Showing posts with label 2000s Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2000s Motorcycles. Show all posts

Cagiva V-Raptor

Cagiva V-Raptor 2000s Italian sports bike

The V-Raptor was a benchmark bike for Cagiva. It is fair to say that the Cagiva name does not have quite the same cachet as, say, Ducati or MV Agusta. But - back in the day - Cagiva owned both. And, add Aermacchi Harley-Davidson to the list, too. Indeed, it was in the latter's old factory - in Varese, Italy - that Cagiva's wheels were set in motion. Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni were its founding fathers. The V-Raptor, then, signalled a return to form for the firm.

The V-Raptor was designed by Miguel Galluzzi. Previously, he had penned the Ducati Monster. A 996cc V-twin engine was 'borrowed' from Suzuki's TL1000S. It was duly dropped into Galluzzi's creation. The result was a good-looking bike - with a top speed of 150mph. Especially striking, from a styling perspective, was the bike's raptor-like fairing. Galluzzi could not have bettered its resemblance to a bird of prey's beak!

Relatively small manufacturer that it was, Cagiva made a big impact on Nineties bike racing. Certainly, it was far from afraid to square up to Japan's 'big four' teams. In '92 and '93, Cagiva were winning blue-riband races. American rider John Kocinski, for example, won his home GP on a Cagiva. At one point - in '94 - the team led the World Championship standings. Mighty impressive, given the opposition. Sadly, the same year saw them retire from racing. Financial gremlins lobbed an impeccably clean spanner in the works. In road-going form, though, Cagiva motorcycles continued to impress. The V-Raptor, in particular, was given a rapturous thumbs-up by bikers worldwide!

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

Harley-Davidson V-Rod 2000s American sports motorbike

By Harley-Davidson standards, the V-Rod verged on the radical. It was clearly a cruiser - in true Milwaukee style. But, it was a different kind of cruiser to what Harley fans were used to. The V-Rod VRSC - V-Twin Racing Street Custom - had superbike-like performance. Top speed was 135mph. Handling-wise, things were just as impressive. In a straight line, the V-Rod was ultra-precise. That was only to be expected - given its long wheelbase. The front forks were raked out to 38°, after all. But, whereas in the past, cornering would then have been compromised, the V-rod's cutting edge engineering saw it sail through twists and turns. And that with a dry weight of 594lb.

Visually, the V-Rod was striking, to say the least. A full-on 'silver machine', Harley did not stint on aluminium. This was no 'iron horse'. Rather, the V-Rod was an object-lesson in à la mode metalwork. Solid disc wheels set off intricate frame tubes. An elegantly-shaped tank morphed into a slanted headlamp. The clean lines of the pipes blended in perfectly. The 1130cc V-twin engine was a design delight in itself.

The 115bhp motor had its roots in Harley's VR1000 race bike. Porsche Engineering assisted in its development. In marketing terms, Harley declared this Evolution engine a 'Revolution'! It boasted twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Water-cooled - and with a 60° 'V' - it took Harley performance to a whole new level. The venerable old pushrod motor was history. Harley-Davidson riders could not believe their luck. They had long been on bikes that ruled the roost, looks-wise. Well, in their opinion, at any rate. Now - with the advent of the V-Rod - they were competing technically, too. Talk about having your motorcycle cake and eating it!

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 2000s Japanese superbike

The letter 'Z' - on a Kawasaki motorbike - has long denoted high-performance. The Ninja ZX-6R - released in '03 - was a case in point. A race-bred riot on two wheels, it had a licence to thrill. As uncompromising as bikes come, the ZX-6R made 116bhp. Much of that was thanks to its ram-air system. Top speed was 160mph. Not bad for a 636cc capacity machine. The fact that the ZX-6R weighed in at just 354lb helped account for its awesome acceleration.

When it came to keeping all that power in line, the ZX-6R's chassis was well up to the job. Twin radial front brake callipers were there, if needed. They were directly derived from Kawasaki's race programme. As were the ZX-6R's thinly-padded seats … definitely not designed for comfort! That said - crouched racing-style atop the plot - rider and pillion were well-placed to help steer the beast. The lack of leverage from the stubby 'bars made hanging off through corners a requirement. To some degree, at least. That is an art to be acquired with caution! But - with weight distribution correctly addressed - the Ninja gave high-precision handling.

Just as the letter 'Z' can say so much when it is a Kawasaki, so can a colour. Every hue and shade in the spectrum has bedecked a motorbike, at some time or other. But seldom with the impact of lime-green. Since the heyday of the 'Green Meanies', the colour has adorned many a production Kawasaki. They were the evil-handling H2R race bikes the firm sent out onto Seventies circuits. Certainly, lime-green suited the ZX-6R. Green has been said by some to bring bad luck to a motorcycle. If so, it was not the case with the Ninja. The ZX-6R restored Kawasaki's status as sports bike supremos. 'Z-Bikes' have long been integral to the marque. Fast, dynamic, exciting? Always. Zzzzz? Never!

Buell Firebolt XB9R

Buell Firebolt XB9R 2000s American motorcycle

When it came to the Firebolt XB9R, Buell could not have had more gigantic shoulders to stand on. Harley-Davidson is a hugely successful brand. It is therefore well-placed to lend a helping hand to those lower down the pecking order, should it care to do so. To the likes of, say, Buell - who were given permission to transplant Harley's iconic V-twin into their own creations. Not that Harley was losing out. Erik Buell - founder of his firm - was a kingpin of innovation. Harley no doubt hoped some of his boundless ingenuity would rub off on their own marque. In marketing terms, at least!

Erik Buell was a Harley man through and through. He had been both an engineer and racer for them. He was uniquely positioned, then, to conceive and construct the RR1000 - a Harley-powered race bike. As is so often the case, success at the racetrack led to a road-going sequel. The Buell RS1200 featured a vibe-reducing rubber-mounting set-up. It was also fitted with a radical rear shock. Horizontally slung beneath the engine, it was both technically, and visually, arresting. It was in '93 that the 'big time' beckoned for Buell. Harley took out a 49% shareholding in the company. That was later increased. With Harley-Davidson at the helm, Buell was set fair. Exciting products were sure to follow. Erik Buell's singular vision of how a motorcycle could be built - rather than how it should be built - was always a key factor.

The Firebolt, then, was in a roster of radical bikes built by Buell. It was released in '02. Its most conventional component was its motor. That was a tuned 984cc Sportster powerplant. After that, Buell departed from the Harley script. The Firebolt's frame spars, for instance, were also its 'fuel tank'. Likewise, its swing-arm held the oil. Those chassis parts were forged from light aluminium. Bizarre as they sound, such 'double acts' harked back to motorcycling's classic era. What was indisputably 'new skool' was the Firebolt's front brake disc. Comprised of an ornately-fashioned 'ring', it was fixed to the wheel's rim, rather than its hub. On the subject of braking, top speed for the Firebolt was 130mph. Handling was impeccable - courtesy of the chassis wizardry. Cue plaudits, then, for Erik Buell - clearly, a man at one with his craft. The Firebolt XB9R came right out of the biking blue ... and shot a surge of creativity into the world of motorcycle design!