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.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Stoner and Rossi Will Ride at Goodwood Festival of Speed

03/31/2015 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Aside from on-track action that comes during your typical Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS), it might be worth stopping by the world’s most famous driveway to see Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi on the same piece of tarmac once again.

That’s right, Lord March has invited both Rossi and Stoner to his mansion to ride a few bikes and to drive a few cars. Rossi will be participating on behalf of Yamaha Motor, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary of business; meanwhile Casey Stoner will ride a prototype Honda MotoGP bike, likely the Honda RC213V-S consumer halo bike.

The MotoGP rivals are part of a larger group of GP Champions who will be attending the FoS, the list including John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, and Freddie Spencer.

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The New R1 Would Look Hot in Kenny Roberts Livery

03/20/2015 @ 12:57 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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The 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 LE livery, which was a yellow, black, and white homage to Kenny Roberts Sr., is perhaps the greatest livery ever to adorn an R1, straight from the Yamaha factory.

Whether you are a loyal subject of King Kenny, or you just enjoy the fetching, yet simple, racing design, the Roberts livery is a treasure to see in any form — but especially so at speed.

Giving us a glimpse as to what the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 would look like with such a limited edition paint scheme, Oberdan Bezzi has once again whet our appetite ahead of a weekend full of riding.

And for you Giacomo Agostini fans, there is something special waiting for you after the jump as well. Enjoy!

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motoDNA: The Global Dirt Track Resurgence

02/11/2015 @ 12:41 pm, by Mark McVeigh3 COMMENTS

Jared-Mees

When AMA dirt tracker Kenny Roberts arrived on the European 500 Grand Prix scene in 1978, road racing would never be the same. Not only did Roberts win the 500 GP title in his rookie year, as Marc Marquez did in 2013, but he also brought with him a radically new style derived from dirt track in the USA.

Robert’s style was of course, immediately copied by his rivals, much like Marquez’s dynamic style is being imitated today. KR, and the Americans that followed him, embraced dirt track lines, sacrificing entry speed, picking the bike up early and launching out of the corner, rear wheel spinning and handlebars crossed up.

Putting the bike sideways with the rear wheel 100mm out of line, steering with the rear wheel was the new way to ride. Dirt trackers then pretty much dominated 500 Grand Prix for nearly two decades between Americans: Roberts, Spencer, Lawson, Rainey, Schwantz and the Aussies: Gardner and Doohan.

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Kenny Roberts Sr. Working on Possible GP Team Entry

08/19/2013 @ 9:12 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

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Talking to MotoGP.com this weekend at the Indianapolis GP, Kenny Roberts Sr. admitted to the website that he is working on putting together a new GP program for the 2014 or 2015 season — though was quick to caution against the project’s full-fruition.

“We’re working on it. And we’re working on something quite big – it’s going to happen or it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to be almost there. When we come back we’ll come back in a big way! And if you don’t see me, you’ll know we didn’t get it done,” said King Kenny.

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Friday Summary at Indianapolis: The New King Kenny, Yamaha’s Seamless Gearbox, & Returning Next Year?

08/17/2013 @ 6:53 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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There’s something about America. Especially if you’re name is Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda Rookie led both sessions on the opening day of the Indianapolis Grand Prix (the last one? Too early to say) going quickest both in the tricky morning, when there was very little grip, and in the afternoon, once the bikes had laid down some rubber. Marquez has won both US rounds so far, dominating at Austin and winning comfortably at Laguna Seca, and he has picked up at Indy where he left off before the summer break.

Unsurprisingly, the parallels with Kenny Roberts are starting to be made, the only other rider to become world champion as a rookie. Those parallels are unfair yet perfectly valid: both men exceeded expectations and raised the bar, shaking up the established order with a radical new riding style. Yet Roberts and Marquez also came from totally different backgrounds: Kenny Roberts had grown up racing dirt track, switched to road racing and then came to Europe to win his the championship at the first attempt, on tracks he had never seen before.

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Video: Guy & Thomas Visit Valentino Rossi’s Ranch

07/23/2013 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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It’s hard to out-do King Kenny, the godfather of Ameircan road racing, but Valentino Rossi is certainly making a go at it. For those that haven’t been to Roberts’ ranch out in Modesto, California, the three-time GP Champion and AMA Grand Slam winner has a very lovely flat-track course in his backyard, where he teaches the rich, and coaches the fast.

Well, the idea must have struck a chord with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, as The Doctor has built his own race course outside of his home town of Tavullia, Italy. Rossi’s proving ground isn’t just some ordinary oval though, and instead is an undulating circuit that can be configured a multitude of ways.

Playing host to fellow Dainese-sponsored riders Guy Martin (of Isle of Man TT road racing fame) and Thomas Chareyre (the current Supermoto World Champion), Rossi and friends spent a day riding together while the cameras were rolling. This is how the super-rich and super-fast spend their weekends. It’s a good life.

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Kenny Roberts Sr. Leaves AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

07/13/2012 @ 4:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Cycle News is reporting that Kenny Roberts Sr., the Godfather of American Road Racing, is leaving the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, after getting wind that Dave Despain and Dick Mann had made similar gestures regarding their status with the Hall of Fame. The blowout comes after Derek “Nobby” Clark was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, only to have his name withdrawn from the organization’s list of distinguished members. The reason given by the AMA was that there was an error in the balloting process for submitting Clark’s name to the voting ballot, though some outside the AMA say the reason Clark was removed was because of his criminal record, or for other reasons.

