it's only open one day a week--in this case, Monday. The rest of the week, traffic in and out of the building is minimal, so there's room to park bikes and loiter, out of the rain, under the awnings that cover the market's loading docks.

Monkeying around
The cafe (pronounced caff, by the way, despite the way Microsoft Word obligingly inserts an accent over the "e") across the street makes what one courier told me was "...the best tea in London, mate, because they still use loose leaves, not bags." Shelter from the rain; cheap, plentiful, hot tea; quick access to the law and banking offices of The City. Smithfield is an ideal habitat for London's motorcycle couriers.

In general, motorcycle couriers are either long-haul or short-haul specialists. The dispatchers--called "controllers"--know what kind of bike each rider has, and try to match the trip with the bike and rider. If you're willing to pay the price (about $300) a courier will be happy to run an important contract from your office in London to Scotland, and deliver it later that same day.

There were a dozen bikes parked around the cafe when I arrived around mid-morning. I fell in with three long-haul boys, standing on the sidewalk by their bikes, Honda ST1100s and a BMW K100. At first they were wary; couriers do a fair bit of work for cash, and strangers are presumed to be Her Majesty's tax men until proven otherwise. When I walked up and started asking questions, they tended to drift away making a show of listening intently to the radios that link them to their controllers. However, once it was established that, despite my funny accent, I spoke pretty fluent motorcycle, they opened up a bit.

An outside pass on a double-decker bus in Piccadilly Circus (bottom, right). New laws give buses right-of-way in all traffic situations. Riders complain, "Before, we used to let them in anyway, but now they don't even look!"
Like bikers everywhere, the bike they preferred was the one they had. I listened to a "ST vs. the K100" argument that I could tell these three guys had carried on for years. There were, however, lots of things they agreed on. These riders, who had covered about half a million miles each in the last decade, right through British winters, swore by ABS. Spending thousands of hours a year in the saddle, they deemed niceties like heated grips and full fairings absolutely essential. (You know the story about Eskimos, who have 50 words for "snow"? That's the way couriers talk about rain gear.)

The courier scene here really exploded about 20 years ago, about the time increasing car ownership made London traffic essentially impenetrable for cars. To hear veterans tell it, it's not like it used to be. "When oi stahtid," one lamented over his bacon sandwich and tea, "it was company against company, but now it's wroidah against wroidah. Loik, the company oi wuhk foah is on an open coal system--Roight?" He arched an eyebrow at me, to see if I grasped the significance of an "open call" system. What that means is that, as companies get calls, they put them out to all riders, and the riders nearest the pickup point radio in a sort of "dibs" on that trip. The controller then assigns it to whoever seems most available. Needless to say, it's a system that breeds discontent. "So weah in competition with each utha. There's no comradery any moah. Some of these guys, when they go home, they have cars. They're just riding to make a living."

..and here's Trish

Trish is among the 5 percent of dispatch riders who are women.
Most riders work for a guarantee, which means the dispatch company guarantees a minimum gross income; but to earn the guarantee, riders must be available 10 hours a day, five days a week. Guarantees have elevated "skiving"--dodging work while creating the impression of working--to an art form. Couriers trade deliveries amongst each other for cash, passing off packages to other riders who are heading in the same general direction. Couriers have been known to lie at home in their beds, radio on, calling for the occasional delivery to create the impression they're on the job, all the while hoping they don't actually get assigned the delivery.

It must be easy to park, or does he bring it in with him?
As a courier, if you need a day off, you can always quit. Experienced riders who know the city will be rehired whenever they want. I asked Trish, a CB500 rider who was one of the few women I saw on the job, if she was worried about getting paid the wages she was owed after quitting without notice. "See this radio?" She patted the two-way radio that connected her to her controller, "We just hang on to it until they pay us!"

The first thing couriers told me they liked about their jobs was the freedom. Virtually all of them were bikers first, who tried the job because they liked the idea of getting paid to ride around. After riding all day, most still ride for fun, too. For pleasure, they ride everything: lots of choppers and rat bikes, super-motards, a 350 AJS. I ran into one courier whose CX500 was out of commission, so he was dispatching on his play bike: a lowered, drag-tuned FZR1000 with a Spondon swingarm that let him extend the wheelbase by three inches at the dragstrip. Maybe not the most efficient tool for the job, but great at the traffic lights.

