Not-A-Review: I Finally Understand the Polaris Slingshot

All the way back in February, I got an email from a loyal A&R reader, Tone, who had just put a down payment on the Polaris Slingshot. He had just sold his Honda RC-51 to make room in the garage for his new three-wheeled toy…to put it shortly, he was excited for his soon-to-arrive “motorcycle”. I have to admit…I didn’t quite get the fuss about the new Slingshot — and to sell an RC-51 (a bike I wouldn’t having in mind two-wheeled collection) for one? That seemed sort of blasphemous — may the Gods of Motorcycling forgive this transgression. Tone’s enthusiasm and offer to give me a ride in his scoot, once it arrived, won me over in the end though. After all, if you’re not having a good time in a motorcycle, even a three-wheeled one, you’re probably doing it wrong. Right?

Ride Review: Aprilia RSV4 RF

After a great many success in World Superbike, Aprilia claims to have improved the venerable 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR street bike once more. Aprilia’s halo motorcycle has lost a couple of pounds and its power output has risen to a punchy 201hp. To celebrate this milestone Aprilia not only unleashes the standard RR version, but also a limited run of 500 units for the “RF” (Racing Factory) bikes.The RSV4 RF hosts obvious upgrades such as forged wheels, Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and a WSBK-inspired color scheme. To see how the updated RSV4 goes, we were invited to review RF #77 out of 500, on the newly resurfaced Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”.

Team Hero EBR Withdraws from World Superbike

After first saying it would be business as usual, Team Hero EBR has regrouped and found that it will not be continuing in the 2015 World Superbike Championship. Though a change in announcements, the news is perhaps unsurprising considering the state of EBR and the economic troubles reportedly faced by Hero MotoCorp. The team quotes the “recent bankruptcy of EBR and the re-prioritizing of efforts by title sponsor Hero” as the cause of its withdrawal, with Pegram Racing hoping to announce its future racing plans soon. “This is a really hard pill for us all at Pegram Racing to swallow, as we always live by the philosophy of Never Give Up,” said team owner Larry Pegram.

MV Agusta USA Expands Dealer Network

One of the main issues MV Agusta USA’s new management is addressing right off the bat is the company’s dealer network in the United States. It was an issue that considerable time was spent on during our media meeting with them late last year, and clearly the American subsidiary has heard the pleas of journalists and consumers alike. As such, MV Agusta USA is announcing the addition of nine new dealers to its list, which is roughly a 25% increase in MV Agusta dealers in the USA. Of course, simply adding more dealers doesn’t solve MV Agusta’s problem in the US, finding the right dealers is key. “We have a continual strategy to make changes in selected open areas where rider demand is high and the prospective MV rider community is underserved,” said Helen Vasilevski, CEO of MV Agusta USA.

Recycled Dainese Leathers for Your Two-Wheeled Lifestyle

What are you to do with a set of leathers, once they’ve been retired from protecting your motorcycling hide? The answer to that question is why Dainese has teamed up with Regenesi, an Italian firm known for recycling old products and turning them into new ones. Taking the crashed leathers of Dainese’s sponsored riders, Regenesi turns the leather pieces into various lifestyle items, like wallets ($139), smartphone sleeves ($79), key fobs ($54), etc. Each piece is obviously unique, comes straight from the race track, and is hand-made in Italy. Helping things too is the fact that Dainese is selling (re-selling?) the pieces at a reasonable prices, so buying a wallet doesn’t also hurt you in the wallet.

Troy Bayliss Riding a Ducati Scrambler Inspired Race Bike

We already know that Troy Bayliss will be making another return to racing this year, taking on five one-mile events on the AMA Pro Grand National Series. We also knew that Bayliss would be on a Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike, continuing the Australian’s link to the Italian brand. Ducati has given us a glimpse of that flat-tracking machine, and to our surprise, it seems the folks in Bologna are looking to get some more marketing mileage out of the partnership, as Troy’s race bike is a spitting image of the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle. Of course, Bayliss will compete with an 1,100cc air-cooled machine, in lieu of the Scrambler’s 803cc v-twin engine. The race bike will feature a custom-built chassis, and of course 19″ flat track wheels.

