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Old 07-14-2010, 04:39 PM   #1
tomLSTD
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Reflection on motorcycle technology... (long)

The other day, I was in my shop deep in thought. I was painting a racer's bodywork and just sat down for a minute to let it flash before applying the next coat. Something caught my eye for a moment and I glanced over at my GSXR as it sat on my lift, nekkid and gutted. In an instant, I was transported back in time to when I was about 14 years old studying a Cycle World magazine article...

Back then, motorcycles were quite a bit different. It was around 1984/ '85 and some of my idols were American superbike riders and Grand Prix or Formula 1 (now MotoGP) racers. In this particular article the author was afforded a (then) unique opportunity to ride Eddie Lawson's Championship winning Yamaha 500. I was awe stricken as "Steady" Eddie was one of my favorites. The author admitted that he lacked the ability to be able to fully ride this beast, and really couldn't even get the brakes and suspension to work the way it should due to his lack of pace. That was cool and all, but the thing that really struck me, and maybe things like this always existed and I only just now noticed them, was the naked/ stripped chassis in the article's photo layout. For me to see something so completely exotic, and obviously made of Unobtainium, something I would never in my lifetime own, was just unimagineable. You never got to see those bikes stripped of the bodywork or with the engine removed in those days (that I can remember anyway). It was always covered with a ton of "aerodynamically influenced" bodywork.

Un-covered and there for all to see were the wires, engine, suspension bits, beautiful exhausts, and the almost polished looking slick tires. It was something to behold. I do not have the vocabulary to describe how that bare chassis looked to me; not in a weird sexual way obviously, just very stirring and amazing. Ok, sexual.

So, what was it that transported me to that time? Well, that gutted and naked '06 GSXR chassis was even more exotic by comparison for that time period. Some of the thing that I was admiring then, were on-board and even improved since that time; and I own this thing!

It got me to thinking about technology and the things that seem so out of reach to me now technology-wise. I see the items on my bike now- the curved and reinforced swingarm; the beefy and infinitely adjustable forks; both wheel's width and symetry; cables routed cleanly, purposefully, and directly; the rake of the forks; the (missing) engine used as a stressed structural member of the frame; it goes on and on. These are incredibly similar to the way the ultra-exotic, ultra-modified, and ultra-performance machines of 30 years ago looked when stripped. This revelation was quite something for me to behold right then.

We talk about the advances, we've had discussions about how "today's" showroom production bikes rival the top tier racing motorcycles of only a few years ago, but I'd never until this day had the epiphany I experienced right then.

In 1987, my "race" bike was my daily driver also. An FT500 Ascot, a converted dirt bike made by Honda to emulate the dirt track racers of the day. Spindly forks, disc brakes (which worked pretty well actually), a comfy seat, but looked it's part. Regardless, it was a popular road racing platform at that time and some really fast folks in the CRRC raced them. At that time, it was the most advanced and only racing platform I could afford/ own. That is, until I bought my '87 VFR750F2 Bubba Shobert edition.

My VFR was the pinnacle of technology for Japanese repli-racers (a term not yet coined in the motorcycling community). Then, the only fully faired bike you could buy was the (weird looking Ninja), the new GSXR, and the new VFR. My VFR featured GP technology like: 16" front/ 18" rear wheels, 4-pot dual disc brakes and 2 pot rear disc, anti-dive (didn't work), "beefy" 37mm air adjustable forks, a single shock with 2 different adjustments, hydraulic clutch, and CV carbureted V-4 16 valve engine with (a claimed) 115 hp at the crank. I just knew I had died and gone to Heaven when I got that bike although I only made it to the track 2 times on it- once at TWS (Texas World Speedway) for the Code School and once to OHR for a practice day. I never got to race against the likes of Lundsford and others with their HRC loaded VFRs.

My GSXR now: 52mm infiinitely adjustable cartridge forks, 310mm rotors with brakes that will put you over the bars using one finger's pressure, 4 way adjustable shock, a slipper clutch, 120+ hp at the wheel, traction control is available aftermarket, a steering damper that contols tank slappers, tires with edge grip enough to register high on a g-force meter, and a fueling system that is so precise it can control when the optimum time to inject is while coordinating with the ignition timing. An engine that is so efficient, strong, reliable, powerful, and compact.

