Motorcycle USA’s favorite Brit refused to be muffled… Yes folks, its time once again for Melling’s Best of 2011.
Sometimes, I wonder why I read Motorcycle USA so assiduously in December because every year the “Best of…” awards are the same. Best Street Bike, Best Manufacturer, Best Adventure Motorcycle. You know, all the boring stuff which you would expect from the motorcycle industry’s top bike journalists who spend every minute either on – and occasionally off – bikes and then sit like Supreme Court judges and deliberate sagaciously on the two-wheeled world.
Despite being MCUSA’s token fat, bald, old wrinkly – and therefore truly a member of an oppressed minority – I am expressly forbidden from making any contribution to the deliberations of the great and good at MCUSA Towers. Is this because I am ancient, tonsured, wizened and overweight? “No”, I’m informed, “it’s simply because you don’t know anything about motorcycles and you are very, very stupid compared with us deities.”
Still, I refuse to be silenced and, like the persistent chipmunk who will successfully raid your packet of carelessly hidden cookies during the night’s camping, I am here to present the motorcycling’s top accolades – the ones which riders, manufacturers and the industry really lust after. Roll of drums, please maestro for: “Melling’s Best of Everything Which Passed You By in the Biking World Awards.”
Best Reason to Watch TV:
Casey Stoner’s mastery of Grand Prix was unmatched, as the Australian kicked the crikey out of his 2011 MotoGP rivals.
Both regular readers of STM will know that I do not worship at the MotoGP shrine but there is absolutely no contest in this category. If you watch not one single second of TV, except for this clip of Casey Stoner, than your life will still be complete.
Shot at 1000 frames per second – that’s compared to 30 fps on your normal camera – Stoner’s utter mastery of the art of motorcycle racing becomes apparent. There has never been another rider, of any era, who could achieve on his very best day what the young Australian manages every time he sits on a motorcycle. Only the ultra-slow motion of MotoGP’s high tech cameras can capture the majesty and elegance of his riding which leaves the rest of us, who think we can ride a motorcycle competently, wondering if we should take up basket weaving or checkers and never go near a bike again.
Thanks to MotoGP for opening the door on a very special talent. Thanks Casey, for showing us a whole new world of motorcycling skill. We are not worthy to brush up the trails of torn Bridgestone tires which you leave all over the world.
Best New Technology:
Well, it is certainly not “Wet Weather” engine mapping on bikes with fly-by-wire technology. This must be the biggest waste of designer time since the wing flapping aircraft.
The alleged idea is to reduce the power available to the rider in slippery conditions. This replaces the old fashioned method of reducing power by closing the throttle.
The race-derived tire technology advancements from the likes of Bridgestone and others has led to safer, higher-performance options for everyday motorcycle riders.
The simple truth is that any rider who cannot manage the power produced by his or her motorcycle, or doesn’t know how to operate the throttle effectively, shouldn’t be riding it.
Perhaps there should be a new addition to the technology of the next generation of Superbikes – a flashing message which lights up every time it rains saying: “You are a knuckle dragging moron if you pin the throttle of this 200 hp Superbike in slippery conditions.”
The actual award for this section goes jointly to all the tire manufacturers. 2011 saw quantum leaps in the quality of tires and these have been the year’s single greatest contribution to bike safety.
Bridgestone have done a near miraculous job with their MotoGP tires, but this race-derived technology has filtered its way down to every sort of motorcyclist.
The Michelin Pilot touring tires, which I use on our V-Strom, give performance which would have been good for a Superbike track day tire ten years ago. And when I borrowed a 125cc Yamaha scooter a few months ago its tiny tires gave such grip that they could have been mistaken for full size motorcycle rubber.
Thanks to all the manufacturers for making our rides vastly safer and much more enjoyable.
World’s Best Noise:
Few things have inspired our Memorable MC columnist more than the throaty acoustics of the Gilera Four.
This was more closely fought than might be first imagined. Listening to the electronics fighting to control Michael Rutter’s ex-WSBK Ducati in the wet at Oulton Park was spectacular. Imagine poking a very large, and extremely angry, lion in the ear and then hearing its response, and you will be in the same aural area.
