Senin, 16 Juni 2008

A Great Motorcycle Ride in Mexico: Queretaro

A beautiful ride across cities and places named World Heritage by the Unesco, through an splendid protected natural area and ending in a surrealistic garden by artist Sir Edward James. Just keep reading... The ride starts in Queretaro City at 5,970 ft above sea level.

Queretaro is a colonial city founded more than 500 years ago and named World Heritage by the Unesco in 1996 . It's located in the center of the country two hours North Mexico City. Nowadays it has become one of the most dynamic cities in Mexico due to the surrounding industrial parks where many international companies are located.

The first stop is just 45 minutes away: "La Peña de Bernal" (The "Rock of Bernal"). We are talking about the third biggest rock in the world and the highest in Mexico. At its feet a quaint little town were you can stop for a soda, lunch or spend the night. You can also find nice little souvenirs. Whatever you decide to do, this place is a must.

If you like rock climbing, you are in the right place too!

The road to Bernal doesn't present any major challenge, most of the road is straight with just a few extended curves... but just after passing Bernal it starts to get fun!

Surrounded by an arid landscape due the high content of lime in the soil, you start with a very interesting section of twisties, one after another, up and down, a technical road between the mountains for about 30 miles. The landscape changes a bit as you advance and a few miles later you are in the middle of a semidesert.

After this twisty section you then continue on a straight part of the road. A few more miles down the route and you find a military checkpoint... Don't worry about it, they are normally courteous people just looking for arm and drug smugglers.

After the control point the curves and the fun start again. As you get to "Peña Blanca" ("White Rock" in English) - by the way if you need gas, this is the place to stop and fill it up - you start climbing the mountains twist after twist.

I love this part: most of the ride you can clearly see three or four turns in front of you, and as it is a low traffic road, you can enjoy yourself taking the best lines (always keeping it in the safe side if you know what I mean!).

After climbing for a while you notice how things start to change and suddenly what were rocks, sand and cactus are now pine trees. It's beautiful.. You feel the change of temperature and then you reach "La Puerta del Cielo" (The Door of Heavens") the highest point in this ride.

We are now at about 9200 feet above sea level... The turns continue but now you are going downhill. Remember to adjust your riding to that fact. Unfortunately I have seen more than one forgetting about it that and paying the consequences.

As you start descending you ride through a small town called Pinal the Amoles... descend, turn turn, descend turn turn, descend turn turn... I love it! About 10 miles after Pinal de Amoles, the weather starts to change again and gets warmer. The vegetation also suffers a sudden transformation.

You keep devouring the road and you cannot help but getting marveled of the landscape around you... Just remember to keep your eyes on the road! Turn, turn... You are in the middle of the Sierra Gorda protected area and home of multiple plants and animals.

You continue descending till you reach Jalpan de Serra the most important town in the Sierra Gorda and place where Father Junipero Serra built one of his most important missions in the area before heading north to build the Missions in California. These missions were also named World Heritage by the Unesco in 2003.

In Jalpan you can find a couple of simple but nice hotels and some restaurants. Another possibility to spend the night is to ride a few more miles west to a place called Conca where you 'll find a hotel with Spa to relax from the day's ride and get ready for the rest of the trip.

After Jalpan our next stop and final destination is Xilitla, so you head north-east till you reach the state of San Luis Potosi.

A few miles after crossing the state limits in the middle of the mountains, at about 3,300 ft asl, in a rain forest of incredible vegetation you get to Xilitla.

This town was chosen by Sir Edward James, a surrealistic British artist - also noble and rich -, to spend the rest of his life. It is in this place he built a huge garden, a private zoo and a meditation place in the middle of the jungle. Its very difficult to describe it with words... Maybe the photos in this site can help:

In Xilitla you can stay in the Castillo "The Castle" the house of former Sir Edward James' right hand and friend: Plutarco Gastelum. This exclusive Bed and Breakfast is unique in its kind and you can see, feel and breath the influence of the artist everywhere.

Another possibility to spend the night is to ride a bit more to the north and stay in Ciudad Valles an important city of San Luis Potosi state where you will find all kind of hotels and restaurants, night life etc.

My recommendation... stay at the Castillo, forget about your ride and enjoy for a whole day this Mexican Shangri La.

After spending the whole day in Xilitla prepare for a long ride back to Queretaro. For this one I like to leave early in the morning and keep, if possible, a fast pace. Turn, turn...

We are talking about many miles and literally hundreds of twisties... Once my wife counted them... She stopped when she was at the 500th and we hadn't arrived back to Queretaro City yet!

It's so fun that the time flies and suddenly you realize it's all over and you would like to turn around and do it again...

You know the feeling right?

Another possibility from Xilitla is to head to the famous Huasteca Potosina a zone of exuberant rivers, waterfalls and springs... But that area deserves a whole article by itself. I will be writing it in the future.

If you liked the trip I described and want more information about great motorcycle rides in Mexico and/or to contact me for any other issue please visit my site at

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy

Honda Super Cub and 50cc Honda Cub - The Volkswagen Beetle of Motorcycles!

A very clever design: the Honda Super Cub was the combination of a moped and a scooter. It attracted many people due to its friendly and non intimidating look. People who before had felt threatened by bigger motorcycles, approached and adopted this model very quickly.

It was a versatile motorcycle and had enough power to carry two passengers or a passenger with luggage. Its large diameter tires and wide seats made the ride almost as comfortable as the touring bikes from that time.

>> Honda 50cc Cub and Super Cub FACTS

- In 1952 Honda built 7000 units of this bike which represented the 70% of the entire production of Japanese motorcycles for that year.

- Thanks to this model Honda Motorcycles were absolute market leaders during 1953 and 1954.

It's worth mentioning that those were very competitive days. There were many manufacturers competing for a very fast growing and demanding market.

- The Honda Super Cub was the equivalent of the Ford T or the Volkswagen Beetle for automobiles. As of 1992 Honda Motorcycles had built 20 million of these machines.

- The Honda 50cc Super Cub was exported to 120 countries.

As the Volkswagen Beetle, the Honda Super Cub didn't change much through time. Just take a look at the technical data below:

1959 Honda Super Cub Specifications

-> Four stroke horizontal engine.
-> 49 cc of displacement
-> Three speed semi-automatic gearbox.
-> U-shaped frame in stamped steel.
-> Weight: 155 lbs. (70 kg.)
-> Speed: 35 mph (57 kph)

1992 Honda Super Cub Specifications

-> Four stroke horizontal engine.
-> 49 cc of displacement
-> Three speed semi-automatic gearbox.
-> U-shaped frame in stamped steel.
-> *Weight: 122 lbs. (55 kg.)
-> *Speed: 50 mph (80 kph)

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy

Motorcycle Parts - OEM or Aftermarket ?

This is always a difficult one to answer when shopping for motorcycle parts and I firmly believe that each one of us must decide what's best for our bikes AFTER carefully evaluating each of the possibilities.

For me?

Well... it really depends on what I am looking for - just replacement or improvement - , the availability of the part, my budget and other things. Sometimes I buy OEM, others aftermarket motorcycle parts.

Keep reading. You will find some views that will hopefully help you decide the next time you shop for motorcycle parts.

What a heck are OEM parts??

OEM parts stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer parts which not necessarily mean the OM (Original Manufacturer) actually produced them. You know, many motorcycle and automobile manufacturers don't manufacture each of the parts used in their vehicles. They frequently have the parts designed and manufactured by outside independent companies and then, install them in their machines or put them in their own boxes to be sold as OEM parts!

Good to know when buying OEM Motorcycle Parts:

When you buy OEM Motorcycle Parts you are buying the exact same original part the manufacturer used to build your motorcycle, that means:

>> Same performance as the part installed in your motorcycle right now. The part won't be better nor worse than the original part you want to replace.

>> Normally OEM parts a more (in some cases MUCH more) expensive than aftermarket parts.

>> Motorcycle and car agencies clerks will normally tell you OEM Parts are higher quality and the best option for replacements. Is this true? Well sometimes it is, sometimes it's not.

>> Normally after a certain period of time, the manufacturer will allow the company that originally designed/produced the part to sell it in their own box at a considerably lower cost, making it: an Aftermarket OEM part! :-)

>> BE CAREFUL if your bike is still in its guarantee period make sure you use only OEM parts and have them installed by authorized mechanics. If you don't do so, you will probably void the guarantee.

What about Aftermarket parts??

Aftermarket parts should perform as well as OEM parts but are produced by companies other than the original manufacturer(s).

