Monday, June 29, 2015

Gaming the rules is part of the game

I see that the Grand Prix Commission—that's actually French for "big pricks"—have decided that Ducati will lose its rules "concessions" a year earlier than previously thought. I guess Honda and Yamaha got tired of Ducati riders qualifying and finishing ahead of their factory bikes.

The reason this bugs me is, gaming the rules has always been a part of the game in motorsport. Looking at the rulebook and figuring out how to get an advantage is one of the central skills in racing. Ducati did that better than Honda and Yamaha; they should be rewarded for it, not punished for it.

Bad form, MotoGP.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Best-laid schemes

It's hard to decide which recent PR faux pas was worst, between Harley-Davidson's full court press at the X-Games (in which race leader Jared Mees' Harley expired on the last lap) or Honda's high-profile unveiling of the RC213V-S.

The reaction to the Honda's specs has been one of pretty much across the board disappointment, in the sense that they claim an underwhelming (by modern standards) 101 hp at an overwhelming price that's near enough $200k.

Seriously? And the curb weight is more than a stock CBR600.

Ironically, both those PR hiccups redounded to the benefit of Kawasaki. Bryan Smith inherited the X-Games gold medal, and then about the time the embargo was coming off the Honda story, Kawasaki scooped 'em when James Hillier hit a verified 206 miles per hour on public roads, riding the H2R on an Isle of Man parade lap.
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' menGang aft agley
I put the question to Facebook: If you could have one bike only, and had a $5k budget to buy it, what would it be? My purpose is mainly short trips in town and I need reasonable weather protection and cargo capacity. Bonus points for long-distance and/or sport-touring capability, bonus points for bad road capability.

Of course, the KLR and V-Strom supporters soon commented in numbers, and I suppose there's a good chance that I'll go that route. I'm not really in the market yet; I have to sell at least one more bike to fill up the cash hopper.

It's an interesting point to ponder, and I've imagined myself on everything from a Burgman to a mid-'90s VFR750, to any number of BMWs. My wildcard entries range from a Piaggio 3-wheeler (which do, surprisingly, show up on the KC Craiglist every now and then) to a first-gen Ducati Multistrada (which is a bike I love, but that never shows up on CL.)

Anyway, I will obviously write about it when I buy a new bike. In the meantime, my Dream and the Bonneville are both in new homes. My TLR200 is on CL, as is the Vino, but I've priced the Vino pretty high just because it's so useful to me.

Best-laid plans, redux

David Emmett recently wrote that Honda's MotoGP effort has been in a long, slow decline masked only by Marc Marquez' rare talent (and affinity for the "real" RC213's too-aggressive throttle response.) I suppose this proves that, as of yet, the rider's wrist still counts for something; it's not all down to computers.

But I can't help but remember the times we've been through this before. Only Stoner could ride the Ducati. Even Rossi was hopeless on it. And of course, only Wayne Rainey could make the Yamaha 500 two-stroke work in the early-to-mid '90s. After Rainey was paralyzed, a string of very talented guys were stymied by that bike.

When it comes to developing a race bike, it seems there is such a thing as too much talent—if it masks underlying problems or at the very least, takes pressure off the engineers.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nerd alert: Bayliss' progress at Springfield, analyzed

No reasonable person expected Troy Bayliss to make the Main at his first Grand National. Overall, I'm sure Troy, the Lloyd Bros., and Ducati are all pretty happy with what went down in Springfield, although their weekend would've been a lot better were it not for Johnny Lewis' scary crash.

Bayliss' lap times trended down, although by some measures, all of his improvement relative to the rest of the field happened right at the beginning of the day. From Q1 on, Troy tracked along about two seconds adrift of the fastest guys.

The most interesting statistic is that, in his 8-lap Semi, Troy finished only about 7 seconds behind Jake Cunningham—the last guy to go through to the Main Event. I calculated a "Cutoff Factor" of 102%, meaning that Troy's lap times in that critical Semi were about 2% longer than they needed to be.

For all I know, Troy may make the Main at Sacto; it's a horsepower track that should suit the Ducati, although the Lloyd Bros. and Jake Johnson elected to race their Kawasaki there last year.

