Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Monday, February 28, 2005


Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX

Thus far this season, Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed have made the rest of the AMA Supercross field look like novices. With the exception of the muddy first race of the season, won by Kevin Windham, these two riders have run away from everyone else during the Supercross season. The exclamation mark to this was the San Diego round where Carmichael and Reed lapped up to *3rd* place. That is just staggering…

But even with these two riders stomping the rest of the field, there is another person that is really showing up the rest of the riders…Mike Larocco. Supercross is a young man’s sport. Riders get started in their teens and have usually hung up their jersey by their mid-20s. The abuse the body goes through during a 30 minute moto requires physical conditioning that is usually restricted to folks whose bodies are still growing. The fact that McGrath has come back to the sport at the age of 33 years old is amazing and the fact that he is getting top ten results even more so. But that is nothing compared to Mike “The Rock” Larocco, also 33 years old.

Mike Larocco

While McGrath has been busy showing up the young guys with his top ten finishes, Larocco has been embarrassing them with consistent podiums. Heady stuff for someone with the “old man” label. He has been on the box with a second at Anaheim 1, a third at San Francisco and a third at San Diego. His worst finish was a 15th at Phoenix but if that is ignored for a moment, his next worse finish is a sixth at Anaheim II. He sits third in the AMA Supercross series points battle and second in the World Supercross points battle. That is a remarkable record for anyone, especially this season with two riders controlling the top two steps on the podium.

When one rider can finish in the top five at six of eight rounds, finish on the podium three times and then casually mention that he is 33 years old, it makes me think the younger riders aren’t really aware of just how focused they need to be to compete in this series. Maybe there are a lot of riders who don’t think they can run with Carmichael and Reed. Well, Larocco is showing they they can’t run with him either. With all the factory and semi-factory rides that are available, Larocco and McGrath are making a lot of riders look like chumps and probably have a lot of team managers casting a questioning eye at their rider lineup. These “old guys’ have a thing or two to teach everyone and the other riders better start learning fast. Otherwise guys like Jeff Ward and Doug Henry are gonna dust off their gear and come back from some of the glory (and money) as well…

[image from the Supercross 2005 web site.]

Friday, February 25, 2005

I\’m getting a new GPS…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

The agonizing choice has finally been made and the credit card has taken a big one for the team.

Garmin Quest GPS

After much deliberation I decided to purchase the Garmin Quest from my buddies at Cycoactive. In addition to getting the GPS, they sell a nifty locking mount from Touratech, various Garmin software packages including European maps and a spiffy neoprene case to keep the GPS save when travelling.

Unfortunately, neither Touratech nor Garmin yet sell the vital DC power source. The Quest needs 5V DC for power so its not particularly easy to hack together my own solution. Both Touratech and Garmin claim they will have a 12V DC to 5V DC solution in the next few months. Probably not in time for my upcoming trip to Spain but it seems close enough to take the risk with the Quest.

In addition, the Quest is small enough to be more functional as a hand-help GPS for hiking and geocaching than the other models I was considering. The Quest also has a flip-out external antenna so it will hopefully have better reception than the other models. One downside to the Quest is that it doesn’t allow for memory expansion via plug-in cards but it does have 115MB of RAM which is enough to hold detailed road maps for a couple of states. The GPS comes with the American City Select package, I’m also getting the European City Select package and a topo/recreational package. That should give me maps for riding or hiking, both locally and when travelling.

I’ll try to post another blog update once I’ve actually has some time to play with the thing. In the meantime, I’m off to read the online manuals.

[image from the Cycoactive web site.]

Thursday, February 24, 2005

2005 road race calendar…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes, MRA, MotoGP, WSBK

WSBK full grid photo

My buddy Jeff today was complaining that no one had put out a combined road race calendar for 2005 (with race dates for AMA, WSBK and MotoGP). Since I keep all those dates anyway, as well as the dates for the MRA, our local road race series, that seemed like a good topic for today’s blog entry. Without further ado, the current road race calendar for 2005:


