Tag Archives: NH

Monstah Mash: Riding the new Ducati Monster 797

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Photo courtesy of MCN.

Ever since Ducati phased out the Monster 696/796 duo back in 2014, new riders looking to the famed Bologna marquee for their first motorcycle had precious few choices. They could opt for the Monster 821, a bigger and heavier motorcycle than a green rider might be comfortable with, or the Scrambler, which only became available a short time ago.

Enter the 2017 Monster 797, a machine designed to be a serious contender for a new rider’s first bike, and a stylish gateway into the Ducati family. Distilled down, the 797 is a simple, approachable, easy to ride motorcycle that broadens the accessibility of Ducati’s signature brand of performance and riding passion.

In my opinion, no discussion of the 797 is complete without looking back to previous generation Monsters, specifically the 796.

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The Monster 796. Photo courtesy of Motorcycle-usa.

While the passage of time has shaped the 797 into a more refined motorcycle than its predecessor, the two bikes share much of the same lineage, most notably their common engine.

The 803cc air-cooled v-twin found in the 797 (which also powers the Scrambler) is a direct descendant of the one found in the 796. In 797 guise, it makes a healthy 75 horsepower and 50.8 pound-feet of torque. Power delivery is linear and easy to modulate making it reassuringly predictable for the newer rider.

One area where the 797 positively leaves the 796 for dead is in how cleanly it pulls from low rpm – gone are the filling-rattling judders when rolling on the throttle in too low a gear. Keep the throttle pinned and the motor pulls deliciously right to the top of the rev range. Land speed records probably aren’t in the 797’s future, but it has ample grunt for nearly every riding situation.

That smoothness continues into the rest of the riding experience as well. Changing gears and pulling away from stops are a delight thanks to the silky-smooth gearbox, every twist of the throttle yields crisp responses, and the slipper clutch does a fantastic job of taking the edge off all but the most ham-fisted downshifts.

Ducati also nailed the 797’s ergonomics. Drop into the saddle and you immediately notice how upright the seating position is. The seat is wide and comfortable, the foot pegs low and directly beneath you, and the high bars are natural to hold. Throw in a well-tuned chassis and short 56.5-inch wheelbase, and the 797 maneuvers with ease, particularly at low speed. Tip in is immediate, and the front end feels agile and sharp. It never feels twitchy or over eager to change direction, it simply goes where you point it with deftness.

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It may be an entry-level bike, but she still rips. Photo courtesy of CarBlogIndia.

Another standout feature is the large, easy to read dash. Like the rest of the bike, simplicity is the name of the game – a tachometer, speedometer, trip/clock combo, odometer, average speed counter, and that’s it. There are no confusing menus to flick through, no rider mode adjustments to be made. Just all the pertinent information in a tidy package.

While it may be entry-level, the 797’s styling is anything but. It beautifully blends modern Ducati styling with retro-Monster cues. It has the same muscular stance as the 796, the current Monster 1200 has donated its classy aluminum gas tank, Ducati’s stunning red trellis frame is on full display from front fork to tidy tail, and the single round headlight has been a staple on every Monster since 1993.

If I could change anything about the 797, it would be the exhaust note. While it does makes a lovely growl under full load, it lacks some of that sonorous quality I was hoping for. Throw on a set of aftermarket pipes though, and the 797 should clear its throat and sing with the best of them.

With the 797, Ducati has crafted a solid motorcycle for new riders that also happens to deliver enough performance to be a viable option for seasoned riders. The newest Monster’s refined powertrain, crisp handling, smooth controls, and a starting price of under ten grand make this bike is a genuine pleasure to ride.

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Many thanks and much respect to Seacoast Sport Cycle in Derry, NH for the opportunity to ride and review the Monster 797. SSC is a full-service dealer with incredibly knowledgeable staff and a wide array of motorcycles and gear to choose from.

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Cars in the Wild

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The Audi R8 first appeared on the scene back in 2007 and promptly blew everyone’s collective mind. Audi is known for fast cars, but the R8 was their first foray into the savagely competitive supercar market, and its sublime chassis, all-wheel drive grip, sonorous 4.2-liter V8 engine, and striking looks made it an instant classic. To quench the demand for an R8 with even more power, Audi gifted the R8 with a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10 to create the stunning R8 V10.

I have nothing but enormously fond memories of the Audi R8 V10. Last summer, I was fortunate/blessed/insanely lucky to spend an entire week with one on an epic road trip from Massachusetts to Tennessee on the Yuppie Rally. (You can check out the chronicles from that ridiculous adventure here.) My dreams are still haunted by the gritty, ripping baritone exhaust note, holding white knuckled onto the steering wheel as I’m hurled towards the 8200 rpm redline. Take that experience, add a fistful more horsepower and a generous helping of carbon fiber and track readiness, and you have the car pictured above – the R8 V10 GT.

Only 333 of these cars were ever produced, and a mere 95 of them made their way to the States. That makes this Teutonic titan rarer than a Ferrari Enzo, at least ten times more scarce than a Lamborghini Murcielago, and nearly as uncommon as the Bugatti Veyron. Its 560 horsepower mid-mounted V10 propels the R8 GT to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds and keeps churning until 199 mph. The normal R8 V10 is by no means a slouch, but the GT brings things to entirely new heights. Along with the bump in power, the GT also benefits from a hefty weight savings and enhanced aerodynamics in the form of winglets on the front bumper and a carbon fiber rear wing. But enough of that: want to hear how it sounds? Thought so.

This particular car was scooped in Manchester, NH. I must find this car. You’ll be the first to know when I do.

The Torque Tube: Synaptic3 Performance

Synaptic3 Performance is a prime example of what this website was started for. Located in an out-of-the-way, unassuming business park in the fully unassuming town of Candia, NH, brothers Ron and Dana Salb have created a world-class performance shop that is turning out some of the most complete builds to be found on either road or track. Simply pulling into the shop’s parking lot is proof enough that Ron and Dana are for real. A handful of Synaptic3 tuned and customized Mazda RX-7s, RX-8s, and Subaru STIs effortlessly shatter the cloudy, dull gray that permeates this late fall day—deep paint hues, pearlescent carbon fiber hoods, and lithe, aggressive stances make for a striking welcome party.

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The seeds of Synaptic3 Performance have been taking root for years. Ron and Dana starting tinkering with friends’ cars as well as their own, using their parent’s garage as an impromptu shop. Both Ron and Dana have kept their lives and careers woven around the automotive industry and have continued to build Synaptic3 even while pursuing school or other interests. The brother’s diverse skill sets, along with their infectious enthusiasm, is the driving force behind Synaptic3 and its growing success.

The Synaptic3 that exists today began in large part because of the rally scene. The ability of Ron and Dana to fabricate FIA-spec IFrollcages really helped jumpstart the company. The result has been Synaptic3 tuned cars that have not only competed in Rally America, but have won rally championships as well.

“While we have a fair amount of exposure in Rally, it’s actually a pretty small sport and community,” said Dana in an email interview. “We’ve worked on a half a dozen full blown rally cars. Some started out as virgin chassis, other were revamps of previous rally cars that were gutted and rebuilt to bring up to current class specs. We’ve covered everything from building FIA spec roll cages and chassis preparation… to doing motors builds, setting up suspensions, building wiring harnesses, fuel systems, and safety systems, etc.”

Two things are readily apparent immediately after stepping into Synaptic3’s crowded, but clean, shop. #1, the market for customization is as unique diverse and the people who enjoy it—a customer’s race-prepped Porsche awaits its turn on the lift, several Mazda RX-7s sit in various stages of completion and manage to look fast even while motionless, and a Nissan Sentra Spec-V is getting finishing touches on its crazy custom turbocharger setup. And #2, the guys here are really good at what they do.

“We’re currently working on a forced induction application for a brand new Nissan Sentra Spec-V. The customer is very contentious about the details. It’s going to be quite the sleeper. We have a number of big turbo Subaru’s being built and a host of third generation RX-7s for street, track, and show all leading into the winter.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things that makes this shop so special is the level of engineering and attention to detail that even the smallest parts receive. Case in point—Ron and Dana stick their heads under the hood of the turbo Spec-V to explain in detail all the time and effort that went into designing a single bracket used to move a part out of the way of the new turbo piping. Beautifully fabricated and covered in crackle finish, it’s a small but perfect example of their work.

“We can build you a tube chassis frame, an award winning stereo system, install and dial-in your track suspension, or turbocharge and tune your daily driver,” said Dana. “Two members of our staff have Bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Design (product design), so we can come up with solutions and execute them in a unique and effective manner.

A range of cars find their way under the wrenches at Synaptic3, but Ron and Dana’s specialty is tuning Japanese cars. They have found that Japanese cars are a preferable platform to work from because they begin life at the factory with a superior level of quality and allow for higher levels of tuning and customization.  This mirrors their own quasi-obsessive standards.

“We adhere to our own best practices that we’ve developed over the years. We sweat the details, and will not cut corners to get a job done quickly. Many customers have told us it is that reputation that has brought them to us. We take the time to make sure aftermarket components not only fit but allow for service in the field should it be necessary.”

