2006 International Motorcycle & Scooter Show

NEC Bike Show 2006On Thursday, 27 October, I went to the 2006 International Motorcycle & Scooter Show at the NEC Birmingham. Photos of the event can be found in the Gallery or by clicking that collage above.

The Thursday was Trade Day which is the day when the photographers, journalists and all the industry bods attend – looking slightly out of place in suits and ties – and Joe Public is grudgingly allowed along (having paid more for the privilege than on the rest of the main show days).

The benefit of attending on Trade Day for Joe Public is that you have far more room to move around and there are far fewer other visitors crowding the exhibits.

Kawasaki were showing off their updated Z1000: the good points are the radial-mounted calipers and the better engine covers, but the bad points are the hideously bloated silencers – presumably to meet Euro 3 emissions regulations – and the awful side fairings which house the flush-mounted indicators. Kawasaki also had their ZZR1400-based uber-tourer, the GTR1400, which also has an over-long and bulky silencer. Kawsaki also had a ZRX1200R on their stand but frankly it looked exactly the same as the 2005 model … and probably was!

Suzuki were also showing what damage they could do with over-long and bulky silencers with their B-King – previously a concept that looked brutal, the final version has a J-Lo fat-arsed looked about it that makes it pig-ugly. Triumph, with their Daytona 675, can clearly get it spot-on: the Japanese could do what they did so well 30 years ago and learn a lesson from the Brits again.

Apart from that – or maybe including that – it was a pretty lacklustre show apart from one thing: the arrival of the Chinese! How does a 650 V-twin sports bike for £4,000 sound? Exactly! Quite what they’ll be like to ride and what the quality is like remains to be seen, but it was an eye-opener. The supermoto-stylee one in the photo was also impressive, ticking most of the right boxes.

And finally a small whinge for the SuperBike stand: I renewed my sub as usual but no fleece tops this year.

2006 International Motorcycle & Scooter Show

NEC Bike Show 2006On Thursday, 27 October, I went to the 2006 International Motorcycle & Scooter Show at the NEC Birmingham. Photos of the event can be found in the Gallery or by clicking that collage above.

The Thursday was Trade Day which is the day when the photographers, journalists and all the industry bods attend – looking slightly out of place in suits and ties – and Joe Public is grudgingly allowed along (having paid more for the privilege than on the rest of the main show days).

The benefit of attending on Trade Day for Joe Public is that you have far more room to move around and there are far fewer other visitors crowding the exhibits.

Kawasaki were showing off their updated Z1000: the good points are the radial-mounted calipers and the better engine covers, but the bad points are the hideously bloated silencers – presumably to meet Euro 3 emissions regulations – and the awful side fairings which house the flush-mounted indicators. Kawasaki also had their ZZR1400-based uber-tourer, the GTR1400, which also has an over-long and bulky silencer. Kawsaki also had a ZRX1200R on their stand but frankly it looked exactly the same as the 2005 model … and probably was!

Suzuki were also showing what damage they could do with over-long and bulky silencers with their B-King – previously a concept that looked brutal, the final version has a J-Lo fat-arsed looked about it that makes it pig-ugly. Triumph, with their Daytona 675, can clearly get it spot-on: the Japanese could do what they did so well 30 years ago and learn a lesson from the Brits again.

Apart from that – or maybe including that – it was a pretty lacklustre show apart from one thing: the arrival of the Chinese! How does a 650 V-twin sports bike for £4,000 sound? Exactly! Quite what they’ll be like to ride and what the quality is like remains to be seen, but it was an eye-opener. The supermoto-stylee one in the photo was also impressive, ticking most of the right boxes.

And finally a small whinge for the SuperBike stand: I renewed my sub as usual but no fleece tops this year.

Garmin Streetpilot i3

I picked this unit up today. Halfords and Woolworths had the unit priced cheapest on their web sites, but neither would actually allow an order. When I rang Halfords, I was told the i3 was being discontinued, which would explain the price discounting I’d seen.

Garmin i3 and Nokia 6230i Lawks! It’s tiny: see the photo of it next to my Nokia 6230i for comparison.

It comes with the UK maps preloaded onto a teeny 128MB Transflash data card, a cigarette lighter 24V/12V power lead (it runs on 2x AA batteries otherwise), a USB cable and drivers CD, suction mount, dashboard mount (for the suction mount to fix to) and instruction booklet.

