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.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Friday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/28/2014 @ 2:29 pm, by Jamey Price2 COMMENTS

Friday-2014-Pikes-Peak-International-Hill-Climb-Jamey-Price-01

At long last, we were down on the bottom section of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race course. Each group that runs the bottom uses it as their qualifying run — fastest time to the flag at Glen Cove is on pole.

The bottom section is distinctly different from the two above it. It is the only section completely in the tree line, so you get some interesting light coming through the pine trees.

I find the bottom to be particularly difficult as a photographer. It offers fewer options and vantage points than the sections above, but it has the advantage of not being so high of altitude, so working and walking there is slightly easier.

At the end of our morning, Lambert Fabrice was on pole on the #38 bike, which isn’t at all surprising considering he has been swinging off his machine like a mountain goat version of Marc Marquez.

Saturday is a well deserved day off for everyone. After four straight mornings of alarm clocks sounding off at 2:20 am, we all need a little rest. Nothing happens on the mountain as far as official race practice goes, but almost everyone will probably do one more sighting run with the public traffic.

They won’t see or run the mountain until Sunday, and when they do, it will be one run — fastest to the top is king of the mountain. It’s a long day. Hopefully free of red flags and clear weather….sadly, I almost guarantee we won’t be free of either.

Thursday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/26/2014 @ 11:04 pm, by Jamey Price3 COMMENTS

2014-Thursday-Pikes-Peak-International-Hill-Climb-Jamey-Price-04

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!

What a “Good” Crash at Pikes Peak Looks Like

06/25/2014 @ 5:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

jeff-grace-crash-pikes-peak-2014

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a risky proposition, especially for the competitors in the motorcycle classes. A course where instead of run-off, sheer drops and rock-filled inclines abound, the joke is that if you go down at any one of the 156 turns that comprise the race course, it’s likely that you won’t die from the impact…you’ll die from starvation during the drop.

That is certainly hyperbole (except for the turn aptly named “Bottomless Pit”), as the danger is very real. We can give no better example than the footage from yesterday’s motorcycle session, at the top of the mountain.

During the practice days, competitors go full-tilt up the mountain road, are collected, and then as a group descend to the starting point for another run. That day for supermoto rider Tom Specht, in the Pikes Peak Middleweight class, the mountain showed why you can never let your guard down.

Taking a tumblefew miles from the summit, Specht was “lucky” in the sense that he only suffered shoulder injuries from his rapid descent. This could have been way worse.

For Jeff Grace, who “caught” Specht’s Honda CRF450 as it landed in the road in front him — well, at least he only has some scuffs and scrapes, not to mention a great video to show everyone. No crash is ever a good crash, but at Pikes Peak, this might be as “good” as it gets, since everyone involved will ride another day.

The 92nd running of the “Race to the Clouds” goes off Sunday morning. We’ll be bringing you more pictures and report throughout the rest of the week. Stay tuned right here to A&R.

Wednesday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/25/2014 @ 4:30 pm, by Jamey Price10 COMMENTS

Wednesday-2014-Pikes-Peak-International-Hill-Climb-Jamey-Price-02

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.

Tuesday at Pikes Peak with Jamey Price

06/24/2014 @ 5:35 pm, by Jamey Price4 COMMENTS

Tuesday-2014-Pikes-Peak-International-Hill-Climb-Jamey-Price-04

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.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

05/06/2014 @ 4:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb-lightning-motorcycles-jensen-beeler

Normally our “Trackside Tuesday” series features something from the MotoGP paddock, since that is where the A&R photographers spend most of their time swinging lenses. But, I thought we would change it up a bit today, especially since the marketing machine for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is well underway for next month’s race.

I have a love-hate relationship with Pikes Peak. The racing is unlike anything else you will see in America, and it survives by what seems like tradition alone. Set on one of Colorado’s famous 14er peaks, Pikes Peak is 14,115 feet of undulating road, which starts fast and sweeping, tightens to slow and technical, and then finally relents to some degree near the summit.

It is not a race for the timid, as many of the turns feature an extreme of terrain: granite walls or sheer drops. At one turn, called The Bottomless Pit, the joke is that if you crash there (and don’t break every bone in your body on the two foot tall wall at the tarmac’s end), you will starve to death before you reach terra firma. It’s a bit of hyperbole for sure, but it still isn’t a turn where I would want to go down, if I was a racer.

It amazes me then that the hill climb is in its 92nd season, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is really just one good lawsuit away from being sacked; and to be frank, it’s not like the race has done much in the past to mitigate its exposure. So, it is refreshing to see some professionalism being brought to this iconic race, and 2014 will see some spectator guidelines being imposed on the PPIHC.

