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The Yamaha NMAX “Turbo” was recently launched in Indonesia, and the name “Turbo” drew plenty of enquiries which pointed to some confusion. So, let us take a look at how turbo works.

Anyhow, the NMAX “Turbo” does not use a real turbocharger. Instead, it is a mode to switch the CVT into delivering instant torque for speeding up and overtaking.

There are several reasons why a turbocharger is not popular among motorcycles, although there was an era of turbocharged motorcycles.

What is a turbo?

An internal combustion engine requires air in order to work. Air is drawn in, mixed with fuel and combusted. This combustion changes the chemical energy in fuel to thermal energy (heat), which in turn pushes the piston down to rotate the crankshaft (kinetic energy).

However, each piston can pull in so much air. Not enough air means you cannot mix in too much fuel, otherwise the unburned fuel is wasted. So, since there is not enough air and fuel, the engine produces limited torque and power.

The turbo changes this by stuffing in more air, to be mixed with more fuel, so the engine can produce more power.

How does it work?

The basic premise is the turbocharger utilises exhaust gas to compress intake air, rather than letting it go to waste.

To be a little more specific, a compressor in the turbocharger pressurises the intake air before it enters the inlet manifold. In the case of a turbocharger, the compressor is powered by the kinetic energy of the engine’s exhaust gases, which is extracted by the turbocharger’s turbine.

The main components of the turbocharger are:

  • Turbine – usually a radial turbine design.
  • Compressor – usually a centrifugal compressor.
  • Centre housing hub rotating assembly.
  • Turbine

The turbine section (also called the “hot side” or “exhaust side” of the turbo) is where the rotational force is produced, in order to power the compressor (via a rotating shaft through the centre of a turbo). After the exhaust has spun the turbine it continues into the exhaust and out of the vehicle.

The turbine uses a series of blades to convert kinetic energy from the flow of exhaust gases to mechanical energy of a rotating shaft (which is used to power the compressor section). The turbine housings direct the gas flow through the turbine section, and the turbine itself can spin at speeds of up to 250,000 rpm.

  • Compressor

The compressor draws in outside air through the engine’s intake system, pressurises it, then feeds it into the combustion chambers (via the inlet manifold). The compressor section of the turbocharger consists of an impeller, a diffuser, and a volute housing.

  • Centre hub rotating assembly

The centre hub rotating assembly (CHRA) houses the shaft that connects the turbine to the compressor. A lighter shaft can help reduce turbo lag. The CHRA also contains a bearing to allow this shaft to rotate at high speeds with minimal friction.

Some CHRAs are water-cooled and have pipes for the engine’s coolant to flow through. One reason for water cooling is to protect the turbocharger’s lubricating oil from overheating.

The cons of a turbocharger

Every engineering solution creates another problem, so it is all a compromise. The same goes for the turbocharger, hence its limited use.

Turbo lag

Turbo lag refers to the delay that occurs between pressing the throttle and the turbocharger spooling up to provide boost pressure. This delay is due to the increasing exhaust gas flow (after the throttle is suddenly opened) taking time to spin up the turbine to speeds where boost is produced (due to the turbine’s inertia). The effect of turbo lag is reduced throttle response, in the form of a delay in the power delivery.

Then, when the boost pressure is sufficient, the engine’s torque suddenly increases and the vehicle takes off, sometimes surprising the operator.

There are ways around this lag, of course, but it requires a lot of tech (read: expensive).

Heat

Needless to say the system generates lots of heat, necessitating the use of oils that could stand up to the torture. Hence, only synthetic engine oils are recommended.

As mentioned in a previous article, motorcycle rider gear such as the helmet, jacket, pants, gloves, footwear must conform to a certain standard. And you may have seen such a tag above attached to a clothing item. But what is and why is CE-rated protector in motorcycle gear important?

By “protector” we mean the padding held in the areas where jacket, pants, or race suit that are prone to impact such as the elbows, shoulders, back, chest. However, there must a standard or standards to govern the tests and results otherwise manufacturers may as well make and claim whatever they wish.

What is the standard?

The standard which is the most prevalent the world over is CE “Conformité Européene” or EN “European Norm” EN 1621. Please refer to the picture below which is a replication of the label you can find in a motorcycle riding gear.

