Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

When you ask people what they think the top 5 motorcycle companies are, they will probably get 2 or 3 right. Most bikers know that Honda is one of the biggest, and that Harley is not a small fish. Some might add to that list Yamaha. And they would not be wrong, but very few bikers will know about 2 other enormous manufacturers: Hero and Bajaj.

But first let’s go back to the Top 5 list. According to Research and Markets the top 5 leading motorcycle companies in performance, strategy and competitive analysis (so not in raw sales figures) are:

  1. Honda
  2. Yamaha
  3. Hero MotoCorp
  4. Bajaj Auto
  5. Harley-Davidson

So again, let me say, it’s not in number of sales, but in their strategy, their performance and how they stack up in a competitive market.

Number 1, 2 and 5 you will know, but 3 and 4 are mostly unknown to most North American bikers, and that is because they are not present in that market. Both manufacturers are from India, and their markets are Asia, Africa and South America. Markets where low displacement bikes that are sturdy and cheap are the chosen form of transportation.

Hero-MotoCorp-logoHero MotoCorp used to be a partner with Honda but in 2011 split from the Japanese company (they used to be called Hero Honda). Now, they are world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in terms of sales.

They have also bought themselves into Erik Buell‘s company, so this new partnership will probably see Buell’s bikes sold through Hero’s shops, and possibly see Hero’s motorcycle start selling in the USA but with some redesign by Buell.

Bajaj-Auto-LogoBajaj Auto, despite the name having “Auto” is not an car maker but a motorcycle manufacturer from India. They are world’s 3rd largest and India’s 2nd largest in terms of sales.

Both manufacturers make small displacement bikes, typically 150 cc, although 200 cc is not uncommon. Sold for a few thousand dollars, these motorcycles are very strong, designed for the bad roads in many countries. Both manufactures are looking at expanding their sales base, and competing with the other, more known, brands on the Top 5 list.

But is the North American market ripe of brands like Hero and Bajaj. On the plus side, they are not fly-by-night operators, they have been in business for decades. They are enormous and have the money to develop many new bikes. But on the minus side, their bikes are unattractive and low power. But they are …. CHEAP.

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

So would you consider buying a 200 cc motorcycles for let’s say $1500? A bike that is sturdy that you can use as runaround and one that you will not mind if you drop it? Or would you prefer to pay double even triple for a more recognizable name?

Read Full Post »

Motorcycle gear does not get created just like that. It is not like someone waves a magic wand, and presto, you have got some new product. It takes time, resources, patience and most important, it takes imagination.

Many people have ideas for motorcycle related products. They can be out for a ride, and something happens to them or their bikes, and they think about some item that could solve the problem in the future. But going from idea to manufacturing is an enormous step. The step is so gigantic that 99.99% of the people do not even bother.

The thought of drawing up their idea, getting financing, making it, shipping it, etc. It’s a nightmare. But thanks to the internet, one of the biggest headaches in the life of a new product is now reduced; that of financing.

Stack Of Cash

In the old days, if you wanted to make a new product, you needed to go to either a bank or an investor. But either way, you ended up leaving your shirt. Banks charge interest rates and investors want a piece of the action.

Today crowd funding has arrived and is giving the traditional financial institutions a run for their money. With web sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter (and a few more), if you have an idea, you put the idea in one of these websites, and ask the crowd to help fund it.

How Does It Work?

Once you have designed your product/idea, calculated what it will cost you to make, you go to one of the crowd funding sites. Once you have entered your product and the total amount of money you will be looking for, you need to let people know what they can get when they pledge money.

This is where the nifty part of crowd funding comes in. People pledge money, they don’t transfer money directly. The only time money is taken from your bank account is when the financial goals are met. In other words, if Joe is looking for $20,000 to make Gismogritzers, any money pledged will only be taken from the people who have pledged once there is $20,000 in the pot.

The pledges are usually different amounts, and with each different amount, the rewards are different. A reward can be for example if you pledge $1, you can a hand written postcard, or for maybe for $2 your name is listed in the credits on a web site. In other words, you do not need to pledge much money. On the other hand, if the idea for a product is attractive, and you are interested in having that product, you will usually be able to pledge money to buy the product at a lower price than when it goes into production. A kind of “early bird special”. But remember, no matter how much you pledge, you will only need to pay if the target is met.

