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.

This Is Pretty Much What the Monster 800 Will Look Like

With the advent of the Ducati Monster 1200, it was only a matter of time before Ducati’s middleweight liquid-cooled “Monster 800″ would be spotted, and unsurprisingly the machines have a great deal in common. The one big difference seems to be that the 821cc Monster gets a double-sided swingarm, which has become Ducati’s new way of differentiating between its big and medium displacement models of the same machine, see entry for Ducati 899 Panigale. With the spied Ducati Monster 800 looking ready for primetime, and a pre-fall launch isn’t out of the question. Giving us an excellent glimpse into what the Ducati Monster 800 would look like, Luca Bar has again used his Photoshop skills to render up images of the still unreleased “baby” Monster.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni. You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race. With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap). An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment. Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well. Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way. This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant. This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks. In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry. The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes?

Thursday Summary at Qatar: A Dirty Track, A Fast Underdog, and A Happy Italian

04/04/2013 @ 9:39 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Qatar: A Dirty Track, A Fast Underdog, and A Happy Italian Thursday Qatar GP MotoGP Scott Jones 04 635x423

It’s back. The world is a better place now that young men are wasting fuel going round in circles at irresponsibly breakneck speeds on multi-million dollar motorcycles. (On a side note, someone pointed out today that a satellite 160kg Honda RC213V costs about half its weight in gold, at current prices, which suggests that a factory bike must be close to costing its own weight in gold).

The lights in the desert are once again spectacularly lit, and the sandy void which surrounds the Losail circuit again rings with the bellow of MotoGP bikes.

Not that the desert void wasn’t already a surprisingly packed place. On the other side of the access road to the circuit sits a massive building site, where work is being undertaken on the Lusail Iconic Stadium, one of the many stadiums being built for the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

The scale of that work is vast, as is the amount of dust the work is kicking up, much of which is being blown over the track. When the Moto3 bikes hit the track – the first class to go out at the circuit, with the exception of a QMMF Superbike round earlier in the day – it looked like the little four-stroke bikes were blowing engines left, right, and center, as they kicked up clouds of dust that trailed behind them.

The dirty track created tricky conditions, especially for the MotoGP bikes, which use a different line around the Qatari circuit. Though there was only one crasher – the unfortunate Yonny Hernandez – the first session of free practice saw several riders run persistently through the gravel.

In the case of Bradley Smith, that was down to having to recalibrate his brain – and his braking points – to the speed of a MotoGP machine. “On a 125, you’re using the kerbs as brake markers, in Moto2 you can just use the start of the kerbs. In MotoGP, you’re having to use shadows as brake markers. That’s really hard under the spotlights,” the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man said.

While Smith grappled to learn the circuit, the rest of the Yamahas had no problems at all with the track. An elated Valentino Rossi led for three quarters of the session, the Italian fast from the start and consistent, only to be dropped to third place by Jorge Lorenzo and an impressive Cal Crutchlow.

The difference between the three was minimal, however: seventy one thousandths of a second separated Lorenzo in first from Rossi in third, with Crutchlow sandwiched in between. Their advantage over the rest of the grid was comfortable: fourth-place man Marc Marquez was over half a second back from the Yamahas.

Why were the Yamahas so much faster at Qatar? “The Yamaha is better in tricky conditions,” Crutchlow explained, pointing also to the results at Jerez. He did not expect it to last, and once the track improved, the Hondas would be back with a vengeance, he predicted.

“When the track conditions come cleaner, the Honda has maybe half a second advantage,” Crutchlow told reporters. He also had a good explanation for why the Hondas struggle in the trickier conditions. The way the Hondas turn, Crutchlow explained, is by sliding the rear. They slide and use the slide to get drive. Under less than ideal conditions, the bike continues to slide, but the drive is no longer there, making the bike much slower.

Incomprehensibly, Crutchlow spoke only to a small group of reporters, his strong performance apparently being overlooked by the media because of Rossi’s return to the front of the fold – though not in front of Crutchlow.

He was not being overlooked by his rivals, however. Rossi told the press – admittedly, in response to a question on the matter by the UK’s leading motorcycling newspaper – that he believed Crutchlow could spend the year fighting with the top four, adding that Stefan Bradl could also be in the mix. Lorenzo, too, felt that Crutchlow could chase both wins and podiums this season, needing only some consistency and patience.

The reason Crutchlow drew such a small crowd was because most of the press – especially the large contingent of Italian press – was gathered around the Yamaha offices, waiting for Valentino Rossi to speak. Understandably, given Rossi’s return from his own rhetorical time in the wilderness at Ducati.

