California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote. This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor. For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting. California is America’s playground for motorcyclists, namely in that The Golden State permits motorcycles to split lanes between cars.

Ducati Debuting Two New Bikes at World Ducati Week

If you’re attending this year’s World Ducati Week, then you’re in for a treat, as Ducati is set to debut two new bikes at the gathering in Misano. Details are thin at the moment, but we do know that one of the machines will be a limited-edition motorcycle that celebrates Ducati’s 90th anniversary. Meanwhile the other bike is a new model to the Ducati range, which will be shown in a “closed room” setting as a sort of sneak peak before its official launch. The latter model is rumored heavily to be a large-displacement Scrambler model, with engine sizes of 1,000cc to 1,200cc being banded about. Loyal Ducatisti will remember that the first modern Ducati Scrambler debuted at World Ducati Week in a similar fashion, so there’s some precedent for the line to continue the trend of special “preview” events.

Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well. Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom. With the Honda Grom showing great sales success and the Kawasaki Z125 Pro debuting to favorable reviews, there appears to be a demand for small unassuming motorcycles in markets that are normally dominated by big-displacement machines.

Indian Motorcycle Returns to Flat Track Racing

AMA Pro Flat Track is heating up. First, it was Harley-Davidson announcing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R. And now, we get word that Indian Motorcycle is set to compete as well, debuting today a purpose-built v-twin engine for the job. The Indian Scout FTR v-twin engine is a 750cc liquid-cooled four-valve lump that is specifically designed for flat track racing. Using a specially built chassis, Indian aims to compete in AMA Pro Flat Track, with Jared Mees serving for now as the company’s test rider. Indian says it will compete at a single 2016 event, which is still to be announced, before going after the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track title in full. Presumably Mees will headline that effort as well, which if the case, should make Indian’s entry a very potent one.

BMW Lac Rose Concept – A Vintage-Styled ADV Bike

What you see here is an homage back to a day when men were men, and the Dakar Rally actually went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal and the western-most point of Africa. Called the BMW Lac Rose Concept, this retooled BMW R nineT is named after Lac Rose (Lake Retba to some), which is just outside of Dakar – a picturesque locale, for a photogenic motorcycle. BMW Motorrad styled the Lac Rose concept after the Dakar Rally bikes of the 1980s, which adds to the retro flare that the German brand has been channeling though its R nineT platform. If you believe the rumors, the Lac Rose could very well go into production, as a 2017 model year machine, thus adding a trifecta of throwback machines to BMW’s R nineT lineup, with the R nineT roadster and scrambler models already strong sellers.

Updates Coming for the 2017 KTM 390 Duke

One of the hottest bikes on the market since its 2013 debut, the KTM 390 Duke is seemingly set for a model refresh, with cosmetic updates and other minor technical changes coming our way. This photo above shows the 2017 KTM 390 Duke with its new headlight, and in it you can also see some of the styling changes to the fairings and fuel tank, along with the updated switchgear and dash design. Designed in Austria, but built in India, it doesn’t surprise us to see this photo leak coming from the Bajaj factory near Pune, India – where production has surely already started in anticipation for the next model year. Analyzing this photo, it is interesting to see KTM adopt a very unique split headlight setup for the 390 Duke.

Michael Dunlop Sets New TT Record: 133.962 MPH

To say that Michael Dunlop rode to an impressive win on Friday’s Senior TT, might be an understatement. While winning the Senior TT is his second TT race win for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, Dunlop’s true accomplishment can be found on the time sheets, with his record-breaking pace. A fortnight of records dropping, this year’s Senior TT was no different, and Dunlop set not only the fastest lap of the Senior TT race, but also the fastest lap of any Senior TT race ever held at the Isle of Man TT: 133.962 mph. This mark is also the fastest lap ever recorded during an Isle of Man TT race, and is the fastest outright lap ever at the Isle of Man TT. In other words, this is the new mark that all other riders will aspire to surpass in the coming years.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal. This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors. Details beyond this statement are lean however. The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

Up-Close with the 2016 Victory RR Electric Race Bike

It has been a while since we’ve done one our “up-close” sets of photos, so we sent our man Tony Goldsmith into the Victory Motorcycles tent at the Isle of Man TT, to get some snaps of the 2016 Victory RR electric race bike. The Victory RR is an evolved version of the Brammo Empulse RR project, Brammo of course being one of inaugural participants in the Isle of Man TT’s first electric race, which was called at the time TTXGP. 2016 marks the second year in a row that Victory Motorcycles has competed at the Isle of Man, with William Dunlop taking his seat on the Victory RR this year. This year, it was another podium finish for Victory, and the team improved its result to a second-place finish, and more importantly increased their best lap time to 115.844 mph.

