CHP Study Finds Lane-Splitting No More Dangerous Than Just Riding a Motorcycle*

The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations. Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.

Officially Official: MV Agusta Brutale Dragster 800 RR

We already brought you the first high-resolution photos of the MV Agusta Brutale Dragster 800 RR (say that three times fast!) yesterday, which were sent to us by our Bothan Spies. In response, MV Agusta has unveiled the Dragster RR and Brutale RR today, ahead of the EICMA show. Like the updated Brutale 800 RR, the Brutale Dragster 800 RR features a revised 798cc three-cylinder engine, which makes 140hp at the 13,100 rpm, and a very peaky 63 lbs•ft of torque at 10,100 rpm. Numerous visual cues have been changed, included red-anodized fork tubes, red-painted cylinder heads, and aluminum tubeless wire-spoked wheels. An eight-way adjustable steering damper continues the noticeable changes, to the 370 lbs machine (dry).

MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR — 140hp & MVICS 2.0

Along with the new Dragster RR, MV Agusta has debuted the Brutale RR, ahead of the EICMA show. Like its hot rod cousin, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR gets a 15hp increase, which makes for 140hp at the 13,100 rpm peak. A very peaky motor indeed, maximum torque arrives at 10,100 rpm at 63 lbs•ft. The Brutale RR also features the MVICS 2.0 electronics package, which first debuted on the still unreleased MV Agusta Turismo Veloce. An update to the already robust MVICS package, the key feature in the 2.0 revision is the quickshift operation, both for upshifts and downshifts. Equipped with EAS 2.0 and ABS as standard, we see the Brutale 800 RR priced at a modest €13,980 for the European market, while the similarly equipped MV Agusta Brutale 800 EAS ABS has a €2,300 price advantage, at €11,680 MSRP.

Ducati Scrambler Will Be “Made in Thailand”

Almost four years ago, we reported on Ducati opening a new assembly plant in Thailand. The move, which peeved Ducati’s factory workers, would see bikes destined for the Southeast Asian market assembled in the Thai plant, thus side-stepping many of the region’s aggressive tariffs on motorcycles. Nearing the end of 2014 now, and our Bothan Spies report that the Ducati Scrambler models will be the first motorcycles assembled in Ducati’s Thai plant that will then be shipped to the world market — a move that comes right after Ducati reached a new contract with its workers and unions, which sees the factory employees working fewer hours at higher wages.

Up-Close with the Yamaha YZF-R3

This week we not only go a chance to see the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 unveiled at the AIMExpo, but also we had the chance to see the R3 up-close in the flesh. The budget-minded sport bike shows the obvious signs of more cost-effecient construction and fitted components, yet retains the fit-and-finish you would expect from a Yamaha motorcycle. This makes the R3 a prime candidate for aspirational riders, who want an affordable first motorcycle that looks the part of a proper sport bike. Track enthusiasts and veteran riders though will be disappointed with the Yamaha YZF-R3’s non-adjustable KYB suspension, box swingarm design, and bulky chassis — this is still a 368lbs (wet) motorcycle.

Even More Photos of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Leak

Yesterday we brought you the first official photo of the Yamaha FJ-09 tourer, which had been accidentally added to the Yamaha FZ-09 gallery on the Yamaha NA press site. Today it seems that leaks in Yamaha continue for the FJ-09, as our Dutch friends at Nieuwsmotor have discovered a bevy of press images, ahead of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09’s debut at EICMA next month. Based around the FZ-09/MT-09 platform, the FJ-09 uses a similar three-cylinder engine as the sport nakeds, though looks to have more suspension travel and other touring elements. Picking up where the Yamaha TDM left off as a middleweight sport/adventure-tourer, the Yamaha FJ-09 could be a very interesting addition to Yamaha’s lineup.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2R

Asphalt & Rubber was on-hand for the AIMExpo in Orlando, covering the new bikes that are debuting on North American soil. We’ve already seen the new Yamaha YZF-R3 released here, as well as the Alta RedShift electric motorcycles (formerly BRD Motorcycles). While both bikes are impressive, and are massively important to the American motorcycle scene, the buzz remains about the Kawasaki Ninja H2R. The AIMExpo is the first venue for Americans to get a glimpse of Kawasaki’s hyperbike, and the H2R sits like a praying mantis, waiting to strike you with its supercharged charms. Naturally, we had to get a closer look…and bring you a bevy of high-resolution detail shots from the trades how floor. Enjoy!

