Mugen Debuts an Electric Motocross Race Bike

At the Isle of Man TT, Mugen is the team to beat, with the company’s Shinden electric superbike showing the state of the art, when it comes to electric motorcycles. The asphalt is apparently not enough for Mugen though, as the Japanese tuning house has “partnered” with Honda to build an electric motocross dirt bike. What you are look at here is the Mugen E.Rex, and don’t let the horrid dinosaur theme put you off, there is some seriously bad to the bone (sorry, couldn’t resist) pieces on this roost-maker. Keeping things in the family, it is not surprising to see the Showa and Nissin suspension and braking components being used here (Honda owns both brands), and like on the Mugen Shiden, no expense has been spared when it comes to top-shelf components.

A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

Since 1999, Yamaha has sold over 153,000 YZF-R6 supersport motorcycles, and for the 2017 model year the Japanese manufacturer adds a new chapter to that 19-year history. Big Blue calls the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a fourth generation motorcycle, but for those paying attention, it is obvious that Yamaha has merely taken its class-leading 600cc sport bike, made some refinements to the machine, and added an electronics package to the mix. While there is disappointment that Yamaha didn’t bring as revolutionary of a debut to the YZF-R6 as it did just recently with the YZF-R1 superbike, we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm with this most-recent addition to its lineup.

How About a Ducati 916 Superleggera?

Yesterday we brought you an interesting Photoshop mashup, where Ducati 851 Superbike fairings were CGI’d onto a Panigale chassis (it was a 1199 Superleggera, to be precise), with drool-worthy result. That lead to the guys at OTTO Revista pinging us, to show their work, which includes the bodywork from the venerable Ducati 916, photoshopped onto the Ducati 1299 Superleggera, Borgo Panigale’s latest and greatest. Taking from arguably the most beautiful Ducati ever produced, and adding to it the most technologically advanced Ducati street bike ever concieved, well…the result (above) speaks for itself. Just for kicks too, there is a Supermono mashup, as well as a TT2 (Pantah) version, after the jump.

We’re Going to Try a New Motorcycle Review Format

For a long time, I have been unhappy with how we do motorcycle reviews here at Asphalt & Rubber – and if I am being real honest, I have been unhappy with how the industry as a whole deals with motorcycle reviews, especially in this new crazy online world. Mea culpa, A&R is just as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing motorcycle reviews. We have been just as lazy as the next publication, as we try to chase elusive pageviews at the end of each bike launch, with timely but flaccid prose (with varying degrees of success, on both accounts, I should say). Well, I want that to stop. It is dumb, and it is bad for the ecosystem.

Ducati 851 Bodywork on a Panigale Looks Damn Good

If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, or listen to the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you have probably heard our musings on where the next big design trend is coming, and know our affinity for the rise of bikes from the 1980s and 1990s. So, with the being said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we are intrigued by the following piece of photoshoppery, which smashes together two Ducati superbikes, the 851 and the Panigale. At first you wouldn’t think that the two designs would work together, but the more we look at this, the more we are intrigued to see one in the flesh. The base chassis here looks to be from the 1199 Superleggera, while the bodywork appears to be from Raymond Roche’s 1990 Ducati 851 Superbike race machine. If this is what the future holds, then we are all for it.

Honda CBR250RR, Reporting for Racing Duty

Honda is taking the quarter-liter market very seriously. The debut of the Honda CBR250RR street bike proves as much, with Big Red doubling-down on the segment, just three years after the debut of the Honda CBR300R. The small-displacement category hasn’t converged on a single-displacement yet, with anything from 250cc to 400cc seemingly filling the gap, all of which makes the Honda CBR250RR an even bolder choice from the Japanese manufacturer, as it’s on the smaller end of the spectrum. We have yet to see the Honda CBR250RR come to the western markets, but in Asia, HRC is getting ready to go racing with its 250cc twin-cylinder platform. As such, the above is the Honda CBR250RR, in its Astra Honda Racing trim, which debuted this weekend at the Osaka Motorcycle Show.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore. However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point. I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine. The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Report: New Suzuki GSX-R750 Coming, But No GSX-R600