If Troy doesn't make the Main, I'll be looking to see improvement in that Cutoff Factor. If he does, I'll use the same statistical analysis next week to analyze his performance vis-a-vis the front runners.

In the meantime, if you want to waste 15 minutes of your life, you can watch a seriously boring and pedantic analysis of his lap times at Springfield. (I promise to get to the point quicker next Monday, after Sacto!)

Monday Morning Crew Chief from re: on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More photos from the auction at Steelville and Cuba, MO

Manx Norton was, according to rumors, part of the "good stuff" that got burnt up in a fire at the farm.

Somewhere, there must've been a box with all the missing fuel caps.

Lots of great finds, but only for those willing to buy in volume. This was one lot.

These went for $5,000 a piece. Granted, they were in perfect shape. Not sure if they were rebuilt or NOS.

Even after two months' work, Wood's crew was still overwhelmed by the quantity of material, and the unique challenges of Jerry L. Lewis' hoarding disorder.

Wheels. Again, one lot.

Panther found in Missouri woods.

There were some cool bikes, but the hoarder's taste ran the gamut.

Wooden rims!

Wood pulled several hundred bikes and pallets of parts out of the farm, and moved them to an empty industrial building in nearby Steelville. This was the site of the first-day auction.

Lots of small bikes that I can hardly imagine were that common in these parts. My friend Jim wondered how many had come back with servicemen, from Europe. Fort Leonard Wood is right nearby.

This pretty complete looking Guzzi sold for $20,000. The bidder was buying it for a friend in Switzerland. Later I heard that the friend's reaction was, "You paid how much?"

OHC, twin-ports. Star of show. $30 grand.

Graphic design gems abounded.

This pair sold for over $10 grand(!!!) A few days later, one every bit as good was advertised on Craigslist here in KC for $600. Most of the machines were sold sans title, by the way.

$27,000 worth of 1915 Harley.

Treasure for some Yale restorer. This was one of the few parts sold individually. Another was a Hedstrom carb, that went for over a grand.

Most of the parts were sold like this, by the pallet.

If I was writing a thesis on industrial design, my topic would be these beautiful outboard motors...

Another single lot.

Most of the bikes were in pretty rough shape, but a few crate motors looked ready for gas and oil.

Another star of the show. I think this one went for about $30 grand.

Another bit of sweet logo design.

Sold by Ed "Iron Man" Kretz!

My friend Jim Van Eman scored this Mornini. "I have two Morinis now," he told me. "Does that make me a moroni?"

Patina? Yes. Motor? Sadly no.

Better days seen...

Do you know how fast you were going?


Hip, daddy-o.

Jim's genius idea came too late; they should've had a swap meet right after the auction, so the people who bought whole pallets of stuff could swap amongst themselves to get what they really wanted...

Tanks for the memories.

We were evidently not supposed to be here, but...

…we ignored the signs to explore the farm, too.

Burnt up in the fire?

It's hard to know exactly how they decided what to leave on the farm for the second day's auction.

There were a few bikes out there which had burnt or melted alloy bits, but the steel'd survived. (Sort of.)

Subaru Ladybug. Powered by 600cc two-stroke motor, IIRC.

Nice lettering from a time, happily, before vinyl.

Advantage of metal buildings: They don't burn.

Lewis accumulated quite a few bicycles, as well.

'80s Yamaha, ISO motor.

Bottom, ISO top.

I think Lewis had some kind of mobile home that burnt up. I'm not sure if this is where he lived afterwards...

NSU Lux: The only two-stroke they ever made.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

500 bidders showed up.

There was a box of about a dozen of these, which have to be treasure for the right hunter.

Even Jerry Wood seemed a little surprised by the bids on some items.

Southeastern MO: Rat-tail heaven.

"He was a loner." This guy was one of Jerry L. Lewis' few friends.

Manx Nortons were hot bikes.

When Brownie prepared to unload the Adler from the trailer back in Lawrence, KS, he noticed that the motor had turned 90° in the frame; it had not been bolted in, it was just sitting on the lower frame rails the whole time!