Massive pannier is the trademark of one of London's old-guard dispatch firms.
Up on Great Marlborough Street, there's another courier hangout, just outside the posh, west-end Liberty's department store. A tiny urban square is completely taken over by couriers, pretty much all day long. There's a place to park bikes off the street--commuters park their bikes here too, but in the designated spots, not right on the sidewalk. Nearby cafes and pubs tolerate--or at least don't actively discourage--couriers, and it's the site of one of London's all-too-rare public toilets. In decent weather, it's a good place to ogle upper-class birds doing the shops, most of whom when they walk past give the couriers the sort of looks that deer reserve for coyotes.

On the day of this photo, Pete (orange sweatshirt) had been fired over an argument with his firm's controller. Not a problem. Rival companies will hire an experienced rider on a moment's notice.
My guide to Great Marlborough was a cheerful courier named Pete, who'd been fired the day I met him, and was hanging out with a lager in hand when I arrived at around 10 a.m. The scene here was mostly short-haul couriers. "Great Marlborough? They're a bunch of nutters up there," one of the Smithfield guys warned me,"whatever you do, don't let them take you for a ride!" Let's just say, by the looks of them, that if they were in a large group leaving a soccer game, I would have walked quickly in another direction. But maybe looks are deceiving. I heard one tale of a courier who, after being cut up by a cab, rode alongside him punching his window and yelling at him. He was so distracted, that he didn't notice a red light until too late, losing the front end and trapping his leg beneath his bike. Cab pulls up, driver gets out. "Great," the courier thinks, "I've had it now. The cabbie will stomp me while I'm trapped here." Instead the cab driver, rolling his eyes with a sort of "how do we find ourselves in these situations?" look, lifted the bike off him. Both apologized and went on their way.

Duct-tape fairing and corrugated-cardboard leg shields are not standard (top, left). They'll come off during London's brief summer.
Crashing, whether your fault or not, is part of being a courier. Short-haul riders normally don't want bodywork on their bikes, as it's just more stuff to get damaged. Shops that specialize in courier equipment install purposeful-looking crash bars to protect engine cases, gauges, and headlights. One thing most working riders won't skimp on is clothing. In good weather, they wear either two-piece leathers or high-quality nylon gear with body armor. Most wear full-on motocross boots, which work well in both offensive and defensive capacity. Flip-up full-face lids aren't much of a style statement, but when you take your helmet on and off 30 times a day, looks stop counting.

There's a light standard at the Great Marlborough hangout that's been turned into a memorial for Wayne Pettifer, a dispatch rider who was killed a year ago. Different versions of the story circulate, and depending on which is true, either Wayne or a truck driver drifted wide on a rain-slicked curve up near Manchester. Whoever was at fault, the result was predictably one-sided. The wake ran for days, and on the anniversary of his death, the Great Marlborough regulars--they call themselves the FFDRC, for "Filthy F*#ers Despatch Riders Club--went on a crawl of his favorite pubs.

Long distance couriers carry maps of the entire country with them.
While there is quite a bit of general hooliganism--wheelies, stoppies and intentional backfiring, for example it's mostly for the benefit of the other couriers. "City boys," commuters on R1s and the like, are fair game on the roundabouts. Couriers on filthy GT550s with wooden Conti Tour tires delight in leathering them at high speed. They refer to the virgin rubber on the edges of commuters' tires as "wanker strips." Still, London traffic is too congested and unpredictable most of the time to allow for much fooling around. Just surviving is enough sport.

As one courier told me, "I can tell if I'm going to have a good day or a bad day within a minute of leaving my driveway. Some days, you'll dive for a gap that's actually a bit too small, but you'll make it with ease anyway. Other days, your timing is just that little bit off.... I had one run a couple of years ago where I had an accident every Friday, for five consecutive weeks. And the fifth week, it was a Friday the 13th! The controller actually suggested I take the day off."

Three of the long-distance boys wait for assignments in front of Smithfield Market. Honda ST1100s are favorites of the long-haul guys.
Back at Chasbikes it's Friday afternoon, and the lads are shutting it down for another week. Bikes awaiting service litter the sidewalk out front, and the employees have begun the process of squeezing them all, sardine-style, into the shop. One last customer comes in with an urgent need for a puncture repair. A mechanic roots through styrofoam teacups, dirty rags, and fast-food wrappers on his lift, and emerges with a missing wrench. He goes outside to pull the courier's rear wheel right in the street. Chas gives me the lowdown on courier bikes.

