Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Project 46, AGV Standards, & Rossi’s New Helmet

03/02/2012 @ 1:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Project 46, AGV Standards, & Rossis New Helmet Valentino Rossi AGV Standards Project 46 helmet 01 635x423

You may have already noticed that Valentino Rossi has been sporting a new lid in his off-season tests with the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Said to have a greater field of vision, the prototype helmet has being going by the code name “Project 46” as the helmet has literally been built around Rossi himself. I say literally because AGV’s new helmet is based off what the Italian company is calling AGV Standards, a new philosophy on how the Italian company makes its forthcoming helmets.

AGV, Please Make This Helmet!

01/31/2012 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

AGV, Please Make This Helmet! Valentino Rossi AGV prototype helmet Sepang

In addition to testing the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12 “Phoenix” this week at Sepang, Valentino Rossi is also trying out a new lid from AGV. Aside from the carbon fiber goodness, and of course the Rossi stickers (which add 5hp & $200), AGV’s prototype helmet sports a noticably pronounced rear spoiler. Tucked in behind the windscreen, it is obvious why the Italian helmet manufacturer designed such a large protrusion off the back of the prototype helmet, as it looks to be clearly helping the flow off the back of the helmet, across the rider’s hump, and down his backside.

Yes, that’s all well and good, but what has this writer really salivating is that reports from Malaysia say the windscreen’s field of view is HUGE. I think the exact words described to me were, “it’s like watching a flat screen TV with your nose against the monitor.” While I love my AGV AX-8 Dual Sport (I rocked it hard at the BRD RedShift SM prototype test), I just can’t get that same enthusiasm behind AGV’s road race line. Having ridden with both the AGV T2 and AGV GP-Tech, my biggest complaint is that the field of view on both these helmets feels restricted (a common complaint apparently from riders used to Arai’s helmet design).

Valentino Rossi’s SuperSic Tribute Helmet

11/06/2011 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossis SuperSic Tribute Helmet Rossi Marco SImoncelli tribute helmet close up 635x400

Perhaps none of the MotoGP riders have been affected by the loss of Marco Simoncelli more so than Valentino Rossi. Not only was Rossi “like a brother to Marco,” but the Italian was deeply shaken over his involvement with Marco’s accident at Sepang. With both Edwards and Rossi putting on a strong face publicly, the rest of us can only imagine the thoughts and grief that most be occurring internally. Everyone processes their grief differently, and one of Rossi’s more cathartic endeavors this weekend is to honor Marco with a special helmet for the Valencian GP. More photos after the jump.

Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf?

08/05/2011 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Making You Deaf? bmw s1000rr wind tunnel

I ride bikes for a living, in case you didn’t know this already. I ride more miles on two wheels in a year, than the average American does in their automobile (I put more four-wheel miles down a year than the average American does as well, if that gives you any idea how much of Asphalt & Rubber is written while on the road). With all this riding, I’ve become increasingly concerned over my hearing, as I’d like still to have it when I’m older. Thus for my own personal benefit, I’ve been trying out the different kinds of ear protection that are available to motorcyclists, as well as a variety of helmets from manufacturers (articles surely to ensue).

So when the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Bear in mind I’m a staunch believer in helmet laws and riding with a full-face helmet (my apologies to the Libertarians in the group), so when the study suggested that my two main concerns regarding my head may be at odds with each other, it piqued my interest.

Helmetless Motorcyclist Dies During Anti-Helmet Protest

07/05/2011 @ 7:27 am, by Jensen Beeler51 COMMENTS

Helmetless Motorcyclist Dies During Anti Helmet Protest american flag helmet

Some tragic news with a twist comes to us from the long holiday weekend, as we get word that a helmetless rider from Onondaga, NY died after crashing his 1983 Harley Davidson motorcycle during a protest rally.

Though it’s always unfortunate when we lose a member of the motorcycle community, this story has a bit of irony as we learn that Philip A. Contos was participating in a motorcycle helmet protest when the 55-year-old flipped over the handlebars of his motorcycle, and hit his head against the pavement.

