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On a motorcycle it is much harder to get "hard" performance data due to the skill level required to get that information. In like a lateral acceleration test it would depend way too much on the rider, not on what the machine is capable of. Most due give straight line acceleration numbers though.
 

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IMHO MO does a decent job when it comes to the shootouts. As stated previously we usually get decent straight line numbers from a couple of different riders which can provide you/us with some real world expectencies.



But at the same time I do feel your pain. Primo example is EBass and others MO's tooling around on the new Vegas. Other than some opinions on ergos, who they think provided design cues, and a cute little dyno test that really doesnt tell this seat of the pants guy squat, theres no content there that you cant get from victory-usa.com So I guess that makes it creative advertising.



On the other hand, do I really care how fast a fat papa/mama cruiser will get me to the next light? In the grand scheme of things...probably not.



 

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Bikes are much more sensitive to variations in road surface, crosswinds, and of course rider skill and weight than cars. A difference of 30 lbs. in rider weight can make for marked difference in perfomance data, whereas in a car it would be negligible.



That said, I remember CYCLE magazine used to provide such info and Performance Bikes still does, but not in so much detail. Johnny B, you were a CYCLE staffer, answer this question for us. Enquiring minds want to know. Also, how long are u gonna hold out those head bolt details from us?
 

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Vegas vs. 600cc shootout

Sorry you didn't care for the Vegas review, but you already make the point that it is simply not a "performance" oriented bike. Should we have taken it to the drag strip? The infield course at California Speedway? If it's a 600 shootout, we wring those bikes out pretty thoroughly. Sure, the corporate websites cover the specs quite thoroughly, does that mean we should force you to go there to find them, and not report them here? The "hard data" is easy to come by, but the holistic (and hopefully entertaining) opinion of an experienced motojournalist is the reason that people have been following their favorite writers for many years. An engineer can spit out the tech data. It takes a Johnny B to put the reader in the saddle. I'm admittedly not in that class, but I will tell you frankly what I do and don't like about a bike and take offense at the notion that what we do here could be considered "creative advertising".

Ebass
 

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I admit to being somewhat of a "data junkie" myself, and for years have carefully poured over the data tables in Road and Track as well as the various motorcycling publications I read regularly.



I would note that even with cars, some of this is relatively usless data. This seems to be more the case as the handling of modern cars (at least as measured by the statistics) has gotten so much better. When R&T first started including skid pad figures in their tests, a production car that could generate 0.72 g was considered very good. Improvement in tires, suspensions etc have resulted in nearly all cars turning in stats much better than that.



For example, in 1974 I had a Datsun (Nissan for you who are too young to remember when it was called Datsun) 260Z. If I remember, per R&T, it cornered at 0.72g. A couple of years ago I had a 4X4 Chevy pickup, that, according to Motor Trend, cornered better than that (I don't remember exact stats). Now, I concede that the Chevy was a reasonably good handling truck, and also that my memory of the mid 70s could be somewhat clouded, but I am pretty certain that the Z handled far better.



I now drive (when my wife lets me -- it is really her car) a 1999 Mazda Miata. Subjectively, this is one of the three best handling cars I have ever driven (the other two being a Fiat X-1/9 and a Lotus 7), an impression shared by many professional road testers. However, based on skid pad results, there are a number of Toyota sedans that would beat it.



To quantify motorcycle handling in a meaningful way would be even more difficult. Fact is, given a nice big grippy surface with lots of runoff in the event of a crash, ultimate cornering speed for most production bikes is limited by cornering clearance, and how far the rider can hang off. Not only would a measure of maximum Gs be difficult to measure, it also would not give much meaningful information about a bike's handling, even on the track.



Even more so than with cars, bikes seldom spend any time at constant cornering mode (125 gp bikes might be an exception) -- they are braking deep into the turns, usually almost to the apex, and almost immediately past the apex, the rider is starting to roll on the throttle. It is the bikes ability to corner and brake simultaneously, or to accelerate and corner simultaneously, to provide the best feedback to the rider so that he/she can find the limits that makes a great-handling bike.



Braking is another problem area. Stopping distance from a given speed, whether for a car or a bike, is increasingly meaningless. At best, it is a measure of what might happen in a single panic stop, assuming that you have perfect reflexes and skills, and that you don't actually panic. It says nothing about feel, feedback or fade resistance. If you evaluate R&T data pages, you will note that the car with the shortest stopping distances often do not get the "excellent" subjective ratings.