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Leaked ahead of EICMA

Someone at Yamaha is going to get a stern talking to today, as it seems a photo of the still unreleased Yamaha FJ-09 made its way to Yamaha’s press site accidentally, and didn’t yank it down before our friends at Common Tread caught a glimpse of it. Mixed in with photos of the Yamaha FZ-09, the photo of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 doesn’t really give too much away from the machine, as we’ve seen the same shot in black & white already. However, since it’s the new bike season, and Yamaha has already shown the YZF-R3 and teased the all-new YZF-R1, we thought it would be appropriate to show you this new model in all its glory. Based off the FZ-09 platform, the FJ-09 will be Yamaha’s budget-minded sport/ADV-touring machine, picking up were the old Yamaha TDM left off.

Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT). Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

Yamaha YZF-R3 Revealed – 321cc Twin Coming to the USA

The rumors were true, Yamaha is bringing a special small-displacement model to market, the Yamaha YZF-R3. As the name indicates, the new R3 gets a fuel-injected displacement bump over the R25, to the tune of 321cc. Debuted at the AIMExpo today, the Yamaha YZF-R3 is coming to the USA, with a price tag of $4,990. Said by Yamaha to have “class-leading power”, the new R3 finally adds a small-displacement sport bike to Yamaha’s North American lineup, and makes an attractive offering when compared to the other 250cc/300cc machines from the other Japanese manufacturers. Expect to see it in Yamaha dealers, starting January 2014. Yamaha North America expects the YZF-R3 to be the volume leader for the company in the USA and Canada, and rightfully so.

Up For Grabs: Half of the American Motorcycle Industry

06/27/2013 @ 7:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler37 COMMENTS

It is a fact that isn’t often discussed in the motorcycle industry, but roughly 50% of all on-road motorcycles sold in the United States come from a little company called Harley-Davidson. In 2012 for instance, the Bar & Shield brand sold 161,678 units here in the US, while for the same year the MIC reports 318,105 on-road units were sold nationwide, across all manufacturers.

In a way, the statistic is unfair. A cynical observer would say that Harley-Davidison is in the t-shirts, beanies, and trinkets business…and also happens to sell motorcycles as well. The more accurate critique is that Harley-Davidson sells a carefully curated lifestyle to its owners. A turnkey admittance to Club Cool and a subculture that breaks out of the doldrums of the suburban lifestyle.

You can hate the twenty-something flavors of the same machine that Harley-Davidson panders to dentists and accountants, and you can call the company’s products a number of nasty names, but the simple truth is that they sell, and even when sales aren’t that good, they still sell well. In 2011, the low-point in Harley-Davidson’s five-year sales tailspin, the Milwaukee company still accounted for 48% of on-road motorcycles sold in the US. Chewy.

It is easy to be critical of Harley-Davidson, and there are plenty of things to be critical about (I have had no problem in the past talking about the company’s greatest challenges), but one cannot deny the fact that if Harley-Davidson is responsible for the lion’s share of what we call in passing the motorcycle industry. For Polaris Industries CEO Scott Wine though, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle dynasty is seen as a market opportunity, though a risky one.

Op-Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots

06/23/2013 @ 9:27 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

Op Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots useful idiot david emmett 635x422

In 1952, Doris Lessing, a Nobel prize-winning author, was one of a group of writers and prominent intellectuals who visited the Soviet Union, then in the iron grip of Joseph Stalin, one of history’s greatest criminals and murderers. She was introduced to the political leaders of the country, and escorted around the nation by the Russian secret police. Lessing, along with the others on the trip, returned home to write gushing praise of the Soviet Union, describing it as ‘a land of hope.’

In her later years, Lessing wrote a damning condemnation of her own naiveté during the visit. “I was taken around and shown things as a ‘useful idiot’… that’s what my role was. I can’t understand why I was so gullible.” She had seen only what had been shown to her, believed what her guides – all of whom worked for the secret police – told her, and accepted the testimony of the workers she spoke to, workers who had been carefully selected, and briefed to project the right message, or sufficiently intimidated to not let any of the real truth slip.

