Ride Review: Aprilia RSV4 RF

After a great many success in World Superbike, Aprilia claims to have improved the venerable 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR street bike once more. Aprilia’s halo motorcycle has lost a couple of pounds and its power output has risen to a punchy 201hp. To celebrate this milestone Aprilia not only unleashes the standard RR version, but also a limited run of 500 units for the “RF” (Racing Factory) bikes.The RSV4 RF hosts obvious upgrades such as forged wheels, Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and a WSBK-inspired color scheme. To see how the updated RSV4 goes, we were invited to review RF #77 out of 500, on the newly resurfaced Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”.

Team Hero EBR Withdraws from World Superbike

After first saying it would be business as usual, Team Hero EBR has regrouped and found that it will not be continuing in the 2015 World Superbike Championship. Though a change in announcements, the news is perhaps unsurprising considering the state of EBR and the economic troubles reportedly faced by Hero MotoCorp. The team quotes the “recent bankruptcy of EBR and the re-prioritizing of efforts by title sponsor Hero” as the cause of its withdrawal, with Pegram Racing hoping to announce its future racing plans soon. “This is a really hard pill for us all at Pegram Racing to swallow, as we always live by the philosophy of Never Give Up,” said team owner Larry Pegram.

MV Agusta USA Expands Dealer Network

One of the main issues MV Agusta USA’s new management is addressing right off the bat is the company’s dealer network in the United States. It was an issue that considerable time was spent on during our media meeting with them late last year, and clearly the American subsidiary has heard the pleas of journalists and consumers alike. As such, MV Agusta USA is announcing the addition of nine new dealers to its list, which is roughly a 25% increase in MV Agusta dealers in the USA. Of course, simply adding more dealers doesn’t solve MV Agusta’s problem in the US, finding the right dealers is key. “We have a continual strategy to make changes in selected open areas where rider demand is high and the prospective MV rider community is underserved,” said Helen Vasilevski, CEO of MV Agusta USA.

Recycled Dainese Leathers for Your Two-Wheeled Lifestyle

What are you to do with a set of leathers, once they’ve been retired from protecting your motorcycling hide? The answer to that question is why Dainese has teamed up with Regenesi, an Italian firm known for recycling old products and turning them into new ones. Taking the crashed leathers of Dainese’s sponsored riders, Regenesi turns the leather pieces into various lifestyle items, like wallets ($139), smartphone sleeves ($79), key fobs ($54), etc. Each piece is obviously unique, comes straight from the race track, and is hand-made in Italy. Helping things too is the fact that Dainese is selling (re-selling?) the pieces at a reasonable prices, so buying a wallet doesn’t also hurt you in the wallet.

Troy Bayliss Riding a Ducati Scrambler Inspired Race Bike

We already know that Troy Bayliss will be making another return to racing this year, taking on five one-mile events on the AMA Pro Grand National Series. We also knew that Bayliss would be on a Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike, continuing the Australian’s link to the Italian brand. Ducati has given us a glimpse of that flat-tracking machine, and to our surprise, it seems the folks in Bologna are looking to get some more marketing mileage out of the partnership, as Troy’s race bike is a spitting image of the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle. Of course, Bayliss will compete with an 1,100cc air-cooled machine, in lieu of the Scrambler’s 803cc v-twin engine. The race bike will feature a custom-built chassis, and of course 19″ flat track wheels.

Oregon Just Got Closer to Legalizing Lane-Filtering*

Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions. The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads. While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.

The End of Marzocchi Suspension is Nigh?

Reports out of Italy suggest that the Marzocchi brand may soon be no more, after parent company Tenneco made the decision to close the Italian firm’s Bologna factory in Zola Predosa. The Italain outlets go on to say that motorcycle manufacturers that use Marzocchi as an OEM part have been notified that they will no longer be supplied with the suspension pieces, once the co Marzocchi’s stock of forks has been exhausted from supply. This news would affect a bevy of brands, including BMW, Ducati, MV Agusta, TM, GasGas, Beta, and AJP. The writing on the wall has been coming for some time for Marzocchi, as Tenneco initially wanted to close the plant in 2011, but instead through labor negotiations, laid off 50 of the company’s 170 employees.

Is This Really the End of EBR? Receivership Explained

It didn’t surprise me last week that the headlines regard Erik Buell Racing ranged in their proclamations from the more accurate “ceased operations” to “gone bankrupt” – with the even more presumptive publications proclaiming the ultimate demise of the American brand. This comes from a lack of understanding about how the receivership process works, which my European colleagues should have a stronger grasp of, as the concept is more prevalent across the pond. As such, I would like to explain the issue further, and how it applies to the situation facing Erik Buell Racing. To entice you on what will surely be a boring subject to many, this doesn’t spell the end of Erik Buell Racing…not even close.