Oregon Just Got Closer to Legalizing Lane-Filtering*

Motorcyclists living in the fine State of Oregon (this author included) have something to celebrate today, as the Oregon State Senate passed SB 694 (18 to 10, with two abstentions): proposal that would make lane-filtering or lane-sharing legal under certain conditions. The bill now goes before the Oregon House of Representatives, where it will be first heard on April 27th. If voted on successfully in the House, Oregon will become only the second state to permit lane-filtering of some kind on public roads. While today’s news is a boon for motorcyclists in Oregon, there are some serious caveats to the bill that has passed through the Senate, namely that it only permits lane-sharing during specific instances.

The End of Marzocchi Suspension is Nigh?

Reports out of Italy suggest that the Marzocchi brand may soon be no more, after parent company Tenneco made the decision to close the Italian firm’s Bologna factory in Zola Predosa. The Italain outlets go on to say that motorcycle manufacturers that use Marzocchi as an OEM part have been notified that they will no longer be supplied with the suspension pieces, once the co Marzocchi’s stock of forks has been exhausted from supply. This news would affect a bevy of brands, including BMW, Ducati, MV Agusta, TM, GasGas, Beta, and AJP. The writing on the wall has been coming for some time for Marzocchi, as Tenneco initially wanted to close the plant in 2011, but instead through labor negotiations, laid off 50 of the company’s 170 employees.

Is This Really the End of EBR? Receivership Explained

It didn’t surprise me last week that the headlines regard Erik Buell Racing ranged in their proclamations from the more accurate “ceased operations” to “gone bankrupt” – with the even more presumptive publications proclaiming the ultimate demise of the American brand. This comes from a lack of understanding about how the receivership process works, which my European colleagues should have a stronger grasp of, as the concept is more prevalent across the pond. As such, I would like to explain the issue further, and how it applies to the situation facing Erik Buell Racing. To entice you on what will surely be a boring subject to many, this doesn’t spell the end of Erik Buell Racing…not even close.

Troy Bayliss Racing in the 2015 Grand National Series

He may have retired from World Superbike racing, but that isn’t stopping Troy Bayliss from continuing his pursuit of checkered flags, as the Australian has confirmed his long-rumored move to the AMA Pro Grand National Series. Bayliss will be racing on an 1,100, air-cooled, two-valve Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (no surprise there), as a teammate to Johnny Lewis. The former World Champion plans to contest all five mile-long racing events, with his first race being the Springfield Mile in Illinois on May 24th. Bayliss may be an old salt, at the ripe age of 46, but the Aussie has been keeping his game sharp on local flat track courses. Every year as well he hosts the invitation-only Troy Bayliss Classic, where many AMA Pro Flat Track racers have competed.

Preview of the Spanish GP: The Season Starts Here

04/30/2015 @ 6:26 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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Jerez is always a very special weekend. When Valentino Rossi described the first race back in Europe using those words, he spoke for everyone in the MotoGP paddock.

Everyone loves being back in Europe, because the atmosphere changes, the hospitality units fill the paddock, the catering staff, hospitality managers, runners, cleaners, general dogsbodies – in other words, the people who actually do any real work – return to fill the paddock, and old friends are reunited after a long winter away, often doing something else to subsidize the meager pay they take for the privilege of working in Grand Prix during the summer.

The paddock becomes a village once again, awaking from the long winter slumber. The setting helps.

The charming old city of Jerez is showing the first shoots of economic recovery, not yet enough to match the full bloom of spring happening on the surrounding hillsides, the slopes covered with wild flowers, but there is a much more positive vibe than there has been for some years.

