Wednesday 13 April 2011

Glory Without Power: RG500 on the Dyno

This article about a friend's motorcycle was published in Classic Bike, a UK magazine. Photo is sadly not by Dan Peut, it's by my wife. But she's nice too.


So I went to the Laverda club's Story Bridge Concours in Brisbane on the weekend. My mate Bish was there with his RG500.

There's a portable dyno there, $20 per run. Bish decided he'd give the Gamma a blast. He proclaims confidently that it'll make "over 80" and runs off to join the queue. While we’re waiting, a new naked Kwaka thing turns 180hp at 175,000,000rpm, an old XJ1100 makes a pannier-assisted 82hp, a ridiculous Harley chopper makes 90...

I'm not up on what power weird old stinkwheels should make, but I figure that something that runs on aviation fuel, takes 45 minutes to warm up and sounds like an outboard motor being cut in half by a chainsaw should make at least as much as some modern plastic appliance or an amphetamine tractor. I guess that his 80hp figure is the kind of modest understatement I'd make before putting a motor to the test.

The run was epic... A big crowd has gathered, maybe 50 or 60 people.

There's all this whispering:

"What the hell is that.??"

"Oh man, that's an RG500, they're nuts, Sheene rode one, they won every GP ever..."

So he wheels it up on to the rollers. There's a long pause where Bish is talking to the dyno guy and pointing at the bike... Lots of gesticulating. Suspense builds. Finally, the dyno guy is clearly saying "You can run it." Turns out he was worried it would grenade...

Bish kick-starts the damn thing, balanced up on the little rolling-road trailer. This looks hard-as-nails. He then spends at least 2 minutes blipping the throttle and adjusting things. The crowd is at fever pitch and growing by the second.

Finally, he runs it up in to 4th. The dyno guy had a really smooth way with this for the other bikes, but Bish is smashing it through the gears, the front wheel is bouncing against the stopper at the front of the dyno, looking like it's about to take off over the crowd. Several women faint. Babies in the next suburb are crying.

So eventually it's rolling along in the right gear. Dyno guy checks the laptop, gives the nod and Bish winds it on.

Bish's dad turns to me with a wink and says "This'll be interesting" in a way that you know he means "It's about to rain piston skirts.."

As I knew it would, it sounds like fiery death by a thousand line-trimmers, there are HUGE clouds of blue smoke, it smells like the Caltex refinery. There are at least 15,000 people watching now. Kids are filming it on phones. The ground is vibrating under my boots and my fillings hurt.
After a brain-shattering eternity passes, it winds down and the tent, the dyno, Bish and the bike appear through the fog.

The dyno operator checks the laptop, checks it again.
58.2hp. Which I guess is plenty, unless you had a crowd of adoring fans hoping it’d melt the rollers.

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