Honda Bulldog Concept Lets the Dogs Out in Osaka

After first showing us the Honda SFA and Honda CRF250 Rally concepts, Big Red made good on its promise for another motorcycle concept premiere at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, debuting the Honda Bulldog concept. With the face of a Ruckus, and built to “leisurely” take-on the great outdoors in an unassuming manor, the Honda Bulldog is a stout off-roader that adds a new slant to the term adventure-bike. With wide 15″ knobby tires, a 28″ seat height, and 400cc parallel-twin engine mated to a six-speed gearbox, the Bulldog certainly isn’t what you expect to see bombing down the trails, yet it sorta makes sense.

A Naked Yamaha YZF-R25 Is Coming Soon?

If you believe the reports coming out of India and Southeast Asia, Yamaha is working on a naked version of its YZF-R25 sport bike. Presumably to be call the Yamaha MT-25, the naked bike would continue Yamaha’s trend of making naked version of its fully faired sport bikes, similar to the recently released Yamaha MT-125 that is available for the European market. With images of the machine testing on public roads abounding, the MT-25 seems likely to see production, so the real intrigue will be in what markets Yamaha makes the machine available. With Honda already offering faired (Honda CBR300R) and unfaired versions (Honda CB300F) of its small-displacement motorcycle in the US, Yamaha could easily go head-to-head with Big Red with the YZF-R3 and an FZ-03 variant, based off the R3 design.

Kawasaki Applies for Electric Motorcycle Patent

Need further proof that the future of motorcycling will include electrics? Take this recently published patent application from Kawasaki, that the Japanese OEM filed for back in 2011. The claims are fairly rudimentary, though they do include a transmission, with Kawasaki’s lawyers mostly outlining the basics of a motorcycle powered by an electric motor, of course the news is less about the contents of the patent application, and more about the fact that it was applied for, in the first place. When will we see an electric motorcycle concept from Kawasaki is anyone’s guess, though there are two big motorcycle shows coming up in Japan in a couple weeks’ time. In reality, we doubt we’ll see something so soon from Kawasaki, but if the Kawasaki H2 has shown us anything, it is that anything is possible from Kawasaki right now.

Is KTM Planning a V4-Powered Sport Bike?

Why would KTM be riding around on a camouflaged Aprilia Tuono V4? That is the question of the day, after a spy photographer caught the Austrian company testing in Spain with such a machine. The answer of course points to KTM working on a V4 street bike platform, which shouldn’t be too surprising since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer already tipped the media off to the fact that it is working on a MotoGP entry that would be based around a beastly V4 engine called the RC16. While Pierer confirmed the MotoGP, as well as a track-only consumer version of the GP bike, zie Austrians have been mum about other motorcycles in KTM’s lineup sharing the new V4 powerplant.

Honda CRF250 Rally Concept Breaks Cover in Japan

Adventure riders, you prayers have been answered. Honda is set to debut a new off-road model at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, the Honda CRF250 Rally. Based off the Honda CRF250L platform, the Rally concept is basically the CRF250L with rally-styled bodywork. The Honda CRF250 Rally concept will get its worldwide debut alongside the Honda True Adventure concept, which we first saw at last year’s EICMA show. This makes for an interesting dichotomy, as the CRF250 Rally is set to look like the CRF450 Rally race bike, while the True Adventure (cough, Africa Twin, cough) borrows heavily from the race bike’s technology package. With Honda showing a 250cc ADV model and a 1,000cc model at the same show, one has to wonder when a consumer-level version of the CRF450 Rally race bike will be ready as well.

Honda SFA Concept Gets Japanese Debut

After it first debuted in Indonesia last October, the Honda SFA concept motorcycle seems to be getting serious, as Honda will be showing the up-market bike at this weekend’s Osaka Motorcycle Show and next weekend’s Tokyo Motorcycle Show. While Honda only mentions that the SFA concept is a “street-fighter style light-weight motorcycle with a single cylinder engine mounted on a trellis frame,” sources in Indonesia say the fetching small-displacement machine is built around the 150cc CB150R for that market. Whether this means that Honda will make more premium-focused 150cc machines, and bring them to markets outside of Asia remains to be seen, though it is clear that the Japanese firm is taking such an approach under serious consideration.

Bimota Racing at IOMTT with American Brandon Cretu

Italy’s favorite boutique brand will be back at the Isle of Man TT races this year, with a two rider team that includes American Brandon Cretu. Cretu and his teammate Ben Wylie will campaign for Bimota at the big four road races (North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix, and Macau GP) on-board the Bimota BB3 superbike. This is not the first time that Cretu and Wylie have raced together, having shared a pit while at the Wylie Racing team during the 2011 and 2012 Isle of Man TT races. Though the Bimota BB3 was ruled ineligible for FIM events, the international road racing scene has no hang-ups letting the S1000RR-powered superbikes lineup on the starting grid.