26 - WSBK @ Losail Int’l Raceway; Doha, Qatar


12 - AMA @ Daytona Int’l Speedway; Daytona, FL, USA


3 - WSBK @ Phillip Island; Phillip Island, Australia
10 - MotoGP @ Circuito Permanente de Jerez; Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
17 - MotoGP @ Estoril Circuit; Estoril, Portugal
22 - AMA @ Barber Motorsports Park; Birmingham, AL, USA
24 - WSBK @ Comunitat Valenciana; Cheste, Spain


1 - MotoGP @ Shanghai Circuit; Shanghai, China
1 - AMA @ California Speedway; Fontana, CA, USA
1 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO, USA
8 - WSBK @ Autodromo Nazionale Monza Circuit; Monza, Italy
15 - MotoGP @ Le Mans Circuit des 24 Heures; Le Mans, France
15 - AMA @ Infineon Raceway; Sonoma, CA, USA
15 - MRA @ Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway; Fountain, CO, USA
22 - AMA @ Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway; Fountain, CO, USA
29 - WSBK @ Silverstone Circuit; Silverstone, Northants, Great Britain


5 - MotoGP @ Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello; Mugello, Italy
5 - AMA @ Road America; Elkhart Lake, WI, USA
5 - MRA @ Second Creek Raceway; Denver, CO, USA
12 - MotoGP @ Circuit de Catalunya; Barcelona, Spain
19 - MRA @ Continental Divide Raceway; Mead, CO, USA
25 - MotoGP @ TT Circuit Assen; Assen, Netherlands
26 - WSBK @ Autodromo di Santamonica; Misano, San Marino


10 - MotoGP @ Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; Monterey, CA, USA
10 - AMA @ Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; Monterey, CA, USA
17 - WSBK @ Automotodrom Brno; Brno, Czech Republic
17 - MRA @ La Junta Motorsports Park; La Junta, CO, USA
24 - MotoGP @ Donington Park; Donington, Derby, Great Britain
24 - AMA @ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Lexington, OH, USA
31 - MotoGP @ Sachsenring; Sachsenring, Germany


7 - WSBK @ Brands Hatch; Fawkham, Kent, Great Britain
14 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO, USA
28 - MotoGP @ Automotodrom Brno; Brno, Czech Republic
28 - AMA @ Virginia Int’l Raceway; Alton, VA, USA


4 - WSBK @ TT Circuit Assen; Assen, Netherlands
4 - AMA @ Road Atlanta; Braselton, GA, USA
4 - MRA @ Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway; Fountain, CO, USA
5 - MRA @ Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway; Fountain, CO, USA
11 - WSBK @ Lausitzring; Lausitz, Germany
18 - MotoGP @ Twin Ring Motegi; Motegi, Japan
25 - MotoGP @ Sepang Int’l Circuit; Sepang, Malaysia
25 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO, USA


1 - MotoGP @ Losail Int’l Raceway; Doha, Qatar
2 - WSBK @ Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferreri Imola; Imola, Italy
2 - MRA @ Second Creek Raceway; Denver, CO, USA
9 - WSBK @ Never Magny Cours Circuit; Magny Cours, France
16 - MotoGP @ Phillip Island; Phillip Island, Australia
23 - MotoGP @ Istanbul Circuit; Istanbul, Turkey


6 - MotoGP @ Comunitat Valenciana; Cheste, Spain

Nothing beats watching a race in person. I’ll definitely be at the AMA Pikes Peak race in May and the combined MotoGP/AMA weekend at Laguna Seca in July. I’ll also make about half of the MRA races. I’ll also watch all the MotoGP, WSBK and AMA races that are televised and will probably give my views on each here on the blog. Our support can you all the support it can get, whether that is by buying tickets to see races live or tuning to watch the race on TV, so make sure to mark these dates on your calendar and watch some racing this year!

[image from the Motorcycle-USA web site.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Happy Birthday Jonna!

Author: site admin
Category: Uncategorized

Jonna Fleming

My motorcycle blog is taking a break today. Instead, I’d like to take this time to wish a happy 40th birthday to my favorite motorcyclist…my wife Jonna!

[image from my photo collection.]

