2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market. For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection. Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Photo of the Week: True Grit

06/20/2011 @ 10:25 am, by Scott JonesComments Off on Photo of the Week: True Grit

Tech 3’s other rider is in the spotlight this week, after Colin Edwards turned some attrition up front into a broken-collarbone-podium for the French team at Silverstone. Cal Crutchlow’s collarbone, fractured in a cold-tire crash in Qualifying, has been repaired, but only after a delay of a couple of days to assess possible damage to several vertebrae.

Crutchlow is known as one of the toughest competitors in motorbike racing. Given Edwards’s attempt to ride the day after breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Cal will surely want to make the next race two weeks after his own injury, the aforementioned operation delay and the fact that his fracture required reassembling four separate pieces of collarbone not withstanding.

Accordingly, he will test the waters on Thursday to see if he feels well enough to compete in Saturday’s GP at Assen. The recent collarbone epidemic’s first victim, Dani Pedrosa, will miss the Dutch TT after a second operation to repair his Le Mans injury. Many fingers will be crossed in the hopes that we can complete a GP weekend without anyone on the sparse GP grid breaking a collarbone, or worse.

Photo of the Week: Unbreakable

06/13/2011 @ 10:07 am, by Scott Jones6 COMMENTS

The ups and downs of racing are sometimes quite amazing. After breaking his collarbone at Catalunya, Colin Edwards had his flights booked to return home and skip the British GP. But he felt well enough after his operation to pin the break that he stayed. Seeing his teammate, Cal Crutchlow, break his collarbone in qualifying, Colin then went on to claim a podium for the beleaguered Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.

Boss Herve Poncharal told me when I congratulated him in the paddock that yesterday he’d been ready to commit suicide (not literally of course), and a day later he has two riders on the box, as Bradley Smith snagged second place in the Moto 2 race. Congratulations to all the Tech 3 folks!

Photo of the Week: No Looking Back

06/06/2011 @ 11:28 am, by Scott Jones20 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi is not happy. His tone had clearly changed in Catalunya when speaking to the media about the state of the Ducati GP11’s development. Though probably not expecting a repeat of his debut success on the Yamaha at Welkom, Rossi was also probably not expecting to be as far off the pace as he is five races into the season. Word around the paddock is that Ducati has until Mugello to sort the bike out, and change it to a machine that Rossi can win with. If the mysteries of a carbon fiber chassis can’t be solved in time for Rossi’s home Grand Prix, the 2011 season is likely to become very interesting indeed.

Photo of the Week: A Bull on the Loose

05/31/2011 @ 12:19 pm, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

The story of the 5th WSBK round at Miller Motorsports Park was all Carlos Checa. Last year he had the pace but not a reliable machine. This year he had both, dominating the weekend with the triple crown: Superpole and victories in Race 1 and Race 2. MMP provided a formidable challenge with wildly varying weather, from pouring rain to bright sunshine to freezing cold winds. Adaptable, patient, and just plain the fastest rider of the weekend, Checa rose above all difficulties and earned a well-deserved double victory.

A pair of Utah wins that has been long overdue since he had to retire twice out of commanding leads last year due to mechanical problems. Checa also extended his lead in the Championship, and seems well on his way to his first world title. His amiable personality and good humor will surely make him a popular champion should he reach the season’s finish line in first place.

Photo of the Week: It’s Not Easy Being Max Biaggi

05/23/2011 @ 10:16 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

With World Superbike coming to Miller Motorsports Park next weekend, many eyes are on reigning champ Max Biaggi. Will Max be able to recover from a rocky season’s start to keep the title in Aprilia’s trophy case? Or will a charging Carlos Checa and upstart Marco Melandri continue to show no respect for Max’s greatness? Since his early days as a fantastic 250cc two-stroke rider, Max has had his share of disrespectful rivals.

Last year he, and the dominant Aprilia, added another star to his dorsal display of world titles. But in 2009 he ran into some trouble with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga. You can never fault Max for not trying hard enough–in qualifying Max held onto the throttle as he dumped the RSV4 in the Attitudes, though Spies would win both races that weekend. Whether you love him or hate him, Max gives it all he’s got.

Photo of the Week: King of the Hill

05/16/2011 @ 11:19 am, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

In the not so old days of AMA Superbike, Mladin or Spies won on a factory Suzuki, and the question was who would finish third. In 2010 Josh Hayes and Tommy Hayden finished the season only 14 points apart, Hayes claiming the number one plate for Yamaha with 466 points. But 2011 got off to a different start altogether with Hayden’s teammate, Blake Young, winning both Superbike races at Daytona and leaving Hayes and Hayden to swap places in the lower regions of the podium.

