Power Play

Why is it that powertrain evolution in motorcycles has not kept pace with that in motor-cars? Were attempts made to devise bikes with front-wheel or both-wheel drives? Intrigued by these questions, Piyush Sonsale decided to dip into motorcycle history. As he garnered fascinating information, he also got in touch with companies involved in such innovations overseas to get a complete picture

“Now I know how owls feel,” I thought to myself as my head pointed towards the corner exit and my body swayed laterally out of control with the bike. Legs stuck in ankle-deep slush, the helmet visor still mud-stained from my last fall, I struggled to find traction on the rear wheel of my bike while the spectators witnessed my helplessness. Finally, I steered out of my misery by stepping out and pushing the bike. Well, my first off-road experience on a motorcycle wasn’t exactly, er, smooth, but it gave birth to an idea in my head. What if motorcycles were all-wheel driven? Now, most of us have seen the wonders of all-wheel drive cars on YouTube and sported a 4 X 4 vehicle wallpaper on our desktops some time or the other, but, as they say, you don’t get it till you do it. So back to the question. As Leonardo DiCaprio says in ‘Inception’, “What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea!” I was possessed by the idea and had enough faith in human curiosity to believe that such experiments had been done in the past and, maybe, some exist even now. I was right.

Wiping the dust off motorcycle history, I found a treasure-trove of what can only be called marvellous engineering feats. Before getting nerdy, however, let’s find out what this ‘drive’ term I have been using means. The ‘powertrain’ (engine-transmission-countershaft-final drive) transmits the engine’s power and torque to the wheels. The wheels transmit the same to the ground by spinning and as a reaction the motorcycle moves. Conventionally it’s the rear wheel that gets the honour and is said to be ‘driven’. The front wheel in this case is called a ‘dead wheel’ as it only steers (directs) the motorcycle.

There are three ways in which motorcycle wheels can be powered or ‘driven’: a) rear-wheel drive (RWD), b) front-wheel drive (FWD), and c) all-wheel drive (AWD). Among these, the rear-wheel drive system is the only one conventionally used in on-road, off-road and even racing prototype bikes. However, in this article we are concerned with the unconventional, with experiments that never made their way to the mainstream. Let’s examine why.

All-wheel drive (AWD)

The all-wheel drive system is probably a communist idea since it involves distribution of the engine’s power and torque to both the wheels of a vehicle. But the distribution of power may not be equal. A capitalist intrusion? Well, whatever the case, the AWD gives pulling power to both the wheels and amazing climbing and off-roading ability to the vehicle.

The second chain
powering the gearbox on
the frame

The under tank gearbox
and shaft drive

There are two types of AWD systems: i) Both the wheels are constantly driven. ii) The front wheel is powered only when the rear one loses traction. Used only to regain traction.
An American brand called Christini has developed a mechanical linkage to power the front wheel. Their patented technology makes use of a combination of chain and shaft linkages to transmit the engine’s power and torque to the front wheel. They use a second chain drive apart from the one powering the rear wheel. Mounted on another countershaft sprocket, this chain powers another gearbox located on the frame. A shaft drive from this gearbox, passing from under the fuel tank, enters the head tube of the bike. Counter-rotating bevel gears then pass the power to the lower triple clamp. A chain-sprocket mechanism in the triple clamp further passes the power by rotating two telescopic counter-rotating shafts. These run down the length of the forks and finally transfer the engine power to the front wheel. Phew!

The bevel gear mechanisn in the head tube which  allows angular linkage in the front powertrain
The chain- sprocket mechanism in the lower triple clamp and the counter rotating shafts it powers

Approximately 80 per cent of the engine’s power is transmitted to the front wheel and is used to regain traction when the rear wheel slips. Otherwise, under normal conditions, one-way clutches in the front wheel hub keep the front wheel passive. Christini use this mechanism to modify frames and forks of standard rear-wheel driven KTM and Honda off-roaders and sell these modified frame kits under their brand-name. The mechanism, though complicated, is the only one available in a production line and their decent success in the arena of off-road motorsport has proved its worth.

Suzuki’s 1985 2wd concept, the Falcorustyco

The Nuda, showcased in 1986

Another interesting innovation and, perhaps, one of the most successful implementations of a mechanical all-wheel drive system has been done by an American firm called Rokon. They were the first to make the concept digestible and offer a whole range of two-wheelers based on the same. The first Rokon concept, the ‘Trail-Breaker’, was tested in the late 1950s and later evolved into a three bike production range. The Rokons are, shall we say, a mutated motorcycle sub-species aptly called ‘Mototractor’, characterised as they are by a huge but simple chassis design and chunky off-road tyres like the ones seen on tractors and industrial cranes.

First production Rokon — the ‘Trail-Breaker’

Rokon offers a host of accessories such as side panniers or a front tray to suit your purpose

The 2-Trac-powered AWD Yamaha WR450F off-roader that surfaced in 2004
The alien looking ‘oily’ concept bike Dryvtech 2x2x2 with its maker, Ian Drysdale
Is it a robot? Is it a lunar rover? No! It’s the Dryvtech 2x2x2’s handlebar and headlamp assembly!

