Saturday, May 26, 2012

Brayton 6 High-Tech, Over the Top Concept Motorcycle

Brayton 6 Concept by Colby Higgins
I saw this outrageous concept bike by design student Colby Higgins at the BikeGlam blog today. It is designed around a conceptual implementation of a Brayton Cycle engine that is really unique.

See more of it in Colby's portfolio at Coroflot.

Another View

Friday, May 25, 2012

BikeCraft Magazine Issue No. 1 Has Hit the Newstands

So-Cal Triumph Featured in BikeCraft
 BikeCraft magazine is here at last... bobbers, cafe racers, streettrackers, oh my. I just bought a copy of issue numero uno, Summer 2012, and I love it already... great photography, excellent writing, and lots of bikes... in this issue alone, more than a dozen innovative and novel customs from across a wide spectrum of brands. 

Dave Edwards, editor-in-chief of Cycle World  for many years, is at the helm of this new quarterly from Mark Barnett, publisher of the now-defunct Barnett's Magazine (which I really liked and bought on a regular basis). The design and layout of the mag reminds me very much of Cycle World.

The Triumph streettracker pictured here was one of the very cool featured bikes. It was designed and built by the legendary designers and craftsmen at So-Cal Speed Shop for Champions Moto, the first in a limited production run of ten bikes.

Harleyton 45 Featured in BikeCraft
At the other end of the spectrum, there was a great piece about Englishman Nick Roskelley's Harleyton 45 Cafe Racer, a Harley 45ci flathead in a Norton frame. 

I've been eagerly awaiting the debut after seeing the preview of BikeCraft at the back of the now-defunct  Barnett's Magazine final issue. It's better than I hoped for. Check it out at your favorite newstand now, or get setup with a subscription online for $14.99 per year (four issues) at their website.

Update: Actually the Champions Moto Triumph will be a limited production run of twenty bikes, not ten... my mistake


Thursday, May 24, 2012

"It's Better in the Wind" Cafe Racer Photo-Essay Book

Cafe Racer in the Wind
We just saw this cafe racer photo-essay book for sale at the Dime City Cycles website, It's Better in the Wind by Scott Toepfer. From the excerpted pictures we've seen, it looks to be shot all in black and white film, the old-fashioned way... not digital.

In this book, photographer Scott Toepfer has documented a classic American road trip. See some of our great country's finest spaces from the saddle of a cafe racer.

He also created a short film, which you can read more about here at his website.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Contes Engineering "Athos" Quad Bike

Contes Engineering "Athos" Quad Bike
We went into downtown Hillsboro the other day for  Saturday Market and saw one of these babies, the Contes Engineering Athos, in the window of the new Hillsboro Bike Company shop that just opened at the corner of Main St. and 2nd Ave. Stepped inside for a closer look and was really impressed with the tech and the apparent quality of the workmanship... four-wheel independent suspension with 8" travel, disk brakes front and back, and Contes Engineering's differential with constant-velocity (CV) drive joints.

The Athos is engineered for street and dirt. 

The Contes website indicates that both their CV joints and differentials will be made available on the market for DIY builders. Contes also offers a consulting engineering service to product developers, with a focus on cycling, though they say they've also done automotive work and automation for semiconductor manufacturing.

Check out the video of the Athos in action below.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Classified Moto's Lamps from Recycled Motorcycle Parts

Classified Moto Wall Lamp
We did an earlier post about the Classified Moto Yamaha Virago XV-920 cafe racer that caught a lot of attention here, and rightly so...  This bike has garnered a lot of praise and attention in the motorcycle press and on the Web. But the folks at Classified Moto are also known for the lamps and tables that they've made from recycled motorcycle parts.

So, we went back to take a look the lamps in more detail, and found this wall lamp that's pretty cool... Rescue a shock absorber and a brake disk before they end up useless in the landfill, add a bulb fixture and lamp shade, and voila, a motorcycle themed wall lamp. You can get your own for $229 from Classified's online store. Pretty cool.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vintage Harley "Kanuth" Hillclimber Reproduction Motor

Fred Lange of Fred Lange Restorations manufactures a complete reproduction of the famous Harley-Davidson "Kanuth" V-twin hillclimber engine. The complete motor with magneto is available from FLR for $19,000. 

To provide the reliability of his engine, Fred Lange will be riding a bike powered by one in this year's upcoming New York to San Francisco Motorcycle Cannonball Run.

Check out the FLR website... he has built some amazingly accurate and beautiful boardtracker replicas that have sold for big dollars at Mid America Auctions, for example.

