How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #27 – The Ducati Show

08/11/2016 @ 11:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Part 2 of our big catch-up, Episode 27 continues our conversation about my recent travels, with this episode focusing those trips with Ducati.

In the show, we talk about my recent interview with Claudio Domenicali, giving a teaser of what’s to come from A&R’s conversation with the Ducati CEO. We then turn our attention to my two trips to Italy, one for World Ducati Week, and the other for the DRE Enduro course.

On both trips I was riding the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro, so Quentin and I talk a bit about that as well.

We finish up the show by talking an speculating about Ducati’s 2017 model lineup, which includes the Ducati 1299 Panigale Anniversario and the Ducati Supersport. If you’re a Ducatista, you won’t want to miss this show.

As always, you can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review: Andrea Dovizioso

08/09/2016 @ 1:45 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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If it wasn’t for bad luck, Andrea Dovizioso wouldn’t have any luck at all. Of the nine races so far this year, Dovizioso has finished just five, and one of them, only by pushing his bike across the line.

Dovizioso’s run of bad luck started in Argentina, where he ended up being taken out two corners from the finish line by his teammate Andrea Iannone. Given Iannone’s reputation, that hardly counts as a surprise, but one week later, Dovizioso found himself on the floor again, this time wiped out by Dani Pedrosa.

That is virtually unheard of – at least since Estoril in 2006 – and Pedrosa immediately showed he is a man of honor by rushing over to check on the Italian after losing the front and hitting Dovizioso’s bike. Compare and contrast the behavior of Iannone at both Argentina and Barcelona.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review: Andrea Iannone

08/08/2016 @ 4:37 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Andrea Iannone was to be the next Alien. Throughout his career in MotoGP, he has shown that he has plenty of talent, having bagged five podiums since his ascension into the factory Ducati team. But his decision making has always been questioned, Iannone having a history of rash moves.

All that seemed to change in 2015, with the Italian showing a new found maturity all year. His risk assessment was better, not making moves that would probably not come off, and settling for available points rather than throwing a good result away.

Some people, including myself, put the difference down to the shoulder injury he was carrying, making him think a fraction longer before acting. Whatever the cause, the end result was a fifth place in the 2015 championship.

Having been given the chance to heal over the winter, his shoulder is much stronger in 2016. Iannone’s decision making, however, is now much worse. The Italian stands eighth in the championship, despite having racked up two podiums in nine races.

Understanding the Ducati XDiavel, A Review

08/06/2016 @ 7:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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The Ducati XDiavel is another big step for the Brand from Bologna, as the modell pushes further into the territory first pioneered by the Ducati Diavel, and hopes to give cruiser enthusiasts a design that speaks a little bit more of their native language.

With forward controls coming standard, along with a low and raked chassis design, the XDiavel is unlike any other Ducati on the market, and it takes some time to wrap your head around that fact.

These changes though allow Ducati to move boldly into an area dominated by one brand: Harley-Davidson. That is a tall mountain to climb, as the Bar & Shield brand has a chokehold on the cruiser-riding faithful, who flock to the American brand not because of what it does, but because of who it is.

This makes winning the hearts and minds of cruiser riders an exceptionally difficult task – one too that is not easily undertaken. The first step in mounting the assault on that summit is to develop a motorcycle that has no equal. In this regard, Ducati has a fighting chance.

What It’s Like to Party with 81,000 Ducati Fans

08/04/2016 @ 5:10 am, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

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“It’s like drinking from a firehose” is the phrase I would use over and over while telling people about my recent trip to this year’s World Ducati Week.

The three-day event attracted 81,000 rabid Ducati fans through the gates of the Misano race track, which is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s Adriatic Coast. One of the best race tracks in the world, along one of Italy’s best beaches…the recipe for success here might seem obvious.

Beyond these factors though, World Ducati Week itself is a magnet event that attracts Ducatisti from the world over by offering them the ultimate Ducati experience.

Strangely enough though, you don’t even have to be a Ducati fan to attend – though it helps – as WDW2016 is something that any motorcyclist can enjoy.

For my part in this, I will admit to having more than one Ducati in my garage (none on press loan, mind you), so consider my glass of Kool-aid aptly filled, but truthful Ducati has put together a motorcycle enthusiast agenda that other brands and venues should take note of .

As such, World Ducati Week is a great example of how to get motorcyclists excited about being…well, motorcyclists.

Ducati does this by having no shortage of events and spectacles for fans to enjoy, and while the venue is a race track, most of what makes World Ducati Week special doesn’t take place on the Misano Circuit itself.

Instead, the key to World Ducati Week’s success is the carnival atmosphere, that immerses attendees in the very best that the Ducati brand has to offer.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review: Aerodynamics

08/03/2016 @ 1:27 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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One factor which could be having an effect on tires is the aerodynamics war which has seen wings sprouting from every forward surface of the fairing.

