Thursday 30 January 2020

MotoGP Technology and Motorcycle Dynamics

Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology is a dense read.  I got it in September and I'm still only two thirds of the way through.  I read a bit, then chase down details so I make sure I've got the concepts understood.  This approach isn't very efficient, but it is thorough, and I've got bugger all else to do motorcycle wise over this long, cold, Canadian winter.

I've been an avid watcher of MotoGP for seven years now, including riding down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP race in 2015, but this book has made me literate in the mechanics of Grand Prix bike racing in a way that I never was before.

I've also spent a fair amount of time coming to terms with motorcycle dynamics and especially how these bizarre machines move around corners.  From watching Keith Code and reading Twist of the Wrist 2, I've tried to understand the inputs I need to make to control a bike effectively.  Spalding speaks with great intensity about how the technical side of MotoGP serves that sense of feel when building a prototype for a specific rider.

After all the team histories that kick off the book, Spalding goes after the various technical tricks that make a GP bike move like a jet plane, at least in the hands of the maestros.  The chapter I just read was on reverse rotating crankshafts, which led to a look at the complex gyroscopic effects happening on these extreme machines.  Spalding suggested looking up Eric Laithwaite and gyroscopic procession, which led me to this:

As Professor Laithwaite describes it, the spinning weight already has a path it wants to follow, he simple lets it follow it.  In doing so, what was suddenly a difficult to lift weight becomes effortless.  There are a lot of gyroscopic forces happening on a motorcycle in motion, especially at MotoGP speeds, and Spalding focuses on this in the later chapters of the book.

Curiously, considering it's 2020 and we have computer technology that can accurately model complex physics, it's apparent in the book that the physics happening on a motorcycle in extreme conditions are more a matter of educated conjecture than known fact.  Our best guesses are still what drives our understanding of the complexities of motorcycle dynamics, which is an incredible thing to realize.  How many people can say their favourite sport isn't fully understood by science?

Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology is super current (it just got updated in the summer), written by an expert with decades of experience and insider knowledge, and delves deep not only into recent MotoGP technical history, but also into the physics that this technology is up against.  If you're interested in taking your understanding of one of the most extreme sports on earth to the next level, MotoGP Technology will help you get there.

With mysterious physics happening underneath them, what do MotoGP riders do?  They drift 250+ horsepower prototype racing machines... with their elbows AND knees on the deck!  MotoGP Technology will take you a step closer to wrapping your head around this genius, and the technology that enables it.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Moto Anime

Best. Wheelie. Ever! The Robotech Cyclone rocks!
At the end of the 1970s as a nine year old I came across Star Blazers, the English version of Space Battleship Yamato.  This was my first look at Japanese animation, which was quickly followed up by Battle of the Planets and Robotech.  It's safe to say anime was a major influence on my developing sense of aesthetics.  Being Japanese, there were an awful lot of motorbikes in the various stories, probably because many of the people making the animation were riders.

I've written about motorcycles and anime before, in fact you could probably call it a recurring theme.  The history of motorcycles in Japanese animation is a long and storied one.  Motorcycles themselves are deeply embedded in the Japanese psyche, in much the same way they are in Western history.  As a symbol of freedom and power, there is little that comes close.

If you haven't dug into Japanese anime and you're into two wheeling, you're missing out.  Anime offers a distinct angle on motorcycling that is often at odds with how it's presented in film and TV.  It's also quite culturally distinct.  Japan has a rebel biker culture similar to but distinct from Britain's cafe racers or North America's one percenters.  Anime films like Akira make that culture a big part of their story-lines.

Sometimes I forget how many times my formative, young mind saw motorcycles in anime in the 1980s and filed the idea away.  I'd actually forgotten that Princess rode a bike (albeit with rockets, missiles and it transformed into part of a spaceship - but who wouldn't want that?).

My life-long mecha メカ fixation (one I share with Guillermo del Toro) often merges with motorcycles.  The Japanese Shinto religion believes in a pan-theistic world where there are many gods or kami that can inhabit anything, including machines.  Many motorcyclists are prone to this Shinto-ist belief - if you don't believe me ask one what kind of personality their bike has.

Princess from Battle of the Planets rides like she stole it.