Things to know when buying Aftermarket Motorcycle Parts:

>> MAKE SURE YOUR GUARANTEE PERIOD IS OVER. In many cases, you can VOID your guarantee if you have an aftermarket part installed by an unauthorized mechanic in your machine. I know I said it before, but it's worth repeating; I happened to me! :-(

>> Equivalent aftermarket Suzuki motorcycle parts are normally cheaper than OEM parts. Sometimes up to 70% cheaper!

>> Aftermarket parts can have lower,the same or higher quality than the original.

>> When buying aftermarket parts make sure you are getting AT LEAST the same quality as the OEM part. If possible try to get some reviews about brands and performance. You can do it in the Internet, with your favorite mechanic or with fellow riders.

>> If you are looking for high performance parts and devices, you know the kind: carbon fiber, titanium, aerospace aluminum parts and gizmos, well you will probably find them as aftermarket motorcycle parts.

OEM or aftermarket motorcycle parts, sooner or later you will be shopping for them...

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy

Kawasaki Motorcycles - Independent in Thoughts and Actions

The story of Kawasaki Company goes back to 1924, at that time involved into metallurgy and the aircraft industry.

In 1949, they decided to enter the motorcycle industry producing engines that could be adapted to motorcycles.


In their line you could find a 60 cc two-stroke, as well as a 150cc and a 250cc four-stroke engines developed with technology from BMW; company whom with they had had relationships since their beginnings in the aeronautical industry.

It wasn't until 1954 that Kawasaki Motorcycles produced their first complete motorcycle under the name of Meihatsu (a subsidiary of Kawasaki Aircraft Co.).

Almost at the same time, they also tried to introduce their own line of scooters to the market, but they soon realized they couldn't compete against the two giants of the scooters industry for those days: the Fuji Rabbit and the Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon.

And now before continuing with Kawasaki Motorcycles history, I have to open a big parenthesis?


We cannot talk about Kawasaki without mentioning another make that will definitely help Kawasaki become as well as Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha one of the big players in the Japanese Motorcycles scene:

--> Meguro Motorcycles: better know in that time as the "senior make and the king of four strokes".

Meguro entered the motorcycle industry in 1937. Having a good relationship with the government, the people at Meguro took advantage of the army orders.

Their first motorcycle was the Z97: a 500cc rocker-valve motorcycle influenced by the Swiss Motosacoche. It's worth mentioning this model was a success for the factory and the Z97 was in production till the fifties.

Along the years, Meguro produced some very nice 250cc and 350cc rocker-valve, single cylinder models as well as high performance twins. All of them with a very strong British influence. Then and thanks to the commercial success they were living, they also launched a rocker-valve 125 cc for their low end range and a twin cylinder 650cc to accompany the already existing 500cc.

But it was in 1958, when Meguro tried to get rid of their British influence, when things started to go wrong...

Based on a winning prototype of Mount Asama (one of the biggest races that time), Meguro Motorcycles produced three nice and elegant machines with overhead camshaft: the 125cc E3, the 250cc F and the 350cc Y A. Unfortunately these bikes turned out to be too heavy and didn't get the buyers' attention. Meguro will soon return to rocker valve models.

Meguro Motorcycles remained as one of the top 10 manufacturers till 1960, but due to some bad decisions, as the ones mentioned above, the company started to decline and was soon bought by Kawasaki.

In 1960 Meguro signed an initial agreement with Kawasaki Motorcycles, and in 1962 they had completely disappeared.

?.And this brings us back to Kawasaki Motorcycles...

In 1960, the company decides to give a serious push to the motorcycle division of Kawasaki Aircrafts:

They take out of the market the Meihatsu brand, they build their own plant of low end and low powered machines and buy Meguro.

These brilliant moves and decisions made Kawasaki Motorcycles have one of the widest range of models in the market. Kawasaki Motorcycles could offer at that time (1960's) from a 50cc moped-scooter to a powerful, high end and beautiful 650 cc twin cylinder motorcycle.

Its also important to mention that due to their very own nature, Kawasaki Motorcycles has always played the role of Maverick in the industry and that a feeling of independence from their main competitors has always been present.

Since then, many stories have been written, many models have been produced and many races have been won on Kawasaki Motorcycles, the truth is...

