Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain

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

Trackside Tuesday: Climbing a Mountain carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

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 to Race the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb guy martin iomtt 2013 tony goldsmith 635x421

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

This is the Reason Why Pikes Peak Needs Spectator Zones sebastien loeb idiot pikes peak 635x421

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

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Will Have Major Spectator Restrictions in 2014 and Onward, For Safety carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

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

Taking Performance to New Heights   The Story of SBK Factory Racing at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb jake holden sbk factory pikes peak ppihc 635x423

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.

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike

07/12/2013 @ 12:11 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak Race Bike Spider Grips Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Pikes Peak race bike 02 635x423

Another year, and another Pikes Peak race bike from the Falkner Livingston Racing crew to frustrate current Ducati Multistrada 1200 S owners. This gorgeous machine was quick all throughout practice week in the hands of Micky Dymond, but being the first runner out of the gate on race day, with a very green track that had endured two heavy rainstorms, Micky hit the tarmac on several occasions during his Race to the Clouds — a herculean effort in its own right.

Certainly not the result the team deserved, but as Nicky Hayden is found to remind us, that’s why we line-up on the grid on Sunday. Taking the “official” fastest time up the mountain on a motorcycle was Bruno Langlois, with the Frenchman riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S as well. Of course, we all know Carlin Dunne was the fastest up the course on his electric superbike from Lightning Motorcycles, but the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb doesn’t count the exhibition class in those results.

Each year I wax on about how gorgeous these Multistradas are, and this year is no different. In the pictures after the jump you will find yet another mouth-watering Ducati, with a new race livery, a custom-built exhaust from Akrapovič (only six were made), carbon brakes, a dry slipper-clutch conversion, and a bevy of other interesting modifications to the Italian adventure sport-tourer. Enjoy!

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles Beat All Gas Bikes at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

06/30/2013 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler46 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Motorcycles Beat All Gas Bikes at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb carlin dunne pikes peak international hill climb lightning motorcycles jensen beeler 635x423

It wasn’t the outright course record that we had hoped for, but Carlin Dunne set a superb 10’00.694 time up the mountain on his Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike, besting the top gas-bike time of the day, a 10’21.323 that was set by Bruno Langlois on his 1205cc class Ducati Multistrada 1200 S.

Setting the fastest time ever for an electric motorcycle up Pikes Peak, Dunne likely would have broken his own outright record had the PPIHC race course not been extremely green after two days of intermittent downpours.

Describing the course as having very little traction, compared to the earlier practice days, Dunne cited at least a dozen spots where he could have improved upon his time, but also acknowledged that one of those twelve areas likely would have been his stopping point for the day, as was the case for a bevy of other competitors.

The first major motorsport event to see an electric motorcycle out perform its gas counterparts, the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will surely be remembered as a turning-point for the historic race, and also for motorsport in general.

2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Motorcycle Results

06/30/2013 @ 12:03 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak

06/28/2013 @ 10:38 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne & Lightning Set Fastest Qualifying Time Ever for a Motorcycle at Pikes Peak carlin dunne lightning motorcycles 635x423

In its second year of having a fully paved road course to the summit, it should come as no surprise then that qualifying for the 91st running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb saw the quickest time ever set by a motorcycle.

It should also come as no surprise that the man setting the record was Carlin Dunne, the 2011 race winner and rookie of the year, and 2012 race winner and outright motorcycle record holder.

Qualifying on the lower section of the Pikes Peak course, Dunne put down an astounding 4’13 lap time — putting him five seconds clear of his nearest two-wheeled competition.

While it is impressive that Dunne was able to beat out the Ducati Multistrada 1200′s in the 1205cc class, what is perhaps the most intriguing piece of news is that Dunne set the qualifying record while riding the Lightning Motorcycles Flying Banana*.

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle

06/13/2013 @ 3:02 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

PPIHC: Carlin Dunne Sets Outright Best Motorcycle Time at Pikes Peak Tire Test on a Lightning Motorcycle carlin dunne lightning motorcycles thunderhill track test 635x423

The competitors for the 91st Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have just concluded a two-day tire test at the Colorado road course, and it should perhaps come as no surprise that our boy Carlin Dunne has posted the outright fastest lap for a motorcycle during the tire test (the Santa Barbara native set the outright two-wheeled course record last year on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S).

What is surprising about Carlin’s result at the tire test is that he was on the Lightning Motorcycles electric superbike. That’s right, the fastest bike so far for 2013′s Race to the Clouds is a 200+ hp electric superbike that is refueled with solar energy. Petrol heads, eat your heart out.