There is a sense of optimism. That sense of optimism flows into the paddock, already buzzing after a sizzling and surprising start to the 2015 MotoGP season.

With over 100,000 people expected to pack the stands on Sunday, Jerez feels like the right way to kick off the long European leg of the championship.

Saturday Summary at Argentina: The Ducati Disadvantage, Tire Choices, & How Great Tracks Create Surprises

04/19/2015 @ 12:21 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Fast tracks are good for racing. Phillip Island demonstrates this every year, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit is confirming it in 2015.

The mixture of fast sweepers and tricky braking sections places an emphasis on bike handling and rider ability, over and above sheer engine power. This gives enterprising riders opportunities to excel, and overcome any horsepower disadvantages they may have.

Today was a case in point. The Suzukis had shown yesterday that they were extremely fast around the Argentinian track, and Aleix Espargaro came into qualifying as a favorite to take pole.

The medium tire (the softest compound available, which the Hondas and Yamahas do not have in their allocation) gave Espargaro plenty of speed, but would it be enough to stay with Márquez? Perhaps some sleight of hand would be needed.

With the hard tire his only race option, Espargaro had some mediums to play with. Taking a leaf out of Marc Márquez’ Big Book Of Strategy, he and crew chief Tom O’Kane decided that his best hope of getting pole would be a two-stop strategy: coming in twice to change bikes, using three new tires to chase a top time.

The trouble with stealing from Marc Márquez’s Big Book Of Strategy is that you find yourself going up against the man who wrote it. It was at Argentina last year that Márquez and crew chief Santi Hernandez saw that a two-stop strategy might be possible, putting it into practice at the next race at Jerez.

“Already last year, when I finished the qualifying practice here, we spoke with the team and saw that it was possible to use three tires, because the good lap was on the first lap,” Márquez explained at the front row press conference in Argentina.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Real-Deal Suzukis, Hard Tire Dilemmas, & Ducati’s Fuel Issue Explained

04/18/2015 @ 12:24 am, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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Eight years. That’s how long it has been since a Suzuki last led two consecutive sessions in the dry. It was 2007, at Shanghai, when John Hopkins topped both FP2 and FP3 on the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki had a great year in 2007, spending the previous year developing the GSV-R ready for the start of the 800cc class.

John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen amassed one win (in the wet), seven podiums and a pole position that season, including a double podium at Misano. That Suzuki was a great bike, but sadly, it was the last time a Suzuki was truly competitive. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Until today.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: Of Price Gouging, Ducati’s Tire Disadvantage, & A Tough Moto3 Battle

04/17/2015 @ 1:11 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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From Austin, MotoGP heads south, to the most expensive GP of the season. The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit lies in one of the poorest regions of Argentina, but the economic reality is not reflected in the prices around the Grand Prix weekend.

The cost of renting a compact car from one of the nearby airports would get you a luxury vehicle at any other place. Room rate cards for even the most modest hotel look like they have been borrowed from Claridges for the week. Local businesses appear bent on extracting as much revenue as possible from the poor souls who have no choice but to attend, such as journalists, team staff, and riders.

Those (such as your humble correspondent) without a wealthy employer to cover the costs for them stay away. Many teams stay up to a couple of hours away, where accommodation prices drop from the truly extortionate to the merely pricey.

For much of the paddock, the Termas de Rio Hondo GP is a black hole, capable of swallowing money at an exponential rate.

Yet fans from around the region flock to the circuit. They are much smarter indeed, many bringing tents, vans, RVs, or even just sleeping bags in the back of their trucks.

The money saved on accommodation is well spent: the party around the circuit is stupendous, massive amounts of meat and drink being shared around all weekend. That adds real local flavor to the event, the passion of the fans being evident at every turn.

