Jul 21
Riding on the Sun
icon1 Guy | icon2 News | icon4 07 21st, 2010| icon3No Comments »

I’m always on the lookout for the next innovation in motorcycle technology. I’ve blogged about new engines as well as alternate power plants. I’ve talked about the KMV4 engine Katech is developing for Motus, and the electric E1PC from MotoCzyzs. I even did a piece about the motorcycles one might find in Paramount’s Motion Picture, “Star Trek,” and thought I’d stretched the imagination with flying bikes. But even in my most creative prognostications, I always focused on the motorcycles. I always assumed that roads, as long as we had them, would be paved with asphalt or concrete. I even envisioned a future when some biker would have the roads to himself on his vintage ground rolling bikes, while all of the contemporary vehicles of his day whizzed overhead. I thought the only change in roads might be that they eventually would disappear as they were no longer needed. I pictured cracked concrete and asphalt roads with weeds growing out of them, dusty from lack of use. It just never occurred to me these abandoned roads might be made of something else.
Roads made of solar cells are not an idea I would ever have come up with on my own. There is a certain appeal to the idea of having those millions of miles of ribbon laying there collecting power for the country rather than heat. I get the idea from the video that you wouldn’t even need to paint them. Just have any markings you need programed into the LED displays. And those markings could quickly and easily be changed as needed without ever touching a paint bucket.
But as much as I admit liking the idea, I have a hard time believing the logistical challenge of making something like this feasible can be overcome. The video also talks about the special glass that could stand up to the weight of an 18-wheeler. I’ve seen transparent material that is that durable, but it is extremely expensive. If we’re going to start paving hundreds of thousands of miles of road with it, it’s going to have to be cheap. And it will require more than just durability. It will have to maintain traction in many different weather conditions, while staying transparent enough for solar energy to pass through to the collectors. It will take some special kind of glass to make me feel safe taking a corner on two wheels in wet conditions.
I just don’t see this happening on any large scale. I’d sure like to be wrong.

— Guy Wheatley

Road made of solar cells

Road made of solar cells

Jul 14
Photographer's Island in Texarkana

Photographer’s Island in Texarkana.

This is not exactly a blog about motorcycles.
I’m on the way home from the store on my bike and I see a car stalled on State Line. It is in the center turn lane heading north as I’m heading south. I know it is stalled because there is a young man pushing it. In a knee-jerk reaction, I pull into a parking lot to get turned around. In less than 60 seconds, I’m pulling up in the center lane behind the stalled vehicle. More people have arrived and they are pushing it, making a left into a parking lot. By the time I reach the car, less than a minute after I first spotted it, there is barely room for another set of hands on the trunk.
The person on my left is a white man in his 50s. To my right is an attractive, young African-American lady. There is a good mix of race, age and gender lending muscle to this endeavor. Other than our humanity, the only thing we have in common is our desire to help a stranded motorist.
I’ve come to expect this sort of thing in Texarkana. I’m sure there are other cities and towns where similar attitudes prevail, but sadly there are many where it’s unheard of. I happened to hear one of the people pushing comment that he’d been there and knew how it felt to be stranded. I think it’s that empathy, the recognition of others as similar to ourselves, that make this such a good place to live.
There was a question posted on one of the motorcycle boards I belong to about what scenery various cities have to offer. Some of the people spoke of great views of a lake, river or beach their cities could offer. Others mentioned mountains and hills. All of that is nice, but one of the most impressive scenes I’ve witnessed to commend a city was six people pushing a stranded car.

— Guy Wheatley

Jul 7

On May 29, Austin Texas Police officer Damon Dunn was just finishing up with a traffic stop. The dash camera video shows the cruiser making a U-turn, then proceeding down the street, running a stop sign at the next intersection. It also tragically shows the police vehicle hitting a motorcycle driven by 74-year-old Lewis Oliver. Officer Dunn was placed on administrative leave, but ultimately no disciplinary action was taken against him.
This is absolutely inexcusable behavior. Too many police departments foster a “sheep herder’ mentality rather than a “public servant” mentality, while creating an atmosphere of arrogant entitlement on the force. There is absolutely no room for that attitude in uniform, and the officials incapable of understanding that need to be removed from office. The authority granted an on-duty police officer should only be given to an individual who has earned the respect required to weld such power through professionalism and dedication to the serving and protecting the public. Police officials who don’t steadfastly demand that of their officers have to go.
In October 2009, the Austin Police Department recommended to the City Council an ordinance forbidding electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. They obviously understood the danger of such recklessness. The law makes an understandable exception for emergency vehicle operators. But this, and other exceptions to the law, are never to be accepted as “perks.” These should be understood as exceptions required for well-trained professionals to perform their duties. One would have hoped APD Chief Art Acevedo understood that when he stated that his officers are “discouraged by policy, but not prohibited, from not using their on-board computers while driving.”
Officer Dunn’s dash cam would seem to indicate otherwise, and the Police Department’s failure to hold him accountable for his inexcusable negligence smells of an above-the-law, boys-club attitude devoid of any pretense of professionalism.
Two biker forums I belong to warn member motorcyclists to stay out of Austin. If this anger continues to fester on these sites, then calls for full-out boycotts may well demonstrate to Austin city officials a point I’ve made before. The economic power of baby boomer bikers is not to be taken lightly. Council members and the police chief may also get a lesson in biker demographics at the next election. If I were running against them, I’d certainly keep a copy of this video handy.

— Guy Wheatley

Jul 2

I first blogged in January about the new American V-4 engine coming from Katech for the Motus MST-01. At that time the motor was more concept than reality, never having actually fired to life. That appears to have changed.
Motus just redesigned its website, and released a video that shows the engine being dyno-tested. Motus people in the video seem excited and claim the engine is performing at or exceeding predicted specifications. But there may be more to the story. There are other videos posted on YOUTUBE, including one of an engine walkaround that shows an engine partially mounted to a frame. An audio clip sent out to a few insiders seems to be of a high- performance engine racing by a microphone. Motus makes no claims, simply releasing the audio clip without further comment. But the barely contained exuberance of the Motus staff hint that we may be past static testing. Some of them have the “cat that ate the canary” look I don’t believe would come from an engine bolted to a stand.
This will be an exciting engine. Even though it has a look reminiscent of the muscle cars of the ’70s, it will be a high-tech, powerful machine. Using 1650cc displacement, it will produce 140 horsepower because of advanced features such as gasoline direct injection. My 1500 cc Valkyrie flat-6 is only producing about 100 horsepower, and I can promise you it’s an exciting bike to ride. The 1800 cc engines found in the lastest GoldWings probably top out about 117 horsepower. That’s just a lot of kinetic energy being produced in a small volume.
Motus still plans to mount this thing in a “Sport tourer,” that to my eye is more sport that tourer. I’m still hoping that their second, or maybe even third bike will be a big, comfortable, highway cruiser with no consideration for weight savings. That 140 horsepower should have no trouble pushing saddle bags, light bars, a trunk and big-ol, wind-catching farings down the road faster than anybody really needs to go. And I bet it will still pull your head back even with a top end roll on the throttle.
And if there’s ever been an engine that screams to live in a trike, then this is it.
I’ll be seriously disappointed if I don’t see this thing getting some serious attention at the 2011 Isle of Man TT.

— Guy Wheatley