  • The motorcycle symbol shows that this is motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact.
  • Below and outside the box, you can find these codes EN 1621-1:2012.
  • EN1621-1 mean the padding is for any of these areas:
    • S – Shoulder.
    • E – Elbow.
    • H – Hip.
    • K – Knee.
    • K + L – Knee, upper and middle tibia.
    • L – Shin (front of leg) below knee protector.
    • KP – Knuckle protection.
    • 2012 in the code means the year the EN 1621 was revised. It DOES NOT denote the year the item was made.

  •  Going back into the box, underneath that motorcyclist symbol:
    • E/K TYPE A means this padding can be used as the elbow or knee protector.
    • TYPE A refers to the coverage area:
    • A – reduced coverage area for special applications.
    • B – normal coverage area.

  •  If you see EN1621-2, the armour is for back protection only. However, there are different codes for different areas of coverage:
    • B or FB – Full back protector.
    • CB – Central back.
    • L or LB – Lumbar only.
  • The EN1621-3 standard applies to chest protectors.

Do note that gear manufacturers may or may not list the entire code in the garment or armour itself. However, you may find the full information on the cards attached to the piece of new gear.

Level of Protection

There are two levels of protection, Level 1 and Level 2. The amount of force transmitted through determines the level. For example:

  • Level 1 – Maximum transferred force must be below 18 kN, and no single value above 24 kN.
  • Level 2 – Maximum transferred force must be below 9 kN, and no single value above 12 kN.

This means a certified Level 2 armour is more protective than one that’s certified as Level 1.

Optional criteria

On this note, certain riding gear manufacturers may also describe the level of protection for other criteria, for example:

  • Performance Level 1 or 2.
  • Abrasion resistance Level 1 or 2.
  • Impact cut resistance Level 1 or 2.
  • Burst strength Level 1 or 2.
UNI prEN 17092-X:2017

The CE authorization body has implemented a new standard after 2018, although it does not appear on all riding gears, depending on where the item is sold in. This new standard encapsulates the level of protection within the code itself, unlike the previous EN1621-X, which only alludes the area of protection.

For example, it means Class AAA (the highest level) if you see the code prEN 17092-2:2017 (2017 being the year the gear was certified).

Class AAA (prEN 17092-2:20XX) Offers the highest level of protection for highest level of risk.
Class AA (prEN 17092-3:20XX) Second highest level of protection.
Class A (prEN 17092-4:20XX) Third highest level of protection. Comfortable for street riding on a daily basis.
Class B (prEN 17092-5:20XX) Abrasion protection equal to Class A but without impact protection.
Class C (prEN 17092-6:20XX) The least level of protection. Some armors may fall into this category as they resist impacts but not abrasion.
Conclusion

Once again, although the CE/EN standard for motorcyclist gear is not enforced in Malaysia, please do not take these ratings lightly, as it means that the protector was tested and found to provide some protection.

 

The advent of the Bluetooth communicator following the advancement in smartphone technology has added much to the enjoyment of riding.

But it also prompted motorcycle manufacturers to adopt it and create a new feature on their motorcycles. The communications or media suites of certain bikes connect to the user’s smartphone to stream music, make outgoing and receive incoming phone calls, and even provide turn-by-turn navigation via their instrument cluster (LCD or TFT screen) and to a Bluetooth communicator.

Several helmet manufacturers have also designed their helmets to fit such device.

So now, the communicator is no longer a luxury item, instead it is a necessity for motorcycle riders. I will honestly say that I was against using the device when it first appeared on the market. Now, I never ride anywhere without one.

Here are several benefits of using the device.

1. Communication between rider and pillion

 

This is the obvious place to start. Please allow me to recount an experience.

My missus and I were riding to Penang. As we reached Sungai Perak, she called out to me by pointing ahead. I thought she was pointing at the river, so I turned around and said, “Yeah, nice river.” Then she said something which very muffled in the helmet. I couldn’t hear her. Passing the bridge, she began tapping my vigorously so I pulled to the side of the road. It was then when she yelled, “I WANTED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!”

Needless to say it escalated from there. Me being blamed for not paying attention, that why was she fated to have a hearing-challenged husband, yada, yada, yada.

But it all changed when we installed Bluetooth communicators in our helmets. No more miscommunication, no more yelling into the wind, no more fighting.

This is also why more and more advanced riding schools are using such device as it provides clear communications between the instructor and students.

2. Safety

Whether you are using Waze, Google Maps, Petal, or any other navigation app, it sometimes warns you – audibly – of upcoming hazards that other nice motorists keyed in. You can hear this warning when you are driving, but you cannot do so when you are riding your motorcycle – unless you connected your phone or TFT to a Bluetooth communicator.