The second event of the season took place at Infineon Raceway this weekend, and Yamaha rider Josh Hayes won the first Superbike race by over seven seconds. Tommy Hayden took second, now the only one of the three yet to win. On Sunday he followed Hayes until five laps from the end before passing the Yamaha and holding on for the win. Young claimed third place, though he’d allowed Martin Cardenas to ruin the 3-way monopoly the day before, as the M4 Suzuki rider claimed third in Race One.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Tommy, the eldest of the three Hayden brothers. Though I don’t photograph much AMA, I do see Tommy at MotoGP races where he often comes to support his brother, Nicky. Always cordial in spite of his shyness, Tommy graciously deals with Nicky’s success and notoriety. I would really like to see Tommy follow in younger brother’s footsteps to win the AMA Superbike title this year.

Photo of the Week: The Passing Scent of Two-Strokes

05/09/2011 @ 6:00 am, by Scott Jones5 COMMENTS

I love the smell of two-strokes in the morning…or the evening, or the afternoon. But just as Hiroshi Aoyama became the final 250cc two-stroke champion in 2009, at the end of this season we’ll have one last 125cc world champion. Most money is on Spaniard Nicol Terol, who without last season’s rival Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro to get in his way, has dominated the 125cc season so far.

Rumors that his current competitors let him get far ahead so they don’t have to look at the color scheme of his livery are untrue: Terol is just that fast on a tiny 125cc machine. Next season, the kids and odd grown-up who don’t move on to Moto2 will be on the replacement Moto3 class bikes. In a nutshell these are 250cc 4-strokes, but for all the details look here.

MotoGP will of course be leaving the 800cc engines behind to return to liter engines, so many changes are in store for 2012. One of the most notable will certainly be the absence of the approaching bee swarm sound as the little bikes and little riders approach on their out lap, the 2-stroke whine growing louder as the wind carries it across the track, and the pleasant odor of the oil and gas mix as the crowd goes by for the first time. Another chapter in the history of Grand Prix motorbike racing is coming to a close in 2011.

Photo of the Week: Physician, Heal Thyself

05/02/2011 @ 3:53 pm, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi managed a fifth place at Estoril this weekend, barely missing fourth as Andrea Dovizioso nipped him at the line after tailgating most of the race. The Doctor continues to have his hands full with the GP11, despite a nearly recovered shoulder and the ability to ride closer to his own personal potential. As graceful as Lorenzo looks on the Yamaha that Rossi and Jeremy Burgess developed, Rossi looks just as awkward at times on Casey Stoner’s old ride.

In response to Rossi’s complaints about all that is wrong with the Ducati, Stoner was quick to point out that the bike was good enough to win three of 2010’s final six races, suggesting that Rossi simply needed to adjust his riding style in order to go faster. The Doctor would rather heal the patient than himself however, and he and his team will continue to work on major changes to the GP11.

In the mean time, from images like the one above, we can see how Rossi struggles with his body position as he tries to get the Ducati to keep up with the Hondas and Yamahas. The switch to Ducati is looking like perhaps the greatest challenge of his career.

Photo of the Week: Head of the Class

04/25/2011 @ 6:01 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Part of the interest of the first race of the MotoGP season relates to the class photos, where the riders come out first for the 125cc group shot, then Moto2, and last the MotoGP riders appear. The 125 riders are mainly kids, so there is a lot of joking around in high voices that haven’t dropped yet. Moto2 is a mix of young and not as young, but it’s still a large field so the phrase “herding cats” is likely to be uttered a few times as the Dorna folks try to get everyone into position for the photograph.

The MotoGP riders are much fewer in number, but the group makes up for its smaller size with proportionally larger egos, and the premier class’ mind games are already well under way when it comes to which individuals will appear to sit down first, and wait for those who chose not to wait for anyone else.

Photo of the Week: Hands of Perseverance

04/18/2011 @ 7:04 am, by Scott Jones4 COMMENTS

Sometimes I make an image which, at the time, seems fairly ordinary, but later emerges as something of an unexpected interest. When I saw Toni Elias about to mount up to begin his Moto 2 title chase, I thought it interesting that someone who had been in the premier class for five seasons couldn’t manage to take to the track with matching gloves. When Elias went on to become the first Moto2 champ, I included this image in the MotoMatters.com calendar, thinking it even more ironic that the future class champion had begun the season with this odd equipment choice.

During a speaking appearance at the San Francisco Dainese D-Store, I spoke to assistant manager Mike J. who shed some more insight on the photo. While holding a copy of the calendar open to the October page, Mike pointed out that while Elias had an Alpinestars glove on his right hand, the glove on his left was by Dainese. Due to Elias’ contract with A-stars, Elias had the logo and brand references covered up. I had not recognized the brand, only that the design was different from his Alpinestars glove.