Preview of the Americas GP: Yamaha & Ducati vs. Honda, And The Effect of Rain on All Three Classes

04/09/2015 @ 8:33 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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Ever since he first entered the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has owned the Circuit of the Americas at Austin. In 2013, in just his second ever MotoGP event, he was fastest in all but two practice sessions, then went on to win the race, becoming the youngest ever MotoGP winner in the process.

A year later, he was fastest in every session, and extended his advantage over his teammate in the race, winning by over four seconds. The gap to third that year was demoralizing: Andrea Dovizioso crossed the line nearly 21 seconds after Márquez had taking victory.

With two one-two victories for Honda in two years at Austin, does anyone else really stand a chance? Surprisingly, it seems there might be.

Much has changed over the past year: the renaissance at Ducati, the improvements at Yamaha, both of the bike and, more significantly, of the riders. And with Dani Pedrosa out with injury, Márquez faces the challenge from Movistar Yamaha and factory Ducati alone.

2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

03/25/2015 @ 10:34 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on 2015 MotoGP World Championship Preview

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The prospect of a new MotoGP season always leaves fans giddy with anticipation. Their appetites keenly whetted by winter testing, and speculation over the times set at those tests, they boldly predict that this season is going to be the best MotoGP season ever. Though the racing is often good, all too often, it never quite lives up to the preseason hype.

There is every reason to believe that this year, it will be different. The bikes, the riders, the teams, the motivation, it all points to 2015 being an exceptionally exciting season in MotoGP.

At the last day of winter testing at Qatar just over a week ago, less than a second covered the top fourteen riders, and two seconds covered all but four of the MotoGP field.

A similar pattern emerged at Sepang: with the exception of the occasional hot lap by Marc Márquez, there were ten or more riders within a second of each other. Things haven’t been this close for a while.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 2 Test Preview – Seamless Gearboxes, Brand New Ducatis, & Fast French Rubber

02/22/2015 @ 6:46 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The engineers have had two weeks to pore over the data from the first MotoGP test at Sepang, identify problems, analyze strengths, and find more ways to go faster. Their analyses have been translated into designs, into new parts, into yet more software, ready to put their theories into practice.

On Monday morning, at 10am Malaysian time, the MotoGP riders get to try out all of the new parts and ideas thought up by their factories and teams in search of a few more fractions of a second.

The eyes of the world will not be on what the engineers did between Sepang 1 and Sepang 2, however. Attention will be focused on Yamaha and Ducati, who will be testing hardware which has been a long time coming.

Yamaha is bringing its fully seamless gearbox to the Sepang 2 test, and Ducati will roll out its Desmosedici GP15 for the first time. Both could make a significant impact.

2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Preview – What Can We Expect As MotoGP Returns To Action?

02/03/2015 @ 12:11 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.

And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.

Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.

Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.

The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.

Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.

The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.

Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.

Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?

Video Preview the 2015 Isle of Man TT

12/21/2014 @ 12:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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We are six months away from the start of the 2015 Isle of Man TT, which for fans and media seems like an eternal amount of time, but for the organizers and competitors, the waiving of the green flag must surely seem like the event is rapidly approaching.

The off-season posturing is already in full-swing, with Michael Dunlop and BMW Motorrad seemingly parting ways, despite a very productive 2014 season. Instead Guy Martin will be on the German brand, perhaps giving him his best shot at a TT race win ever.

No one can count out John McGuinness, of course, as he looks to top Joey Dunlop’s outright TT race-win record. McPint is a contender in every class he enters, though his best hopes are surely in the electric class, where Team Mugen is the outfit to beat.

The electric bikes will be looking to lap 120 mph on the Isle this year, which is proper fast — no matter what standard you use — and puts those top competitors will be in supersport-pace territory.

Thursday Summary from Valencia: Miller vs. Marquez, Team Orders, & New Bike Debuts

11/06/2014 @ 10:31 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The last race of the season is always a little bit special. They are even more special when riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honor.

There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the MotoGP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in MotoGP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.

Top billing at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez’s championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian.