Marzocchi Will Cease Operations by the End of 2015

It seems any efforts to save Marzocchi have been squashed, as the suspension company’s owners, Tenneco Inc., intend to cease Marzocchi’s world operations and transfer its motorcycle and bicycle business for clients to new providers. The news not only affects a number of motorcycle manufacturers, but also 127 employees at Marzocchi’s Bologna-based factory, and another 11 employees in North America and Taiwan. Tenneco announced its intent to shutdown Marzocchi back in July, though the news has been slow to permeate the motorcycle industry. Those familiar with the financial position of Marzocchi will not be surprised by this decision, as the suspension manufacturer has been operating in the red for quite some time, with a new business strategy unable to affect that position.

Confederate P51 Combat Fighter, Second Generation

Confederate Motors is making some of the most intriguing and evocative custom motorcycles on the market right now, and the company’s second-generation Confederate P51 Combat Fighter is no different. Confederate says that the G2 P51 Combat Fighter draws inspiration from the “1960’s rebel, anti-hero and the stripped, raw, chopper he rode.” The custom certainly is sinister in its look, especially in the blacked-out version. Oh, did we mention is boasts over 200hp at the rear wheel? Like all Confederate machines, these P51 Combat Fighters will be bespoke to each owner, of which there will be only 61 units made. MSRP for the blonde model is is $113,900 (30 units in total), while the brunette will cost you $119,500 (31 units to be produced). More photos and details after the jump.

New Belt-Driven Ducati Diavel Being Developed

A new Ducati Diavel has been caught by spy photographers, making this the first proper “leak” ahead of November’s EICMA show. Though keeping the overall aesthetic of the Ducati Diavel in place, the model has some clear visual and mechanic differences. Namely, a belt drive…yes, you read that right. Other changes include a feet-forward seating position, revised trellis chassis, and likely Ducati’s Testastretta DVT engine with variable valve technology. The switch from Euro 3 to Euro 4 emissions standards at the end of 2016 almost assure the DVT engine permeating its way into Ducati’s current lineup.It’s not certain how close to the production model this belt-driven Diavel is, though it’s clear that Ducati is courting the Harley-Davidson crowd.

Some Curious Details of That Stolen Victory TT Race Bike

A month ago, the Victory TT electric race bike was stolen from the Brammo’s headquarters in Talent, Oregon. Thankfully, the bike was recovered quickly, though it suffered some damage to the bodywork, and the rear wheel was removed. Two suspects were arrested in conjunction with the theft, and currently are out on $25,000 bail bonds. We will have to let the great wheel of justice sort out the facts, and awaits the two suspects in question. While one would likely not call the legal process entertaining, there are some amusing facts at issue to this case.

Yamaha “YZF-R1S” Spied in CARB Documents

When the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 first broke cover last year, it was with two model designations: the YZF-R1M and YZF-R1S. Obviously, only one of those machines has come to market, which is peculiar since Yamaha went to some trouble to register both names with the USPTO. What happened to the YZF-R1S is up for conjecture, though it does seem the model, whatever it may be, is destined to arrive in the US market, as the model name has been spotted in documents filed by Yamaha with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It’s possible that all this ado about CARB documents and a third R1 model is not much at all, and that the reality is that the “YZF-R1S” has been with us all along.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Scrambler by Holographic Hammer

Taking a superbike off-road isn’t the dumbest thing we’ve ever done, but too many it certainly is sacrilegious. The truth is, the Venn diagram of motorcycles and their capabilities for different uses has a lot more overlap than riders are willing to admit. That’s why when we see our friends at Holographic Hammer working on a scrambler model based off a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R we get a little excited. With enough suspension travel, bash plates, and right-handed traction control, there’s no reason that a ZX-10R can’t be the basis for a fun dual-sport. And naturally, the talents at HH are going to make the project look amazing, so what’s the rub? Think differently, and have a brappy day – we say!