For Suzuki, the debut of its first all-new superbike design went swimmingly well, with the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R impressing journalists at its launch in Phillip Island earlier this year. We would hope so, as the Japanese manufacturer once laid claim to being the King of Superbikes, but then cowardly abdicated its throne for an eight-year period, where only modest updates came to the line. Like most of Suzuki’s motorcycle lineup, the GSX-R models have suffered from abandonment by their caretakers in Hamamatsu, and while there is a new GSX-R1000 for us to drool over, what is to come of its 750cc and 600cc counterparts? Our friends from Down Under seem to have the answer, as Australia’s Motorcycle News reports that a new Suzuki GSX-R750 is in the works, likely to debut as a 2019 model year machine.

KTM Debuts Fuel Injection for Two-Stroke Motorcycles

The day has finally, come. The rumors can finally be put to rest. Fuel injection for production two-strokes is officially a thing, thanks to the clever minds at KTM. The Austrian announced today that it will bring fuel injection technology (called Transfer Port Injection) to its 2018 enduro lineup, which will debut later this May. Two KTM models will have the new technology, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI, and they will be coming to the global market. For the USA and Canada, a third model will come to market as well, the KTM 250 XC-W TPI. Fuel injection for two-strokes promises better fuel consumption, and it means that riders no longer have to pre-mix their fuel. KTM says that its transfer port injection technology provides a whole new experience for riding a two-stroke motorcycle, with better power and rideability.

One New MV Agusta Debuting in 2017, Two in 2018

It has been a long road for MV Agusta, over the past few years. However, the Italian brand seems ready to finally move on from its financial troubles, once we see its debt restructured in the Italian courts, and the investment secured from Black Ocean. MV Agusta latest issues, which concern cash flow difficulties, seem to be balancing out as well, though the effect on the company’s new model lineup has been noticeable, with a disappointing lack of new machines to show at the 2016 EICMA show. As such for the 2017 edition of the trade show, we should have measured expectations, with Giovanni Castiglioni saying in an interview with MCN that only one new model will debut later this year, and only two new bikes will be shown in 2018.

Paddock Pass Podcast #49 – Qatar GP

03/30/2017 @ 11:52 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 49 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison covering the opening round of the MotoGP Championship, the Qatar GP at Losail International Circuit.

The race weekend was a tumultuous affair, with the rain in the desert throwing huge wrenches into the plans of the race organizers. With the qualifying sessions cancelled because of standing water on the track, Sunday’s race was marked with question marks.

Thankfully, the weather gods spared us a rescheduled race, and allowed for some excellent on-track action. As such, the guys catch us up on everything that happened in Qatar for the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 riders.

They also finish the show with a new segment, picking their “winners” and “losers” from the season-opener. With some interesting picks, it makes for some good debate between David and Neil. We think you will enjoy the show, and enjoy more that the GP season is finally upon us.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: Worth the Wait

03/27/2017 @ 1:28 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Race day in Qatar would turn into a microcosm of the entire weekend. The hopes and fears of fans and riders alike were both realized and averted.

The idea that any kind of plan could be made to deal with this weekend went out the window pretty quickly. And yet at the end, three great races (or rather, two fantastic races and one interesting race) happened, and everyone got out more or less in one piece.

Stars were born on Sunday, some prophesied, some appearing out of the blue. It felt like the beginning of the new era we had been hoping for. MotoGP – once it got underway – was as topsy-turvy as expected.

In Moto2, favorites performed as they needed to, while new stars emerged from behind. And in the Moto3 class, last year’s rookies matured, and produced a heady brew of thrilling racing.

The weather conditioned it all. Spots of rain ahead of the Asia Talent Cup – like the Red Bull Rookies Cup at European races, the most frenetic racing of the weekend – soon dissipated, the sun soon breaking through.

Fine weather prevailed for most of the evening, but as the Moto2 bikes rolled back into pit lane at the end of the race, the rain once again made its presence felt. Lightly at first, and quickly disregarded, but a little heavier as 9pm, the scheduled start of the MotoGP race, approached.

2017 MotoGP Season Preview: Part 4 – The Rookies

03/24/2017 @ 2:42 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

2017 sees arguably the strongest group of rookies to enter the MotoGP class in a very long time. Perhaps only 2006 was stronger, when Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa moved up to MotoGP, along with Randy De Puniet and Chris Vermeulen.