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Box of Shame #7: Tuned beyond the limit…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

In 1992, the WERA roadrace organization had one of the coolest classes among any of the national level pro-roadrace clubs: Formula 3. The class was obstensively for 125cc GP bikes, mainly Honda RS125s and Yamaha TZ125s. However, to increase grid size and provide a race class for big four stroke singles, WERA also allowed thumpers up to 600cc in size to race against the 125s. This made for great racing since the two bike were so vastly different. The 125 GP bikes carried huge corner speed and had great drafting battles while the big singles relied on their prodigious torque to square off turns and get their heavier weight out of corners quickly. This made for interesting races, made all the better by the fantastic riders that were in the series at that time. Two unknown brothers named Tommy and Nicky Hayden were racing 125GP bikes, along with well known names like Keith Code, John Ulrich, Rodney Fee and the Himmelsbach family also on the little two smokes. The four stroke contingent included Allen Willis on a trick Woods Rotax, Eric Falt with a Honda VFR framed Rotax motor, Erich Fromm on a SRX 600 based bike and Bill Cardell on a RG framed SRX motor. This class was marvelous competition between true factory race bikes against do-it-yourself specials.

Into this race class waded a denizen of the usenet newsgroup named Ray Hixon. Ray started with a stock ‘82 Honda FT500 Ascot which he slowly modified throughout the year to get more and more performance from the motor and to improve other major items like the brakes and suspension. Early that race season, I saw a posting from Ray on the newsgroup asking for pit help at an upcoming race. I had been regularly volunteering as a corner worker at the area tracks but decided to skip the weekend of the WERA national races and help Ray instead. I met up with Ray at the track and immediately got along well with him. I’d spent a few years rebuilding ’60s muscle cars with my friends Troy and Dave, so I knew a bit about spinning wrenches. This turned out to be a very useful skill, since racing a big production based single cylinder bike means a lot of trackside work is required. I enjoyed working with Ray that weekend and volunteered to join his friend John and his father as his pit crew for the rest of the summer.

Throughout the race season, his engine builder Joe Hutcheson continued to get more power by first overboring the motor to 540cc and then to 591cc. The suspension and brake problems were solved by moving Joe’s mega-motor into a Yamaha FZR400 frame with Honda Interceptor forks. The bike was proving to be one of the faster bikes in the class and Ray was riding the bike really well. Race results varied from being a front runner to struggling in the pits with niggling problems caused by the combination of the hodge-podge of parts used on the bike. In order to get extra track time to iron out some of the mechanical problems and to be more prepared for the Pro races Ray started to race the Clubman class in the WERA regional series.

One particular weekend, the whole crew drove down to Savannah, GA for one of the regional races at Roebling Road. Ray was fast in practice and the bike seemed to be coping well with the roughly 60hp 591cc motor. When the Clubman race rolled around, we were optimistic and Ray was ready to stick it to the more powerful bikes in the class despite being gridded in the back since he wasn’t a regular in the class (it was gridded by current points of which Ray had 0). When the green flag flew, Ray immediately started moving forward especially through the really fast turn one. In the pits, we watched the bikes run through the back section and towards the final turn which led the bikes onto the long front straight. The whole pit crew knew that Ray had to get a strong drive onto the straight to have any chance to staying in the draft of the faster bikes. Just as Ray started onto the straight during one of the early laps he suddenly shot directly off the track in a cloud of smoke. Uh-oh, definitely not good.

We pushed the bike back to the pits as Ray gave a baffled story of having near ESP give him the feeling something was going wrong in time to pull in the clutch, lock up the rear brake and slide the bike off the track. Once back in the pits, we could see small bits of aluminum dust in the exhaust, clearly a sign of Bad Things ™. As we disassembled the bike to see if we could get it back together in time for an afternoon race, we started finding more and more signs that something was seriously amiss inside the motor. More metal dust was in the airbox and every attempt to turn the crank indicated the motor was locked up.

Now aware that the bike wasn’t going to race again that day, we instead switched over to investigating the depth of the problem. Joe the enginer builder lived south in Florida while home was north in Atlanta. We had to determine which direction that engine was headed that afternoon. As we removed the valve cover, everything still appeared okay, but as we removed the head we finally realized just how catastrophic the failure had been and just how lucky Ray had been to sense it so quickly. The Wiseco piston had failed where the wrist pin went through one side. On an upstroke the piston twisted sideways coming completely loose from the wrist pin and then rotated a 1/4 turn all while being driven upward from the inertia of the crank rotation. The piston crown, no longer parallel to the head, was driven upwards *through* the exhaust valves where it was embedded into the head. The con rod, with the piston no longer attached, slammed around in the cylinder a few times before wedging against the cylinder liner which then locked up crankshaft. The motor was a complete write-off. Thankfully, Ray was unhurt and after another infusion of money and parts, the bike was back to race again…

