The Rise of the 600

•January 6, 2007 • 1 Comment

 When it comes to sportbikes, the 600cc is one of the best selling sizes of sportbikes in Canada and the world. The Canadian motorcycle market is dominated by them. Every 600 sportbike on the market today draws its heritage from a much bigger motorcycle, that when introduced, took motorcycle development in a much needed new direction.

In 1980 a team of engineers at Kawasaki set to work developing a motor with the lofty (at that time) goal of 120 bhp. The first motor they built was a behemoth air cooled inline six cylinder beast that could easily punch out the necessary 120 bhp. While this motor could produce close to the required 120bhp, the huge size of it would have made any bike handle like a tank. This massive piece of metal was dropped in favour of an inline four, 16 valve air cooled motor. Unfortunately as the design team were closing in on the 120bhp mark, this new motor had problems with overheating.  While water cooled engines are commonplace on today’s motorcycles, in the early 80’s this was a somewhat radical step, but it was the obvious solution.

After four years of development the motorcycle world was finally introduced to the1984 Kawasaki GPZ 900R. Powered by the revolutionary water cooled 16 valve engine, the bike was basically a 900 cc engine stuffed into a 750 frame. The GPZ 900R had the weight and handling of a 750 with all the power of an 1100 and boasted a top speed over 240 km/hr with a quarter mile time of just over 10 seconds.

 The 900R paved the way for the perimeter framed Ninja 600. “At the time of the Ninja 600 introduction, I remember questioning the thinking behind a 600.” Motorcycle salesman Jim Holmes ponders, “The question running through Jim’s mind at the time, “Why would anyone buy a 600 when they could have a 750?’ “Shows you how much my teenage hormone ravaged mind knew way back then.” Jim says with a smile.

At the time of their first introduction 600cc bikes got a bit lower insurance rate compared to a 750. Today,  generally speaking, we are unable to make that claim, due to skyrocketing insurance rates on not only sportbikes, but all bikes, no matter what their size. 
 

Even though the Ninja 600 was the beginning of the end for Japanese 750 Superbikes and 750 superbike racing, Suzuki has had continued success and good sales with the GSX R 750. Motorcyclist magazine named the GSX R 750 the best all-around sportbike on the market last year and it is one of the best selling bikes in England. Sadly it may be a dying breed. Today’s 600’s have excellent performance and handling and in the right hands a 600 will give GSX R 750 a run for its money.
                                                                                      
New rules for next years Moto GP racing limiting the size of the race bikes to 800cc’s may give the 750 a stay of execution or it may speed up the dying process, time will tell. I have often thought it may be possible to have a sanctioned class of racing similar to the Suzuki SV cup but with the GSX R 750. Although it may just be something to appease the dinosaurs like myself out there who are longing for the long ago days of 750 superbike racing.

Maybe someday.
                                            

          

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Riding With Lily

•November 26, 2006 • 4 Comments

300×200-lilywithumbrella.jpgWhen two year old Lily Goddard started showing signs of a viral infection her parents, Laurence and Krista were not overly alarmed. Lily was a rambunctious kid who loved the outdoors; the flu bug would not be uncommon in a kid Lily’s age. 306977782_84f8aa3b1a_m.jpgAfter several days with no signs of weakening in the flu-like symptoms, they became concerned. A visit to the hospital turned concern into horror when it was learned that Lily was fighting a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

With few options available to someone so young, Lily was forced to undergo the same treatments someone much older would have to endure. Through it all Lily was the strongest of all of us.” Laurence explains, “It was truly the very last day before she made any mention of pain.”

On November 1, 2004, after a four and a half month fight, Lily could fight no more, with her family at her side; Lily left this earthly plain and headed on to the next. Before she died, Laurence and Krista made a promise to their daughter; they would take up the fight she had started. “We told her it was okay to stop fighting,” Krista says quietly, “This is our fight now.”
Motorcyclist James Scott; Lily’s Uncle Jimmy and a close family friend, did not want her death to be in vain. Being a father to two young boys himself, James felt the loss on a very personal level. “With Lily’s spirit and attitude, I honestly believed she would pull through.” James explains, “When she died it was devastating, I wanted to do something to honour her and keep her spirit alive.”