A ‘useful idiot’ is exactly how I feel all too often working in the MotoGP paddock. With no formal training in journalism, and only my gut instinct to follow, it is hard to sift out the underlying facts from the fiction being projected all around me. Most of motorcycle racing journalism – in fact, most of sports journalism – relies almost entirely on the word of others.

A journalist will speak to a rider, or a team manager, or an engineer, or a press officer, and write a news story based on what they have just been told. If they are a good journalist, they will try and verify what they have been told by checking with other sources. If they want to sell newspapers, they will write what suits them, and let the checking be damned.

Barbera Speaks Out about Assault Charges – Eh, Not Really

05/13/2013 @ 6:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Barbera Speaks Out about Assault Charges   Eh, Not Really the pageantry 635x423

On Friday, reports came out of Jerez that MotoGP rider Hector Barbera had been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. With the case handled by Spain’s special domestic violence courts, Barbera received a sentence of six months in jail, while his girlfriend also received five months in jail, as she was also found guilty of assaulting Barbera in the exchange. With details of the event seemingly under lock and key by the court’s proceedings, speculation has been rife about the incident.

Hoping to set the record straight, Barbera has released a clarifying statement via his Facebook page, though it does little to shed more light on the situation, and reinforces some very disturbing notions already held about misogyny in Spain, and by proxy MotoGP as well. Stressing that he himself was a victim, as was found by the court, Barbera adds that he would “never think on hurting or damaging any person, no matter woman or men, ” and is adamant that he is “firmly against any type of mistreatment or abuse to anyone.”

That is an interesting statement considering that Barbera’s presumably now ex-girlfriend, identified only by her initials D.P., was sent to the hospital with visible bruising because of Barbera’s own actions. To be fair, Barbera’s own injuries have not been a topic of much discussion, and he is presumed to have suffered some form of battery as well, which presumably makes what he did more justifiable — at least, that seems to be the point Barbera is trying to make in his statement.

Looking at the story from American eyes and predispositions, a man assaulting a woman, whether provoked or not, is automatically cast as the guilty party — it is perhaps the one ironic role-reversal in America’s own battle with sexism and misogyny in its socio-legal systems. As one of my legal colleagues said to me, “a speedy trial, and both parties getting punished? That would never happen here in the United States.” Quite right.

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee

05/07/2013 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

Goodbye Husqvarna Nuda, We Hardly Knew Thee husqvarna nuda 900r black 635x423

Stefan Pierer’s acquisition of Husqvarna continues to baffle me. You will note I say Pierer, and not KTM, bought Husqvarna, since the Austrian CEO used Pierer Industrie AG in the transaction as a means to help side-step European antitrust issues. After all, we can’t have Europe’s largest dirt bike manufacturer, nay largest total motorcycle manufacturer, gobbling up even more brands in the two-wheeled world. But, I digress.

For as big of an issue as it might be that KTM, by proxy, has swallowed another dirt bike brand, I still do not understand the thinking behind this madness. Dropping to four-digit yearly sales, it wasn’t until BMW started taking the off-road brand into the on-road market did signs of growth appear again at Husky.

Developing three road bikes (Husqvarna Nuda 900, Husqvarna Strada 650, & Husqvarna Terra 650), with three more concepts waiting in the wings (Husqvarna Moab, Husqvarna Baja, & Husqvarna E-G0), it is with even more confusion that we learn that Pierer & Co. intend to kill the Husqvarna Nuda project and its other street siblings.

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici

02/19/2013 @ 3:59 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS

How the Honda RC213V 90° V4 Engine Makes Us Rethink the Problems with the Ducati Desmosedici ducati desmosedici rr naked 635x423

Just over 18 months ago, I wrote a long analysis of what I believed at the time was the main problem with Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP machine. In that analysis, I attributed most of the problems with the Desmosedici to the chosen angle of the V, the angle between the front and rear cylinder banks.

