2017 Husqvarna FS 450 Puts the “Super” in Supermoto

The 2017 Husqvarna FS 450 is the most advanced factory-built supermoto on the market, full stop. That’s not exactly saying much, considering there are few factory-built supermotos on the market these days, but that doesn’t make the Husqvarna FS 450 any less impressive…nor does it make our desire to have one, any less. A refinement to the machine we saw debut last year, the 2017 Husqvarna FS 450 sees the Swedish supermoto upgraded with air forks, proper traction control, and a list of other enhancements that will help you demolish your local kart track. While not officially listed on Husqvarna North America’s website, American riders looking for some supermoto in their garage should be able to make arrangements at their local Husqvarna dealership.

Tasty Bits, Courtesy of the GMT94 Yamaha EWC Team

I was reminded by a recent post on Racing Café about the FIM Endurance World Championship, which despite being headed to its third round of the season (at Suzuka), is fairly wide open Championship for its top teams. The Suzuka 8-Hour is sure to disrupt the field even more though, as the track’s specialty outfits often out-class the EWC regulars. This means fewer points will be taken home for the factory teams, which only adds more credence to the FIM Endurance World Championship going to down to the season-closer, at the Oschersleben 8-Hour in Germany. To help fuel the fire of interest in endurance racing, today we bring you some high-resolution photos of the French-based factory-backed Yamaha, the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team.

Millions of Motorcyclists Hacked in VerticalScope Breach

If you have ever joined a motorcycle forum, you should probably change all your passwords – right now. This is because VerticalScope, a Canadian company that owns the vast majority of motorcycle web forums (among other types of sites), is reporting that its servers were breached back in February, resulting in data the of 45 million users being compromised. As our friends at Canada Moto Guide pointed out, VerticalScope isn’t the most recognized name in the motorcycle industry, but they are a major player in the space with their holdings in forum communities. Asphalt & Rubber readers will surely recognize their top web property for motorcycles though, the aptly named Motorcycle.com.

Audi Says “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”

After much buzz and fanfare regarding the future of Volkswagen, which in-turn called into question the future of Ducati, today we finally get a glimpse into how VW is going to soldier forth from the fallout of its “Dieselgate” scandal. Instead of announcing how the company was going to restructure itself, and review its current business holdings and ventures, as was reportedly widely in financial circles, instead today saw Volkswagen strongly staking its future in electric and autonomous cars. For Ducatisti, some good news does emerge, as Ducati certainly won’t be leaving its home in the Volkswagen Group. To drive that point further, a Ducati representative confirmed to A&R the words of Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler, who said emphatically that “Ducati is NOT FOR SALE”.

California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote. This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor. For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting. California is America’s playground for motorcyclists, namely in that The Golden State permits motorcycles to split lanes between cars.

Ducati Debuting Two New Bikes at World Ducati Week

If you’re attending this year’s World Ducati Week, then you’re in for a treat, as Ducati is set to debut two new bikes at the gathering in Misano. Details are thin at the moment, but we do know that one of the machines will be a limited-edition motorcycle that celebrates Ducati’s 90th anniversary. Meanwhile the other bike is a new model to the Ducati range, which will be shown in a “closed room” setting as a sort of sneak peak before its official launch. The latter model is rumored heavily to be a large-displacement Scrambler model, with engine sizes of 1,000cc to 1,200cc being banded about. Loyal Ducatisti will remember that the first modern Ducati Scrambler debuted at World Ducati Week in a similar fashion, so there’s some precedent for the line to continue the trend of special “preview” events.

Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well. Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom. With the Honda Grom showing great sales success and the Kawasaki Z125 Pro debuting to favorable reviews, there appears to be a demand for small unassuming motorcycles in markets that are normally dominated by big-displacement machines.

Indian Motorcycle Returns to Flat Track Racing

AMA Pro Flat Track is heating up. First, it was Harley-Davidson announcing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R. And now, we get word that Indian Motorcycle is set to compete as well, debuting today a purpose-built v-twin engine for the job. The Indian Scout FTR v-twin engine is a 750cc liquid-cooled four-valve lump that is specifically designed for flat track racing. Using a specially built chassis, Indian aims to compete in AMA Pro Flat Track, with Jared Mees serving for now as the company’s test rider. Indian says it will compete at a single 2016 event, which is still to be announced, before going after the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track title in full. Presumably Mees will headline that effort as well, which if the case, should make Indian’s entry a very potent one.

BMW Lac Rose Concept – A Vintage-Styled ADV Bike

What you see here is an homage back to a day when men were men, and the Dakar Rally actually went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal and the western-most point of Africa. Called the BMW Lac Rose Concept, this retooled BMW R nineT is named after Lac Rose (Lake Retba to some), which is just outside of Dakar – a picturesque locale, for a photogenic motorcycle. BMW Motorrad styled the Lac Rose concept after the Dakar Rally bikes of the 1980s, which adds to the retro flare that the German brand has been channeling though its R nineT platform. If you believe the rumors, the Lac Rose could very well go into production, as a 2017 model year machine, thus adding a trifecta of throwback machines to BMW’s R nineT lineup, with the R nineT roadster and scrambler models already strong sellers.