So the person who had the idea does not have to hand over equity in their new company, nor have to pay monthly interest rates to a bank.

What Kind Of Products?

There are many different kinds of motorcycle related products finding their way into crowd funding sites. From accessories, to new technology, to books, to charity, etc. For example, one idea that was funded last week is an interesting book about a guy named Karl Allan who travelled around the world on his motorcycle. Not only has he got very interesting stories to tell, but he also collected many local food recipes which he explains in his book, and shows you how to make it.

Forks-Book

The book, entitled “Forks”, was put in the Kickstarter site for $20,000. In a few days (about a week), Karl managed to get the funds he needs to make, print, publish and distribute the book.

Another example was that of Joseph Campo in the United Kingdom. He wanted to make a web TV comedy series about a biker gang. He went to Kickstarter and got the funding to make the TV series (The Clandestine). He is now in his second season.

New motorcycle accessories can be found here as well. For example, Vololights, a way to warn drivers behind you that you are decelerating (by engine braking or down shifting), was looking for $50,000 to start production. They got $53,000.

But of course not all products find a crowd. Some may have a great new product idea but have not been able to sell the idea to the masses. Some have not so realistic financial goals, and a crowd will ‘feel’ this, and not bother.

But as you can see, it is not only a great way of putting new products out there, but also a great way for you to find something new and interesting.

Here are some of the crowd funding site that have motorcycle related items:

Read Full Post »

The latest thing in the technology world is 3D printing (although 3D printing exists since the late 70’s). For you who don’t know what that is, it’s the possibility to “print”, more sculpt, 3D images. Instead of printing a 2D image on paper as we do now, the printer adds resin (or other materials) upon resin forming layers. These layers can be almost anything. You can read more about 3D printing at the Wikipedia, click here to read it.

3D-suspension-model

Many things have already been printed nowadays while the 3D printing technology keeps advancing. But can you for example print a motorcycle?

The answer is “why not?”. The only problem is that the material used the most frequently for printing is plastic, so you would have problems with heat. But people have already made a 3D printed gun, and guns generate heat, so eventually you might even see engines and exhausts printed in 3D. But for the mean time, we’re stuck with other uses inside the motorcycle world.

One very good application of 3D printing for motorcycles is for motorcycle designers. They can now design their motorcycle on a computer, and after pressing a button, see what the motorcycle will look like in real life.

See this video of a 3D printed motorcycle. It looks real, but it isn’t. But imagine being a designer. Now you can see very quickly what your new bike will look like. You can sit on it, feel it, test it in a wind tunnel. What this means to us bikers, is that we will be seeing new motorcycles hitting the market faster. The time-to-market can be drastically reduced with this technology.

3D-Printed-object

But another application of 3D printing can benefit individual bikers. That is the printing of custom-made parts. Now if you want a special part, you need to either find it, which might be very difficult if it’s rare, or you have to have it made (or make it yourself if you are handy enough).

But with 3D printing, you can look up the specs of the part, put it in a computer, and print it out. There are more and more companies being created that will do exactly that. Tell them what you want, they put it in a computer, and then print it out.

Here’s a video showing you a 3D printer printing (not a motorcycle related object, but you get the picture):

3D-printed-toolImagine requiring a tool to work on your bike, and you don’t have it. Jump on the computer, download the specs and drawing and print the tool.

It’s crazy, I admit it, but why not?

So these are exciting times. We can now already design parts for our motorcycle and have them printed, and very shortly, you will be able to do so yourself at home. Then all bets are off for custom made motorcycles. You can really have your creative juices go wild. 3D printers are becoming more and more affordable.

Read Full Post »

As a rider, even on one of the biggest motorcycles, we remain very small. And when you are in traffic, car drivers might miss seeing us and before we know it, we’ve crashed into them. It’s not that the car driver isn’t looking for us, many actually do try to pay attention to bikers, but at times they just don’t see us. One of the possible reasons is Motion Induced Blindness.

