Sunday, September 25, 2016
The other day I asked an old acquaintance, who's the Editor of an automobile magazine, about what he thought of a newly launched car and he said, "Oh, I had tweeted about it. Didn't you read my tweet?" No, of course I had not. I think twitter is utterly ridiculous. It's okay for birds to tweet. And for teenage girls, maybe. But for grown-up men? No. Just, no. I know I'm in the minority here but I still believe that saying things like 'I tweeted this' or 'I tweeted that' or 'did you read my tweet' is just plain silly. Our forefathers sailed across stormy seas, hacked across jungles, crossed mountains, fought wars and discovered new worlds. We did not evolve to peer into a telephone and 'tweet' our random thoughts to the world in 140-characters each.
I'm not against digital-age communication, really. As long as it's crisp and precise, business email is fine. And personal (but not work-related) chats on WhatsApp are alright too. Used sparingly, emoji can even be entertaining. But at least once in a while, a man should still try and have a proper face-to-face conversation with another man (ideally, one who doesn't have a twitter account, or if that is not possible, at least someone who is not too inclined to talk about their twitter account or even mention that they have one at all...), over a few glasses of whiskey. Some excellent subjects for such conversation could include 500cc two-stroke motorcycle grand prix racing, Group B rallycars, 1980s music, 1970s motorcycles and Irina Shayk. Anything about an Instagram account or a twitter post must remain forbidden.
No, I don't subscribe to neo-luddism and in fact quite love high-tech. I love tech in cars, bikes, computers and audio/video equipment and love how technology has made things like travel and shopping so much easier and better. It's just that I think that, for men at least, it sounds totally silly to go around telling the world that you tweet (wtf?!) and that people should follow you on twitter. We're not birds, right? So maybe we should stop tweeting and start talking again?
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Once every three years, I upgrade to a much faster, much more powerful PC and then proceed to do less with it
Back in the mid-1990s, when I set up a multimedia instruction and content development studio in Lucknow, I had two PCs. One was a Pentium 100 and the other was a Pentium 133. Specs? It's been 20 years, but from what I remember, there was 4MB of RAM, 128MB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, 14-inch LG colour monitor that used to run at 800 x 600 pixels screen resolution, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive (!) and... a mouse. Oh yes, there was also a 16-bit Creative Sound Blaster sound card, a tinny little pair of speakers and given that I used to work extensively with Adobe Premiere, even a video capture card that would take video from a TV cable or VCR. Yes, a VCR. Remember those, anyone? Internet connectivity came in the form of a 28.8k modem and dial-up connection. I could watch postage stamp-sized videos online on the days when I was patient enough, and could access my free Hotmail account. Free email! Yes!
And yet, despite the puny specs of both my Intel Pentium PCs, I used to get quite a bit done with the machines. With the Windows 95 operating system, I was able to run 3D Studio MAX for animation, Adobe Premiere 4.2 for video editing, Corel Draw 5 for illustration work, Adobe Photoshop 4 for image editing and a bunch of sound editing applications that I used with my very basic Casio synth. Yes, this was the world of desktop digital imaging, audio-video editing and 3D animation back then, and while everything was slow (rendering a 1-minute 24fps movie at 640 x 480 pixel resolution could take 10-12 hours), it was all damn good fun.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Wayne Rainey, in "maximum attack" mode, was a sight to behold. For many of his fans, the clock stopped forever on 5th September 1993, when Rainey crashed during the Italian GP at Misano. He lived, but never walked again.
Today, his Yamaha YZR500 looks sad, forlorn. As if it's still waiting for the day when medical science will finally have a cure for paralysis, and Rainey will walk - and ride - again. Someday, maybe...
Saturday, August 20, 2016
It's cars like the BMW 2002 Hommage that make BMW what it is - a German car manufacturer that makes sportscars like no other. Volkswagen is joyless, Mercedes-Benz (which I love very much by the way) is a better embodiment of grace, elegance and luxury and Audi does technology very well but often falls short when it comes to establishing that direct, emotional connect with the driver. BMW, on the other hand, does cars like the 2002 Hommage, which is just brilliant. Unveiled earlier this week at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, in the US, the 2002 Hommage has been built to "celebrate the birth of the turbocharged car," according to BMW. Back in 1973, the BMW 2002 turbo was the first series-produced car in Europe to feature a turbocharged engine. "The BMW 2002 Hommage celebrates the extraordinary feats of engineering on which BMW turbo technology is based and re-interprets them in the form of a design study. With its iconic orange/black paintwork, the car has a colour scheme and livery synonymous in the minds of many motor sport fans with the triumphs of the 1970s," says Karim Habib, Head of Design, BMW Automobiles.