Troy Bayliss Racing in the 2015 Grand National Series

He may have retired from World Superbike racing, but that isn’t stopping Troy Bayliss from continuing his pursuit of checkered flags, as the Australian has confirmed his long-rumored move to the AMA Pro Grand National Series. Bayliss will be racing on an 1,100, air-cooled, two-valve Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (no surprise there), as a teammate to Johnny Lewis. The former World Champion plans to contest all five mile-long racing events, with his first race being the Springfield Mile in Illinois on May 24th. Bayliss may be an old salt, at the ripe age of 46, but the Aussie has been keeping his game sharp on local flat track courses. Every year as well he hosts the invitation-only Troy Bayliss Classic, where many AMA Pro Flat Track racers have competed.

A BMW Scrambler Cometh?

It appears that BMW Motorrad wants in on the retro-styled scrambler game that Ducati and Triumph are playing, and is looking to use its R nineT platform to do the job. The scrambler model, which has already been previewed to BMW’s European dealers, would be just the first of several budget-oriented models to come from BMW, all of which would be based off the BMW R nineT. The scrambler is expected to debut later this year with its 100hp air-cooled engine, while the other models, namely a café racer model, will come in 2016. Fueled on by the sales success of its customization projects, Roland Sands is said to be attached to the BMW project, which is logical since the American designer was part of the initial BMW R nineT design team.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

04/01/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by Scott Jones18 COMMENTS

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Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment.

Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well.

Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

The NASCAR fans loved their drivers and loathed the others, so each race becomes a contest of great emotional importance. Will Good triumph over Evil? Will Justice prevail? This drama is acted out lap after lap, and then continued post-race with interviews, public appearances, blogs, and so on.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

03/29/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith20 COMMENTS

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Our friend Tony Goldsmith, you have enjoyed his work from last year’s Isle of Man TT, is back with a new column for Asphalt & Rubber.

Finding himself made redundant at his regular job, Tony is currently on an adventure of a lifetime: picking up a camera and becoming a full-time photographer in the MotoGP Championship. 

Tony will be sharing with us his journeys, thoughts, and of course his pictures from the 2014 MotoGP season, which we hope will serve to be an inspiration for others hoping to achieve a lifetime goal, as well as providing some insight into what goes on behind the lens in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Enjoy! – Jensen

Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way.

This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant.

This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

03/28/2014 @ 12:25 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

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The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks.

Expectations received a boost when former world champion Casey Stoner tested the RCV1000R, praising its performance. Speculation reached fever pitch when HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto told the press at the launch of the bike that the RCV1000R was just 0.3 seconds a lap slower than the factory RC213V in the hands of a test rider.

Was that in the hands of Casey Stoner, the press asked? Nakamoto was deliberately vague. “Casey Stoner is a Honda test rider,” he said cryptically.

Once the bike hit the track in the hands of active MotoGP riders Nicky Hayden, Hiroshi Aoyama, and Scott Redding at the Valencia test, it became apparent that the bike was a long way off the pace. At Sepang in February, the situation was the same.

Nakamoto clarified his earlier statements: no, the times originally quoted were not set by Casey Stoner, who had only done a handful of laps in tricky conditions on the bike.

They had been set by one of Honda’s test riders. And yes, the biggest problem was the straights, as times at Sepang demonstrated. Test riders were losing around half a second along the two long straights at Sepang, Nakamoto said.

In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry.

Turning in and braking was much improved, something which did not come as a surprise after the American’s time on the Ducati. Once the bikes arrived at Qatar, the Honda made another step forward, Hayden cutting the deficit to 1.4 seconds from the fastest man Aleix Espargaro.

By the time the race rolled around, the Hondas had cut the deficit again. Comparing fastest laps of the race, Scott Redding set the quickest lap for production Honda rider, lapping just 0.841 slower than his teammate Alvaro Bautista, who set the quickest lap of the race.

But consistency proved to be the undoing of the Hondas, Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden crossing the line just 0.035 seconds apart, but over 32 seconds down on the winner, Marc Marquez. Where the difference between the fastest and slowest flying laps of Redding and Hayden was nearly 2.4 seconds, for the front runners, that difference was just over a second.

The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes? Is it purely top speed, or is it a combination of speed and acceleration? And where does that lack of speed and acceleration come from?