Have you tried tickling the carbs?
If you like the romance of riding, you'll find it in anime:

Akira is a seminal anime from the 1990s set in a dystopian future Tokyo where Bosozoku biker gangs have run amok!
Like Kaneda's bike?  It's two wheel drive pushed by a cold superconducting electrically driven power-train on a carbon/ceramic frame.  The whole thing comes in at just over 150 kilos.  You're seeing it folded down in the lower profile high speed mode, but it bends in the middle into a more standard shaped machine when needed.  It's rumoured to be a Honda, but any manufacturer's markings are gone from the stolen bike used by Kaneda in the film. Someone spent a mint making a working model of the thing.

There are a lot of anime that focus on motorcycles, usually with a dash of mecha thrown in for good measure.  Rideback is a near future anime with modern digital animation that focuses on robotic motorcycles, but the main relationship is between an injured ballerina and a modified bike that has all the rider aids turned off (she is the only one who can ride it because of her athleticism).  Once again you get a strong sense of Shinto as the bike itself is presented as a character in the series.  The relationship between it and Rin Ogata allows her to heal after her career ending injury, it's good stuff!

Baribari Densetsu is another moto-specific anime that's worth watching if you love riding. Have a watch below, you'll see what I mean.  This was obviously made by people who ride:

Racing on public, mountain roads by bosozoku on modified bikes was a social issue in 1980s Japan.  This anime follows the story of young men learning how to ride fast before going professional on track.  It parallels the lives of young racers at the time.

If you've never given Japanese animation a go, don't think it's all one thing.  You can get everything from violent, adult only feature length films to school girl soap operas, and you can bet there are bikes in pretty much all of them.

20 best anime with motorcycles:'s Journey is a good one I forgot to mention - there are a pile on there I haven't seen before that are now on the hunt list.

Of course, there's always Sturgill Simpson's Sound & Fury on Netflix where the muscle car driving samurai becomes the moto-samurai with robot support...

Cultivate Your Intuition

It had been one hell of a morning.  I got to work only to get a frantic phone call telling me to turn around and come back home because a snow plow had backed up into my wife's car.  An hour later we'd dropped off the car at the repair centre (while finding out it might get written off and/or take weeks to fix) and were on our way to work.  As we approached the last traffic light before work I must have seen something out of the corner of my eye and my foot was hard on the brakes.

I don't consciously remember hitting the brakes.  In retrospect I must have seen something out of the corner of my eye and instead of ignoring that peripheral warning I instinctively acted on it.  At 50km/hr we were moving at over 3 metres a second.  Had I hesitated or waited for clarity, we would have driven right into a t-bone with the big, V6 American sedan that was running the light at twice the posted limit.

We were just outside of two school zones in a residential area with low speed limits, but that big sedan was easily doing 80km/hr when it blew threw a very red light.  I sat there stunned for a moment, as you do when something happens and you don't know why.  There were a lot of questions popping into my head:  had I just run a red light because I wasn't paying attention?  Why were the people in the other car were trying to kill us?  Did we really just come that close to getting clobbered after the morning we'd just had?

As we proceeded through the intersection I double checked the light just to make sure I hadn't made a mess of this whole thing, but I was still facing a green light.  The guy next to us who was turning left had also stamped on the brakes to avoid the flying Dutchman.  He looked over and rolled his eyes at the situation.  I grinned back uncertainly.  I asked Alanna, "did that just happen?"  After the morning we'd already had this seemed beyond the pale.  As I pulled in to work the implications of what happened were starting to sink in.  In an alternate reality where I didn't listen to that feeling my son was an orphan and the mouth breathers in that car, if they weren't scattered down the road, were probably trying to explain to the police how it wasn't their fault.  No one is responsible for anything any more.

This all got me thinking about what saved us.  Peak performance requires your rational mind to apply itself to practice in order to develop basic skills, but there comes a point where you have the basics in hand and spontaneous, complex action can arise seemingly without intent.  If you've ever become competent at a sport you know what this feels like; you don't think about it when you backhand the puck into the net or make that diving catch.  I don't think about vehicular control, I inhabit the vehicle.

Driving is one of those things I've worked on for years, taking advanced classes, racing carts in Japan and expanding my vehicular operation into new areas like riding a motorcycle, which is itself also an intensive exercise in situational awareness.  I have to wonder if the Tim who never took up bikes had the same developed peripheral attention and reacted on it as quickly; riding a bike makes you open your third eye or you tend to keep finding yourself in situations that make you want to quit doing it.

It's important to cultivate an awareness of your intuition and trust in it.  Your subconscious mind is a much less cluttered and restricted part of your thinking process and can see things with a clarity that your reasoning mind is oblivious to because it keeps getting in the way.  If you have a bad feeling about something, listen to it.

