Back to the summit of Pikes Peak we go. After a warm-up round on Tuesday morning on Pike’s Peak’s highest elevations, we returned for one final high altitude practice on Thursday morning. With breezy and crisp conditions and ambient temperatures cold enough to freeze water, the riders made their way through the winding, high speed, and very bumpy alpine section.
I, however, have never been the biggest fan of the top 3rd of the mountain. It’s more like shooting on the moon. There is lots to do, but you had better bring your “A” game and a ton of energy to hike yourself around in the low-oxygen environment. It’s grueling.
I was much more conformable at altitude today than I was on Tuesday though….but it doesn’t make it any easier. Despite that, at the end of the session I had come to really enjoy the summit section. I shot in places I had never been before, and enjoyed watching the riders really start to push themselves and the bikes to the limit.
Tomorrow, we go qualifying at the bottom! Day off on Saturday, and Sunday is race day!
It’s time to throw down times. Recon day is over. It’s now or never. The riders will not see these sections of the mountain again until race day.
Some of the rookie riders seem to still be learning the fastest lines, but the old veterans have it down pat and are hurling the bike around the tight switchbacks on Sector 2 of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, my favorite part of the course.
There are long fast straights, tight hairpin turns, and insane drop-offs in Sector 2, and it is also where the mountain gains the most elevation in the shortest period of time — not to mention the sunrises are the best up there. It is a magical thing to watch the sun come up over the horizon over the course of five minutes.
Pikes Peak is always magical. But when you get an amazing sunrise, combined with bikes pushing hard up the mountain, it makes for a fun morning.
The wait is over to see the return to two-wheels by British marque Ariel, as the firm has debuted its very exclusive Ariel Ace motorcycle. Built around a clever modular design, something we have talked about at length here, the Ace is really more than just one motorcycle, and Ariel plans on making each bike bespoke to its customer’s wishes.
At the center of every machine is the 1,237cc V4 engine from the Honda VFR1200F, which is good for 170hp, with 95 lbs•ft of peak torque. Because the VFR’s engine is being utilized by Ariel, the British brand offers a dual-clutch transmission as one of the Ace’s many available options.
Would-be owners will have to decide a number of other options as well, most importantly what kind front-end suspension they wish to run. Ariel offers a traditional upside down Öhlins fork setup, but to be truly unique on the road, the Ariel Ace has an available custom girder suspension setup with an Öhlins TTX at its core. Rear suspension is supplied by Öhlins as well.
Holding everything together is a beautiful aluminum trellis frame, comprised of six sections that are machined to life from billet. Anodized to fit a customer’s tastes, the modular chassis design also has mounting points for a variety of options and accessories, such as different bodywork, fenders, fuel tanks, handlebars, rearsets, seats, and wheels.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a grueling event to cover, and nothing is worse than walking off a plane, from more or less sea level, and heading to the highest part of the mountain for Practice 1.
Pikes Peak is unique. The organizers split the mountain into three sections — cars run two-thirds of the course , while bikes, ATVs and sidecars run the other third.
The bikes started at Devil’s Playground for our first practice, which puts us immediately at high altitude. It tests the bikes and our bodies to the limit. But thankfully, first practice is just about getting the bikes dialed in, and less about making fast times.
To finish first, first you have to finish. Reliability on this mountain will put cracks in even the most well laid out plans. Some riders were already pushing hard, and it was evident. Others were just getting the lay of the land.
Tomorrow we run the middle sector of the mountain. As a photographer, it is my personal favorite spot to shoot. But I’m not looking forward to another 2:15am alarm.
Ducati is hosting its press launch of the 2015 Ducati Monster 821 in Bologna right now, which means that the Italian motorcycle company also just released a ton of high-resoltuion photos of its new water-cooled baby Monster on the interwebs.
Visually very similar to the Monster 1200, the Monster 821 distinguishes itself with lower-spec components, and more noticeably with a double-sided swingarm.
Featuring the same 821cc Testastretta 11° engine (112hp and 65.9 lbs•ft) that is found on the Ducati Hypermotard and Ducati Hyperstrada, the Monster 821 tips the scales at 395.7 lbs (dry) – just 5 lbs less than its 1,200cc counterpart. Other features include traction control, ABS brakes, and a ride-by-wire throttle.