"What you want is a small bike, with a short wheelbase that you can squeeze between cars," he says. "For a long time the ultimate courier bike was the CX500. We had some go over 200,000 miles on the same engine. When they discontinued it, people switched to other Honda V-twins, like the Revere [basically a shaft-drive Hawk GT] but the problem with that bike was, while the motor was very reliable, the shaft drive was too hard on the gearbox. The chain-drive version, the Bros, is not officially imported into Britain, but there are hundreds in London that have been brought in to use as courier bikes."

Couriers and cab drivers each cite the other group as the principal hazards of their jobs, but they seem to maintain a truce nonetheless.
The Kawasaki GT550 [shaft drive, four-cylinder] is probably the most popular bike now, and it's pretty reliable, though the carbs wear out, and are very expensive to replace." Replacing carbs has been good to Chas; his own bike is a Ducati 748. Just before the shop is locked down, several mechanics walk up to Chas, who pulls a wad of bills from his pocket, and pays them in cash. Sensing that this would not be a good time to snap another photo, I pack up and walk back to the Southwark tube station. On the way, I run into a courier I'd met earlier in the week; his name, or nickname, is Crudgie. His gray beard and hair tumbles out from beneath a 40-year-old Everoak cork-lined, leather-covered crash helmet. It turns out while British riders must wear helmets, any helmet that was ever approved is still considered legal headgear. Looking at him, you could imagine him delivering the tapes from the Rolling Stones' first big recording session to some East London record-pressing plant.

In Memoriam, Wayne Pettifer, one of the couriers who hung out here on Great Marlborough Street, was killed last year. On the anniversary of his death, other couriers went on a ride that stopped at Wayne's favorite pubs.
Crudgie rides an aging Honda 250 twin. It was (well) used when he bought it, but has since logged 125,000 miles. He'd fitted it with a massive fiberglass fairing off something like a Phelon & Moore Panther. We chatted for a minute. In fact, we talked about the merits of chain oilers. Crudgie volunteered that, really, his motor pretty effectively lubed the whole back of his motorcycle. When I bent down to look, I saw his point. He threw a delivery into his top box, and wished me a good weekend.

In my week with London couriers, more than one told me that they figured the Internet would eventually kill the courier business. People are adaptable, but it's hard to imagine this lot doing much else. As one told me, "This is the last rock 'n' roll job, mate."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The colours!: The Paul Smith Triumph Bonnie specials.

"They say two heads are better than one. When the heads are Triumph and Paul Smith, there's no question about it.
The initial collaboration created 'Triumph by Paul Smith', a modern collection of accessories and jeans wear inspired by Triumph Motorcycles. However, as the partnership grew so did the creativity and nine Bonneville T100's were customised with individual paint schemes designed by Paul Smith to complement the clothing and accessory range. These nine one-off bikes generated so much interest that Triumph and Paul Smith created two more original Bonneville T100 custom designs, nicknamed the “multi-Union” and “Live Fast”, especially for retail. Only 50 of each of these two Limited Edition Triumph Bonneville T100s by Paul Smith will be produced for sale globally. With all the heritage that makes these brands great, this is quintessentially British design with an added Paul Smith twist.

A modern incarnation of the classic sixties speedster, the Bonneville T100 oozes authentic motorcycle chic. Its heavily chromed covers, distinctive air cooling fins and twin clocks complement the delicious Paul Smith designed paintwork, while the twin cylinder engine, with its distinctive throaty burble through pea shooter pipes, and easy-handling chassis make the T100 as good to ride as it is to look at.

Paul Smith believes you can find inspiration in anything. His designs bring together tradition, humour and style to evoke British individuality and eccentricity. Over the years, he has become more than a fashion label, and since the seventies, the Paul Smith brand has been a major influence on UK design and culture - constantly redefining the essence of 'Britishness'.

The Paul Smith "Multi-Union"

With the combination of individual style, enduring quality and true Britishness, it makes perfect sense for Paul Smith and Triumph to get together. As the Commercial Director of Triumph, Tue Mantoni says;

"Paul Smith and Triumph are cut from the same cloth; with long-standing British heritage, classic design style and a global cult following."

The Triumph by Paul Smith range of clothing and accessories are now available in selected Paul Smith stores globally. The two Limited Edition Triumph Bonneville T100s by Paul Smith can be pre-ordered between 1st August and 1st December 2005, ready for delivery next Spring. With only 100 bikes available globally, pre-ordering is essential.
Here's your chance to own a little slice of British heritage."

