Monday, 9 June 2014

10 Classic Motorcycles—and the Legends Behind Their Handlebars: Exclusive Book Excerpt

1. Britten V-1000

Britten V-1000

Outrageous in its day, the V-1000 was a V-twin-powered race bike that looked and performed like nothing else, offering blistering performance coupled with a visionary shape. From its 165-hp, sand-cast aluminum-alloy engine to the generous carbon-fiber components and its girder-style forks, each detail reflects John Britten's money-is-no-object attitude and brilliant mechanical mind. Only 10 of these bikes were ever built. 

2. Captain America

Captain America

The centerpiece of the classic 1969 film Easy Rider might just be the most notorious motorcycle ever, but its iconic shape represents much more than the sum of its controversial parts. Bought at a police auction, Captain America began life as a Harley-Davidson Panhead and was modified by Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy, with input from Peter Fonda. Master paint modder Von Dutch styled the teardrop tank, and the bike's heavily chromed bodywork and upswept fishtail exhaust pipes still make it one of the world's most recognizable rides. During filming, one version of Captain America was destroyed and the spare was stolen, igniting a controversy over whether or not the real model actually exists. 

3. Evel Knievel's Harleys

Evel Knievel's Harleys

When America's late, great daredevil signed a sponsorship deal to exclusively ride Harleys in 1970, he received three highly anticipated, aluminum engine XR750 dirt trackers, while professional racers were forced to wait in line. Customized by three-time Daytona 200 winner Roger Reiman, Knievel's bikes wore a heavier-duty front end with thicker shock absorber oil and heavier shocks at the rear, among other modifications. They certainly weren't the best machines for the task at hand, but Knievel's Harleys became an intrinsic part of his public image—an inseparable factor in the mystique that made him the enigma he remains today, months after his passing. 

4. Freddie Spencer's 1985 Double Championship Hondas

Freddie Spencer's 1985 Double Championship Hondas

The year was 1985, and young Grand Prix racing phenom Freddie Spencer was determined to do what no racer had done before: compete in both 250cc and 500cc classes during the same season. Honda was eager to back the ambitious venture, despite the fact they actually didn't have a 250cc bike in the stable. In three months, Satoru Horiike managed to design and build a two-cylinder 250cc bike, as well as a 500cc ride with a brand new V4 engine. Spencer performed brilliantly, sometimes jumping off the 500cc podium and running toward the 250cc grid, only to find that the other racers had already taken off. By seasons end, Spencer achieved 15 pole positions, set 9 new track records and won 14 races, taking both the 250cc and 500cc championship titles on these two bikes—an unprecedented achievement that will probably never be matched. 

5. James Dean's 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy

James Dean's 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy<

The gone-too-soon actor had a passion for speed that began when he was only 15, and his first motorcycle was, well, basic—to say the least. Dean's tastes evolved in tandem with his fame and fortune. The last bike he bought was a shell-blue 1955 Triumph TR5 Trophy. He made a few modifications, including the installation of upright handlebars, straight pipes and an older, 6T-style rider seat. He also flipped the passenger backwards, just like his hero Marlon Brando did to his 1950 Triumph 6T in The Wild One. The bike was quietly sold following Dean's death, but in the 1980s Dean's cousin, Marcus Winslow, armed with the bike's VIN number, tracked it down. After an epic search, he and his son restored the Trophy to its present, as-new condition. 

