Could Golf Balls Be the Answer to Helmet Noise?

While we tend to think of helmet safety in terms of crash protection, another aspect, usually overlooked, is considerably important: wind noise. I can tell you as someone who makes his living off riding motorcycles, I am deathly afraid of losing my hearing from bike and helmet noise, and thus always wear earplugs while riding. I have yet to see a helmet on the market that truly eliminates wind noise to a level that can’t cause hearing damage, and of course that comes with a trade-off for ventilation. When given the choice, I’ll take the helmet that breathes, and keep my earplugs at the ready. Louie Amphlett, a recent product design graduate from the University of Brighton in the UK hopes to have a solution for me and my ears though: a helmet with golf ball dimples on its shell, which he calls the Lenza One.

Carl Sorensen Has Died While Practicing at Pikes Peak

Tragic news comes to us today from Colorado, as racer Carl Sorensen died during today’s practice session for the 93rd Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. With the motorcycles on the top section of the mountain, Carl crashed in a fast left-hand turn, known to have a bump on the racing line, near the summit. Familiar with the PPIHC race course, Carl finished last year’s hillclimb an impressive 16th overall, and 10th in the competitive “Open” class on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. For this year’s race, he made his move into the middleweight class, riding on a Ducati 848 Superbike. An avid motorcycle racer, Carl is survived by his wife and son, and will be sorely missed by all his family, friends, and racing compatriots. Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by Carl’s passing.

Track-Only KTM RC16 Expected to Cost €140,000

The motorcycle world is still processing Honda’s decision to make a road-going version of its RC213V MotoGP race bike, and whether you think its price tag overwhelms, or its spec-sheet underwhelms, the Honda RC213V-S is a testament to the engineering that HRC is capable of producing for its racers. KTM has a similar philosophy afoot. Though Stefan Pierer has made it clear that there will be no successor to the KTM 1190 RC8 R street bike, the company will be making a track-only customer version of its own MotoGP race bike: the KTM RC16. As we get closer to 2017, we will learn more details about the company’s 1,000 V4-power GP bike, and its customer counterpart as well, which is due in the second-part of 2018. For now, we get word that it will cost a mere €140,000.

NASCAR Powerhouse Could Takeover Laguna Seca Ops

The operation of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could be set to change hands, as Monterey County officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the France family’s International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to takeover operations at the rack track. ISC should be a familiar name to NASCAR fans, as the corporation not only built Daytona International Speedway, but the company’s primary business is owning and operating NASCAR race tracks (roughly half of the NASCAR season takes place on an ISC-owned track). Owning 13 tracks in all, ISC could add another if its deal with Monterey County goes forward, supplanting the nonprofit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), which has operated Laguna Seca since its inception in 1957.

Monty by XTR Pepo

The “Monty” is the latest build from XTR Pepo, and as you can tell from the styling, this is the work of the same mind that brought us the Radical Ducati. Pepo has since branched out from Ducatis though, taking on other brands, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Monty started life as a 1978 Laverda 500 Alpino — the name being a nod to the Laverda Montjuic, which was based off the Alpino, and affectionately called “Monty” in-short by its owners. While there are a number of Laverda parts in the build, if you look closely at XTR Pepo’s Monty, you will see the swingarm from a Suzuki Bandit, front forks from a Ducati Monster, a GSX-R600 clutch lever, and Honda CBR600RR footpegs — all in the name of continuing of XTR Pepo’s motorcycle pick-and-pull build style.

How About Some Halo Bike Spec-Sheet Racing?

With the Honda RC213V-S debuting at Catalunya last week, much has already been said about Big Red’s road-going GP bike…especially in terms of how it compares to other halo bike motorcycles that have been 0r currently are on the market. So, in the interest of exploring solely the most basic attributes from a motorcycle’s technical specification sheet, we have compiled a spreadsheet to see how the Honda RC213V-S stacks up against its most analogous street bikes. As such, we have compiled the horsepower, dry weight, and cost of the the Ducati Desmosedici RR, Ducati 1199 Superleggera, Kawasaki Ninja H2R, MV Agusta F4 RC, EBR 1190RS, and Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycles — you can see the easy-to-read chart (after the jump), and make your own comparisons to the RC213V-S.

Report: KTM 390 Adventure Begins Testing in India

It’s been a while since we heard about the KTM 390 Adventure, the Austrian company’s third installment to its built-in-India small-displacement motorcycle lineup. Based off the KTM 390 Duke, the Adventure model has been a long-time coming, ever since KTM CEO Stefan Pierer lit it slip that the dual-sport would be coming, two and a half years ago. It seems now that KTM is getting closer to production, as the folks at CarTrade are reporting that two test models of the KTM 390 Adventure (codenamed KT22) have been sent to India for R&D, presumably as a prelude to Bajaj beginning production on the budget-friednly machines.

Is This What a Modern Honda NSR250R Would Look Like?

