Ringleader: Alex Hearn
Average Fuel Mileage: 36 mpgAccessories And Modifications:
Akrapovic Titanium slip-onsRight, before I get started let me clear something up: In my ongoing transition from English/English to English/American, some things occasionally get lost in translation. Take, for instance, the verbiage in my last (and first) installment on my long-term KTM 950 Supermoto. I mentioned that top of my wish list was a pair of fruitier cans, which led to some tittering in the ranks deep in the bowels of the Motorcyclist bunker. I meant exhaust end-cans, obviously, or what you lot call slip-ons.
Anyway, my titanium Akrapovic cans are finally here and, thanks to Michael Candreia in the Motorcyclist workshop, freshly mounted on the bike. And it's mostly good news. All right, it's all good news if you disregard their list price of $999. Ouch! Those Euros know how to charge-like a wounded rhino, no less. Mind you, I guess you get what you pay for and there's no doubting the Akro's quality. They are beautifully made, all sexy 'n' sleek with a burnished Ti hue-luvverly job. They're flyaway light, too; the stock cans weighed in at 21.6 pounds, the Akro twins just 8.9. That's nearly 60 percent less heft.
They uncork the engine nicely, too. We dyno'ed it before and after and both horsepower and torque curves are fatter all the way through from bottom to top. Torque gets a big bulge between 4000 and 7000 rpm, after which power picks up smartly with up to 5 bhp extra in places en route to a power peak 500 rpm higher up the scale. Stock, the carbureted 942cc V-twin made 91.9 bhp at 8750 rpm and 62.7 lb.-ft. of torque at 6250 rpm. With the cans the peak figures are 95.1 bhp at 9250 rpm and 64.1 lb.-ft. at 6250 rpm.
They come complete with removable baffle inserts-which went straight in the bin, naturally. With 'em the exhaust note's as muted as stock; without 'em the engine has a glorious, rasping bellow on full noise and a mellow rumble on partial throttle openings-the perfect compromise. Oh, one small thing: Careful what you clean them with. Prior to our photo shoot I used a squirt of carb cleaner, which stripped one of the decals back to white. Well I didn't think, etc, etc.
So what else has happened in the 2000 or so miles since the KTM and I checked in? Absolutely nothing, that's what. I've loaned it out a few times and each person who's tried it has returned it with the same lunatic facial gurning and the exact same words: "That thing's almost too much fun...it'll get me into trouble...take it back, please!" And so on.
I've used it as day-to-day transport, including quite a bit of freeway miles where, even though it's far from ideal, it does the job. Cruising at 70 mph or so delivers much better gas mileage than bopping around town, extending tank range by a good 30 or so miles; you'll easily drain it in 100 miles doing the urban thing. I also had an afternoon's thrashing around the canyons, which may well lead me to the door of a suspension specialist. There's just a bit too much undamped travel going on up front for hard-core sport riding, so I'll get some advice on stock setup and aftermarket upgrades and share both with ya next time.
What I don't want to do, however, is give the KTM too firm a ride. One of the things I really like about it is its ability to soak up the worst of L.A.'s potholes while elegantly dealing with the horror show of L.A.'s traffic. On that note, I may well order up some of KTM's black plastic enduro handguards just to keep the levers safe. And because they look hard, just like the rest of the wee beasty.
Culprit: Aaron Frank
Average Fuel Mileage: 23 mpg
Accessories And Modifications:
Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tires, custom appearance mods, crushed limestone
The boss man knows what he likes, and what he likes is exotic Italian sportbikes, preferably in red. Last fall, when all we knew about Ducati's all-new 1098 superbike was rumor and innuendo, Catterson had already claimed our first long-term tester as his own. "Don't even think about it," he warned me, "the 1098's all mine."
Like a kid counting the days until Christmas, Cat anxiously waited until March when Ducati finally delivered our 1098 testbike. Due to an oddity of scheduling, though, I was actually the first staffer to put any miles on it. Being the considerate employee that I am, I thought it only right that I properly "break-in" the boss' new ride so it would be all ready to go when he finally got his mitts on it.
The 1098 is pretty much ready to go right out of the box. The 138-horsepower V-twin is as strong as a mule and sings a sweet tune even out of its stock exhaust. The massive Brembo Monobloc brakes might have some enthusiasts scouring the aftermarket for less powerful alternatives. And the Showa suspension that comes attached to the base-model 1098 feels anything but base, even with extra-sticky Pirelli Supercorsa race tires wrapped around the Marchesini rims. But as strong as the stock package is, I still sensed some room for improvement.
Step one was to tweak the high-speed aerodynamics, which I accomplished by relocating the mirrors downward a few degrees. I also increased available lean angle by repositioning the footrests slightly inward and trimming a few inches off the ends. And finally, knowing that the bike would be ridden predominantly in urban Los Angeles, I wanted to give it some proper streetfighter appeal. Bye-bye to the glammed-up gloss paint, then, in favor of a more street-wise matte finish.
I sure hope the boss appreciates my efforts. Ducati staff at the track that day seemed to approve. Desmo guru Jeff Nash of Advanced Motorsports took one look at the bike and said, "Well, that'll make a great racebike for someone." And Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock was apparently so excited about my mods that he seized the bike immediately and took it back to company headquarters in Cupertino-no doubt so he could share it as a design concept with the stylists back in Italy. I just hope they send it back to Catterson soon, so he can finally enjoy the bike. He's been waiting so long.
Meanwhile, I understand Cat's finally got his current long-term tester, the MV Agusta F4 1000 S that he crashed a few months back, repainted and put back together. Maybe he'll let me work my magic on that one next.