By sticking with the 90° V, I argued, Ducati were creating problems with packaging and mass centralization, which made it almost impossible to get the balance of the Desmosedici right. The engine was taking up too much space, and limiting their ability to adjust the weight balance by moving the engine around.

Though there was a certain logic to my analysis, it appears that the engine angle was not the problem. Yesterday, in their biweekly print edition, the Spanish magazine Solo Moto published an article by Neil Spalding, who had finally obtained photographic evidence that the Honda RC213V uses a 90° V, the same engine angle employed by the Ducati Desmosedici. Given the clear success of the Honda RC213V, there can no longer be any doubt that using a 90° V is no impediment to building a competitive MotoGP machine.

The photographic proof comes as confirmation of rumors which had been doing the rounds in the MotoGP paddock throughout the second half of the 2012 season. Several people suggested that the Honda may use a 90° angle, including Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi, speaking to GPOne.com back in November.

I had personally been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a naked RC213V engine at one rain-soaked race track in September, but while the glimpse through the window may have been good enough to form the impression of an engine that looked like it may have been a 90°V, it was a very long way from being anything resembling conclusive, and nowhere near enough to base a news story on.

Spalding’s persistence has paid off, however. The British photographer and journalist is a common sight wandering among the garages, either first thing in the morning, as the bikes are being warmed up, or late at night, while the mechanics prepare the machines for the following day.

At some point, the Honda mechanics and engineers – protective to the point of prudishness of displaying any part of their machine to the outside world – would let their guard slip. When they did, Spalding pounced.

So why did Honda elect to use an engine layout which is blamed for causing Ducati so much trouble? And how does Honda make the layout work where Ducati have continued to fail? The first question is relatively simple to answer; the second is a good deal more tricky.

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet?

01/07/2013 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet? Human Head Motorcycle Helmet 635x350

Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we spend some pixels talking about the finer points of helmet usage, especially when it comes to the debate regarding mandatory helmet laws. Looking at helmets from 50 years ago, and the basic concept hasn’t changed all that much in the time since.

A hard shell, some impact material, and a soft lining mated to a visor and chin-strap system, over the last half-century most of the improvements to the basic helmet design have been for added fit and comfort, or cheaper and lighter materials — even the more creative and innovative designs that are being hocked around the internet right now don’t stray far from the current concept.

Think 50 years ahead though, and it is hard to imagine the same shapes and designs staying constant. In fact, it becomes possible to imagine motorcyclists wearing no helmets at all. No, I am not talking about some sort of libertarian movement that will rush through our political system, freeing us from the shackles of big government.

Instead, I am talking about the true next-generation of safety devices for the gray matter that resides between your ears, which might put the mandatory helmet law debate to rest (well…probably not).

Why Implementing Price Caps Is the Best Way of Cutting Costs for Teams in MotoGP and WSBK

01/04/2013 @ 2:04 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Why Implementing Price Caps Is the Best Way of Cutting Costs for Teams in MotoGP and WSBK Brembo brakes wash Indianapolis GP Jules Cisek 635x423

With the announcement of the introduction of price caps for brakes and suspension in MotoGP from 2015, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, appears to have finally found an effective way of controlling costs in the series. Instead of trying to control costs indirectly and seeing their efforts kicked into touch by the law of unintended consequences, the rule-makers have decided to attempt to go straight to the heart of the problem.

Will capping prices unleash a whole set of unintended consequences of its own? Will, as some fear, the move to cap prices lead to a drop in quality and therefore a reduction in R&D in the areas which are price-capped? And will the price cap act as a barrier to new entrants, or stimulate them? These are hard questions with no easy answers, yet there are reasons to believe that price caps are the most effective way of controlling costs, while the risks normally associated with a price cap, such as a reduction in quality, are lower in a racing paddock than they are in other environments.

What MotoGP Can Learn From F1: The Business Symposium

11/25/2012 @ 3:52 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

What MotoGP Can Learn From F1: The Business Symposium Circuit of the Americas Formula One Red Bull Keith Rizzo

Since the global financial crisis struck back in 2008, MotoGP’s primary focus has been on cutting costs. These efforts have met with varying success – sometimes reducing costs over the long-term, after a short-term increase, sometimes having no discernible impact whatsoever – and as a result, the grids in all three classes are filling up again.

