Friday, March 31, 2017

Indian files 'Harley-killing' patent

Polaris Industries, maker of Indian motorcycles, has patented an ingenious means of circumventing DOT and EPA sound regulations, effectively legalizing exhausts that produce an ear-splitting 129 dB sound volume. Backmarker learned of this new exhaust technology when one of our contributors discovered Polaris’ patent application.

At first, Polaris refused to comment. But when we said we’d break the story anyway, Polaris’ spokesman admitted that Indian’s ‘Loophole™’ mufflers will be available this fall on 2018 model motorcycles.

Although Polaris wouldn’t tell us how the Loophole™ muffler works, the company’s patent application shows a system of in-muffler microphones, amplifiers, and speakers that will allow the rider to switch on the electronic amplification of the exhaust sound.

Polaris’ patent means its motorcycles can be vastly louder than competitors’ bikes, without violating the letter of federal regulations.

While federal regulations mandate a maximum noise level of 84 dB, that’s for total vehicle noise at 35 mph. Polaris designers realized, however, that those rules do not apply to stereo sound systems. Obviously, DOT’s sound tests take place with stereos off.

“We expect our Loophole™ optional muffler package to be the most profitable accessory in the Indian catalog, come 2018,” Polaris’ spokesman Luke Solicitano told me. “Our customer surveys have shown, over and over, that the one area where we’ve had trouble competing with Harley-Davidson is exhaust volume. People tell us, ‘Harley’s are just louder’. Well, that ends now.”

Off the record, one Polaris engineer told us that the increase is in sound volume only, not power—which is critical, because increasing power would impact the specification of everything from clutch to brakes.

A spokesman for ABATE North Dakota said, “If it’s true that the Loophole™ system produces nearly 130 decibels, this is the most important safety development since wrap-around sunglasses.”

Because the decibel system is based on a logarithmic scale, the Loophole™ exhaust’s 129 dB output is actually over 20 times as loud as DOT regulations specify, yet it’s perfectly legal because technically, it’s an unregulated stereo sound system.

“With the switch in the ‘off’ position,” Polaris’ Solicitano told Backmarker, “It’s not any louder than the stock exhaust, which we calibrate to be right on the DOT’s 84 dB limit. But when you hit the switch, it’s as loud as the flight deck of an aircraft carrier during a catapult launch with full afterburners. We tested a prototype for a few seconds outside the Buffalo Chip last year and about ten guys jumped right out of the kuttes.”

Again, off the record, one Polaris engineer told us that Indians will get a slightly uprated generators with higher amp fuses to handle the electrical drain of the in-muffler amp. The speaker is believed to have been developed in concert with Bose.

Meanwhile Harley-Davidson executives, on learning of the Loophole™ patent have apparently scheduled another trip to the White House.

One Harley exec who wished to remain anonymous because the White House trip hasn’t been officially announced told me, “Polaris just wasted a bunch of money on patent lawyers. After our meeting, Trump’s going to eliminate the DOT anyway.”

Friday, March 17, 2017

The first TTwins race in ages

I watched the first AFT race of the season with extra interest, since it was also the first TT or short track race under the new 'all twins, all the time' rules for the Expert class.

I should say that I watched it on FansChoice, not from the 'stands. There were some signal dropouts, and resolution issues but on balance I don't feel the quality of the coverage detracted from my experience.
As much air as anyone got all night. The jump was just a few yards down the track from a gnarly little stop-n-go chicane. My guess is that track designers were told, "Don't turn the first TT race for twins into a tragedy". If so, they were successful, but it didn't look a real National, either. AMA Pro Racing photo.

Was that a Chris Carr track? Here's why I'm not going to hold it against him: I am pretty sure that the Speedway and AMA Pro ordered him to lay out a conservative TT track, in order to minimize the risk of a serious incident in the first 'return of the twins' race. (Memories of last year/California are still too fresh.) I understand that concern but maybe the erstwhile Prince of Peoria was a little too cautious. I read a few fan comments on Facebook to the effect of, "I thought there was supposed to be a jump". I don't think the racers were too keen it, either, although an Indian 1-2 finish in the Expert Main is an OK outcome from a marketing perspective.

I wondered whether, given the layout, the Experts were slower on twins than they would have been on singles. My first instinct was to think they would've gone faster on the old bikes, but since there's never been a previous race on this track, it was hard to quantify that feeling.

Still, I tried.

The top ten Expert finishers had fastest laps ranging from Mees' 29.7 to Shoemaker's 30.7. The average of the top ten finishers' fastest laps worked out to a hair under 30.3 seconds.

In the Pro class, the average of the top ten finishers' fastest laps worked out to a little under 30.7, for a difference of 0.4 seconds.

That does not sound like a big difference, but when you compare it to last years' singles-vs-singles Expert-vs-Pro times on short tracks and TTs, it suggests that the Experts were measurably but imperceptibly faster on twins.

I think it's pretty safe to say that we'll be able to see the difference in Peoria.

Shout out to Ferran Cardus, of Spain, for a hard-fought top ten result in the Pro final! One bright spot for Cardus' mentor, Brad Baker, who had an unlucky night for himself. Baker posted that he hoped he hadn't concussed himself -- I'm not sure if it's possible to be knocked out cold and wake up wondering how you got there and not be concussed too, but I believe AMA Pro Racing instituted baseline testing this year, for the purposes of determining when/if it's safe to put racers back on track after they've 'rung their bell'.