For this project I am going to focus on the urban environment. This jungle has its own needs. From congested surface streets to fast moving freeways that link mega city centers to satellite cities on to canyons and mountains with driveways and rife with left turning vehicles and beyond to eventually open road. Usually it takes half a tank and a single vector to loosen the cities grip. Our modern city regions cover hundreds of square miles with complex ever evolving road conditions, all clogged with an increasing population of distracted and isolated 4 wheel operators that have faster more powerful vehicles than have ever been produced in quantity. The gap in performance between your average moto and the family sedan has gotten closer. in the 70’s a Porsche 912 had 100hp and today a V6 Toyota Camry has 265hp and any driver can put their foot down and clear the quarter mile in under 15 seconds.
Bottom line is that this is where most riders spend their saddle time and that time should be fun and be setup for their advantage. After building many Cafe racers the simple formula for making any old bike fun was to add more power and drop as much weight as possible. Make its package as compact as possible and give it a suspension capable of actually maintaining contact with the ground on a street profiled tire. There are several bikes that were best suited for this task, most had a race history at some level or another.
The race specialization has continued to escalate and has made machines that are flawless on the track with skilled riders, has been presented to the street as the best available. These “Street” machines better known as replica racers have evolved like real race bikes and their hyper specialization has become very noticeable on the street as they are literally road race bikes. They are honestly beyond the capabilities of most of us as riders. They were not made for us.. they were built for the best riders under the best controlled conditions. There are so many reasons not to ride them once they make it into your garage. They are generally uncomfortable, difficult to set up for the street, and have a handful of unusable power that needs to be offset by traction control strategies. If your looking for a low mile, well appointed Honda RC51 you will have no problem finding one..
Theses magnificent machines have an exotic appeal and when you are out on your favorite 100 mph sweepers or on the track there are moments where you can have a glimpse of their true genius. I will never be even close to being able to get every ounce out of a 600cc replica racer let alone the 180HP 1000cc versions.
When we built the “Thorn” for Cafe Racer TV and had the track all day for Eric and Ben Bostrom to flog our creation. We put our best effort forward to make a track focused machine that would be fun for world class racers. There was nothing we could produce that would impress these guys for power, or handling , or to going fast on the race track. The best engineers, mechanics, companies in the world have put millions of dollars of work under these riders already. So the goal would have to be to make the experience fun. Like the kind of fun we have on a 110cc dirtbike.. We are all Gods on our kids motos. I was privileged to watch these guys go out and have a good time and enjoy the ride. The bike would turn in endlessly, sound great, pull hard out of the corners, and be complicit in their requests I saw them work the bike in ways I did not think possible. At the end of the day this bike was built to be a toy for professional riders. Its setup and capabilities were beyond my ride level and as I put on my leathers Ben and Eric were giving me pointers and strategies about the bike and the track.. I had to stop them and thank them for their advise.. but I had no business attempting what they were telling me. This 65hp track toy was more than enough bike to challenge me for the rest of my non-illustrious racing career.. the flip side of this bike is that it has no business being on the street, as its uncomfortable, finicky at low speeds, it does not even turn well unless loaded with speed, but there is nothing in my fleet I’d rather have in hills outside of Malibu, getting it there is the issue. There is no trot for this bike.. it was not on the design checklist.
The urban moto will need to have a trot mode, a suspension that is comfortable and confidence inspiring, power that is accessible and can still lay waste to modern traffic. Have a lightened load that will make us more able to overcome the physics of riding hard, all with a seat height and ergonomics that does not require yoga classes. None of these things will make this bike slow on the track or impede your ability to swallow up squids on your back canyon rides as it’s beyond our abilities, but we will have better access to its potential where we ride. On the street. – Ian