Expect to see the 2015 Ducati Monster 821 in a Ducati dealership near you next month. Pricing is set at $11,495 for the in red and white models, while the “Dark” is priced at $10,995.
Thanks to our network of Bothan spy tipsters, we posted today the still-unreleased photos of the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire. Details were light from our sources though, but Bothans are a tireless breed (note: for new readers, we sort of have this whole Star Wars motif on leaked stories…just roll with it, we already know we’re nerds).
While the consensus on Project Livewire seems to be that it’s a looker, the devil is in the details…and now we have those as well. Featuring a three-phase induction motor with 55 kW of power (just under 74hp) and 52 lbs•ft of torque, the Harley-Davidson Livewire is packing more power than both the Brammo Empulse R (54 hp) and Zero SR (67 hp). That’s the good.
The bad is that despite its hefty casing size, the Harley-Davidson Livewire motorcycle is a little light in the loafers when it comes to battery capacity. Our guesstimate on battery pack size, judging from Harley’s quoted charge time and parameters, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 kWh nominal, a bit less than the 9.3 kWh and 10.0 kWh of the Brammo and Zero.
That means the Harley-Davidson Livewire is good for just over 50 miles of mixed city and highway riding that is limited to 92 mph (we’re not really sure how Harley-Davidson came up with that figure). Expect to go 0-60 in around 4 seconds.
The folks in Milwaukee didn’t invite Asphalt & Rubber to the Harley-Davidson Project Livewire launch and subsequent press embargo, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over publishing the latest find from our Bothan spy network (for the record, A&R has never broken a press embargo that we were invited to).
That all being said, here are the first official photos of the Harley-Davidson Livewire electric motorcycle — the Bar & Shield brand’s foray into electric motorcycle scene — for your viewing pleasure.
Details are still spotty of course (update: you can read the tech specs here), so we will leave that bit of journalism to the publications that Harley-Davidson deemed worthy (maybe it was something we said?). For our part though, we can see a full-glass dash though, which is another first for Harley-Davidson, as well as an LED headlight.
The big kickers will be the price and range, of course. South of $20,000 and north of 100 miles would really make Project Livewire a strong contender on the market. It will remain to be seen if Harley-Davidson can get under/above those two metrics, respectively, though.
Testing alongside the rest of the MotoGP paddock, Suzuki Racing was present again at the Catalunya test, with Randy de Puniet once again turning laps on the Suzuki XRH-1. Now using the Magneti Marelli electronics, Suzuki has the long process of dialing-in the XRH-1′s full potential.
Also a priority at Catalunya was Suzuki’s more powerful iteration of its inline-four engine, which the Japanese OEM hoped would close its gap to the other OEMs. In the hands of Randy de Puniet, the Suzuki XRH-1 was 2.499 seconds off the pace of test-leader Marc Marquez, though that margin comes with an asterisk.
While the rest of the paddock has had since Friday to hone their machines and bodies to the Circuit de Catalunya, Suzuki and RdP did not have that luxury going into Monday’s test. One can also argue De Puniet’s pace to the other GP riders, as with all due respect to the Frechman, Marc Marquez he is not.
With a thousand variables at play (we can even question the validity of test times in general, as teams are testing not qualifying/racing), it is easy to make excuses for RdP and Suzuki as to why the gap remains so far from the other factories, but the end result is that the XRH-1 is a tough character to judge. That makes Suzuki’s return to the GP paddock a bit of a wild card.
With Both of Ducati Corse’s riders praying for a miracle, or a better option, Suzuki could be that salvation. One also has to consider Dani Pedrosa’s rumored $8 million price tag, and the bevy of other contracts that expire at the end of the season. Suzuki’s impending presence is a considerable factor in MotoGP’s game of musical chairs..
Being a difficult factor to judge though has made Suzuki, the Suzuki XRH-1, and Randy de Puniet’s role in all this is very speculative and uncertain. The only thing we can say for sure then is that it will be interesting to watch the limited number of “factory” seats sort themselves out.