These voice prompts also prepare you the distance to the next turn or destination. As such, you do not have to keep down at the phone or screen.

Also, using a communicator, especially one which lets you issue voice commands via your phone’s Siri or Google Assistant, or through its built-in voice command feature, keeps you eyes on the road and hands on the handlebar.

3. Staying awake and alert

Droning for kilometre after kilometre on the highway while being baked by the sun will turn you brain off very soon, even if you are riding on an intercity highway. So, stream some of your favourite songs or listening to a radio station breaks the monotony.

However, we advise you to consciously switch between mental modes on where you are riding and traffic conditions, when you have the communicator on. For example, you can sing along to a song on the open highway, but push the music in the background and focus on riding when you are in populated areas or difficult conditions i.e. the city, kampungs, in the rain, etc.

4. Group dynamics and safety

It is especially helpful for every participant or at least among the key individuals such as marshals in a convoy to have a communicator. Hand signals are sometimes not enough, or some individuals in the middle of the convoy are lazy to convey them from the convoy’s leader.

Or in the situation of being separated, which always happens. The separated groups will find it difficult to reach each other as one group may be riding while the other group is trying to call. This will, without a doubt, lead to some sour faces.

5. Never miss a call

While this was not why I got a communicator in the first place, hence placing it last on the list. However, I do appreciate the fact that I can receive important calls while I am riding.

You probably are already aware that reputable motorcycle gear such as jackets, pants, gloves, race suits, helmets are CE approved. And yes, there is also a CE standard for motorcycle footwear.

As you may be aware by now, the European standards committee is very serious when it comes to safety; so much so that their standards have been adopted by the United Nations. The CE mark is not something to be taken lightly, because insurance companies certain European countries will deny claims to injured motorcyclists found not wearing CE-certified gear.

CE standard for motorcycle footwear

The current CE standard for motorcycle footwear is EN 13634:2017. This is the third and latest revision after the standard was established in 2002. The revisions concerns how the shoes and boots are tested besides other safety criteria.

  1. The label shows that this is a personal protective equipment (PPE) for motorcycling use.
  1. The CE standard for motorcycle footwear, EN 13634:20XX. The year at the end notes the year of the EN 13634 standard was revised, in this case, 2017. It DOES NOT denote the year the footwear was made.
  1. Height of the footwear. “1” is for ankle height, while “2” is for tall boots that cover the shin. Some manufacturers forgo this digit.
  1. Level of abrasion resistance. The footwear is divided into two areas: Area A includes the sole, front and back of the boot. Area B includes all other areas outside A. Three samples are cut from each area and they are held against a moving abrasive belt. Thus, the abrasion level is determined from how soon the material develops a hole.
    • Level 1 means the Area A sample lasted a minimum of 1.5 seconds while the Area B sample lasted a minimum of 5 seconds.
    • Level 2 is certified when the Area A sample lasted at least 2.5 seconds, and Area B lasted a minimum of 12 seconds before holing.
  1. Impact cut resistance – how well the footwear holds up against sharp objects. A blade is mounted to a block which is then dropped at different speeds onto the footwear’s Areas A and B.
    • For Area A, the blade is dropped at 2 m/s. The blade must not penetrate more than 25mm to earn Level 1 and Level 2 rating.
    • For Area B, the blade is dropped at 2.8 m/s. Level 1 approval is accorded if the blade does not protrude more than 25mm. Level 2 approval is given if the blade does not go through more than 15mm.
  1. Transverse rigidity – The strength for the footwear in resisting being crushed i.e. motorcycle dropping onto the wearer’s foot.
    • The widest part of the footwear is positioned between two compression plates that presses together at 30 mm/min. An apparatus records the force required to compress the sole. The machine is stopped when the plates stop compressing or the force remains constant or the sole has been crushed by 20mm. The test is repeated three times.
    • If a force less than 1kN compressed the sole to 20mm, the footwear fails the test. If the force was above 1kN to 1.4kN, the footwear is certified at Level 1 for transverse rigidity. If 1.5kN or higher was required to compress the footwear by 20mm, it gets a Level 2 pass.
Optional tests

Manufacturers may opt to submit their products for additional tests. The passed criteria will be printed on the label beneath the mandatory boxes.

