This is what happens when I get bored... I sat down and wrote my manifesto, Mein Kampf of how bikes should be... according to me, anyway. Variety is a great thing because we all have different ideas and different needs. Here are mine: Six Simple Rules For Designing My Bike 1. USE THE PENCIL, LUKE! ======================== As the story goes, early space flights hit an unexpected snag: it turned out that ball pens did not work in low gravity. This made things like taking notes and recording the results of experiments a bit awkward, so NASA assembled a team of engineers to come up with a fix. Given a couple of months and a couple of millions of dollars they produced a 'space pen' that did in fact work quite well. Russians, faced with the same problem, used pencils. This little story ilustrates two possible approaches to engineering: high tech or simplicity? Given a choice, I will always, always, always chose simplicity. The industry tends to go the other way, I feel largely because the industry is run by the business and marketing types rather than true engineers. Twenty-valve nano-injected multi-this computer-that makes for impressive marketing material... it doesn't always mean the gizmo will perform any better than the simple solution, and even if it does, at what cost? And for how long? Was it really worth it? Which leads to the next point... 2. ROAD IS NOT A RACETRACK (did we take the wrong turn at turn one?) ====================================== Yamaha R6 revs to a silly 16,000rpm... or 17,500 if we were to trust their early promotions. The fact Yamaha would *lie* about a bit of technical specification for the sake of marketing is telling in itself - how screwed up are their priorities? - but that's not what I want to talk about here, it's just an example of your average race-bred highly stressed engine. Q: why does it rev so high? A: to squeeze more power from the available 600cc (and to provide over-rev, so the rider doesn't need to waste miliseconds shifting gears in between corners - which is really of value only when racing) Q: if they need more power, couldn't they just use a bigger engine? A: No, because this bike races in a 600cc category. Q: what's that got to do with ME?!? A: Nothing! None of this has absolutely anything to do with the real world. The connection between development, racing and road use is fiction devised by the marketing types because neither the design brief, or the technology used to achieve it are in fact optimal for the road. In practice, OF COURSE they could use a larger engine and let it provide the same output at half the revs, and if they put the same efort into making it lighter and simpler instead it would not even have to be that much heavier than a 600cc. But just about every bit of engineering invested into the modern engine is aimed at one thing: getting it to work at ever higher levels of mechanical stress, more heat, more revs, higher g-forces... when a simple engine of larger capacity would provide the same output for a lot less effort. We don't think of water cooling as a high-tech solution, but even that is overkill when you get down to it. In fact my ideal bike is air-cooled because all that plumbing is one of those things I had in mind when writing point 1 - just adding complexity, weight and vulnerability when in fact they shouldn't be required at all. My CB250 is air cooled and it never gets too hot...Well OK, I would like a bit more 'go' than what CB250 provides... Fine. Suzuki GSX750F air/oil cooled engine produces something like 106hp. Air-cooled 1200cc engines used by Buell produce somewhere around 100hp as well, give or take a few. It is my belief a real-world motorcycle doesn't need any more power than that, especially if you manage to keep the weight down... 3. BUFFY HAD IT WRONG - IT'S *NOT* ABOUT POWER! ============================================== Leaving aside the argument whether bikes are getting too powerful for the roads and for most riders, I'm just concerned because this quest for more power results in more complexity, possibly more weight and definitely more cost. Yes, more power is good up to a point, but we reached that point long ago. So, it's no longer about power - but it is still about the power/weight ratio! Given a choice of more power or less weight I will always take less weight... it's easier on the tyres, too. My ideal bike would leave the engine alone at around 100hp and concentrate on steering and keeping the weight down - I'd aim at somewhere around 140kg, and on making use of what it's got on actual roads, not race track. I don't want my bike to be designed for the track, or by the stopwatch or any of that nonsense. I want it designed by real engineers, for the real world - because that's where it will live. 4. IN REAL WORLD, SHIT HAPPENS ============================== Things break, or get damaged. Even not counting accidents, bikes fall over - it's a fact of life. Sooner or later the owner will drop it, or a car will back into it, or someone will just push it over for the heck of it. Bikes should be designed to handle this and to minimise the damage. But the fact is, this is not even on the radar. What do they care? They are perfectly happy to sell more parts... Take the Buell: the principle of mass centralisation and low gravity centre is great, I'm fully behind it - but if you are going to carry the fuel in the frame, how can you allow the frame to be the first thing to come in contact with the ground when the bike falls over?!? Clearly, that possibility was either not considered or ignored. On my ideal bike, the principal design goals would be protection from simple damage and accessibility of everything for ease of maintenance and repairs. I imagine a bike that the owner can easily maintain and repair themselves. 'Who cares, that's what mechanics are for', you say? Well, I'm the first to admit I'd rather leave these things to mechanics myself, but even so, this means lower labour costs, which means cheaper service... and we all like to hear that. 5. SOUL? NO, THANKS - ALREADY GOT ONE OF THESE ============================================== Now don't get me wrong. I want a bike that is fun to ride, engaging and responsive, with an attractive styling. If that's what you mean by 'soul' then fine, we're on the same page. What I am talking about here is 'soul' as used by certain people to explain things like false neutrals or no neutrals, bikes falling off the sidestand, not starting in the cold or wet or.... you get the picture. People - this is not a soul, this is not character - this is only poor design and shoddy manufacturing!!! Don't be so gullible, for God's sakes. It is possible to develop a gearbox that will select *all* of its gears, including the neutral. It simply has to be possible, given that it is a problem long solved on all cars, even the cheapest ones. And on some bikes as well... certainly it would be a high priority on my ideal bike. I want a bike where utmost attention was paid to the detail, both in design and in the assembly process. I can sacrifice some performance, but I am not willing to compromise on quality control. I am perfectly capable of enjoying a vice-free machine. I am the one with the soul; all I expect from the machine is that it should WORK. 6. THIS BIT IS THERE FOR A REASON, SO LET IT DO ITS JOB ================================================ This is just to cover the little peeve of mine - instrumentation and mirrors. They are there for a reason, and the reason is not to make a fashion statement, it is to provide the rider with vital information. That's why I object to digital displays (harder to read than a dial), LCD displays (hard to read in some lighting conditions) and mirrors that show little more than the elbows. Crappy mirror might be OK on a race track, but it is absolutely vital in traffic and I allow no excuses here. As for digital displays, I consider them a novelty for novelty sake only worse, because they are actually inferior to the solution they replace. My ideal bike will have regular analogue dials, thank you very much. Also, the speedo will be calibrated from 0 to the actual maximum speed it can reach, not another 100k/hr beyond that. What purpose does that serve? None - it just makes it less accurate, since everything is squished closer together... On the other hand, the speedo will be calibrated correctly. If it shows 100km/hr, you can be assured you're in fact doing 100 km/hr. Well, within the tolerance limit of course, but that is around 2%, not over 10% seen on some speedos. Small things? Yes, but it's the principle. The purpose of the speedo is to tell you how fast you're going, not to make you feel good about yourself... My ideal bike might not be power crazy, but it is a serious, purposeful and focused machine. So... who is going to build my ideal bike? It doesn't exist - I suspect it never will, because market forces are against it. But if it did get built, I guess it would be some cross of supermotard (light and streamlined, but not a single and not so high) and Buell (incorporating some of their ideas, but not some of their quirks, and not the Harley engine, either), built with attention to detail and dedication to quality now almost unknown in the world based on outsourcing to the lowest bidder... I think it would be a pretty cool bike. And if you made it this far, I thank you for reading!