Working on the race bikes of motorcycling greats like Kenny Roberts Sr., Giacomo Agostini, and Mike Hailwood, the support for Clark has been resounding in the old-guard of American motorcycling, which is where the resignations from Despain and Mann come into play. This of course has created a cascade effect, where now King Kenny has also voiced his desire to leave the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Others are sure to follow suit with King Kenny after the delicious quote he gave Cycle News: “I just emailed Chris Carter and asked him where I send my shit back. I don’t get it. If Dick Mann is resigning from the Hall of Fame, I don’t need to be in it. It’s bad that it has to come to this, but what are you going to do. If Nobby doesn’t deserve to be in there, nobody does.”

Like everything with the AMA, the issue with inducting Clark into the Hall of Fame is a convoluted one at best, as it shows an interesting dynamic to the old-boy network that is alive and well within the American motorcycle community. On the issue at hand, Roadracing World published an interesting play-by-play of what happened behind the scenes regarding Nobby’s induction, balloting, and removal, which included some quotes from Superbikeplanet‘s Dean Adams.

Adams, who sits on the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame’s Roadrace Committee, has his own interesting dissection of what transpired, which includes his own analysis of the movings and shakings inside the AMA and the AMA Hall of Fame. It paints a disturbing picture of either wanton or willful negligence as to how the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame operates, as well as how the inner-cliques of the industry work with and against each other.

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An Addendum to Valentino Rossi’s Options for the Future

04/30/2012 @ 4:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

If you haven’t already read David Emmett’s excellent analysis of Valentino Rossi’s options in MotoGP, you owe it to your MotoGP-loving self to sit down and digest David’s thorough game theory walk-through on the nine-time World Champion’s prospects in the premier class.

David’s analysis is spot-on, and approaches the impending 2012 mega silly season from a logical point-of-view (for those who aren’t keeping track, virtually every contract in MotoGP is up for renewal this year). I don’t disagree with any point David has penned, but I wanted to add one line-item to his analysis: some discussion about Rossi’s post-motorcycle racing career, and how it influences The Doctor’s choices this coming contract renewal period.

Never say never, but few are expecting Valentino Rossi to hang up his spurs at the end of the 2012 MotoGP Championship. Going out on a career low-point is certainly not the Italian’s style, especially as it casts a particularly dark shadow on a career that has enjoyed the bright-light superlative of “Greatest of All Time” from some of motorcycling’s most knowledgeable sources.

Hoping to cast that phrase with an underlined typeface, and not with an interrogatory question mark, there is sufficient evidence to believe that Rossi will want to end his career in a way that will leave no doubt about the nine-time World Champion’s abilities. The question of course is how those final seasons will play out, and who they will be with.

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Kenny Roberts Puts Two KR Proton GP Bikes Up for Auction

04/19/2012 @ 12:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

Last month I was fortunate enough to stop by the ranch of one Kenny Roberts Sr., and got to look at the Grandfather to American Roadracing’s personal motorcycle collection. Comprised of nearly a dozen KR Proton MotoGP machines, amongst the nearly forty bikes in the collection, King Kenny easily has the quintessential motorcycle dream garage — and I haven’t even gotten to mentioning the stacks of race leathers, helmets, trophies, and other racing memorabilia that line the walls and cover the tables in the small two-wheeled gallery.

Making some space in his collection, Kenny Roberts Sr. has put four race bikes from the Team KR racing heritage up on the auction block, two of which are KR Proton GP machines. The first bike up for grabs is a KR Proton KR3 (above) that was ridden by Nobuatsu Aoki, which raced in the 2001 500GP Championship and features a two-stroke V3 motor. Also offering a MotoGP-era four-stroke machine, King Kenny has added his KR Proton KRV5 XM2 (below), which was ridden by his youngest son, Kurtis Roberts, in the 2004 MotoGP Championship, and features a proprietary five-cylinder motor.

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“Why Would You Make a Motorcycle that You Can’t Wheelie, but that Wheelies Everywhere?” – Kenny Roberts Sr.

07/27/2011 @ 4:52 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

On Thursday at the US GP, a day before the general public and non-MotoGP press could get into Laguna Seca, Yamaha unveiled its 50th Anniversary team livery, with a special cadre of legendary Yamaha riders. Eddie Lawson, Kel Carruthers, Kenny Roberts Sr., and Wayne Rainey joined current Yamaha riders Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Jorge Lorenzo in the pit lane of the famous American track to commemorate Yamaha’s half-century of motorcycle Grand Prix involvement. After the presentation, a scrum of journalists got a chance to talk to King Kenny about his experience riding the YZR-M1 around Laguna Seca, as Yamaha had built a special GP bike for the American GP Champion, though it did not have a full electronics package.

A&R also got to eavesdrop in on the conversation between Roberts, Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, as the foursome exchanged notes on how GP racing has progressed, and what riding the M1 was like coming from different disciplines outside of the usual GP career track. Perhaps most interesting in that discussion was how precise riding a MotoGP motorcycle has become, as the tires, electronics, and suspension all demand a very particular riding style, racing line, and motorcycle setup to achieve maximum performance.

Roberts lamented to the current GP riders because of the precision required, it was easy to run afoul of the M1. Saying in his day, a rider could be 10 feet off the ideal line, fight the bike through the corner, and finish the lap none the slower; but on the current MotoGP equipment, being 10cm off the line can mean seconds missing on the lap time because of how exacting the sport has become.

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