TVS Akula 310 – Hot, Small, Sporty, & Almost a BMW

The Auto Expo in India isn’t usually an event we would cover, but some interesting machines have turned up in New Delhi. The first one to grab our attention is the TVS Akula 310. On its own right, the TVS Akula 310 is a sharp looking small-displacement machine, especially when its dripping in carbon fiber (Daddy like). Beneath the skin though, the Akula 310 is exactly the same as the BMW G310R sport bike, which is pretty interesting. This is because TVS and BMW Motorrad collaborated to bring both models to market; and as such, the Akula 310 gives us an idea of where BMW could be headed next with its 300cc class offering. We knew that when BMW unveiled the G310R that the small sport bike was just one of several machines to come from the platform.

New Honda Superbike for 2017, But Will It Be Any Good?

It’s the worst kept secret in the motorcycle industry right now, Honda is finally updating its superbike offering for the 2017 model year – replacing the now extremely long-in-the-tooth Honda CBR1000RR. The interesting part of that news of course is whether that new superbike will go by the name CBR or RVF, as there is a bit of a debate regarding what kind of engine will power the Honda. Despite whether it is an inline-four like the CBR1000RR, or a V4 like Honda’s MotoGP bike, the new superbike will have big shoes to fill. Honda is the last Japanese brand to offer an update to its liter-bike platform, with Suzuki bringing a new GSX-R1000 later this year as a 2017 model, the Yamaha YZF-R1 now fully a year old, and even the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R saw a strong update for the 2016 season.

Report: Cycle Gear to Acquire RevZilla?

Respected newswire Reuters is reporting that Cycle Gear is close to finalizing the purchase of motorcycling e-commerce giant RevZilla. Citing a source “familiar with the matter” at hand, Reuters suggests that the deal could close in the next coming days, with the new venture worth between $400 million and $500 million. If true, this acquisition would mark a titanic shift in the motorcycle retail space, with America’s largest brick and mortar chain combining with the industry’s most prominent online parts and apparel purveyor. In all likelihood, it is J.W. Childs that will be doing the purchasing of RevZilla, though that might be an issue of semantics for some. RevZilla declined to comment on this report, at this time. We hope to have more on this story, as it develops.

Some Thoughts Regarding MV Agusta, From 30,000 Feet

I’m on my second-to-last airplane ride on this two-week travel stint, and while I might be headed to San Diego, CA for the Ducati XDiavel launch, my thoughts are still back in Spain, on another Italian motorcycle manufacturer: MV Agusta. I have always found MV Agusta to be a fairly open company, bordering on the territory of over-sharing sometimes. That perhaps is something that is endemic to MV Agusta’s family-styled atmosphere, as the brand comes across more as a close-knit group of motorcycle enthusiasts, rather than a bunch of corporate suits. That is an observation that cuts both ways of course, with MV Agusta perhaps needing some more business structure in order to ensure its long term success.

Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%). The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015. Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler. Ducati North America isn’t breaking down sales by machine, though it does say that behind the Scrambler, the 899 Panigale and Monster 821 were top-sellers in the region. In the USA, it says that the 1299 Panigale and Multistrada 1200 were “sales standouts” for the country.

Secret KTM Moto2 Race Bike Breaks Cover

KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday. KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.

XXX: The 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP Race Bike

These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016. As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides. Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi5yZ_6OS2s

Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self. He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show. Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward. We already broke the news to you that an updated Brutale 675 would debut in Q2 2016, with new Dragster 800 and Brutale 800 RR models soon to follow, with MV Agusta’s updated 798cc three-cylinder engine that now meets Euro4 emission standards.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case. The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines. Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Deciphering the MotoGP Silly Season, Part 1

07/29/2015 @ 3:29 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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If you think that silly season has been a bit quiet this year, you’d be right. Normally by now, we would have passed through the stage of outrageous fabrication, left the wildly inaccurate rumors behind us, and be well into probable rider signing scenarios.

This year, the annual merry-go-round has barely registered, with very little sign of who may end up where for the 2016 season.

Of course, for the most part, this is because all of the factory seats bar the second slots at Aprilia and Ducati are already spoken for in 2016. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro, and Alvaro Bautista all have contracts for next year.

Maverick Viñales’ seat at Suzuki is safe through 2017. Of the currently active factory riders, only Andrea Iannone’s contract could be ended after 2015, but Ducati will be keeping the Italian for 2016 as well.

The only truly vacant seat is the one at Aprilia vacated by Marco Melandri, who never really wanted to be in MotoGP anyway.

Some Thoughts on the Suzuka 8-Hour

07/28/2015 @ 1:31 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Once upon a time, the Suzuka 8 Hour race was a big deal. A very big deal. It was the race the Japanese factories sent their very best riders to compete in, the event often being written into the contracts of the top Grand Prix and World Superbike riders as part of their factory deals.

