Superbikes

Aprilia RSV4 1100Factory

Who wouldn’t like to ride a bike with three changeable modes: Sport, Track and Race? The 1078cc motor has been fitted to the RSV4 frame and given 214bhp with 90ft/lb of torque it is out of this world! All the best features have been added for this 2019 model. These include Moto GP wings, braced internal swinging arms, forks with an extra 5mm, titanium Akrapovic exhausts and Stylema Brembos brake system. Downside: the steering is too tight and small and leaves the rider with aching hands and wrists, but the power on the open road certainly takes your mind off the steering. A bit flat at the start, but at mid-stride, it pops, and at the top this bike is fantastic.

Yamaha R1M

Taking the 1998 Yamaha R1’s 600cc chassis and shoe-horning a 1000cc into it, made for a small, light, quick and nippy ride. Yamaha has changed much, but they have stuck to the basic design, and the handling and the cornering are epic. All the famous riders who have straddled these Yamahas can attest to the comfort and ease of riding. The street model of the R1 is a joy to ride –right front end feel, and fast, but not the fasted bike on the road. The display is of the best: white on black or vice versa – it is easy to read under all conditions. The brakes are ample, but perhaps the pads could be better for quicker reaction time.

Downside: The R1 doesn’t handle the humps and bumps on the open road, so it is better on a surfaced track. The Upside is that the R1 is beautiful. All design features are artful, and the finishes are the best – magnesium wheels, titanium exhaust headers, and an aluminium tank that seems to mould itself to your body.

Ducati Panigale V4S Corse

The Ducati has remained the same since 2014 with a V4, but with changes such as Ohlin suspension Marchesini rims and Brembo braking systems – all the best! The narrow body is hard and unforgiving, but who cares when it has a 1100cc engine? The Panigale takes a lot of getting used to, but once you get going- you get going! This bike doesn’t like to be babied and hops when you let it!

The BMW S1000 RR

After ten years of top places in racing, the BMW has brought out the S1000RR. A total re-make from the chassis to the nuts and bolts, together with viable valve timing, the engine comes in 4kg less than its predecessor, with a total mass of 193kg. Even with such additions as carbon wheels and a lightweight lithium battery, it is one of the least costly big bikes on the road.

The BMW handles all types of roads and road surfaces with grace. Unlike other bikes, the S1000RR takes ant road in its stride. The electronic suspension control, Pirellis that hug the surface and the lack of weight make the bike iconic.

Motorcycling Through Mexico

First of all, before leaving for a trip through Mexico, get your Vehicle Import Permit. This is as important as your passport! Get it online before leaving the comfort of your home. There are some entry points where you can get yours, but ensure your place of entry is one of them! There are places inside Mexico where you can get one, but you have to get there first!

  • Insurance – Do you want to stay out of a Mexican gaol? Then get your Mexican Insurance, not International Insurance, not North American Insurance, but Mexican Insurance. The others don’t work! If you don’t have the correct insurance and are involved in an accident – you can see the inside of a Mexican gaol!
  • Roads – Some roads are free but beware the bad surfaces in some places. On other routes, you will have to pay the toll. These roads are well kept, but you don’t see the little villages, and you don’t get to meet the man in the street.
  • Police – You will encounter roadblocks, but these are well signposted, and if you are stopped, you will be asked basic questions and will be waved on your way. But don’t mess with the cops – they are waiting for smart-arse tourists!
  • Rules of the road – Speed limits are well signposted. Regular routes range from 20 to 40 kph while toll roads vary between 70 to 100 kph. There are dotted lines on the shoulder; these will become separate lanes to enable overtaking on your left. Trucks must travel slowly and before passing, make sure you understand what the signs on the rear mean. Semi Doble Remolgue has two trailers attached to this horse. There are also turn signals if a trucker indicates to the left he is telling you it’s safe to pass on the left, and not necessarily turning left himself. The decision is still on you to make sure the road ahead is clear.
  • Hazards – Beware of animals on the road – dogs, cats and farm animals. Also, especially on side streets, you will come across potholes and rocks on the way.
  • Fuel – Demax stations in small towns may only supply 87 octanes and in larger cities will have 91 octanes. Keep cash for gas as not all gas stations have credit card facilities. Ablutions are usually OK. There are also signposts to inform you of the next gas stop.

Places to see

If travelling down through Baja, you will find friendly locals who will welcome you to their towns with their generosity, with a laid back attitude and the food will be basic Mexican food, but excellent. Baja is a thinly populated semi-desert to the desert countryside. The beaches are amazing, and the scenery is unique. Don’t expect to have all the mod cons of the USA – even electricity is not always available, but cell phone reception is generally reasonable. Don’t let the border crossing set the tone for your holiday. Choose a quieter passage and stay away from places like Tijuana.

Record Indian Scout

In 1967 Burt Munro of New Zealand took his modified Indian Scout to Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA to try to break the world speed record for that size bike. Born in 1899 to a farming family on the Southern island of New Zealand, Burt was never content to live the life of a farmer. Not old enough to enter the 1st World War, he worked on a tunnel construction for a while until returning to the farm. He lived for speed, and at 15, he started to enter races. He then got work as a motorbike mechanic and rep and soon became known in the racing circles, and he raced on Oreti Beach which had miles of flat beaches. He also ran in Australia. Munro entered every type of race that came his way – road racing, drag racing, scrambling, and hill climbs amongst others.

After divorcing his wife, Munro built a double garage to work on his bikes and also lived in the workshop. He made parts for the bike out of scrap such as the rods were made form an old Ford axle and which lasted for many years. Using scraps of different metals, he cast his pistons to his design and shaped the cams by hand. He also changed the side valves to overhead valves. His bike changed so much; one could hardly recognize it as an Indian. He worked over 100 hours a week, but as he got older, this dropped to about 70 hours a week. Over the years he bettered many New Zealand records and held a speed record for 12 years.

Ambition

After visiting Bonneville Flats, he realized he had to take his Indian to the United States to try his hand at speed record-breaking at the Bonneville Salt Flats. New Zealand couldn’t offer him a long enough stretch to test the top end of his bike, and as he had saved most of his life and with some help from his friends, at 65, he created his old Indian, loaded it onto a cargo boat and took a job on board as a chef. Once in the States he bought an old station wagon and towed his bike to Bonneville.

When he arrived in Bonneville, he was informed that he had not pre-registered so he could not enter the speed trials. Luckily, he had befriended the American speedsters who managed to talk the officials into allowing Munro to come although the Indian did not comply with the organizer’s criteria. In his first run, he set a world record of 179 mph in the 1000cc class. Munro rode again over the next few years and survived a crash in 1967. His bike had picked up a speed wobble, so he had sat up to try to bring the bike under control, and the rush of air had blown his goggles off, and at that speed, he could see nothing, so he crashed the bike to stop it.
He died in 1978 from a heart attack.

Namibia

Namibia has a lot to offer a motorbike tour. Unbelievable scenery and panoramas with right roads, but beware: there are mikes and mikes and more miles between towns. After Mongolia, Namibia is the least populated country in the world. The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world.

If you are expecting to stay in hotels, lodges or B and Bs, the sooner you book, the better, even a year or more ahead of time, especially during the tourist seasons. Plan a slow trip with distances between stopovers not too far apart. Otherwise, you will miss out on the viewing stops, places of interest and the wildlife. If you’re riding on gravel roads, allow enough time as trying to keep to a tight schedule could lead to a disaster. Remember the long distances to hospitals and doctors, and, no, there are no emergency helicopters or nearby ambulances!

Most of the scenic attractions are off the tarred roads and on the gravel side roads, so be daring and hit the side streets (slowly, of course!). Be aware also that some gravel roads are for 4 x 4s, so plan well. If you are taking a leisurely trip, allow for safari tours offered by the various forms of accommodation. Avoid night riding and try to be at your destination before dark, as many animals come out in the cool of the night, and they tend to jump in front of vehicles with disastrous consequences.

Be Prepared

Carry the makings for tyre repairs if you don’t carry spare wheels and all the necessary tools for side-of-the-road repairs. Make use of petrol stations whenever you see one – you never know where the next one will be! If you’re driving to the very north of Namibia, check with your travel doctor to see what vaccinations and meds you will need before you leave home, there is a chance that you will need malaria pills.

When deciding when to travel, choose the dry season as the less greenery, the easier to see the animals, but within-season rates, it is more expensive. The winter months are from June to August, but remember there are 300 sunny days in a year! In the rainy seasons, the gravel roads become a swamp, and the animals don’t congregate at the dams as they can find water in any small depression. Remember to take warm clothing for those cold nights.

Visit Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, which are close together, but there is more to do in Swakopmund. Walvis Bay has stunning flocks of flamingo in the shallows and whales at sea. You may wish to take a whale-watching cruise. You will also see the Germanic influence in the architecture as the Germans colonised Namibia, but were driven out of the country by South African troops during the First World War. Unfortunately, there is not much to see in and do in Windhoek!

The Isle of Man Motorcycle Race

At the beginning of the 1900s, the UK Parliament imposed a speed limit of 20 mph on motorcycles, so the Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, Sir Julian Orde, searched for another venue without the restrictions imposed on them by the UK Parliament. They found one in the Isle of Man and having an autonomous parliament; they did not have to obey the UK Parliament and allowed the race.

The Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) was first held in 1907. By an Act of Parliament, the public roads used in practice and the races are closed to the public over the two weeks. However, on Sunday between the training and the tracks, the public can ride over the course on their bikes. The TT was first named the International Auto-Cycle Tourist Trophy. The race consisted of 10 laps of the race which was 15 miles, 1470 yards and all contestant’s bikes had to be roadworthy. Two years later, in 1911, the course was changed to the Snaefell Mountain Course of 37,4 miles.

Classes

The first races consisted of two courses in 1907, and in 1911 there were two races, one event for 350cc and another for 500cc. During the two World Wars, the tracks were suspended for the duration. In 1922 another race was included in the TT for 250cc bikes, and in 1923 a motorcycle with sidecar race was added.

After the Second World War, in 1946, the races were once again staged and in 1947 more formats were introduced and these included the Clubman TT race. In 1949 the Isle of Man TT joined the Moto GP as the course for the British venue for the World Motorcycle Championships. In the 1970s, due to safety concerns and “starting money” for the riders and the competitors, the manufacturers and the sporting federations started boycotting the IOMTT.

Winners

The all-time top winner of the TT is Joe Dunlop who has won 26 IOMTT’s! Close behind him is John McGuiness with 23 wins, but whether he will beat Dunlop’s record remains to be seen as he is reaching retirement age. Third, on the winner’s list is Michael Dunlop with 19 wins.

The Isle of Man is an independent island between Ireland and England, but still recognises Britain and the Monarch. Every year, apart from the competitors and their teams, there are over 40 000 spectators, and they all contribute to the Islands economy by 25 million pounds.

The IOMTT has become known as the most dangerous motorbike course in the world. Since its inception in 1907, there have been 150 fatalities at the IOMTT, some during the practise laps and some during the races. The deadliest was in 1970 when six people died during the TT. There are 264 corners – all on public roads – with speeds over 200mph.

Tyres

Riding on South African roads, whether on-road or off-road is not for the fainthearted. When considering a ride, ask yourself first if your bike is suitable for what you want to do. The main thing for a safe and comfortable ride is the tyres. Are they ideal for tarred roads? Are they suitable for gravel of off-road riding?

Metzeler Karoo is suitable for offroad driving, their long-lasting and durable. The extra spacing between the knobs allows for more footprint on the road, giving the bike more traction. Scorpion Rally brought out by Pirelli for the offroad races, such as the Dakar. The rubber compound has been tested under severe conditions and over long distances. The reinforced basic structure has decreased slide and temperature by 10% and 10degrees, respectively. The knob configuration on the front tyre improves handling, and the shape on the rear tyre allows for better manoeuvrability, especially on the turns and bends.

Heidenau has been manufacturing tyres for over 70 years and has 550 different designs to suit all road conditions. To counter all the loads and forces bikes put on their tyres, Heidenau has strengthened the tyre walls. To help riders, Heidenau has brought out the K60 Scout for all conditions. If you are riding on tarred roads, you will need a stickier tyre and a harder tyre for rough roads and off-road riding. Heidenau tested their tyres under South African conditions for two years before bringing out the K60 which has proved to be a winner under all circumstances.

Choosing the tyres for your bike

Bias-ply. The nylon plies run from bead to bead at 45 degrees to the direction of travel, alternation from the course at each layer. Radial Steel Belt. The first part is the casing which incorporates the single-ply running at 90 degrees to the beads. On the housing is the steel belt (coated in rubber to stop delamination) sitting under the tread, and then over the lot goes the rubber crown.

Radial steel belts allow for high speed on tarred surfaces. Softer sidewalls but thicker crown due to the steel belt. Wall and tyre act independently of each other. Bias Ply has thicker sidewalls for cut resistance. These tyres are a single unit, so when side walls deflate it affects the tread pattern. Correct tyre pressure is the key to good tyre care. Incorrect pressure can lead to heat build-up will affect the handling, shorten tyre life, and can even lead to tyre failure and finally, remember the saying from the South African motor Bike Association.