6. John Edgar Lightning

John Edgar Lightning

This wealthy enthusiast dreamed of owning the fastest bike in America, and he wanted Philip Vincent, the owner of the Vincent HRD motorcycle company, to help him. The plan was to take a Vincent Black Shadow and modify it for top speed runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats. A ninth Series "B" Black Shadow was pulled from the assembly line and tweaked for speed, becoming the infamous "Bathing Suit Bike." Future racing legend John Surtees worked as an apprentice on the project, which included bigger carbs, reworked cylinder heads and the installation of a rear hydraulic damper. When Rollie Free ran the bike on the morning of Feb. 13, 1948, he hit an average of 148.6 mph, breaking Harley Davidson's 11-year-old record by over 12 mph. Unsatisfied and focused on breaking the 150-mph mark, he stripped off his leathers and donned his bathing suit, a bathing cap and a friend's tennis shoes. Free laid it all on the line, stretched his legs back for aerodynamic efficiency and achieved an average top speed of 150.313 mph—a milestone that would turn himself, John Edgar and Vincent motorcycles into a household name. 

7. Munro Special

Munro Special

Burt Munro had a life-long love affair with a 1920 Indian Scout. Though a native of New Zealand, Munro turned Bonneville into a sort of second home, and he and his streamlined Indian were a familiar fixture on the Salt. As he delved deeper into modifying the Indian for speed, the bike came to resemble its original form less and less. Munro experimented with metallurgy by smelting his own pistons. His constant improvements ultimately transformed the primitive 600cc V-twin into an overhead-valve, 985cc beast capable of approaching 200 mph. Through nearly five decades of obsessive work, Munro created a one-of-a-kind motorcycle which, in 1967, made a one-way run of 190.07 mph, the fastest speed ever recorded on an Indian. 

8. Honda CB77 Superhawk

Honda CB77 Superhawk

Robert Pirsig's 1964 Honda CB77 Superhawk was an otherwise unremarkable bike that transported Pirsig and his son across the northwest U.S. in the summer of 1968. This road trip captivated Pirsig on a number of levels and inspired him to write his first book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A meditation on science, philosophy and life, Persig's book melds Socrates to two-wheeled transport. Acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most rejected book to become a bestseller (it was turned down by 121 publishers and has sold over 4 million copies), the epic journey of Zen began with this humble Honda bike. 

9. Steve Mcqueen's 1947 Indian Chief Chopper

Steve Mcqueen's 1947 Indian Chief Chopper

Toward the end of his life, Steve McQueen really had done it all—a guy's guy to top them all. He was one of the most famous movie stars on the planet, and his collection of bikes and cars was expansive enough to fill his personal hangar at the Santa Paula Airport. Despite his pristine cars, including a Jaguar D-Type and a Ferrari Lusso, McQueen loved traveling incognito on a bike. Nothing suited that purpose better than his 1947 Indian Chief Chopper, a derelict motorcycle he nicknamed "The Blob," after the 1958 film in which he made his breakthrough performance. McQueen willed some authenticity onto the bike by tying a sleeping bag to the sissy bar, and bestowing the Indian with mismatched hand grips and a cheesy, slip-on chrome exhaust to further its improvised sloppiness. This Indian's rough-edged appeal proves that the antidote to fame and fortune is an anonymity available to the everyman. 

10. TC Christensen's Hogslayer

TC Christensens Hogslayer

This unlikely tale begins with a brutally fast Norton motorcycle and develops into a classic story of one man railing against the motorcycle establishment—in this case, Harley-Davidson—and successfully campaigning a homegrown, twin-engine drag bike. The Hogslayer went through numerous ingenious iterations. It was one of the first drag bikes to run fuel injection, and its transmission incorporated a makeshift slipper clutch that used bronze-sintered brakes from an earthmover. Christensen's bike earned its name not only for vanquishing its well-funded competition from Milwaukee, but also for becoming the first bike to exceed 180 mph in the quarter mile. This oddity—which set the Top Fuel record in 1972 with an elapsed quarter mile time of 8.52 seconds—is now housed in the British Motorcycle Museum as a testament to the days when an independent spirit could wage war against a corporate giant ... and win. 

