Cycle News

Cycle News 2024 Issue 04 January 30

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 106 of 109

KTM's carbon-fiber chassis— though this could hardly be called an innovation since the material was first used in the 1980s. It gained little momen - tum, then fell out of favor, for probably all the wrong rea- sons—that in racing, convention succeeds better than invention. Copy but improve. Early non-metallic efforts came from Britain. Notably from the then-independent Suzuki team, in a spell when the factory had taken a step back. They were thrown on their own resources to try to keep the ob - solescent square-four RG motor competitive. Step forward, innovative designer Nigel Leaper and the then new honeycomb-sandwich board, developed for the aircraft industry (for such things as inner walls and tray tables) and eagerly adopted by the racing- car world. Leaper devised a folded and bonded chassis to contain the square-four engine, immediately nicknamed "cardboard box." Ridden by, among others, Niall Mackenzie and Rob McElnea, who described the ride as "plush" while mechanics found it to be crash-proof almost to the point of indestructibility. Both achieved top-10 finishes against full-factory Honda and Yamaha opposition. Leaper designed an auto - claved full-carbon Mk2 for the V4 that the factory produced for the following year, but the I t's encouraging to think that racing is an important tool for research and development—a place where motorcycle design is advanced. Just as warfare accelerates technological prog - ress. Sadly, it's only marginally true. This worthy aspect has always been hostage to regulations, and never more so than with today's dumbing down into cost- saving conformity, where not even cylinder bore size is free. Perhaps this is why advances in recent decades have been confined to minor (although not unimportant) aerodynamic tweaks and active ride-height adjustment. The year 2023, however, did see something fundamental. P106 CN II IN THE PADDOCK BY MICHAEL SCOTT BLACK ART WITH A CHECKERED HISTORY CARBON FIBER

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