Motion Induced Blindness, also known as MIB, is a recently discovered phenomena. Back in 1991 it was first formulated as something that could cause people in motion not to see certain things. Jet fighters and even airline pilots know about it, since in essence MIB is a result of staring into a space while in motion. With your vehicle’s movement (be it a jet fighter or a car), looking at a spot (like the center of the road) can hide other objects.

Look at the moving diagram below. You see three yellow spots on the outer limits, in the center is a green blinking dot and around it are blue crosses turning. Not exactly a situation you’ll find on the road, but it’s just to illustrate the MIB point (image driving a car on a country road with trees lined on both sides and the yellow dots are motorcycles). If you now stare at the green blinking dot, you’ll suddenly see the yellow dots disappear and reappear. There’s no rhyme or reason behind the timing, it happens at different times for different people. Have look:

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

You can say that the dots are too small, that is why you can’t see them, or that they are turning to fast, or slow. Well, head on over to the MSF site and try it there. The same diagram can be changed by increasing or decreasing the size of the spots, or making things go faster or slower. The result is the same; you’ll occasionally not see the yellow objects.

You can see the same in this video, with only one object (top left)

or try this one:

Basically the MIB phenomena means that even if you are wearing high-visibility jackets, a car could not see you.

The only way out of this process is to have the car driver shift eyes continuously, i.e., not stare in one spot (straight ahead). So, no white line fever, something that for sure will involve cars ramming into motorcycles.

Obviously MIB is not the main reason that cars and motorcycle have accidents. There are many factors at play, and as we know from statistics, around 70% of motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers, and this will be one of them.

What can we do as motorcycle riders? Not much. If the car driver can’t see you because of MIB, maybe the only thing is flashing your headlights and swerving, but that will result in a whole other series of problems and dangers. Nobody ever said that riding motorcycles is a safe hobby.

Click here to read more about Motion Induced Blindness.

Read Full Post »

Yamaha are popular motorcycles and although not as expensive as many, it’s still too much for many to afford. You can of course buy a miniature scaled model, and many do so, but how about making one?

Yamaha have on their web site many of their popular motorcycles in a DIY fashion. All you need is patience, a printer, scissors, glue and lots of paper. Because these models are all papercraft, in other words, they are made out of paper. Click here to go to the Yamaha realistic papercraft models.

Paper-Yamaha-YZF-R1

Paper-Yamaha-YZF-R1

Yamaha have downloadable PDF files, either in full color or black & white, that once you’ve downloaded them, and printed them, you use your scissors and glue and make your own model. Each model has many pages since they are very detailed. You can also just download individual details.

Their popular R1 sports motorcycle is available, but so are many other models, like the Vmax or YZ450FM. Or if you prefer a scooter, there’s also the Tmax scooter.

Maybe if you resize the printouts to a bigger size, you can actually make the model bigger, maybe even life-size like this guy has done;
Paper-Yamaha-R1-1

Or if you taste lies more with Harley-Davidson, you can make this Harley.
Paper-Harley

Maybe it’s not as detailed as the Yamaha, but it’s going to be a lot quicker to make.

If you really want to go wild making paper models, here’s a site that lists many of the paper models from other sites, so you don’t need to hunt them all down.

Read Full Post »

Scorpion-Exo-1000

Scorpion-Exo-1000

It was time for me to try out a new helmet, and the choice quickly fell upon the popular Scorpion EXO 1000 Helmet. I’d read a few reviews, spoken with a few owners and decided this was the helmet to try.

I got my shiny new, and very black, Scorpion helmet but when I put it on, I noticed that it was a bit too “snug”, if not too tight. I used my previous measurements for helmet sizes, but obviously Scorpion’s sizes are different. So back it went, and a few days later I was the happy “owner” of a new, but slightly larger (1 size) Exo 1000 helmet. Note: when ordering the EXO 1000 get one that is 1 size bigger than normal. You’ll thank me for it.

That one, when it went on was a good, if not perfect fit. There are two really good things about this helmet; a) a very good drop down sun visor and b) pump up cheek pads.