The wonderful, soul stirring note of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire brought tears to my eyes as the 12-cylinder Merlin engine echoed round the town center at this year’s Thundersprint. In every way, a fitting salute to all those heroes of the Second World War who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.
But the winner had to be the Gilera Four I rode at the Cholmondley Pageant of Power. Listen to the clip and imagine taking yourself back to true road racing – threading your way through trees, alongside stone walls and across railway tracks – at over 175 mph. The sonorous, wailing battle cry of the Gilera took me back to my childhood and the immortals who rode the legendary Arcore “Fire Engines”. I was too young to race in the Golden Age of Grands Prix but my heartfelt thanks to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum for at least letting me touch this time of wonder.
Following the straight and narrow
Frank doesn’t need mind-altering
drugs to get high. Just some race
gas and exhaust fumes!
Best Motorcycle Smell:
Personally, I simply cannot see the attraction of mood altering drugs. This may well be because, on a good day, I am only very loosely attached to reality – and that’s without the help of any narcotic substance. Therefore, the idea of getting even further away from Planet Earth holds no attraction whatsoever for me – or my long suffering wife, business partner, best friend and race team manager Carol.
But I could be tempted with one aroma – the veritable scent of ambrosia descended from Mount Olympus. I refer of course to the end of the G.50 exhaust. Here, the smell of partially burnt race fuel combines with baked castor oil to make a perfume so evocative that checking the chain tension becomes a ten minute task of love, involving inhaling deep lungs full of pure, unadulterated racing.
If only this could be put in an aerosol container, I would become as fond of underarm scents as is my lovely teenage daughter. Until then, I won’t.
Best Motorcycle Art:
You might think that our Matchless G.50 is the automatic winner of this category which, as the world’s most beautiful motorcycle, it always is.
Ducati has been getting lavish praise for its 1199 Panigale, but this is a shocker: Melling religates his beloved Matchless for the new Duc’s engine?
However, this year the G.50 has been pushed into an unfamiliar second place by the Panigale engine Ducati had on display at the Birmingham motorcycle show. Truly, if there were a channel showing high definition images of the Panigale motor than young men throughout America would be shifting their allegiance from scantily dressed young ladies, in gymnastic positions, to ogling the Panigale.
Not only is Ducati’s new engine a stunning engineering tour de force but, almost more importantly, it has such aesthetic beauty that it makes Micheangelo’s David look like an Elementary School Playdough model and Westminster Abbey a mere cattle shed awaiting its final touches.
You need nothing artistic in your house other than a cutaway Panigale engine – as I explained to Carol just before she phoned the Divorce Attorney.
Best New Discovery:
I have to declare a bias in judging this category. I love America and I like Americans. For sure I get frustrated with the ineptitude of American foreign policies, and I despair at the short sighted greed of the American ruling classes, but all these faults are subsumed by your wonderful nation’s scientific self- confidence. Funded entirely from the public purse, NASA has spent $500 million of taxpayer’s money to push the
Our man Melling gets cosmic for his best discovery of 2011: NASA searching for habitable riding planets in deep space!
boundaries of mankind’s knowledge and to ask the questions at the very heart of our humanity. In this respect, America leads the world.
No greater questions are being asked than those posed by NASA’s Kepler telescope currently seeking the “Goldilocks Planets” which could sustain life not dissimilar to our own.
The star Gliese 581 has just such a planet orbiting it. Gliese 581g seems to have the right temperature ranges and gravity conditions to support what we would understand as life. 581g is 118,000,000,000,000 miles away from us and so its light takes 20 years to reach us. I wonder if, 20 years ago, some Gliesean biker was looking forward to a great season’s riding – or was he despairing at what stupidity the mindless, Gliesean bureaucrats were going to heap on him under the pretext of Health and Safety legislation as asinine as it is vacuous.
Is sentient thought universal throughout the galaxies or will our differences divide us? Will you want a Gliesean as a riding buddy or will his/her/its shape, color and size separate us as our human tribes were so recently divided on our planet?
Thanks NASA, for taking us all out of our parochial, selfish little lives and demanding that we breathe in the oxygen of bigger thoughts.