Interview: John McGuinness and the Isle of Man TT

John McGuinness is the winningest active TT racer at the Isle of Man, and has been competing at the iconic race for the past 20 years. Once a teammate to Joey Dunlop, McGuinness is creeping up on the legend’s overall TT race wins, with just three more needed to tie Dunlop’s mark. This makes him a formidable rider in any of the TT’s solo-class races, and it also makes him a walking encyclopedia of the Manx circuit. At the end of the Isle of Man TT practice week, our man Tony Goldsmith managed to grab some time with 23-time TT winner John McGuinness, who gave us some insight into how he prepares for the challenges of riding the Snaefell Mountain Course, and what the TT is like from his eyes.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

01/31/2016 @ 9:22 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

Casey-Stoner-Ducati-Corse-Sepang-Test-Ducati-Desmosedici-GP15-08

Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon.

Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.

He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 – a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced – and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went.

Preview of the Czech GP: Yamaha vs. ???

08/13/2015 @ 9:05 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the Czech GP: Yamaha vs. ???

autodromo-brno-track-map

From one endangered race to another. The MotoGP paddock leaves Indianapolis, possibly for the last time, and heads to Brno, a race which has been on the endangered list for the past ten years.

Not all of the paddock got out on time: overbooked flights and thunderstorms caused massive delays, and left riders, teams and media stuck hanging around in airports for many hours.

Hardly the ideal way to adapt to a shift of time zones by six hours, but they have little choice. There will more than a few bewildered faces in the paddock at Brno, trying to figure out where they are and what day it is.

A quick glance around should be enough to remind them. Brno is a glorious circuit, set atop a hill in the middle of a forest. To reach the track, you drive up the narrow, winding, tree-lined roads that once formed the basis of the old street circuit.

The closed circuit that replaced those roads still retains most of that character: fast, flowing, rolling up-hill and down-dale through the trees. Where the track really differs from the public roads is in how wide it is.

The space that creates is seized upon eagerly by the riders, using it to take a number of lines through each of its corners, giving plenty of opportunities for passing.

The fact that the corners are all combinations helps: riders flick right-left, left-right, right-left again and again. Make a pass into one corner, and your rival has a chance to strike back immediately at the next.

It is a track which is made for great racing, and great motorcycle racing at that. Riders, fans and media alike all hope fervently that the financial and political problems which have dogged the Czech Grand Prix can be resolved, and we can keep this spectacular circuit.

MotoGP Misano Test Day 2 – 2016 Honda RC213V Debuts

07/16/2015 @ 4:58 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

2016-Honda-RC213V-Misano-Test-HRC-05

The second day of the Misano test took place under punishing heat, with temperatures rising to 37° and track temperatures of over 60°C. Despite the heat, times continued to drop as Suzuki, Honda, and Ducati all worked further on improving their race setups.

At Honda, both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez tried the 2016 Honda RC213V, giving the bike its first run out ahead of next year. The aim of the test was to check the direction that development of the bike was taking. That, Marc Marquez said, was the wrong direction, but that is in itself useful information.

MotoGP Misano Test Day 1 – New Surface Praised by Teams

07/15/2015 @ 4:33 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

marc-marquez-misano-test-hrc

While Yamaha and Aprilia’s factory riders have already departed for a much needed vacation, the factory Honda, Suzuki and Ducati teams began three days of testing at Misano on Wednesday.

Each of the three factories has their own area to work on ahead of the summer break, in preparation for the second half of the season, which resumes three weeks from now in Indianapolis.

Honda have a new motorcycle to try, though neither Marc Marquez nor Dani Pedrosa tried the 2016 version of the RC213V on Wednesday. That will have to wait until tomorrow, when both riders will get their first taste of next year’s bike.

The 2016 bike did hit the track today, in the hands of HRC test Hiroshi Aoyama. Calling it the 2016 bike is perhaps a misnomer. According to HRC team principal Livio Suppo, the bike consists of a new chassis, housing the 2015 engine.

Preview of the Dutch TT: To the Great Natural Tracks

06/24/2015 @ 5:10 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

assen-track-map

Assen is a funny old track. And when I say old, I mean old, the event has been on the calendar since 1925, though back then there was no such thing as world championship, and the race took place between Rolde, Borger and Schoonloo, some ten kilometers east of Assen.

From 1926, it moved to a route between the villages of De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen and Laaghalerveen. The roads, forced into short straights with fast sweeping kinks and bends by the complex drainage patterns of the creeks and ditches which keep the region from reverting back to peat bogs, gave shape to the track which was to follow.