The list of big names to win the race is impressive. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Daryl Beattie, Aaron Slight, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, Alex Barros, Shinichi Itoh, Tohru Ukawa, Taddy Okada. And of course Valentino Rossi.

There, they faced the very best of the Japanese Superbike riders, as well as the regulars from the World Endurance Championship, of which it forms a part.

It may have been an honor to have been asked to do the race, but the GP riders were far from keen. Held in July, the race fell right in the middle of the Grand Prix season.

Racing in the event meant multiple flights to Japan for testing and practice, then the grueling race itself in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It meant doing the equivalent of four Grand Prix in the space of eight hours, then rushing home to get ready for the next race.

The best case scenario meant they started the next Grand Prix event tired and aching from Suzuka. The worst case was a crash and an injury that either kept them off the bike or left them riding hurt.

The only benefit was that it kept the factories happy, and marginally increased a rider’s chances of extending his contract with the manufacturer for a following season.

Friday Summary at Sachsenring: Marquez Gets His Magic Back, Redding Learns That Relaxing Helps You Go Faster

07/10/2015 @ 6:47 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It is a dangerous thing to write a rider off. We learned that with Valentino Rossi, the old man currently leading the championship after two terrible years at Ducati, one tough year at Yamaha and then the first sign of resurgence from the middle of 2014.

Rossi adapted, learned, progressed, and came back stronger. After the first seven races of 2015, the wolf pack in the media center had written off Marc Márquez and HRC.

The Honda RC213V was too aggressive an engine to be tamed by electronics, the chassis too stiff to contain the stampede of horsepower contained in the 90° V4. The bike span, wheelied, and worst of all, slid the rear wheel unpredictably when it touched down ready for braking into the corner.

Márquez was trying, but perhaps a little too hard, riding every lap as if it was his one shot at pole, overloading the front tire to compensate for the lack of braking at the rear.

Márquez was pushing his luck, and it kept running out during the race, the Repsol Honda man either finishing down the order, or ending up in the gravel once the front cried enough.

Thursday Summary at Sachsenring: A Plethora of Tires, A Bullish Marquez, & The Dangers of Suzuka

07/09/2015 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The Sachsenring treated us to its usual surprises on Thursday, with rain and squally winds blowing through the paddock in the morning, and the sun coming out as the day went on.

Fortunately, the only people out on track were the riders doing reconnaissance laps on the scooters, and safety officers cutting fast laps during their usual pre-weekend track inspection.

As an observer, it is hard to tell the difference between a circuit safety inspection and hooning round the track in one of the many high-end BMW sports cars that the German car-maker provides to Dorna, but I’m sure that as ex-racers, both Loris Capirossi and Franco Uncini know what they are doing.

Weird weather has already had its effect on the tire allocation. Originally, Bridgestone had brought three specifications of front tire, the soft to deal with the cold mornings, the medium to deal with the warmer afternoons, and the asymmetric tire with soft rubber on the right and a compound closer to the medium on the left, to handle the wind gusting to cool the right side of the tire.

Preview of the German GP: How Great Last Corners Create Epic Battles, & Silly Season Starting

07/09/2015 @ 7:01 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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What makes for great racing? Many things, but great last corners really help. A great last corner, or sequence of corners, allows riders to attack the bike ahead of them, and take one final shot at victory.

Even better is when the option to attack offered by the final corner comes with some risk attached: getting ahead is one thing, but staying ahead to the line is quite another.

MotoGP moves from one track with a last corner which guarantees spectacle to another. The final GT chicane at Assen produced fireworks with the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, and the last two corners at the Sachsenring offer similar opportunities.

At Assen, the hard-braking right corner is followed by a quick flick left, giving the defending rider the chance to counterattack if he is passed.

At the Sachsenring, the long drop down the steep, steep hill provides the ideal platform to launch an attack from, diving up the inside on the brakes on the way into the penultimate left hander.

That line comes at a price, though, as it forces the attacker to run wide on the exit. That opens allowing the defending rider to strike back up the inside on the approach to the final turn, the last left uphill towards the line.

Even entering that corner ahead is no guarantee of the win: like Turn 12, Turn 13 offers two lines, inside and outside, both of which can be used to pass.

Saturday Summary at Assen: Titles, Maturity, & Madness

07/01/2015 @ 1:45 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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You would think with the deluge of words that has washed over the incident between Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi in the last corner (and to which I contributed more than my fair share, I must confess) that there were only two riders and one race at Assen on Saturday.

Beyond the clash at the GT chicane, there was much more to talk about after Holland.

Whatever the immediate aftermath of the clash between Márquez and Rossi, the longer term implications of the result have made the championship even more interesting.

