Monthly Archives: January 2013

THE “PAULDING RACER”, A DREAM

I suppose all of us have dreams we feel will one day become a reality.  The reality is few of us ever make our dreams a reality.  In many ways we are our own worst enemies.    The biggest thing for me was allowing myself to be true to my dream rather than being afraid of it.  Chasing your dream isn’t as easy as it sounds and getting started on this project is the result of several years of hand wringing.

Many moto addicts idolize certain motorcycles and dream of owning them.  Somewhere along the line I left the clear and simple path of “buying my dream bike” and fell down the steep and rocky single track known as “building my dream bike”.  Perhaps it’s the journey, or maybe it’s the finished result and being able to say “Of me, by me, for me.”  Regardless, I knew that nothing less would satisfy me.

Initially, I wasn’t willing to let myself believe that I had started down that path.  Not because I didn’t like the idea, but because I knew exactly what that idea meant:  An all-consuming project of epic proportions.   Easily thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of man-hours and who knows how many Dollars poured into a project to build one copy of that motorcycle.

That’s A LOT of riding time!

The Dream, a First Pass

It all started for me several years ago, I don’t remember exactly when.  One evening I sat down and began thinking about the dream.  I asked myself a simple question:  Assuming I completely re-imagined the sport bike, what would I do?  Several hours later I felt I had a basic idea of what I was really after.  Here’s that idea:

Overall purpose:  To build the F-16 of the motorcycle world.  A highly advanced and integrated motorcycle chassis, engine and computer combination with multi-mission capability.  The bike should be traction limited rather than power or drag limited making it the fastest bike for it’s weight in a straight line without sacrificing cornering performance.  Packaging and operation to be similar to existing motorcycles.  The bike should play into the rider’s hands and be as tame or as wild as the rider is willing to be with the ability to “catch” him if he runs out of talent.  The computers should augment the riding experience by allowing the rider to focus on the strategy and technique of riding the bike, not on keeping an uncontrollable monster on a leash.

Engine:  Water-cooled, computerized, supercharged uniflow 2-stroke V-4 with direct fuel injection, wet sump lubrication, integrated transmission and a displacement of approximately 800cc’s more or less.  The power target is around 400HP to the road.  The engine should run on the lowest octane fuel possible, perhaps at reduced power.  Engine imbalances should be minimized by whatever method possible.  It should feel incredibly powerful and pull hard at a wide range of speeds without being overly peaky or too refined and dull.

Ergonomics:  Similar to existing sport motorcycles but adjustable for riding position and optimized for a rider of 5’1″ to 5’6″ tall and between 100 lbs. and 145 lbs.

Chassis:  Similar to existing motorcycle architecture but with a greater use of molded composites, semi-monocoque riveted aluminum structure and exotic alloys, as required.

Weight:  TBD.  Perhaps slightly heavier than existing motorcycles to improve traction but not so heavy that the chassis becomes slow and cornering speed suffers unduly.

Aerodynamics:  As low a Cd as possible without sacrificing the basic utility of the motorcycle.

Appearance:  Unimportant.  If it’s fast it will look the part.  Color scheme:  White, Process Blue and Black.

Suspension:  Geometry undecided, but computerized and automatically adaptive to varying road surface conditions, predictive based on external inputs and pavement learning.

Steering:  Computer-aided stability control tied into the suspension system and engine control system.

Stability and traction management:  Computerized multi-axis inertial reference platform with external inputs from the suspension to manage traction in all modes of operation from braking to cornering to accelerating and combinations of all three.  The system should operate fast enough to “catch” the motorcycle from a traction loss event  before that situation results in a crash, but still allow the rider to access the full range of traction.

Transmission:  Dual-clutch automatic with the ability to emulate a standard 6-speed sequential-shift or possibly a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

Rider interface: Fly-by-wire with helmet-mounted heads-up display with simple and intuitive grip-mounted controls.

Drive arrangement:  Classified

Braking:  Classified

Well, there we go!  10 years work outlined in a few paragraphs.  Now maybe you, the reader, have an understanding of why starting this project has been such a challenge.  The job is daunting, but doable.  For the moment at least, I’m young.

While this project will require an immense amount of design, engineering and research I must be careful not to get too tied up in the minutiae of it all.

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Filed under Technical: General, The Dream

GLENN CURTISS: AMERICAN FATHER OF THE SPORT BIKE

Motorcycling and aviation have a lot in common.  At their core, both highly reward the skilled and severely punish those without skill or discipline.  I think that’s why so many people in aviation are attracted to motorcycles and vice versa.

It wouldn’t be possible to provide a complete picture of my inspiration for this project without taking a moment to talk of Glenn Curtiss, a motorcycling and aviation pioneer.  During my time at the Curtiss Museum in 2007 I realized that Curtiss and I have much in common, although separated by over a century.

Curtiss, a fellow speed addict, started with motorcycles and transferred his motorcycle engine knowledge to aviation.  Aviation caught Curtiss’ eye when motorcycles no longer satisfied his cravings for speed.  I can’t help but laugh.  A century later I’m doing the opposite, transferring my knowledge of aviation to motorcycles, to chase the same thing:  Going faster!

Glenn Curtiss, The Early Years

Curtiss was born in 1878 in Hammondsport, NY.  Early on, he demonstrated an interest in going fast.  He won his first bicycle, which was offered by the Hammondsport Herald, to the paper carrier who could cover the paper delivery route in the fastest time.  He crashed though the finish line, literally, but the bike was his.