But I’m ahead of the review, so let’s good back to the test ride. Weather was nice and sunny, some 71°F, dry. I took a road through a forest through the Tail of the Dragon. The first thing I noticed is that the helmet is quite. There’s very little outside noise, and even wind noise was down to a minimum.

At a later stage I used the air pump. The air pump, an idea used by sneakers a few years back, pumps air into the cheek pads, making the helmet sit much more snug, as tight as you want to make it. Initially I looked at this as a marketing gadget, but it’s far more that. Not only does you helmet fit you to perfection with this feature, I also noticed that it cut down noise even further. I guess it’s because the helmet “vibrates” less due to the snug fit, so it lets less vibration noise into your head. Color me impressed!

The helmet was already snug, but with the air pumps, I have to say, I felt much safer. Helmets should not move when they are on, and this “gadget” makes sure that it doesn’t. It’s like a customizable helmet, made to perfectly fit your head.

The sun visor is heaven sent. Riding through a forest means that you’ll be facing times that it’s dark, followed by times that the forest clears and you’re hit by direct sunlight. Putting on a dark visor is problematic when it’s dark. Same with sunglasses. Now it’s just a question of pushing down the sun visor, or up if it’s dark. Less than a second and you’re dark or clear.

Ventilation was excellent, no problems there. The visor never fogged up, and the head stayed in a perfect temperature.

The only downside for the Scorpion is the weight. This is a heavy helmet (Kevlar and fiberglass), more so than most helmets in the price range. But after an hour of riding, I have to say that it did not feel that heavy. I thought that my neck would feel it, but apparently the aerodynamic flow of the helmet is done in such a way that it doesn’t push down on the neck. Maybe you’ll feel it in city riding with lots of lights and intersections. But for normal riding, no problems.

As helmets go, I can highly recommend this one. You can’t got wrong with the price, nor with the sun visor and air pump cheek pads.

The Scorpion EXO 1000 helmet received top rating at the very strict UK Government test site, Sharp. Click here to read the test results.

To buy the EXO 1000 helmet, click here

Read Full Post »

Safety for bikers is something many look for. Helmets, body armor, gloves, special boots, all are items that most would consider normal in a biker’s everyday life.

But for the last few years, airbags have made an entry in the motorcycle world. They started with big motorcycle jackets with incorporated airbags. The first models had a wire attached to the motorcycle, and if the biker left the motorcycle unexpectedly, the wire pulled a CO2 canister that pumped air into the jacket within milliseconds. This way, if the biker was flung from the bike, the body was pretty well protected from impact.

Michelin Man

Michelin Man

The first models were a bit slow, and when the airbag was deployed you looked like the Michelin man. But in recent years, airbag technology evolved. Much of that is thanks to the efforts of MotoGP racers who tested such airbags, and are currently using them when racing.

The first airbag jackets were made by manufacturers who made nothing else than airbag jackets, but soon big names, like Dainese (D-Air series), Alpinestars (Tech Air), Spidi, etc. came into the game.

Now airbag jackets are high-tech. Many of them don’t have a string attached to the bike, but use sophisticated electronics to determine if a biker is leaving the motorcycle unplanned. Of course, it means that there are counter electronics installed on the bike, which communicates with the jacket. And when we say sophisticated electronics, it also means sophisticated price; a big price. The Alpinestars Tech Air Racing Replica 1 cost for example US$2,899.95

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

But if you’re not a racer, or not someone who makes full use of open track days, it doesn’t need to be that expensive. If all you’re looking for is some added protection without having to spend a fortune on new jackets, you can buy a vest that is put over your current jacket. So you keep your current jacket, and have the added protection of an airbag.

The technology is still not that cheap that anyone can purchase it, count a couple of 100’s of dollars for a vest. But if you can afford it, what’s the price of safety?

Since more and more manufacturers are now making airbag jackets, the concept is becoming mainstream. In the next few years, prices will become competitive, and most manufacturers will offer airbag models.

Have a look at this video to see how effective the airbag jacket is.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 234 other followers