Nowadays Kawasaki Motorcycles is one of the major players in the industry and following their tradition, they nowadays offer a wide range of products for all kind needs and likes.

You can also take a look at Kawasaki 2005 line-up . Check this page:

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy

Yamaha Motorcycles - Creativity and Spirit of Challenge

"If you are going to do something, be the best"
Ginichi Kawakami, Yamaha Motor Company First President.

Yamaha Motorcycles, under this motto, employing all its creativity, and with a very strong spirit of challenge, became what it is now: one of the biggest players in the worldwide motorcycling scene.

But Yamaha's history doesn't start with motorcycles...

It is back in 1877 that Torakusu Yamaha started with the Nippon Gakki Company that later would become Yamaha Corporation: an important manufacturer of fine musical instruments.

As the company grew, they explored several fields of opportunity in the textile industry and others.

During the World War II, the company set up a factory to produce airplane propellers. This plant played an important role in Yamaha's entry to the motorcycle industry as you will see.

After the war, Yamaha Corporation had to find new ways to use the tooling and experience that had been accumulated during their times in the airplane industry, and it was then when Yamaha Motor Corporation was founded.

It's important to mention that even though this new company was just another branch of Yamaha Corporation, it was placed under an independent management. In this case, under the guidance of Ginichi Kawakami; which turned out to be a brilliant move.

Before producing their first motorcycle, Ginichi Kawakami traveled a lot establishing what would be very useful relationships. He also sent out his engineers to Europe and had them learn how to build motorcycles, particularly from DKW; whom with they kept an underground and unofficial long lasting relationship.

One proof of this is that nowadays, the only two manufacturers in the world of mass-produced five side-valve engines are Yamaha an Audi (DKW - Auto Union).

One of the most important legacies from this international relationships were all the skills learnt by Yamaha's engineers on two stroke engines know-how. Other manufacturers as Suzuki would not reach the same level of development in this area till seven years later.

Not to wonder why the first bike from Yamaha Motorcycles the 125 YA-1 was fairly a faithful copy of the 1949 DKW RT 12. The only two important differences were the four speed gearbox instead of the original three speed gearbox, and a gear transmission replacing the primary chain drive.


>>> Yamaha YA-1

Even though the Yamaha YA-1 - baptized "Acatombo" (Red dragonfly) by its fans - had "nothing in special" and was more expensive than its competitors, it almost immediately became a great success.

It was reliable: before putting it into the market, the prototypes were tested along 10,000 miles of rough rides . Even the big boss himself, Ginichi Kawakami, rode the bike without any incident from Hamamatsu to Tokyo.

It was beautiful: with this model Yamaha was the first manufacturer to put special attention to the decoration of the motorcycle. This task was given to GK Design in Tokyo. It's worth mentioning that this firm has designed the "look" of most Yamaha motorcycles to date.

It was fast: the YA-1 obtained excellent overall results in the most important local races of that time: Mount Fuji (third place) and Mount Asama (first place).

In fact it was this aggressive attitude in the sporting world that helped Yamaha Motorcycles gain fast acceptance even though they made a late start in the motorcycle scene (in comparison to Honda and Suzuki).

In other words: Yamaha Motorcycles showed the world they had arrived to be considered good and fierce competitors from the beginning. Particularly to Honda and Suzuki.

Other important models from that time were:

>>> The Yamaha YD-1 (the competition for the Suzuki TP of that time)

Some technical specifications:

Yamaha YD-1

15 hp 70 mph. 185,000 yen

in comparison to:

Suzuki TP

18 hp 80 mph. 195,000 yen

>>> The Yamaha YDS-1

The dream bike of all young Japanese between 1959-1960.

Some technical specifications:

20 hp 333 lbs. 85 mph.

Direct rival of the Honda CB72

Since then, the history of models and victories goes on and on...

Today, Yamaha Motorcycles is one of the major players in the worldwide motorcycling scene.

Just to give you an idea of how important Yamaha Motorcycles have become:

- The 2004 Moto GP was won by excellent rider Valentino Rossi on a Yamaha motorcycle.

I could go an and on writing about Yamaha Motorcycles, victories, challenges and models but I would need a whole book?

So to learn more about Yamaha Motorcycles, I invite you to visit this page: You will find a pictorial history of Yamaha Motorcycles from 1955 to 2001.