MV Agusta F4 RC Leaks Again with More “AMG”

We are still waiting for the 2015 MV Agusta F4 RC to break cover officially, but the top-of-the-line superbike from Varese continues to make itself sneakily available to the public. First there were the leaked studio photos, which looked spot-on to the photos MV Agusta USA teased us with at its press launch earlier this year. Now, we have more photos of the F4 RC leaking, though with some changes to the design — namely more prominent “AMG” badging, for MV Agusta’s newest minority partner. The 2015 MV Agusta F4 RC isn’t supposed to arrive at dealerships until June 2015; and when it does, it will be in limited numbers. The F4 RC is MV Agusta’s homologation special for World Superbike and domestic superbike racing classes.

Q&A: Romano Albesiano – “We Know It Takes Three Years to Be Competitive in MotoGP”

Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano has big shoes to fill. Taking over from Gigi Dall’Igna, Albesiano must continue the legacy of success which his predecessor left for him. He got off to a good start, Sylvain Guintoli lifting the World Superbike title in Albesiano’s first year at the helm. Now comes the hard part, following up on that success and expanding into MotoGP. A small group of journalists spoke to Albesiano at the Aprilia launch in Milan. In a wide-ranging conversation, the Aprilia boss covered many topics, including explaining why the Noale firm came back to MotoGP a year ahead of schedule, touching on what the new bike Aprilia is working on for 2016 and beyond might look like, and the 2016 rules in MotoGP.

Ducati CEO Leaves the Door Open for a Scooter Model

In a recent interview by Moto.it with Claudio Domenicali, the Ducati CEO fielded a number of questions about the Italian company’s business and its relationship with its German owners (read it here in Google English), but one question was of particular interest: a Ducati Scooter. The often rumored, often debated, and often denied subject is perhaps the most feared topics for Ducatisti, and it ranks generally just below discussions on which oil to use, which tires are best, and how to break-in a motorcycle engine properly. That being said, it seems we are headed for another round of debate, as Domenicali is quoted as saying the following to Moto.it: “a scooter marked Ducati is not blasphemy.”

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

Trackside Tuesday: A 2014 Photo Retrospective – Part 2

02/03/2015 @ 11:34 am, by Tony Goldsmith2 COMMENTS

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I’m going to start the 2nd and final part of my 2014 photo retrospective with the image above of Marc Marquez. Taken at Woodcote during Sunday mornings warm up for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Woodcote was one of the most exhilarating sections of track I shot last year. The sensation of speed as the riders came past, back wheel sliding, only feet away was indescribable.

Trackside Tuesday: A Review of 2014 in Photographs

12/23/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

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Having just finished production on the 2015 MotoMatters Motorcycle Racing Calendar, the 2014 season has been on my mind quite a bit over the past several weeks. So I thought I’d take look back at the MotoGP images I contributed here at Asphalt & Rubber and add a bit of perspective to each one.

Wednesday Summary from Valencia: Hard Hondas, Slick Suzukis, & Bridgestone Mythology

11/13/2014 @ 1:44 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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“This year’s machine is not easy to ride,” HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said of the 2014 Honda RC213V. “More difficult than last year.” Given the utter dominance of Marc Marquez in the first half of 2014, that seems hard to believe. It certainly left the journalists gathered for the special press conference convened by Honda to review the season befuddled.

“But Honda bikes are always easy to ride!” declared one surprised reporter. “Our bike is very easy, I can ride it, but I don’t get under two minutes,” Nakamoto said. “But to find the last one tenth, two tenths is very difficult,” he remarked.

A look at the timesheets from the test, or a chat with Marc Marquez or Dani Pedrosa about the 2015 Honda, and you understand the problem. On the last day of testing at Valencia, Marquez and Pedrosa finished first and second, but the satellite Hondas of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding were a little way off the pace.

Crutchlow was eight tenths slower than Marquez, while Redding was struggling 1.6 seconds behind Marquez. In the last race of the 2014 season, Stefan Bradl’s fastest lap was just under a second off the fastest race lap, and Alvaro Bautista a fraction slower. The Honda is obviously fast, but it is not easy to go fast on.

Too aggressive, too hard to master, a bike with a lot of potential, but extracting that potential takes insight, experience, and the willingness to push an aggressive bike to its limits. It really demands the kind of dirt track background of Casey Stoner or, well, Marc Marquez.

Tuesday Summary from Valencia: Learning To Use Bridgestone’s Wet Tires

11/12/2014 @ 9:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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It is a good job the post-race test at Valencia is three days long. The weather in Valencia in November is usually very good, but it can turn, and you can lose track time to rain. That was certainly the case on Tuesday, rain starting early in the morning, and coming in waves all day.