Updates Coming for the 2017 KTM 390 Duke

One of the hottest bikes on the market since its 2013 debut, the KTM 390 Duke is seemingly set for a model refresh, with cosmetic updates and other minor technical changes coming our way. This photo above shows the 2017 KTM 390 Duke with its new headlight, and in it you can also see some of the styling changes to the fairings and fuel tank, along with the updated switchgear and dash design. Designed in Austria, but built in India, it doesn’t surprise us to see this photo leak coming from the Bajaj factory near Pune, India – where production has surely already started in anticipation for the next model year. Analyzing this photo, it is interesting to see KTM adopt a very unique split headlight setup for the 390 Duke.

MotoGP: Brno Michelin Tire Test a Washout

08/17/2015 @ 5:42 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Brno Michelin Tire Test a Washout

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The post-race Michelin tests have been something of a frustration for journalists following MotoGP. With riders barred from speaking publicly about the tires, and no official timing for the tests, it has been hard to make sense of the events.

Today’s Brno test was even more frustrating. Rain all day, alternating between heavy downpours and a very light drizzle meant that the track was more or less wet all day. The riders stayed in their garages and race trucks, for the most part, with a handful of riders putting in a handful of laps.

Though the test was mostly a washout for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer did get some useful data from the test. Riders went out on three types of tire: slicks, wets, and intermediates, in varying conditions.

Friday Summary at Indy: Marquez vs. Lorenzo, The Mystery of Tires, & Weird Silly Season Rumors

08/07/2015 @ 9:20 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Every race track has something special, but each is special in a different way. There are the tracks which are notable for the speed, such as Mugello, Termas de Rio Hondo, or Phillip Island. There are tracks which have a spectacular setting, such as Phillip Island, Mugello, or Aragon.

There are tracks which are notable for their layout, either fast and flowing like Assen or Brno, or tight and treacherous such as the Sachsenring. And then there are tracks which are so unlike anywhere else that motorcycle racing goes to that they have a character all of their own. Like Indianapolis.

What makes Indy such a unique challenge? “The special thing about this track is that during the weekend, the grip is improving a lot, so this is one point you must understand during the weekend how the grip improves,” Marc Márquez said.

Understanding this, that the track you roll out onto on Friday morning bears no relation to the track you will be racing on come Sunday, presents a very specific challenge.

It rewards riders and teams who understand how a track matures and changes, can anticipate what is coming without getting ahead of themselves and paying the price for overestimating the available grip. A number of riders did that on Friday morning, especially in Moto3.

MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2016

08/07/2015 @ 9:48 am, by David EmmettComments Off on MotoGP: Pol Espargaro Re-Signs with Yamaha for 2016

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The first part of MotoGP’s truncated silly season has fallen into place. As expected, Yamaha today announced that it has extended its deal with Pol Espargaro for another year.

As such, Espargaro will race a factory-backed Yamaha M1 with the Monster Tech 3 M1 season in 2016.

The news had been widely trailed, and is a sensible choice for the Spaniard. Though Espargaro is rumored to be taking a significant pay cut for next season, signing a one-year deal puts him in step with the factory riders, whose contracts are all up for renewal at the end of 2016.

Thursday Summary at Indy: Improved Hondas, Favored Yamahas, & The Silly Season that Wasn’t

08/07/2015 @ 6:32 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Thursday Summary at Indy: Improved Hondas, Favored Yamahas, & The Silly Season that Wasn’t

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The summer break ended fittingly, in a downpour. Rain engulfed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the riders gathered for the start of the second half of the season, but it failed to dampen their spirits.

Most of them were raring to go, having had three weekends away from racing. The only exceptions were the men who raced the Suzuka 8-Hour race, Pol Espargaro telling reporters he was ‘a little tired’ after missing out on some much needed downtime.

As for the rest? “Looking forward to getting back to riding,” was how Cal Crutchlow summed up the general feeling in the paddock. Fortunately for all concerned, Thursday’s rain is likely to be the last for a few days. The MotoGP weekend should take place under clear skies and with good weather.

Preview of the Indy GP: One Last Time at the Brickyard?

08/04/2015 @ 7:45 pm, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

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Depending on who you ask, MotoGP’s summer break is either too short, or too long. For the fans, three full weekends without MotoGP is a painfully long time, though both World Superbikes and BSB have done a pretty good job of making MotoGP’s absence much more bearable.

For the teams, riders and staff, the four weeks between the Sachsenring and Indianapolis pass in an instant, seeming way too short to qualify as a break.

In between PR appearances and negotiations for 2016, riders are lucky to grab five days R&R before getting back to training for the remainder of the season.

Team staff, on the other hand, spend their time catching up with all of the stuff they didn’t get done in the first half of the season, and try to get a head start on the second half.

What were supposed to be 23 days away from it all get eaten up by a myriad of minor tasks that had been neglected, and before they know it, they are on a plane again and heading for the next race.

Not that they mind: for 99% of the people involved in MotoGP, they are driven by a passion for racing, and being at a race track is their idea of heaven. That is why they are paid so poorly, and what makes the paddock such an inspirational place to be.

