Biker Bites – Yamaha’s motorcycles of future past

Yamaha’s motorcycle division is on a roll. Over the past few years, they’ve trotted out one futuristic-looking motorcycle after the other like no other Japanese manufacturer.

Their latest neo-retro XSR700 is almost steampunk, achieved with a few clever tweaks of the recently launched mid-range MT-07 motorcycle to attract the younger crowd.

Bikes like this are quickly setting the benchmark for other mainstream motorcycles. Some say the XSR700 is a hipster design, but I think this is a bike that fits the visual zeitgeist of our times – a desire for visual rawness and mechanical detailing and yet simplistic in actual performance. Also, it’s an obvious marketing offensive against the Ducati Scrambler (which is also trying to rock the neo-retro vibe) but with more angular and aggressive lines.

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The new Yamaha XSR700. Note the attention to detail on every part of the motorcycle to make it look as steampunk as a mainstream motorcycle can possibly be without being impractical. There’s also a careful mix of different metallic hues in the engine area to achieve visual complexity for what is actually a very straightforward parallel-twin engine.
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The precursor to the XSR700 was this custom MT-07 built by Shinya Kimura, announced in June this year. More Star Wars than anime, if you ask me.

I’m glad for bikes like the XSR700 because most standard motorcycles in Singapore look boring to any observer. This situation is steadily changing as more high-end Class 2 bikes roam our streets due to high car prices and the range of designs above 400cc are now staggering. That’s also why I encourage every biker to get to Class 2, instead of staying in Class 2B or 2A.

The Germans and Italians may have sexy motorcycle designs, but I believe Yamaha – the biggest motorcycle brand in Singapore – is shaping our streets to look like Future Tokyo.

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Fixing the Singapore transport system will take some guts

I refer to the story “The Big Read: Despite push for public transport, a love for cars endures” (17 July, Today).

The article presented most sides of the transport problem in Singapore – a growing desire by commuters to wean themselves off cars, yet they face perennial issues of inconvenience or sometimes, the sheer impracticality with the state of public transport in Singapore.

However, like most conversations around transport in Singapore, the article did not address what it really takes to solve a long-standing problem of getting around in this tiny city state. Or at least, getting more people to stop driving.

Let me tell you what I think it takes – immense courage and conviction at all levels of society to actually make things happen.

As Singapore turns 50, I see less and less of the mindblowing bravery that our early leaders demonstrated to bring us from third world to first. These days, I observe too much hemming and hawing in the public sphere. Policy decisions seem to be made to desperately preserve the status quo, not to truly transform Singapore for the next stage of its existence.

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A letter from a Christian work in progress

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Last weekend, I watched my Facebook newsfeed turn rainbow-colored as people celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage across 50 states in the USA. Now before you, or other readers, start reacting or calling names, this piece of writing is not about what I feel about gays or lesbians, but what I feel about Christians in today’s hyper-connected world.

I observed the newsfeed and realized most of the Christians I knew were keeping quiet on the matter. Undoubtedly, it’s a sensitive and emotional issue for many people, and I spent many hours in my university days debating or mulling on this topic with Christian and non-Christian friends. I stopped discussing this when I got into the working world because I was too busy getting work done with colleagues, regardless of their lifestyle preferences.

I went to church on Sunday and nobody even mentioned this at the pulpit. Isn’t this the time for the pastor to share his views, when it’s the topic of the day?

So maybe Christians don’t know what they should say, or don’t feel like saying anything, or don’t dare to have a public opinion on a divisive matter. But isn’t this an irony considering how connected we are today, and how everyone is trying to voice their opinion? What happened to us?

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Biker Bites : The Monster gets Samco silicone implants

When they were unveiled in 2013, one of the first things I noticed about the latest generation of Ducati Monsters was the intestine-like radiator hosing that snaked intensely around the 1198cc Testastretta liquid-cooled engine. Some people said the hoses were ugly, but I thought they were unique and brutally raw.

monster side profile

Ducati obviously did everything it could to make it less prominent – beneath the fiery red tank and trellis frame, the radiator hoses were blacked out like the rest of the plastic parts.

But I was fascinated because the aesthetic way the hoses had been arranged as they emerged from one end of the engine, got channeled through the water pump cover, and entered into the radiator like three snakes poised to attack. Or maybe the Ducati designers were just trying to make sure the hoses didn’t block the trellis frame.

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The Surface Pro 3 as an artistic canvas

Before I was a photographer or a writer, I was an artist. I drew incessantly when I was a child, and hoped to become a graphics illustrator when I grew up. It’s a long story as usual, but that didn’t happen.

Over the years, my drawing ability became dormant from disuse, but the arrival of the Surface Pro 3 got the artistic juices flowing again. For those who don’t know, I am in charge of the Surface consumer business in Singapore but I make it a point never to write about my day-to-day work on this site. I’ll make an exception here because of what I’ve been doing on the SP3 outside of working hours – rekindling my love for drawing.

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Going back to basics with Willy Pogany’s classic book The Art Of Drawing, which was written over 60 years ago and with the Surface Pro 3, packed with 21st century technologies.

Much has been written about the SP3’s ability as a drawing tablet for professional or amateur artists. And it’s all true – the combination of the 12″ touch screen, 256-levels-of-sensitivity Surface Pen and software like Fresh Paint, Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro – makes digital artwork both affordable, convenient and easy.

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Biker Bites – The Importance Of Seat Height

One of the most exciting bits about being a motorcyclist is having a staggering range of motorcycle models to choose from. My fellow biker friends and I were having a recent discussion lately on bike shopping and I told them that my number one criteria was Seat Height.

Yep, it can be the sexiest or most powerful bike on earth, but I would never ride a bike where my feet are barely touching the ground when the bike is stationary.

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I asked myself…

I had an interesting time this past week listening to different conversations and encountering some unique situations. They triggered some existential and day-to-day-living questions in my head and I thought I’d write them down to mull on them further.

1. What defines a person’s status or position in society? His job, his skills, his knowledge, his attitude towards life, the way he treats others, the way he asks to be treated, his wealth (or his idea of wealth), his possessions, his impact on others, his looks, his conversations or his family?

2. Do other people often define us in their own terms? ie. Do people pigeon-hole other people based on what they can understand of themselves?

3. What does it mean to do one’s best? When it impresses other people or when it impresses oneself?

4. When a pastor preaches at his flock and tells them not to live the rat race and live a materialistic, hedonistic life, how many of them actually realize that they’re the ones being described?

5. Do people realize when they have become followers, and living their lives according to how someone defines it for them? Does this in turn lead to the creation of the “status quo”, when enough people believe in a certain definition of “the life they ought to accept” and then actually go fulfill it?

6. Should people live their lives in fear of what might happen, or in the hope of what might happen?

7. Which makes more sense – to lead a life solving problems created by others, or to lead a life solving problems created by oneself?

The last one is the question I’m most interested in.

It’s ok to be bald, people

I was shaving my head in the bathroom today when I realized that it has been 18 years since my hair started to thin out. It really feels like a lifetime ago when I first became terribly distraught about becoming a balding man at the tender age of 21.

My university days was the period which I had to grapple with this issue head-on (ok, bad pun) and I decided not to take any medication as it was both expensive and not permanent in restoring my hair. I also had the support of my girlfriend, and now my wife Goy, who liked my lame jokes better than my departing hair.

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