by Thomas Day
Minnesota vs. the AMA
The American Motorcyclist Association is worried about “unanticipated consequences of proposals that might allow gas stations to increase the level of ethanol in the fuel they sell.” While current US ethanol content in pump gasoline can be up to 10 percent ethanol, the state of Minnesota is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow fuels with up to 20 percent ethanol. The AMA is concerned about the effects of that mixture on motorcycle engines. Motorcycle manufacturers only certify current motors to run on the current 10 percent blend.
Since burning ethanol creates more heat than conventional gasoline, air-cooled motorcycle engines could be subjected to more damage. Bike fuel systems will be exposed to the more corrosive effects of higher nitrogen oxide emissions which may be a byproduct of engine exhausts.
“The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned about premature engine damage or failure while a bike is being ridden on a highway if the allowable level of ethanol is raised to 20 percent,” said Imre Szauter, AMA legislative affairs specialist. “We are also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol.”
While the current proposal comes from Minnesota, the AMA says an EPA waiver would open the door to the sale of 20 percent ethanol blends in every state. “Until studies show that a 20 percent ethanol blend won’t damage motorcycle or ATV engines, and won’t make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA, the AMA can’t support the Minnesota proposal,” Szauter said.
Another “Hurt Study” Underway
In 2005, the US Congress approved funds for a new study of motorcycle safety and crash causes. The motorcycle industry kicked in a matching $2.8 million dollars to fund that study through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The MSF is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by BMW, BRP, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha. The money goes to the Oklahoma Transportation Center, an independent and respected research center at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. The federal grant required the motorcycling community to come up with half of the study’s cost. The AMA has also committed funding to the project and the association has been collecting money from riders through its “Fuel the Fund” program.
“This commitment by the motorcycle industry is a vital ingredient in getting the first comprehensive study of the causes of motorcycle crashes in more than 25 years,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Vice-President for Government Relations. “We recognize and appreciate the investment the motorcycle industry is making in its customers. Without this financial support on their part, we could not have taken advantage of the federal funding we worked so hard to secure.”
The last significant study of motorcycle crashes, the “Hurt Study,” was completed in 1980. Since then, traffic patterns have changed and the AMA has campaigned for a new study for several years. “With funding from the federal government and the industry in place, the motorcycling community is nearing completion of the long process leading to a new study of motorcycle crashes,” Moreland said. “This is a tremendous example of the entire motorcycling community – businesses, organizations and individual riders – working together to secure this vital research designed to help prevent crashes and save lives on the highway.”
Ricky Carmichael Heading for #150
Ricky Carmichael won his 149th professional race on July 2 in front of 29,338 fans at the Monster Energy/Kawasaki RedBud National, in the fifth round of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship. Carmichael and James Stewart quickly pulled away from the rest of the pack and put on a two-man show for both of the day’s motos. Stewart beat Carmichael in the first moto as Carmichael rode off of the track near the end of the race.
Carmichael started the second race badly but worked his way back to Stewart’s rear fender in a couple of laps, leaving the pack until both bikes began to lap their way around the rest of the field. Stewart dumped his bike and Carmichael won both the second moto and the overall victory. Carmichael won’t race in the AMA series again until late this summer. He’s going for the big bucks as a NASCAR race driver, beginning in July.
Another MotoGP Season In Contention Down to the Wire
As of mid-July, Ducati-riding Australian Casey Stoner is 21 points ahead of last year’s champ Valentino Rossi, heading into Sachsenring, Germany’s Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Stoner crashed during practice in Germany and as of this writing hadn’t been medically qualified to race due to concussion and hand injuries. Rossi won this race last year and clipped five points from Stoner’s lead by winning Assen, Netherlands earlier in the month. Dani Pedrosa is in the third spot, but he’s 44 points behind Rossi, so he isn’t expected to threaten either of the leaders for the final championship race. John Hopkins (Suzuki) is fourth in the championship points. Laguna Seca is the next round in the MotoGP championship series, on July 22. Seven more races will determine this year’s MotoGP champ with the series ending in Ricardo Tormo-Valencia on November 4th.