Monday, May 14, 2012

B9Creator 3D Printer Fundraising on Kickstarter

A couple of weeks ago we posted a piece about the Bukobot 3D printer Kickstarter fundraiser, which has been quite successful, easily exceeding its maker's fundraising goal of $42K with more than a week left to go. Well, yesterday we found out about another 3D printer project at Kickstarter, the B9Creator fundraiser, which has done amazingly well: In less than a week, and with a month still to go, more than $123,000 has been pledged,  far exceeding owner Michael Joyce's original $50,000 project funding goal.

I think this one is so way-over-the-top successful because of its unique technical approach: Joyce uses a deformable mirror device to project a 1024x768 pixel image onto a layer of light-sensitive resin. The entire layer is immediately cured where the light hits it, so each layer of the printed object is created very rapidly. This is in contrast with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) techniques, where the material is laid down in a raster pattern after the fashion of inkjet printing.

Joyce writes that each layer is typically calibrated to be .004" (.1mm) thick, but that the user can trade off speed for even greater resolution. Claimed printing rates are 12-20mm per hour. The resin used is said to be very inexpensive.

The B9Creator is an open source hardware project, so all of the CAD files and software source code files will be made available under an open source license.

On another fun note, check out Michael Joyce's life-sized models of the Lost In Space "Robot B9." (And now you know where the "B9Creator" name came from...)

Update 5/21: With three weeks to go at Kickstarter, pledged funds for the B9Creator total just under $170,000, well over three times the project goal. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Honda RS750, Factory AMA Grand National Flat-Tracker

Bubba Shobert's Championship Honda Flattracker
There were a few years back in the Eighties when America's dirt tracks were ruled by a bike that didn't sport an orange and black paint job and wasn't made in Milwaukee... Although it was red, white, and blue, it came from the Land of the Rising Sun, and in the hands of  Ricky Graham and Bubba Shobert for four straight years it totally dominated that most American of motorsports, AMA Grand National flattrack... the awesome Honda RS750.

In the early Eighties, Honda decided to get into AMA dirt track racing. A couple of seasons of campaigning a bike based on the CX500 V-twin (hate to digress here, but was there ever an uglier bike on the market?), the NS750, yielded mediocre results, even with Number One plateholder Mike Kidd at the controls. Honda then decided to get really serious and build a dirttracker from the ground-up. And "getting serious" meant beating Harley-Davidson and the mighty orange-and-black XR-750... Rumor has it that Big Red bought one, shipped it back to Japan, and tore it down to the last nut and bolt to get a complete understanding of why and how the XR worked so well on the dirt. Out of that effort came the RS750. It wasn't just a clone, there were significant differences between the two, the biggest being Honda's use of overhead cams and four valves per head, versus the pushrods and two valves per head of the XR.

The RS750 debuted in the 1983 season, with supremely talented and fiercely competitive Dirt Track Hall of Famer Hank Scott in the saddle. As you would expect with a brand-new from the ground-up machine, that first season was mostly an exercise in shaking out the bugs, though Scott did win one race at his favorite venue, the DuQuoin mile.

The following season, Honda hired 1982 AMA Grand National champion Ricky Graham of California and Texan Bubba Shobert. Randy Goss, piloting an XR-750, took the Number One plate from Rickey Graham that year, but Ricky Graham took it back in the 1984 season on the Honda, beating teammate Shobert by one point. The following three seasons, Shobert in his turn blew everyone else off the track on the RS750 you see above, which is on display at the AMA Motorcycle Museum

In 1988, the Honda began losing its competitive edge when the AMA changed the rules to require carburetor restrictor plates that limited horsepower. The loss of horsepower made the XR-750 more competitive against the RS750. The official line of the AMA rules committee was that limiting horsepower would make campaigning a dirt bike cheaper by saving wear on rear tires (one of the most challenging aspects of dirttracking for the rider is to avoid burning up the rear tire before the race is done, especially on mile tracks).

The rules committee soon followed up with another rule that required Big Red to load an extra 15 pounds on the technologically superior RS750. Thereafter the Honda really did lose its competitive edge and Honda decided to put its racing dollars and energies elsewhere, but what a wild ride while it lasted. Once again Honda had shown its technical prowess and savvy, this uncanny ability to jump into some new racing arena and dominate it within an astonishingly short period of time, and to do it even in a sport that Harley-Davidson had dominated for decades. 