  1. IPS/IPS – Impact protection for the ankle or shin. The footwear is cut open at the sole and the protector is subjected to a force of 10 joules. The protector must not transmit more than 5kN through it. Should the ankle protector pass, IP will be printed on the label. If the shin protector passes, IPS will be indicated.
  1. WR – Water resistance. There are two ways of testing for this. The first is a person donning the footwear and walking a total of 1km in shallow water. Another method is by fixing the footwear to a machine with toes and replicating 4,600 steps while submerged in water. The area of dampness inside the footwear must not exceed 3cm2.
  1. FO – Fuel and oil resistance on the sole. The sample footwear is first weighed before being soaked in fuel for 22 hours. It is then removed and weighed again. The new weight should not increase more than 12%.
  1. SRA/SRB/SRC – Sole’s slip resistance. The tests are carried out with a mechanical heel placed at a 7-degree angle. If the footwear’s label shows “SRA,” it passed on a ceramic tile surface covered with diluted soap. “SRB” means steel floor treated with glycerol. “SRC” means the footwear passed both the SRA and SRB tests.
  1. Breathability of upper parts – If the footwear’s label has a “B” on it, it has passed the test for moisture vapour escape.
  1. WAD – Water absorption/desorption of inner. The footwear is tested to see how much water gets soaked into the inner and how much of that is released.
In closing

Do consider wearing CE tested footwear when you ride because they were exhaustively tested before being approved for sale.

Granted, there are also motorcycle footwear in the market without without CE approval but there is no telling how well they will protect your leg and feet in any accident.

And no, your Nike Air Jordan is not CE certified for motorcycle riding.

We posted a news item about obstructing the traffic offences being the most during Operasi Hormat Undang-undang (Ops HUU) which is currently running. So much so that a total of 15,075 summons related to the offence were issued in just seven days.

Accordingly, it is only appropriate that we look at the definition of the offence of “obstructing the traffic” more closely.

What does “obstructing the traffic” mean?

Obstructing the traffic refers to actions that interrupt, prevent, or restrict the smooth flow of traffic on the road.

What is classified as a traffic obstruction offence?

These offenses are governed by Malaysian traffic laws, such as the Road Transport Act 1987, and may result in legal action such as a summons, fine, or other disciplinary action against the responsible party. The purpose of this enforcement is to ensure the safety and smoothness of traffic for all road users.

This can include various types of errors such as:

  • Illegal parking: Parking a vehicle in a place that is not allowed or that obstructs traffic, such as at an intersection, in a pedestrian area, or in a no-parking zone.

  • Abandoning damaged vehicle/vehicle involved in an accident: Leaving a damaged vehicle or one involved in an accident in the middle of the road without taking steps to remove it or without giving adequate warning to other drivers.
  • Using the emergency lane: Using the emergency lane for purposes other than an actual emergency, such as cutting through heavy traffic.

  • Stopping in the yellow box: Entering and stopping in a yellow box when conditions do not allow a smooth passage is an offence.
  • Unlawful activities on the road: Carrying out activities such as selling goods, waiting for passengers, or any other activity that obstructs the flow of traffic in unauthorised areas.

  • Temporary construction or obstruction: Placing cones, barricades, or any temporary structure on the road without a permit that may impede or block traffic.
  • Unmanaged traffic congestion: Not taking appropriate action to manage traffic congestion during major events, accidents, or emergency situations.

 

We shall get to the point immediately. The “W” in engine oil viscosity stands for “winter.” It is part of the viscosity grading system established by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to classify motor oils according to their viscosity characteristics.

In a motor oil grade, such as 10W-40, the “10W” indicates the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures (winter conditions). Here’s what the “W” and the numbers mean:

  1. Low-Temperature Viscosity (W)
    • The number before the “W” (e.g., 10W) represents the oil’s viscosity at 0°F (-17.8°C), reflecting how the oil performs in cold temperatures. Lower numbers indicate better flow at low temperatures, meaning the oil will be less thick and more capable of protecting the engine during cold starts.
    • But bear in mind that “cold” in temperate climates mean temperatures ranging from above -3 deg Celsius to below 18 deg Celsius.
    • Thus the “W” viscosity DOES NOT apply to tropical countries like Malaysia since our median temperature is 27 deg Celsius. Even the coldest places in Malaysia such as Cameron Highlands rarely see 15 deg Celsius.

  1. High-Temperature Viscosity:
    • The number after the “W” (e.g., 40 in 10W-40) represents the oil’s viscosity at 212°F (100°C), which is roughly the operating temperature of an engine. Higher numbers indicate a thicker oil at high temperatures, providing better protection under heavy load and high temperatures.
Example: 10W-40 Oil
  • 10W: Indicates the oil flows well at low temperatures, making it suitable for cold climates.
  • 40: Indicates the oil maintains sufficient thickness to protect the engine at high operating temperatures.

This system helps ensure that the oil can provide adequate protection and performance under a wide range of operating conditions, from cold starts in winter to high-temperature running.

The reason why engine oils sold in Malaysia have both winter and summer grades is because these oils are also available in other countries, including those that have winter seasons.

The origins of “multigrade” engine oils

Engine oils used to be single-grade only. There are still single grade engine oils, but these are now rare. By single grade we mean, you would buy an oil with one viscosity, such as SAE 10, SAE 30 or SAE 40, and so forth.

So, you would use the lowest viscosity grade possible, such as SAE 5 or SAE 10, during winter months when everything is frozen solid. The “thin” oil keeps itself viscous so that you could start your engine. However, the oil will be too thin when the engine reaches its operating temperature.

On the other hand, you will need to swap out that winter oil to something “heavier” in the hotter months, such as SAE 40, SAE 50, etc. This is to keep the oil from getting too thin in the hot weather. However, this oil will turn into a block of gel in the winter months. Even starting on very cold mornings such as 5 deg Celsius is a chore as the oil is too thick.

As such, oil engineers managed to develop additives that makes an engine oil thin enough that it does not freeze in winter, and stays thick enough when the engine is hot. This gave birth to “multigrade” engine oils that we see today, such as the aforementioned SAE 10W-40 grade. Therefore, you could use only one oil throughout the year.

The Vespa brand has been around for nearly 80 years, going through ups and downs, and finally arriving at this juncture as an iconic motorcycle brand. So, to celebrate the upcoming Vespa Day celebrations, here is a (very) concise history of Vespa.

In the beginning

Vespa’s story began in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II, when Enrico Piaggio, seeking to provide Italians with a practical mode of transportation, collaborated with aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio to create the first Vespa model, the Vespa 98.

Ironically, D’Ascanio made it clear from the outset that he hated motorcycles, even from when he was approached by Ferdinando Innocenti (the founder of Lambretta) earlier. To him, motorcycles are bulky, dirty, and unreliable. However, it was this perspective that gave rise to Vespa’s construction and iconic shape.

Anyway, the name “Vespa” means “Wasp” in Italian, a nod to the bike’s buzzing sound.

Iconic models
  • Vespa 98 (1946): The Vespa 98, introduced in 1946, marked the birth of the Vespa brand. It was the first scooter produced by Piaggio and featured a 98cc engine. Designed by aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, the Vespa 98 boasted a revolutionary design with a step-through frame, enclosed engine, and small wheels. This model set the standard for future Vespa scooters and laid the groundwork for the brand’s success.
  • Vespa 125 (1948): Following the success of the Vespa 98, Piaggio introduced the Vespa 125 in 1948. This model featured a larger 125cc engine, offering improved performance and versatility. The Vespa 125 quickly gained popularity both in Italy and abroad, solidifying Vespa’s reputation for quality and innovation. It became a symbol of post-war reconstruction and economic revival in Europe.

  • Vespa GS Series (1955): The Vespa GS Series, introduced in 1955, represented a significant advancement in Vespa’s design and performance capabilities. The GS (Gran Sport) models were equipped with larger engines, ranging from 125cc to 200cc, and featured sportier styling and improved handling. The Vespa GS 150, in particular, became renowned for its speed and agility, winning races and capturing the hearts of enthusiasts. The GS Series cemented Vespa’s status as a manufacturer of high-performance scooters and further expanded its global reach.

  • Vespa Primavera (1968-Present): Capturing the spirit of the swinging sixties, the Primavera became a symbol of youth culture with its sleek lines and vibrant colors, remaining a favorite among riders worldwide.

  • Vespa PX Series (1977-2007): Renowned for its robust build and timeless design, the PX Series became synonymous with Vespa’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship.

  • Vespa GTS Series (2005-Present): Combining performance and style, the GTS Series has become a modern classic, offering riders a powerful and comfortable riding experience.

Current production facilities

Vespa’s production facilities are strategically located around the globe to ensure accessibility to riders worldwide. With manufacturing plants in Italy, Vietnam, India, and Brazil, Vespa seamlessly blends traditional craftsmanship with advanced technology to produce scooters that meet the highest standards of quality and reliability.