Kawasaki and John Hopkins
Kawasaki has signed John Hopkins to a two-year deal (who left Suzuki after 5 years on the factory team). Kawi is still looking for a “proven MotoGP race winner” to add to their roster. (Here’s your chance!) Hopkins will be on the proven and competitive Ninja ZX-RR for 2008. Next year should be interesting for MotoGP fans, with Honda hoping to reverse their decline, Yamaha going strong, Kawasaki going for the gold for the first time in a while, and Ducati’s seriously competitive bikes and riders.
Here comes the New Triumph Street Triple!
On June 30th, at Triumph Tridays in Neukirchen, Austria, the Brit manufacturer put Jet Black, Fusion White and Roulette Green Street Triples on public display for the first time. This 675cc streetfighter is the newest entry in the naked middleweight motorcycle field. Pushing 107bhp and 51ft-lbs of torque, the Street Triple ought to be competitive.
The new Speed Triple sports a lot of features moved over from the Daytona 675 such as the instrument console, frame, suspension, motor, brakes, and wheels. Priced at $7,999, the Street Triple will be on dealer showrooms in late September. Triumph is hoping for demand to exceed supply and are allowing customers to put money down via their “Priority Reservation Program.” You have between now and September 30, 2007 to place your reservation.
Buell 1125R Breaks the Mold
With the all new Buell 1125R, Buell threatens to “take its owner to a new level of riding experience.” Along with the Buell XB and Blast, the Buell 1125R is a distinct new motorcycle for the company, expected be in dealerships by late 2007.
The chairman and chief technical officer, Erik Buell, said “We designed the 1125R from the rider down. The 1125R takes Buell to a new level of performance, while continuing to embrace the fundamental Buell principals of motorcycle design and offering a great motorcycle riding experience.”
Buell 1125R sports an all-new 1125cc DOHC V-Twin, “the first liquid-cooled engine to power a street-legal Buell motorcycle.” Buell and BRP-Rotax combined to build a compact, 72-degree engine that produces 146 crankshaft horsepower with a wide powerband across a 10,500 rpm range. The new “Buell Intuitive Response Chassis” (IRC) is defined by “massive rigid aluminum spars that double as the fuel reservoir.” The bike has a new front fairing and radiator which was designed using computational fluid dynamics models to improve aerodynamics, rider comfort, and air flow to the bike’s radiators and a ram-air intake system. The bike’s design includes 47 mm inverted forks, an eight-piston front brake caliper developed for the Buell XBRR racing motorcycle, a six-speed transmission, and a new HVA (Hydraulic Vacuum Assist) Slipper Action clutch that uses engine vacuum to improve the clutch feel and operation. The Buell XBRR-inspired fairing features six-bulb headlamps and LED turn signals integrated into the mirror housings.
A Buell without a boat-anchor motor? I wanna ride one.
Team Honda superbike racer Miguel Duhamel will race the Gresini Honda RC212V as a wild card entry in the 2007 Red Bull USGP MotoGP class in place of injured rider Toni Elias. Duhamel hasn’t participated in a premier Grand Prix class in 15 years (1992)! Miguel Duhamel has more career AMA national road racing victories than any other rider in the history of the sport. Duhamel said, “I am very pleased to have this opportunity. I want to take this time to wish Toni a quick recovery. We’re all looking forward to seeing him back in action. I spoke with the Gresini team owner this morning and finalized the deal. I’m really super pumped and looking forward to getting out there. It’s a tall order for sure. At the very least I hope to put on a good show for the fans. I know I’ve wanted to see this for a long time. I’ll also still be in the AMA Superbike race right after the MotoGP race, so it’s going to be a busy day for sure.”
A New Unofficial Cross-Continental Guinness Record
Four macho Canadian brothers, Sean, Ryan, Rob and Justin Noble have set the motorcycle Trans-America speed record for traveling from Ushuaia, Argentina to Deadhorse, Alaska, arriving in Deadhorse in mid-June and all riding 2007 Suzuki DL650ABS bikes. 32 days is the new record time, beating the previous unofficial record set on September 2003, by Kevin and Julia Sanders. Titled “A Noble Quest” (http://www.noblequest.org/) their ride was in part “to bring awareness and inspire people to donate to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation.”