Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” – it really needs a better name for casual conversation. We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order. I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy!

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago Now Officially Debuts

We already announced the bike last November, and brought you a bevy of hi-res images of the special edition machine. Although now that we think of it, MV Agusta never released anything on this Giacomo Agostini tribute motorcycle — better late than never, right? Back at the EICMA show launch, where the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago was first shown to the public (and Agostini himself), the Varese brand promised us two additional motorcycle launches in early 2014. MV Agsuta made good on half that promise with the Dragster 800 model, hopefully this Ago special edition isn’t the other half of that statement, and MV Agusta still has something waiting in the wings. That being said, the Tricolore & Gold paint scheme is gorgeous, and looks even better in person.

Isle of Man TT Gets TV Deal for Australia & USA

Want to watch the Isle of Man TT from the comfort of your non-British TV, but haven’t been able to in the past? A new TV from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development will do just that. Inking a new TV contract with North One TV, the Isle of Man TT will be televised in the American, Australian, and of course British markets, making it easier than ever to watch the iconic road race. With a five-year contract with the Velocity Channel in the US, the American cable channel will show seven one-hour race shows. Each segment will air within 24hrs of each race, and be tailored for the American market.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months. Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles. “Moreover, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny rumours circulated by the media over the last few days concerning supposed negotiations vis-à-vis the sale of a share of MV Agusta to the Fiat-Chrysler Group,” said Giovanni Castiglioni, the President and CEO of MV Agusta.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

At the Intersection of the Future…

03/02/2012 @ 4:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler25 COMMENTS

At the Intersection of the Future... Motorcycle evolution

Despite the fact that the business side of motorcycling is run by a small close-nit group of curmudgeons, Neanderthals, and Luddites, the world outside of motorcycling continues to press on without us.

And while various parts of the motorcycle industry are busy trying to figure out how to adapt to this whole new “internet” technology fad thing (it has only been commercialized for over two decades now guys), the same group of people are busy trying to maintain the same business models and practices that came from the post-World War II economy.

In other words, when it comes to technology and the motorcycle industry, we are all pretty much fucked.

I know this whole online journalism thing puts me at the far-end of the progressive spectrum in the motorcycle industry, but the reality is when it comes to new technology adoption there is so much going on outside of the four corners of motorcycling’s world, it makes running a website that talks about motorcycles on a daily basis seem so 2011.

Since I like to draw analogies from outside of the motorcycle industry to show my points, take for example Yahoo search. At one point the behemuth-of-the-internet, Yahoo is slowly dying a death of one thousand cuts in its commodity-based business, while competitor Google continues to thrive and grow well beyond its initial critical app of contextual search, and seems forever entrenched in its market position.

Innovate or stagnate, evolve or die, adapt or react…I can keep spitting out buzzword comparisons, but the takeaway comes back to the fact that industries, like companies, need to keep a constant weather eye on the horizon, lest the waters around them begin to storm and swell.

Whether we want to admit it or not, transportation is changing all around us. Smaller cars, EVs, and even automated vehicles are already a reality, and are gaining steam. For example, if you are an astute driver of the roads surrounding San Francisco, you likely have already seen Google’s driverless car prowling the streets in an understated not-so-futuristic manner.

The idea of cars driving themselves is certain to be a scary proposition for many, though before someone leaves a Skynet comment (or worse) at the bottom of this post, consider the fact that we already entrust computers with far more important things in our day-to-day lives.

Since no one reads online publications, you will read in this weekend’s Finance & Business section of the Sunday paper about how millions of dollars were lost in the stock market because of an automated trading system for gold, silver, and bonds was accidentally tripped, causing a massive selling of those index investments.

While the business of multi-billion dollar transactions are fairly complex mathematically, the reality is, driving a car, flying a plane, and even riding a motorcycle are trivial pursuits —  they are so easy in fact, even a human can do them. So, do not be shocked then when I tell you the future of driving is automated vehicles, and their time is nearly upon us.

I submit for your examination a model of the intersection of the future. In a world where cars are in constant contact with each other and ever vigilantly reading the roadways for changes, dangers, and efficiencies, traffic lights will cease to exist…or so say the scientists behind such technologies.

While the model above surely looks like absolute chaos, it is the product of a highly-efficient algorithm that takes into account the destinations of all the cars coming to the intersection, and then times and routes them in the most appropriate manner. For futurists, this looks like a symphony, but for motorcyclists it likely looks terrifying.

