So You Say You Want a Small, Light, & Cheap ADV Bike?

Comments on certain stories are predictable, and as such, we always expect some enduro rider to show up on an ADV story, and lament the weight of the bike in question, calling it too heavy to really go off-road. That argument is bullshit, of course. Though, it is easier to handle a lightweight machine in the dirt than a heavy one, but you would be surprised at how capable any motorcycle is with a pair of knobby tires on it. Just in case you are not convinced, we have got a little something for you. Behold the Benelli TRK 502. It’s got the profile of a condor, but the little 500cc adventure-tourer looks like it should do the job you are asking of it. Benelli really is the standout brand at this year’s EICMA show, with its models showing some depth to the once revered Italian brand.

2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello Scrambler

It was 1967 when Moto Guzzi first introduced the Stornello scrambler to the US market, and now for 2016 the Stornello scrambler returns. Using the Moto Guzzi V7II platform for this rebirth, the 48hp 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello is a fetching motorcycle with dubious off-road ability – not that the latter really matters in this all-show, no-go space. Honestly, we can’t fault Moto Guzzi for trying, as the Italian brand seems to be gravitating towards the heritage demographic, which is currently inundated with “post-authentic” retro models, and as such the scrambler is the moto du jour in the industry – the 2015 EICMA show is proof of that. In those terms, the 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello excels well, even if its 410 lbs mass doesn’t.

Victory Ignition Concept Is A Very Sporty Cruiser

It had been widely rumored that Victory Motorcycle would launch a sportier offering, using the 60° water-cooled 1,200cc engine that powered the Project 156 race bike almost to the top of Pikes Peak. The new model is a tectonic shift for Victory, which also this year debuted its first electric model – though the Empulse TT is really just a rebadged Brammo Empulse R. Debuting the Ignition concept at the 2015 EICMA show today though, it’s clear that Victory Motorcycle is becoming more than a modern alternative to Harley-Davidson and the metric cruisers from Japan. The design is attractive, even to our sport-bike focused eyes. That’s due in part to designer Urs Erbacher, who specializes in custom-styled drag bikes.

2016 Benelli Leoncino Brings Back the Lion Cub

Benelli is not a brand we usually talk about with great reverence, as the Italian company has steadily lost its luster since its acquisition by China’s Qianjiang Group. Benelli’s motorcycles were never known for being terribly reliable, and unfortunately the artful designs that they exuded have slowly eroded away over time. The big announcement for Benelli at the 2015 EICMA show is the new Benelli Leoncino, the “lion cub” model that’s rooted in Benelli’s post-WWII history. This modern take on the classic Benelli Leoncino is an attractive scrambler model, which makes 47hp from its 500cc parallel-twin engine. This also means that the Benelli Leoncino a well-suited A2 license machine in Europe, and its wire-spoked wheels are 19″ in the front and 17″ in the rear, and should make the Leoncino surprisingly adapt at light off-road use.

Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe Is “Pinnacle Weird”

We present you with perhaps the strangest motorcycle to debut at the 2015 EICMA show. The Bimota Tesi 3D champions the hub-center steering chassis design, and is one of the more unique motorcycles in the industry right now. Its design is positively futuristic, so it is a little strange that Bimota is trying to make the Tesi 3D into a café racer with the launch of the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe. Powered by the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that’s found in the Scrambler series, you can tell that Bimota is trying to latch onto the post-heritage trend that is dying a slow death in the motorcycle industry, but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet.

Bimota Impeto, Supercharger Optional

The Bimota range has a long history of Ducati-powered machines, as the Italian brand has been used the most out of all the motorcycle manufacturers to power Bimota’s street and race bikes. The Bimota Impeto adds another Ducati-powered model to the slew of others, but it differentiates itself as the only 162hp streetfighter in the lineup. If the Impeto looks familiar to the Bimota DB8, there’s good reason, as the two bikes share the Ducati Diavel’s Testastretta 11° DS engine. As such, the chromoly steel chassis share a number of components, leaving most of the differences down to styling choices between the two liquid-cooled models. Our personal favorites are the exhaust and seat, which mirror each other with a rising flair.

The Aprilia RSV4 R-FW Misano Is Basically a MotoGP Bike

The Aprilia Factory Works program is easily the most ridiculously awesome thing to come out of the 2015 EICMA show because it offers regular consumers (with a healthy pocketbook) the chance to own a 230hp+ Aprilia RSV4 superbike, just like what they race in the World Superbike Championship…and very close to what they race in MotoGP. Aprilia was a little vague though on what the Factory Works program entailed, but thankfully today at the EICMA show they clarified what exactly would be available from Aprilia Racing. Coming up with five trim-levels for the RSV4 superbike, Aprilia has basically answered every track day enthusiast’s / amateur racer’s wet dream, and distracted us from the fact that the Noale company has a woefully aging product lineup.

Here is What the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Will Look Like

As we predicted, Suzuki has debuted a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike at the EICMA show, though before you get your hopes too high, we should preface that the model is actually the Suzuki GSX-R1000 concept. Suzuki clearly isn’t ready to bring the GSX-R1000 to market in-time for the 2016 model year, and our sources tell us that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Concept will in fact be the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, which will debut in the second half of 2016. That being said, the news is an exciting development from Suzuki, which says that the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the lightest and most powerful superbike ever from the Japanese manufacturer. To our eye, it looks to be the most advanced as well.

Erik Buell Racing Deal Falls Thru – Will Be Sold…Again

The situation around Erik Buell Racing is rapidly becoming comical, as the American motorcycle brand is headed back to auction, after its sale to Bruce Belfer failed to close. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Erik Buell Racing will go back to the auctioning block on December 10th, because Belfer was unable to secure financing on his $2.25 million purchase price for Erik Buell Racing. As has become the trend among Buell-loyalists, Belfer blames Hero MotoCorp for the failure of his deal to close. “They (Hero) went in before we closed and started to remove things, to the point where an entire warehouse was moved,” Belfer said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Yamaha MT-10 Is Not Your Grandpa’s FZ-1

Perhaps a model whose debut is obvious to us now, hindsight always being 20/20, Yamaha has just dropped the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 on us at this year’s EICMA show. The Yamaha MT-10 helps round out Yamaha’s MT brand, with affordable and edgy models available from 125cc all the way up to now 1,000cc. Without even riding the Yamaha MT-10 we are fairly certain that this street bike, with its Yamaha YZF-R1 race track DNA, is a hoon to ride with its over-abundance of personality – it would have to, with a face like that. There is no word yet if the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 will come to the USA, potentially supplanting the Yamaha FZ-1 from its perch. Considering how different those two bike demographics are though, we have a hard time seeing it.

Some Thoughts on the Suzuka 8-Hour

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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?

Bradley Smith & Pol Espargaro to Race at the Suzuka 8-Hour

05/25/2015 @ 11:25 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT


The line up for the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race looks to be the strongest for years. Today, Yamaha confirmed that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are to race for the factory entry at Suzuka, alongside Yamaha test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

Smith and Espargaro will face Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark, who will be racing for the Honda factory team.

Rumors that Yamaha were taking their entry for the race very seriously first emerged at Jerez, where paddock gossip had Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo entering the race in the factory team.