There have been plenty of promising riders (some of whom have lived up to that promise) moved up in the past, but it has been a while since so many of them, all equally strong, entered MotoGP at the same time.

Will Alex Rins, Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger, or Sam Lowes match the achievements of Stoner or Pedrosa, Márquez or Lorenzo? It is far too early to tell. But testing has only confirmed the pedigree of the four newcomers.

They were all fast in Moto2, racking up a total of 25 wins between them, and they have been quick during the preseason. There is no doubt these four are an exciting addition to the MotoGP grid.

Paddock Pass Podcast #47 – Qatar MotoGP Test

03/20/2017 @ 8:42 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

Episode 47 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is our last episode from the MotoGP pre-season, and it sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison covering the recent Qatar MotoGP test.

Unsurprisingly, a hot topic of that conversation was about Ducati’s aerodynamic unveil – what is lovingly being called the “hammerhead” fairing for the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. The guys also talked about Honda’s pre-season testing strategy, as HRC searches for its 2017 engine setup.

The MotoGP conversation ends with a long discussion about the progress and state of all the top MotoGP riders, before the attention is turned on the Moto2 and Moto3 championships.

Of course with the pre-season now over, David and Neil can’t resist picking their riders for who will win the 2017 season, and whether they will be placing any bets for yours truly, by proxy.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Qatar Test MotoGP Notes: The Final Dress Rehearsal

03/15/2017 @ 3:21 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Many (though not all) questions were answered at the Qatar MotoGP test. One of the most frustrating questions of the 2017 preseason has been answered at last, however.

For weeks, MotoGP pundits have been puzzling over what could be in the ‘salad box’ slung under the tail of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. Was it a device to counter chatter (or ‘jounce’, as it is more properly known)? Was it something to do with Ducati’s patent on a variable exhaust nozzle for providing thrust?

At Qatar, MCN reporter Simon Patterson finally got a straight – though unofficial – answer from Ducati. The ‘salad box’ contains a bunch of electronics moved from the front of the GP17 to allow Ducati to use their new aerodynamic fairing.

That fairing has a much narrower nose, to allow for the large ducts and airfoil surfaces, which Ducati have used to replace their winglets. The reduced space in the nose forced Ducati to relocate the components which had previously been on a mount behind the front section of the fairing.

This revelation has allowed me to feel a brief sense of smugness. Since the ‘salad box’ first made an appearance, I had suspected that the contents of the box had more to do with relocating components from elsewhere, rather than any active function itself.

“The question may not necessarily be what is in the box,” I wrote before the Qatar test, “but what did putting whatever is in the box in there allow the Desmosedici GP17’s designers to move around elsewhere.” As it turns out what Ducati’s engineers were chasing was some empty space.

Paddock Pass Podcast #46 – Phillip Island MotoGP Test

02/26/2017 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Paddock Pass Podcast #46 – Phillip Island MotoGP Test

Episode 46 of the Paddock Pass Podcast covers the MotoGP test at Phillip Island, with David Emmett and Neil Morrison covering the second-to-last pre-season test before the start of the 2017 Grand Prix Championship.

Of course the talk of the test is the brewing rivalry between Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales, with the Yamaha factory riders showing impressive speed in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the mind games have already started for the season.

Aerodynamics is of course a topic of interest, with Aprilia, Suzuki, and Yamaha showing their aero packages already. We will still have to wait and see what the remaining factories come up with…or don’t, as the case might be.

KTM might be one of the factory teams without advanced aerodynamics this season, with the Austrian brand having bigger fish to fry in order to get the KTM RC16 better prepared for Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. 

David and Neil also shed some much needed light on the satellite riders, especially the rookie riders, as the bevy of factory teams has made the competition for the private teams much closer and more difficult. 

The show wraps up with the various development efforts Dorna is undertaking to bring in new riders, from different nationalities, into Grand Prix racing, which will be something for fans to keep an eye on as the fruits of that labor ripen.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

MotoGP Phillip Island MotoGP Test Summary – Day 3

02/17/2017 @ 10:51 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

On Friday at Phillip Island, shortly after a quarter to four in the afternoon, local time, a new chapter started in the annals of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Maverick Viñales had just passed the halfway mark of what was supposed to be a full race simulation when Marc Márquez entered the track. The reigning champion latched onto the back of the Movistar Yamaha, following him around the track.

