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Posts Tagged ‘Suzuki’

Near Blackwell Hill

Near Blackwell Hill

Just 4 days into the New Year for the first motorcyclist arrest.

Patrick Whalen Parks, age 21 was taken into custody on I-5 at mile post 38 southbound on Blackwell Hill, just south of Gold Hill for reckless driving, driving while suspended—violation, driving uninsured and expired vehicle registration.

How’s that defiance thing working out for you Patrick?

Mr. Parks, who is from El Sobrante, CA and was taken into custody by OSP troopers, was riding a Suzuki motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic in a dangerous manner at over 100 MPH.  At one point passing vehicles on the inside median and almost caused a crash.

Even though motorcycling is a respectable form of recreation we continue to see isolated incidents each year by bad actors that generate negative press and mare the motorcycling image.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

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The 2012 Progressive International Motorcycle show will soon hit the northwest on December 16-18th at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

Attendees can check-out new bikes from Aprilia, Beta, BMW, Brammo, BRP, Darwin, Ducati, Erik Buell Racing, Gas Gas, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Husqvarna, Indian, Kawasaki, KTM, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Norton, Star, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha.  There will also be the latest aftermarket parts and accessories.

Not only will there be new bikes, but the show is jammed pack with other events and activities.

There is the Learning Curve – an interactive stage with industry experts presenting a variety of motorcycling topics for both new and experienced riders including adventure riding, motorcycle maintenance, increasing bike performance, seminars for women riders and more.   There will be Demo Rides for licensed motorcyclists.  There is the Custom Bike Show – where motorcycle builders will showcase elite-level custom motorcycles competing for a piece of a $90,000 cash purse prize and a chance to compete in the U.S. Championship, at the Daytona Beach Motorcycle Show, in March.

The Smage Bros will have a motorcycle trials stunt riding show and attendees will also get a chance to create their own motorcycle design at the Kawasaki Design-A-Bike kiosk, featuring a brand new digital spray-painting technology available only at these shows.

See you there!

Photo courtesy of Progressive.

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The Japan earthquake (9.0) rates in the top four with the 1952 Kamchatka quake, the 1960 quake in Chile with 9.5, the Alaska quake in 1964 with 9.2 and the Sumatra quake in 2004 with 9.1.

I’ve visited Tokyo and the surrounding areas a number of times and want to express my sympathy to those affected by this tragedy during what can only be described as very painful times.  Faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.  Or if you prefer something different (I’m not making this up) someone set up a well-intentioned “Socks for Japan” drive.

I’m not insensitive to the nuclear dangers, but the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the nuclear plants, however, the media is now doing a “Charlie Sheen” minute-by-minute obsession with these plants.  According to a number of reports (including the more negative HERE) the Japan situation isn’t going to be another Chernobyl.  And speaking of Chernobyl, next month marks the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl (April 25, 1986) accident.   Back in 2009 I blogged about the Chernobyl Motorcycle Ride and due to recent events in Japan it seems to be getting a lot of hits. Unfortunately.  But I’ve digressed.

There will be repercussions in the Worldwide motorcycle community as the economic impact and stories of the prices we pay and heavy losses are just beginning to ratchet up.  All the motorcycle manufactures are cooperating with electricity conservation efforts and the rolling blackouts to help in the prioritizing of the relief and recovery of affected areas.  For example the motorcycle production facilities at:

Honda: The company reported on some of the more serious damages including the death of a 43-year old male employee at its research and development center in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, as the wall of a cafeteria crumbled. Honda said that more than 30 employees at several facilities in the same prefecture were injured.   The company also decided the following:

  1. As of March 14, all production activities are suspended at the following Honda plants: Sayama Plant at Saitama Factory (Sayama, Saitama), Ogawa Plant (Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun Saitama), Tochigi Factory (Moka, Tochigi), Hamamatsu Factory (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) and Suzuka Factory (Suzuka, Mie).
  2. From March 15 through 20, Honda will suspend all production activities at its plants listed above as well as at Kumamoto Factory (Ozu-machi, Kikuchi-gun, Kumamoto).
  3. From March 14 through 20, Honda will suspend regular operations at all Honda facilities in the Tochigi area, where damage was more serious, (including Tochigi Factory, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. R&D Center (Tochigi) , Honda Engineering Co., Ltd., etc.), and focus on the recovery of each operation. Honda associates will not come to work during this time.

Yamaha: reported one employee injured and sections of the roads surrounding their Motor Sports facility had collapsed.

Suzuki: shut down all of its plants (including Takatsuka and Toyokawa facilities) and will consider re-establishing operations after March 17th

Bridgestone:  reported no serious damage to five of its production facilities in the affected regions, however the company has a number of sites in the Tochigi Prefecture, including the Nasu tire plant. The Nasu facility is the sole motorcycle tire production site for Bridgestone worldwide. The production at these sites was stopped, pending safety evaluations and Bridgestone plans to resume production “based on electricity restrictions and other issues.”

Wild Road Choppers: the owner Souji Abe is located in Sendai City and while he personally is safe the damage to the area where his shop is located is clearly extensive.