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials Now Canceled

After being a tentative “go” for racing last week, the 2015 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has now been canceled because of conditions on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The announcement comes after rains in the Salt Lake City, Utah area put water on the salt flat racing course, and now currently half an inch of water sits on what the BMST calls its “Mountain Course” area. With the salt not likely to dry as quickly as normal, BMST officials couldn’t find a suitable place to relocate the Mountain Course, and in addition to that problem the international “Long Course” was not ideal over its entire length, with its quality a concern for BMST officials as well.Making matters worse, damage from the 2014 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials has yet to heal on the salt flats.

Some of That 30th Anniversary Suzuki GSX-RR Goodness

I’m not gonna lie, we sorta dropped the ball when it came to sharing with you the 30th anniversary livery that Team Suzuki Ecstar is rocking in MotoGP. If anyone asks, it’s all Tony’s fault. Totally on him. Like, for reals…all Tony. Bad Tony! Bad! While Tony works on a personal apology note, hand-written naturally, for each and every one of you, we’ve got a small collection of his photos from Sachsenring and Indianapolis of Suzuki’s tribute to the GSX-R line. We think it’s pretty fetching, which only adds to the fact that the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike is one of the best looking machines on the grid. I actually had a dream about it last night…I’m not ready to talk about it. Photos after the jump, ok? Enjoy! And Tony, I want those notes on my desk by Monday. Chop! Chop!

Is The Honda RC213V-S Really Your Dream Bike?

Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul. From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears. The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S.

E-Raw Electric Motorcycle Concept by Expemotion

Over the past few years, the electric motorcycle segment has been a playground for industrial designers to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to challenging traditional motorcycle design. The Mission One, MotoCzysz E1pc, and Xenophya Design EV-0RR come to mind when thinking about the more interesting design experiments we’ve seen from the E2V crowd, though there are certainly others we are missing. The Expemotion E-Raw concept reminds us of those earlier bikes, where the design conventions of the internal combustion crowd are deemed irrelevant for an electric two-wheeler. Maybe that’s why the E-Raw has a laminated wood seat.

How the Ducati Superbike 999 Wasn’t a Sales Flop & Other Ducati Superbike Sales Statistics

03/29/2013 @ 3:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.

Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.

Lessons from Austin: Marquez’s Star Rises, Rossi’s Wanes

03/15/2013 @ 1:50 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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So the three days of testing at Austin are over, and what did we learn? That Marc Marquez is something special? We knew that, though we didn’t perhaps realize just how special. That Yamaha really needs to find more acceleration? This, too, was known, but becoming clearer every time the M1 goes up against the Honda RC213V on track. That Valentino Rossi’s return does not equate to an automatic 8th MotoGP title? We suspected as much.

The first thing that became obvious is that the Austin circuit itself is pretty decent. Valentino Rossi described it as “a typical Tilke track, with corners that remind you of Shanghai and Turkey.” Unsurprising, given that Herman Tilke, who also designed Shanghai, Istanbul, and many other race tracks around the world, was responsible for designing the track.

The input from Kevin Schwantz was helpful, though, making the track more like Istanbul than Shanghai. The circuit has a couple of highly technical sections, where you go in blind and need to have memorized which way the track goes. It is wide, giving opportunities for overtaking and braking, and has a couple of the fast, fast sweepers which motorcycle racers love.

It also has a couple of tight corners, leaving the bike in a low gear with a lot of acceleration to do. This, it became apparent, favors the Hondas, the RC213V strongest off the bottom, and capable of pulling a gap. Acceleration issues will be a problem for Yamaha this year, unless Masahiko Nakajima and his fellow engineers can find some extra grunt out of the corners.

The situation was similar in 2012, but Yamaha was helped by the problems the Hondas had with chatter. So far, the Repsol Honda men have remained silent on the issue, meaning the worst of it is over. Yamaha have their work cut out, and Jorge Lorenzo’s second title defense could be a little too reminiscent of his previous one in 2011.

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.

Wanting, Hoping, Praying for Hayabusa

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

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

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.