Márquez’s decision to switch back to the 2014 chassis for his Repsol Honda RC213V has been proven to be the correct one. Though the engine is still as aggressive as ever, the old chassis in combination with the new swingarm and new forks tested at Le Mans has made the bike much more manageable.

Márquez can now slide the rear on corner entry in a much more controlled way than before, taking away the behavior the reigning champion has struggled with most. The Spaniard showed he could be competitive from the start of the race to the end, instead of crashing out as the tires started to go off.

The bike is still a long way from cured, however. Márquez switched to the medium front tire rather than the soft, the only rider to do so. The medium provides a bit more support under braking, compensating for the reduced braking from the rear wheel.

That support comes at the cost of extra grip provided by the softer front. Whether Márquez will be able to employ that same strategy for the rest of the season remains to be seen.

Preview of the Dutch TT: To the Great Natural Tracks

06/24/2015 @ 5:10 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Assen is a funny old track. And when I say old, I mean old, the event has been on the calendar since 1925, though back then there was no such thing as world championship, and the race took place between Rolde, Borger and Schoonloo, some ten kilometers east of Assen.

From 1926, it moved to a route between the villages of De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen and Laaghalerveen. The roads, forced into short straights with fast sweeping kinks and bends by the complex drainage patterns of the creeks and ditches which keep the region from reverting back to peat bogs, gave shape to the track which was to follow.

They still leave their mark on the circuit today, despite being a closed-circuit since 1955, though the track has been much shortened since then.

What remains is a track with nary a straight piece of asphalt on it. The back straight meanders between the Strubben hairpin and the fast right and long left of the Ruskenhoek, living up to its name of Veenslang, or Peat Snake.

The short stretches between the fast combinations of corners weave and flow, and the only thing keeping the front straight straight is the pit wall. As a piece of geometric design, it is a disaster.

As a race track, it is glorious, proving that the best tracks are not designed on paper, but laid out in a landscape. Mugello, Phillip Island, Assen: all great riders track, each owing a debt of gratitude to the landscape which forms them.

Friday Summary at Catalunya: Fast Suzukis, The Deceptive Pace of the Yamahas, & Tires and Electronics

06/12/2015 @ 5:46 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from Friday practice at Barcelona? We learned that things are not quite what they seem. Does the fact that the Repsol Honda riders are second and third overall mean that HRC’s travails are behind it? Certainly not.

Do the two Suzukis in the top five – and Aleix Espargaro setting the fastest overall time – mean Suzuki have found the horsepower to match the Honda and Ducati? Absolutely not.

Will the Yamaha’s lowly positions on the grid put them out of contention on Sunday? Leaving aside the fact that it’s just the first day of practice, with another full day on Saturday, definitely, absolutely, certainly not.

Are all these assumptions completely baseless? That’s where it gets interesting. In fact, there is a kernel of truth underlying them all.

Sunday Summary from Mugello: False Starts, Italian Pride, & Honda’s Predicament…Again

06/01/2015 @ 7:19 am, by David Emmett51 COMMENTS

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Mugello is always a little magical, but packed to the rafters with delirious fans, it becomes something greater than just a race track. Over 90,000 fans turned up in Tuscany on Sunday, up 20% from last year on the back of the renaissance of Valentino Rossi and of Ducati, complete with two Italian riders. Something special was always going to happen here.

It certainly did, but perhaps not in the way the fans had hoped. Valentino Rossi did not score the dream victory in front of the ecstatic yellow hordes that packed the hillsides, nor did Ducati finally get the elusive win they have been chasing since 2010.

But the MotoGP race was packed with excitement and incident, the Moto3 race was a typical Mugello classic, and even Moto2 had some tension down to the final lap. Those who came got their money’s worth.

Preview of the Italian GP: Italian Hearts Dare to Dream

05/28/2015 @ 1:00 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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I shall spare you the “rolling Tuscan hills” patter. That cliché will be trotted out in most of the press releases and previews you will read. Indeed, it is one I have done to death in many of my own previews of the race.

Like all clichés, it is based on an underlying truth: the Mugello circuit is a breathaking track, set in a stunning location, and scene of some of the greatest racing over the thirty Grand Prix which have been held here since 1976.

So good is the track that it has remained virtually unchanged, with only minor tweaks to improve safety. There are still a few spots which could use some improvement. The wall at the end of the main straight could use being moved further to the left, and the gravel trap on the exit of Poggio Secco is terrifyingly small, but fixing these would require moving some serious quantities of earth.

But this is Mugello, and so we look away and carry on. At least the astroturf has been removed, removing one possible source of danger.

The setting and the racetrack mean that this is always one of the highlights of the year, but 2015 could be even better than usual. It might even live up to the hype, of which there is justifiably plenty. But where to begin?