Ray went on to race the bike for two more seasons in AHRMA Sound of Singles, WERA Formula 3, WERA Clubman and various other classes. The bike continued to evolve with ever larger engine displacements, amazing amounts of titanium to keep it all together at higher rpms and wilder bodywork to get better aerodynamics. The bike became less and less reliable and eventually faster bikes like the Ducati Supermono required larger financial investment than was rational to keep the Ascot “Megathumper” competitive. Last I heard Ray was enjoying the career of a real life rocket scientist with NASA.

Broken Wiseco Piston chunk

I kept a small piece of the piston, found in the exhaust pipe, for my Box of Shame. The lesson from this one? Just that a heavily modified engine running at high rpm in race conditions contains a huge amount of barely contained energy. Just one little problem can unleash a tremendously destructive chain of events.

[image from my photo collection.]

Monday, February 21, 2005

What a difference a year, or four, makes…

Author: site admin
Category: WSBK

This time last year, the motorcycle racing community was bemoaning the 2004 World Superbike series as the “Ducati Cup” thanks to the majority of the MSMA (Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association) having left the series over disagreements about the rules. The factory Ducati team, the dominant team in the series over the past decade, stuck around and were expected to sweep the title. Whether the MSMA members really left because of the rule or to offset the drain on their racing budget caused by the ultra-expensive four-stroke MotoGP series can be argued but the affect their leaving had on the WSBK series cannot.

Thankfully, Ten Kate Honda’s Chris Vermeulen kept everyone wondering what would have been had the Japanese factories stayed in the game. In fact, privateer Ducati riders like Nori Haga and Pierfrancesco Chili helped turn the season into one of the most exciting in recent history, despite the lack of manufacturer diversity on the grid, so although the factory Ducati riders finished on-two it wasn’t the sweep most predicted. What didn’t make any waves was the latest iteration of Team Foggy Petronas FP-1 and riders Chris Walker and Troy Corser. With such a seemingly weak grid, last year appeared to be the best chance for the underdog team to challenge for a championship but lack of engine performance once again held back the two great riders.

Fast forward to this year. The MSMA has reversed their ban of World Superbike and the factories, at least via heavily supported semi-privateer teams, are back in droves. Suzuki has a two rider team, Kawasaki has a two rider team, Yamaha has a two rider team and, most surprisingly, Honda has three teams totaling four riders. Honda rarely hands out back-door support so their strong presence for 2005 shows just how much they’ve changed their attitude and how much they want Hondas on the WSBK grid. There are even rumors off Aprilia, Bimoto and MV Agusta joining the fray. Having the manufacturers back in WSBK has marked a tremendous turn-around for the series. It kept its head above water last season due to close racing and a variety of possible race winners and looks to build on that this year with a new explosion of interest.

The WSBK grid probably contains the strongest collection of exciting personalities of any race series. MotoGP has unique characters in Rossi and Biaggi but the rest of the grid seems mostly bland. WSBK, on the other hand, has riders like Noriyuki “Nitro Nori” Haga, Pierfrancesco Chili, Ben Bostrom, Chris ‘Stalker” Walker, Giovanni Bussei and Norik Abe all of which seem to attract press like birds to a feeder. Any series on earth would be proud just to have the Australian contingent from WSBK, because they are such PR dreams: Garry “King of Slide” McCoy, Chris Vermeulen, Karl Muggeridge, Troy Corser, Steve Martin and Andrew Pitt. McCoy, for example, has gotten more press in the last two years despite a general lack of results than many of the podium regulars in MotoGP. Keeping him in the WSBK series for the press coverage alone has given a boost to the series.

