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 MotoGP.com 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?

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT

05/24/2012 @ 5:43 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

A Prologue to the 2012 Isle of Man TT Mark Miller Ballaugh Bridge pass Isle of Man TT 635x425

For those who have never attended, the Isle of Man TT is truly a special race. I will concede the point that saying that the TT is merely “a special race” is a bit trite, as there is so much that encompasses the full experience one gets during the TT fortnight, that it becomes hard to explain to someone who has never attended the TT, even veteran motorcycle race journalists, what it is that makes the TT so special.

Part of this equation is the racing spectacle itself. Set on a small island in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man’s quaint few towns serve as the venue for tens of thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, while the roads between these villages are connected by the island’s lush countryside. It is hard to travel around the Isle without the island’s beauty striking you — something that is captured extremely well with the race’s many aerial shots via helicopter, but not fully grasped until it is witnessed in person.

The fan experience is truly unique as well. Inside the paddock in Douglas, the atmosphere is campy, an almost carnival affair, and while virtually any other racing venue would sequester the teams and riders from the fans, the TT’s paddock is wide-open, with the team garages setup rows, and constructed in an open pavilion layout that encourages passersby to stop, lean on the waist-high barriers that are maybe 10 feet from the mechanics’ bike lifts, and strike up a conversation with any team member that doesn’t seem to have a task at hand.

The experience is tenfold when one of the riders is present, which they often are, and even the greats of the sport are approachable and genuinely engaged with their fan base. Try getting that same experience at the next MotoGP or WSBK event you attend, and even in the AMA paddock you would be hard-pressed to get so much access and interaction to what goes on behind the scenes.

Then there is of course the racing, which all occurs on city streets and mountain roads. In the Superbike classes, the average speeds of the top riders exceeds 130 mph, with top speeds in the fastest sections cracking past 200 mph with regularity. Again I reiterate, this is all occurring on city streets, littered full of telephone polls, houses, trees, and of course fans. Speaking of fans on the course, imagine watching a race from the side of a hedgerow, at worst only 10 feet from the action, and in some cases only a few inches away. Experiencing motorcycle racing at such propinquity will take your breath away, if not figuratively then literally.

In my short time running Asphalt & Rubber, I have had the opportunity to cover motorcycle racing on four continents, and as I travel to my second Isle of Man TT, I know the next two weeks of racing will be unlike anything I have covered before in MotoGP, World Superbike, or AMA Pro Racing.

Sitting here in the Manchester airport, waiting for my final connecting flight to the Isle, the moment is a bit surreal. For the next month, my contributions to A&R will be coming to you from across the pond, as after the TT I will be sticking around for the British GP. With such proximity in time, it is hard not to compare and contrast the two events, and what weighs on my mind right now is the fact that for the next two weeks, I will be attending a race where I know, statistically speaking, a competitor of the event will die.

We don’t think about this reality a terrible amount in professional road racing, probably because the possibility of a fatality from racing itself is such an outlier, and not the norm. While we have our reminders about the perils of motorcycle racing — the death of Marco Simoncelli in MotoGP, the paralyzation of Joan Lascorz in WSBK, and close-call of our friend Nick Hayman in the AMA — few fear that the ultimate price is about to be paid when they see a rider go down on the track.

Contrast this with the Isle of Man TT. While the apprehension often involved when we see a GP rider go down hard in a crash centers around whether something like a collarbone or hand has been broken, at the TT the immediate thought is for the rider’s life. In MotoGP, we gauge the severity of a crash on how many subsequent rounds the rider will miss because of his injuries; whereas at the TT, the crash is often measure in the amount of life lost from the incident.

Primed to expect that 99% of the time motorcycle racers stand up and dust their shoulders off after a crash, traveling now to the Isle of Man, I know I will have recalibrate my senses. Walking away from a crash is no longer the norm, it is the miracle at the TT.

It is perhaps for this reason that TT racers are defined as a special breed, distinct from other motorcycle racers. TT competitors each embrace the possibility that the next lap around the Mountain Course could be their last, and it is through that possibility many of them define the actual living of their lives. Coming into the 2012 Isle of Man TT, we have already lost Mark Buckley at the North West 200, and if you believe the salacious rumors that are almost certainly untrue, Guy Martin may have even quit the Tyco Suzuki team after his near-death experience at the same race.

There surely are to be some superstitions around the paddock, charms that keep riders safe, but one tradition is grounded in pragmatics, and isn’t seen elsewhere in the sport of motorcycle racing: the riders themselves, and not a mechanic, fill, bleed, and service their own brakes before every race’s start. This is because at 200 mph there is only one person you can trust with your life.

While the death toll, both for racers and spectators (of which, most perish while riding the roads of the Mountain Course themselves, typically after having one too many) is what grabs the headlines and fuels the debate over the TT’s continuance, it is the atmosphere of the paddock and hospitality of the Manx that keeps bringing the masses back to this tiny little sovereign nation.

I cannot overstate the hospitality of the Manx people enough. Maybe it is the fact that the country knows that over the next two weeks the vast majority of the its tourism and revenue generation will occur, or maybe the Manx have some sort of genetic disposition to hosting foreigners (the joke is that all the Manx are a cousin of some degree to another), but whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that the Manx people know how to make each traveller to their nation feel welcomed.

Because the TT accounts for so much of the island nation’s tourism, there are not a plethora of hotels to host the many travelers that come to see the races. Many travelers will camp in one of the many fields provided during the fortnight, but also many residents will open their homes to motorcycle racing fans, as a sort of impromptu bed & breakfast for petrol geeks. If you have the means, I highly recommend the opportunity to stay in a Max house.