After a couple of laps, Viñales lost his patience, and aborted his race simulation.

Viñales was not best pleased. “I don’t know what to say, because sure I don’t want to gain nothing, because there is nothing. But it’s not normal. You are doing your race simulation. Someone pulls out… you cannot stop. After five laps that he was behind, finally I needed to abort the race simulation. Anyway the track is 4 kilometers. Strange that he was there, where I was.”

Márquez played the innocent. “Today there was one run that I go out and I saw that he passed. Then there was some gap, but I was able to recover this gap. Then I followed him two laps and it was interesting to see a different bike.”

The Repsol Honda rider then commented that he had also followed a Ducati and a Suzuki, to see where they were strong.

He gave the game away when asked whether he expected Maverick Viñales to be his main rival this year. “When you arrive in the first race you see because the race weekend is completely different to here,” Márquez said.

He spoke only in general terms: both Yamaha riders would be strong. Ducati may be struggling here, but they will be in the mix in Qatar. Dani Pedrosa will be stronger than most expect. Yes, Viñales was fast, but the Yamaha is such a stable bike, so what do you expect?

MotoGP Phillip Island MotoGP Test Summary – Day 2

02/16/2017 @ 11:30 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Scouring through the timesheets after the second day of the MotoGP test at Phillip Island, and reading through everything the riders have said, a picture emerges, not just of what happened on Thursday, but also how history has affected them.

Seeing Marc Márquez’s workload, his approach, the things he is working on, and it is hard not to think back to his past three seasons in MotoGP. The lessons learned in each of those seasons color everything he is working at Phillip Island, and give us a glimpse of his objective for 2017.

On Thursday, Márquez put in 107 laps around Phillip Island. That is 20% more than most of his rivals, and nearly double the amount that some of them rode.

Asked if he was playing games in suggesting the 2017 Honda RC213V was not ready, Márquez was curt. “I don’t play games, because if I’m ready I would not make 107 laps! Because my hands are destroyed.”

Why put in so many laps? A look at the past three seasons offers an insight. In 2014, Márquez destroyed the field in the first part of the season, winning ten races in a row, and a total of thirteen.

For a man with a thirst for victory matched perhaps only by Valentino Rossi, this was an ecstatic period. It also lured him into a false sense of security, the bike suffering as a result. This was not helped by Honda’s insistence on building a bike as powerful as possible, with no view of making it easy to use.

2015 was a watershed year for Márquez. He crashed out of so many races trying to win them that he threw away any chance of defending his title. He put the lessons learned into 2016, and won the title last year by learning to settle for points.

Sometimes, after the race, you could see from the expression on his face that not winning races had caused him something approaching physical pain.

2017 MotoGP Phillip Island Test Preview

02/15/2017 @ 12:15 am, by David EmmettComments Off on 2017 MotoGP Phillip Island Test Preview

MotoGP is heading down under. After the initial excitement of the first test of 2017 at Sepang, the atmosphere at Phillip Island is a little more subdued.

The novelty of bikes back on track has worn off a little, and now it’s back to the grindstone, the hard work of running through lots of parts and changes and verifying the results found at Sepang.

Phillip Island is a strange place to go testing. It is a truly unique place, like no other. It is a test of rider more than bike, of courage more than technology. The track has a lot of fast flowing corners, very little hard braking, very little hard acceleration.

What you learn from testing at Phillip Island is how stable the bike is in very fast corners, how well it wants to change direction at high speed, and how good you are at making your tires last.

That last reason is the real benefit to testing at Phillip Island. It is above all a chance for Michelin to put their tires through some serious punishment, and one of the main reasons for testing there.

The series went from having two tests at Sepang in February to a test in Malaysia and then Australia in 2015, in response to the disastrous race in 2013, when Bridgestone’s tires turned out not to be up to handling the new asphalt.

Michelin wanted to be prepared, so tested there in 2015, gathering data to build tires that worked.