The Honda NSR250R is a special machine. When the 249cc, tw0-stroke, 90° v-twin GP bike with lights first hit the streets of Japan, it cost roughly $7,500 in hard-earned American dollars — a tidy sum back then, especially for a 300 lbs machine that made 40hp stock. A coveted item for motorcycle collectors and discerning track riders a like, you can pick one up for over $10,000, the limited-production road-going version wasn’t terribly different from the 250GP World Championship bikes that factory teams were racing. A topical reminder, if we do say so ourselves… So how do you improve upon such a great machine? Ask the folks at TYGA Performance, who have been tinkering with NSR250R sport bikes since they opened in 2000.

Will MV Agusta Be Reviving the Cagiva Brand? Should It?

Talking to the Varese News, MV Agusta Executive Vice President Giorgio Girelli let slip a number of interesting tidbits about the Italian company — the biggest news of course concerns another company, Cagiva. Acknowledging the circulating rumors about the revival of the historic brand, Girelli was quick to point out that it’s not in the company’s current plan, but that the possibility was certainly there. Going further about the idea, Girelli suggested that Cagiva would make the most sense as a purely off-road brand, which would compliment MV Agusta’s pure on-road offerings.

Here is the $184,000 Honda RC213V-S Street Bike

Honda has finally debuted its “absolute MotoGP machine for the street” – the highly anticipated and hyped Honda RC213V-S. First off, the rumors are true: this is not going to be an affordable motorcycle. The 2016 Honda RC213V-S will cost $184,000 in the USA, with each of the 200 or so units will be hand-built at Honda’s Kumamoto factory. With different versions for different markets, Honda says that the RC213V-S tips the scales at a claimed 170kg dry weight (190kg wet) in the USA, which isn’t exactly mind-blowingly light. Even more disappointing, the Honda RC213V-S will be tuned for 101hp at 8,000 rpm (66 lbs•ft of torque) for the American market, and the power-boosting sport kit will not be available to the US buyers.

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

ducati-desmosedici-rr-naked

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

2010-MotoGP-Qatar-exhaust-headers-Scott-Jones

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

Human-Head-Motorcycle-Helmet

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.

How 3D Printing Is Going To Change Motorcycling

10/05/2012 @ 2:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.

Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.

For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).

The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.

This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.

As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.

As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

09/26/2012 @ 7:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler38 COMMENTS

The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

The Four Killer Apps of the Electric Motorcycle

07/03/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Electric motorcycles: love them or hate them, our two-wheeled future is here my riding brethren. I can hear the collective groan of petrol-heads as this subject is broached though. Yes, it is hard to get excited about electric motorcycles in their current state, and why should you be excited about them? I may not blindly gush about electrics as much as the Kool-aid drinking EV crowd does, but I’m decisively on the pro-electric side of the debate. Yet, even I have a hard time looking at what is available on the market, and imagining a scenario where my hard-earned blogging dollars would grab an electric motorcycle over its internal combustion counterpart.

Part of the reason is that there is no real appealing reason to go electric at this point in time. Oh sure, you can do your part to save the environment, though the net-effect with our coal-dependent energy infrastructure will still play a tremendous detriment on the reality of one-less petrol-burning motorcycle on the road. That being said, electricity out of a home outlet is super-cheap, out of someone else’s outlet it is even cheaper, and the “where our power comes from” debate really should be looked at as separate from the green-vehicle debate. Of course, the break-even analysis on the total cost of owning a 250cc motorcycle compared to even the most robust electric motorcycle is still fairly dubious — and let’s be honest, grouping the current offering of electric motorcycles in with a 250cc commuter bike is probably a disservice to the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R’s of the world.

So with all the Negative Nancy about electrics, why am I still talking about them? Because there is tremendous potential with a fully digital powertrain, that’s why. Forget the CD vs. tape cassette analogy, this is a Pandora vs. LP shift in technology — but we just don’t have a killer app yet for electric motorcycles. Defined as “the concept that a singular feature is so prolific that its proves the core value of a larger technological system, often driving consumers to make a purchasing decision on the product or system that highlights the feature,” it is clear that electric motorcycles have yet to define the advantage they represent to motorcyclists — not because there is no value in the system, but because electric motorcycle manufacturers have failed to provide the killer app to their core technology.

As it stands now, electric motorcycles are basically conventional motorcycles with batteries and motors that replace fuel tanks and engines. It is the same basic offering that we have had since the turn of the century, except with three times the cost, forty times the refuel time, and a quarter of the range. While the big hold-up for electrics, battery technology, is still advancing rapidly, at the end of the day consumers are still be making apples-to-apples comparisons between internal combustion and electric motorcycles because only the most basic elements of this new technology is being offered by electric OEMs (i.e. getting you from Point A to Point B).

There is a tremendous amount at stake for electric motorcycle OEMs beyond just the basics of the market status quo, as the first electric motorcycle OEM that figures out how to deliver a killer app to the electric motorcycle space, is going to be the first electric motorcycle company to find real traction with the born-on-gasoline motorcycle riding masses. Progressing from immediate needs to long-term goals, I have compiled a roadmap of four killer apps that the electric motorcycle space needs to bring to market. Each killer app builds off the next, and the whole exercise concludes on what I believe is the most important idea in motorcycling. Now, who is going to be the first to make these ideas a reality?