Comparing to the VFR then: Forks that flexed in the corners (even with a brace), brakes that worked well but were prone to fade and were tough to dial in initial bite and feel even with 4 fingers on the lever, laughable "adjustability" of the forks/ shock- don't even ask about the air adjustable forks..., tires that slide and protest at high corner speeds, carburetors that by and large were pretty dern reliable but un-precise and in need of jetting changes constantly for optimum performance, and a bullet-proof engine that if it made 1/2 the horsepower claimed by Honda would still have been pretty competitive 5 years ago in it's class. My bet is hedged toward MAYBE 70 horsepower at the wheel in perfect conditions with an aftermarket full HRC exhaust and worked carbs.

Man, how times have changed. I can only imagine what is to come 30 years from now.

Still, I got a little nostalgic chill and good feeling as I gazed upon the bare chassis of my GSXR. Man, the last 30+ years of racing motorcycle technology has been as they say, "a real trip".
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Old 07-14-2010, 05:07 PM   #2
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Cool read man.
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Old 07-14-2010, 05:10 PM   #3
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Dang your old...i was only 7 in 87 and I prolly didnt have a big wheel plastic scooter yet lol
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Old 07-14-2010, 05:21 PM   #4
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You can stop by Lunsfords' shop any day we're open to check out that VFR you mentioned - it is upstairs in his 'musuem' or more aptly, Memory Lane. http://www.lunsfordshonda.com/racing...collection.htm
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Old 07-15-2010, 07:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by tomLSTD View Post
Man, how times have changed. I can only imagine what is to come 30 years from now.
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Old 07-15-2010, 08:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10mm View Post
You can stop by Lunsfords' shop any day we're open to check out that VFR you mentioned - it is upstairs in his 'musuem' or more aptly, Memory Lane. http://www.lunsfordshonda.com/racing...collection.htm
I've tried over the years to get Ronnie to sell me some of his spares when I still owned the VFR and he'd never budge. By 2000 those parts were (still are) really hard to come by which is one of the reasons I sold mine- but Ronnie has a nice stash I've heard!

Back in the day, I'm not 100% sure that Ronnie's bike wasn't as nice or nicer, with what appeared to be the same HRC parts as Bubba's (Shobert). Ronnie was a monster on that VFR from what I remember. Of course I was only 18 and I was awe struck by all of those dudes anyway. I could only dream of doing the things they did since I had no support.

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I think you're right!
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Old 07-15-2010, 08:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomLSTD View Post
The other day, I was in my shop deep in thought. I was painting a racer's bodywork and just sat down for a minute to let it flash before applying the next coat. Something caught my eye for a moment and I glanced over at my GSXR as it sat on my lift, nekkid and gutted. In an instant, I was transported back in time to when I was about 14 years old studying a Cycle World magazine article...

Back then, motorcycles were quite a bit different. It was around 1984/ '85 and some of my idols were American superbike riders and Grand Prix or Formula 1 (now MotoGP) racers. In this particular article the author was afforded a (then) unique opportunity to ride Eddie Lawson's Championship winning Yamaha 500. I was awe stricken as "Steady" Eddie was one of my favorites. The author admitted that he lacked the ability to be able to fully ride this beast, and really couldn't even get the brakes and suspension to work the way it should due to his lack of pace. That was cool and all, but the thing that really struck me, and maybe things like this always existed and I only just now noticed them, was the naked/ stripped chassis in the article's photo layout. For me to see something so completely exotic, and obviously made of Unobtainium, something I would never in my lifetime own, was just unimagineable. You never got to see those bikes stripped of the bodywork or with the engine removed in those days (that I can remember anyway). It was always covered with a ton of "aerodynamically influenced" bodywork.