There will of course be a few misinformed people that will call this the death of Pikes Peak, but the honest truth is that the race, if left unchanged, would have been the death of itself — and it’s not like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb isn’t still without its dangers.

That might be the reason that Guy Martin has finally decided to make the journey over from across the pond, and give the local teams and riders a run for their money. The Isle of Man TT star will be riding on a custom turbocharged cafe racer, which with the added boost of nitrous, is said to put down near 500hp.

The whole thing is a ridiculous entry, which has its sights squarely on the outright motorcycle record at Pikes Peak, much like Sebastien Loeb’s run last year was an assault on the four-wheeled record.

Guy Martin to Race the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

05/05/2014 @ 3:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

guy-martin-iomtt-2013-tony-goldsmith

It seems Guy Martin, the barely understandable, though immediately lovable road racer of Isle of Man TT fame will compete in the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. One of the stars of the Isle of Man TT, and perhaps the fastest man on the Mountain Course who has never won an IOMTT race, Martin’s involvement with “The Race to the Clouds” has been a long time coming.

The organizers at the PPIHC have long been trying to get riders and teams from the Isle of Man TT onto the Pikes Peak road course, in an effort to bolster the race’s international appeal and reputation, as well as breathe new life and interest into the historic American race.

Our sources say a special effort was made to lure Guy Martin, who was the centerpiece personality in the Isle of Man’s Closer to the Edge film, and it seems those efforts have finally paid off with this latest news.

This is the Reason Why Pikes Peak Needs Spectator Zones

04/25/2014 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

sebastien-loeb-idiot-pikes-peak

I got a bit fired up yesterday while I was talking about the spectator zones that will be put into place for the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and I got a bit of flak for calling it “the world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event.It is, full stop.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is about to host its 92nd running, and in the almost hundred years of competition, the Race to Clouds has failed to move beyond its folksy roots.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this race. It’s a great historic event, which actually gets more coverage abroad than it does in the United States. But, it has some serious growing to do from a safety, media, coverage, and promotional point-of-view.

Implementing new rules for the 2014, as to where spectators can view the race, is a huge step forward for Pikes Peak, and the following video is a great example why some modicum of professional organization needs to be brought to this race.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Will Have Major Spectator Restrictions in 2014 and Onward, For Safety

04/24/2014 @ 11:09 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

carlin-dunne-pikes-peak-international-hill-climb-lightning-motorcycles-jensen-beeler

The world’s most unprofessionally run international motorsport event is growing up a little bit for 2014, as the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will finally have spectator restrictions on its mountain-side race course starting with this year’s event.

Instead of having spectators sitting right on the tarmac, in a sort of 12.42 mile free-for-all, event organizers for “The Race to the Clouds” will have severe spectating restrictions, with six designated spectating zones located throughout the race course.

In total, the six spectating zones will account for roughly 1.5 miles of course length, so roughly 1/10 the original area available to PPIHC fans. As such for 2014, a general admission ticket will give a spectator access to the starting line, Halfway Picnic Grounds, Ski Area, Glen Cove, Cove Creek, and the Devil’s Playground.

However, once the race begins, fans will be stuck at whichever location they choose, and law enforcement officers will issue trespassing tickets to those fans found outside those areas, i.e. hiking the interconnecting trails along the race course.

“Taking Performance to New Heights” – The Story of SBK Factory Racing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

12/16/2013 @ 11:13 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

jake-holden-sbk-factory-pikes-peak-ppihc

I have been patiently waiting for this video from OnTheThrottle.tv to show up in my inbox, ever since I saw Chris Matye filming the project at the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, as there is a great story to be told about the pair of Kawasaki ZRX1224RR superbikes that SBK Factory campaigned at the latest Race to the Clouds.

Riding the two Kawasakis were Jake Holden and James Compton, and both riders put down impressive times up the 12.42 mile Pikes Peak course — Holden was the third quickest motorcycle up the mountain overall, and Compton sixth. The pair were second and third fastest in their Exhibition Powersports class, behind only the current record holder, Carlin Dunne.

With now four installments to the series, “Taking Performance to New Heights” features two men who found themselves the victims of the new economy that is currently at play in AMA Pro Road Racing, and follows their quest to race then at Pikes Peak.

The videos also tells the story behind the development, building, and racing of a very special and unique pair of race bikes, and I can tell you from examining these ZRX’s up-close in person, and watching them race at Pikes Peak, SBK Factory’s Kawasaki ZRX1224RR looks as good as it goes (Holden’s bike is for sale, by the way).

If you planned on getting any work done today, you should probably not continue reading this post. We have all four installments of SBK Factory’s Pikes Peak story on video for you here.