Alstare Suzuki's Troy Corser

And speaking of Australians, what about Troy Corser?!? Despite riding on the doggy FP-1, he’s always kept himself in the eyes of the race fans by periodically putting in near-miraculous qualifying or race performances. Despite being, along with Chili, one of the elders on the grid, he has continued to show that his talent and desire to win haven’t waned with age. Those memorable rides paid off because the second his four year contract with Foggy expired Suzuki was waiting in line to snatch him up. This puts him on what may be the most powerful bike in the paddock and he is already repaying Suzuki’s faith in him by topping the timing charts at both of the preseason tests. Clearly Corser wants to rise like a phoenix from the apparent ashes of his career. Chalk up another reason for motorcycle journalists and race fans to watch the series.

So time may not heal all wounds but it certainly appears to have stopped the bleeding for WSBK and put it back on the path to being a healthy and interesting world series. I can hardly wait for this coming weekend to watch the opening race!

[image from the Troy Corser web site.]

Friday, February 18, 2005

I\’m so tired…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

Despite the best efforts of my work environment, I somehow remain an optimist. Though there may not be an overabundance of evidence to back up that claim, I think I have one thing in particular I can use to demonstrate that fact. You see, this weekend I will be mounting up new tires on two of the bikes in the garage.

Garage full of tires

Its not that I haven’t seen the weather reports that estimate multiple inches of snow this weekend. I am not deaf to the predictions of temperatures tonight in the single digits. I’m not so dim as to miss the asphalt covered with a fine dusting of ice melting gravel that makes keeping even a four wheeled vehicle upright a challenge. You see, I don’t expect to ride in the next 48 hours anyway, so those items are not a deterrent. Its just that somewhere in the depths of my battered soul, there still smolders a small bit of eternal optimism and that softly glowing ember is what drives me to put fresh tires on bikes that will not be ridden this weekend. Instead I know that soon, perhaps even in the next few weeks, the sun will shine. The snow will melt. The gravel will be washed off the road. My helmet, which I washed last week, will finally dry out and no longer smell like a raunchy foot locker. Spring beckons just around the corner. The roads of Colorado will murmur the call of the curves. A little work now is not in vain, I will ride again!

Just one evening of knuckle busting, of freezing my fingers on 10 degree stainless steel tools and of straining my back as I do the gymnastics necessary to remove the bikes from the front end stand are all that is necessary to pay the final dues of winter. In return I shall receive the ticket to ride.

Any day now, these wheels will be turning…

[image from my photo collection.]

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Box of Shame #6: Be wary of parked cars…

Author: site admin
Category: The Box Of Shame

My buddy Kreig pointed out that it has been awhile since I posted a Box of Shame entry…

Most of my Box of Shame stories have been about my long suffering GSXR. Some have been mechanical blunders on my part while others were just slack maintenance. This story, on the other hand, is more along the lines of a “wrong place, wrong time” story, so hopefully it won’t make me look as much the idiot as some of the earlier stories.

When I lived in Atlanta, there was a group of us that would gather every Tuesday night at Cafe Diem to hang out, kick tires and tell lies. Many of us hung out on the SERIDERS mailing list while a few other regulars were non-riding friends. Just a great group of folks, many of whom I still keep in touch with and of whom I have many great memories.

One of those friends was Andy, the owner of Cafe Diem, who always supported all of us bikers that would regularly visit his great coffee shop. Among the things he did for us was allowing us to park our bikes on the sidewalk in front of his patio so we could keep an eye on the motorcycles when hanging out there. I often got there first on Tuesday and got the “prime” parking spot on the sidewalk next to the entrance.

On particular rainy night, we were all gathered inside the cafe. We had a pile of wet rain gear dripping in the corner, a stack of helmets clearly marking our area and a big group of noisy folks around three or four tables all deep into our weekly B.S. session. A hesitant, nervous looking woman approached the table and asked if anyone there owned the white motorcycle parked out front. I owned up to being the owner and was shocked to hear her report that from her seat in the front she had watched the bike get hit by a car. Since the bike was a good 8 feet away from the road, protected by a 6 inch high curb and between big steel light poles, I thought that unlikely. In fact, my first assumption was that this was a joke someone was pulling by having a stranger report by GSXR was damaged.