Here is some philosophy to connect the link between intuition and performance:
"Intelligent spontaneity, then, is a fully embodied state of mind where one is perfectly calibrated to the environment. The environment essentially becomes an extension of your skill."

This comes out in the summer, I'll be looking it up:

Sunday 5 January 2020

Dakar 2020

Dakar 2020 has just gotten underway in the deserts of Saudi Arabia.  Red Bull TV has a good (and free to view) daily recap of the event here:

You can keep up with events on the Dakar website too:

In case you have no idea what the Dakar Rally is about, there is a good primer and historical explanation of the event as it heads into its 42 year:

Some photos from from the first day of the rally:

What a thing!

Saturday 4 January 2020

Triumph Tiger 955i Graphic Ideas

The old 955i Tiger is now a long ago thing in Triumph's lineup, but mine is still going strong.  I dug up an old print I made of a tiger face and digitized it before playing with skins on the 955i logo...

I might monkey around with producing a custom sticker set for the bike.  The new Tigers all look like special forces bikes, but the old one had some whimsy to it and asked the obvious question, "why so serious?"  Some whimsical stickers for a whimsical machine that just keeps going.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Installing LED indicators on a 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i

I've done a few LED light upgrades on motorcycles to date, so updating the indicators on my trusty 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i isn't producing many surprises.  Unlike the Kawasaki Heavy Industries ZG1K project bike last time, the Triumph doesn't use standard automotive blinker relays, so the cheap and cheerful option I went with last time from Amazon doesn't have the same pinouts.  Fortunately, the blinker relay is easy to get to on the Tiger (pic right).

The stock, German made Hella blinkgeber 4db 003 750-36 indicator relay swaps the positive and negative terminals from the Japanese standard ones, so it isn't a plug and play swap for a cheap, Chinese relay from Amazon.

Like most relays built for standard bulbs, it speeds up when it senses a lack of resistance (ie: a blown bulb) so you know when you've got a bulb out because it ticks fast.  LEDs are so much more efficient than standard bulbs that they act like a blown bulb, so you end up with hyper-flashing where your indicators are blinking silly fast.

While looking around for a plug and play alternative that wouldn't have me making a rat's nest out of a neat wiring loom, I came across and their primer on hyperflashing...

Looking through their site, I found an indicator relay that would be a straight swap on my Euro-awkward bike.  The price is pretty much the same as the Chinese part on Amazon, but then you get stung with shipping that is more than the cost of the part (Amazon shipping was covered).  They promise that this will work with LEDs, which I'm a bit cautious about because the other ones I've purchased have a potentiometer (dial control) on them that lets you adjust to the speed you want, and this one doesn't.

It's suggested in places that you can swap the power and ground, but a number of people seem to have had problems with that on various bikes, so I bit the bullet and ended up with a $24USD bill where it would have been $12CAD (shipping included) on Amazon.  I'm hoping I'm getting a higher quality piece for all that extra outlay (the superbrightLED one has a 2 year warranty on it whereas the Amazon one didn't).  The part is on its way, so I should be able to finish the indicator upgrade in early January.

The rest of the wiring has been pretty straightforward.  The LED set I purchased from AliExpress (my first time using them - shipping wasn't quick but everything got here eventually and the prices are amazing), worked fine when the system was doing 4 way flashers, but went into hyperblinking when I indicated.  It's an easy wiring in, but again the Euro-awkward nature of the bike means it didn't have standard sized spade clips and I had to cut the old ones off and use replacements which were way harder to find than they should have been.

Your 21st Century Hardware store sells you things, just none
of them are tools or, you know, hardware...
As an aside, have you noticed that hardware stores don't carry hardware any more?  A trip to my local hardware shops was more like going to home decorating shops with lots of pretty things but no actual hardware.  I ended up at an automotive specialty retailer to find electrical connectors.  Hardware stores are now just glorified department stores.  You can't survive as a hardware retailer in a world where no one fixes anything.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  After the Tiger, the Honda CBR900RR Fireblade project is getting the same treatment, so I'm going to have to figure out what indicator relay Honda went with.  Hopefully it isn't as Euro-awkward as the Triumph.  I've always wondered why they don't include an LED friendly relay in the LED lighting kits for motorcycles, but with everyone using different variations on the indicator relay, you'd be selling people parts that might not fit their situation.

The middle block is the indicator relay on a 955i Triumph Tiger.  It's easy to get to
with only a black, plastic cover to remove.  With any luck, my expensive LED indicator
relay will do the trick and plug right in there.