I had it working in under five minutes in my Ford Mondeo ST200 despite the heated windscreen elements (which can make things more difficult for the GPS, making it want an external antenna in some cases).

It took just a few seconds to set my home address and calculate a route home which it then reclaculated every time I deviated from it. The unit gives quite loud instructions and turn information and the volume can be altered or turned off. I used the “3D” view but there are two top-down views of the routing too and brightness, etc. can also be altered.

When I got home, I updated it for speed cameras, etc. The USB cable is used for modifying the maps and adding points of interest, such as speed camera locations which I downloaded from PocketGPSWorld and added to the unit in a few seconds using the downloadable Garmin POI Loader software.

Garmin i3 'fitted' to a Kawasaki ZRX1200R As for on-bike use, the i3 is not marketed as a bike unit – it’s not rugged or waterproof but is claimed to be sunlight-readable which is handy. It fits in neatly-ish between and in front of the clocks using the sucker mount, but I’ll have to see if I can get a sturdier bar mount or something similar.

For an on-bike test, I wired up an accessory socket to the Kawasaki ZRX1200R and used the supplied cigarette lighter adaptor, running the cable from the accessory socket under the seat, under the tank and behind the clocks to the i3.

I then went for a ‘spirited’ ride to test it properly. In Map View mode, the i3 displayed the location map (with different levels of detail dependent apparently upon speed), the next junction at the top of the unit, the direction in the small box to the bottom right and – usefully – the current speed in the bottom left hand box. Even in direct sunlight, the screen was readable: I have a black visor too. I didn’t try it with the voice prompts (although there are two web sites with instructions on how to wire up a headphone socket and headphone) but found it easy enough to see the screen and the speed camera warnings.

The unit can show the planned route on a turn-by-turn basis, but on the downside, you can’t program any stops into your route or make it route via a certain road or town.

So, would I recommend it? Yes. Where can you buy one? That depends: there are a lot on eBay although prices of new ones remain high. Comet sell them too – I got mine there thanks to a discount I get – or you can buy one through my Amazon shop.

SuperBike, July 2006

OK, here are some comments I have on the July 2006 issue of SuperBike. 

Launch Test: Bridgestone BT-002 Racing Street Tyres

It appears that, despite being sold alongside the BT-012SS and the BT-014, the BT-002 is actually going to replace the 012SS. I’m on my third BT-012SS at the rear and my second on the front and I really like them. SuperBike say that you might associate a loss of confidence with the BT-012SS. I’ve never had any confidence issues with the 012SS – hence the repeat purchases – but SuperBike reckon the BT-002 might be a good, predicatble tyre for trackdays. Mind you, at £200 a pair they’d better be good: my last set of BT-012SS cost me £150.

Racedays Masterclass

I’ve never done a masterclass or track school: I am one of the ‘Officers’ of trackday organisers the Motorcycle Folly, though, and our Chief Instructor is Mike Edwards from the Mist Suzuki Superstock 600 racing team … and there he is with his riders in the photos! So if Mike thinks his team can benefit from a masterclass with Jeremy McWilliams then it’s a fair certainty that your average trackday rider could benefit hugely.

“The Three Peaks” – Yamaha FZ1 Fazer -v- Honda CBF1000 -v- Suzuki SV1000S

The FZ1 is the latest incarnation of Yamaha’s… er… well, it’s not a Retro, it’s not a naked bike… maybe a musclebike? Hmm. Anyway, they’ve taken their R1-with-high-bars and restyled it so it looks like a dog’s dinner. There’s some sort of oil drum srapped to the side where the silencer should be… That is one ugly bike.

The CBF1000 is a Fireblade with sensible bodywork. Again, it’s been hit with the ugly stick. If they can make the CB1300 look good, why does Honda fail so miserably with the CBF1000?

The third bike is the SV1000S which looks long and mean and like Cinderella next to the ugly sisters.

For some bizarre reason, SuperBike like the FZ1′s styling.

Prices? The FZ1 is £7,599, the SV1000S £6,049 and the CBF1000 is £5,999. Yes, the most ugly bike here is £1,500 more than the others. Put another way, it’s 25% more than the others. What are Yamaha thinking?