Further changes are afoot – chiefly, the promise by Honda and Yamaha to supply cheaper machinery to private teams, either in the form of production racers, such as Honda’s RC213V clone, or Yamaha’s offer to lease engines to chassis builders – but there is a limit to how much can be achieved by cutting costs. What is really needed is for the series to raise its revenues, something which the series has signally failed to do.

In truth, the series has never really recovered from the loss of tobacco sponsorship, something for which it should have been prepared, given that it had had many years’ warning of the ruling finally being applied.

The underlying problem was that the raising of sponsorship had been outsourced and the marketing of the series had been outsourced to a large degree to the tobacco companies, and once they left – with the honorable, if confusing, exception of Philip Morris – those skills disappeared with them. There was nobody left to try to increase the amount of money coming into the sport.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

11/21/2012 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa Suzuki Hayabusa 635x451

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with the Suzuki Hayabusa. A courtship that started well-ahead of my formal indoctrination to two-wheels, the Hayabusa was the capstone of motorcycle performance in my youthful eyes. I lusted after its sleek wind-tunnel tuned lines, and marveled at its outright speed, which at its debut, trumped everything else on the market. Approaching the 200 mph mark with their designs, Japan sold us on a “gentleman’s agreement” between the factories to govern their machines to 186 mph — I call it the pinnacle of technical collusion of the first degree.

It is so much easier to compete against another manufacturer when you don’t actually have to compete against them. The Suzuki Hayabusa could co-exist with the Honda CBR1100XX and Kawasaki ZX-12R in bubble that assured no one bike, on paper, could trump the other, after all…they all went 186 mph in the newly declared speed war. It is debatable whether this self-governing measure by the Japanese OEMs avoided a nanny state imposition of laws and regulations onto the motorcycle industry, but there can be no debate about the stagnation the gentleman’s agreement caused in the marketplace.

Once designated as being hyperbikes, a term that gave a nod to the performance specifications being beyond the superbikes found on the race track, we have watched the cessation of the Honda Super Blackbird (2003 in the USA, 2007 worldwide), and witnessed the Hayabusa and ZX-12R, later the Kawasaki ZX-14R, morph into capital “s” sport-tourers that are a far cry from their original intents.

Whether you caste the current Suzuki Hayabusa as the second-generation of the machine, or simply a massaged version of the first-generation GSX-1300R, it has stood motionless for far too long since its beginnings 15 years ago, and revision in 2008. It is time for the Hayabusa to return to its hyperbike roots, and once again captivate the imagination of little boys, and grown men, with what its possible on two wheels.

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair

10/20/2012 @ 8:59 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair Maverick Vinales Estoril Moto3 Scott Jones

It was a strange day in Malaysia. Part of the strangeness was down to the weather. The familiar pattern of disrupted sessions as the rain fell, but not hard enough to allow the MotoGP riders, in particular, to spend much time on the track in the afternoon.

There was a twist, however, a particularly Malaysian one at Sepang: the heavy shower which passed over the track at the start of the afternoon session for MotoGP left part of the circuit soaking, with water a couple of centimeters deep at turns 1 and 2, while the rest of the circuit quickly dried out almost completely. It at least added a little novelty to the disruption, along with the frustration of another wasted practice.

The real strangeness came at the start of the day, however. It took about 10 minutes for observers to notice that Maverick Viñales had not gone out on track and there was suspiciously little activity in the Avintia Blusens garage. Once they noticed, low-level pandemonium broke out: within seconds, a throng of Spanish journalists crowded out of the media center and hastened on their way into the paddock, to find anyone and everyone and learn what they could.

As they drifted back in, and as TV pictures started to appear showing an empty Blusens garage, Viñales walking through the paddock accompanied by his father and the Dorna media officer, and team managers Raul Romero and Ricard Jové gathered in discussions, it was clear that there was something very wrong.

When it was revealed what that was – that Viñales had decided to quit the team with immediate effect – it sent a shockwave through the paddock. Riders quitting teams with races left in the championship is unusual; to do it while that rider is second in the title chase and still in with a shot at the championship is unheard of in motorsport.