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Millyard Viper V10

Cracking Walnuts

(from our Travels with Guido series, MT #230, March 2010)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; Millard pic via Wikimedia Commons, Honda pic by Honda

Honda VFR1200F

Got a tough engineering problem to crack? Guido ponders two very different schools of thought on how to go about it…

“My Lord, I have a cunning plan that cannot fail…”, so go the immortal words of Baldric, of Black Adder fame. And you can’t help but wonder what sort of motorcycle he would have come up with, given a chance.

Not that we need any more fruitcakes out there, designing motorcycles, as the world is already well supplied with them. Let me give you two examples: British engineer Allen Millyard, and Honda. Both have recently built their own transports of delight with similar intention – that is, to plant what amounts to a petrol-fuelled rocket between your legs and give you some tools that allow something resembling a dignified attempt to control the course of the monster.

They manage this with varying degrees of success.

Millyard, lacking the considerable resources of brand H, took the simple and effective route of borrowing a powerplant from an existing vehicle. What would you choose, given you’re going to all the trouble of building a ground-up toy of your very own? Various punters have resorted to existing bike engines (but where’s the challenge in that?), or very often VW, Subaru, Rover and the ever-popular Chevrolet.

Not Millyard. He opted for Dodge, and its V10 Viper powerplant, all 8.4 alloy-wrapped litres of it. And 500 horses, which is just what you need for a quick squirt down to the shops for a bottle of milk. Having been recorded at 207mph (333km/h) at Bruntingthorpe, it’s clearly got all the straight-line grunt you could wish for, which is handy if your house is at one end of Bruntingthorpe and the milk bar at the other.

But picture piloting the thing down your favourite set of twisties, such as Mount Tambourine, Putty Road or Reefton Spur, for those on the east coast. Having ridden several car-powered bikes over the years, I can assure you the word “nimble” is not one that immediately springs off the tongue as you (usually) stumble out of the saddle, having just survived some vaguely gothic near-death experience.

So let’s move across to Honda and its latest exercise in punting muggins at the horizon, the VFR1200. It follows a recent trend that says you might want a sport tourer, but there’s no reason why it should not have launch capabilities akin to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

To be fair, Honda has avoided the temptation to claw its way up to 300-plus terminal (in more ways than one…) speeds. Okay, so I’ll settle for a ‘mere’ 170 horses and 250-ish kays – the milk can wait that extra nanosecond. In fact they seem to have this new fangled philosophy that the thing should be able to handle the Putty Road without turning the rider into a gibbering sweaty mess, and maybe be able to pull it up without the risk of it falling over (because you had the temerity to use all the available braking) would be a good idea too. So welcome aboard, ABS. It’s a case of more brains and less Baldric.

Millyard’s efforts are truly impressive, and I wish I had a tenth of his engineering talent, but his approach is like using a grenade launcher to crack a walnut. Honda’s way is more like using a laser. Now you could say they’re both over the top and you’d be right. However I’ll take the latter approach any day.

Then again, what if you’ve got loads of cash and two walnuts to crack?

Travels with Guido columns

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