SuperBike plump for the FZ1 as the test’s winner, despite:

“…the broad spread of power is gone, replaced by a peakier, more abrupt motor, the loss of the sofa seat and a limited tank range … the limitations put on the bike by the chassis design.”

All that, plus 25% more cash.

“Workshop: 17 Under the Seat Essentials”

SuperBike looks at some nifty things to stash under your seat, space permitting. They say:

“Some bikes have a bigger storage space than others. The original FireBlade … [has] an amazingly capacious space under a key-operated flip up pillion seat. It doesn’t get much better than that…”

Main Underseat StorageExcuse me?

This is what I keep in the space under the saddle. Headlight bulb, sidestand pucks, cards, waterproof trousers, rucksack, bungee cord and a road atlas. There’s also a torch sloshing around in that canister under the (aftermarket) seat.

  
Boot And this is in the container under the rear of the seat.

It’s a multi-tool, Wee Willy visor cleaner kit, pouch with pad, pen, etc., tie-down, cable lock, tape, disc lock and the OEM toolkit.

It doesn’t get much better than that

The July 2006 issue also featured the launch test of the Kawasaki ZZR1400, but I’ll comment on that later, as there’s a full test in a later issue.

Kawasaki ZRX1200R

When Kawasaki launched the ZRX1200R they wrote:

Today they call it World Superbike, but back when the whole show got started it was the bikini-faired Green Monsters from Kawasaki that power-slid their way into the record books. Now Kawasaki flexes its performance muscle once again, bringing you the direct descendent of those tarmac-rippling Superbikes – the new ZRX 1200R.

Retaining the brutal charm of the original Eddie Lawson bikini-faired layout, but with a new engine pumping out, amazingly, even more power and torque. A stiffer swingarm with revised pivot location for superb handling. And further buffing up the most legendary Musclebike of all are plenty of other mods. Like an improved clutch and a rear wheel damper from the awesome Ninja ZX-12R, for smoother shifting and improved ride quality. All adding up to more take-no-prisoners ZRX performance than ever. Beyond formidable, the new ZRX 1200R. Stamp your authority on the game.

SuperBike‘s July 2006 issue’s listing says:

Looks and rides like it’s graduated from the school of bad-ass attitude. Best-handling muscle bike and arguably the most stylish, but you’ll probably wish that you’d bought a Z1000 when the going gets a bit twisty.

So, who’s right? Here’s an owner’s ‘take’ on the Kawasaki ZRX1200R.

Engine & Performance

Kawasaki claim 122PS and 112Nm of torque for the ZRX. In English that’s 120BHP and 82½ ft/lb, almost certainly measured at the crank. Dry weight is 223kg (plus 4kg for the half-faired S version). Compare that with a Suzuki GSX-R1000 (161BHP at the rear wheel and 166kg) and it’s clear that the ZRX is no pocket rocket.

RHM on the ZRX1200RLooking at the bike in the showroom, it looks like it’ll be a handful, but looks can be deceptive: whilst it may be a heavy old lump, it’s smaller physically than it looks.

I’m 6′ tall or thereabouts and 14½ stones so this photo might give you some perspective.

As with most halfway decent bikes these days, 0-60 times are largely irrelevant: quicker than nearly anything four wheels – I’d guess at around 3½ seconds. Top speed? Who knows? I’ve seen 145mph on the clocks sitting up, but take a look at that riding position and the tiny fairing. How long would you want to be maxing it out on that? If top speed’s your priority then look elsewhere: musclebikes, naked bikes and retros are not for you. The ZRX1200R’s bikini fairing and upright riding position dictate a comfortable cruising speed of around 90mph where you can leave it in top gear and just cruise along riding on a wave of torque. With a redline at 10,000rpm, maximum power is delivered at around 8,500rpm and maximum torque at around 6,500rpm, so it can be a very relaxing ride rather than a frantic scream.

RHM on the ZRX1200R at Castle CombeWhen you want to hustle, though, it picks up its skirt and rocks! I use the ZRX for trackdays and take onboard footage when I can. Take a look at this video, for instance, to see it in action on track at Mallory Park. Oh, and it’ll wheelie on the throttle in first so it’s no fat slag.