Ian Drysdale riding the two-wheel driven, two-wheel steered Dryvtech 2x2x2 cocept. A dream come true!

The Japanese giant Suzuki were the first to play with the hydraulic AWD idea. They displayed a dummy concept bike, called the Falcorustyco, at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1985. A year later, they came up with a GSX-R750-powered concept, called the Nuda, which actually worked.

Yamaha and the Austrian brand KTM have also developed their own hydraulic solution to power the front wheel of a bike. The Yamaha system, called 2-Trac, was developed along with suspension maker Öhlins. The system had been under development since 1985 and was tested on various models, mostly off-roaders. A 2-Trac-powered YZF R1 was also tested and showed noticeable improvement in lap times on a race track. The system uses a chain drive to power the rear wheel while the front isdriven by a hydraulic motor in the wheel hub. The KTM version has a similar design and also shares the technology partner (Öhlins) with Yamaha, but the two bike-makers have separate patents for their respective innovations.

However, the most ground-breaking innovation I came across was the Australian inventor Ian Drysdale’s Dryvtech 2x2x2 concept. The third 2 is not a typographical error. The Dryvtech was a 2 (wheel) X 2 (wheel drive) X 2 (wheel steered) motorcycle! It had a specially built 250-cc, two-stroke internal combustion engine as the main powerhouse. The engine actuated a hydrostatic (positive displacement) pump, which pressured hydraulic oil through steel tubes. This oil transmitted the engine’s power and torque to both the wheels by actuating a hydraulic motor located in the wheel hubs. The all-wheel steering system also used hydraulics to steer both the wheels, but the handlebar-to-wheel ratios varied for both the wheels. The rear wheel turned a little late to allow the front wheel counter-steer in a turn.
The list of innovations does not end here. The brakes worked using the hydraulic system used to drive the wheels, both wheels had single-sided swingarm with monoshock suspension and the wheels were concave, depressing in towards the hub on the side where the hydraulic motor was attached. The Dryvtech 2x2x2 was a working prototype and, at a basic level, proved most of the theories of its creator. Sadly, it never underwent further development or production and the prototype exists as a museum exhibit at the Donnington motor museum in the UK.

AWD Hypothesis

  • Reduction in power wastage as power is distributed between both the wheels
  • Reduced wheel spin, tyre wear
  • Increased climbing ability due to increased traction
  • Benefits in racing: Tighter corners, increase in corner speeds. Lesser high side crashes
  • Benefits in off-roading: More traction, faster jump recovery
  • Reduction in power wheelies

Reality Check

  • Complex design
  • Increase in weight, mass
  • Complexity in division of power and splitting torque
  • Leakage and resultant part failures a big area of concern where the system is hydraulic
  • Difficult to repair, high maintenance cost
  • Increased production cost

One of the very few surviving Megolas

Front-wheel drive (FWD)
Here, the front wheel is the protagonist; it steers as well as drives the bike while the rear (dead) wheel follows. FWD systems have been tried and tested on motorcycles by modifying rear-wheel drive bikes, but the innovation that intrigued me was an attempt back in the 1920s. A motorcycle called Megola was produced in Germany for a brief period between 1921 and 1925. Although not very efficient mechanically, it was a production model and was popular for its ground-breaking design. The Megola had a 640-cc, five-cylinder Gnome Monosoupape (single-valve) rotary engine as seen in World War I fighter planes with radially arranged cylinders. It produced almost 15 PS of power in the standard version and over 25 PS in the sport version, attaining speeds upto 140 kph. The engine was mounted in the front wheel (between the spokes) and the cylinder valves were mounted sideways on the cylinder heads. The axle doubled up as the crankshaft, which remained stationary while the cylinders rotated radially with the wheel. Furthermore, the crankshaft was hollow and also served the purpose of the inlet manifold.

The Megola’s front wheel-mounted engine

The bike had no flywheel, no clutch nor a gearbox. The engine was fired by spinning the front wheel and stopped by switching the ignition off. The fuel was stored in the frame and fed a reservoir located over the axle. Fuel from this reservoir was then fed into the engine by gravity. The tyre tube was like a sausage (closed at both ends), so it could be pulled out without dismantling the wheel assembly. And the air striking the rotating cylinders cooled the engine as the bike moved. Genius!
About 2,000 Megola bikes were produced, but only a handful survive today.
In 1935, a group of German engineers (Killinger and Freund) created a front-wheel drive prototype by modifying the Megola design to improve its handling, aerodynamics and reduce engine weight. However, their production plans never materialised on account of the outbreak of World War II. This makes the Megola the only production FWD motorcycle ever made.