No tech details have been provided by BMW and for now, the 2002 Hommage is just a design study. I hope they build a limited number of these cars as a production model though. It just deserves to be built. It's glorious. I love it!
The stark realities of life dictate that I'll probably be driving Marutis and Hyundais for the foreseeable future, and perhaps even for all my life. In an alternate universe however, one that's free of all financial constraint, one of the cars I'd have in my garage is definitely the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Volante. Unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in the US today, the Zagato Volante is a limited edition machine (just 99 units will be produced) and is powered by a glorious 592bhp V12, which pushes the car from zero to 100kph in 3.7 seconds. Its interiors are embellished with wondrous things like herringbone carbonfibre (don't know what it is, but sounds good anyway...), anodized bronze detailing and the finest Weir leather, with ‘Z’ quilt pattern stitch on both seat and door sections, as well as the trademark Zagato ‘Z’ embossed on the headrests and stitched into the centre console. Yes, I want one... :-)
Saturday, August 6, 2016
"I've been here before,
But always hit the floor.
I've spent a lifetime running,
And I always get away.
But with you I'm feeling something,
That makes me want to stay..."
-Sam Smith (Spectre)
I started my writing
However, with time came additional financial responsibility and the need for a few more pennies in the bank, which led to an extended stint in PR / Corporate Communication, and a few years spent working for India's only F1 racing circuit and then, for the biggest German car manufacturer in the world.
The money was not too bad I suppose, but things were a bit dull and the boredom was deathly, hence a 6-month sabbatical and then, very recently, a return to automotive journalism - this time, with the Delhi-based Auto Tech Review.
I'm happy to be back, no question, but I have to admit that the world of journalism - and more specifically automotive journalism - seems to be completely different from what it used to be 10 years ago. Just yesterday, I attended a media event hosted by a major Indian-owned, Europe-based car manufacturer and to my dismay, found out that I barely knew one or two people from among the two or three dozen who were present there. Where was everyone whom I used to know?! (Answer: They're now all 'senior' editors who only attend 'important' events and/or events that are hosted in exotic, faraway lands...)
Friday, May 27, 2016
With close to 200bhp from its slick, free-revving inline-four, the Suzuki Hayabusa is capable of intense acceleration and a near-300kph top speed. I love this bike!
"I was dreamin' when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast
But life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last.
War is all around us, my mind says prepare to fight
So if I gotta die I'm gonna listen to my body tonight.
Yeah hey, they say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time,
So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine."
With a top speed of about 300kph, the Suzuki Hayabusa can keep up with just about anything on two wheels. At least in a straight line. And that's nothing short of amazing, because the Hayabusa, which was launched back in 1999, is now all of seventeen years old. To give you some perspective on how old that really is, 1999 was when the Euro was first introduced, Keanu Reeves starred in the first Matrix movie, the Khmer Rouge was officially disbanded in Cambodia, movie DVDs were still a novelty and listening to music meant buying a CD rather than downloading an MP3. Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp hadn't been invented yet, and people actually used to have face-to-face conversations rather than WhatsApp chats, can you believe that?
The world of fast motorcycles, too, was very different back then. Yes, ABS was available, but traction control and the dozens of other electronic-nanny bits that are common today simply did not exist at that time. You bought very powerful, very fast motorcycles only if you were an expert, experienced rider. Then, you opened the throttle and hung on for dear life. Pre-1999, Kawasaki had the mega-fast ZX-11 Ninja and Honda had the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird - both were capable of doing about 260-270kph. And then the Hayabusa came along and asked everyone to fork off. The first-generation 'Busa's 1300cc inline-four pumped out 175bhp, pushing the bike from zero to 100kph in well less than three seconds and on to a top speed of 312kph. Well, it was the 1990s after all. Sharon Stone was doing a full-frontal Basic Instinct, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were going at it in the White House, and Meat Loaf would do anything for love (though he wouldn't do "that"...), so why the hell not a motorcycle (without ABS, remember) that could do 312kph on the street? Screw the safety Nazis and just ride. The dotcom boom and the subsequent bust still hadn't happened, and life was still a party. Sex,
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Unveiled at the EICMA in Italy last year, the new Z1000's aggressively evil styling and 142-horsepower inline-four make for endless two-wheeled entertainment. Burnouts? Power-wheelies? Stoplight drag races? Yes, let the madness begin...
