2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market. For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection. Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

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.

Q&A: Cal Crutchlow, Part 2 – On Morale, Following Rossi’s Example, & Being a Factory Rider

10/07/2014 @ 12:37 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge.

Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far.

He continues the theme in this, the second part of the interview, where he discusses his struggle to maintain his morale through the darkest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in the final part of the interview, to be published on Wednesday, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller’s ascent to MotoGP.

Q&A: Cal Crutchlow, Part 1 – His Toughest Year Yet, Adapting to the Ducati

10/06/2014 @ 1:42 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

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It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge.

Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

At Aragon, ahead of the fourteenth race of the season, we caught up with Crutchlow, to talk about his year so far, his expectations for next year, and how he manages to keep his morale up through such a difficult period.

Cal Crutchlow gave a candid and honest account of his season, not shirking the blame, and speaking openly of the fears and doubts which plague a professional motorcycle racer when they go through a season as tough as this. He opened a window into a side of racing which is not often talked about, and marks his courage as both a rider, and as a human being.

The interview went on for so long that we have had to split it up into three parts, which will appear over the next few days. In the first part of the interview, he speaks of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of 2014 being his toughest year in MotoGP so far.

In the second part of the interview, which will appear on Tuesday, he delves into the dark side of his year, of the struggle to maintain his morale while the results are not coming. And in the final part of the interview, to be published on Wednesday, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller’s ascent to MotoGP.

Q&A: Valentino Rossi — After Crashing at Aragon

09/29/2014 @ 1:03 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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The Movistar Yamaha team issued the following press release, containing a brief interview with Valentino Rossi.

In it, Rossi speaks about his crash, the limited after-effects he felt, and looks forward to the upcoming flyaway races at Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang. You can read it after the jump.

Q&A: Nicky Hayden — Returning to MotoGP at Aragon

09/24/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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After sitting out the last four races since Indianapolis, Nicky Hayden will ride a MotoGP bike again at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

To help clarify his situation, and talk about the operation he underwent and the difficult period of rehabilitation which followed, the Drive M7 Aspar team issued a press release containing an interview with the American.

In it, he answers many of the questions he will inevitably face over the weekend. This is Nicky Hayden’s side of the story. Read it after the jump.

Q&A: Corrado Cecchinelli – MotoGP’s Director of Technology

09/23/2014 @ 12:00 am, by David Emmett33 COMMENTS

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From 2016, the entire MotoGP class will switch to a single, spec software for the electronics on the bikes. Development of the software is to become a collaborative process, with the factories competing in MotoGP supplying code and requirements through a single website.

This much we know. But what we don’t know is much more interesting. Which technologies will be supported? Which functions will be available? How sophisticated will the software be? Who will lead the software process, the factories or Dorna?

To get answers to all of these questions and more I spoke to MotoGP’s Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli at Silverstone. He is the man in charge of the process of making the switch to the spec, or unified software, as it is now being called. Cecchinelli will manage the development process, and define the goal of the unified software, trying to create a level playing field for all of the competitors.

It was a long and interesting interview. We covered many subjects, from the logistics of the development process, to the technologies which will be allowed, to what Cecchinelli sees as the objective of the software, and the goals it should achieve.

Cecchinelli described in some detail how the development process for the unified software is to work, and how the process will be managed. It will be a collaborative process, but it will not, as some fans had hoped, be a fully open process, with fully public access to the code.

Cecchinelli then set out his vision for the unified software, both in terms of implementation at the track and its application in production bikes. The goal is that any MotoGP-level electronics engineer should be able to extract the maximum performance from the software, rather than requiring mastery of an arcane and excessively complex piece of software.

It should be fully usable by the engineers in the independent or non-factory teams, allowing them to use the software to its full potential. This is one of the complaints made by the Open teams at the Sepang test at the start of the year, when they were handed an extremely powerful, but extremely complex software update. The update was soon dropped, in favor of an evolution of the existing software.

Cecchinelli’s vision of how the unified software should be applicable to road-going machines makes for interesting reading. The aim is for technology developed at the track to be directly transferrable to production bikes. That does not mean restricting technology, but rather focusing it on making it usable for all riders.

The idea is not to remove traction control and engine braking, but to keep them relevant to production bikes, and improve rideability. Though the software will still allow turn-by-turn settings, Cecchinelli made a strong case for why it should be removed, and the focus switched to other technology areas.

The aim, Cecchinelli was keen to emphasize, was to prevent factories getting into a spending war over extreme performance, and make them focus instead on providing the rider with a more rideable package.

Cecchinelli admitted that the unified software would not stop factories from spending money, but his aim was to limit the return on throwing ever larger resources at the field of electronics which had no direct relevance to MotoGP. We started on the subject of the development process, and where it stands at the moment.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

09/11/2014 @ 3:13 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

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Dani Pedrosa has been with his crew chief Mike Leitner for over ten years now, since Pedrosa’s first season in the 250cc class in 2004. Pedrosa and Leitner have been a strong partnership, with the Austrian helping Pedrosa win two world championships and 41 victories in the two classes they have been together.

The arrival of Marc Marquez into MotoGP has had a profound impact both inside and outside the Repsol Honda team. Marquez’s natural speed has forced Pedrosa and his crew to rethink their approach to the races, to try to match the pace of Pedrosa’s young teammate.

At the beginning of the season, Pedrosa complained a number of times that he felt the revised strategy taken by Leitner was not working as hoped, and that had left him unable to compete.