Knowing the generosity of the motorcycling community, James decided he would start the Ride for Lily with the mandate to raise funds and increase awareness for brain tumor research. On July 23/05 James, pushed the start button on his motorcycle and accompanied by Krista and Laurence driving a support vehicle, they began the first ever Ride for Lily.

Departing from Cambridge they headed west to Vancouver, then back to the Brain Tumour Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal before heading home to Cambridge. Along their route stops were made at cancer treatment and counselling centres to meet with those affected by this terrible disease. Handmade quilts made by Krista and the Goddard’s many family and friends were left with cancer patients to give them hope and inspiration. To date $110 586 has been raised with 100% of the money going directly to the research for a cure.

Riding on the wave of success from the 05 ride, the 2006 Ride for Lily set its sights on the east coast, touring Quebec and the Maritime Provinces with the same hopes and expectations. Accompanying James on his Harley Night Train were Pat Bellamy on a Suzuki Bandit and the author on a Honda Super Blackbird. A supporter since the first Ride for Lily, Royal Distributing stepped up again this year and donated the use of a Hummer H2 and trailer for a support vehicle piloted by Krista and co-pilot (and navigator) Laurence Goddard. 306918499_a622aec746_m.jpgThe trailer and Hummer were both filled with handmade quilts, Goals for Lily bracelets, ride T-shirts and the necessary provisions to ensure a safe trip for motorcycle and Hummer alike.

Along the route the true scope of this terrible disease became obvious; an evening walk along the streets of Sydney, Nova Scotia, and a request for directions became a conversation with a couple who had lost a family member. 306918497_d1b04f9fe6_m.jpgWhile fuelling at Miramichi, New Brunswick, a man approached the Hummer and gave a $5.00 donation; he was on his way to see his wife who was in the hospital fighting her own battle with cancer. Krista gave this selfless gentleman one of the many quilts for his wife to know she was not alone in her fight with the disease.

After learning of the Ride for Lily, Rodney Steeves made plans to meet us on his motorcycle to share his favourite roads and the sights in 307011030_fc3827f31f_m.jpghis home province of New Brunswick. Rodney’s own life was touched by the disease when his son was stricken with a brain tumour. Although his son has won the fight, the battle continues as he struggles with the side effects; difficulty walking, speaking, and seeing.

An invitation to the Superbike races at Schubanecadie brought visits from race fans to the Ride for Lily display and many more stories of family and friends affected by brain tumours. A youngster offered up his $4.00 allowance for a donation after his father explained what a tumour was and how serious the need for a cure is. With a bracelet and patch in hand, he walked away with smile of satisfaction.

In the Maritimes hospitals and treatment centres are few and far between with many visits requiring several hours drive to 306994998_f292892d40_m.jpgHalifax or Sydney, 306995000_dbcb50b5cd_m.jpgNova Scotia. Fortunately petroleum producer Irving Oil has their Fuel the Care program to help families cover the cost of travel to visit their children in hospitals throughout the Maritime Provinces.

On the return trip, a stop at the Brain Tumour Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal brought smiles and greetings from doctors and staff including renowned Neurosurgeon Dr Rolando Del Maestro. A tour of the facility allowed us to speak with researchers and actually learn of the progress and developments that are in the works thanks to the money raised.

An Inuit proverb states “Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” With the 2006 Ride for Lily completed, Krista and Laurence have kept their promise and with the support of ride organizer James Scott will continue to strive for the cure as Lily looks down upon them and guides them in their quest. “Lily was put here for a reason,” Krista says, “I refuse to let her be forgotten.”
(For more information go to http://www.goalsforlily.com and http://www.irvingoil.com )

Author’s note: This story was originally published in Motorcycle Mojo Magazine. I had the very great pleasure and honour to accompany the  Goddards and James Scott on their quest to the east coast of Canada. There can be no greater tragedy than the loss of a child. Their dedication and strength will ensure Lily’s spirit will continue to endure. 

Stand By, We Are Coming

•November 26, 2006 • 1 Comment

Hello all.

 My hope is to share the adventures (and misadventures) of the Canadian motorcycle experience. Stand by, we are under construction. The road is winding out ahead of us.