The ZRX1200R comes with two catalytic converters, one welded into the header pipe collectors and one in the silencer (which gets exceptionally hot – beware!). This, coupled with the Old Skool carbs and emissions gubbins, means that replacing the end can with a quality one or, better still, a full system will give you more than a few extra horses: with a Dynojet kit – no namby-pamby fuel injection here – freer-flowing air filter, the removal of the “snorkel” on the side of the air box and fitting a decent full system (Akrapovic is preferred), power rises from 112bhp to the low 130s at the rear wheel.

Chassis & Handling

As it comes from the factory, the bike is set up for a 75kg (~12½ stone) rider. Knowing the general size and weight of your average ZRX owner you can see why that might not be perfect.

Providing you’re not going for it on poorly-surfaced B-roads, the standard settings are OK, if making the bike a tad wallowy. I’ve fiddled with the settings to improve things substantially but a session with Steve Jordan is on the cards at a Folly trackday to sort it properly, or as near properly as possible. It’s suggested that the ZRX’s weak point is the front end rather than the rear.

Talking of which, the ZRX comes with retro-style twin shocks at the rear, unlike the Honda CB1300 or Suzuki Bandit, but like Yamaha XJR1300 and Suzuki GSX1400. These are more than adequate as standard and the twin shock layout provides the additional benefit with the ZRX of a massive amount of underseat storage.

Styling & Ergonomics

If you’re in the market for a musclebike, then this is to my mind the best looking one of the bunch. Harking back to the mighty GPZ range of the eighties (and yes, to the Eddie Lawson superbike years), the ZRX looks well ‘ard just standing still.

A very handsome and imposing bike, the moment you sit on the ZRX you feel very much at home. The pegs place your legs in a very comfortable position and the reach to the bars is very neutral. The seat initially feels very plush, but after an hour or so, it does become uncomfortable. Many owners have theirs re-upholstered or replaced with Corbin and Sargent being the preferred options.

But it seems that the ZRX attracts the sort of owner who wants to ‘improve’ the looks: nearly all the members of the ZRX Owners Club have modified or accessorised their bikes in some way. For track use, I’ve replaced the footrests with Gilles rearsets for extra ground clearance. Clearly we want to make them our own.

RHM on the ZRX1200RIn terms of my own ‘improvements’, my full list is as follows:

Akrapovic titanium full system; Canadian-spec. rear mudguard; Powerbronze carbon-look hugger; Powerbronze crash posts; Clear Alternatives indicator covers; Clear Alternatives rear light with LEDs; Small numberplate (supposedly Gatso-proof); Datatool Evo alarm system and pager; Bridgestone BT012SS tyres; EBC HH brake pads (fronts); Gilles rearsets; Talon 44T Rear Sprocket; Sargent Solo seat; BSR-Aerotek braided hoses; Wyn’s Muffler Bracket; Cheapo sports watch fitted over clutch reservoir; Braking wave front discs; and RC51Rider’s Radiator shroud replacement straps.

There are more to come including a black powder-coated swingarm and maybe some Braking forged aluminium wheels.

The Final Analysis

When I was looking for a new bike, I considered buying various sportsbikes but at the time I still owned one, albeit an older Yamaha FZR1000 Genesis. I simply wasn’t using it much as it wasn’t the sort of bike I could just jump on and wazz down to the shops on. It wasn’t even much fun under 100mph which, whilst fine for trackdays, isn’t so good for everyday use.

What appealed to me was that the ZRX1200R reminded me of the bikes of my early riding years but without being too retro, i.e. it took the best of the early eighties musclebikes and brought it more up to date without discarding all the facets I liked.

It’s comfortable around town, is great for pillions, can trackday with the best of them and best of all always leaves me feeling great after a ride out.

It’s also very crashable: I dumped it up to the hairpin at Mallory and the bikini fairing was worn through a bit. The bike was still rideable as it was, but my riding kit had taken a hammering so I couldn’t continue. I’m still using the broken bodywork for trackdays just in case.

So the Kawasaki ZRX1200R is a great bike. Should you go out and buy one? Well if you do want to, you’d better make it quick. Kawasaki have stopped selling them in the USA already and I’m surprised they’re still available in the UK, though I doubt they will be for much longer. I’m told that Kawasaki only managed to sell 150 ZRXes in 2005 but then that’s probably because they’re some sort of best kept secret.