According to the attending physician, and based off the evidence and information at the scene of the accident, Contos would have survived the fall had he been wearing a DOT approved helmet, but instead sadly perished from his injuries.

Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Mugello Helmet

07/02/2011 @ 2:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Photos: Valentino Rossis Mugello Helmet Valentino Rossi AGV Mugello helmet 4 635x423

Despite Valentino Rossi getting the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1 for the Italian GP at Mugello, the nine-time World Champion is still struggling with a 12th place qualifying position. Despite his troubles, Rossi is keeping true to his tradition of wearing a special AGV helmet at his home GP round. Featuring a giant eyeball on the top of the lid (Rossi’s bulldogs are featured on the back of the helmet), we can only imagine Rossi is paying with the fact that all eyes are on him this year as he tackles the new challenges that surround his move to Ducati Corse.

So far Rossi and Jeremy Burgess haven’t been able to tame the beast, and at Mugello, the famous crew chief is absent, having to attend to personal obligations back home in Australia this weekend. With QP cut-short by inclement weather, Rossi and Ducati had only a handful of laps to work on setting up the GP11.1 for Mugello, which could prove to be a hurdle come Sunday morning. Whatever the reasons are for Rossi’s design choice, he will be one to watch tomorrow to see if he can overcome the hurdles that are set out before him. More photos after the jump.

Icon Ties Arai in 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study

05/26/2011 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Icon Ties Arai in 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study JD Power Associates Helmet satisfaction 635x564

J.D. Power and Associates have released their 2011 Helmet Satisfaction Study, and the results are pretty interesting. The study takes an 11-point approach on helmet satisfaction, having helmet purchasers rank their lid on the following attributes: quietness; ventilation/air flow; de-fogging performance; face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out; face shield resistance to scratching; ease of replacing face shield; scratch resistance of shell; color/graphic design; weight; ease of fastening the strap; and fit and comfort.

Perhaps unsurprising to many, Arai topped the list as having the highest rating (this makes the 13th year in a row for the Japanese helmet manufacturer), but this year will carry an asterisk, as Icon tied Arai in customer satisfaction with a score of 852 out of 1,000. According to JDPA, Arai’s scores across all 11 attributes were strong, with a particular strength in “fit & comfort” and “face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out”. Similarly, Icon scored especially well in “color/graphic design”, while Shoei got strong marks for “ease of replacing the face shield”.

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class

04/25/2011 @ 6:01 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class Photo of the week Jorge Lorenzo class photo Scott Jones 635x422

Part of the interest of the first race of the MotoGP season relates to the class photos, where the riders come out first for the 125cc group shot, then Moto2, and last the MotoGP riders appear. The 125 riders are mainly kids, so there is a lot of joking around in high voices that haven’t dropped yet. Moto2 is a mix of young and not as young, but it’s still a large field so the phrase “herding cats” is likely to be uttered a few times as the Dorna folks try to get everyone into position for the photograph.

The MotoGP riders are much fewer in number, but the group makes up for its smaller size with proportionally larger egos, and the premier class’ mind games are already well under way when it comes to which individuals will appear to sit down first, and wait for those who chose not to wait for anyone else.

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law...Again  bug splat

Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

What’s the Deal with Nicky Hayden’s Helmet Spoiler?

03/19/2011 @ 5:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Whats the Deal with Nicky Haydens Helmet Spoiler? Nicky Hayden helmet spoiler1 635x443

If you’ve seen some of the photos from the Losail International Circuit, you’ll see that Nicky Hayden has been going out in some of the sessions with a piece of plastic affixed to his helmet. As the MotoGP paddock gets ready for the Qatar GP, the wind has been a factor here in Doha, fueled by the Arabian Gulf which is only two miles away from us and the desert the surrounds the area.

Originally we thought that Arai was perhaps experimenting with some sort of new aerodynamic package here in Qatar, but Carlos Checa ran a similar setup during the World Superbike races at Phillip Island with X-lite helmet. Talking to Arai Helmets about the odd clear piece of plastic, they disclosed that it’s something that Ducati has been experimenting with on its race package.