Motorcycle Rides of North Africa

North Africa – the home to the Tuareg, the Berbers and the Europeans. The dry arid country is part of the largest desert in the world. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia all makeup part of North Africa. Ancient cities such as Marrakesh, Fez, Algiers and Tunis are good starting points to get acclimatised to the Arab way of life. Riding a motorcycle in the desert makes you one with the ecology – dust and more dust! It will work its way into every crack and crevice in your clothes, and it will coat your face in grey to age you in a moment.

When leaving the cities, one will start discovering the villages and their inhabitants – just as it was in Biblical times. The village’s friendliness and generosity will make you yearn for the old days and leave the rush and stress of modern days behind. Do not follow the bikers who make straight for the Atlas Mountains, or you will miss out on the lesser-known Rif Mountains.

The scenery here cannot be found anywhere else in the world, with roads that seem to have been made especially for bikers that will give you plenty of twists and turns. If you take this route, you will eventually reach Fez – a city from a thousand years ago with its beautiful, fortified walls built to keep the enemy at bay. Pass through or stop and enjoy the ancient city of Chefchaouen, the city named after the blue painted house lining the terraces.

Atlas Mountains

On arriving in the Atlas Mountains, the highest mountain range in North Africa believed to be a possible area (of three regions) of the first human civilisation in the world, competing with Kenya and Southern Africa for this honour. Keep your eyes on the road as they will be drawn to the changing vistas as a moth is brought to light – not a good thing on a path of twists turns and bends. On the other side of the Atlas, the road will take you through a gorge formed by the Ziz River, and you will arrive in Tafilalet where you can cool down in a palm-filled oasis and stop for refreshments as thousands who have stayed there to water their camels, over the last millennium and more.

From then on, the road opens up to long, straight stretches reaching to Erg Chebbi, so now you can pick up a bit more pace (without breaking the road laws!). After Erg Chebbi, one enters the Dade’s gorge, definitely one of the main attractions of the ride. The switchbacks and twists and turns make for a memorable journey – one of the best in Africa. Then on to Telnet where you will find the Telnet Kashbah, a palace built centuries ago at 1800 meters above sea level. The Tizi-n-Test pass will lift you to over 2000 meters ASL but be aware of the almost vertical drops into the valley below.

Motorbike Riding in Russia

To intrepid motorbike riders considering Russia as a destination, there are many things to be aware of and not what could be expected of, for instance, petrol. Not all filling stations carry standard fuel for motorbikes, so plan – many vehicles use propane. Bikers may have to resort to buying fuel on the black market- not the ideal scenario for a tourist trying to stay out of trouble!

Russia is a land of contrasts – cities equal to any European city, but villages out of the old days with hardly any changes. Russia has a varied and fascinating history, having been invaded by such nations as Mongolia to Germany and having survived many internal wars and ruthless leaders. Having lived for many years under the Communist regime, Russia has dragged itself into the 21st century, but from this has evolved much poverty and social problems such as the street children with millions of kids roaming the city streets.

Countryside’s

As a biker you will cover many different landscapes from grasslands stretching for mile upon mile, mountains to traverse and dry soul-destroying deserts, so be prepared for big temperature swings! Crossing Russia is crossing seven time zones, sixteen significant rivers. There are many historical sites to be seen, including crumbling Kremlins (walled cities) to the famous Moscow Kremlin, a sight to equal any architectural buildings in the world.

There will be signs of warfare, including statues to war heroes. Many nomad groups still roam the desolate countrysides, unchanged for thousands of years. On these roads, people you meet will be most welcoming and hospitable, but few can speak English. They may even put you up for a night or two and feed you strange but plentiful meals and quite a few vodkas!

Tours

For those contemplating a ride in Russia, it may be best to join a tour. These tours supply a guide to ride with you to ease the language differences, find accommodation, find the best sights to be seen and to deal with the many police stops. This helper might make your journey a much better experience. Some tours even supply a support vehicle. On the average expect to cover about 500 miles a day, and the guides can take you straight to your destinations and save much heartache.

Accommodation

Hotels are expensive so that a tent may be a good alternative. Even rentable rooms can be inferior, from homemade beds to no TV or internet access to noisy plumbing and very poor ablutions. Finding a place to pitch a tent could be the best alternative and a lot cheaper, free in fact!

Roads

Roads throughout Russia go from good to bad- and back to sound again! Distances are vast, thousands of miles at a stretch and nothing like those experienced in Europe. All types of bikes will be seen on the roads, from Hondas to Harleys to Urals – Russia’s own bike and sidecar.