It meant the track was wet throughout Tuesday, only the depth of water on the track varying. The heavy rain meant that most riders decided to sit out the day, only ten riders putting in any laps.

With the track the way it was, the finishing order was not really relevant. What was more important was gaining time on the track, and for several riders, getting to grips with Bridgestone’s wet tires. Eugene Laverty, Loris Baz, and Marco Melandri, all of whom have moved over from World Superbikes, needed to adjust their minds to the Bridgestones.

Monday Summary from Valencia: New Bikes, New Riders, And a Dog & Pony Show

11/10/2014 @ 10:28 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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Despite being exhausted from a full weekend (make that a complete season) of testing, the entire MotoGP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason (full times here).

All except Nicky Hayden, that is, as Honda have brought only one RC213V-RS to Valencia, and there was no point for Hayden to spend more time on the RCV1000R, as that bike will be replaced by the new RS for next season. Hayden gets his turn on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting.

There was both old and new on display at the test, some things virtually unchanged, others radically different. New riders joined the grid, as well as two new factories, and a reshuffling of riders and crew between the garages.

The biggest change was at Suzuki, which saw Aleix Espargaro move from the Forward Yamaha team into the new Suzuki squad, where he was joined by Maverick Viñales, fresh from Moto2. Both riders were very impressed with the GSX-RR, praising its handling and the bike.

Sunday Summary from Valencia: Of Dodgy MotoGP Weather, Fuel Issues in Moto2, and Miller vs. Marquez in Moto3

11/10/2014 @ 9:02 am, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

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It was a fitting finale to one of the best season in years. The arrival of Marc Marquez in MotoGP has given the series in a boost in the arm. Not just in the premier class, the influence of Marquez reaches into Moto2 and Moto3 as well.

Tito Rabat’s move to the Marc VDS team completed his transformation from a fast rider to a champion, but the schooling and support he received from the Marquez brothers at their dirt track oval in Rufea made him even stronger. And Marc’s younger brother Alex brought both talent and Maturity to Moto3.

It made for great racing at Valencia. The Moto3 race featured the typical mayhem, but with extra edge because there was a title on the line. Tito Rabat tried to win the Moto2 race from the front, as he has done all year, but found himself up against an unrelenting Thomas Luthi.

And in MotoGP, Marc Marquez set a new record of thirteen race wins in a single season, despite being throw a curve ball by the weather.

Marquez was the first to downplay his taking the record of most wins in a season from Mick Doohan. “Doohan won more than me,” Marquez said. “He won twelve from fifteen races. Thirteen is a new record, but not so important.”

Though it is admirable that Marquez can put his own achievement into perspective when comparing it to Doohan’s, that is not the full context. Doohan actually twelve of the first thirteen races in 1997, making his win rate even bigger. Then again, Doohan had to beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki and Alex Criville, while Marquez has had to fend off Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

Even Doohan’s win rate pales in comparison with those of John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini, who both had perfect seasons in 1959 and 1968 respectively. But the 1959 season had only seven races, and the 1968 ten races, a good deal less than the current total of eighteen.

What this really highlights is the futility of comparing records: different eras saw very different riders facing very different competitors on very different bikes. Trying to compare one with another requires the use of so many correcting factors as to render such comparison meaningless.

Friday Summary from Sepang: The Weather’s Starring Role

10/25/2014 @ 1:04 am, by David EmmettComments Off

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If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat.

But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.

The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.

The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.

Thursday Summary from Sepang: The End of MotoGP’s Asian Peregrinations Beckon in the Sweltering Sepang Heat

10/23/2014 @ 11:22 pm, by David EmmettComments Off

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Another week, another eight-hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia.

Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home.

Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.

The final leg of MotoGP’s odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather.

The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.

Sunday Summary from Phillip Island: Why the MotoGP Race Was Not a Tire Fiasco, & Rossi Reaps Rewards

10/19/2014 @ 8:17 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

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Once again, a MotoGP race at Phillip Island is decided by tires. The tires Bridgestone brought to the Australian circuit were not up to the task, with riders crashing out all throughout the race. The front tires Bridgestone brought to the track were unable to cope with the conditions. The result was determined by tires, not by talent.

That, at least, is the narrative being heard around the internet after the bizarre yet fascinating MotoGP race at Phillip Island. It is an attractive narrative – a nice, simple explanation for what happened in Australia – but it is fundamentally flawed.

The tire situation was complicated, certainly. Jorge Lorenzo’s front tire showed very severe degradation, more than would normally be explained by the expect wear. Several riders crashed out on the asymmetric front tire Bridgestone brought. But to lay the blame entirely on Bridgestone is quite wrong.