So You Say You Want a Small, Light, & Cheap ADV Bike?

Comments on certain stories are predictable, and as such, we always expect some enduro rider to show up on an ADV story, and lament the weight of the bike in question, calling it too heavy to really go off-road. That argument is bullshit, of course. Though, it is easier to handle a lightweight machine in the dirt than a heavy one, but you would be surprised at how capable any motorcycle is with a pair of knobby tires on it. Just in case you are not convinced, we have got a little something for you. Behold the Benelli TRK 502. It’s got the profile of a condor, but the little 500cc adventure-tourer looks like it should do the job you are asking of it. Benelli really is the standout brand at this year’s EICMA show, with its models showing some depth to the once revered Italian brand.

2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello Scrambler

It was 1967 when Moto Guzzi first introduced the Stornello scrambler to the US market, and now for 2016 the Stornello scrambler returns. Using the Moto Guzzi V7II platform for this rebirth, the 48hp 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello is a fetching motorcycle with dubious off-road ability – not that the latter really matters in this all-show, no-go space. Honestly, we can’t fault Moto Guzzi for trying, as the Italian brand seems to be gravitating towards the heritage demographic, which is currently inundated with “post-authentic” retro models, and as such the scrambler is the moto du jour in the industry – the 2015 EICMA show is proof of that. In those terms, the 2016 Moto Guzzi V7II Stornello excels well, even if its 410 lbs mass doesn’t.

Victory Ignition Concept Is A Very Sporty Cruiser

It had been widely rumored that Victory Motorcycle would launch a sportier offering, using the 60° water-cooled 1,200cc engine that powered the Project 156 race bike almost to the top of Pikes Peak. The new model is a tectonic shift for Victory, which also this year debuted its first electric model – though the Empulse TT is really just a rebadged Brammo Empulse R. Debuting the Ignition concept at the 2015 EICMA show today though, it’s clear that Victory Motorcycle is becoming more than a modern alternative to Harley-Davidson and the metric cruisers from Japan. The design is attractive, even to our sport-bike focused eyes. That’s due in part to designer Urs Erbacher, who specializes in custom-styled drag bikes.

2016 Benelli Leoncino Brings Back the Lion Cub

Benelli is not a brand we usually talk about with great reverence, as the Italian company has steadily lost its luster since its acquisition by China’s Qianjiang Group. Benelli’s motorcycles were never known for being terribly reliable, and unfortunately the artful designs that they exuded have slowly eroded away over time. The big announcement for Benelli at the 2015 EICMA show is the new Benelli Leoncino, the “lion cub” model that’s rooted in Benelli’s post-WWII history. This modern take on the classic Benelli Leoncino is an attractive scrambler model, which makes 47hp from its 500cc parallel-twin engine. This also means that the Benelli Leoncino a well-suited A2 license machine in Europe, and its wire-spoked wheels are 19″ in the front and 17″ in the rear, and should make the Leoncino surprisingly adapt at light off-road use.

Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe Is “Pinnacle Weird”

We present you with perhaps the strangest motorcycle to debut at the 2015 EICMA show. The Bimota Tesi 3D champions the hub-center steering chassis design, and is one of the more unique motorcycles in the industry right now. Its design is positively futuristic, so it is a little strange that Bimota is trying to make the Tesi 3D into a café racer with the launch of the Bimota Tesi 3D RaceCafe. Powered by the same 803cc air-cooled v-twin engine that’s found in the Scrambler series, you can tell that Bimota is trying to latch onto the post-heritage trend that is dying a slow death in the motorcycle industry, but hasn’t quite figured out how to do it yet.

Bimota Impeto, Supercharger Optional

The Bimota range has a long history of Ducati-powered machines, as the Italian brand has been used the most out of all the motorcycle manufacturers to power Bimota’s street and race bikes. The Bimota Impeto adds another Ducati-powered model to the slew of others, but it differentiates itself as the only 162hp streetfighter in the lineup. If the Impeto looks familiar to the Bimota DB8, there’s good reason, as the two bikes share the Ducati Diavel’s Testastretta 11° DS engine. As such, the chromoly steel chassis share a number of components, leaving most of the differences down to styling choices between the two liquid-cooled models. Our personal favorites are the exhaust and seat, which mirror each other with a rising flair.

The Aprilia RSV4 R-FW Misano Is Basically a MotoGP Bike

The Aprilia Factory Works program is easily the most ridiculously awesome thing to come out of the 2015 EICMA show because it offers regular consumers (with a healthy pocketbook) the chance to own a 230hp+ Aprilia RSV4 superbike, just like what they race in the World Superbike Championship…and very close to what they race in MotoGP. Aprilia was a little vague though on what the Factory Works program entailed, but thankfully today at the EICMA show they clarified what exactly would be available from Aprilia Racing. Coming up with five trim-levels for the RSV4 superbike, Aprilia has basically answered every track day enthusiast’s / amateur racer’s wet dream, and distracted us from the fact that the Noale company has a woefully aging product lineup.

Here is What the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Will Look Like

As we predicted, Suzuki has debuted a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike at the EICMA show, though before you get your hopes too high, we should preface that the model is actually the Suzuki GSX-R1000 concept. Suzuki clearly isn’t ready to bring the GSX-R1000 to market in-time for the 2016 model year, and our sources tell us that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Concept will in fact be the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, which will debut in the second half of 2016. That being said, the news is an exciting development from Suzuki, which says that the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 is the lightest and most powerful superbike ever from the Japanese manufacturer. To our eye, it looks to be the most advanced as well.

