Motorcycles

Sayonara Japan

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Today CM leaves Japan after 20 years. This was the first time I’d actively seen passport control beg me to keep my permanent residency. For 5 minutes she painstakingly asked her senior colleagues and tried to reason with me. My comment to her was “don’t worry, I’m not drunk” after repeatedly checking whether I was sure about the decision. She asked what were the reasons. “Where do I start?”

First of all I want to thank the Japanese for their custom, politeness and privilege to stay in their country. It has been truly amazing and life changing.

Sure the honest service drives one batty with its inflexibility but to those who whine about it can always choose to live somewhere else. Respecting a culture is true of any land one visits. Note to Western civilizations. It’s up to others to fit in with the host, not the other way around. Japan has this nailed.

What was the lasting memory of Japan? Simple really. The earthquake, nuke explosion  and tsunami of 2011. What it allowed was a clear cut look at a society that is so well bonded. People didn’t loot. Nor did they greedily hoard essentials. People just took what they needed. Had this been HK or anywhere else it would have been pandemonium. Keep calm and carry on typified Japan.

The lasting photo memory was during a motorcycle trip to MinamiSanriku. This image of a tsunami darkened Minnie Mouse sent chills down my spine. Staring up at the trees on the hillside, the leaves had turned purple because of the sea water which had risen almost 20 metres high. Car wrecks ragdolled in the rip. Windows smashed out of all levels of a 5 storey apartment block. Mother Nature was angry.

When my kids begged to go to Hawaii, they protested about my suggestion to see the devastation first hand. To see with their own eyes. Video and pictures do no justice, I told them. It turns out they appreciated the experience. I gave my younger daughter – then 7 years old – my camera because I wanted to capture images through her eyes. Amazing results.

There is too much to write about with 20 years under the belt.

As the sun sets in the land of the rising sun for me personally journey it shines brightly 9,000km south.

The next stage was a no brainer. So much for dealing with alpha types in finance, many of who’d sell their grandmother given half a chance. I’m overwhelmed with excitement about the prospects of saving the lives of people who know sacrifice and have protected our freedoms. The small team I will work with are as dedicated, hungry and inspired as I am.

My life needed a reboot. Sometimes there is a touch of Tom Cruise in Risky Business in our lives where we must make hard decisions and simply say, “what the f”

Writing this novel about my grandfather’s experiences in WW2 has inspired me to think of living life to the full. How most of us have got it so easy even though some pretend we’ve never had it so bad.

I will always have a soft spot for Japan. Handing back a permanent residency might seem mad in the overall scheme of things but it was the right decision. You can’t make a new start holding onto the past.

Sayonara Japan.

Ana Carrasco – first woman to win a motorcycle world championship

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21yo Spanish rider Ana Carrasco has become the first woman to win a world championship in motorcycle racing. She won the World Supersport 300s crown. If there was ever a better display of rising to a challenge in a sport dominated by males, this was it!

CM wrote in January about her first ever race win last year on equal machines with the boys. Shows that grit, determination and skill can make the difference without this recent desire to throw handicaps to even it out. Great job indeed to win on identical bikes. CM remembers seeing her in 2015 on the RBA Racing Moto3 bike in Motegi. Impressive.

We shouldn’t forget the performance of Michele Mouton who finished runner up in the 1982 World Rally Championship against an all male field with zero free kicks? She won four races in the season. Call it raw talent. She didn’t require complex formulas and spreadsheets to give her a handicap. She won on her own merits. Isn’t that the thrill of competition?

Yamaha’s MotoGP woes in stats

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Many in the MotoGP world are questioning the horrible performance of Yamaha in 2018. As it stands Yamaha holds no victories this year with a handful of races left in the season. This would equal its worst performance in 15 years.

Yamaha’s successes really started to trend much higher after hiring Honda legend Valentino Rossi (who took the 2001, 2002 & 2003 crowns for Honda). He subsequently took 2004 & 2005 crowns for Yamaha. After narrowly missing the 2006 title to Honda’s Nicky Hayden and losing to Aussie Casey Stoner in 2007 on a Ducati (the first title for the Italian maker) Rossi won for Yamaha in 2008 & 2009.

Yamaha won the championship again in 2010, 2012 & 2015 under Jorge Lorenzo. Honda won the 2011 with Stoner and the 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017 titles under Marc Marquez who looks odds on to win 2018. At tonight’s Aragon GP in Spain, Yamaha’s four riders start 12th, 14th, 17th & 18th on the grid.

In August this year after the poor performance at the Austrian GP, Yamaha made the unprecedented motion of apologizing to its riders for having such a rubbish bike. The problem has continued for 18 months now. No doubt the developers in the team back in Iwata, Japan are still busy working out how to take responsibility instead of working to fix it.

The reality is that the other motorcycle teams have got much better. The Italians didn’t qualify for the recent Football World Cup and Germany was bailed out in the pool games. So Yamaha needs to stop resting on the laurels of having two world class riders with 10 championships between them to come up with a competitive product.

N.B. Suzuki withdrew from MotoGP in 2012 & 2013. Ducati entered MotoGP in 2003.

Two diplomats and the bloke who said what everyone else was thinking

Yesterday CM wrote about the terrible sportsmanship of Romano Fenati who tried to cause a competitor to crash by grabbing his front brake during a race. Race winner Andrea Dovisioso and reigning world champ Marc Marquez gave diplomatic answers as to what punishment fits the crime but 3rd place getter Brit Cal Crutchlow told the refreshing truth – that Fenati’s team should have immediately fired him. Race Direction handed out a pithy 2 race ban. Fenati’s team agreed with Crutchlow.