So, why did the AMA change the rules in a way that brought the Honda down? More cynical observers said that H-D lobbied the AMA adopt rules that would take away the clear technical advantages of a competitor that was beating them at the game they'd ruled for so long. Remember that at the time Harley, with its new Evo Big Twins, was just climbing out of years of financial turmoil and near-bankruptcy, and the disaster that was AMF ownership and management. Harley needed the good publicity that a bike in the winner's circle brings... "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" as the saying goes. Maybe the cynics are correct about the AMA rules committee being in cahoots with Harley... if so, well, they wouldn't be cynics, would they? They'd just be... correct.

Cobra RS750 Tribute
Well, it was pretty cool while it lasted to see two heavyweight manufacturer's, two very different companies with very different images and cultures, duke it out on the mile and half-mile. The RS750 is definitely not forgotten, however. We've included here a pic of the RS750 tribute bike from Cobra, the popular aftermarket accessories company, which is based on the Honda RS750 Shadow.

Sidenote: We were dissin' the CX500 here, but gotta say that this CX500 cafe racer from the Copenhagen-based Wrenchmonkees shop is very cool.

While you are at it, check out this four-part video series about Ricky Graham's astonishing, miraculous 1993 AMA championship season, in which he won an unprecedented twelve dirt track races. 


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Volta Volare, Claimed First Production Electric Aircraft

Volta Volare of Portland, OR made quite a splash with a write-up in Popular Science announcing the production status of their electric airplane. Actually, it is a kind of hybrid, with an electric motor and battery pack that has a range of 300miles, then a gasoline engine with a range of 700miles kicks in. So it's a lot like a flying Chevy Volt.

Question is, Is it really for real? The price is quite high at $500,00 per plane.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning

Peerless "Manhattan" Archtop
Gary Marcus is a cognitive psychologist at New York University. He's written this fascinating and useful book with a catchy title, Guitar Zero, about his experience as a middle-aged, non-musician learning to play guitar. His experience shows us how you can beat the curse of the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" syndrome.

Marcus' chief line of research is into how we learn language, how and in what ways our brains change as we acquire language skills. But learning our first language is something we do when we are very young, and as we grow older, learning a new language is really hard for most of us... Just one more example that seemingly confirms the old saw that says "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." Music is another arena in which this also seems to be true; it's often said that if you want to be a good to great musician, you must start learning at a young age.

However, as a professional in the field of cognitive sciences, Marcus is familiar with a growing body of recent research that suggests that old dogs can learn new tricks. So, he decided he'd be the guinea pig in his own experiment... all his life he'd wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, but every attempt from childhood on had ended in failure. At the age of 38 he decided he'd give it one last shot and learn the guitar by applying his knowledge of how our brains are trained to a new skill through practice and study. He'd log his experiences along the way and write a book about it.

Marcus shares the lessons he's learned from making himself the subject of his own research. For example, there's another old saw that we've all heard, the one that says, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice." Actually, that's not enough: One of the key lessons learned is the concept of deliberate practice. In deliberate practice, you ruthlessly address your weaknesses and practice to overcome them... That is hard and painful, it's just not as much fun as it is to keep practicing the stuff you are already good at, but if you want to advance to mastery of a skill, you have to be deliberate about overcoming your weaknesses. In this book, Marcus tells how he held himself to this standard day in and day out, and how it ultimately payed off.

You can read the first chapter for free at NPR, it is excerpted here.

Image of Peerless Manhattan Archtop guitar courtesy of Jazz Guitar Zone.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jet Hobby Mill from Amazon Supply

Jet JHM-610 Hobby Mill
Jet Tools has recently brought this low-cost ($799) manual benchtop mill to the market. From what I've seen of their marketing for this unit, they have apparently recognized an opportunity  in the growing DIY/Maker community.

Silicone Drinking & Shot Glasses from Silipint

Silipint's Silicone Glassware
Well, this is different... just found this company called Silipint in scenic Bend, OR that's making drinking and shot glasses entirely from food-grade silicone. Huh.

By the way, Bend has quite a craft beer scene... got to get back over there (it's been a few years since we've been), pick up a Silipint of my own and down some beer at the Boneyard and Ten Barrel Brewing...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Classified Moto Virago Cafe Racers & Customs

Classified Moto XV920 (Photo by Adam Ewing)
Classified Moto of Richmond, VA works wonderous transformations upon the likes of the Yamaha Virago, and other seemingly unlikely machines. I like the way they present themselves and their mission:

Classified Moto is a tiny workshop in Richmond, Virginia (USA) that specializes in affordable alt-moto customs and random creative expressions.

