Ride in Peace, Author Robert Pirsig

I first heard of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shortly after I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR600F2. I was stuck in the middle of Dunsmuir, California with a bad rectifier/regulator (a common trouble-spot on that model bike), and a passerby recommended the title. I think they referred the book out of naiveté its content, but obviously the novel, despite its title, would do little to help my immediate problem with my Honda, though it was a good read about some general philosophic ideas, which I could chew-on after I got my CBR bumped-started and back on the road again. Undoubtedly, you have likely heard of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well.

Carbon Fiber BMW HP4 Race Debuts in China

As we predicted, the BMW HP4 Race carbon fiber superbike debuted today in China, at the Auto Shanghai 2017 expo. This is the production version of the prototype that BMW Motorrad teased at last year’s EIMCA show in Milan. Details were scarce in Italy, but now BMW is ready to tell us all about its halo bike. The numbers? Only 750 units of the BMW HP4 Race will be produced. Each one will make 212hp, and weigh 377 lbs when fully fueled and ready to ride – which is lighter than BMW’s WorldSBK-spec S1000RR racing machine. Of course the main feature of the BMW HP4 Race is that it drips in carbon fiber. The bodywork, main frame, and wheels are made of this composite material, with the tail section being a self-supporting carbon fiber unit.

Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

Extra Notes from the Qatar GP: Zarco’s Exceptionalism, Morbidelli’s Maturity, & Moto3 Madness

03/28/2017 @ 5:04 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

We need to talk about Johann Zarco. For a rookie to lead his very first race on a MotoGP bike is not just unusual, it has never been done before. To do so for six laps is beyond remarkable, and a sign that something rather special is happening.

To put this into perspective, it is worth noting that not only did Zarco lead the race, but he also set the fastest lap in his first race. The last rookie to set the fastest lap during their first race? Marc Márquez, Qatar 2013. Before that? Valentino Rossi, Welkom 2000. And before that, Max Biaggi, Suzuka 1998.

Zarco’s downfall came at Turn 2 on Lap 7. Quite literally: he got a little off line, hit a dirtier part of the track, and down he went. There is no shame in crashing out of your first MotoGP race.

Valentino Rossi crashed out of his first premier class Grand Prix too. On the other hand, Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa all finished on the podium in their MotoGP debut race. Max Biaggi actually won his first 500cc race at Suzuka.

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: Moto2 Madness, And The Dawning of a New Era

03/20/2016 @ 11:47 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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May you live in interesting times, runs an apocryphal Chinese curse. The first Grand Prix of 2016 certainly provided us with plenty of events which might be termed interesting, in both the common sense of the word and the apocryphal curse.

The three races at Qatar were thrilling, tense, intriguing, and mind-bogglingly bizarre.

It is hard to know where to start. The first race of the day proved to be the most conventional, Moto3 serving up its usual treat.

A very strong group of eight riders, including all of the championship favorites bar Fabio Quartararo, battled all race long for victory, Niccolo Antonelli finally coming out on top by just 0.007 seconds, beating Brad Binder into second.

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Thursday Summary at Phillip Island: On the Yamaha Rivalry, Bridgestone’s Solution, & Bastianini’s Future

10/15/2015 @ 9:48 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary at Phillip Island: On the Yamaha Rivalry, Bridgestone’s Solution, & Bastianini’s Future

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Is the strain of the championship starting to take its toll on the relationship between the two Movistar Yamaha riders? It was all Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo could do to roll their eyes when they were asked this question during the press conference.

They get asked it a lot: in just about every press conference at which they are together, in their media debriefs after every day of practice, and presumably, in just about every TV and media interview.

Valentino Rossi had armed himself with a quip to deflect the question. “We are very happy about your interest,” he joked. “We have a diary about our relationship, which we will keep secret until the last race.”

It is a shame he was only joking. There is no doubt that a diary, especially a video diary, following Rossi and Lorenzo behind the scenes through this season would have made compelling reading or viewing.

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MotoGP, Moto2, & Moto3 Silly Season Loose Ends

10/01/2015 @ 10:37 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.

Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon.

The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening.

Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.

The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams that have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight.

To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics.

That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. “This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox,” Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. “You can’t get the best out of it without one.”

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Friday Summary at Indy: Marquez vs. Lorenzo, The Mystery of Tires, & Weird Silly Season Rumors

08/07/2015 @ 9:20 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Every race track has something special, but each is special in a different way. There are the tracks which are notable for the speed, such as Mugello, Termas de Rio Hondo, or Phillip Island. There are tracks which have a spectacular setting, such as Phillip Island, Mugello, or Aragon.

There are tracks which are notable for their layout, either fast and flowing like Assen or Brno, or tight and treacherous such as the Sachsenring. And then there are tracks which are so unlike anywhere else that motorcycle racing goes to that they have a character all of their own. Like Indianapolis.