Unless you plan very carefully, a day of watching the races entails you sticking it out at the same corner the whole day. This means you will get to know your fellow onlookers very well over the course of the day as you swap stories, which only adds further to the atmosphere and congeniality of the TT. But, it also means that you experience a tiny fraction of the race as a whole.

It is not until the coming together at the dinner table, just after the roads have reopened to allow once again the flow of traffic around the island that you can trade stories with your fellow home-stayers. Did you see Guy Martin go by? How far did John McGuinness fly down the jump at Ballaugh Bridge? What about the Dunlop brothers? Etc. By the time you have finished trading accounts from each vantage point attended, the television coverage for the day is on, which pieces together all the bits missing from everyone’s personal accounts, and in case you forgot, the photography is stunning.

The only thing that can top the home-stay experience are the ones you have with the riders themselves. Like I said before, the level of interaction possible at the TT with the teams and riders is unparalleled. For instance, needing just one more interview on the closing days of last year’s TT, I found myself calling on John McGuinness at his motorhome right before the dinner hour. His camp consists of his large brown coach, with several picnic tables setup along side of it, with a bit of fencing enclosing them.

Fully expecting to be shooed away for my late media request, quite the impossible happened. “Fancy a hot dog?” the King of the Mountain asked. Now maybe it was a clever trick that McGuinness learned over the course of his 17 TT race wins, you know…put some food in the journalist’s mouth so he can’t pester you with as many questions, but you would be hard-pressed to find a racer in any other series willing to talk shop during the dinner hour, let alone cooking his own food — and offering it to passersby? No, you won’t find that anywhere else in motorcycle racing, but you will find it at the TT.

Flying right now to my second Isle of Man TT, I could probably continue listing and describing as many details as I can remember and that this space would allow, but it likely would only portray a small fraction of what the actual TT experience is like. The 2012 Isle of Man TT will surely be as special as the years that preceded it. Will Guy Martin finally get a TT race win? Will Ian Hutchinson dominate again now that he has healed? How many more races can McGuinness win before he retires? Which electric will break the 100 mph average lap speed barrier? As always, time will tell.

Photos: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

Comment:

  1. ZeitgeistXiii says:

    Enjoy! I look forward to reading updates. Truly an amazing place.

  2. ZeitgeistXiii says:

    Oh and thanks for the good Hi-Rez pics again for wall paper on my jumbo monitor.:)

  3. Jesse Cecil says:

    Is Dan Lo travelling with you or contributing to your coverage?

  4. Damo says:

    Is there anyway to watch the races semi-live state side? I know Velocity TV will show everything in July, but I would like to watch the highlights real time.

    Do the TT folks have a website for broadcast?

  5. Brammofan says:

    Manx Radio usually runs an audio broadcast, Damo. And, although I can’t seem to find it right now, the official TT site has had live transponder times that are very fun to watch. Nothing like the experience of being there.

    I envy you, Jensen. Have a wonderful time. (Also – excellent prologue!)

  6. Jake says:

    Well written. I went to the 100th TT in 2007 after attending the Silverstone WSBK round which saw race two canceled. The TT is the greatest motorcycle experience in the world. Can’t wait to go back.

  7. Will says:

    Damo. I know that ITV4 have a series of shows running throughout the full two weeks of the TT. I don’t know if you can get it in the states but if so the website you need is http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/ and search for tt 2012 (or similar). The shows usually run at around 7 pm GMT so only about 3 hours after the days racing has ended. Hope this works for you and if so enjoy.

  8. RSVDan says:

    Jensen; You are in industry guy, and I’ve come to know you over the last few years (even consider you a friend), but I’m not here to blow sunshine up your ass. I think this is perhaps the best piece you have ever written. I love the fact that you have brought to light the reality of what these racers do, and in reality, what we all do as motorcyclists every day.

    I first met Jensen during my tenure at Dainese, so I am fully schooled in the ways of motorcycle protection. The fact of the matter is, we do our best to mitigate what could possibly happen, and even the best gear in the world can only TRY to help keep our meat bags from being torn apart. Thanks for giving a shout out to Nick, but more importantly, thanks for giving a bit of perspective. Racers aren’t immune. Road riders sure as HELL aren’t immune. Wear your gear people. It is better to sweat than to bleed, and hope to God that you never have to experience a get-off like the heroes that race the Manx, or even the folks racing on your local tracks that are relatively “safe”. What we do is dangerous. Make no bones about it. We do it because we love it, and for many people here, couldn’t do otherwise. It is our life. Just don’t be complacent about it. I don’t care how many years you have under your belt, or what experience you have, we can all die doing what we love at any moment. Don’t forget that.

  9. David says:

    Your a lucky SOB….I would love to go there one day.

    Good article.

    How can I bee a righter for this magazene so I can go wit youz?

  10. FLABueller says:

    Yet another item on my bukcet list. Thanks for getting the wheels spinning again

  11. Jordan J says:

    Very nice article! I am really looking forward to the electric Ninja that will be in the running this year and reading more about its performance.

  12. So true!!! It’s my first time here and I keep getting deja vu from dreams I’ve had (even one that was specifically about this place) and from playing the video game so much. The people are amazingly nice, and nothing beats thinking “I should really be standing to watch here, since it’ll be too hard for me to get up and hobble away on my cane should a bike explode right in front of me…”

  13. Alpha Feierman says:

    This blog is unbelievably well-organized and written It is simply fantastic