Husqvarna Takes on the Ducati XDiavel with a Super Duke Based Power Cruiser of Its Own

The Ducati XDiavel is making impressions everywhere, most notably with the competition. First, we got word that BMW Motorrad was looking to build its own power cruiser, likely based off the company’s six-cylinder platform. Now, it seems that Husqvarna wants in on the game, with the Swedish brand build its own tarmac monster off of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R platform. At least, that’s what these spy photos suggest to us. The working title on this new machines for now seems to be the Husqvarna Vitpilen 1301, as it will likely fit into the on-road segment that Husqvarna has been carving out with bikes like the Vitpilen 401 and Vitpilen 701.

Updates Are Coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

It looks like updates are coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R for the 2017 model year, if our spies can be believed. The changes appear to be mostly cosemetic, with the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R sporting a new split headlight design and more cowling over the radiator. One can expect changes to occur under the skin of the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R. We would guess an upgrade to the brakes package, with the Bosch MSC “cornering ABS” coming to the Super Duke R, as it is already on the new Super Duke GT. We do know that suspension will stay the same, which is surprising because our next guess would have been the addition of electronic suspension, possible semi-active suspension, coming to the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, but the spy photos clearly show conventional knobs are present on the test mule.

Nicky Hayden Revels in First World Superbike Win

“That’s why we line up on Sunday.” This was a throwaway comment from Nicky Hayden made during his MotoGP title winning campaign of 2006. The American was referring to the fact that anything could happen over the course of a race, but on Sunday he showed again that the true reason why racers line up on Sunday is to win. Hayden claimed a stunning maiden WorldSBK victory in difficult conditions at the Sepang International Circuit this passed weekend. For Hayden, having waited ten years for a vicotry, it was clear in the aftermath just how much it meant for The Kentucky Kid to finally win again. “I only felt confident of winning once I’d crossed the finish line. I learned a long time ago — and if you see me or my brothers, or my Dad — we never celebrate until the bike crosses the finish line…”

MotoGP: Maverick Viñales Jumps Ship to Yamaha

There has been a great deal of smoke around this fire, but Maverick Viñales has finally inked a deal with the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Though there has been chatter on the subject since Friday, the news was confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber today. Together with the news of Dani Pedrosa staying at Repsol Honda, all of these reports should end one of the largest focal points of speculation in the GP paddock. The move will see Viñales racing alongside his childhood hero, Valentino Rossi, for the next two seasons; and it also means things are back to square-one for the Ecstar Suzuki MotoGP team, as it looks for a new rider to lead the project on the track.

Ride in Peace, Rob Harris – Founder of Canada Moto Guide

It is again with a heavy heart that we have to report the passing not only of a colleague, but also a friend, as Rob Harris passed away yesterday, while riding dirt bikes in Ontario, Canada. A Brit who found his way into Canada, “Editor ‘arris” was very much the engine that drove the Canadian motorcycle news website Canada Moto Guide, serving as its Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief. His departure will mean the creation of a huge hole in the Canada’s motorcycling landscape. The intersection of old-school journalism values, with new-school media savvy, Rob was one of the good ones. Our hearts are with Rob’s wife Courtney, and their two girls, Cate and Chloe. Along with the whole CMG team, we will be mourning the loss of our friend and colleague. Ride in peace, brother.

XXX: Team Kawasaki SRC Ninja ZX-10R World Race Bike

I know we have mentioned before our love for endurance racing machines. The FIM Endurance World Championship just doesn’t get nearly enough play to soothe our appetite. It is the last international motorcycle racing series that has a proper tire war; it has strong factory involvement that can see a number of brands winning on any given weekend; and it is also the only true “team sport” in motorcycle racing. What’s not to like, right? Leading the pack so far this season is Team Kawasaki SRC, which won the season-opener at Le Mans, with riders Greg Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive, and Fabian Foret at the helm. Team Kawasaki SRC has always been one of the stronger teams in the Endurance World Championship, and this year it looks like thing could finally come together for “Team Verte”.

The SnoPed is An Evil Villain’s Snowbike

Summer is right around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so the obviously appropriate time to talk about a snowbike is now, right? What the SnoPed lacks in seasonal appropriateness, it absolutely makes up for in super-villain stature, as the modern-looking snowbike looks like it rolled (is that the right verb?) off the set of a Hollywood spy movie. The brainchild of American designer Joey Ruiter, SnoPed features a 90cc engine (out of a Chrysler Sno-runner) underneath its sculpted body, which isn’t exactly going to blow your socks off when knee-deep in the powpow, but is enough to scurry down a groomed cross-country trail. Ruiter’s project with the SnoPed is really a design exercise and a good excuse to play dress-up. We take it as such, at least.

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales. So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain. The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles.

Yamaha R1M Café Racer by Holographic Hammer

Even if most of it is just manipulating pixels, we are big fans of the work being done by the guys at Holographic Hammer, as they are bringing something fresh and unique to the industry, which is always a good thing. That being said, we wanted to take a minute to talk about one of HH’s recent pieces: a café racer design based off of the Yamaha R1M superbike. The idea is sort of out there, but yet also makes a reasonable amount of sense. Let’s be frank, the idea of using an R1 for a café racer concept is our kind of crazy. But, the design also makes some sense when you look at Yamaha’s recent focus on its “sport heritage” lineup, which is an attempt to appeal to the post-authentic crowd.

BMW Brings Emergency SOS “eCall” System to Motorcycles

In an effort to improve safety for motorcyclists, BMW Motorrad has developed what it calls an “Intelligent Emergency Call” system, which allows motorcyclists to call for help with the touch of a button on their motorcycle. The system is part of a larger push in Europe for an “eCall” emergency SOS program that would alert emergency personnel to a vehicle crash with greater expediency and efficiency. According to the pan-European eCall trial, systems like BMW’s can bring emergency services to a crash scene 40% to 50% faster, and the European Commission estimates that an eCall system like BMW’s could save up to 2,500 lives each year (saving €26 billion in the process, as well).

Op-Ed: Truth, Lies, & Useful Idiots

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

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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

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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

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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.

Motorcycle Racing vs. Social Media: How Dorna Could Turn Losing the Battle into Winning the War

03/11/2013 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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When the news that Dorna would be taking over World Superbikes broke, there was a wave of outrage among fans, expressing the fear that the Spanish company would set about destroying the series they had grown to love.

So far, Dorna has been careful not to get involved in debates about the technical regulations which seem to be so close to fans’ hearts, its only criteria so far appearing to be a demand that bikes should cost 250,000 euros for an entire season.

Yet it has already make one move which has a serious negative impact on the series: it is clamping down on video footage from inside the paddock.

There was some consternation – and there is still some confusion – about the situation at the first round of WSBK at Phillip Island at the end of February. Where previously, teams and journalists had been free to shoot various videos inside the paddock, there were mixed signals coming from Dorna management, with some people told there was an outright and immediate ban, with threats of serious consequences should it be ignored, while others were saying that they had heard nothing on the subject.

That Dorna is determined to reduce the amount of free material on YouTube became immediately clear after the race weekend was over: in previous years, brief, two-minute race summaries would appear on the official World Superbike Youtube channel after every weekend. After the first race of 2013, only the post-race interviews were posted on the site. It is a long-standing Dorna policy to try to strictly control what ends up on YouTube and what doesn’t. It is its most serious mistake, and one which could end up badly damaging the sport unless it is changed very soon.

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

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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.

January 2013: The MotoGP & WSBK Story, So Far

02/02/2013 @ 3:06 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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With the first full test for the World Superbike class behind us, and the first test of the MotoGP grid about to get underway at Sepang at the end of this week, it is time to take a look at motorcycle racing’s pre-season, and evaluate where we stand so far. Just what is the state of play for both MotoGP and World Superbike in 2013?

The question is even more pertinent now that both series have been taken under the wing of Dorna, much to the consternation of World Superbike fans and, to some extent, the WSBK paddock as well. It was feared that Dorna would either kill off World Superbike entirely to strengthen the position of MotoGP, or impose such stringent technical regulations on the series as to dumb it down to Superstock spec.

Fortunately, neither of those options looks likely. World Superbikes will continue as a separate series, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was keen to explain when quizzed about the takeover at Ducati’s Wrooom launch event early in January. The aim is to build a strong WSBK series to stand alongside MotoGP, preserving the unique identity of the two series – WSBK as a place to race production bikes, MotoGP as the series for racing prototypes.

But exactly how should the phrase “production bikes” be interpreted? As a hotted up version of the road-going model, as is the intention of Superstock, or as a genuine racing machine built using the production bike as a basis, which is much closer to what some regard as the ethos of WSBK? The answer, it appears, will lie somewhere in the middle, and the factories will have a major say in how this all turns out.

In the Future, Will You Even Wear a Helmet?

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

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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

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

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.

The Larger Issue Behind the Maverick Viñales Affair

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

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.