Motorcycle Show Cancellations: Osaka Motorcycle Show and the 38th Tokyo Motorcycle Show (March 25)

In addition there is unofficial word about the Japanese Grand Prix which was to be held April 24th at Motegi is being reviewed and dependent on the Mobilityland complex and physical structure may get cancelled.  For reference, Motegi is about 110miles from Sendhai (near the epicenter) and Fukishima, where the damaged nuclear reactors are located is about 75miles north of Motegi.

The area of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami produces around 4.1% of the country’s GDP, suggesting that first-round economic effects could be limited, yet at this stage, with the fate of the Fukushima nuclear reactors still unclear, it’s too early to come up with any meaningful estimates of the overall impact to the motorcycle community.

My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the families.

UPDATE: March 25, 2011 – A couple of weeks after all the destruction in Japan some of the motorcycle manufactures have reopened with limited production.  A good report HERE at Power Sport News.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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There is no place more empty than the spot where your motorcycle used to be!

Motorcyclists often put a great deal of money and attention into customization of their cycles, from elaborate paint schemes, high-performance motor upgrades, exhaust systems to billet custom wheels.  It’s not uncommon for aftermarket parts to add thousands of dollars to the original cost of the motorcycle and the hard earned efforts also capture the attention of thieves.

According to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), motorcycle thefts nationwide have declined at about the same percentage rate as motorcycle sales trends.  A total of 56,093 motorcycles nationwide were reported stolen to law enforcement in 2009, down from 64,492 reported in 2008 or a 13% drop.

The top five manufactures stolen last year and top five states were:

Manufacture Number Stolen Top 5 States (#Stolen)
Honda 13,688 California (6,273)
Yamaha 11,148 Texas (5,526)
Suzuki 9,154 Florida (5,009)
Kawasaki 5,911 North Carolina (3,045)
Harley-Davidson 3,529 Georgia (2,067)
Total 43,430 Total of 5 States (21,920)

The summer months of July (6,319); August (6,079); and June (5,672) saw the most theft activity while the fewest thefts were recorded during the winter months of December (2,927); January (3,570); and February (3,100).

Photo courtesy of NICB.

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2-Day_LaunchIn two days the Indian “Alphonso” mangoes will hit the U.S. supermarket shelves for the first time in 18 years!

I’m reminded of that Jimmy Buffett song “Last Mango in…”

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat

When I hear a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”

The “seat” in this case is attached to a Harley-Davidson.  In exchange for importing mangoes, H-D will be allowed to launch its 883 Sportster and Fatboy in the “land of a billion people” (a.k.a. India) on August 27th as long they comply with Euro-III emission norms. In a country that snaps up more than 6 million new motorcycles a year, H-D is a bit late to the party, but they have to be optimistic given the successes of Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati “superbikes” (anything over 800cc are referred to superbike in India).  The bikes will be shipped to India and available as a CBUs (Completely Built Units).  Previously the Indian government had not specified emission standards for motorcycles over 500cc which effectively prohibited the import of H-D motorcycles who could not meet the standards set for scooters.

Speaking of standards…  I’m talking about a country that after more than six decades of independence, over 55% of the population (~660Million) defecate in the open! Given these statistics it’s no surprise the government was slow to specify emission standards on 500cc motorcycles when they clearly are busy with sanitation issues.

New Deli Traffic

New Deli Traffic

Until this week Royal Enfield (owned by Eicher Group) was the only motorcycle maker to offer cruisers in India.  Consistently large orders from the Indian government led to establishing a factory back in 1955 in the town of Chennai, India.  Even after production stopped in England they continued in Chennai.  Here is a 5 min video of them building a motorcycle.  There seems to be a fondness of following the old British tradition and use of a mallet to assist in the precision parts fitting!

Anyone who has visited India knows that the large cities of New Deli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai have traffic that defies amazing.  It’s extremely densely packed roads with stop-n-go vehicles and engines idling most all of the time.  Then there are the rickshaws (phat-phatis), bicycles, jay-walkers, street-car peddlers, cows, donkey carts and at any given time each traffic lane supporting triple the number of vehicles that it should so, what you end up with is pure chaos.  Even with astronomically high traffic-death rates, scooters and motorcycles are the more practical method of getting around on these packed roads.

Matt Levatich, President and COO of Harley-Davison reportedly will be on hand at the launch and annual Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to welcome back H-D to India for the first time since World War II.  At that time thousands of motorcycles were shipped to the eastern Assam state of India with the intention of transporting men and deliver mail.

India is a prime target given the sheer market size and I want to wish them success as they work to diversify their revenue base.

Photo courtesy of H-D India and Flickr.

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TTTI landed on the Discovery channel the other night and watched a rare look inside the MV Augusta factory, where they built the F4-312. 

You may recall Harley-Davidson acquired MV Augusta last year for $108M which was previously blogged HERE.