Epic Bike Rides in the USA

North-West Passage Scenic Byway

This 220-mile ride follows the old pioneers, Lewis, and Clark’s route that they forged across North America so many years ago. Although today, it is a much easier road to follow, Lewis and Clark must have seen things long gone never to be seen again, but the beauty and scenery of this area are still there to be enjoyed. If this road is quiet, you can take a lazy, restful trip on good American asphalt and appreciate the surrounds. If you are so disposed, one can also enjoy hunting and river rafting.

San Juan Mountain Byway

Starting in Ridgeway, Colorado, Route 160 takes you to Cortez and then on Route 145 north to Telluride. At Telluride, one can hop off the bike for a while, fill up, get something to eat and carry on past Placerville, onto Route 66 and back to Ridgeway. All this is 233 miles long. The route will take you past and through some parts of the Rocky Mountains in South Western Colorado and see old, deserted mining towns, and lovely parks and forests. Visit hot springs along the way and take in the beautiful canyons and green valleys.

State Route 1

For a long, enjoyable ride, State Route 1 takes you along for 656 miles of magnificent scenes of golden beaches and forests. Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, it is a most popular route – hence beware of other trippers eyeballing the scenery and not the road! It is a long journey, so take it easy, enjoy the view and arrive safely at the destination.

State Route 36

If you choose to stay off the very busy State Route 1, try another route. If you prefer to travel east to west, from Fortuna to Susanville, you will be able to enjoy the soaring mountains and see the awe-inspiring redwoods – the tallest trees in the world. The winding road demands careful riding as some of the bends are very sharp and obscured. This 400-mile road takes you past various national parks, lakes and the mountains give the Rocky’s the name of Little Switzerland.

Pig Trail Scenic Byway

Supposedly named after the wild pigs in the area, but more likely to be after the Arkansas Razorbacks who took this route to Fayetteville. The ride traverses Route 23 incorporating the Ozark National Forest, and this road has many off-shoots leading to exciting destinations. The journey is at its scenic best in autumn when the colour of the leaves is turning, and experienced riders and newbies can enjoy the roads. USA Today’s readers voted that this route which passes through the award-winning vineyards and goes on to and on to Ozark takes the first prize as the best in the USA.

Motorcycles from Inception

The steam engine was invented in the mid-1800s. It was not long after that that inventors put the bicycle and the engine together and created a motorised motorbike. Ernest Michaux, son of the inventor of the boneshaker bicycle, Pierre, soon had the machine in much demand by the public. Other inventors took the idea and using alternative motors soon had the public mobile on their bicycles. These were a coal-burning furnace and an alcohol burner chamber. In 1981 Lucius Copeland attached a steam engine to a Penny Farthing bicycle.

The next big stride in motorcycles was in 1885 when Germans Daimler and Maybach produced the first bike with a petrol internal combustion engine. This “Riding Wagon” named the Daimler Reitwagen is considered the opening of modern motorcycles. Since the practicality of this combination of bike and engine, many other inventors came up with their versions.

In 1895, ten years after the Daimler Reitwagen hit the road another pair of Germans, Hildebrand and Wolfmuller, started mass producing motorcycles but did not stay in business long. Popular demand increased, resulting in an increase in production at the beginning of the 1900s. These included the English Royal Enfield, the Triumph, the American Harley-Davidson and the Indian. The German’s Dampf Kraft Wagon (the DKW) built by Auto Union quickly became the most significant production bike in the world. After the Second World War army surplus and used army bikes were available at low cost and clubs formed throughout America and Europe.

Transportation

Motorbike became the main form of transportation in Asia. The Japanese were making inroads into the market with the production of the Yamaha, the Suzuki, the Kawasaki, and the Honda. Their motorbikes proved to be cheaper and less troublesome than their American and British opposition bikes. Honda’s Super Cub sold 100 million units, which are the most significant production of any bike type. In 1990 the Japanese domination of the motorbike world weakened. This was due to the introduction of the Western bike builders’ reliable bikes, – the Harley-Davidson, BMW, and Ducati, amongst others.

Numbers

Today over 200 million bikes are in service throughout the world. Countries where motorbikes dominate the road, are China with 34 million and India with 37 million. In 2015, India sold 48 000 bikes every day with 46 000 sold daily in China. The downside of motorbike riding is that the American Department of Transportation has revealed that fatalities per vehicle mile travelled are 37 times higher than for cars.

Motorbikes today are produced in three classes, the street bike, the off-road bike, and the dual-purpose bike for on and off-road use. From these three categories, various other types of bikes have developed from cruisers to mopeds and motocross off-road bikes.

Electric Bikes

Due to the slow depletion of fossil fuels, electric motorbikes have been developed. These motors are also emission-free and silent. Drawbacks are the limited range of the batteries and the low top speeds.