The future of Vespa

As the world embraces sustainable transportation solutions, Vespa is committed to shaping a greener future. The brand has introduced electric models such as the Vespa Elettrica, offering riders an eco-friendly alternative without compromising on performance or style. Additionally, Vespa continues to explore innovative technologies such as connectivity features and autonomous riding systems, reaffirming its position as a pioneer in urban mobility.

In conclusion

From its humble beginnings in post-war Italy to its status as a global icon, Vespa has continued to evolve and innovate, staying true to its core values of style, functionality, and accessibility. With a rich history of historic and iconic models, state-of-the-art production facilities, and a commitment to sustainability, Vespa is poised to lead the way towards a brighter, more efficient future of urban mobility.

You have probably heard about the catalytic converter for your vehicle, be it a motorcycle  or car.

The catalytic converter has been fitted to virtually all vehicles on the road for decades now, as a device to clean up vehicle exhaust emissions before it is released into the environment. But how does it work?

Let us start with what comes out of the exhaust

A vehicle’s engine produces gases called emissions from burning fossil fuels in combination with air. Vehicle emissions contain many different chemical compounds, some more harmful than others.

Some of these by-products are perfectly safe. For example, air is 78% nitrogen gas (N2). Some of this nitrogen reacts with oxygen during combustion. This produces some nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are toxic.

Some byproducts of combustion can cause health problems, including breathing difficulties, cardiovascular disease and cancer. They are caused by nitrogen oxides (NOx), unburned hydrocarbons, carbon particles, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Some byproducts can also pollute our environment. Acid precipitation, air and water pollution are caused by carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur oxides.

Car engines also release carbon monoxide (CO). This poisonous gas can replace oxygen in your bloodstream. If you breathe enough of it, you could suffocate.

French engineer Eugène Houdry invented the catalytic converter around 1950. He had spend most of his career developing better fuels for cars. However, scientists were beginning to learn about air pollution caused by cars by the time. So, Houdry designed the catalytic converter to clean exhaust emissions.

However, emissions from leaded gasoline damaged catalytic converters. By 1975, scientists had developed unleaded gasoline. That year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made catalytic converters mandatory on all new cars. Other countries soon followed.

The catalytic converter is attached to the exhaust pipe underneath a car. It is that bulge along the exhaust downpipe, with a ceramic honeycomb inside it. The honeycomb is coated with a mix of platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd) and rhodium (Rh). These noble metals are good at resisting oxidation, corrosion, and acid. This means they can stand up to all the chemicals released by the engine.

These metals are the catalysts. Catalysts are compounds that trigger a chemical reaction without being affected themselves. Catalytic converters have a honeycomb structure because it provides a lot of surface area for a lot of reactions.

The catalysts in catalytic converters cause oxidation and reduction (redox) reactions to reduce harmful emissions.

Platinum and rhodium take part in the reduction reactions by reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) in exhaust. They do this by removing nitrogen atoms from nitrogen oxide molecules (NO and NO2), and releasing oxygen atoms. The free oxygen atoms form oxygen gas (O2).

Then, the nitrogen atoms attached to the catalyst react with each other. This creates nitrogen gas (N2). Oxygen and nitrogen gases are both safe to breathe.

Reduction Reactions

Nitric acid 2NO → N2 + O2

Nitrogen dioxide 2NO2 → N2 + 2O2

Platinum and palladium take part in oxidation reactions. These reduce hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) in exhaust. First, carbon monoxide and oxygen combine to form carbon dioxide (CO2). Then, unburned hydrocarbons and oxygen combine to form carbon dioxide and water (H2O). This is why you may see water dripping out of the exhaust, especially on a cold morning. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is safe to breathe at low concentrations.

Oxidation Reactions

Reaction 1: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2

Reaction 2: HC + O2 → CO2 + H2O

Modern catalytic converters also have one or two oxygen sensors. It detects the ratio of fuel and air in the exhaust. Too much fuel in the engine leaves unburnt hydrocarbons after combustion. Too much oxygen produces more nitrogen oxides. If the ratio is not correct, the oxygen sensor changes the amount of fuel going into the engine.

There is a catch

Catalytic converters only start to work at between 200 to 300 degrees Celsius, and work fully between 400 to 600 degrees Celsius. As such, the engine emits the same amount of pollutants as a vehicle without a converter at start up. This is why modern fuel injected engines run at higher RPMs at startup in order to get the converter up to working temperature quickly.

Catalytic converter theft

This is a real problem around the world, including in Malaysia. Thieves are after the platinum which could be resold in the black market.

Conclusion

We have only covered the basics of the catalytic converter, as there is so much more to write about.

Riding at night can be a lot of fun.

Several friends, myself included, prefer to ride at night for several reason. Among them, there is less traffic to contend with, the air is cooler, and no one calling you about work.

Unfortunately, most road accidents happen at night. But there are ways to mitigate the risks. Here are several tips that could make your night-time ride safer and more enjoyable.

#1. Visibility to others

Forget about those motorcycle ads that show a rider clad in all-black gear riding a black motorcycle at night.

Motorcycles have smaller cross-sections thus the headlights are closer together. A car driver who has never ridden a motorcycle could easily misjudge a motorcycle’s. It is therefore important to wear gear that enhance our presence, from a brightly coloured helmet, to a fluorescent yellow safety vest with large reflector panels, and several pieces of well-place reflective stickers on the bike and around the rims.

Trust us when we say that other road users will take better care when they see a human figure on a motorcycle, rather than just the rear light which makes them dismiss it as “just a soulless machine.”

#2. Visibility for us

Make sure you replace the headlight’s bulbs every couple of years or so (except if they are LED). Even the best halogen lightbulbs deteriorate over time, but they do so very progressively at an unnoticeable rate.

There are riders who say there is no issue with replacing the halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, but there are also who found the LED bulbs damaged their headlamps and/or electrical systems. As such, do approach this with care.

We understand that some motorcycles’ headlights are dimmer than a torchlight’s. However, installing auxiliary lights i.e. spotlights is against the law in Malaysia, but use them responsibly if do install them anyway. Make sure they are pointed down the road and not upwards into traffic and blinding other road users.

#3. Do not stare into oncoming headlights

The headlights on cars and even some motorcycles are awfully bright these days, most probably due to misalignment. Staring into bright lights will degrade your night vision, and your eyes will need time to readjust. This is especially dangerous if you are riding around curvy roads.

Avert your eyes from oncoming headlights and concentrate on your path ahead. Let the vehicle pass you if its headlamps are blasting into your rearview mirror, or turn the mirrors to different angles for a moment.

#4. Slow down

This may be further down the list but it is no less important. Riding at night like you do during the daytime just increases the risks as it is much harder to spot hazards. At the same time, open up your other senses such as smell to pick up scents of rubbish water or fuel spills.

#5. Scan your surroundings

Make sure you scan your surroundings all the time. You can never know if another vehicle is approaching you at a high speed without lights. Do not just rely on the mirror – also look over your shoulders from time-to-time.

#6. Stay comfy

Make sure your jacket is sufficient in keeping out the cold, especially when you are riding after a rain spell, on a country road or up a mountain. Shivering in the cold robs you of your concentration and you need 100% construction every time we ride, especially at night.

The first thing that comes to mind when engine oil is mentioned is lubrication, keeping moving parts from grinding each other into dust. Part of that image is reinforced by ads that show oil circulating around the pistons and cylinders, and nowhere else.

However, the engine oil plays other equally important roles, like the amazing co-stars of a movie that were overlooked.

So, here are the 5 main functions of engine oil.

#1: Lubrication

Okay, this is the main use for engine oil. As we mentioned earlier, the oil film separates two surfaces, to keep them from coming into contact. Without oil, the surfaces, especially moving surfaces such as bearings, cam lobes, piston rings, etc. will scrape against each other, create intense heat, and seize.

#2: Cooling

Oil was the cooling medium before liquid-cooling became the in-thing. Oil has the capacity to absorb heat, lots of it. However, the liquid used for cooling an engine only circulates around the engine block and head, but does not reach the nether regions of an engine such as the crankshaft, camshaft, transmission, clutch (for motorcycles). These are moving parts and they are exposed to the heat from fuel combustion. So, it is the oil’s job to lubricate and cool them.

#3: Cleaning

How do you clean soot on the cylinder walls that resulted from fuel combustion? You cannot design a piston with brushes on its side. So, it is the oil’s job to carry this soot away and into the sump. This is one reason why an oil turns darker.

#4: Preventing oxidation and rust

Oil keeps parts from rusting which is a layman word for oxydation. The oil film keeps oxygen and water vapour away from the metal’s surface.

#5: Sealing

The oil film plays an important role in sealing gaps among certain engine components, such as between the piston rings and the cylinder wall. Without this 1 molecule thick oil film, combustion gases will blow straight through into the crankcase, resulting in power loss.

Oil is also a great seal for gaskets so that the oil itself does not leak out.