Un-covered and there for all to see were the wires, engine, suspension bits, beautiful exhausts, and the almost polished looking slick tires. It was something to behold. I do not have the vocabulary to describe how that bare chassis looked to me; not in a weird sexual way obviously, just very stirring and amazing. Ok, sexual.

So, what was it that transported me to that time? Well, that gutted and naked '06 GSXR chassis was even more exotic by comparison for that time period. Some of the thing that I was admiring then, were on-board and even improved since that time; and I own this thing!

It got me to thinking about technology and the things that seem so out of reach to me now technology-wise. I see the items on my bike now- the curved and reinforced swingarm; the beefy and infinitely adjustable forks; both wheel's width and symetry; cables routed cleanly, purposefully, and directly; the rake of the forks; the (missing) engine used as a stressed structural member of the frame; it goes on and on. These are incredibly similar to the way the ultra-exotic, ultra-modified, and ultra-performance machines of 30 years ago looked when stripped. This revelation was quite something for me to behold right then.

We talk about the advances, we've had discussions about how "today's" showroom production bikes rival the top tier racing motorcycles of only a few years ago, but I'd never until this day had the epiphany I experienced right then.

In 1987, my "race" bike was my daily driver also. An FT500 Ascot, a converted dirt bike made by Honda to emulate the dirt track racers of the day. Spindly forks, disc brakes (which worked pretty well actually), a comfy seat, but looked it's part. Regardless, it was a popular road racing platform at that time and some really fast folks in the CRRC raced them. At that time, it was the most advanced and only racing platform I could afford/ own. That is, until I bought my '87 VFR750F2 Bubba Shobert edition.

My VFR was the pinnacle of technology for Japanese repli-racers (a term not yet coined in the motorcycling community). Then, the only fully faired bike you could buy was the (weird looking Ninja), the new GSXR, and the new VFR. My VFR featured GP technology like: 16" front/ 18" rear wheels, 4-pot dual disc brakes and 2 pot rear disc, anti-dive (didn't work), "beefy" 37mm air adjustable forks, a single shock with 2 different adjustments, hydraulic clutch, and CV carbureted V-4 16 valve engine with (a claimed) 115 hp at the crank. I just knew I had died and gone to Heaven when I got that bike although I only made it to the track 2 times on it- once at TWS (Texas World Speedway) for the Code School and once to OHR for a practice day. I never got to race against the likes of Lundsford and others with their HRC loaded VFRs.

My GSXR now: 52mm infiinitely adjustable cartridge forks, 310mm rotors with brakes that will put you over the bars using one finger's pressure, 4 way adjustable shock, a slipper clutch, 120+ hp at the wheel, traction control is available aftermarket, a steering damper that contols tank slappers, tires with edge grip enough to register high on a g-force meter, and a fueling system that is so precise it can control when the optimum time to inject is while coordinating with the ignition timing. An engine that is so efficient, strong, reliable, powerful, and compact.

Comparing to the VFR then: Forks that flexed in the corners (even with a brace), brakes that worked well but were prone to fade and were tough to dial in initial bite and feel even with 4 fingers on the lever, laughable "adjustability" of the forks/ shock- don't even ask about the air adjustable forks..., tires that slide and protest at high corner speeds, carburetors that by and large were pretty dern reliable but un-precise and in need of jetting changes constantly for optimum performance, and a bullet-proof engine that if it made 1/2 the horsepower claimed by Honda would still have been pretty competitive 5 years ago in it's class. My bet is hedged toward MAYBE 70 horsepower at the wheel in perfect conditions with an aftermarket full HRC exhaust and worked carbs.

Man, how times have changed. I can only imagine what is to come 30 years from now.

Still, I got a little nostalgic chill and good feeling as I gazed upon the bare chassis of my GSXR. Man, the last 30+ years of racing motorcycle technology has been as they say, "a real trip".

welcome back Tom
good read
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Old 07-15-2010, 09:09 AM   #8
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Good write up. I agree. I have sat and stared at the Busa when its all torn down. The HP that the motor produces is amazing in itself at 1340cc. The ability to run 200 mph is incredible as well. At 170 it feels like 100 on a 600.
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