Despite my disbelief, I followed the woman outside and found my GSXR was in fact leaning up against the small picket fence surrounding the patio and a car was halfway up onto the sidewalk next to the bike. My bike had in fact been run-over but that is when things started to get strange. You see, the car wasn’t running and was, in fact, empty! What’s more, it had been backed over the curb (denting the rims and probably rashing the underside of the car) just barely missing one of the light poles. While I was accessing the damage to the GSXR a very shocked young woman walked out of Cafe Diem clearly not expecting to see her car on the sidewalk. As it turns out, the lady had taken a sharp right turn off the street and parked her car in the parking lot next to the cafe. Since she’d made the sharp turn, the steering wheel locked with the wheels turned to the right when she turned off the car. Whether she forgot to park the car in gear, I don’t know, but she definitely didn’t use the parking brake and the transmission ended up in neutral. The car started rolling slowly backwards down the entrance ramp into the parking lot but slowly arching to the right, eventually rolling out into the street, back around tothe sidewalk, up over the curb and straight into the side of my bike.

Bent GSXR fairing mount

The GSXR had the added misfortune of being knocked over onto one of the posts supporting the patio’s cute little picket fence. This post basically impaled the upper fairing busting through the fiberglass and bending the upper fairing bracket. The front brake lever was broken off, along with the front and rear right side mirrors. The lower fairing on the left side of the bike was cracked where the car’s rear bumper nailed it and the clutch lever broke in half where it contacted the trunk of the car.

I had one of my friends give me a quick ride back to the house to get a replacement brake lever, then returned to install the lever and ride the bike home. I then spent the next month getting the lady’s insurance company to pony up the money necessary to put new bodywork, levers, mirrors and fairing brackets on the bike. It turned into a $1500 tab a few months to track down all the replacement parts including some lighter (and cheaper, saving the insurance company a few bucks) Harris race glass bodywork. I still keep the bent fairing bracket in the Box of Shame to remind me that even parked cars can be dangerous!

[image from my photo collection.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

First among equals…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP

“All for one and one for all…”
– The motto of the Three Muskateers

I did a blog entry last year about how Honda has trouble retaining riders. Well, I think that losing Valentino Rossi isn’t the only challenge Honda will be facing this coming MotoGP season. It appears that Yamaha has upped the odds by bringing on board Colin Edwards as Rossi’s teammate stealing the best development rider on Big Red’s payroll. Honda still has a talented line-up and are also getting involved with testing earlier than they did in 2004, so they’re ahead of the game compared to last year, but I still believe they are still going to have a struggle on their hand because of two of the RC211V riders.

Hayden and Biaggi at Anaheim

A racer wants to beat all their competition but no one moreso than his teammate. In this particular case, it is the teammates of Max Biaggi and Nicky Hayden that I think may cause Honda some difficulty. First, their riding styles are completely different. Nicky rides with the traditional US ex-dirt tracker style which favors squaring off a corner and then sliding the rear of the bike on the way out. Biaggi, because of his four titles in 250GP, prefers to carry high corner speed and use a wider arc through a turn. With Honda’s commitment to build their bike around the Repsol riders, this may point the engineers in two different directions. Perhaps input from Movistar Telefonica rider Sete Gibernau (the not-quite-official official rider) will help break any development gridlock.

However, the bigger problem is that even this early in the season it is apparent that Max and Nicky aren’t likely to be best buddies. Barros was apparently very generous with tuning information while teamed with Hayden at Repsol and even Rossi was rumored to have helped out his rookie team-mate while he still riding for Honda. Despite Nicky and Max being seen together at the opening AMA Supercross race of the 2005 season in Anaheim California, comments made by Hayden during a Two Wheel Tuesday interview on SpeedTV and in a printed interview on Superbike Planet show there is no love lost between the two riders.

It is bad enough that Honda may have trouble building a bike around two distinctly different riders but this chaos will be compounded if the riders can’t get along. Honda needs to have their riders communicating and working together. The MotoGP series will be visiting two new tracks in 2005, Laguna Seca in the US and Shanghai Circuit in China. Biaggi and Hayden will both be riding constantly changing bikes with revised suspension configuration,enhanced electronics and probably lots of other modifications as new parts are developed. Two riders working together, as Rossi and Edwards at Yamaha already appear to be doing, can adjust their bikes more efficiently in pre-season testing and come up to speed faster when visiting new circuits than two riders who are in competition with each other. In contrast to Edwards and Rossi’s work at Sepang, the biggest news from the Repsol camp was when their two lead riders crashed into each other on pit lane. Not good.

