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.

MotoGP: An Update to the 2016 Silly Season Happenings

09/22/2015 @ 8:48 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Saturday-Misano-Grand-Prix-of-San-Marino-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-5762

With the flyaways fast approaching, MotoGP’s silly season for 2016 is reaching its climax. All of the factory seats are taken – including the seat at Aprilia vacated by Marco Melandri – and the top satellite rides are filled as well, either officially or unofficially.

A few pieces of the puzzle remain, but fitting those together is more or less complex, depending on the team and the rider involved. Here’s a look at where we stand so far.

Friday Summary at Misano: Disappointingly Fast Times, & Tweaking the Nut Between the Handlebars

09/12/2015 @ 8:45 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday Summary at Misano: Disappointingly Fast Times, & Tweaking the Nut Between the Handlebars

Friday-Misano-Grand-Prix-of-San-Marino-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-62

The trouble with raised expectations is that they are so often trumped by reality. After all the hype about Misano’s new surface, there was much puzzlement among the MotoGP riders, and among the teams.

Danny Kent’s reaction after Moto3 practice was typical. “Having heard so many people say that it’s two seconds a lap quicker than last year… I’d love to know where I can find two seconds!” So much had been expected that it could only ever end in disappointment.

That’s not to say the surface was poor. Praise for the new track was universal, and the times were definitely quick. In Moto3, Danny Kent beat the race lap record.

In Moto2, Tito Rabat was over a tenth quicker than the existing pole record. And Jorge Lorenzo managed the same feat in MotoGP, breaking the existing pole record by a few hundredths.

To do so on a Friday, when the track is still relatively dusty, and fairly green (new and not yet worn in), means the track really is a lot quicker, and times will probably drop quickly on Saturday, once the riders start to turn up the wick.

Thursday Summary at Misano: New Asphalt, Hidden Benefits, & A Tough Dilemma for Laverty

09/10/2015 @ 9:01 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

misano-world-circuit-marco-simoncelli-track-map

There was a sense of eager anticipation at Misano on Thursday. For the past five years, the riders have complained more and more of the poor surface, of bumps, of a lack of grip, and of asphalt polished as smooth as pebbles on a beach.

The new surface is a vast improvement, incredibly grippy, most of the bumps ironed out and fresh dark asphalt ready to welcome sticky rubber. Racing at Misano will be a much more rewarding experience than it has been in the past.

Just how much better is the new surface? Aleix Espargaro said that the Suzukis had lapped a second under the lap record, while Marc Márquez had been untouchable, lapping “nearly three seconds under the record.”

That seemed almost improbably fast, and a quick survey among the rest of the paddock suggested Márquez’s time was not quite that quick, but at 1’31.9 impressive nonetheless.

Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

08/29/2015 @ 10:59 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Silverstone: Of Used Tires, Tough Love, & The Chance of Rain

Saturday-Silverstone-British-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-1581

Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned.

And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn’t pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.

After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice.

The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.

Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed.

Though you wouldn’t say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second.

In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field.

The difference between Lorenzo’s FP3 lap and Márquez’ FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo’s favor.

Tires are what made the difference. Lorenzo put a brand new tire on for the last two laps of FP3, and obliterated the rest of the field. Márquez put a brand new medium tire in FP4, and blew the field away, then slapped in a new hard tire, and was fast with that too.

In FP3, Márquez was working on getting the best out of old tires, in FP4, Lorenzo was doing the same, as well as trying out a setup change that simply did not work.

Two riders, similar pace on new tires, both much faster than the rest. Who will come out on top? At this point in time, it is impossible to say. What it will come down to is who manages tires the best.

The Massive MotoGP Silly Season Update

08/20/2015 @ 11:51 pm, by David Emmett30 COMMENTS

Saturday-Brno-Czech-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-886

Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP.

The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis.

Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.

Deciphering the MotoGP Silly Season, Part 2

07/30/2015 @ 10:45 am, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

Friday-Sachsenring-German-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-445

If Jack Miller is parachuted into Aspar, the second seat in the team is up for grabs. Though Dorna are keen to have an American in MotoGP, it is widely believed that Nicky Hayden’s days are numbered.

Despite his denials, there are question marks over Hayden’s wrist, and he has not been as competitive on the Open Honda as he had hoped. Hayden was at the last round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago, where he was seen talking to a lot of teams.

There is a lot of speculation Hayden could end up on an Aprilia in World Superbikes next season, the American already having visited the factory’s Noale HQ in 2013, before he left Ducati to sign for Aspar.

Could Hayden take the second Aprilia seat in MotoGP? This seems extremely unlikely. The factory already has an experienced development rider in Alvaro Bautista, and is really looking for someone faster and younger to lead the challenge.

Spending a Morning with Eugene Laverty

07/13/2015 @ 11:26 am, by Tony Goldsmith6 COMMENTS

Eugene-Laverty-Interview-Sachsenring-German-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-1529

Shortly after qualifying for the recent German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, Asphalt & Rubber photographer Tony Goldsmith sat down with Aspar MotoGP Team rider and class rookie Eugene Laverty, to get some insight into how a MotoGP rider prepares for a race.

On race day I also had the opportunity to photograph Eugene in the build up to the race, talk to him about his routine, and discuss the special tribute helmet he was wearing for the late Dr. John Hinds.

Saturday Summary at Assen: Titles, Maturity, & Madness

07/01/2015 @ 1:45 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Saturday-Assen-DutchTT-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-1683

You would think with the deluge of words that has washed over the incident between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi in the last corner (and to which I contributed more than my fair share, I must confess) that there were only two riders and one race at Assen on Saturday.

Beyond the clash at the GT chicane, there was much more to talk about after Holland.

Whatever the immediate aftermath of the clash between Márquez and Rossi, the longer term implications of the result have made the championship even more interesting.

Márquez’s decision to switch back to the 2014 chassis for his Repsol Honda RC213V has been proven to be the correct one. Though the engine is still as aggressive as ever, the old chassis in combination with the new swingarm and new forks tested at Le Mans has made the bike much more manageable.

Márquez can now slide the rear on corner entry in a much more controlled way than before, taking away the behavior the reigning champion has struggled with most. The Spaniard showed he could be competitive from the start of the race to the end, instead of crashing out as the tires started to go off.

The bike is still a long way from cured, however. Márquez switched to the medium front tire rather than the soft, the only rider to do so. The medium provides a bit more support under braking, compensating for the reduced braking from the rear wheel.

That support comes at the cost of extra grip provided by the softer front. Whether Márquez will be able to employ that same strategy for the rest of the season remains to be seen.

Qatar Test Preview – Last Chance to Prepare for 2015

03/13/2015 @ 6:27 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Qatar Test Preview – Last Chance to Prepare for 2015

Friday-Qatar-GP-MotoGP-Scott-Jones-08

Who starts the 2015 MotoGP season as favorite for the championship? The final test at Qatar will give us a much clearer picture of where the factories and riders stand than the last two tests in Sepang.

That is in part due to the fact that the factories have had time between the Sepang tests and now to work on further refining their bikes ready for the start of 2015.

But the Qatar test is also a little more representative for the rest of the season than Sepang is. The Malaysian circuit may have a good mix of fast and slow corners, but the tropical heat makes it tough on riders, tough on tires, and the track can lose a lot of grip as the temperatures rise.

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

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

scott-redding-valencia-test-honda-motogp

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.