FWD Hypothesis (Based on the Megola)

  • Greater traction under braking and otherwise too as the heavier front end loads the front wheel to     increase tyre contact patch
  • Better handling due to low centre of gravity,     especially in racing. (The Megola won the      German Motorcycle Championship in 1924)
  • Less lateral movement of the front wheel is required to maintain balance as the centre of mass     is closer to the front wheel
  • Reduction in rear wheel slides round corners as the front wheel is powered
  • Lesser power losses in the powertrain

Reality Check

  • The wheel-mounted engine increases unsprung weight (mass not supported by the     suspension) and adds greater load on the suspension, reducing braking force and     acceleration. Also the undulations on roads may damage the engine
  • Heavy steering as the front wheel is heavy
  • Since the centre of mass is near the front wheel, the rear end is lighter, which may result in frequent stoppies while braking


My find gave rise to a question: are motorcycles less fascinating than cars? My mind immediately cried out, ‘No way!’ Then why is it that ever since Gottlieb Daimler gave us the first motorcycle, the basics have not changed much while all the three drive systems (front, rear, all-wheel) have steadily evolved in cars? The answer is that bikes are not flexible enough. It’s the whole two-wheel business. Motorcycles evolved from bicycles and the basic geometry remains the same. Lateral movement of the front wheel is easiest by using forks since the front swingarm linkage has a complicated mechanism. Transmitting power to the front wheel while allowing it a free lateral movement is difficult and the powertrain losses are heavy.
Motorcycle chassis are built to be supported by two wheels, which puts restrictions on the weight and mass of a motorcycle. In order to counter the gyroscopic, inertial and centrifugal forces, motorcycles have to lean in the direction of the turn. So a bike needs to be thin, especially at the wheel level.
The simplest solution to all these was to power only the rear wheel. Motorcycle design and ergonomics evolved with this geometry. So did the way motorcycles are ridden. Billions were then spent in refinement. Hence the extra bit of traction was not worth the increase in weight, complexity and expense. However, with giants like Yamaha and KTM working on such systems, it won’t be wise to rule out the possibility completely. For the time being, though, I had better learn off-roading!

FZ gets a boost

BIKE India Editor and his brother team up to design an exhaust system to juice up the FZ

The Yamaha FZ 16/FZ-S is one amazing street fighter. It has a low end grunt which every enthusiast loves in the urban scenario. Flicking the bike around the city chaos and getting the torque from the engine with a slight wring of the right wrist makes it the perfect urban tool. But then, the bike lacks a bit in the higher revs. A biker is not going to be riding in the city all the time. He will sneak out on weekends and do some highway runs. It goes without saying that he will also head towards the mountain roads where the FZ will do uphill climbs around the bends of the ghat sections. This is where the bike suffers a bit. It is strong enough till 5000 revs but after that it becomes a bit tough for the bike to match the expectations of an aficionado.

To solve this very issue and make the biker happy anywhere and everywhere he travels, BIKE India Editor Aspi Bhathena and his brother Sheri Bhathena sat down to design a free flow exhaust system. After tackling quite a few things, a completely new exhaust system was made which included the bend pipe as well as the end canister. The front bend pipe has been given a proper tuned length. The end can, unlike a regular free flow exhaust, has a specific degree and a newly calculated diameter and volume. This has resulted in a uniquely customized system that, as we expected, performs much better than the stock one.

It definitely impressed me once I rode the bike up and down the Dehu Road stretch. Pinning the throttle, the rev counter showed the needle going all the way past the redline and that too pretty freely. The engine didn’t feel stressed at any time throughout the rev range. In fact once past 5000rpm, unlike the stock FZ, the bike with the custom exhaust revs more happily. With the least amount of hesitation, the bike revs more in each gear giving a better top speed in every gear and this finally reflects in the top speed of the bike. To gauge the difference in the performance of the new exhaust and the stock one, we carried the stock exhaust along as well. Testing the same FZ with two different exhaust systems back-to-back left us with baffling results. The data recorded by our testing equipment showed that the stock bike managed 0-60km/h in 6.5 seconds where as the one with the free flow exhaust crossed the same mark in merely 5.2 seconds. (The figures of the stock bike are different from the one we tested earlier since this was a used bike and tested in a different environment than the one that we rode during our road test).

Even the top speed of the FZ has gone up considerably from 110km/h (true) to 114.7 km/h (true). While delivering the performance, the sound level has also been kept as low as possible for the free flow exhaust. Though it is louder than the stock one, it is not at all annoying for the rider, the pillion or the people around them on the road and in the neighbourhood. Apart from the performance gain achieved on the FZ, another modification has been done to the bike giving it a better braking ability. The rear disc break unit from the Pulsar 220 has been installed on the bike to improve the overall braking at higher speeds.

For further details and to buy one of these for your very own FZ, contact: Prakash Kunthe +91 9822442911 Sheri Bhathena +91 9850057477 Pramod +91 9422080811

Riding with a pillion

How To… keep your pillion happy.

First and foremost:
How many times have you come across a pillion wearing just a basic helmet and casual clothing, while the rider is geared in a proper top-of-the line helmet and leather gear. We don’t see any reason to treat your pillion like this because he/she is as vulnerable as you during an accident. So make sure you keep the pillion well kitted out with a good, safe helmet and protective gearing. The same goes for having wet/cold weather clothing available if necessary.

The bike:
All bikes come with adjustable rear suspension. Before going on a ride with a pillion, ensure that you increase the pre-load to compensate for the weight increase over the rear wheel. This will also keep the bike’s steering geometry right by keeping the rear end from bottoming out, apart from keeping a check on the overall ground clearance of the bike. If you are one of those lucky riders to have a bike with adjustable front suspension, then extra preload plus a little more compression damping will help reduce fork dive during hard braking when the extra weight is transferred to the front end. Also let the grab-rail be there. It is fitted there for a reason!