It was a very different Valentino Rossi who faced the media at Qatar, a much younger looking man, with a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye. What was the difference? “If you look at me on the bike, it’s also completely different to the Ducati,” Rossi said.

“My situation was a bit difficult in the past two years, because I have a lot of pressure. Everybody expect that I stay in the front, but I know that I cannot stay in the front, because I am not able to ride at 100%. This situation was difficult, especially speaking with journalists, with the fans, because everybody expected [me to be at the front], but I already know this is not possible,” the Italian said. Being at Yamaha was better: “Like this is more fun.”

The difference was being able to feel the front end, and trust it, and make small changes to his riding to get the bike to react in a particular way. That worked on the Yamaha, Rossi explained, but the Ducati was something different altogether. He could still not quite get out of the bike what Lorenzo could get out of the bike, his teammate able to ride the bike at 100%. Rossi was at least still close, and had improved by moving away from the set up used by Lorenzo, to one which suited his own style a little better.

While the Yamahas were going well, things were more difficult for Honda. Marc Marquez taking fourth is perhaps to be expected, the rookie spending the first session relearning lines. But Dani Pedrosa’s lowly 8th place, over a second behind Lorenzo, was not what the Repsol Honda man had planned.

Pedrosa was struggling with a set up issue, which meant that he simply could not get the bike to turn. Corner entry was a massive problem for the Spaniard, as his multiple trips across the gravel proved all too graphically. It would be solved tomorrow, Pedrosa hoped, and with a cleaner track, the Spaniard should be back in contention again.

Playing with set up was of limited use anyway, Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg explained. On Friday, the track would be much cleaner, and the bike would react differently, meaning you almost have to start again from scratch with your set up work. Better to wait, get a feel for the track and the bike, and start the real work tomorrow.

The Ducatis were also much more hopeful after the first day, especially with Andrea Dovizioso’s strong pace. The Italian finished the day in fifth, but more importantly, on his last run he put in a string of mid 1’57 laps, his pace consistent and fast.

While teammate Nicky Hayden was way down in tenth, he too drew hope from Dovizioso’s time. Hayden said he was matching the Italian for most of the track, but was losing most of his time in the section of three right-handers in the final loop of the circuit. If they could solve the problems they had with turning there, he felt he could be much closer to the front as well.

While Dovizioso’s fastest lap was one of a sequence, Aleix Espargaro’s best time had come in the draft of Cal Crutchlow, the Aspar Aprilia rider profiting from the speed of the Englishman. Still, for a CRT bike to get with 1.2 seconds of fastest man Lorenzo was pretty impressive, especially given that he was 20 km/h slower along the front straight. Last year, teammate Randy de Puniet had been fastest CRT machine, over 3.5 seconds off the pace of the leader. This year, four men got closer than that, though only Espargaro got anywhere near the leaders.

Tomorrow, the riders return to a track which should be cleaner, with the MotoGP riders due for two sessions on Friday. A cleaner track should mean a slightly less skewed result in favor of the Yamahas. But Qatar remains a strong track for the Yamahas, regardless of the conditions, and an all-Yamaha podium is a realistic possibility. We shall see tomorrow what Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have to say about that.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.


  1. Gutterslob says:

    Can’t read much into the times, since the track’s so dusty. Seeing as there’s construction work going on next door (in addition to the usual desert sand/dust), I reckon they’d need to almost ‘start-from-scratch’ on setup even on raceday. Crutchlow seems to go faster when he’s annoyed, doesn’t he?

  2. Gutterslob says:

    Oh, and I absolutely resent your “going round in circles” comment, Mr Emmett.
    This is GP, not Nascar.

  3. smiler says:

    As a gauge QP top slot in the 1.54.5′s last year. So not time for rejoicing quite yet.

  4. pooch says:

    It’s all adding to the mystery so far… a preseason of mixed bag results for everyone… here’s another one with suspect conditions playing a part… but something to give the yellow hordes heart… and another good result for Cal. Espargaro beats 4 factory/sattelite bikes on his Aprilia CRT. That’s encouraging. Someone give that man a factory ride, both Espargaros deserve it in my books… certainly more than one B.Smith does. (but good luck to him..)

  5. L2C says:

    @ pooch

    Yeah, man, it would’ve been so awesome to see Espargaro on the second satellite Yamaha. I really want to see Aleix and Cal duke it out.


    A sense of humor is cheap.

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “On the other side of the access road to the circuit sits a massive building site, where work is being undertaken on the Lusail Iconic Stadium, one of the many stadiums being built for the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup.

    The scale of that work is vast, as is the amount of dust the work is kicking up, much of which is being blown over the track.”

    uggh, can’t win.

  7. Ray says:

    They should let the teams drive around the track in their road cars after hours to clear off the dust.

  8. Kurt says: