Reading between the centrelines

Why the désaxé layout has become the latest fashion in engine design

Question: what has Yamaha’s new MT-09 inline triple got in common with their 2010 YZF450F motocross single, Honda’s MSX125 monkey bike and CBR250R, Kawasaki’s ZX-10R, Triumph’s Tiger 800, 1200 Explorer and Trophy, the Horex VR6, a 1979 Hesketh V-twin, a 1932 Ford V8 and an eighteenth century steam engine?
Answer: they all use the désaxé principle, in which the vertical centreline of the crankshaft is offset to the centreline of the pistons (désaxé is French for off-centre).
To picture it, imagine a side-on engine cut in half. Draw a line from the centre of the crankshaft up through the cylinders. On most bike engines with the piston at top dead centre, the line intersects the con rod and through the middle of the piston.
In a désaxé engine the crankshaft is set back a few mm (or cylinders forwards) so the line from the crankshaft no longer passes through the centre of the piston but to the rear of it.

Extra sensory perception: how our bikes know more than we do

Modern bikes are smarter than ever. But they can’t see into the future. Yet.
BMW’s HP4 is a clever bike. An array of more than 30 sensors stream info to its ECU, making our five (or six?) human channels of data acquisition seem inadequate. But we don’t have to reign in 190bhp… which is why bikes have brains too.
The BMW, along with Ducati’s Multistrada and Panigale, and Aprilia’s Caponord and RSV4 R APRC, is at the current summit of bike IQ. But most modern bikes have some of the following going on the moment you turn the key:
Electromagnetic pulses count spokes in ABS rings around both wheel hubs, measuring speeds and looking for differences. The ECU uses the info to activate its ABS system, and also feeds the data into a map of engine management, and traction and anti-wheelie control. It also delivers road speed to the clocks.

Counting down the days

I am getting closer and closer to my goal. I have all the ingredients but one, for having some fun time.
The Yamaha TT250R is parked snugly in the garage, eager to get out and to sample some local Warwickshire roads. It should not complain too much, as I did take it out last Friday. That day, my friend, Jonathan, who is very kindly lending me the bike, came round on his very noisy Honda. Both bikes needed an MOT.

My early motorcycling days

Caroline learning to ride in Palace RoadCaroline learning to ride in Palace RoadSometimes life makes you do things outside your comfort zone. This has happened to me soon after I met Kevin. It was after a particularly frightening encounter on the underground travelling back to Kevin’s place late at night. That evening I made a decision to learn to ride a motorbike, just as Kevin had to tried to encourage me to do. On a bike, he pointed out, I could go anywhere, whenever I wanted and be in full control of my life.

Now, years later, I am so grateful Kevin gave me that skill.

Seven years later, I passed my driving licence; again after Kevin convinced me it would be better to be able to drive the car. By this stage we had two daughters who loved sitting in buggies and being pushed around instead of walking. I accepted that living in England without a driving licence is the same as not having a bicycle in Holland. They just go hand in hand.

Early Christmas - February 2014

Today is Ingrid's birthday. She is now twelve years old, my little daughter, she is growing up. She was not the only person receiving presents today.

After the school run I get home to do some work. I am interupted by the postman ringing the front door bell. He comes to deliver a large box. I am very familiar with large boxes arriving at our house. Kevin used to have this happen lots to him. This box has arrived for me! I can hug the postman, I am so excited. I restrain myself, close the front door and drag the box into the kitchen and open it up.

In the box are the most gorgeous Enduro clothes, all the way from Italy. Jacket and pants in black and white. I try then on and they fit well. The sleeves are on the tight side, but if I slow down on the weight lifting and arm wresles, it should be fine.

Excel Motorcycle Show 2014

Caroline on the California Superbike School DucatiCaroline on the California Superbike School DucatiArriving at the Excel Motorcycle show by car did not feel right. My excuse was that the weather was atrocious with very strong winds and there for coming by car did seem the better option.

Oh, and I haven’t got a bike, so it wasn’t a realistic option anyway. The car park was heaving with cars, but not a bike in sight; a bit worrying. I was wondering if I had come to the right place.

Walking up to the ticket control, I handed over my ticket. I was as excited as a child let loose in a sweet shop. It was most disappointing to have my ticket returned and refused entry. I have travelled two and a half hours and I cannot go in? What sort of cruel trick is this? The man pointed at the sign which read clearly in bold letters that this was the entrance to the diving and waterspout show. Ah…I had not spotted that. That felt a bit silly, say the least. I make a mental note to get my eyes checked next week.

Back in the saddle

Kevin and Caroline Ash

This article was published in the Motoring section of the Daily Telegraph on Saturday February 8th 2014. I like to thank The Daily Telegraph to allow me to publish the article on my blog and on Kevin's Ashonbikes website.

After the tragic loss of her husband last year, Caroline Ash has returned to riding.

Women are like tea bags: you don't know how strong they are until you drop them in hot water. Well, if anyone passed the Tetley test last year it was Caroline Ash, the wife of Kevin Ash, our motorcycling correspondent, who was killed last January when the BMW R1200 GS he was testing in South Africa crashed. Caroline, a petite Dutch woman with the strength of a lioness, was suddenly left a widow, with three daughters to provide for, few means to do so and a lot of unanswered questions about what happened to her husband.

My day on a Yamaha TT R250

Caroline on a TT R250

Not a usual Monday today. This was a Monday to look forward to, an excellent tone setter for the week. Jonathan, a good friend of mine, was coming round with a trailer and bike to pick me up for my first off road riding session.

I was not ready of course, as I could not decide what to wear. Typical girl, I know. What does one wear for off roading, which one happens to have lying about in the garage? I tried Kevin's off road helmet, but I could turn my head round in it, so no good. I settled for Jonathan's helmet and his, for me, oversized jacket, which he kindly lent me. My Triumph over trousers would have to do. How much padding would I need? Hopefully there is enough in them. Secretly, I hope I will not get them dirty, as they are so lovely. Boots are next. I only have one pair, which have started to crack, but will hopefully survive today. Gloves are more of a problem. I have one Triumph glove left as I dropped the other near the Grand Canyon, riding Route 66 with Kevin two years ago. After a rummage through Kevin's gloves, which were quite obviously too large, I decide to use the snug fitting gloves signed and donated by Bradley Smith for the Kevin Ash Fund. They fitted me perfectly. I must have man-sized hands. Shocking. Does anybody want to buy some gloves worn and signed by Bradley Smith, and now me?

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