If these two guys are looking to be the best among equals rather than seeing the bigger picture of Honda’s goals, then perhaps the biggest challenge for Erv Kanemoto won’t be sorted out the RC211V but will be sorting out the relationship between his two riders.

[image from Honda Racing of UK web site.]

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

IT in the motorcycling world…

Author: site admin
Category: Motorcycles

A news item has been circulating around the ‘net for the past few weeks about Lexus cars getting infected by a computer virus that is transmitted via the Bluetooth protocol. The virus was apparently targeted towards cell phones but the built-in wireless connection in the Lexus is apparently susceptible as well. This is the first reported case of a car getting a computer virus but is unlikely to be the last. With more and more vehicles containing Bluetooth or other forms of wireless technology so that consumer devices like cell phones can be more easily integrated, I’m sure virus writers will soon turn their attention to this uncharted territory of digital mayhem.

BMW K12S CAN-bus computer system

Which brings me to today’s blog topic…a big deal as been made this year about BMW’s computing technology they are using for their new bikes. Specifically, the new K series BMW motorcycles utilize a revolutionary computer system, transplanted from the BMW cars, which uses a distributed computer network to handle the various functions of the bike like fuel injection, ignition, ABS brakes, spark and the “console” displays. The press releases have all shown how the CAN-bus just uses a few wires to transmit digital signals between these distributed processors, meaning no more large bundles of wire in a bulking wiring harness. They’ve also highlighted out this allows more interaction between the various components and will allow for future advancements like traction control.

What has gotten less press is that BMW is also starting to integrate Bluetooth wireless technology in their bikes to enable accessories like HUD (heads up display), communication devices like cell phones, intercoms or CBs and entertainment accessories like radio and CD players. The new BMW System V helmet has integrated speakers, independent processing computer, Bluetooth antenna, microphone, inflatable accident triggered neck ring and other fancy devices. So soon, the bike’s onboard computer systems will be able to keep the rider informed, entertained and safe all without the needs for wires.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. If not, then understand that as someone who makes his living in the high tech world and who is obsessed with motorcycles, this news scares the living crap outta me. I spend all day working on complex computer networks which are the most frustrating, unstable and laborious systems imaginable. Its bad enough that my job is dependent on these vile contraptions. Worse yet that in some dark, air-conditioned data rooms around the world my finances, my legal status and my life history are monitored by these digital monsters. Now the stillness of my motorcycle refuge is about to be disrupted by the same problems that already make my 9-to-5 such hell.

I can see it now. I’m riding the road on my fancy new BMW motorcycle, listing to my MP3s on the integrated radio/CD/MP3/XM satellite entertainment system. My Bluetooth helmet’s HUD display shows that I’m cruising near the speed limit and that the outside temperature is hot but isn’t affecting the engine’s performance. Just as I queue the intercom button to tell my riding buddy that the GPS shows a right turn is coming up, the whole system goes nuts. The inflatable helmet ring, designed to protect my neck case of an accident, triggers which pushes the helmet up around my ears. The in-helmet speakers start making strange noises and the HUD display starts flashing numbers and letters. distracting me in this critical moment. This terrifying chaos causes me to instinctively grab the brakes, which would likely cause an accident had the onboard computer not overloaded the ABS system preventing the brakes from locking or even working. Still, it does end the ride early because the computer also causes the bike’s ignition system to fire the spark plugs too soon which overheats the engine, locks up the crankshaft and dumps the whole bike onto the shoulder of the road. All because I rode past some yuppie yapping away on their cell phone which happened to have been infected with the latest virus. Oh, and I forgot to update the Beemer’s computer system with the security patches this week. Ah, just another fine day of riding my bike.

I was willing to accept the advantages that come with new technology like black boxes and fuel injection when they replaced points and carburetors. What motorcyclist would give up tubeless tires, halogen lights and rebound damping? From time to time, I’ve even been known to listen to my wife’s MP3 player while riding. But like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I’ve looked behind the curtain of the computer world enough to know that the big green head isn’t what it appears to be. All that seamless integration and plug-n-play functionality brings with it a risk I’d prefer not to take.

Hmm…maybe setting points with a gum wrapper wasn’t so bad after all.

[image from the Sport Rider web site.]