At any rate, I’ve watched the ‘Twist The Throttle‘ documentary series in the past, but MV Augusta was one story I had not viewed on the world’s most famous sport motorcycling brand.  The series reviews various brands (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, Bimota, BMW and Alpinestars) histories, what happens behind the scenes at their factories, inside their research and development centers and ultimately what it’s like to ride the machines on some of the great motorcycle roads and race tracks around the world.  The series is available on the Discovery Turbo website.

For example I learned it takes 11 hours to build the F4 engine and 4.5 hours to build just one motorcycle.  It was also interesting to hear several of the on camera interviews evangelized the lack of any hard-core time-based manufacturing processes… huh?  Isn’t MV a motorcycle manufacture?  Watching the story you couldn’t help but think a bottle of red wine followed each motorcycle down the assembly line like a cocktail soiree and when it’s done, it’s done.  No rush…we’re artists!  Wow, the Italian build process seemed opposite and very casual compared to the Milwaukee plant tour I attended last year.

DADS Simulation

DADS Simulation

In fact, Harley-Davidson uses advanced engineering and simulation tools to compress design cycles as well as other tools to reduce the overall manufacturing process time.  For example the application DADS from CADSI (now part of LMS of Coralville, IA) is used for full 3-D prototyping and to simulate the handling of the motorcycle during a lane change, j-turn or weave maneuvers.   For a company that produces 12 different parts made of 4615 material with complex profiles of 20-42 teeth and robots measuring parts baskets with door-to-door cycle time of 11.3 seconds and overall grind times of 56 seconds…I find it astonishing that MV Augusta/H-D exec’s would go on camera pontificating the merits of the aristocratic craftsmen — “no motorcycle before it’s time” philosophy.

Is it time to exchange the Girard-Perreguax watch for a Timex and bring on the accountant dawgs to rehabilitate the long lunch wine drinking staff?

Photo courtesy LMS and H-D.

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We all did it as young tikes on a bicycle…zoom down a hill and lock the rear tire brake putting the bicycle into a “lazy-S” skid.  Locking the rear wheel required little skill and resulted in a small range of possible after effects.  It was fun, cool and the likely outcome was bragging rights for the largest skid mark and/or wearing out the tire/tube (which your mom reminded you that money didn’t grow on a tree in the back yard) or being ejected off and acquiring a “road rash”….thus embellishing your bragging rights!

On a motorcycle, however it’s a much different story.  The deceleration of motorcycles is a topic of great debate among accident reconstructionists. There’s been very little research about motorcycle braking, despite improvements in tire manufacture grip and the increase of Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) systems installed on motorcycles.

But, the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety released a new report (.pdf) this week which states fatal crash rates involving motorcycles equipped with optional antilock brakes was 38 percent lower than the rate involving similar motorcycles without those systems.  Antilock brakes, similar to the devices found on automobiles, help riders stop their motorcycles abruptly without locking up the wheels or fishtailing. The system monitors the brake pressure multiple times per second, allowing motorcycle riders to fully brake both wheels in an emergency situation and avoid losing control and hitting the blacktop.  Taking a “skid for life” is not something anyone looks forward to and this is especially pronounced when braking under a panic emergency situation.

Speaking of emergencies.  On a trip to Hells Canyon a couple years ago we were riding on two-lane roads in unfamiliar territory.  As we came around a corner out jumps a 1000 pound Heifer from the side of the road.  The motorcycle in front of me did an emergency brake…most of which was rear brake which then created a dirt-track type slid maneuver on the asphalt.  Big difference between a 300 pound 2-stroke and a 900+ pound Harley.  He managed to pull it out of the “lazy-S” without going down, but it serves as a reminder to all about minimizing that rear brake effect.

It’s well know that Harley-Davidson was slow to adopt this technology across the product line.  In 2004 they announced ABS for certain Police models, but only recently introduced ABS broadly in the product line-up.  Previously ABS was typically found only on touring bikes from Japan manufactures and was available on motorcycles from BMW since the K100 introduction in 1988.

The report also found there were 6.6 fatal crashes per 10,000 registered motorcycles without ABS in 2005-2006. The rate for the same bikes equipped with ABS was 4.1, or 38 percent lower, during the same period.  In a second study, they found that antilock brakes appeared to reduce collision claims – insurance losses were 21 percent lower for motorcycles with antilock brakes compared with similar motorcycles without ABS. The findings were based on a data set of 72,000 insured years of 2003-2007 model year Honda, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha bikes.

Clearly the ability of maneuver under hard braking scenario’s or during a crash avoidance predicament is very important. In a DOT/NHTSA report (.ppt) it was reported that 22% of motorcycle fatalities were related to braking or steering maneuvers.  In doing research for this post I came across this report from a Mechanical Forensics group which details a single long straight skidmark vs. a “lazy-S” shape and the meanings of each.  The good news is that ABS is now standard or optional on about 40 motorcycles in the 2008 model year including BMW, Harley-Davidson, and Honda.

In the Northwest sunny and dry payment is uncommon 9 months of the year and unfortunately we don’t get to pick the time and place for a panic stop.  It’s during those unplanned panic stops that having ABS will pay for itself.  Think about it, read up on the systems and if you’re like me you’ll want it!

Photo courtesy Flickr and IIHS report.

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