PM contributor Basem Wasef's Legendary Motorcycles: The Stories and Bikes Made Famous by Elvis, Peter Fonda, Kenny Roberts, and Other Motorcycling Greats is available in most major bookstores and online

Thursday, 29 May 2014

15 Greatest Cars Of All Times!!!

We’ve overheard guys say they don’t care what kind of car they drive as long as it gets them from Point A to Point B. Those guys are liars. Who wouldn’t want to own a car that turns more heads than a bikini car wash? Maybe these guys have only driven used jalopies and don’t know anything else. Well, these are the cars they should know. These are the 15 Classic Cars That Define Cool.


Anything attached to Carroll Shelby’s name is immediately worth your time. With an insane power-to-weight ratio, the Shelby 427 Cobra has a bit more giddyup than your Corolla. Plus, the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’d pay for one will seem like chump change compared to the $5.5 million shelled out for the ’66 Shelby 427 Cobra Super Snake.


Whether you pronounce it Jagwar or Jag-u-ar, everyone agrees the brand oozes style. The E-Type was released in 1961 to some pretty heavy praise. If Enzo Ferrari referred to it as, “The most beautiful car ever made,” well, that’s good enough for us.


The aggressive shark-shaped nose on the Maserati Ghibli is enough to place it firmly on this list. Plus, the Maserati name earns it plenty of clout. Basically, this car is what the Mazda Miata dreams of becoming as it falls asleep at night.


If it’s cool enough for Bond, it’s cool enough for us. If you had to pick one vehicle that James Bond relied on the most, you’d be hard-pressed not to go with the DB5, and the one from Goldfinger would look pretty sweet in our garage next to the cans of beer and lawn care products.


The doors are only part of the reason this is one of the coolest cars to ever hit the pavement. The fact that the 300SL was the fastest production car at the time, means driving to your ad meetings in Manhattan wouldn’t be a bore.


You know you’re getting some sick power when they have to change the body of a Mustang just to accommodate your freakishly large engine. How could you not want to roll down the windows and listen to that sucker as you were cruising around? (Which would be a good idea since, due to the size of the engine, they couldn’t fit in any air conditioning.)


While nothing was wrong with the Corvette prior to ’63, when the Sting Ray rolled out it made the previous models look like chopped liver (fast & still somewhat attractive chopped liver). Besides the new look, the C2 Corvette was a bit lighter and handled far better than its predecessors. While some nice stylistic changes would be made in the coming years, there’s something about being first.


Far too often cars are rigid. The lines and angles are harsh and, unless there’s something crazy under the hood, they become a complete clone of something else. The soft lines on the Ferrari Dino 246 GT tells us this car is meant to be driven fast and playfully. If we had one, we’d oblige.


Something about this car just makes us want to drive the Italian countryside while occasionally stopping to drink local wines. Plus, any time you can get a car with style AND storage space, well you just hit the jackpot my friend. It’s perfect for storing all the sheets of paper with phone numbers on them.


If there’s one thing we know about the ’69 Charger, it’s aerodynamic. At least that’s what we learned from Bo and Luke Duke. The ’69 Charger is a thing of beauty whether it’s a General Lee or not. It may never get the billing its Mustang counterparts always do, but the fastback look and all American style will never go out of fashion.


We don’t know if it’s the most stylish car on the list, but as far as cred goes, well it inspired the whole “Let’s toss a couple of seats on a rocket” sports car idea. It also became a new and different Italian sports car option outside of the Ferrari’s of the world for auto enthusiasts at the time.

1969 TOYOTA 2000GT

If you’re noticing a small Bond theme here, you’re totally right. While Bond got a drop-top, the ’69 Toyota 2000GT was stylish enough without one being offered up from the factory. The elongated front, along with the design in general, makes it feel much more like an Italian roadster than something you would picture purchasing for its “dependable gas mileage.”

1962 FERRARI 250 GTE

The Ferrari 250 GTE was the sports car for the family man. It was for the guy who wanted a Ferrari but also wanted to get little Timmy to hockey practice with all his gear. As Road & Track said, “A not only grand, but glorious, touring car.” We’d tack on cool as well.