Novice pillions can be nervous pillions. Talk to them and try to relax them. Speak to them about how to get onto the bike without putting the whole weight on any one peg, where and how to hold the grab-rail. Assure the pillion its OK for him to speak up, or even shout if necessary, if they aren’t comfortable with the way you are riding or with the speeds you are keeping. During stops, do talk to them about the same. (Don’t do this!) As a rider, the pillion’s well-being is your responsibility. Stay away from antics like getting the knee down, as this may make the pillion nervous. A sudden shift in their body  could easily lead to a loss of balance.

Explain to the pillion how to shift their body weight, for example, as the rider begins to brake, lean or accelerate. It’s better for them to look straight at you from behind and let it all happen naturally. Do pillions lean with you in the corner? Yes, but just a little. They should lean at the same angle as the bike makes with vertical or just a little more (into the lean). Overleaning or underleaning affect the balance of the bike. The best way for a pillion not to bang into you under hard braking is to grip the tank. But don’t forget to tell them to hold on to the grab rail or to your waist too, in case you are likely to accelerate immediately.

Pillion specific bikes:
Generally speaking, sports bikes such as the Fireblades or the latest Ninjas are not as comfortable as other bikes. They fail to take a pillion’s needs into account. But still, any bike with pillion foot-pegs and a rear seat will be able to carry a pillion, although not necessarily in a comfortable manner. Put yourself in the pillion’s place and you’ll definitely plan more stops for stretching your legs. If you ride often with a pillion, it’s better to take along the passenger while you are out shopping for a bike so that you both can choose a bike which can keep the pillion happy. Also, if the bike has a more flexible engine, it helps as you don’t have to shift up (or down) too much and this protects the pillion from sudden jerks. Among Indian bikes the best equipped from a pillion perspective are the Enfield Bullets, the Hero Honda Karizma and also the Yamaha Fazer. And almost all Indian bikes come with grabrails fitted as standard.

Doped R15

Mulund lad, Gaurav custom builds an exhaust system for the YZF-R15.Adhish Alawani finds out if it performs better

Yamaha introduced the YZF-R15 with the intention of acquainting Indian bikers with hardcore performance. No doubt, the Japanese company successfully defined track performance with the R15 in India. However, most costumers in the country are going to use the bike in cities and for sport touring on highways. Like a trademark Yamaha race bike, the R15 has its power band in the higher revs, more precisely over 7500rpm. Riding the bike in such high revs is not practical on a daily basis in town. The R15 definitely feels a lot sluggish from the bottom end to the midrange making it a chore for tackling traffic.

Gaurav, an avid BIKE India reader and a hardcore sports touring fan, decided to modify his R15 so that it would deliver a better midrange performance. To start the project, he made a new exhaust system for his YZF-R15. Obviously, he was not keen on making just a new free flow canister. Gaurav decided to engineer the complete exhaust system which included the pipe as well as the end can.

Getting help from some local mechanics for the labour work, Gaurav managed to make an exhaust system for his bike which he felt was good enough to kill the stock R15 in straight line acceleration as well as top speed. So we decided to hook up our performance testing equipment on his modified bike and gauge its performance against the stock R15.

Looking at the exhaust, you can immediately make out that this one is a bit smaller than the stock exhaust. However, it has the same cap on it that is found on the stock one making it look more familiar to a layman’s eye. Leaving aside the looks, I decided to do a couple of performance runs on the bike. The second run itself gave a 0-60km/h timing of 4.5 seconds. Just a new exhaust system has trimmed off more than over half a second in the 0-60km/h acceleration run. Even the 0-100km/h run showed us that the modified R15 managed the sprint in 12.5 seconds as against 13.2 seconds of the stock bike. As far as top speed is concerned, the bike recorded a top whack of 134km/h on the equipment. A slightly longer straight with lesser traffic to bother about would have raised the top speed further is what we felt looking at the few more revs to go in the top gear.

This rise in performance of the R15 can be experienced from around 5000rpm unlike the stock bike which comes alive just after 7500rpm. The midrange of the bike was much stronger than the stock R15 which I am sure will make a positive difference for city riding. Also, the sound note from the free flow system is louder than the stock one yet much better and quieter than the other locally made exhaust systems.


This exhaust system for your R15 can be bought at a humble price of Rs 9000 (includes the pipe and the canister) Contact: +91 9819003637


Prudent commutin part ii

This month we continue with some more pointers on how you can be a socially responsible rider


Do not park / stop at the exit of a turn / intersection
The exit of a turn or intersection is usually a blind spot for the oncoming traffic. Parking or being stranded at such a spot is extremely hazardous and can lead to an unavoidable accident. In case of a breakdown in such a position on a turn/intersection, it is recommended to have a person stand at the entry of the turn/intersection to warn the traffic until the breakdown scenario is resolved.