The question then is which of the following outcomes scares you more as a motorcyclist: giving up the control of riding your motorcycle through city streets, or riding the only vehicle that isn’t tied into the stream of data from the multi-ton vehicles that surround it.

This is a trick question of course, because what should really scare you is the fact that the organizations that should be actively involved in developing these systems are the same ones that are still busy spending most of their time arguing about whether or not we should be wearing helmets when we ride motorcycles.

I guarantee their are no water-cooler talks at the MIC or AMA about the future of transportation at this level. Like I said before, we are all pretty much fucked.

Source: The Atlantic Cities


  1. nitroguy says:

    Wow! Encouraging way to start the weekend!

    Lest you forget about backroads, Forest Service roads, offroad trails, winding mountain roads, long desert stretches…

    Wouldn’t we all want to ride those anyways? Fine! Take away my ability to travel through an intersection. I’ll find a away around it. Heck, the legislation through all this much will be so great, they’ll be forced to put a “non-computer-controlled” lane bypassing it all. I’ll use that, and get to work faster!

    To all the dooms-dayers, I think you’re forgetting two critical components: the wherewithal of the human mind, and the mire that we call government.

    Eh. I’m not worried.

    Now, where’s that story on FI 2 stroke dirtbikes that I came here for…?

  2. AJ says:

    It’s sales driven. Today’s sales. Although you are correct, this industry in not the only one focused on the now and paying no attention to tomorrow. It’s actually fairly common. I’ve worked at a few companies where, if you aren’t the current most important project, you don’t exist.

  3. Qwest says:

    Sadly, you make a fantastic point. What if motorcycles play no part in this new system at all? If cars become automated, where is there room for people making their own way on bike?

  4. sunstroke says:

    Why would we automate passenger cars? Automating passenger cars is too expensive and it would create more litigation than our system could handle.

    If we automate, automating public transit is better solution. Close entire sections of cities to passenger cars and use buses, street cars, multi-passenger taxis, etc on the roadways. If autonomous public transportation can be made safe, personnel will not be needed at all. The money saved on salary, healthcare, and legacy costs could be invested in more autonomous equipment to improve service intervals. Furthermore, public transit makes it easier to introduce alternative fuels like compressed natural gas, hydrogen, and biofuel.

    The likelihood of integrating 250M light highway vehicles into a single system is not good, mainly b/c it isn’t cost-effective or necessary. We will be free to bomb B-roads until we are no longer on this planet. The areas with highest traffic density will be run by autonomous public transit. The interstates might be next.

  5. Jackie says:

    There will certainly come a point when bikes aren’t on the road, though not for a couple decades me thinks.

    For those that don’t really love engines, driving, riding, etc, the notion of an accident free, stress-less, computer-driven transportation system is supremely attractive…and will become a reality.

    I’m not sure about were you (readers) lives, but here in CA the change in riding has taken a very noticeable change for the worse over the past decade. Highways are treacherous places to be, main roads are packed, and old back-roads/haunts are filling up with traffic at all hours of the week.
    Add to that an increase in police enforcement brought about by our own motorcycling community’s actions and any sense of “escape” or “freedom” is pretty much long gone…or one has to go further afield to find it. So, at a certain point, the fun of road riding will be gone long before we are automated off the roads.

  6. Early Adopter says:

    In the spring of 2001 the FIM held a conference at AMA hq in Ohio. They told us then that motorcycling as-we-know-it would change dramatically in about 15 years with the implementation of intelligent transportation systems. “It will be track days for everyone,” they said. Since then we’ve watched the industry (& AMA) shift emphasis to ATV’s and off-road bikes so it appears the manufacturers agree.

  7. MotoRandom says:

    As much as it would easy to get all work up about this, I think it’s safe to say we are long way from anything like this happening. While the technology exists, the money does not. No one has the financial resources to build a system like this and it’s unlikely anyone will for a very long time. I would cite as an example the United States Air Force’s recent decision to cancel the block 30 Global Hawk pilotless drone and return to the 50 year U2 plane because the U2 is cheaper to operate and can perform the mission better. The F22 is still plagued with issues and because of a major reduction in production has now gotten insanely expensive. The F35 is hitting the news almost everyday now because of all the trouble there.

    If these major technology systems are failing this badly to live up to promiss and be any where near affortable, changing the infastructure of our nations highways is just not gonna happen. At least not until a major shift in our fortunes. What we will likely see in our lifetimes is the fazing out of gasoline powered vehicles. They will still exist but electric, biodiesel, and natural gas are all going to be competing for a slice of the transportation pie. But it’s still far more cost effective to put some simple controls in the vehicle and have a meat puppet at the wheel. We aren’t in danger of becoming extinct just yet but the motorcycles we ride are going to very different in not that many years.