1970 DATSUN 240Z

The Jaguar E-Type’s Asian doppelgänger has the same beautiful look as the Jag with perhaps more brains underneath. The thought that went into the car became the hallmark of Japanese sports cars. See, being cool doesn’t just mean looking good (but it mostly means looking good).


It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that this list would include at least one Mustang and one Camaro. What can we say, we like old-school American muscle power. Seeing those white stripes on a blue Z28 just strikes us as quintessentially cool.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

End of the Line for the Passenger Terminal at Montréal–Mirabel Airport

It’s time to say au revoir to Montreal’s biggest airport, but it’s not that one you’re probably familiar with. Most of the commercial traffic to and from the city flows in and out of Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, and that airport isn’t going anywhere any time soon. However, some parts of another area airport—Montréal–Mirabel International Airport—will soon be facing the wrecking ball.
According to the folks over at The Globe and Mail, the passenger terminal over at Montréal–Mirabel debuted in 1975 and was touted as the building when it came to all things airport. It was supposed to kind of be the air travel gateway to Canada, but it never really lived up to its hype or its expectation.

Now ten years after the last commercial flight did its thing at the airport the place airport officials are taking bids to come and knock down the passenger terminal and parking structure. The place was supposed to handle up to 50 million passengers a year, but they slightly missed the mark—sounds like 2.8 million passengers was the best they ever did.
No one likes to see a building go to waste, and there were off and on plans to do something different in order to save the structure. At one point there was even the suggestion to open up a theme park at the site, but that idea never really took off—ha.
So we’re sad to see a slice of aviation history head to the big hangar in the sky, but there’s still some good news for fans of Montréal–Mirabel. Nowadays the place is humming with plenty of airplane testing and what not, as Bombardier is using the place to build their new C Series, Pratt and Whitney tests engines here, and there’s plenty of cargo flights doing their thing as well.
[Photo: Wikimedia]

How Safe is Kenya for a Safari Vacation?

Those who have been following the news are aware that Kenya has been the target of Somali terrorist groups and, obviously, the attacks have been incredibly heartbreaking. Considering we are covering so much of the good coming out of Kenya, this writer doesn't think it's fair to leave that elephant completely out of the conversation. Admittedly, before deciding to make the journey from my home in Denver, I too wondered if it was safe to visit Kenya.
On my trip it was confirmed that, in terms of taking a safari, the answer is absolutely yes it is safe. The risk of danger in the national reserve areas like the Masai Mara and Laikipia are no greater than encountering a problem in any of America's national parks. Like here in the States, terrorism in Kenya has thus far been limited to populated places like Nairobi and Mombasa.

This is not to imply that you should be scared of visiting either. The chances of something happening to you are extremely rare, and you should not be under the impression that you are entering a war zone. That said, if you have had a Kenyan safari in mind and are a bit worried about what you've been reading, here is my advice:
Nairobi may be worth a look from a cultural standpoint, as it is the country's capital, but it doesn't necessarily behoove American travelers to spend a lot of time there. The city is still very much in transition, suffering from instability and some of the worst traffic I've ever seen. I'm not saying a visit wouldn't be enjoyable -- you would certainly learn a lot -- I'm simply saying that you could feel good about yourself if you went to Kenya and spent a majority of your time upcountry and in the reserves. In most cases, that's the primary reason you're shelling out the time and money it takes to visit from the States -- for a safari. And as you can see in the cover photo, places like the Masai Mara are about as connected to Nairobi as New York City is to the Finger Lakes.
For the record, I bookended my trip with nights in Nairobi and felt perfectly safe, but it was then that I realized it doesn't even necessarily have to be a huge part of your trip. That leaves us with the big picture: If you have dreams of a safari vacation, don't let the recent tragedies in the cities make you cross Kenya off the list. The Masai Mara is still one of Africa's premier safari destinations, and, if you feel so inclined, you can simply pass right on through Nairobi until it turns the corner.
[Photo: Will McGough]