IFWhen a car comes into the shop, Ron and Dana’s first mission is to figure out what exactly a customer is looking for. Instead of getting right to work, they start with questions—Do you know what you’re looking for? Are you going racing with the car? What kind of racing? What is the purpose for upgrading? A concerted effort  is made to clearly define what the customer is looking for, and then working to build a solution that meets or exceeds the customer’s end goals.

One of the significant customer service elements that Ron and Dana employ is to take meticulously detailed photos the car in its various build stages. Synaptic3’s website has literally thousands of such photos and they provide a unique glimpse into the kind of work Ron and Dana are capable of.

Next to Synaptic3’s main building is an unassuming steel shed that serves as the company’s dedicated dynamometer room. Inside it has to  2010-09-17_00001be one of the most thorough dyno setups ever put together. Instead of being installed into the floor, the all-wheel-drive Mustang 500SE unit sits above the floor, allowing for easier access to  car’s underside and the dyno’s moving parts. Built directly into the wall facing the dyno are four giant fans capable of pushing 40,000 cfm through the room, while a dedicated exhaust fan sucks fumes out from the back of the building. Like anything Ron and Dana do, this facility was heavily researched and designed to meet their exacting standards, and it’s clear the guys are proud of the setup.

When asked if he could describe what Synaptic3 was all about in one word, Dana paused, let out a deep breath, and thought for a moment. He then looked up and said, “Dedication.” And, after seeing the inner workings of the shop and spending several hours with Ron and Dana, there couldn’t be a better word to describe Synaptic3. To learn more about the company and how they can help you on your next project, be sure to visit the Synaptic3 website at www.Synaptic3.com, and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.

Welcome, Synaptic3 Performance, to The Torque Tube.

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Many thanks and much respect to Dana and Ron for their time and energy for this piece, and for allowing me to poke around their shop.

Cars in the Wild

There is nothing like a Porsche. There are plenty of manufacturers in the same market, other cars in the same category, but no one does it like the boys from Stuttgart. Some of its competitors are better, while many others get their doors blown off, but the people who own Porsches and drive them and race them are Porsche to the core. The purest iteration of the Porsche language is embodied in the 911, the iconic sports car the company has been making since 1963. And of the innumerable variants of the glorious 911 stands the GT3 – the pure, track focused version of Porsche’s purest automobile.

The GT3 follows a pretty genius marketing plan – charge more and give customers less. Sounds sheisty, but it isn’t. The only things you get less of are weight, distraction, and time spent on each lap of your favorite race track. This particular example (doesn’t it look epic in black?) was spotted at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weekends ago during the 24 Hours of LeMons race. Mounted at the back of the GT3 in quintessential 911 fashion, is a 3.6-liter flat-six engine that develops 415 horsepower and manhandles the ever important dash to 60 miles per hour benchmark in 4.1 seconds. Interestingly, Road & Track Magazine recorded a 60 mph run in 3.8 seconds. Competitors and posers will be admiring the size of the GT3’s diesel rear wing all the way up to the car’s top speed of 193 mph.

But, this car isn’t focused only on outright speed – world class handling and neatly slicing a race track to ribbons are the GT3’s true calling. There are very few cars with the balanced nature, communicative feedback, and pure tenacity of a GT3 on full attack. For as much as Top Gear is the outlet TDC turns to for videos and commentary, auto-geek Chris Harris (@harrismonkey) composes some of the most insightful car reviews you can find anywhere. Check out his breakdown of the GT3 by clicking HERE.

Another great thing about Porsche is they are always creating newer and faster variants of their already bonkers cars. Recently they created the GT3 RS 4.0, a car that makes pretty much everything else a few classes up and down the social ladder wilt with terror. A colossal 4.0-liter flat-six that makes 500 horsepower has been shoehorned into the back of the 4.0, resulting in low-3 second sprints to 60 mph. The 4.0 also inherits a range of parts and technology from Porsche’s racing program which make it a barely street legal racecar. Check out another excellent Chris Harris on the GT3 RS 4.0 video HERE.

Thank you, Porsche, for making cars like the GT3 – they are the stuff of dreams!

Cars in the Wild

It’s not every day that you see a Chevrolet Corvair chillin’ in the parking lot of a Hannafords. Or anywhere for that matter. When the Corvair hit the showroom in 1960, it was the only rear-engined, air cooled American car on the market, and it was awarded Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year award. Throughout it’s lifetime, the Corvair spawned a multitude of different variants including the convertible pictured here, a coupe, a panel van, a hotted up and turbocharged “Monza” version, among others. Performance, especially handling, was not the Corvair’s forte. In fact, GM faced lawsuits because of suspected unsafe handling due to it’s swing axle rear suspension setup. The car has an interesting history that’s definitely worth reading about. In the meantime, check out the photo below!