Perfection in hindsight: The 1966 Velocette Thruxton

From the Solvang Vintage Motorcyle Museum:

"Velocette’s sport bike, which had many successes in production racing. But too little, too late, the Japanese were coming. The Thruxton was made from 1965 to 1970. The last ones did not have the big GP carburator because someone stole them from the factory!. Notice the engine has little relation to the KTT, the real Velocette racer."

Velocette Thruxton 1968

A stunning Thruxton from The Velocette Spring opener in Napa Calif. Photo and write up from the great vintage bike blog The Vintagent -a full report here.

Helmets: The Art of the alternative Bash-Hat.

From The Cool hunter by By Matthew Hussey
"We apologise, but the idea of getting on a motorbike and dodging buses and pedestrians is just not on top of our list of ‘things to do’ before we die. Mainly because it’ll probably shorten how long we have to get through our tick-in-the-box achievements. But there is something inimitably smug in sliding through traffic and being able to park anywhere you like without fear of some ambitious traffic warden clamping your wheels.

And now, it’s just got a little bit smugger. Nexx Helmets from the UK have just released their new collection for 2007. Featuring the Nexx Cross Aluminium, a dirt bike shaped helmet, equipped with removable inner so you can make sure your face doesn’t smell like a football boot when your out and about. It looks pretty good too.

The range features other helmets including the Integral X10. But our personal favourite is the Nexx Open Face, think Top Gun on the highstreet. The lightweight frame is perfect for easy carry, and it knocks the socks off any other helmet we’ve seen recently. Paired with the other two designs in the range, it’s a bit of a no brainer between these and the cannonballs most people wear when scooting round town."

..and from Enagdet

Sure they look smart, but are they Snell rated?

"As far as bands go, Daft Punk is certainly one of the hardest for fans to emulate, with robotic suits and teams of animators unfortunately pretty hard to come by. Those with the dough to spare now have at least one option at their disposal, however, as the manufacturer of the duo's Discovery-era helmets is now offering to sell 'em to you for the hefty price of $65,000 apiece."

The Draxtar P-104 Motorcycle Helmet Review by Webbikeworld

"You guessed it -- this helmet was originally designed for the Chinese military and has been converted and approved for motorcycle use in Europe with an ECE 22-05 seal. It also meets the very tough German TÜV Rheinland standards for motorcycle helmet safety.

As soon as I saw the photos of the P-104, I had to have one. Maybe something like this will become as popular as the silly-looking (and useless) "brain buckets" that many cruiser riders wear? Surely it has to offer better protection, while looking much cooler.

The outer shell of the Draxtar is made from Fiberglass, and it feels very solid. I'm not sure how different the shell is when compared to a "normal" motorcycle helmet, but something about it makes it feel tough. The P-104 comes in Silver, Matte Black and Army Green, and I just had to get the green version.

The inner shell is patterned as closely as possible on the Chinese military version, but is made from EPS (like many "normal" motorcycle helmets) and is structured to meet the applicable motorcycle safety standards.

The helmet comes with two visors: a clear pull-down visor and a dark tinted visor. The visor is very easy to change -- there are two push buttons on the external part of the shell, just above the visor. Push down on the buttons and pull out the visor; push down on the buttons again to insert the new visor.

The visor slides up into the helmet, between the liner and the shell, and it's infinitely adjustable, which is a nice feature. It has enough friction in the mechanism to maintain its position. I have to keep it pushed up just a notch to keep it off my nose, and it stays in place with no problems.

The liner looks much like I'd expect from a military pilot or tank helmet. The size XL fits well, with a slightly tight band around my temples and plenty of room around my ears. Our opinion is that it will fit round, egg or oval shaped heads best (See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information).

One of the nice features of the P-104 is the design of the internal ear cups. They are attached with three metal snaps and they can be easily removed. The cups fit into the protrusions seen on each side of the helmet. Surely, there's got to be a set of speakers that will fit this helmet, probably available in a military surplus store somewhere. I think it would be very easy to fit this helmet with speakers and a microphone, although I haven't yet tried it.

The P-104 is actually pretty comfortable. It takes some very slight fiddling to get my ears into the ear cups when I put on the helmet, and the helmet feels nice and is well balanced. Although we're not big fans of "quick release" chin strap systems, this one works well and is perfectly suited to the helmet's design.