They still leave their mark on the circuit today, despite being a closed-circuit since 1955, though the track has been much shortened since then.

What remains is a track with nary a straight piece of asphalt on it. The back straight meanders between the Strubben hairpin and the fast right and long left of the Ruskenhoek, living up to its name of Veenslang, or Peat Snake.

The short stretches between the fast combinations of corners weave and flow, and the only thing keeping the front straight straight is the pit wall. As a piece of geometric design, it is a disaster.

As a race track, it is glorious, proving that the best tracks are not designed on paper, but laid out in a landscape. Mugello, Phillip Island, Assen: all great riders track, each owing a debt of gratitude to the landscape which forms them.

Saturday Summary at Mugello: A Topsy-Turvy Grid

05/30/2015 @ 11:23 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

Saturday-Mugello-MotoGP-Grand-Prix-of-Italy-Tony-Goldsmith-1281

Over the past two years, Marc Márquez and his team have proven to be a master of strategy. They have found a number of innovations, most notably the two-stop, three-run strategy during qualifying, and the bunny-hop bike swap during flag-to-flag races.

Santi Hernandez has earned his reputation as a brilliant crew chief, and as a strategist capable of finding advantages in places where other teams simply haven’t thought of looking.

So for Márquez to first miss out on going straight to Q2, and then make a fatal error again in Q1 leaving him in thirteenth is frankly shocking.

Saturday Summary at Argentina: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, & How Great Tracks Create Surprises

04/19/2015 @ 12:21 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

valentino-rossi-argentina-motogp-stephen-english

Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015.

The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.

Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole.

The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed.

With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez’ Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O’Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.

The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez’s Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez.

“Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap,” Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Real-Deal Suzukis, Hard Tire Dilemmas, & Ducati’s Fuel Issue Explained

04/18/2015 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

andrea-dovizioso-argentina-gp-stephen-english

Eight years. That’s how long it has been since a Suzuki last led two consecutive sessions in the dry. It was 2007, at Shanghai, when John Hopkins topped both FP2 and FP3 on the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki had a great year in 2007, spending the previous year developing the GSV-R ready for the start of the 800cc class.

John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen amassed one win (in the wet), seven podiums and a pole position that season, including a double podium at Misano. That Suzuki was a great bike, but sadly, it was the last time a Suzuki was truly competitive. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Until today.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: Of Price Gouging, Ducati’s Tire Disadvantage, & A Tough Moto3 Battle

04/17/2015 @ 1:11 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

circuito-termas-de-rio-hondo-argentina-1

From Austin, MotoGP heads south, to the most expensive GP of the season. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit lies in one of the poorest regions of Argentina, but the economic reality is not reflected in the prices around the Grand Prix weekend.

The cost of renting a compact car from one of the nearby airports would get you a luxury vehicle at any other place. Room rate cards for even the most modest hotel look like they have been borrowed from Claridges for the week. Local businesses appear bent on extracting as much revenue as possible from the poor souls who have no choice but to attend, such as journalists, team staff, and riders.

Those (such as your humble correspondent) without a wealthy employer to cover the costs for them stay away. Many teams stay up to a couple of hours away, where accommodation prices drop from the truly extortionate to the merely pricey.

For much of the paddock, the Termas de Rio Hondo GP is a black hole, capable of swallowing money at an exponential rate.

Yet fans from around the region flock to the circuit. They are much smarter indeed, many bringing tents, vans, RVs, or even just sleeping bags in the back of their trucks.

The money saved on accommodation is well spent: the party around the circuit is stupendous, massive amounts of meat and drink being shared around all weekend. That adds real local flavor to the event, the passion of the fans being evident at every turn.

2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

03/25/2015 @ 10:34 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on 2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

motogp-logo

The prospect of a new MotoGP season always leaves fans giddy with anticipation. Their appetites keenly whetted by winter testing, and speculation over the times set at those tests, they boldly predict that this season is going to be the best MotoGP season ever. Though the racing is often good, all too often, it never quite lives up to the preseason hype.

There is every reason to believe that this year, it will be different. The bikes, the riders, the teams, the motivation, it all points to 2015 being an exceptionally exciting season in MotoGP.

At the last day of winter testing at Qatar just over a week ago, less than a second covered the top fourteen riders, and two seconds covered all but four of the MotoGP field.

A similar pattern emerged at Sepang: with the exception of the occasional hot lap by Marc Márquez, there were ten or more riders within a second of each other. Things haven’t been this close for a while.