  8. WetMan says:

    Sure, Europeans, that don’t even buy cars with automatic gearboxes but in stead prefer to stick shift like their great-grandfathers, are all going to rush to the shops to buy a car that drives itself…
    And the insurance companies must all be dying for the time that car accidents are a thing of the past. Right?

  9. GuitarGuy says:

    Lemme see…my GPS takes me down a gravel road to an empty field instead of to my house, and my TPMS is always broken. But in spite of that I’m supposed to head into a 12-lane intersection while my car drives itself? If this is the future, I’ll pass.

    Motorcycles are already in danger of becoming distant, inscrutable devices due to too much hands-off technology. We are not riding two-wheeled cars, thank goodness.

    The only proven way to manage congestion is to reduce it. Six bucks a gallon for gas will soon help, and light rail will finish the task. More lanes and more computers are a silly solution.

  10. John Lynch says:

    This is all true, but, a scarier perspective is that everybody is so centred on what is not real, i.e. the world fed to them through portals and blog-o-spheres, people don’t look up and sense the worls around them. How do people have time to react to real situations when they are sooo busy reacting to the electronic world drip fed to them by their ‘iphones’ (other smart phones are available). TRON: fantasy Sci-fi or realistic eventuality?

  11. Anvil says:

    While this notion of “a better future” scares the hell out of me, keep in mind that many, many future visions from the past have not, well, come to pass. According to some, we should have all been in flying cars by now.

    The first problem, as others have pointed out, is that this is all a bit impractical–and expensive. Ignoring the massive investment in infrastructure, how would we retrofit the millions of existing vehicles when the paradigm shift occurs? Seems to me you can’t have an automated system that works unless every vehicle is involved. Hell, just getting on the hybrid bandwagon doesn’t make economic sense for most folks. Now the powers that be are going to mandate that we all have automation-capable vehicles? Doubt it.

    I also question the ability of government to maintain a complex system like this once it scales up to actual size. Imagine the chaos when something breaks, which, most certainly, it will. And imagine the lawsuits when people get killed because something breaks–or some hungover developer made a small mistake updating code.

    Google is largely behind this thing. Ask yourself why. Is it because they want to make a better, safer, more efficient world? Maybe. But some would argue, quite convincingly, that they just want to expand their reach into the one place they can’t get your undivided attention–behind the wheel. What are you going to do when your car drives itself? Probably f*ck around on the mobile web and use Google search…and see Google ads. Every product/service they make ultimately has that as its goal. Ironically, their ad system is the thing that makes almost all of their revenue and they essentially stole it from someone else.

    If we let this happen we’re just not paying attention.

  12. wreckah says:

    if the world continues like it does now, we will all starve from hunger way before this will ever happen, so i’m not worried :-D

    funny the way these scientists see a crossroads…i have never ever seen a crossroads like that in my life. Things are a tad more organic in real life.

  13. I think there pretty much has to be a ‘smart road’ of some kind in the future, although it’ll be integrated into existing systems gradually — much the way one lane of a highway might now be hived off for carpools. Those who scoff at the tech feasibility — comments above — are I think missing the real point, which is that here in the US, the motorcycle industry has allowed bikes to be framed as toys or at best recreational vehicles, not transport. So, we’ve positioned ourselves to not even be invited to participate in the discussions that will shape the future of road transport.

  14. blue says:

    I have a copy of a ‘Modern Motor’ magazine from the 1970′s that confidently predicted that by 1982, drivers travelling the almost empty Nullarbor Plain between Adelaide and Perth would be able to do so while sleeping, while their cars took care of the driving.

    To this day there are many people who take on that drive while asleep, but the cars never take over the driving, and things never end well.

    Okay, yes, I’ll agree that we are closer to automated driving/roads today than ever before, and the frightening thing, as someone above already mentioned, is that this will appeal to a lot of people.

    Perhaps the most frightening aspect for we motorcyclists is that just so long as bikes fall down if you don’t hold them up, they won’t be considered as part of the automated scheme.

    That means 3-wheelers (gulp!) or track days only.

    Happily, Australia is at least 25 years behind the rest of the world, so it looks like I’ll enjoy my biking for decades to come…

  15. Gritboy says:

    This “progress” seems more like a devolution.