It's one of those new-fangled ratchet release mechanisms, where a plastic or nylon strap with teeth slides into a ratcheting mechanism. A lever is ratcheted back and forth to tighten up the strap. The strap has a piece of fabric coming from each side that meets in the middle and acts as a cushion, and a small piece of "hook and loop" fastener keeps the fabric in place.

The Draxtar P-104 weighs 1341 grams, or 2 lbs., 15-1/4 oz. Although it's somewhat like comparing apples to oranges, this is a very light helmet when compared to most full-face lids. See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on fitting motorcycle helmets and for a chart that compares the weights of every helmet we've reviewed.

On the road, the Draxtar is surprisingly quiet. It's certainly not as quiet as some of the better full-face helmets, but many full-face helmets have unique noise problems, typically heard as a low frequency, "booming" noise generated by buffeting around the neck area.

The Draxtar has a bit of whistling noise, but the ear cups work rather well to isolate the noise, and the low frequency noises caused by buffeting are not apparent, due to the open face design. Venting really isn't an issue because of the open face design of the helmet.

The Draxtar P-104 is manufactured by Pittgens Motorsport in Germany. The quality is first-rate, everything seems very well made, and I have no problem believing that this helmet meets military specifications. And the price is reasonable at £149.00, or roughly $260.00 at current exchange rates."

Monday, June 18, 2007

From Honda SuperHawk meets Trition.

This little dear is Vince Lupo's great SuperHawk from 305 and is the True work of the Cafe Racer as art..lets hear it in his own words:

"The engine and transmission are both fresh -- the pistons are one over stock, the head has been ported and polished, and the carbs are now running 155's instead of the previous 135's. My first test ride showed noticeable improvement in bottom end pull, and it reaches 80mph in a hurry (don't want to push it too much as the engine/trans are still fresh). The checkered stripes on the tank and fenders are hand painted, and all the decals are custom made. I think the idea was to take cues from some vintage British bikes and incorporate them into my bike. The exposed springs on the forks didn't quite turn out as I had envisioned, but it's the best that could be worked out considering the design and layout of the SuperHawk's forks. Frank's Engineering could have made some for me, but they are hand made, take a minimum of two months to make, and would've added about $ 1000.00 to the cost of the front end. Plus, in the final analysis, might not have looked much different than they are now. Ah well, if I get tired of them I can always put the gaiters back on that I had before (but the look is growing on me)."

"The EMGO Dunstall mufflers and the Dunlop K82 TT100 Lightweight tires. The mufflers are relatively inexpensive, are really well finished, and I consider them to be 'period' because of the fact that their design goes back to the SuperHawk era. I think the only difference between them and real Dunstalls is the welding seam near the outlet of the muffler (if I can find real Dunstalls then I might consider replacing them). They give the SuperHawk a much needed 'bark' as well as a performance tweak. The wheels are made up of Akront rims and stainless spokes, with original hubs cleaned up and their centers painted black. The tires, while perhaps more of an early 1970's design, still look the part and inspire much more confidence on the road than Cheng Shin's. I had to get them from England through Wheelhouse Tires -- they aren't cheap but they are fantastic tires and well worth the piece of mind.
I know that some 'purists' don't like my bike -- I actually had a fellow at a show say that the wheels and tires were 'too nice for the bike' -- and I'm sure some will gasp at what I've done to the front end, the checkers, decals, white pinstriping on the seat, etc etc etc. All I can say is that I'm sorry -- this is what I had in my head and I had to get it out of there! "

Friday, June 15, 2007

Norvil Motorcycles..Cafe Racers made while you wait-well almost.

"New"Norvil Production Racer 750, 850 & 920

"Les Emery has been building and tuning Norton & Norvil Racers for over 30 years.
During this period he has modified and designed hundreds of components.
Most of the improvements to be seen on new genuine Norton & genuine Norvil parts - are directly attributed to him.

Les & John Brisco build all our race engines & gearboxes.
Les was one of the first people to use belt drives - in the early 1970's - to improve gearbox reliability. In the 1980's Les was approached by Haynes to re-write the Norton Dominator workshop manual and his extensive alterations can still be seen in the latest editions of this manual. Les' specialty is the building of new historically styled Norton and Norvil motorcycles to his clients' own specification. He can also offer expert advice on what is best suited to his clients' needs & prides himself on his ability to produce a beautiful motorcycle - both visually and on performance."

