Saturday, September 17, 2011

My "Petcock"

[My Ninja, "Pocket"]
Computing has revolutionized the way motorcycles work for the better in many ways.  But it makes me cry a little inside to see the way it's impacting the old biker culture. Motorcycle manufactures are adding more and more electronics to inform users (GPS, onboard computers), improve safety (ABS, oxygen sensors, electronic ignition), and perform other tasks (12V sockets so you can charge your batteries). For example, according to Aprilia, it is standard for their naked bike (the “Shiver”) to come equipped with all these options.  I'd also like to point out that they have some great "naked" slogans which you can see if you click some of the reference links on this post.

[Pocket and friends in rural NL]
If you observe bikes parked in the Tim Horton's parking lot on a warm Thursday night (lot night) in Paradise Newfoundland, you'll notice the older the bike, the greater the chance it will have a carburetor. You can also come to the same conclusion by looking through years of bike specifications on manufacturers websites such as Kawasaki's, as you can watch many of the newer bike engines switch to fuel injected models (minus a few such as the Ninja 250R).

[The petcock is connected
to the gas tank!]
Now let's look at Aprilia, one of the first bike manufacturers to introduce an innovative ride-by-wire throttle technology on a production bike (Motorcycle Consumer News). Similar in idea to the "Fly-by-wire" technology in a airplane, this fuel injector electronically controls the throttle valve aperture and is selectable by Aprilia's “Tri-Map”. Aprilia's Tri-Map has three modes which gives the user the ability to “detune” the engine by pushing the button on the right switch block (Motorino). This alters the throttle response and/or cuts the horsepower (Motorcycle Consumer News), enabling the rider to have the quick zippy response of a sport bike, a smoother touring approach for those longer rides, or a more cautious response for those riding in rainy weather. These three modes can be seen on the LCD display connected to the on-board computer which receives and processes information and is equipped with it's own memory for self-diagnostics. Just to add to the impressiveness, the screen also shows gear engaged, map selected, ambient temperature, trip time and a clock (Aprilia).

[Emergency downtown St. John's
Pocket fix with handy assistant]
As technology advances, the old biker culture falls to the wayside. The days of a person tinkering with their mechanic skills in the garage and cleaning their "carbs" with their buddies are dwindling, as there are less parts to play with without paying a price. As of September 14th, 2011 typing "fix carburetor" into a search engine such as Google returns top results with keywords like “repair”. Doing the same for “fix fuel injector” returns top results with keywords like “Replacing”. Some argue that fuel injectors are better because they are more proficient and emission friendly (Motorino). But, after questioning a Professor of Computer Science who is currently a proud owner of a “Aprilia Shiver”, he admitted the inconveniences of not being able to fix parts of his bike due to the electronics. As the systems become more electronic, it gets beyond the scope of the average biker enthusiast, mechanic or even computer scientist to fix (even if it's computer related). Sadly this means the “fix it yourself” culture changes to “buy it yourself”. Every year I meet more and more people who consider themselves "motorcycle enthusiasts" who are afraid to "touch their parts".  When you see little ol' me arguing with a guy in the Cape Spear parking lot trying to convince him that changing oil isn't a scary thing, it's a sad day.  Especially when his response is, "it's to risky".  All the joy is gone.

[Pocket on the highway to Clarenville
Photo by Roger Price]
What does fuel injection mean to me? There will be a day in the future where I won't be able to make double entendres about a "Petcock" vibrating between someones legs. I love my 2009 Ninja 250R. This is me, take it or leave it.


  1. fuel injection history is actually incredibly dated. mechanical injection has been around since the 20s when it was pioneered on ( what else..) aircraft. mechanical fuel injection all but ruled carbs out in passenger cars in the 80s. the 80s ALSO brought about a joyous time of electronically fuel injected and turbocharged motorcycles such as the kawasaki GPz750, CB550 and .. whatever else was out there. .the big 4 had a turbo bike battle during the 80s, yamaha being the only one to stick with blowing thru conventional CV carbs with a small mitsubishi turbo ( which i had a customer try to argue once with no avail.)

    as with any trickle-down technology, it's funded by the government.. and the investment is in the aircraft industry.. from there it *eventually* sees civilian useage and application once the tech is declassified or deemed "good enough" for the mass populus. fly-by-wire has been around fro a while as well.. the application of this on motorcycles to MY knowledge was a first with yamaha's 06 R6. they were also the first to intruduce the crossplane crank into a streetbike ( which makes me absolutely WET.. TON of power all over and sounds like hell is opening and F1 cars are emanating from the fissure)

    anyway.. ya.. though i sorta still have a "thing" about fly-by-wire technology.. i know there's safety measures taken and it's pretty proven, reliable stuff, but i have my WON homebrew turbo/fuel injection project pending that will NOT see the likes of fly-by-wire controls.. interesting how it all works.. and in most times the FBW efi control is more efficient and responsive than a cable-driven throttle body array. with FBW, the ECU sees your desired input, but manages air and fuel accordingly instead of MATCHING fuel TO air via the TPS sensor and MAP sensor inputs. overall, FBW is about as good as you can get with injection, short of having direct injection instead of port, but THAT is coming. i've already heard noises on DI development.

    it's exciting behold what other aircraft and MotoGP tech dribbles down the legs of corporate giants.

    much love, "Whitehendrix" from, AKA Jim Hoffman

  2. Thanks Jim. Seems like you are quite the Yamaha fan. It's the crankshafts I guess lol.

    I still think my little parallel twin is sexy. But I'm pretty inlove with my bike and they say love is blind. Sadly, the Kawasaki spec sheet doesn't give the crank angel of the Ninja 250r. I'm assuming it's a 180 degree configuration. Pocket enjoys the higher rpms.

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