Curtiss dropped out of school in the 8th grade to be with his deaf sister in Rochester, NY where he got work in the Kodak film plant stenciling numbers on film.  However, he continued riding his bike, making the 70-mile trip from Rochester to Hammondsport regularly on it.  Little more is known about Glenn’s riding until he was around 18 years old.

It was on one of these trips home that he hooked up with “The Hammondsport Boys”, a group of local bicycle racers.  Glenn quickly rose to the top of this group and attracted the attention of local business owners who were sponsoring the bicycle races.  In 1900, one of those business owners sold Glenn his bicycle shop.  By 1901 Glenn was building his own brand of bicycles.

Glenn’s first motorcycle, the “Happy Hooligan”

Not long after he began building his own bicycles he ordered a set of engine castings from the E.R. Thomas company, manufacturers of one of the first American motorcycles.  The castings were apparently of horribly quality, but though the use of his wife’s uncle’s machine tools he was able to fashion an engine out of them.

Bigger and Faster Bikes

Characteristically, Curtiss immediately contacted the E.R. Thomas company again, asking for and receiving the castings for the largest engine they could supply.   Weighing in at 180 lbs it was a “terror” and Curtiss said it “exploded only occasionally, but when it did it tore itself loose from the frame.” It still wasn’t enough.  Curtiss decided only he was capable of building a more powerful motorcycle engine, as nobody else was supplying one at the time.

A series of motorcycles were produced by him both personally and later by his shops, each more powerful than the last, culminating the record-winning V-8 motorcycle.  It is this bike, a faithful reproduction of which is in the entrance to the Curtiss Museum that caught my attention.

The V-8 Motorcycle

Glenn Curtiss on his V-8 motorcycle. The photo was originally published in the February, 1907 issue of “The Motorcycle Illustrated.”

The V-8 motorcycle began in 1903, as a result of his interest in building an aircraft engine.  While most other motorcycle manufacturers were still busying themselves with singles and narrow angle twins, Curtiss wondered what would happen if an airplane engine were put in a motorcycle frame. Naturally, he had to find out.

It was on this motorcycle, making 40HP, that Curtiss won the title of “World’s fastest man” in 1907, going 136.3 MPH.  It wasn’t until 1911 that a human traveled faster, going 141.7 MPH in a car.   It wasn’t until 1930 that a motorcycle went faster.

The 1907  motorcycle “satisfied his craving for speed” in his words, but would never be ridden again.  His attention shifted to going even faster, except this time in airplanes.

To learn more about  Curtiss I recommend reading:

“Glenn Curtiss, Pioneer of Flight” by C. R. Roseberry

Also, if you’re ever in New York, take a trip to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY.  It’s worth the visit!

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INSPIRATION IS WHERE YOU FIND IT

The story of my interest in motorcycles starts around 1998 when I was in the 7th or 8th grade and taking flying lessons at the local airport.  One of my instructors, Steve Pickup, had a cherry Honda CB550 he’d brought over from England which was his only transportation.  Steve, a motorcycle mechanic and London bus driver turned flight instructor and I became good friends.  Not having any mechanic’s tools of his own here in America he asked to use mine.  In return, I began to learn about motorcycles.  At the time they didn’t make a big impression on me, perhaps because I was too busy flying and learning about airplanes.  That would change.

Five years went by.  Then, In 2003 I took a trip to London, England.  This is really where my fascination with motorcycles begins. While in London I remember walking down the street one afternoon near Foyles Books on Charing Cross.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard a strange new sound.  It was nothing like the burdened, obnoxious  popping of the Harley Davidson cruisers that populate the American Midwest, but a pure and perfect wail.  It was like music and it came from a sleek black motorcycle which moved though traffic like everyone else on the road was driving backwards.

As I later learned, the bike I saw and heard was probably a grey market Honda CBR-250RR privately imported from Japan.  Whatever it was, it sold my mind to the devil.

CBR250

A Honda CBR-250RR “Baby Blade”. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I thought to myself:  “If that’s what it sounds like, it has to be even more amazing to ride!”  My one and only obsession became learning how to ride.  Once back home I got my motorcycle license.  Much to my dismay, the CBR-250RR isn’t sold in America.  Instead, I bought a Suzuki GS-500 and “made do.”    Make do I did.  The first year I owned it I wore out two sets of sport-touring tires, a difficult feat for a bike with only 48 HP.  The only limitation on my riding was the price of gas.

GS500

My first bike, a ’96 Suzuki GS-500. Gone, but not forgotten.

It was on one of my many trips on the GS in late 2007 that I discovered the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY.  It was within the walls of the Curtiss Museum that I discovered I wasn’t the only airplane nut with a motorcycle addiction.

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WELCOME!

I’ll begin this blog by offering a welcome to all those who will read my ramblings now and in the future.  Through this blog I plan to document the inspiration, design, testing and building of my dream, an extremely fast motorcycle.  This machine isn’t a drag racing bike, or a salt flat bike, but one meant for road racing.  Unlike most of the bikes built for racing this one won’t be built to or hampered by the rules of a racing class, it will be in a class of its own.  Anything goes.

As I begin this project I can’t help but look back at how I got here.  I consider myself to be a student of history, although perhaps not a good one.  My inspiration started early as my parents were more than willing to do anything within their power to provide me with the tools to gain knowledge, no matter the cost or inconvenience.  If it wasn’t for their patience and guidance in my formative years none of this would be possible, nor would I have ever had the opportunity to discover what I love.

Thanks Mom and Dad, I owe you more than you know.

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