What makes Indy such a unique challenge? “The special thing about this track is that during the weekend, the grip is improving a lot, so this is one point you must understand during the weekend how the grip improves,” Marc Márquez said.

Understanding this, that the track you roll out onto on Friday morning bears no relation to the track you will be racing on come Sunday, presents a very specific challenge.

It rewards riders and teams who understand how a track matures and changes, can anticipate what is coming without getting ahead of themselves and paying the price for overestimating the available grip. A number of riders did that on Friday morning, especially in Moto3.

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Saturday Summary at Assen: Titles, Maturity, & Madness

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

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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.

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Saturday Summary at Le Mans: How the Weather Shakes Up Racing & Matching Lorenzo’s Metronomic Pace

05/17/2015 @ 2:53 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday Summary at Le Mans: How the Weather Shakes Up Racing & Matching Lorenzo’s Metronomic Pace

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Motorcycle racing would be a good deal less complicated if it was an indoor sport. Leaving the complications of housing an area covering several square kilometers to one side for a moment, having a track which was not subject to rain, wind or shine would make things a lot more predictable.

No longer would the riders and teams have to worry about whether the track was wet enough for rain tires, or slicks could be used with a dry line forming. Nor would they have to worry about track grip dropping as temperatures rose beyond a certain point.

Or differences in grip from one part of the track to the next, as clouds hide the sun and strong winds steal heat from the asphalt. There would be only the bike, the rider, and the track.

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Friday Summary at Le Mans: Surprising Smith, Smooth Lorenzo, And Has Marquez Lost Another Engine?

05/15/2015 @ 8:08 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday Summary at Le Mans: Surprising Smith, Smooth Lorenzo, And Has Marquez Lost Another Engine?

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If you had put money on Bradley Smith being the fastest man at the end of the first day of practice at Le Mans, you would probably be a very happy camper this evening.

The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider does not often top a practice session – the last time was nearly a year ago, on the Friday at Barcelona – though he often shows plenty of speed.

But there has always been one thing or another to prevent him from converting speed through a particular sector into a really fast flying lap.

That’s where the Jerez test helped. At Jerez, Smith, along with several other riders, tested a new front fork setup that made a huge difference to his riding. The aim of the change had been to absorb more of the force in braking, and allow the front tire to retain its shape.

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Preview of the French GP: A Schizophrenic Track in France

05/14/2015 @ 10:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The Le Mans round of MotoGP is a truly schizophrenic event. The track sits just south of the charming old city of Le Mans, a combination of medieval center and 19th Century industrial outskirts. The surrounding area is lush, rolling hills, woods alternating with open green fields.

It is very much a provincial idyll…until you reach the Le Mans circuit, and its campsites, where visions of Dante unfold before your eyes, and disinterested guards look on as large drunken hordes set about recreating some of the more gruesome scenes from Lord of the Flies.

Some people love it, others hate it. Veteran journalist Dennis Noyes always says it reminds of going to Hockenheim in the 1990s, when the police would not enter the woods at the heart of the track until the Monday after the race.

Then they would go in “to pull the bodies out,” as he so colorfully put it. Outside the track, the atmosphere is one of quiet provincial charm. Inside, all is wild, free, and out of control. It is an event that should be experienced at least once, though to be honest, once was enough for me.

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Sunday Summary at Jerez: Lorenzo’s Unappreciated Excellence & Pushing Ducati’s Buttons

05/03/2015 @ 6:29 pm, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

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One of the greatest privileges of my job is to stand at trackside and watch the riders up close. It is the ideal antidote to the malaise that can affect journalists like myself, who tend to spend too much time indoors, in the press room, in the back of garages, and in team trucks and hospitality units, endlessly talking to people in pursuit of information.

Walking out to Nieto, Peluqui, and Crivillé, Turns 9, 10 and 11 at Jerez, savoring the passion of the fans cheering as their favorite riders pass by, observing each rider closely as they pass, trying to see if I can see anything, learn anything, understand anything about the way the best motorcycle racers in the world handle their machines.

There is plenty to see, if you take the trouble to look. This morning, during warm up, I watched the riders brake and pitch their machines into Turn 9, give a touch of gas to Turn 10, before getting hard on the gas out of Turn 10 and onto the fast right-handers of 11 and 12.

In the transition from the left of Turn 8 to the right of Turn 9, you see the fast riders move slowly across the bike, while the slow riders move fast. You see them run on rails through Turns 9 and 10, before forcing the bike up onto the fatter part of the tire while still hanging off the side out of 10 and heading off to 11.

You see the extreme body position on the bike, almost at the limit of physics. It is hard to see how a rider can hang off the bike further, outside hands barely touching the handlebars, outside feet almost off the footpegs.

Photos and video barely start to do the riders justice. To experience it you need to see it from the track, and from the stands and hillsides that surround it.

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