Luggage and pillions have their own space
Make sure that you ride with only one pillion and that the pillion is seated on the pillion seat only and not on unconventional areas like the tank or the foot board of a scooter as these can seriously hamper the vehicle dynamics. In some cases, the rider’s vision too is hindered thus proving to be a perfect recipe for an accident. Similarly, luggage too needs to be carried only in the form of a tank bag, back pack or saddle bags not hanging from the handlebars or your shoulders.

Safe braking

Continuing with the basics, this month BIKE India teaches you how to refine your braking skills. Follow our tips on how to brake effectively without losing control over your bike

Braking at curves is more critical than on a straight line. Some experts even suggest to avoid braking in corners. Nonetheless you should be prepared for unexpected circumstances. Losing speed before entering a corner is the safest way. If you ever need to brake midcorner, apply the front brake very smoothly while pushing the inner side of the handlebar. Slowly release the lever again as you reach the desired speed. Throughtout the process, you must keep the level of traction available under check. At curves, speeding vehicles can lose grip far more easily. However, a banked corner allows for safer manoeuvres than the one without it. Take care not to apply and release the brakes instantly as the front end will dip and rebound with a shocking force. Practice effective braking on different surfaces ranging from concrete roads to tarmac to gravel as well as wet surfaces. This will also help you get accustomed to your your bike’s behaviour.
On a downhill section, gravity will not forgive a mistake and you may easily lose control here. It’s better to engage a lower gear and maintain a safe speed. Allow engine braking to do the job. Keep the clutch operation subtle whenever shifting gears.
Practice braking on gravel as well, for you don’t know when you might end up facing such riding scenarios. Many evasive actions lead us to go off the tarmac. Preferably use the rear brake here with a gentle tap on the front one.
Braking becomes easier on uphill roads where gravity works in your favour. Here you can concentrate more on the line you follow and it’s easy to maintain your balance.
Refrain from going hard on the front brake on gravel. A locked front wheel can easily result in loss of traction and your steering ability.
Wet roads mean lesser traction. Don’t go for hard braking unless your bike has a specialised set of tyres. Keep your speed under check and you’ll be safe.
This is one of the worst case scenarios. Oil spill on a road can virtually defy the laws of physics if you ride on it without caution. Simply look ahead to avoid such surfaces. In case you run into this, never ever apply the brakes.

Tyres and grip play an important role during braking. A good set of tyres will add to your stability. A tyre made of fairly soft rubber compound wears and tears faster but offers very high traction/footing. Similarly, the better the tyre grips, the more effective your stopping competency will be. This is why you need to check your tyres from time to time. In contrast to an easy rider, a harsh or fast rider may have to change tyres more frequently. Note that a groove line running around the middle of a front tyre offers enhanced stopping power without skidding. During the rainys, it is recommended to go for a special set of tyres that have additional anti-skidding grips.

While your technique matters a lot, it will go in vain if the brake components of your bike are not in a healthy condition. Remember to check the disc brake oil level from time to time. If it falls below the indicated minimum level, get the fluid changed and refilled with the manufacturer recommended grade. Caution should be taken so that no air bubbles get trapped in the pipe which could dampen braking effect. Check if your rear brake setting feels adequate to your ankle movement. If not, adjust it accordingly. In case you experience a lack of feel from your brakes despite all requisite settings, check the brake shoes and the disc pads. Get them replaced, if required.

Your sitting position largely determines if you can safely reduce speed without losing control. If you need to brake while riding in a straight line, shift back a little and sit securely with a firm grip on the handlebar. In addition, grip the fuel tank with your knees. This way you can tackle the retardation force even under a hard braking screnario. While the rear brake is quite effective at slow speeds, it’s the front brake that works better at higher speeds. Squeeze the front brake lever progressively in conjunction with the rear brake which should be pressed gently to avoid the rear wheel from locking up. Remember to keep the handlebar straight during hard braking.

Emergencies are followed by panic braking which locks the wheels thus setting you off balance. Remember not to go hard on the rear brake. Practice to gently release and apply brakes successively if the wheels get locked

Progressively applying the front brake with your index and middle fingers will result in effective braking while also allowing a good grip on the handlebar. Follow it by applying the rear brake in sync for added stopping force. Keep your fingers on the clutch lever but don’t apply them while braking and losing speed. As soon as you reach your desired speed, shift gears accordingly so that the engine doesn’t stall.

Without a firm sitting position, emergency braking with the front brake could result in a stoppie. Refrain from shifting too much weight to the front so that the rear wheel remains grounded to aid braking.

Fast not furious

Saeed Akhtar is in a stupor as he goes one up on Vin Diesel with a steroid injected Karizma
Photography by Sanjay Raikar


A few decades back, performance enhancement was a term very few bikers in India were familiar with. The racing community was in its nascent stage and most bikers were satisfied with whatever miniscule performance was on offer. But as time progressed, bikers – like all humans – began demanding more from their steeds and started getting familiar with acronyms like NFS, TFATF and thus NOS.