Classified Moto founder John Ryland has an interesting, inspiring story to tell, especially to those of us who have taken the hit in this crummy economy:

Change comes in all sizes. New pair of shoes — small change. New career/business/lease on life — extra large change.

One year ago last week, I got my walking papers from the ad agency where I worked for 11 years. It was like being punched in the face and knocked into the next room. Only the room was full of sweet motorcycles and some of the coolest people I’d never met.

What could have been a disaster of super-sized proportions, instead opened the door for Classified Moto, which might go down in history as the luckiest company on the planet.

From the day I got laid off and set out to make my living in the motosphere, I’ve had something to be psyched about on an almost daily basis — one of our bikes in a magazine, a killer road trip, an email from one of my heroes, a project wrapped. There’s a kind of constant gratification for us at Classified, and we’re trying our best to keep it going.

Interesting thing is, John says he wasn't really all that interested in motorcycle's until just a few years ago.

By the way, the Yamaha XV920 pictured here was created for director Sunny Zhao's experimental film, Reciprocity.

Check out their blog here. Also very interesting is the blog of founder John Ryland. And keep your eyes peeled for a Classified Moto feature at Cafe Racer TV Season 4.

UPDATE: Check out this Vimeo video that features the build of Classified Moto's famous lamp from recycled motorcycle parts.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Enigma Motorcycles, UK Motorcycle Startup Firm

Enigma 1050 Prototype
British journalist, Mac computer expert, and motorcycle enthusiast Jim Lindsey recently wrote a series of articles about the glory days of British motorcycle engineering and manufacturing. Having complained once too often to his wife about the dearth of manufacturing in today's England, she challenged him to do something about it himself. So, Lindsey put together an all-star team to launch a motorcycle startup in England late last year, Enigma Motorcycles.

Given the focus rooted in Jim Lindsey's passionate pride in English motorcycle engineering, a Triumph Speed Triple was chosen as donor bike for the Enigma's 1050cc powerplant. In fact, as far as we can see, all of the components, both custom and off-the-shelf, are sourced in England.

The Enigma 1050 frame is being built by Dave Pearce of Tigcraft, a former racer and a legendary race bike designer/builder. The body work is being done by Terry Hall, a master metal craftsman and armorer. Mr. Hall's one-off aluminum alloy tank and rear section will act as master molds for the carbon fiber production units. Forks and shocks, both with a racing pedigree, are provided by K-Tech Suspension of the UK; the front forks are K-Tech's KTR2 superbike forks. Wheels are carbon fiber by Dynamag. Rearsets and other alloy components are being provided by another UK firm, Promach, with the machining work being done by Promach owner and former racer, Mick Edwards (virtually everyone associated with the project is a former racer).

The Enigma team is comprehensively documenting their development work at their website as it progresses. Check it out, there's a lot to see there. Also, The Kneeslider had a very good, in-depth article featuring the Enigma crew and bike a few months ago.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bukobot 3D Printer Kickstarter Funding Drive

Bukobot 3D Printer
The Bukobot 3D printer from Deezmaker is derived from the RepRap open source hardware printer. Deezmaker is attempting to bring the Bukobot to market by raising funds at Kickstarter. The funding goal is to raise $42,000 by May 23; as of this writing, at $19,569 they are just about halfway there, with twenty days to go.

You can follow Bukobot news at their blog.

Update: The committed total is already up over $22,000 less than 24hours later!

Update May 11: The Bukobot is funded! As of this morning, $42,905 with 125 backers and still twelve days to go! 


Dime City Cycles, Vintage Bobbers & Cafe Racers

Dime City Honda CB450 Bobber
Dime City Motorcycles, "Redefining the motorcycle, one rusty bolt at a time."

Great tagline for an outfit that transforms everything from classic Hondas, Kawis, Suzukis to modern Triumph twins into nicely crafted cafe racers and bobbers. Their work has gained them some recognition... Herm Narciso of Dime City has been featured on Cafe Racer TV.

In addition to complete bike builds, Dime City design and sells parts for the do-it-yourselfer. They also offer a lineup of parts from other small, boutique makers, such as Roccity Cafe Racers.

Dime City is located in Largo, FL, but is setup to take orders domestically and internationally.

Dime City Honda Shadow VT800 Cafe Racer
Dime City has a very extensive, well-designed and well-organized website with plenty of technical content. Their blog here is good place to start.

Update May 12: Dime City guys just tweeted about their interview at Cafe Racer Podcast
Real Time Analytics