That the new Z1000 is a rocking, rollicking ride should hardly come as a surprise to anyone. Of all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, Kawasaki have the most significant heritage of producing over-the-top supernakeds. The story started with the early-1970s Z1, which could hit a top speed of more than 200kph back then because of its 80-horsepower 900cc inline-four. This machine, the most powerful Japanese-built motorcycle of its time, was replaced by the Z900 at about the same time when John Travolta was rocking the world with his Tony Manero dance moves in Saturday Night Fever. And at the time when Rocky Balboa was taking on Apollo Creed in Rocky II, Kawasaki were ready with the totally outrageous, Honda CBX-rivalling, six-cylinder Z1300 that pumped out 120 horsepower, even if it did weigh close to 300 kilos.
The point I'm trying to make here is that Kawasaki have never been ones to shy away from building madly powerful naked motorcycles. No fairings or fancy electronics - just a really big, revvy engine, competent chassis and suspension, real-world-relevant ergonomics and mind-blowing performance. This formula, which Kawasaki adopted so successfully in the 1970s, continues with the current Z1000 that I rode, and loved to bits.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The 200bhp Kawasaki ZX-14R Ninja. Pure awesomeness. I love this bike so very, very much. Have to buy one someday...
With the ZX-14R Ninja, Kawasaki have managed to pull a fast one over the motorcycling populace in general. The Japanese company has managed to convince everyone that this motorcycle is powered by a conventional four-cylinder 1400cc internal-combustion engine. But that’s not really true. Neatly tucked away beneath the big Ninja 14R’s muscular bodywork is the world’s most compact Nuclear reactor, a fearsome, weapons-grade set-up that actually uses Nuclear fission to power the bike. After all, why make do with petrol when you can use the rather more potent Uranium-235? Take that, Hayabusa!
Of course, the ZX-14R certainly isn’t the first Nuclear-strength motorcycle that Kawasaki have made. In fact, my obsession with mad, bad Kwackers started almost a quarter of a century ago, with the March 1990 issue of Cycle magazine, where they wrote about the Kawasaki ZX-11. I was 17 back then, and the fastest, most powerful motorcycle I'd ever ridden up until then was the 32bhp Rajdoot Yamaha RD350. So, Cycle's story on the 125-horsepower ZX-11 blew my brains out. “This machine is the speed freak's midnight fantasy, a ride on the blast wave of an endless explosion,” they said about the ZX-11, which could do the quarter-mile in less than 11 seconds and hit a top speed of 280kph. From that day on, all I ever wanted to do was ride a ZX-11. After all, what superbike fanatic wouldn’t want to ride the blast wave of an endless explosion…?
As the years rolled by, I went on to work with various car and motorcycle magazines, and even snagged a furtive, all-too-brief ride on the 170bhp ZX-12R, the ZX-11’s successor. But for 25 (okay, 24…) years, there was never an opportunity to ride a big, fast Kawasaki without any restrictions whatsoever. I still wanted to ride a 200-horsepower Kawasaki, on which I could wrench open the throttle fully in each gear and, hopefully, hit 300kph on some isolated highway. The schoolboy fantasy remained unrequited until last month, when everything changed.
The other day I asked an old acquaintance, who's the Editor of an automobile magazine, about what he thought of a newly launched car ...
Once every three years, I upgrade to a much faster, much more powerful PC and then proceed to do less with it Back in the mid-1990s, whe...
Before the Kawasaki Ninja 250 came along, the 1980s Jawa/Yezdi 350 and the Rajdoot Yamaha RD350, and the 2005 Hyosung Comet GT250 were t...
Friend and ex-colleague, Bunny Punia pulled a stoppie on the Pulsar, while I thought about my college days, when Fury 175s used to out-acc...
The 200bhp Kawasaki ZX-14R Ninja. Pure awesomeness. I love this bike so very, very much. Have to buy one someday... With the ZX-14R Nin...
Wayne Rainey, in "maximum attack" mode, was a sight to behold. For many of his fans, the clock stopped forever on 5th September 1...