Nitrous oxide systems are still regarded as an arcane art even in most tuning circles. Movies like the Fast and the Furious series, Dhoom and the Need for Speed games franchise have elevated the NOS acronym to something of a cult yet they are also notorious for wrecked powertrains and giant fireballs. First used during World War II in Luftwaffe aircrafts to boost the power output, Nitrous Oxide or N20 is a colourless non-flammable gas with a pleasant, slightly sweet odour and taste. It is popularly known as laughing gas because of the euphoria it induces in humans. Amongst petrolheads too, it induces euphoria but of a slightly different sort. Although it is not flammable in itself, its ability to deliver more oxygen by breaking down at elevated temperatures makes it an excellent catalyst for burning Saudi Arabia’s finest in the fastest possible time. The gas is stored in liquid form and injected either into the intake manifold or right before the cylinder (direct port injection) whereupon its expansion causes more air/fuel mixture to enter the cylinder. By this simple expedient of burning more fuel, very large power gains are possible provided you know how much stress your machine can handle. The increased cylinder pressures caused by nitrous induction have to be harnessed very carefully otherwise you risk blowing off your valves or melting the piston to a molten lump in your enthusiasm. No kidding.

BIKE India has tested NOS kits fitted on the Yamaha Enticer pseudo-cruiser as well as on the screaming Pulsar 180 third gen in the past. This misty morning we ushered in Diwali with the best firecracker we could lay our hands on – a modified Hero Honda Karizma with NOS and a reworked, longer gearing. The blue Karizma featured here is fitted with a 300ml nitrous oxide can that is sufficient to propel the 223cc bike forward for 15 short bursts. Harish Chellani, the owner, importer and installer of the NOS kit, will happily supply you bigger containers for more bursts if you don’t fancy visiting the refill shop too often. Speaking of refills, a 300ml refill will cost you only 150 bucks – a fair bargain considering the power that’s on offer. Harish has found a convenient location for the cylinder in the sari guard, from where a silver coated pipe carries the gas to the inlet manifold. Call it direct injection if you will. A toggle switch, resembling the ones used in old spy movies, that controls the NOX induction is mounted inside the fairing. With it, in the on position, the horn switch ditches its usual duty as a traffic shredder and assumes the role of a catapult. Harish hasn’t fiddled with the carb yet but he has two jets of different sizes for varying amounts of nitrous boost, depending on your craving. The smaller one was on the bike and the bigger one was, well, in his friend’s pocket. Bugger!

The rules are clear and simple, you can employ nitrous boost in every gear provided the rpm is above 4000 and the throttle is fully wrung to the stop. On my first run on the expressway, I gingerly pressed the horn button while in the second gear and braced myself for the kick in the back. Although it didn’t quite qualify as a kick, the tacho needle went berserk and raced up the limiter very fast – too fast for a 223cc bike! Approaching the limiter, the engine roared like it was going to blast its innards out if I persisted anymore. Hmmm. . . . must be time to wind up another gear. A momentary slowing down of pace and it was mayhem again as I pressed the horn button hard enough to snap it off its mounting. No time for glancing down at the speedo or tacho, my eyes were too busy watching out for innocent and beautiful belles with pitchers straying on the tarmac as well as four-legged creatures answering nature’s call right in the middle of NHAI’s crowning glory. If you have not ridden anything on the far side of a Ninja 250 or a RD350, the acceleration even with the smaller jet and longer gearing (14 teeth front/38 teeth rear sprocket a opposed to 13/40 stock sprockets) is astounding. The noise too! Even in higher gears, the bike pulls with such alacrity, that it is very easy to cross sane speeds unless you are also keeping an eye on the speedo. Which frankly, we won’t recommend. Whereas this Karizma (with a reworked gearing) does the 0-60km/h run in 4.77sec sans the laughing gas, it does the same run in 3.87sec flat with it. The 100km/h mark was done and dusted in 10.06sec with NOS. Without it, the bike touches the ton at a relatively slow 13.10sec. Lack of saddle time and horrendous traffic prevented us from taking the top speed estimate, although it must be fairly high up on the stock bike. Sorry.

The downsides of this manic exercise are that it becomes very difficult to resist a dab on the horn button every time you see an open stretch of tarmac. If you are ready to compromise a fair bit on the longevity front for some adrenalin, go right ahead and install it – it’s worth every precious penny. Whether it should be used on public roads is an issue only your heart can decide. However, continuous high revving will eventually take its toll on the bike. A small price to pay, we reckon, considering the excitement that’s on offer.

The NOS cylinder finds a convenient home in the saree guard

The sprocketing has been revised for a higher top speed

Faster acceleration and higher top speed hand in hand, gimme more.

Group riding

Monsoon clouds are giving way to clear skies but leaving behind lush green landscapes with seasonal waterfalls here and there. It’s the right time to appreciate Mother Nature before the scene changes. Just the perfect time we reckon to get together with friends and ride by those beautiful mountains, spectacular riversides and breathtakingly picturesque views. Sawan S Hembram gives you some tips on how to ride in and as a group
photography: sanjay raikar

When a few people come forward for a group ride, the motive must be clear – whether it is a leisure ride or the emphasis is on reaching a particular destination. This plays a major role for all other issues associated with group riding. Accordingly, planning the ride becomes easier.