Though Pedrosa’s competitiveness has improved, the Spaniard being the first person to beat his teammate with victory at Brno, it has still left tension in Pedrosa’s garage. Rumors are circulating that Pedrosa would like to drop Leitner and change his crew chief.

Intrigued by the question of what exactly had changed in Pedrosa’s race strategy, we spoke to his crew chief Mike Leitner. The resulting conversation gave a fascinating insight into race strategy, and how teams approach each MotoGP race.

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP.

Leitner also talks about how the extra soft tire the Ducatis have has complicated the first part of each MotoGP race. He went on to link this to the rubber left on the track by the Moto2 race, and how that changes during the race, and can affect strategy.

What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi).

Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Q&A: Alex Rins — On the Changes of Moto3

09/04/2014 @ 12:13 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Alex Rins is one of the rising stars of Moto3. Rins is part of the generation which, along with Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, the factory bosses in MotoGP are looking to shake up the premier class in the future.

After a strong season last year aboard the KTM in 2013, when he won six races, Rins has had a tougher season in 2014, now riding a Honda. On the podium just four times until Silverstone, a win had so far eluded him when we spoke to him on Thursday at Silverstone. That all changed on Sunday, when he finally won his first race of the season.

We covered quite a lot of ground with Rins, despite his protestations that he did not speak very good English. Rins spoke simply, but clearly of his year so far with the Honda, comparing it with the KTM he rode for the Estrella Galicia team last year.

He talked of the difficulty of winning in Moto3, because of how close the field is at the front, and how that caused him to cheer a lap too early at Brno. And we touched briefly on his future, and the interest Yamaha showed in him to go straight to MotoGP.

Q&A: Nicolas Goyon – Pol Espargaro’s Crew Chief

08/26/2014 @ 12:14 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Many MotoGP followers, both inside and outside the paddock, were sceptical when news leaked that Yamaha had signed Pol Espargaro to a factory contract early in 2013.

A year later, and halfway through his first MotoGP season, that scepticism has been replaced with admiration. The younger of the two Espargaro brothers is the best satellite rider in the championship standings, and has been competitive from the start of the season.

Yamaha clearly had a plan with Pol Espargaro. The riding style which young racers develop in Moto2 is very different from the style which came from the 250cc class. Where Moto2 racers use a sliding rear tire to help turn the bike into the corners, the 250 two-strokes rewarded riders who could brake early and carry as much corner speed as possible.

The Yamaha YZR-M1 has been primarily developed around the 250cc style, but as riders schooled in the Moto2 class enter MotoGP, Yamaha realized they will have to adapt their bike to this new generation of young riders. By signing the reigning Moto2 champion, Yamaha have started to seriously examine how the new intermediate class is affecting MotoGP bike development.

Leading this development has been Pol Espargaro’s crew chief, Nicolas Goyon. The Frenchman has been a data and electronics engineer in MotoGP since 2003, the first year in which the class switched over fully to four strokes. With the departure of Daniele Romagnoli, who followed Cal Crutchlow to Ducati, Goyon was given the role of crew chief to MotoGP rookie Espargaro.

Since then, Goyon has been working with the Moto2 champion and Yamaha to explore how the Moto2 style can be made to fit to the Yamaha M1. We spoke to Goyon after the Brno test, to ask him about how he had adapted the bike and the feedback Pol Espargaro was providing.

The Pressure of Contracts: Bradley Smith Explains How a New Tech 3 Deal Helped Him Ride Better

08/21/2014 @ 12:02 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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One belief common among motorcycle racing fans is that racers will ride harder while they are negotiating a new contract, only to slack off once the contract is in the bag.

Ask a rider about this, and they deny it fervently, saying they have to ride just as hard after a new contract is signed as they did before. That their contract situation affects their performance is beyond question, though it is not as simple as it appears.

Bradley Smith is a case in point. Since the start of the season, the Englishman has known he has been riding for his place next year, with Yamaha and Tech 3 taking a seriously look at riders in both Moto2 and Moto3 to replace him.

The pressure was starting to get to Smith, the Tech 3 man crashing rather too frequently, with the low point being the race at the Sachsenring. Smith crashed four times that weekend, twice on Friday, once on Saturday, and again in the race. It was a very tough weekend indeed.

So when Smith signed a new deal with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team ahead of the race at Brno, there was a palpable sense of relief. With this future secure for another year, he could get concentrate on racing again with a clear mind, and without the pressure of his results being judged every race.

Over the course of the weekend at Brno, we asked Smith how he felt after his contract extension, and what effect he felt it had had on his results. His answers were revealing, and provide an insight into the pressure which all MotoGP riders must function under.

Dorna & Wayne Rainey Looking to Develop American Racing

08/12/2014 @ 9:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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There has been so much smoke lately about Dorna doing something in the American market for road racing, that surely there must be some fire. Our sources, and the consensus in the MotoGP paddock is that Carmelo Ezpeleta has his eyes on a North American Championship, of sorts — a move designed to side-step issues with DMG and AMA Pro Road Racing.

With the France family perhaps responsible single-handedly destroying American interest in motorcycle racing, it should not be too surprising that the often unliked entity that is Dorna Sport, is being hailed as a possible savior of the sport in the United States. Whatever you think about those two entities, it is clear that something has to give.

Talking to Fox Sports 1, Ezpeleta tipped his hand on what he envisioned for the US market, saying that he has been talking to “relevant people” to create a program that will develop American riders for the Grand Prix Championship. Helping him spearhead that plan is none other than a certain Mr. Wayne Rainey.