GENEVA,SWITZERLAND – Perusing the Geneva Auto Show today with my daughter asking questions about cubic centimetres, litres per 100km, and the genesis of the phrase “horsepower,” was a proud moment – granted our picks for best in show were quite a bit different.
She tended towards the Cadillac Escalade, the Range Rover Defender and similar 4×4 beasts, while I admired the mixed heritage of Touring Superleggera’s Disco Volante, an Alpha Romeo based two seater that recalls the revolutionary 1963 Corvette styling.
The vintage two-cylinder Subaru 360 on display was another favourite.
In response to my daughter’s questions on the relation of engine displacement to fuel efficiency, I pointed out that the 360 was about 1/10th the size of the engine in the Escalade.
The Ford “EcoBoost” exhibit was a very cool way to illustrate the workings of an internal combustion engine and much more convincing than my charade of a firing piston chamber.
This was my third or fourth show in Geneva, and as always taking in the new car curves and engine specs on display is a great afternoon by any measure; however, the company of my girl Friday made this year especially fun.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – As we approach New Year’s Eve 2012/New Year’s Day 2013, I find myself preparing for the bitter-sweet send-off of motorcycle number 13 in my catalogue of bikes and maybe not coincidentally, singing odes to another dreamer and fan of new beginnings, John Lennon, “Another year over, and a new one just begun…”
There is a particular satisfaction to letting go of this favourite bike at the close of a particularly hard year.
Why? Because this bike has been so good to me – and is such a great bike altogether.
“Instant karma’s gonna get you…“ Letting her go amounts to an act of faith on my part; that 2013 will be an auspicious year, that stalled personal and professional aspirations will be rekindled, that I will be just fine without this counterbalance in my life – for a few months anyhow.
Getting ready to part with a loved bike inevitably follows the seven stages of separation:
- Anxiety at the thought of being without two-wheels.
- You picture yourself on a new bike on a high road with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
- Disdain, for your faithful but tired horse.
- Betrayal, when your bike refuses to start for a prospective buyer, or suddenly develops a phantom short in the headlight wiring.
- Shame and repentance, for having thought less of an old friend.
- Amends made, starter and headlight miraculously fixed.
- And again anxiety at the thought of being without wheels. “It feels just like starting over…“
I am at stage two right now – though my wife is trying to disabuse me of the future bike “Double Fantasy“.
For me, the world of owning and trading used bikes is a “Walter Mitty” affair, a chance to live out alternate realities with each unique machine enriching and adding depth to the life experience (it is also less expensive than serial marriage/divorce).
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, perhaps one day you’ll join us,” and the world will ride as one.
Here’s to happy and safe motoring in 2013!
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - (and the EU, Israel, Malaysia, UK, US, Zambia) Following last week’s snow dumping and recovering from a vicious chest cold, I took a “virtual” bike tour of the web to air out my brain and found a few gems worth mentioning.
Who would’ve thunk Top Gear’s James May was a bikers best friend? May sings the praises of cycling in a recent blog post, but says cyclists are in his experience, sad sacks who must “cheer up or fall off.”
It’s official, or nearly, now you can ride to work in style on recycled paper thanks to Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni’s cardboard cruiser.
Gafni’s creation costs a mere USD 9 to produce, is a visual stunner, is made from mostly recycled cardboard treated for water and flame resistance, and weighs just 9 kilos. The inventor is currently arranging mass production with bikes selling for under USD60. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Looking for a “natural sourced” bike frame? Check out Bamboo Bike Studio‘s bamboo frame kits starting at USD699 (components extra).
In less virtuous news, Zambia’s former Minister of Mines is on trial for allegedly stealing 20 bicycles destined for small-scale farmers. Really? this guy gives the Grinch a good name.
Tired of looking for a handy bike rack or a sign post to lock your bike, wheels and saddle to? Ma-Sistemas “Biceberg” and Bigloo concepts could change your mind about biking to work…The secure, under and above ground bicycle storage designs allow you to stow a bike, helmet and minor accessories in a rotating bike locker, retrievable via an interface similar to an ATM machine. Very cool indeed (especially the underground), remains to be seen just how many municipalities will find these cost effective…
Yeah for the Malaysian Tourism Ministry! In a move to promote bicycle tourism in the country, the Ministry is encouraging airlines to waive additional fees for bicycle baggage.
Related to a favourite peeve of mine (e-bikes masquerading as bikes), the European Parliament has voted to separate legislation for pedal power cycles and E-bikes. Thanks EP.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – With the weather a continual melancholy grey, I find myself walking past my tarped motorcycle for days on end and singing Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning“.
Like many bikers I know, I am uncharacteristically superstitious of talking smack about my current ride or coveting other bikes (they tend to get sudden “hiccups” when they think they’re being traded up – or down).
My 90′s street bike is a great all around performer (toss salt over shoulder) but the reality is 100 horses in Geneva is about as useful as, well, an ashtray on a motorbike.
More and more I find myself shamelessly ogling older “workhorses”; bikes that climb the tachometer methodically and feel like a trusted hand tool under the pegs. I dream of bikes made for three up, that you can strap a hay bale on top of, or hot wire on a cold wintry road when the ignition key has mysteriously vanished.
Favourite exes include a 1978 GS 1000, another ’78, CB 750 Supersport and a 76 KZ1000 police edition with foot boards and a heel-toe shifter.