Group riding may involve individuals with different levels of riding skills, experiences as well as mentalities. It’s quite possible that only a few are familiar with the route to be followed. In such case, routes should be discussed beforehand. All riders need to know about checkpoints such as refuelling stops or food joints, etc. If the group is fairly large, it is recommended to split in smaller groups, each with at least one experienced rider and with a sense of responsibility. Sub-grouping may be done according to riding skills so that slower bikers remain in each others’ company. Exchanging cell phone numbers with fellow riders is a good idea to deal with any eventuality. It is also important to discuss beforehand how to deal with any possible crisis.

Once a biker group takes to the road, the state of affairs could become quite complex and chaotic. However, sticking to a previously discussed formation is the best idea. It is always recommended to maintain safe distance from fellow riders. If a rider in front finds a challenging situation and slams the brakes, others behind him should have enough room to react safely. Similarly, formation must be such that all riders get the maximum view of the road ahead. This is easier said than done. Remember, a rider on a bike would cover much less view (due to the helmet) in comparison to a four wheeler and further more, a bunch of riders in front of you could block the entire view of road ahead. A diagonal formation with sufficient gaps in between solves this problem to a large extent.

Another usual occurrence during group riding is that skilled riders with powerful bikes zip ahead fast. Invariably other followers push themselves hard just to keep up. Many a times this results in accidents. Less skilled riders in order to keep up enter corners at high speeds, fail to exit properly and end up biting dust, literally! You can avoid this by looking at the road ahead instead of the taillight of the bike in front of you. If there are sub-groups of faster and slower riders, such occurrences can be completely evaded.

Overtaking becomes another major issue while riding in a group. Adrenaline seekers love to overtake each other often forgetting the whole idea of a joyride. This could translate into a crisis if it involves a large group. It is better to lay out rules regarding overtaking (whether it is allowed or not) for all the riders within a group. Similarly, overtaking other bigger vehicles in a row must be avoided. While the bike in front may instantly react to any critical situation, those closely following it have little chance to do that. Also refrain from showing off while in a group.

Remember to slowdown while passing through populated areas such as towns and villages especially when there is a road sign implicating a school ahead. Even at a reasonable speed, a large group of bikers can be seen as rowdy fellows by others. If passing through populated areas at night, you must use the low beam in order to not blind other oncoming vehicles and locals on the road.

A proper interaction among all the riders results in riding as a group rather than just riding with a group. This will further increase team spirit and the joy of riding. Remember to care for yourself as well as your fellow riders. If have a pillion rider, be considerate to him/her and be extra careful. Don’t forget to wear adequate riding gear and carry a first aid kit. Enjoy your ride.


Free flow performance

The leading performance parts maker from U.S.A, Two Brothers Racing introduce a special exhaust system designed specifically for the Yamaha R15. Adhish Alawani finds out just how good it is

The YZF-R15 was launched in the Indian market more than a year ago and it raised the standard of sport biking in the country to a new level. The country’s performance motorcycle scene has been scaling new heights ever since. An appreciable change that is currently being witnessed in the Indian biker is that he has started preferring performance upgrades to the cosmetic ones these days. As a result, various options along these lines are being explored today.

After testing the performance kit from Daytona and a locally made exhaust system for the R15 in our previous issues, what we have here is the latest offering from Two Brothers Racing (TBR), USA. Specially designed for the YZF-R15, this exhaust system comes from the US manufacturer who has been making high performance racing canisters and full exhaust systems across the global range of street motorcycles, motocrossers and ATVs.

The end can of the exhaust system offered by TBR features their patented lightweight, thin wall die-cast aluminum inlets and outlets. The vertical oval canister from the M-2 series comes with the V.A.L.E. (Variable Axis Locking Exhaust) system – a method in which the muffler canister is attached to the exhaust tube without the use of welding. With the V.A.L.E. systems, the muffler assembly – the exhaust tube and canister – can be positioned perfectly on the bike before all the mounting hardware is fully tightened. Once the canister and exhaust tubes are properly aligned, the V.A.L.E. assembly locks the muffler canister to the exhaust tube assuring a perfect, leak free fit. A lot of technical science, is it? Okay, let’s talk the language a biker understands. Performance. With the data logging equipment mounted on the R15, we decided to do 0-100km/h runs on the stock bike as well as the one with the TBR system. Very frankly, we didn’t need the data logger to tell us that there was a noticeable rise in the performance of the Yammie. The R15 started pulling pretty strongly right from 5000rpm unlike the stock model which does the job from around 7000rpm. The midrange of the bike feels much stronger than the stock one making it a more tractable machine for city use. If one has to speak in terms of accurate timings then with the TBR exhaust system, the R15 managed 0-60km/h in 4.15 seconds as against 4.9 seconds of the stock bike. The R15 crossed the three digit mark in a mere 11.76 seconds with TBR which is much quicker as compared to 13.04 seconds with the stock exhaust. With an improvement of 1.28 seconds in the 0-100km/h run, the TBR system definitely does the job it is intended to do. The weight of the new exhaust system is just 2.09 kg, almost a whopping 3.5 kg lesser than the stock one, which helps in boosting performance to a considerable extent.