Norvil Dominator Built To Order From 100% New Parts built to To Pre 1960 Specification

"The bikes are hand built by Norvil experts who build road and race machines for a living.
All parts are selectively assembled to be better than original specification. Cranks and rods are x-rayed as standard."

Norvil Commando Built To Order From 100% New Parts built to To Pre 1975 Specification

"All bikes are assembled in a purpose built clean room and can be inspected at any time without prior appointment. We do not compromise on any new bike or full rebuild.
All bikes have a one-year parts & labour guarantee, for road use, if returned to our base,
(parts guarantee only if the bike is not returned to our base).
All extras to the general specification are at cost price. Other Norton's can be built or rebuilt to customer's specification"

A new shade of Blue-NCR's "New Blue"

"A project developed jointly with Ducati North America upon their request. This bike is a limited edition, to be used on tracks only, and it is a homage to Cook Neilson's 1977 Daytona victory on a Ducati 750SS, known as OLD BLUE, tuned by Phil Schilling. This was the first victory for an Italian brand in the USA, and therefore a huge boost for that market.

The platform is the new Ducati Sport 1000S 07, completely tuned by NCR and made lighter in all its parts, reaching a weight of 150 kg compared to the 188 kg of the street legal model (that is a weight reduction of 38 kg, or over 25%), and the power has been increased by 40% reaching 116 HP. The engine is the new 1100NCR, components and braking system are of racing origin: everything is made in Ohlins, Brembo and Poggipolini Titanium. The exhaust system is an extraordinary titanium 2-1-2, weighing 4 kg.

The bike will be sold “ready to race”
NCR offers an ample catalogue of parts and special works for those who want to tune Ducati Sportclassicmodels, available on the new website
The technology employed by NCR relies on new prototyping technology. For example, in the development of the NEW BLUE model, many parts were made using rapid prototyping technology used by NCR/POGGIPOLINI GROUP, which allows to test every component directly from 3D CAD to a functional part using sintered powder. This process eliminates final errors, thus guaranteeing maximum precision, fit and functionality."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cafe Racer of the week: Shotaro Kaneda and his hot (as in stolen) Cafe Bike.

Image of the "real" bike from the BlueBladeAKIRA site.

Damn punk: Shotaro Kaneda
From wikipedia:

Known by his family name, 16-year-old Kaneda plays one of main roles in the film and manga Akira. Definitely the best known character, he is famous for his custom bike and is envied for it; mainly by childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima. A streetwise punk Kaneda leads a gang of bikers (the Capsules) on the streets of Neo-Tokyo.

Kaneda is brave, independent, and defiant of the law and adult authority. He is rebellious, disobedient, uncooperative and tries to show off in everything he does. He is known to act before thinking things out fully and he pays for this several times. The organizer and leader of his gang he attends reform school in Neo-Tokyo and is perceived by his fellow students as more than a little egotistical. It is often suggested that he is somewhat of a skirtchaser and, even though he is brave to an extent, he does panic in a comical fashion, especially when Kei's comrades question him. Kaneda was Tetsuo Shima's only friend in the orphanage where both he and Tetsuo grew up and the two stuck together, but Kaneda was always the braver of the two and even though they're now teengaers, the same personality differences remain. Out of everyone in the gang, Kaneda is the only one who has an obvious friendship to Tetsuo, whilst the others seem to ignore Tetsuo. His friends look up to him, and Kaneda's 'tough guy' personality only makes him more of a natural born leader, even if he isn't the smartest of guys. Kaneda (as everyone in the Capsules), seems to be younger in the manga, in contrast to Kei, who seems older.

Kaneda's bike:

One of the most memorable and iconic features of Akira is Kaneda's futuristic motorcycle, a high performance red racing bike of unspecified make and model (though a badge closely resembling the BMW logo is visible on its left hand side in the movie, but the old Honda motorcycle logo is also clearly seen in the manga). The bike also bears the logos of Canon Inc., Shoei, Arai (seen only in the movie), the Citizen Watch Co., the ELF Corporation (seen only in the manga), and the roundel for the U.S. Air Force. It is implied by Kaneda himself at the beginning of the movie that the bike was stolen. Numerous models of the vehicle are available for purchase from toy and hobby suppliers. Some mechanically-inclined fans have even attempted to fabricate actual working models of this popular fantasy motorcycle. Kaneda's bike has a reverse function, as well as a "Ceramic double-rotor two-wheel disk drive", whatever that may mean. (It could suggest a ceramic two-rotor Wankel engine which drives both wheels of the bike. The 'disk' word could mean that both wheels have disc brakes under the red wheel covers.)

