The Kawasaki ZX-10R is one of the best litre-class superbikes that you can lay your hands on. And if you look at the premier class of production motorcycle racing. You would have to believe that the ZX-10R is the best in the business. It cannot be mere coincidence, that Jonathan Rea has taken two back to back championships on board the bike in 2015 and 2016. And proving the consistency of the bike, his teammate Tom Sykes was second in the championship in 2016. And Rea is leading the championship by a huge margin in 2017. That speaks volumes about the motorcycle and its capabilities. Though the best bike in WorldSBK doesn’t necessarily translate into the best bike out of the showroom for the average rider. The success of the bike in WSBK, has seen the ZX-10R becoming one of the easiest superbikes to spot on the Indian racing scene.
We were lucky to get our hands onto this motorcycle as part of #100Motorcycles. And not just anywhere and any bike, but Sandesh’s race spec ZX-10R on track! The bike we rode on track is a 2015 model, though the bike isn’t stock. It has been completely modified for racing. Race fairings, Ohlins front and rear suspension, quick shifter, and Brembo brakes are some of the things which help this bike go fast around the track. A quick throttle and full system Akrapovic give it the final edge. The only upgrade remaining for the bike is a data logger according to him, but that is a very expensive upgrade and a bit beyond what the budget allows!
According to Sandesh, the biggest strength of the bike is that it is smooth. It isn’t the most powerful, but switching from one corner to the next, the bike is super smooth. The bike puts out around 190+ bhp and Sandy doesn’t feel it’s enough! Talk about racers and power.
Sandesh has used his ZX-10R for getting onto the podium at the JK National Championship at the Buddh International Circuit. That podium was taken with a broken leg! Unfortunately, he cannot take this bike for international races because of shipping, customs, and logistical problems. He also took the double win in 2015 in the MRF Championship and took the lap record at BIC in 2014.
We also asked his opinion about the 2016 ZX-10R. He said the bike was more powerful and a better handler, but slightly heavy. Even the aerodynamic features of the new bike are totally changed. Because of the increase in weight, Sandy would still choose the ’15 model over the newer bike.
We thank Sandesh for allowing us to ride his bike on the racetrack. It was an experience we are not going to forget anytime soon!
96MV Agusta F4 RR
The MV Agusta F4 RR that we rode in our search for #100Motorcycles, is Art on Wheels! And this one is a collectors’ art. The collector in this case in one other than Mr.Shirish Kulkarni, of the DSK Group who is responsible for getting the Benelli brand into India. What a great taste he has!
We dont know about Mr.Shirish, but you will eventually get a crick in your neck owning the F4, because every single time you walk away from your bike, you are going to turn to catch one last glance at it! From the silhouette to every small detail on the motorcycle, there is nothing that isn’t pleasing to the eye. One can literally sit near the bike for hours at end, appreciating the effort that has gone into building this masterpiece. This is after all the motorcycle which revitalized the ailing Italian.
Stare long enough and you will be writing out a thank you note to Massimo Tamburini, the famous motorcycle designer, who is responsible for this piece of gorgeousness! The 4-piece exhaust end cans have become characteristic of the F4, and any bike enthusiast can recognize it from a mile away!
But this bike is not a case of ‘beauty without brains’. It is smarter than most people you will meet! It has all the electronics that you would expect from a modern sports bike and then some more. The bike also probably the only current production motorcycle with radial valves. A technology developed by engineers from F1. The bike gets RBW and four different riding maps for different conditions. Looking at the bike you could easily mistake the riding maps to be fast, very fast, super-duper fast and ‘hang on for dear life’ fast! The F4 has an inertial lean angle sensor, which allows the bike to know how much lean angle it is and accordingly modulating the ABS, Traction Control etc.
If you are ready to shell out some extra moolah, you can even get the electronic shift assist, to make those gear changes faster.
And as you would expect, the F4 gets a top of the line suspension and brake components. Electronically adjustable Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes, the industry standard now, if you want your motorcycle to be considered premium in the superbike segment. This tech-laden bike produces a whopping 200+ Hp and revs to a mind-boggling 14000 rpm! The service of titanium con rods is employed here, parts which are more at home on a MotoGP bike than a superbike!
The F4 is raced in WorldSBK in the hands of Leon Camier, who has seen some decent results with it, considering it is a very small factory operation with a single rider. There have also been two special editions dedicated to two of the fastest men in F1 and GP racing. Ayrton Senna and Giacomo Agostini were honored with liveries dedicated to them on the F4. Ago had won most of his GPs on board MV Agustas as he went on to be the most successful GP racer of all time.
We were fortunate to ride this beauty in Pune, possibly one of the few F4s in India currently. We hope to see more of this breed here!
95Ducati Supersport 900SS
The Ducati Supersport 900SS. A motorcycle which so beautiful, you will forget where you are, what you are doing and even what you wanted to say!