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy

Welcome To The World Of "Upside Down" Motorcycle Loans!

With the depreciation on motorcycles being so enormous after they are driven off the showroom floor, the potential for a buyer owing more on their motorcycle loan than the bike is worth it quite high. Owing more on your bike than it is worth is often referred to as the world of "up side down".

Many people finding themselves in this situation discover that financial lessons are sometimes the hardest and most expensive to learn. Motorcycle loans of more than 48 months (especially without a down payment) put you in the position of owing more than the value of the bike.

Let's take a look at this phenomenon.

First, the interest calculation your lender uses can make a big difference in your situation, especially in the first 18 months. There are two primary interest calculations, pre-computed (combined with rule of 78) and simple interest.

Pre-computed interest combined with Rule of 78, is typically the worst situation for a buyer because most of the interest is paid in the first 24 months. Therefore, in the first 24 months little of the monthly payment has gone towards paying down principal. If a buyer wishes to sell or trade in the motorcycle within this timeframe they will likely find themselves owing more than the bike is worth. Statistics show that the average owner trades in every 18-24 months.

Simple interest on the other hand, is much more favorable for buyers since interest accrues on the balance of the loan. However, buyers that extend their loans for greater than 48 months can still find themselves up side down with simple interest. This is especially true if a down payment is not made. The reason this occurs is that the motorcycle depreciates faster than the principal is paid; leaving the balance owed to the lender to be more than the bike can be sold for.

A common view that many people have is that they will just surrender their motorcycle to the lender if they are caught in an "up side down" position. If you are considering this option don't! Your worries do not just end after your bike is surrendered or repossessed; in fact they are just beginning. The lender will sell your bike at an auction for much less than it is worth. You will still owe the difference between the amount you owed on your loan and the amount the motorcycle sold for at auction. So if you owe $5000 and the bike sells for $1500, you still are responsible for owing the lender $3500. To make it worse lenders may tack on hefty auction fees which you will owe as well. So the net result is that you are now responsible for making monthly payments on a bike you can no longer ride.

So what steps can you take to prevent from being caught "up side down"?

1. Find a lender that uses simple interest. Avoid lenders that use pre-computed / Rule of 78 interest calculations.

2. Always try to put money down on your purchase.

3. Try to avoid motorcycle loans that extend past 36 months.

By Jay Fran

Motorcycle Helmets - Mind Your Head!

To most riders, motorcycle helmets do not fit into their dream accessory. They feel helmets are restrictive and unnecessary and do not add to their aesthetic appeal. But it is important to know why you need to wear a helmet while riding a bike and what it does for you.

Motorcycle helmets act as a protection device for your head. Nearly all motor crashes in which riders do not wear helmets, result in major head injuries. To drive this point further, according to a survey done in the state of California, in 900 crashes, there were 980 head and neck injuries. The major factor was that most riders were not wearing proper headgear.

Canada has made it a mandatory rule for motorbike riders to wear helmets after seeing the way people die in these accidents. But in the USA, in some states, it still remains a choice for the rider - so it is for you to decide what is more precious to you.

Hopefully, now that you are convinced about purchasing a helmet, let us see some of the things that you should keep in mind while buying a motorcycle helmet.

All helmets have an outer shell and an inner shell. The outer shell is meant to protect the head from initial impact and undertake all the abrasions onto it. The inner shell is basically a lining of foam that aims at minimizing the impact of the shock by absorbing it as much as possible. It is also supposed to provide comfort to the rider as well.

In order to ascertain whether your helmet is safe enough for you or not, you must check whether it has the Department of Transportation sticker or not. A globally accepted safety standard for helmets is a sticker by the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Besides these safety stickers, the other important thing is to ensure that the motorcycle helmet of your choice gives you a proper fit. It should not be loose or too tight. You must be comfortable with it, as remember that you will be wearing it for quite some time. There should not be any red marks on your head or face - otherwise the helmet is too tight for you. At the same time, it should not come off your head or it just might fall off in an accident- providing you with no protection.

Also, you must choose between the various types of materials of which motorcycle helmets are made. Heavy helmets are made of fiberglass but it can crack if dropped. Another type of material used is injection-molded plastic. This is cheap and light but requires a lot of care. So think before you decide.

Enjoy the ride!

By Daniel Levy