Overall Length : 2.947mm
Overall Height : 1,171mm (incl.shield)
Overall Width : 831mm
Seat Height ; 340mm
Wheelbase : 2,194mm
Ground Clearance : 76mm
Dry Weight : 154kg
Number of Riders : 1
Braking Distance : 9.9m (Initial Speed : 50 km/h)
Minimum Turning Distance : 3.4m
Tire Size : 18 inches (front), 19 inches (rear)
Power Generator : Cold Superconducting Generator
Maximum Power : 83 kw/12,500 rpm
Maximum Voltage : 12,000 V
Steering System : Power Support System
Front Axie Caster Angle : 39°12', Rear Axie Caster Angle : 3°00'
Frame : Ceramic Box Frame, Cowl : FRP and Carbon
Energy Consumption at Rest : 2.3w
Maximum Speed : 243 km/h
Drag Coefficient : CD=0.24
Equipped with:

Computer Controlled Anti-Lock Brakes
Auto-Navigation System
Forward-Looking Radar
CD Player
Glove Compartment.
Headlamp : 100w Neo Halogen Laser Light (can switch to fog lamp)

Speed : 0 to 400m : 9.8 sec, 0 to 100 km/h : 8.7 sec
Battery Charger Time : 1MW every 40 sec (can run for two hours at full throttle on fully charged battery

Kanedas group often fights with a rival bike gang called the "The Clowns"'s a few of thier (clownish) bikes.

Just a bunch of silly geeky cartoon nonsense?..just ask Dan Gurney about his "Alligator".

..and its not just Gurney who thought of the idea, there is always Malcolm Newell's Quasar.

If the idea of "Feet-First Motorcycles" grabs you, go check out the FF Web.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The best of both worlds: Cafe Racer and Alfa Romeo.

From the Kneeslider:
"Alfa Romeo engines must be a more popular transplant than I thought. Here’s another motorcycle which looks quite finished and ready to ride. The engine is a 4 cylinder Alfa Romeo boxer but I can’t tell you much else. The photos were taken in Belgium and there are a few notes by the images. As near as I can tell, the tank is from a Laverda, some bodywork is from a Yamaha 750 and the bike looks absolutely excellent."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Speed through Unity.

"From Bracebridge Street, Birmingham to Manchester Road, Castleton in the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale: via a near twenty-five year span and several stopping places in between is quite some distance.
Yet, that is the route taken by a sizable stock of Manx Norton spares that were once manufactured and held in the famous old works of Norton Motors Limited and now sit on the shelves in the spares department of Unity Equipe.

John Tickle did go into manufacture of complete racers, coded Manx T5 (500) and T3 (350) both with the short stoke double knocker engines, in a frame of his own design but, success was not to be and it seemed as though the immortal Manx had gone forever. Tickle offered his stock and the rights around the trade in the late Seventies and in what must now appear a shrewd move in the light of Classic racing recent popularity. Unity bought it up lock, stock and barrel (yes, there really were a few barrels!)

During the mid eighties Ray Hardman raced a 350 in the Kennings and Four Stroke Championship events. It was built to the Tickle T3 specification and built from our own spares store. It was fitted with an interesting 5 speed gearbox an adaptation of the Norton 'lay down' box, a number were produced by Scandinavian Torsen Aargard during the early 1960's and distributed in the UK by Geoff Duke."

(Above picture from Classic Bike Magazine)

Frame Specification:

"The Unity Norton Featherbed racing Frame is of lightweight construction, made from T45 Aircraft spec, 17 SWG, It has a higher carbon content, which is brazed together so as not to destroy this strong material. 90% of the components in this frame are laser cut from drawings, to achieve continuity.

The Swinging arm is made from layers of T45 press hot to shape and is made to take Unity Bushes without modification. This frame is ideal for builders of Manx Triton's. with extra Bracketry incorporated. Standard Featherbed Frames Wide line and Slim line. We have tried to incorporate the most popular features from the many different types ie; international, ES2, Dominator. Some were bolt up, some had tail Loops) We have a large collection of original frames, no 2 are exactly alike, so we have arrived at a Universal type.

For instance, if you require a frame for your ES2 engine, state this when ordering and we will try to oblige. All our frames are complete with swinging arms and bushes."