Indianapolis is a pretty good place to get back to racing, too. Downtown has a real motorcycle buzz, with bike-related activities going on throughout the weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the most special motorsports facilities in the world, drenched in legend and racing history.

Deciphering the MotoGP Silly Season, Part 1

07/29/2015 @ 3:29 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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If you think that silly season has been a bit quiet this year, you’d be right. Normally by now, we would have passed through the stage of outrageous fabrication, left the wildly inaccurate rumors behind us, and be well into probable rider signing scenarios.

This year, the annual merry-go-round has barely registered, with very little sign of who may end up where for the 2016 season.

Of course, for the most part, this is because all of the factory seats bar the second slots at Aprilia and Ducati are already spoken for in 2016. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro, and Alvaro Bautista all have contracts for next year.

Maverick Viñales’ seat at Suzuki is safe through 2017. Of the currently active factory riders, only Andrea Iannone’s contract could be ended after 2015, but Ducati will be keeping the Italian for 2016 as well.

The only truly vacant seat is the one at Aprilia vacated by Marco Melandri, who never really wanted to be in MotoGP anyway.

Some Thoughts on the Suzuka 8-Hour

07/28/2015 @ 1:31 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Once upon a time, the Suzuka 8 Hour race was a big deal. A very big deal. It was the race the Japanese factories sent their very best riders to compete in, the event often being written into the contracts of the top Grand Prix and World Superbike riders as part of their factory deals.

The list of big names to win the race is impressive. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Daryl Beattie, Aaron Slight, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, Alex Barros, Shinichi Itoh, Tohru Ukawa, Taddy Okada. And of course Valentino Rossi.

There, they faced the very best of the Japanese Superbike riders, as well as the regulars from the World Endurance Championship, of which it forms a part.

It may have been an honor to have been asked to do the race, but the GP riders were far from keen. Held in July, the race fell right in the middle of the Grand Prix season.

Racing in the event meant multiple flights to Japan for testing and practice, then the grueling race itself in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It meant doing the equivalent of four Grand Prix in the space of eight hours, then rushing home to get ready for the next race.

The best case scenario meant they started the next Grand Prix event tired and aching from Suzuka. The worst case was a crash and an injury that either kept them off the bike or left them riding hurt.

The only benefit was that it kept the factories happy, and marginally increased a rider’s chances of extending his contract with the manufacturer for a following season.

2015 Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance Race Results

07/27/2015 @ 11:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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In Japan, the Suzuka 8-Hour is a huge deal, but for the rest of the world, it ranks on par with the rest of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

That’s kind of a shame, really, as the Endurance World Championship is the only motorcycle championship where we still see different tire manufacturers competing against each other, the bikes are beautifully technical in their own special way, and in the case of Suzuka, there are often heavy-hitters at play.

This year was no different, with Yamaha fielding its “Yamaha Factory Racing Team” with two MotoGP stars, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, along with factory test rider and MotoGP podium-finisher Katsuaki Nakasuga.

Friday Summary at Sachsenring: Marquez Gets His Magic Back, Redding Learns That Relaxing Helps You Go Faster

07/10/2015 @ 6:47 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It is a dangerous thing to write a rider off. We learned that with Valentino Rossi, the old man currently leading the championship after two terrible years at Ducati, one tough year at Yamaha and then the first sign of resurgence from the middle of 2014.

Rossi adapted, learned, progressed, and came back stronger. After the first seven races of 2015, the wolf pack in the media center had written off Marc Márquez and HRC.

The Honda RC213V was too aggressive an engine to be tamed by electronics, the chassis too stiff to contain the stampede of horsepower contained in the 90° V4. The bike span, wheelied, and worst of all, slid the rear wheel unpredictably when it touched down ready for braking into the corner.

Márquez was trying, but perhaps a little too hard, riding every lap as if it was his one shot at pole, overloading the front tire to compensate for the lack of braking at the rear.

Márquez was pushing his luck, and it kept running out during the race, the Repsol Honda man either finishing down the order, or ending up in the gravel once the front cried enough.

Thursday Summary at Sachsenring: A Plethora of Tires, A Bullish Marquez, & The Dangers of Suzuka

07/09/2015 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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The Sachsenring treated us to its usual surprises on Thursday, with rain and squally winds blowing through the paddock in the morning, and the sun coming out as the day went on.

Fortunately, the only people out on track were the riders doing reconnaissance laps on the scooters, and safety officers cutting fast laps during their usual pre-weekend track inspection.

As an observer, it is hard to tell the difference between a circuit safety inspection and hooning round the track in one of the many high-end BMW sports cars that the German car-maker provides to Dorna, but I’m sure that as ex-racers, both Loris Capirossi and Franco Uncini know what they are doing.

Weird weather has already had its effect on the tire allocation. Originally, Bridgestone had brought three specifications of front tire, the soft to deal with the cold mornings, the medium to deal with the warmer afternoons, and the asymmetric tire with soft rubber on the right and a compound closer to the medium on the left, to handle the wind gusting to cool the right side of the tire.