Sunday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/23/2014 @ 11:41 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Qatar: Of Deserving Winners, Old Champions, & The Correct Way to Celebrate Victory

03/23/2014 @ 11:20 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

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There’s an old racing adage: when the flag drops, the talking stops, though the word ‘talking’ is rarely used. It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, it is a cliche because it reflects such a basic truth.

Without bikes circulating on track in anger, fans and press have nothing to do but engage in idle speculation, and pick over the minutiae of rules, rumors and races long past. As soon as the racing starts again, all is forgotten, and we all lose ourselves in the now. It is the zen which all racing fans aspire to.

So after spending months going round in circles over the 2014 regulations, speculating about who they favor, and expressing outrage at either the perceived injustice of the rules, or the supposed incompetence of those involved in drawing them up at the last minute, the talk stopped at Qatar on Sunday night.

The fans filled their bellies on three outstanding races, all of which went down to the wire. With something once again at stake, all talk of rules was forgotten.

And to be honest, the 2014 rules had none of the negative effects which so many people had feared. The best riders on the day still ended up on the podium, while the gap between the winner and the rest of the pack was much reduced. The gap from the winner to the first Ducati was cut from 22 seconds in 2013 to 12 seconds this year.

The gap from the winner to Aleix Espargaro – first CRT in 2013, first Open class rider in 2014 – was cut from 49 seconds to just 11 seconds. And even ignoring Espargaro’s Yamaha M1, the gap to the first Honda production racer – an outstanding performance by Scott Redding on the Gresini RCV1000R – was slashed to 32 seconds.

Even the cut in fuel did not affect the races as badly as many feared. It appeared that there had been some dissembling going on in both the Yamaha and Honda garages. HRC had been brushing off any suggestions that fuel may be an issue for them, while at Yamaha, there were a number of worried faces.

There was a clue that things were not as serious as feared when Jorge Lorenzo stopped worrying about fuel and focused his ire on the new Bridgestone rubber, but Valentino Rossi kept banging the fuel drum.

On race day, there was no sign of fuel issues for the Italian, Rossi telling the press conference that his engineers had done a great job to fix the fuel issues, and had given him a properly fast bike. “I think Yamaha worked well on the fuel consumption,” he said.

MotoGP: Race Results from Qatar

03/23/2014 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

Saturday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/23/2014 @ 2:48 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Qatar: Marquez’s Miracle, Espargaro Under Pressure, & Honda Back in Moto3 Business

03/23/2014 @ 2:34 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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On Thursday night, it looked like a revolution had been unleashed in MotoGP. After qualifying on Saturday, that revolution has been postponed. Three Spaniards on pole, two Spaniards on the front row for both MotoGP and Moto3. No prizes for guessing the names of any of the polesitters, all three were hotly tipped favorites at the beginning of the year.

So what has changed to restore order to the proceedings? In a word, track time. When the riders took to the track on Thursday, the factory riders had a lot of catching up to do. They had been down at Phillip Island, a track which has lots of grip and puts plenty of load into the tires.

The heat resistant layer added to the 2013 tires really comes into its own, the track imbuing the riders with confidence. Qatar is a low grip track, thanks in part to the cooler temperatures at night, but the sand which continuously blows onto the track also makes it extremely abrasive, posing a double challenge to tire makers.

Use rubber which is too soft, and the tire is gone in a couple of laps. Make it hard enough to withstand the abrasion, and it’s hard to get the tire up to temperature.

Coming to Qatar is always tricky, riders needing time to build confidence and learn to trust the tires. Coming to Qatar from Phillip Island is a culture shock, and takes a while to get your head around. Riders need to throw away everything they have just learned, and start again.

Photos of Valentino Rossi’s LED Helmet from Qatar

03/22/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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If you have been watching the practice and qualifying sessions from the Qatar GP, you may have noticed that Valentino Rossi is once again wearing one of his special helmet designs. This one is a bit different though — instead of a crazy or clever paint scheme, Rossi and his crew have subtle lit the AGV Pista helmet’s clear rear spoiler.

Under the night lights of the Losail International Circuit, the effect is pretty astounding. Usually a spectacle of glowing brake discs and flaming exhausts, the night time atmosphere of the Qatar proves itself once again to be an interesting canvas for the light, which Rossi has masterfully tapped into.

A favorite event for our main man Scott Jones, we’ve got a few shots of Rossi and his LED light show. It’s interesting how the LEDs change some of the more classic Rossi photos, and of course it makes Rossi really pop on the TV feed. Enjoy!

Friday at Qatar with Scott Jones

03/21/2014 @ 11:49 pm, by Scott Jones8 COMMENTS