BONUS: Lubricating the clutch

This only applies to motorcycles, the majority of which uses the “wet” clutch. The engine oil is circulated around the clutch pack to keep the plates from having too much friction, therefore making them cooler and lasting longer.

Every four-stroke engine is equipped with an engine oil filter. Question is, do you change it during every oil service?

We brought this up as there are owners who say they only do so during every alternate service or it depends on the type of use oil they use i.e. mineral, semi-synthetic, fully-synthetic.

Let us take a look at what the oil filter does before we proceed further.

The functions of the engine oil filter:

As its name suggests, the filter traps impurities and foreign agents in the engine oil. It does so that these foreign objects are not circulated around the engine together with the oil.

Oil is pumped through the filter and the filtered oil exits it to continue circulating around the engine.

The sources of impurities and foreign objects include:
  1. Metal shavings due to surface interactions of moving parts. Some of these shavings may be very fine or even microscopic for the eyes to detect.
  2. Carbon, soot, acidic compounds resulting from combustion of fuel. This is one reason why the oil turns dark.
  3. Fine dust that made its way through the air filter.
What happens if the filter is not replaced?
  • An old filter will get clogged from too much dirt, impurities, and foreign objects.
  • Consequently, oil flow gets blocked from flowing through the filter.
  • Loss of engine power since there is not enough lubrication.
  • Some of the impurities end up being sent around the engine, resulting in accelerated wear.

When to replace the filter?

It is best to adhere to the recommended intervals set by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Besides, the old oil left in the old filter will corrupt the new oil, resulting in less protection for your engine and the new oil breaking down quicker.

Conversely, the oil and filter must be changed regardless of mileage if you take your bike out for an extreme excursion, such as a race, trackday, or off-road riding.

Do not overlook the importance of the oil filter. And do use a genuine filter. It does not cost as much as an engine rebuild.

It is true that riding in a convoy has its appeal such as camaraderie among friends who have the same love for motorcycles. However, there are times when riding solo is more fun. Everyone needs some time away, anyhow.

1. Alone with our thoughts

This is the main reason some bikers like to ride solo. It is time to get away from the toxic partner, the screaming kids, the unappreciative boss, etc., etc. Riding solo gives you a clarity of mind and who knows, you may discover the answer to that nagging problem.

2. No peer pressure

Peer pressure is real during group rides and it is not confined to riding fast, but also riding too slow. It is not uncommon for the faster riders to berate the slower ones (who chose to ride at a relaxed pace), or vice versa. We may even get riders who seem to challenge us to a race. Such group dynamics create a dangerous riding environment. Riding solo does away with peer pressure.

3. Our own pace and schedule

Riding solo means we ride at our own pace and adhering to our own schedule (or not). There is no one to harass us if we put on our gear slowly. Or stopping every few minutes. Or having to chase someone else’s schedule.

4. Stop whenever we want

We decide when we want to stop. Or pull over whenever you see a beautiful view such a sunset. Or a green carpet of paddy fields. Just stop, take in the view. No one will complain.

5. Start whenever we want

As much as we like taking our own time, we also hate those who take too much of our time. Strange but true, is it not? We will ALWAYS find that one friend who takes forever to gear up (only to stop the entire convoy because he forgot something). Or that guy who needs to stop and pee every 15 minutes. Or the group that constantly stops to eat even before the engine is anywhere near lukewarm. So instead of taking 4 hours to reach your intended destination, it took 8 hours. The answer? Ride solo.

6. Idiot riders

Sometimes riding in a group sets a rider’s ego loose to show off such as pulling wheelies. Or teasing the local ladies and earning the ire of the residents (It actually happened on one of our trips to Thailand!). Or some guys who decided to go another way, getting lost, and holding up the entire group by hours as we go look for them while they look for us.

7. Safety

The safety aspect is derived from not riding with idiots. We can mitigate our own risks instead of putting our lives and limbs in the hands of others. You may get one rider who constantly speeds up then slotting in, another rider who insists of riding several centimetres from you like as if it is a Blue Angels’ display. Ride solo and ride relaxed rather than worrying about the safety of the others and ours.

8. Change of mind

Imagine riding and you suddenly get a craving for food you have not eaten for some time. Or decide to spend the night in a nice town that appeals to our fancies. Just do it because you do not need to consult with anyone.

BONUS: Practice your riding skills

Trying to practice your skills during a group ride is not a smart thing to do since there are other bikes around. Also, we can bet there will be several others around to impart the wrong advice which would be detrimental to our riding and safety. Riding solo lets you practice your own skill sets.

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