This bike has a lot of history and the current crop of Panigales will have to admit that this was their ancestor that started it all. When this bike was first launched in 1988, it was the fastest motorcycle that Ducati had ever produced and one of the fastest motorcycles available at that time. At the time of launch, it produced around 84 bhp and 84 Nm from its 904cc L-Twin engine. Coupled with its relatively light weight at 192 kg, this was quite the rocket in the 80s! The 900 boasted a top whack of 219 kmph, which is by no means slow. The figures might not seem impressive for the current generation of bikers, but it was phenomenal for its era.
And where else would you want to enjoy a motorcycle like this other than the wide open roads with zero traffic in Bangalore! Eh, who are we kidding? Even though we would love to ride this bike on the Buddh International Circuit, we must make do with what we have. And so we pitted this bike against the infamous traffic of Bangalore, to experience the motorcycle, where its creators had probably never intended! This motorcycle has so much Italian ‘character’ and Bangalore traffic has so much Indian character, that it was bound to be a heady mix!
The 900 Supersport was actually based out of the Ducati Pantah engine. And though the bike we rode was 20 odd years old, it still looks fantastic and in this shade of yellow, it was a traffic stopper. Not that the Bangalore traffic was moving very fast in the first place! This could easily vie for being the most beautiful bike we have ridden in #100Motorcycles. Only the MV Agusta F4 could actually challenge it in the looks department. The bike looks like a modern superbike and it’s only when you see the analog clocks, that you realize the motorcycles real vintage.
The sculpted tank can have you ogle the motorcycle for hours at end. The twin exhaust can stick out a bit from an otherwise gorgeous motorcycle. The tail section being the only thing that looks dated in 2016! The styling was not all that radical for its time, as you can expect from Ducati, but it was still a departure from the bulbous styling that the Japanese manufacturers employed during that period.
The bike handles like a dream and is light enough to be flicked around without thinking too much of it. Though it has a super aggressive riding stance, true to its Supersport name! It would be a hoot to ride on track but does take a toll on the rider’s body in stop-start traffic.
We were overjoyed to ride and experience this brilliant piece of motorcycling history right here in India and are happy to include this in #100Motorcycles. We thank Joe’s Garage for letting us revisit this Italian beauty from decades past.
94Royal Enfield Bullet Cast Iron
Kick starting this bike requires utmost respect and a little bit of patience as well. Yes, we are talking about the iconic Royal Enfield Bullet 350. The bike which has half the country’s biking junta salivating, while the rest scratching their heads in befuddlement. As in the advertisement for a popular chocolate on Indian television, you don’t just buy one, you earn it!
You cannot just throw your leg over the bike, thumb the starter and get going. You need to ensure the bike’s amp meter isn’t in the red and then give it one massive kick and hope the bike will roar to life. The rebound from the kick can be quite the risky thing; folk tales of the RE suggest that novices have injured their legs while trying to start the bike! The neutral finder in modern parlance can be called a quick shift way of finding neutral! The gear and brake levers are on the opposite side of the conventional, like all British brands. This takes an RE novice some time to get their head wrapped around! To add to this the bike has a shift pattern of 1 up and 3 down. But once the bike is running, the one thing that you will love for sure is the sound!
We rode a Cast Iron Bullet from 2009, with the typical thump which made the Bullet popular. The bike is not fast by any stretch of the imagination, instead, the rider is really relaxed on this motorcycle. You can feel the thump; you can feel the vibes actually resonate with the body. One of the reasons we believe that the Royal Enfields are so popular is that the vibrations feel so natural. The thump of the motorcycle seems to go hand in hand with that of the rider’s heart. A subliminal connect between man and machine.
The Cast Iron was phased out in 2011 in favour of the UCE (Unit Construction Engine). The biggest thing that the bike lost with this change was the thump for which the bike was known. Besides the thump, the bike has a certain charisma, which is not possible to decode. It can only be experienced. A lot of manufacturers have tried to replicate the cult-like following of the Bullet, but they have been unable to achieve the aura of this bike. The kind of popularity this bike enjoys is any marketers dream. A product which sells by itself. The only other manufacturers which have a similar following are Harley Davidson and Ducati and maybe to an extent BMW for their adventure touring series.
In 1955, Royal Enfield’s Chennai factory was built, from where bikes were rolled out to be sold to the Indian junta. Later the bikes were even exported around the world and still are.
This is the de facto motorcycle for foreigners coming to India. They will rent it for their trip to Ladakh! In North India, a typically used phrase for the Bullet is ‘Shaan ki sawaari’ loosely translated into ‘a ride for the royalty’. And you understand why this is so, when you sit upright on the Bullet, with the bike thumping away, you really couldn’t care less about what was happening around you. All that matters is the machine. Like Moses, the Bullet will part the sea of traffic! There is nothing like the Bullet on the road, and therein probably lies the success of the motorcycle.
Other manufacturers will spend millions of dollars to build up their brand but will fall well short of the Bullet. And that is why it is the king of Indian roads! The cult status of the ‘Bullet’ in India ensures that it has to be in the list of #100Motorcycles.