Apart from the fantastic performance offered by the exhaust system, there is no doubt about the cosmetics of the canister. The brilliant finishing and the upmarket styling of the muffler, like the ones on Fireblades and R1s, will definitely add glamour to your bike. However, being a pure racing product, the TBR system is loud and can technically be used only on the racetrack. Riding the R15 with this system on a daily basis in the city is not really going to be comfortable for anyone’s ears. The company claims that they will soon be coming out with the Power Tip accessory for the exhaust that will help in suppressing the sound emission to a great extent with a negligible reduction in the performance. Apart from the loud nature of the exhaust, the price is going to be another negative aspect. At Rs 19,990, the exhaust is quite expensive but then, it’s the racing performance that we are talking about and every bit of it comes at a price – especially when it is from the masters who have been delivering amazing products for quite some time in the international market. The TBR exhaust for the R15 will also be available with csarbon or titanium canisters (Rs 27,500).

Full System
The kit will include the pipe as well as the canister along with all the nuts and bolts and accessories for fitment

Muffler Cap
The canister comes with a neatly crafted magnesium cap

Winter riding

This is the best touring season when a rider may not be able to resist the temptation of going on a long ride. BIKE India tells you how to brace yourself against the chill while riding in cold weather


If you are going on a long ride, arm yourself with multiple layers of warm clothes. This way you can deal well with varied temperatures across various places and at different times of the day. Most textile riding jackets come with a detachable inner layer. Use it during winters for added warmth. Inner thermals are a cheaper option to keep you warm inside the jacket.

In case you fall short of warm clothing, grab some sheets of a newspaper and tuck it into your jacket. It acts as an excellent heat insulator and keeps the cold away. Similarly, if you are carrying a back sack along, you may carry it in front of you as a shield. Do make sure the sack doesn’t hinder your control on the bike.

Most riders leave their neck portion uncovered and exposed to the elements hoping that the jacket collar and helmet will provide sufficient protection from the wind. Only after riding in cold weather do they realize that they were wrong. Remember that the main arteries supplying blood to the brain pass through your neck. With constant exposure to cold wind, you might start feeling dizzy pretty soon. Besides, it might stiffen your neck. It’s best to invest in a good quality balaclava. Top end products like the featured Alpinestars balaclava come with a waterproofing layer as well. You can also wrap a muffler to protect your neck.



The main idea is not to have any parts of your skin exposed. If you have a pair of long wrist gloves, you can tuck your jacket sleeves into it. On the other hand if you wear gloves with short wrist, cold air will enter right into your arms while riding. If the weather is extremely cold, it is also advisable to wear a pair of surgical gloves under the riding gloves.

A cup of hot tea or coffee can certainly help you warm up. They can be a good source of heat for your palms as well. However, they are not the best liquids to rehydrate your body as the diuretrics actually make you urinate more frequently and you end up losing water fast. On the other hand, you can count on hot soups as excellent energy sources as well as rehydration agents. Stay away from drinking any amount of alcohol.

Besides atmospheric fog, cold weather also results in fogging inside your helmet. This could be disastrous at night and equally disturbing during day rides. Usually you are left with no choice but to open up the visor a bit and let the chilly wind hit your face. An anti-fogging visor is the best solution here. If you cannot lay your hands on such a product, clean both the inside and outside of your existing visor with a mild soap solution such as Colin. Then spray some more of it on the inside of the visor and let it dry without wiping it off. The dried layer will help prevent fogging to an extent.

Fog is the worst nightmare of a rider in the winter. If you encounter mild fog, switch on your headlight with low beam. Use high beam and turn on the left indicator if the fog is thick. However, never use high beam during foggy nights as it will further reduce your visibility. Use low beam along with the indicator. Whether day or night, if the visibility level falls significantly, slow down to a speed that is comfortable for you to react in case of an eventuality. If you need to park your bike by the roadside, leave the indicator on so that other approaching vehicles can notice you.

Mist and fog can often moisten roads and consequently tyres.The probability of loss of traction increases during the wee hours of the morning. This becomes even more dangerous in snowy areas where skidding is common. Preferably go for a set of specialized tyres. Reduce your speed and avoid leaning at extreme angles. For riding on snow covered roads, find sections such as tracks of bigger vehicles on the road that offer better traction and go gentle on the throttle and brakes.


If the weather is really extreme, take frequent breaks to regain body heat. Temperatures slightly below normal can play havoc if you ride fast. A very important factor called the wind chill factor should never be ignored. As speeds ride, the apparent temperature or the wind chill factor felt on exposed skin due to the wind can surprisingly be very low. Even when the outside air temperatue is around 15 degrees, at 50km/h, the wind hitting your body feels very chilly. Learn to recognize symptoms of hypothermia. Feeling dizzy, seemingly funny mistakes in vehicle manoeuvre, etc. are primitive symptoms. If your shivering stops even when it’s cold outside you must take immediate action to warm yourself up. If you can find a warm place, take off your jacket so that your body can soak in some heat. If riding through a snowy area, make sure that your external clothing is waterproof. You must get rid of any wet cloth inside while riding in cold weather. While we suggest you wear enough warm clothes, you must enusure that the clothing doesn’t hinder your vehicle manoeuvring ability. Don’t forget to carry along high energy snacks including chocolates and rehydrating liquids such as Gatorade.