Erik Buell Racing Deal Falls Thru – Will Be Sold…Again

The situation around Erik Buell Racing is rapidly becoming comical, as the American motorcycle brand is headed back to auction, after its sale to Bruce Belfer failed to close. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Erik Buell Racing will go back to the auctioning block on December 10th, because Belfer was unable to secure financing on his $2.25 million purchase price for Erik Buell Racing. As has become the trend among Buell-loyalists, Belfer blames Hero MotoCorp for the failure of his deal to close. “They (Hero) went in before we closed and started to remove things, to the point where an entire warehouse was moved,” Belfer said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Yamaha MT-10 Is Not Your Grandpa’s FZ-1

Perhaps a model whose debut is obvious to us now, hindsight always being 20/20, Yamaha has just dropped the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 on us at this year’s EICMA show. The Yamaha MT-10 helps round out Yamaha’s MT brand, with affordable and edgy models available from 125cc all the way up to now 1,000cc. Without even riding the Yamaha MT-10 we are fairly certain that this street bike, with its Yamaha YZF-R1 race track DNA, is a hoon to ride with its over-abundance of personality – it would have to, with a face like that. There is no word yet if the 2016 Yamaha MT-10 will come to the USA, potentially supplanting the Yamaha FZ-1 from its perch. Considering how different those two bike demographics are though, we have a hard time seeing it.

Preview of the Dutch TT: To the Great Natural Tracks

06/24/2015 @ 5:10 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT


Assen is a funny old track. And when I say old, I mean old, the event has been on the calendar since 1925, though back then there was no such thing as world championship, and the race took place between Rolde, Borger and Schoonloo, some ten kilometers east of Assen.

From 1926, it moved to a route between the villages of De Haar, Oude Tol, Hooghalen, Laaghalen and Laaghalerveen. The roads, forced into short straights with fast sweeping kinks and bends by the complex drainage patterns of the creeks and ditches which keep the region from reverting back to peat bogs, gave shape to the track which was to follow.

They still leave their mark on the circuit today, despite being a closed-circuit since 1955, though the track has been much shortened since then.

What remains is a track with nary a straight piece of asphalt on it. The back straight meanders between the Strubben hairpin and the fast right and long left of the Ruskenhoek, living up to its name of Veenslang, or Peat Snake.

The short stretches between the fast combinations of corners weave and flow, and the only thing keeping the front straight straight is the pit wall. As a piece of geometric design, it is a disaster.

As a race track, it is glorious, proving that the best tracks are not designed on paper, but laid out in a landscape. Mugello, Phillip Island, Assen: all great riders track, each owing a debt of gratitude to the landscape which forms them.

Preview of the Catalan GP: The Showdown in Catalunya

06/10/2015 @ 7:09 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS


From Mugello to Barcelona, or from the heart of Italian motorcycle racing to the heart of Spanish motorcycling. Or rather, Catalan motorcycling, as any of the many Catalans which fill the paddock will happily point out. Then again, Catalunya is – ironically – at the heart of Spanish motorcycling itself.

If MotoGP had a home race, it would be here. Series organizer Dorna has its offices just south of Barcelona, and the working language of the organization is Catalan. Just east of the circuit lies the old factory of Derbi, once a mainstay of the 125cc class.

Check the birthplaces of any one of the riders racing on a Spanish license, and most of them hail from one of the towns and villages within an hour or two’s drive of the Montmeló circuit.

Most riders still have a house in the area, though many elect to live in the tiny mountainous tax haven of Andorra, because of the opportunities it affords for training, so they tell us.

With so much support, can the Spaniards – or Catalans, or Mallorcans – lock out the podium at home? It would be a crowd pleaser for sure, but getting three Spanish riders to fill out the MotoGP podium at Barcelona will be far from easy.

That there will be one, perhaps two Spaniards on the box is a given. But filling all three places? That is going to be tough.

Preview of the Italian GP: Italian Hearts Dare to Dream

05/28/2015 @ 1:00 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS


I shall spare you the “rolling Tuscan hills” patter. That cliché will be trotted out in most of the press releases and previews you will read. Indeed, it is one I have done to death in many of my own previews of the race.

Like all clichés, it is based on an underlying truth: the Mugello circuit is a breathaking track, set in a stunning location, and scene of some of the greatest racing over the thirty Grand Prix which have been held here since 1976.

So good is the track that it has remained virtually unchanged, with only minor tweaks to improve safety. There are still a few spots which could use some improvement. The wall at the end of the main straight could use being moved further to the left, and the gravel trap on the exit of Poggio Secco is terrifyingly small, but fixing these would require moving some serious quantities of earth.

But this is Mugello, and so we look away and carry on. At least the astroturf has been removed, removing one possible source of danger.

The setting and the racetrack mean that this is always one of the highlights of the year, but 2015 could be even better than usual. It might even live up to the hype, of which there is justifiably plenty. But where to begin?

Preview of the French GP: A Schizophrenic Track in France

05/14/2015 @ 10:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS


The Le Mans round of MotoGP is a truly schizophrenic event. The track sits just south of the charming old city of Le Mans, a combination of medieval center and 19th Century industrial outskirts. The surrounding area is lush, rolling hills, woods alternating with open green fields.

It is very much a provincial idyll…until you reach the Le Mans circuit, and its campsites, where visions of Dante unfold before your eyes, and disinterested guards look on as large drunken hordes set about recreating some of the more gruesome scenes from Lord of the Flies.

Some people love it, others hate it. Veteran journalist Dennis Noyes always says it reminds of going to Hockenheim in the 1990s, when the police would not enter the woods at the heart of the track until the Monday after the race.

Then they would go in “to pull the bodies out,” as he so colorfully put it. Outside the track, the atmosphere is one of quiet provincial charm. Inside, all is wild, free, and out of control. It is an event that should be experienced at least once, though to be honest, once was enough for me.

Preview of the Spanish GP: The Season Starts Here

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.