What I would give to feel again the torpid roll of pistons through sticky cold oil when I kick over my bike in the morning…Until then I’ll keep singing to myself, and sneaking glances at motorcycle tractors of old.
NEW YORK CITY, USA – Just back from visiting family in New York where I found the city looking better than ever for bicycle enthusiasts.
Tuesday, 4pm – within an hour of arriving, I was biking down town from my sister’s apartment in lower Harlem to collect my niece and nephew from school.
New signage and marked bicycle lanes in Manhattan have helped to transform cycle commuting in Manhattan from the domain of kamikaze bike messengers to the realm of 9-5ers and…parents picking up their kids from school.
I have spent little time in the city in recent years, but to my eye, of the many recent urban renewal projects, this one is transforming life in the city. I was stunned by the number of workaday cyclists plying the streets from Harlem to Mid town.
The showcase piece is the now famous West Side hike and bike trail paralleling the Henry Hudson Parkway from the George Washington Bridge, all the way down town to Battery Park.
While this is a gem of urban planning with amazing vistas of Lady Liberty and Jersey shore (albeit not the Jersey shore), it does get somewhat crowded on the weekends, however, there are several other marked routes up and down the island serving daily drivers.
For a truly New York experience, grab a bike at one of the many shops detailed on the city’s “greenway” hike and bike map, and head into Central Park on Sunday for a few laps.
We stopped at the magnificent Larry’s Freewheeling at the top of the Park and picked up a tandem; well worth the $15 an hour to hear my niece screaming with glee.
The traffic runs counter clockwise, and they do ticket for red light infractions, so slow down and enjoy the ride.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – If you read this blog, you know I don’t care much for moto-hogs – motorcycles the size of a small house that will do everything short of brushing your teeth.
Therefore, I was all tooth and grin last week as I scoped out the 2012 Triumph Tiger 800 with WRS’ Susan Flory, at the local Geneva Triumph dealership, a fine balance of athletic muscle and off-road machine.
Check out Motoring On and listen to what I found not only about the Triumph bike but also on the Honda VFR750.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The 82nd Geneva Auto Show closed this past weekend with the usual fanfare and plenty of eye candy on hand, but the standouts for me were the omnipresent exhibits of zero emission concept cars, hybrids and e-vehicles.
The “green theme” this year seemed to dominate, not only in the Green Pavillion, where eco-friendly vehicles were available for testing, but throughout the show.
In addition to a range of market-ready plug-in vehicles from Chevy, Citroen, Ford, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, and others, the plethora of hybrids and smart diesel machines boasting +/- 4 liters/100km was impressive.
As a stalwart BMW fan, I was pleased to see a Five series hybrid sedan, in spite of the drab two-dimensional traditional exhibit. While Volkswagen featured club music and flashy multi-media presentations to show off their full line of eco-friendly “Blue Motion” vehicles.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – No, this is not an infomercial and yes, for the first time in several years I found myself checking out Chevy’s new lineup, as I perused the wares at the 82nd Geneva Auto Show.
Chevy’s Volt, which premiered in 2009, was awarded European Car of the year for 2012 based (partly at least) on its ability to travel nearly 60 km propelled solely by an electric engine, after which it can continue another 500+ km (numbers vary by usage and between US and EU ratings).
Sixty kilometers may not get you to grandma’s and back but consider that people in Switzerland “travel” an average 33 km per day. That translates into a lot of zero emission milk runs.
With a CHF50,000 base sticker price however, it may not fly off the shelves as Detroit is finding out, production has been temporarily suspended due to an overstock.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND -Since the massive introduction of electric or e-bike culture into Geneva traffic culture, I have been skeptically watching this trend as I dodge errant commuters on their SUV bikes weaving carelessly between vehicle and bicycle lanes.
And therein lies the problem.
As the Swiss daily 20 Minutes documented last month, e-bikers are accounting for an increasingly growing number of two-wheeled run ins with traffic on the road.
Imagine, the motor vehicle department handing out motorcycle licenses to anyone willing to pay 1,500 francs, or the cost of a modest e-bike – this is after all a motorized vehicle. Only many riders have never been on two-wheels before, let alone with a motor attached.
In the first two months of this year, I have been cut off in the bike lane at least a dozen times by e-bikers who neither follow bike etiquette nor the rules of motor traffic – they are neither nor, and therefore answer to no one.
As an avid bicyclist, I have little tolerance for the cigarette puffing e-biker veering from the car into the bike lane at 25 km per hour – last week – or the reverse, the commuter who jumped from the sidewalk into traffic tonight on my way home.
As a pedal-power cyclist, you know the limits of your maneuverability and adapt accordingly, not to mention looking for other vehicles that can decimate you in an instant.
E-bikes? Great idea if in fact they cut down on four-wheeled congestion, but as with any other vehicle, LEARN HOW TO DRIVE!!!
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Riding home tonight on my bicycle I was caught up short at the sight of the new Kawasaki Versys 1000 sitting out front of my neighborhood motorcycle shop.
Most of the recent Japanese bikes leave me completely nonplussed aesthetically, but Kawasaki’s new Adventure-Tourer strikes just the right balance of technological innovation and no-nonsense styling.
The big in-line four cylinder engine (1043 cc) reminds me of my old KZ and Gpz, 700 and 1000 bikes and indeed the motor is borrowed from Kawasaki’s z1000 naked sport bike (which was apparently designed by a Manga artist).