It would be very helpful if there were a way to measure and quantify the factors than make a bike handle well or stop well. I am pretty sure that the technicians for the MotoGP teams at Honda, Yamaha, Ducati etc have some pretty good data for such evaluations. I am equally sure that the telemetry used to measure this is outside the budget of even the best-funded magazine, and that the methodology they use is a closely guarded professional secret.



Regards

Bob

 

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How much "hard data" is really useful to us readers? I think it's useful to know quarter mile times, dyno curves, and in the case of performance bikes, lap times versus similar machinery.



But MO gives us all that stuff, as do many other sources.



Think about the new 600's. Statistically, they're so close you could cover them all with a shop rag.



Especially for bikes like the new 600's, what's really useful information to us readers who don't have the opportunity (or just the time) to ride them all ourselves is the subjective opinions of professional testers. Guys like JohnnyB who have ridden damn near everything can parse between bikes which statistically are very close.



Let's face it, despite the shortcomings of a sportbike like Buell's XB9R, a professional reviewer could completely outperform someone of my ability (or lack thereof). Does that mean it's better than the new 600RR? Here's where we mortals need the pros to tell us the difference.



And that difference is largely subjective. Go out there and ride a half-dozen bikes and compare your experience with guys like Sean and JB and Tim Carrithers and Don Canet.



I think you'll find that they're pretty accurate with their evaluations.
 

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Re: Vegas vs. 600cc shootout

Actually, I've always thought that the term "creative advertising" applied more to the Ad Copy written in english by the Italians or in engrish by the Japanese.
 

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I don't know about the rest of the country, but around here test rides are extremely rare. Unless you are buying a used bike you don't ride untill you have bought it. The 600 sportbike might be close but when it comes to cruisers that's a different story. Cruisers - the dominant ride varies to the extreme. Handling and excelleration can be like night and day. So I am supposed the buy a bike I can only sit on based on vague discritiptions? Just one reason I buy slightly used bikes. Yeah! We need the best data we can get. As a reference, use two people from one sorce and average any spec you want. That's good enough for me. Do this with each bike and wala - useable info.
 

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If you have the same riders doing the same braking, roll-on and acceration tests month by month then eventually you do build up a somewhat useful database because you can see how the bikes compare to each other with the same riders.



You could take all bikes to the same raceway and run them and compare laptimes. But then you would have to use the same tires. Difficult to do, especially considering the costs involved and the unlikelyhood of finding a Dunlop 208 to fit a Victory Vegas.



Skid pad data has limited use. The Camry might get slightly better g-force rating, but since a Miata's weight is so low, given the two using similar contact patches, the Miata will get around the turn much quicker than the much heavier Toyota. Cars get much better ratings than motorcycles on the skid pad. Yet I doubt anyone is afraid to take on a Honda Accord on a mountain road on even a 1979 Honda 400 Hawk.



No one has mentioned the most important benefit of ever bigger tables of useless data. The "read rather than ride" junkies like KPaul could come up with ever more hilarious "proofs" that 600-4s are better touring bikes than Goldwings or are better cruisers than Harleys or are simply better than everything else than anything, even at motocross.
 

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I disagree with the statement that it's creative advertising and that they just gave opinions on the ergonometry of the vegas. it was a rather well written piece and went over lots of interesting information. someone mentioned that part of what makes some bikes better than others (in their opinion) is braking and accelerating while cornering. I don't think this is a consideration on a cruiser as you don't normally do a lot of trail braking while running with the r1's on a mountain road; however, I do believe that braking and how well it works with the suspension is very important on any bike that is on the road. this was presented very well with the following statement:

"In fact, I gave the shocks an impromptu test by intentionally guiding the bike over a mild pothole under fairly hard braking, and squeezed only a tiny chirp out of the front wheel."

that is what I like to see in my motojournalism and MO does this very well in my kind of language.
 

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I am guessing that the average "fat papa/mama cruiser" rider DOES care about how fast the bike will get to the next light, but doesn't plan to drop the clutch at 6k rpm or shift at redline to do so. Thus, that cute little dyno chart, and the subjective comments of Ebass et al are the best indication -- short of actually test riding one yourself.



Probably a 1/4 mile test would be *some* useful data, but as I said, no owners are likely to actually ride them that way, so it is only partially an indicator of real world acceleration.



For a sportbike, lap times (especially if competitors are tested at the same time) on a track probably is a good statistical indicator of performance that is at least somewhat related to how the bikes might actually be ridden, but even there, the subjective comments are at least equally important.



For a cruiser, or a standard or touring bike, it is harder to identify meaningful data elements. Certainly dyno charts, fuel economy, ergo measurements etc could be meaningful, and perhaps some acceleration figures would add something.



Face it, aside from a pure sports bike (and then only for a small minority of riders), what will determine whether you like one bike more than another is going to be based on factors which are very hard to quantify. Such things as the vibration (or lack therof), riding position, comfort (including passenger), throttle response, brake feel, steering response, and image are what you will notice every time you ride. It would be nice to find a way to quantify these things, but I'm damned in I know how one could do that.
 

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Well, MO may not give all that data, but Motorcycle Consumer News gives most of it. They have a very Road & Track-like data panel in their tests. In addition to quarter mile times, they give 0-60 and 0-100 acceleration, and 60-0 braking. Dyno charts, ergo measurements, full specs, even maintenance costs.



I don't think you'll see anybody doing lateral acceleration tests on a bike. The methodology is that you go faster and faster around a circular skidpad until you can't hold your line anymore due to understeer or oversteer (i.e., loss of traction at front or rear). If bike books starting running this test, pretty soon they wouldn't be able to get test bikes any more, because they'd wreck every one! Not to mention that test riders might get a little hard to find, too!
 

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I believe I've seen exactly one motorcycle skid pad test in the 25 years or so that I've been reading the magazines. Understandably, they'd rather not risk crashing and getting hurt or wadding the manufacturer's bike.

Motorcycle Consumer News reports acceleration (0–60, 0–100, quarter-mile), braking (60–0), top speed, dyno curves, and specifications on every road test. Their consistent format makes their tests best for comparing numbers between different motorcycles.

OTOH, Cycle World has dropped much of the actual data they used to report in favor of photo spreads featuring their knee-draggin, mono-poppin, color-coordinated fancy-boy staffers. The low point was their April (Fools?) 2003 issue, which featured pieces on 13 bikes, each accompanied by a small table (different for each) that included such vital data as average buyer age and the number of tickets collected by staffers.
 

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In both business and engineering, it is often stated that you can never have too much data. In my experience, this is patently false. What is important is having reliable, relevant date. Unreliable data, or irrelevant date just gets in the way of a good solution.



As you state, if you have the same rider doing similar roll ons, braking and turning tests day after day, you start to build up a useful database. That is what we get when we read the ride review from an experienced, objective tester (such as JB or Sean). If they report that the front-end feel of the R6 is a bit vague, that is based on comparisons to the many other bikes they have tested. If they opine that the cause is likely the particular brand of tire fitted, they are basing this on this database. I won't take this as having been handed down on stone tablets from God, but when I do my own test prior to buying it, I will look out for those things they observe to see if I find the same thing.



Hell, even for such a narrowly focused application as Supersport racing, where you would thing hard data might clearly indicate the superior machine, that seems not to be the case. If it were, you would see the entire field made up of whatever bike happens to score the best in the last MO comparison!



I know, if we reduce all performance factors to data elements, we can plug it into PlayStation and run all the races virtually. That way, we don't have to make the racers actually travel around the world, dealing with all those foreign languages and strange food, and when someone crashes into the wall at Suzuka, he doesn't die!



 

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Back in the 70's and 80's printed rags presented a lot of data very similar to C&D, R&T etc. Although interesting it did not help much. Test different tires, brake pads, shocks, fork oil or hire a top gun racer and all stock data was now yesterdays news (literally). Besides when I'm passing herds of cruisers in my 4 banger car how important is the data?



I'd like to see some reliability data. Surf some owner forums and you learn about high speed wobbles, incurable surging and other real important stuff to know before you buy. Although these are sometimes alluded to in editorials as an occurance that happened sometime in the past specific to a single bike no journal incorporates, summarizes or even gives a heads up that owners and potential buyers shoulld checks out the forums.



Honda is to be commended for taking the initiative when it was reported that Interceptor batteries were failing.



 

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Cycle World really has *de-contented* its "road tests" lately. This seems to be a trend lately in all the motor magazines. R&T has pared down its data page recently, and it seems like everyone else is going with the short, quick driving/riding impression with a couple of factoids (usually manufacture-provided rather than measured).



Seems as if they are now more entertainment than real information. It is not only the amount of hard data that is curtailed, but the subjective part is scaled back as well, or real information is replaced with entertaining information.



 

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Some of you kids that may have a fuzzy memory of the great CYCLE mag will recall that they did complete teardowns (with ab fab B&W photos) of all test bikes. Those were the days....high inflation, higher taxes, Carter in the White House...ooops, no politics; please.

The objective vs. subjective is there in all the hobbies...especially Audio. Just try and find some writers who are sort of on the same general planet as you and stay with that. Take the time you would spend in numerical analyis and GO RIDE.
 
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