    I really thought the point of having mass transit was to have something the masses that are either not interested in paying and maintaining a vehicle, or those too stupid or lazy to learn to drive/ride could get around. I mean, buses, trains, ferries work well, and of course there’s the venerable bicycle too.

    Instead of dumbing down vehicles and taking away the ability to self control them ourselves (and jamming up roads with drone cars), why don’t we make licensing MUCH stricter, so people are forced to ride/drive well or be relegated to some other form of transit.

  16. Westward says:

    Without sounds redundant, what Sunstroke said, Yeah…

  17. Anvil says:

    Mark, you do make a good point–that maybe we’re missing the main point of the article. And I agree with the general sentiment that the motorcycle manufacturers have done an exceptionally poor job in keeping two-wheeled vehicles relevant to practical transport and the larger conversation.

    What I think we’re reacting to is the sign of the apocalypse offered here, which frames that conversation. Because some people see this concept as the way forward does not mean it is in reality. And judging from most the reactions I’ve seen from the public, it probably won’t be.

    But point taken; the U.S. motorcycle industry needs to make itself (and us) part of the conversation. It’s just that the conversation won’t just be about automated vehicles and roadways.

  18. Keith says:

    heh, I’ll bet you a nickle it will never be a problem for a motorcyclist. Why? we already do all those things an automated car will do, things no average auto passenger (can’t call them drivers) ever does.

  19. As a former commercial driver, I think about this all of the time. You fear SkyNet, and I fear Minority Report.
    “Anvil” has it right… Big Brother has a name, and it is Google.

  20. Food for thought on motorcycles in increasingly automated vehicle environments (e.g. roads) RT @Asphalt_Rubber:

  21. Grant Madden says:

    Think I,ll take the train!Already when I go to a major cty(Auckland is the only real big one here in New Zealand)I get my brothers to drive me round cause the traffic is crazy.Whats it like in Hongkong or Rome on a friday afternoon.Much like you presented only crazier.The new way for high density populations is via trains to the centre of town then light clean electric,possibly automated vehicles to move the commuters to thier final destination.Or semi automated cars that stop when something gets in the way,as is already available.And that will leave the dedicated driver/rider to take the same crazy risks that we already take.Me?I,ll just stay out of town.

  22. wayne says:

    I realize I’m probably in the minority on this one, but here goes anyway. If you can’t come up with a suitable alternative for the f-bomb in a written article, you’re not trying hard enough. I understand that it is all too commonplace in today’s society to hear the f-bomb thrown about like beads at Mardi Gras, but I expect more from people who use the written word every day of their lives, presumably to make a profit. To my mind, it is lazy and labels the author one of “those” authors. One who resorts to attention-getting language rather than attention getting content. I expect more from you guys. If I wanted to read the Jersey Shore version of motorcycle reportage, I’d read HFL. I’m done now. Flame on.

  23. Jean-Paul says:

    While I find the concept of driver-less cars interesting from a mathematical point of view, I would agree with many above that the costs of infrastructure and how do deal with older cars puts this idea in the realm of fantasy over reality.

    On another note, I couldn’t help but think that while the designers of the video are trying to streamline intersection flow, they overlook one simple thing: people walking across the street.

  24. Alasdair says:

    I think the growing take-up (certainly in Melbourne) of push bike commuting means that if such a system takes place, there will have to be some provision for a human element in the mix. People will not give up their pushbikes given the fitness benefits and Co2 or lack thereof (apart from the rider themselves), so it would be political madness to take that freedom away, especially when society is trying to quell emissions. So for those cyclists, motorcyclists will be able to ride their own machines as well as automated cars will have to be programmed to avoid two wheelers or otherwise non-automated transport (proximity sensors? maybe based on radar guided cruise control?). As for widespread use of automated cars? Unless Australia has 100% renewable power or cleanish power (and for all our sun and wind, that won’t happen unless we get some nuclear going for base load lest we want to use all our gas) I can’t see replacing current car levels with automated cars as being a popular political option or even something that would not face restrictive legislation, as govermenrts would presumably want people to use public transport more than private (automated) vehicles. Won’t happen, and if it does, I’ll just get a pushie, which will be cheaper and likely more fun than computer-chauferred prius…

  25. singletrack says:

    Computer controlled cars can’t be any worse than the current state of unpredictable, unaware humans.

    I’d be a happy rider if all the cars/trucks were predictable and controlled at constant speeds. Those that want to shut off their brains would be confined to set lanes. Others, who have volunarily taken high performance vehicle control training would be able to enjoy the ride/drive.

    Can you say moving slalom course! ;)