Fenati’s team said,

Here we are. Now we can communicate that the Marinelli Snipers Team shall terminate the contract with the rider Romano Fenati, from now on, for his unsporting, dangerous and damaging conduct for the image of all. With extreme regret, we have to note that his irresponsible act endangered the life of another rider and can’t be apologised for in any way. The rider, from this moment, will not participate in any more races with the Marinelli Snipers team. The team, Marinelli Cucine, Rivacold and all the other sponsors and the people that always supported him, apologised to all the World Championship fans.

Foolish Fenati

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Moto2 racer Romano Fenati (13) completely  lost the plot when he reached for the front brake of another rider Stefano Manzi (62) during the race in Misano. While neither were fighting for points, Fenati had a brain snap. While Manzi didn’t crash from the incident Fenati was rightly black flagged. There was an incident in an Italian race at Mugello where the attacked rider was pitched over the handlebars.

Fenati was sacked last year from the Sky VR46 Moto3 team in 2016 for “unexplained” behavior. Something tells me he may get booted for that stupidity.

BMW Motorrad soft in H1. FY forecasts trimmed

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BMW Motorrad’s H1 performance was soft showing a 1.6% drop in unit sales and 23.6% drop in profit. The number of motorcycles sold during the Q2 reporting period was partially influenced by the model change in the mid-class segment, with 51,117 units sold between April and June (2017: 52,753 units).

In Europe, the number of motorcycles delivered to customers totalled 53,989 units (2017: 58,617 units; – 7.9 %). Germany (11,739 units) was also down on the previous year (2017: 14,461 units. Shortfalls in France (9,068 units; 2017: 9,447 units; – 4.0 %) and Italy (8,647 units; 2017: 9,099 units; – 5.0 %). By contrast, motorcycle sales in Spain improved slightly by 1.3 % to 5,647 units (2017: 5,573 units). In the overall contracting US market, the BMW Motorrad reported a slight increase (+ 3.1 %) in six-month deliveries to 7,379 units (2017: 7,157 units).

With effect from the first quarter of 2018, the Motorcycles segment is forecast to achieve a slight increase in deliveries (2017: 164,153 units). BMW said in its Annual Report 2017, that “a solid increase was expected.”

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S review

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CM testrode the latest KTM 1290 Super Adventure S (SAS) model and redicovered what a lunatic’s grin was. Having owned the KTM 1290 Superduke R (SDR) CM was aware of how addictive the shared 1301cc v-twin engine is. While the SAS does with only 160hp vs the SDR’s 180hp, the engine is still a thermonuclear device. It dominates. It’s probably a bad choice in nanny state NSW. It is truly addictive.

While a more extensive test ride is required (like the 3 day test ride of the BMW R1200GS Rallye X) to find how it is to live with from day to day some short observations here.

Engine – KTM 4.5/5

The KTM has so much grunt but gets cranky at low rpm. It will protest below 3,000rpm in higher gears. Yet the BMW is far happier to pootle around in any gear and pull away regardless of what speed. Yet when winding the throttle open, the KTM’s extra 35hp quickly shows itself.

Suspension – KTM 4.5/5

The SAS has semi-active WP suspension which has a wide range of adjustment. The BMW’s self leveling suspension set up seems simpler (dialing in height and firmness) than the SAS which requires individual selection of each load. The BMW telelever front end behaves differently to the traditional telescopic forks but the feedback on the KTM is superior. Part of that is down to the lighter weight of the Austrian.

Brakes – 5/5

The brakes have plenty of bite, feel and the rear has good modulation. Fork dive is noticeable under heavy application but half of that is due to the fact the BMW won’t dive due to the telelever set up

Gearbox – 5/5

The quick shifter is far slicker than the BMW especially upshifts. BMW gearboxes are usually rubbish. CM blew two of them in his old K1600GT (see below) inside 4,000km.

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Ergonomics – 4/5

The KTM feels slightly firmer in the seat than the BMW but there is a power parts option including one with heating.  TFT screen is excellent. Clear and allows one’s mobile maps to synchronize to the screen and headset. The menu operation is not as good as the BMW’s mouse wheel.

The KTM offers a mobile phone compartment with a USB socket but it won’t swallow a iPhone Plus with cover on. Petty but something that will be righted soon enough. Backlit switchgear good.

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Tyres- 4/5

The Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres on the KTM are so much better than the BMW’s Michelin Anakee III although later models are shod with Bridgestone A41s.

Quality – 4/5

The tactile feel of the switchgear is better on the BMW. No question. Fit, finish and attention to detail are all better on the BMW. KTM has improved miles in this regard but the industrial design of the Beemer is better.

Overall – 4.5/5

A bit early to judge but no question that the SAS puts a smile on the rider’s face immediately. Something the BMW can’t manage. The BMW is very competent everywhere but rarely does it excite the rider. The KTM is good in some areas (quality) and amazing (engine) in others. That 1301cc engine dominates the experience in noise and performance. You buy the BMW with the head and the KTM with the heart.

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Note BMW is introducing a new R1250GS (1254cc) which will have 136hp (up 11hp) in 2019. It supposedly has variable valve timing but it is unlikely to be much more than a nice improvement on the 1170cc engine’s civility. The faithful will be pleased.