The outbreak of strake cancer has seen the winglets massively increase in size and surface area, making the latest version on the Ducati Desmosedici GP resemble Baron von Richthofen’s Fokker Dr.I triplane.

Ducati was the first to understand and seize on the potential of the aerodynamic winglets, debuting them at Qatar last season. There were met with some skepticism for most of last year, until Yamaha suddenly rolled out their own version of them at Aragon.

In 2016, the winglet craze has infected the entire paddock, with the bikes of all five manufacturers now sporting some form of aerodynamic device.

Why did Ducati start fitting winglets? Because they work. One engineer who has seen the data told me that the effect was visible in it. The bike wheelies less when it has wings fitted compared to not having winglets.

That reduction in wheelie means that wheelie doesn’t have to be managed using the electronics to reduce power and torque. That, in turn, means the bike can accelerate harder out of the corner, reaching higher top speeds at the end of the straight.

The other manufacturers have all come to the same conclusion, hence the outbreak of winglets.

Confirmed: Marco Melandri Will Race with Ducati in WSBK

07/28/2016 @ 7:14 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Just two days ago we told you that Marco Melandri would be headed to the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati World Superbike team, replacing fellow Italian Davide Giugliano. That news has been publicly confirmed today, with Melandri set to join Chaz Davies on the factory WSBK team.

The move is a surprising return for Marco Melandri back into motorcycle racing, as the Italian took a hiatus during the 2016 season, after a less-than-amicable departure from the struggling Aprilia MotoGP team last year.

Melandri’s reputation as a racer, and perhaps his desperation to come back to motorcycle racing, comes with a price though, as the former 250GP World Champion is said to be forgoing a salary from Ducati Corse. Instead, Melandri is bringing his own money to the team, and likely has a performance-based pay schedule.

Austria MotoGP Test Times – Day 2: Ducati’s Domination Continues

07/20/2016 @ 4:20 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The second day of testing at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria saw the Ducatis continue to dominate the timesheets, as times continued to tumble.

It was Andrea Iannone’s turn to top the timesheets, the Italian posting a very fast lap to beat his teammate Andrea Dovizioso by nearly half a second.

Test rider Casey Stoner set the third fastest time, though a late fall at the end of the session hampered any further improvement. Stoner put the fall down to using soft tires for the first time in four years.

He was unhurt in the crash, but ran out of time to get back out on track. Stoner has spent all his time testing the GP16 without wings, while the two factory riders tested the bike with wings.

Austria MotoGP Test Times – Day 1: Dovizioso Fastest, Ducatis Dominate, & KTM Debuts

07/19/2016 @ 2:47 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, venue for the Austrian round of MotoGP, appears to be a Ducati track. At the end of the first day of testing for the MotoGP riders in Austria, Andrea Dovizioso topped the timesheets, nearly six tenths clear of his factory Ducati teammate Andrea Iannone.

Scott Redding set the third fastest time of the day, just ahead of official test rider, Casey Stoner. There is persistent paddock gossip that Stoner is using this test to gauge his competitiveness, with a view to racing as a wildcard at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Given Stoner’s long association with Red Bull, and the fact that nobody has raced at the Red Bull Ring (except for Valentino Rossi, who raced a 125 there in 1996 and 1997, and Jack Miller, who raced a 125 there in 2011 in the German IDM championship), it gives him the best chance of being competitive.

Maverick Viñales was the first non-Ducati in fifth place, but he was squeezed in between three more Ducatis, with Hector Barbera, Eugene Laverty and Danilo Petrucci taking slots six through nine.

Preview of the German GP: Honda, Seven Times Lucky?

07/14/2016 @ 9:37 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the German GP: Honda, Seven Times Lucky?

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If there is such a thing as a Honda track, then the Sachsenring is surely it. Of the nineteen premier class races held at the tight, tortuous circuit, Honda have won twelve.

That includes the last six races in a row: From 2010 through 2012, nobody could touch Dani Pedrosa around the circuit. From 2013 onwards, Marc Márquez has been unbeatable at the track.

What makes the Sachsenring such a Honda track? Maybe it’s the two key braking points at the circuit, going into Turn 1, and at the bottom of the hill for Turn 12.

Maybe it’s the ability to use the Honda horsepower going up the hill out of the final corner, across the line and into Turn 1. Or maybe it’s the tight corners, the Honda always a strong bike in turning.

The Sachsenring circuit is invariably described in disparaging terms – “Mickey Mouse”, “a go-kart track” – but that does not do the track justice. It may not challenge the bikes in terms of horsepower, but it demands an awful lot of the riders.

From the moment they arrive at the end of the short, uphill front straight, brake hard for the sharp right-hander of Turn 1, and pitch it into the corner, the bike barely leaves the edge of the tire until the plunge down the Waterfall after Turn 11.

There is a brief moment of respite between Turns 7 and 8, before heeling the bike over again for another series of lefts going up the hill to the circuit’s crowning glory.