The Grand Canyon of Tianshan Mountain

These pictures of great sandstone walls were not taken at the Antelope Canyon in Arizona, but rather in Keziliya Mountain, about 70 km north of Kuqa in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. The Keziliya Grand Canyon, also called the Tianshan Grand Canyon being located at the south foot of the Tianshan Mountain, is about 5.5 km long from east to west and was formed due to erosion by flash flooding over thousands of years, just like its bigger brother in Arizona. The canyon is characterized by oddly-shaped rocks, pinnacles, rugged cliffs and deep ravines. These have been given various names such as “Skyworth Valley”, “Sacred Snake Valley”, “Skyscraper Cave Valley”, “Rock of tenterhook”, “Swan Peak” and “Lover’s Peak”, to name a few.
The width of the canyon varies along the length. While the broadest point is 150 feet (50 meters) wide, the narrowest place is 1.3 feet (0.4 meter), just barely enough for a single person to squeeze through sideways. The deepest cut in the canyon is about a 100 meters deep.
About 1,400 meters into the canyon, and 35 meters high up, is located the cave of “a Thousand Buddha”. The cave was built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the murals here are very precious in the study of the art history.

Sources: Tour XinjiangYeschinatour. Photos:

An International Zip Line Between Spain And Portugal

At first glance, you will hardly notice that there is a steel cable connecting Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Andalucia, Spain, to Alcoutim, in Algarve, Portugal. Over 720 meters in length, the world’s only zip line to cross an international border takes tourist across the Guadiana River at speeds between 70 and 80 kilometers per hour. The departure platform is located at the side of the Sanlúcar de Guadiana castle, almost 100 meters above the river. The landing point is a mere 15 meters high, in Alcoutim, creating an average angle of descent of around 12.47 %, which can be completed in less than a minute. When visitors arrive in Alcoutim, they are an hour ahead because of the time difference between the tow countries. The trip, once completed, the visitors are packed into a ferry and transported back into Spain across the river. Participants can get a certificate, buy photographs or even rent a helmet cam to film the trip.
The zip line is a privately funded passion project of Englishman David Jarman. “Two villages in two countries, separated by a river 150 metres wide – a zipline just seemed obvious to me,” he said.
On a busy day the zip line takes about 24-30 people per hour, at the price of 15 euros per person. Jarman forsees the slide functioning 200 days a year: closing in the second half of November and the second half of February. It will bring employment to 5 to 7 people on both sides of the border.

Source: Algarve / Financial Times

Rare Weather Phenomenon Creates River of Clouds Over Grand Canyon

A rare weather phenomenon that affects the area only about once a decade, filled the Grand Canyon in the U.S. with a dense, white fog at the end of November. The phenomenon, known as "temperature inversion," happens when the temperature profile of the atmosphere is inverted from its usual state, and cooler air is trapped at the earth's surface by warmer air above.
Typically, the temperature of air in the atmosphere falls the higher up in altitude you go. This is because most of the suns energy is converted into heat at the ground, which in turn warms the air at the surface. The warm air rises in the atmosphere, where it expands and cools. When temperature inversion occurs, the temperature of air actually increases with height. The warm air above cooler air acts like a lid, trapping the cooler air and fog at the surface and preventing it from rising.
Temperature inversions happen once or twice a year, typically in the winter months. However, these inversions are partial and cover only few parts of the Grand Canyon. The most recent inversion happens only once every 10 years, because the fog filled up the entire canyon and it happened on a cloudless day. Meteorologist Andy Mussoline explained the factors that contributed to the event.
"First, there was higher-than-normal moisture in the canyon," he said. "There was 0.75 of an inch of liquid precipitation that fell between Nov. 20 and Nov. 24 at the Grand Canyon National Park Airport [both snow and rain]. Normal precipitation during that time is only 0.19 of an inch, which converts to nearly 400 percent of normal precipitation within about a week of the event."
“Additionally, the average high temperature for this time of year is about 48 degrees Fahrenheit, which means there would be less evaporation of that precipitation than there would be in the summer months. This allowed more moisture to stay in the air inside the canyon.”
"A high pressure system settled into the region late last week and allowed for clear skies and calm winds, two important weather conditions that allow the air near the ground to cool rapidly," Mussoline said. "The rapid cooling of the ground allowed a temperature inversion to form."