Erde Trailer

So back in January 2005 a nice man from DHL arrived with my shiny new bike trailer on his lorry and I moved the boxes into the garage where they were in the way.

I decided that I would assemble that night whilst Mrs. RHM was at work, so at 6.30pm I headed outside and began unpacking the parts and assembling it like some giant Meccano set. All went remarkably well until the last pair of guard rails whose bolts and nylock nuts were a real bugger to get at and more particularly get a spanner or socket on. Remember that the trailer is basically a bunch of aluminum channels so there are quite a few sharp edges. Anyone who’s ever worked on an old Mini would recognise my hands afterwards: bruised, cut and sore. Oh and I also had some bruises and scars on my thighs and stomach from heaving it around later that evening…

I assembled it partly inside and partly in the rain outside our small, single garage which, being a “family garage” and part of a spec. built Beazer house, is rather small and is full of:

  • five bicycles;
  • two scooters;
  • two wardrobes full of bike clothing;
  • wine and beer;
  • two brand new ST200 alloy wheels;
  • two brand new ST200 floor mats;
  • standard ZRX1200R exhaust silencer;
  • standard ZRX1200R seat;
  • a fridge-freezer;
  • a tumble-drier;
  • two music centre/separate systems;
  • DIY tools, paint, etc.;
  • kitchen roller blind;
  • pasting table;
  • Black & Decker Workmate;
  • 3 piece aluminium ladder;
  • large wooden garden table and four chairs;
  • sledges;
  • tools;
  • ramps;
  • wall-mounted kitchen units;
  • cupboardy thing;
  • data backup fireproof safe;
  • paddock stand;
  • carpets, lots of carpets;
  • assorted fluids and oils for cars and bikes;
  • general crap;
  • bag of 10 footballs, pump, bibs and first aid kit;
  • central heating boiler; and
  • a big Kawasaki ZRX1200R.

It’s a very big trailer. 10′ long by 5′ wide by 2½’ tall. And 125kg.

I’d been lucky enough to nab my neighbour when he got in to lift the wheels on whilst I lifted the trailer up high enough – I’d found I could lift it with one hand but struggled to line up the wheel bolts with the holes with the other hand.

At this point, I stood back and admired my handiwork. Mrs. Blue came home at 9.00pm and I stayed outside to work on the trailer (and never did get anything to eat).

And then I looked at the chaos that is the garage and wondered how it would fit inside…

So I’m pondering my options: there’s no access to the back garden other than a 3½’ wide passage so that ruled that out. I could wheel the trailer into the garage and permanently stand the ZRX on the trailer, but access to everything else would be nigh-on impossible. I could eBay it. Or I could try to stand it up on its side against the wall.

Except that that was easier said than done. Did I tell you it’s a very big trailer? I tried heaving it up and over onto its side, but the internal width of the garage meant there wasn’t enough room to allow for it turning onto its side – I could get it to a 45° angle but not much further. So I did some measurements and discovered that if I took the front section off again, it might fit standing up on its back, although I’d still have to somehow lift it onto the back section and then manoeuvre it into position against the wall. So I set about it with the spanners and sockets and dismantled the work I’d already done. With the front section removed, I reckoned I could just about get it in place against the wall and resting against the wall units, so I put an old kitchen mat next to the wheel and heaved it up onto its side, bumping it outwards as I did so. Success! There was also just enough room between it and the wall to slot the heavy towbar section in to take up less space. 11.00pm and I was finished.

There’s a photo here, taken the following morning, showing the finished article in the packed little garage. Mrs. Blue asked me to take her bike out so she could go and grab a DVD for her booze and filum session at her friend’s house and I was able to show her that it wasn’t that tight and inaccessible :)

Now that the trailer has been used for a few trackdays, the only criticisms I have for it are that the wheel hoops at the end of the channels are a bit high, so they almost clash with the brake discs and that the channels themselves are a bit narrow, pinching the rear tyre – mind you, that may not be a bad thing.

The trailer itself is a doddle to use and very lightweight, so the occasional bit of ‘extreme towing’ at 80mph behind the Fiesta and 100mph behind the ST200 (on closed roads, of course) has been fine. Any scratches in the channels from the sidestand have been painted over with Hammerite and the trailer now lives outside in all weathers with no apparent deterioration.

Recommended.