Tides at The Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy is located on the Atlantic coast of North America, on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The bay is known for having the highest tidal range in the world. Because of the unique shape of the bay, the difference in water level between high tide and low tide can be as much as 48 feet (14 meters). During each tide cycle, more than 100 billion tonnes of seawater flows in and out of the Bay of Fundy which is more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers. Bay of Fundy experiences one high and one low tide twice a day. It takes on average 6 hours and 13 minutes for low tide to grow into a high tide and another 6 hours and 13 minutes for the water level to drop from high tide to low tide. This frequency gives each visitor a chance to see at least one high and one low tide during the daylight hours any time of year.
The immense energy of the tides stir up nutrients from the ocean floor, the mud flats and salt water marshes, providing an abundance of food for the birds, whales, fish and bottom dwellers of the ocean. This highly productive, rich and diverse natural ecosystem has shaped the environment, the economy and the culture of the Fundy region. The effect of the world’s highest tides on the Bay’s shores has created dramatic cliffs and awesome sea stacks. The red sandstone and volcanic rock have been worn away to reveal fossils from over 300 million years ago.
Composite photo showing difference in water level during low tide and high tide. Photo credit
Why are the Bay of Fundy Tides the Highest?
The average tidal range of all oceans around the globe is 1 meter (3ft), so how can the tidal difference in the Bay of Fundy reach up to 16 meters? This tidal phenomena exists because the bay has a few distinct features: a substantial amount of water and a unique shape and size that causes resonance.
A liquid in a basin has a characteristic period of “oscillation” and, once set in motion, the liquid will rhythmically slosh back and forth in this time period. The frequency at which it oscillates depends on the length and depth of the basin.
On a small scale, picture a bathtub with water sloshing around in. It takes just seconds to slosh back and forth. Due to the enormous size, the unique funnel shape, and the immense depth of the  Bay of Fundy, its natural period of oscillation is somewhere between 12 and 13 hours. That oscillation is in perfect sync with the Atlantic ocean tide flooding into the bay every 12 hours and 26 minutes, this results in “resonance”.
Imagine someone on a swing, going back and forth, reaching the same height every time. Now imagine someone else giving the person on the swing a solid push every time the person starts to move forward again. They are obviously going to go much higher this time.
Well, the water in the Bay of Fundy is like the person on the swing and the tides coming in from the Atlantic Ocean are like the person giving the push. Its because the water in the bay moves back and forth in sync with the oceanic tides outside that there is such a large increase in the tidal range towards the head of the Bay.
The bay’s shape and bottom topography also have a secondary influence on the tides. The bay is shaped like a large natural funnel; it becomes narrower and shallower towards the upper part of the bay, forcing the water higher up onto the shores.
Watch the timelapse video of the Bay of Fundy tides after the pictures.
Low tide. Photo credit
High tide. Photo credit
The top image was taken at 11:32am and the bottom photo was captured at 5:24pm on the same day. Photo credit
Tides entering the harbour. Photo credit
Tide has almost reached its peak. Fishing boats are fully afloat, and one of the trawlers has left the harbour. There was about 1 hour and 45 minutes between this and the previous picture. Photo credit
New Brunswick. (Moncton) Hopewell Rocks Park/Fond marin (10m) Bay of Fundy.
Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy, at low tide. Photo credit
Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy at high tide. Photo credit