A Non-Hipster Review of the Ducati Scrambler

The Ducati Scrambler is perhaps the most lifestyle-focused motorcycle ever to come from Bologna — so much so, Ducati made the Scrambler its own brand even. This is an important element, as on its own merits the Ducati Scrambler is a great back-to-basics motorcycle for the Ducati line, and at $8,600 for the Icon model, it makes for a killer entry point model for any rider into the Ducati brand. Having enough thrust to appease your motolust, the Ducati Scrambler Icon, as we tested it, is true to the basic Ducati performance heritage, and it fills Ducati’s need for a budget commuter, off-road scrambler, and just “fun” second bike. But there is another component to the Scrambler that gets lost in translation, depending on what sub-genre of two-wheeled freedom you hail from.

KTM Plans New Smaller V-Twin Engines, Husqvarna Too

A quick look at KTM’s recent additions to its model lineup sees significant attention being given to the company’s large and small-displacement machines, yet the middleweight bikes have remained seemingly untouched. That seems set to change, according to an interview MCN had with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer. Saying that KTM would develop new v-twin engines in the 600cc to 800cc range over the next three years, the Austrian company seems set to its entire lineup revamped within the next few years. The new v-twin engines would compliment the small-displacement single-cylinder bikes in the sub-400cc category, as well as the two and four-cylidner bikes that KTM is pushing in the sport and adventure segments.

FIM Women’s European Cup Added to the EJC

Good news for females riders in the European Union, as we hear that the FIM Women’s European Cup has been folded into the European Junior Cup, which runs alongside the World Superbike Championship. Running alongside the EJC as its own class, young female riders won’t have to decide between the two series, as they will score points in both. This relieves young ladies from having to choose between racing with just the girls, or the boys on an equal playing field…as now they will be doing both.Much of our focus lately has been on MotoAmerica’s efforts and designs to rebuild an American presence in international motorcycle racing, but our European counterparts are hard at work as well.

Daytona 200 Lives on with ASRA Sanctioning

Now that the Daytona Motorsports Group is no longer in control of AMA Pro Road Racing, intrigue has surrounded DMG’s home race, the Daytona 200. An event that usually kicks off the motorcycle racing season in March, the Daytona 200 has been an outlier with its early schedule, endurance format, and technical challenges. The race always seemed forced upon the AMA schedule, and it required teams who wanted to be competitive to run different equipment and tires than what they were using for the rest of the season. The limitations on tires ultimately meant that the Superbikes, the premier road racing class, could not compete in 200 mile race, leaving the event for the aptly named Daytona SportBike category, which was a mix of middleweight machines.

Spy Shots: KTM 1290 SMT – Another Beast?

KTM fans should brace themselves for another model, as the Austrians have been caught teasing a successor to the KTM 990 SMT. Based of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R platform, the new SMT borrows the Super Duke’s core, and adds proper panniers, taller suspension, more cowling, and a windscreen. Visibly similar on the SMT are the chassis and motor of the Super Duke R, and as such the SMT highlights the same steel trellis design and single-sided swingarm. The LC8 engine can easily be seen as well, and the SMT-sucessor can be seen with even the same stock exhaust as found on the 1290 Super Duke R. In this machine, we can see KTM’s response to BMW and Ducati’s continued entrance into the sport/touring/adventure segment.

Honda Motor Co. Produces Its 300 Millionth Motorcycle

Hosting a ceremony today in Tokyo, Honda Motor Company announced that it has produced cumulatively 300 million motorcycles worldwide. The milestone, which was actually reach in September of this year, but just now celebrated by the Japanese company, comes in Honda’s 66th year of making motorcycles, when the brand entered the market with the Honda Dream Type-D in 1949. Despite having 33 production facilities in 22 countries around the world, Honda’s 300 millionth motorcycle was produced at the Kumamoto factory (Honda’s primary plant in Japan), and the bike in question was fittingly a Honda Gold Wing 40th Anniversary Edition machine.

Erik Buell Racing 1190AX Adventure-Tourer Due in 2016

Erik Buell Racing’s release of new models has been slow and steady, despite the American company teasing the names of its first three consumer-level machines from day one. EBR gave the world an early look at the 2015 Erik Buell Racing 1190SX, the streetfighter version of the company’s EBR 1190RX superbike, and now we await the company’s third model. It has long been rumored that the third model from Erik Buell Racing, the EBR 1190AX, would be an adventure-touring model, and Gary Pietruszewski, the Vice President of Global Sales at Erik Buell Racing, confirmed as much while talking to Autoevolution. Like the 1190SX, we don’t expect EBR to re-tune the 1190AX’s engine from its original superbike application.

No Polaris Slingshot in Texas, For Now

Bad news if you live in Texas and want to grab the hottest trike on the market right now, the Polaris Slingshot, as the Lone Star State has rescinded its approval for Slingshot sales in Texas. Despite initially approving the Polaris Slingshot for sales on November 4th, the State of Texas reversed its approval, leaving Polaris to notify dealerships on November 10th that they would be unable to sell the Slingshot, for the foreseeable future. The issue comes down to the application of the definition of what is a motorcycle in the State of Texas, which defines a motorcycle “as a motor vehicle, other than a tractor, that is equipped with a rider’s saddle and designed to have when propelled not more than three wheels on the ground.” (Texas Transportation Code §541.201 (9)).

Newspeak: BMW Removes “Enduro” from Its Lexicon

If you go in to your local BMW dealer and ask to look at their latest enduro models, you should brace yourself for a Laurel & Hardy routine, as the e-word is now persona no grata at US dealerships. Instead, BMW dealers have been instructed to use the word “adventure” instead, newspeaking would-be customers into a segment that BMW literally invented (with a little help from Ewan and Charley). BMW Motorrad USA has also struck the word from its online footprint (except for harder to change things like URLs), just as the German company has flooded the segment with multiple models (more on that later), namely the BMW S1000XR.

KTM 390 Duke Also Confirmed for the USA

In addition the KTM RC390, KTM USA has also seen fit to bring the KTM 390 Duke to American soil for the 2015 model year. The absence of the small-displacement street bike on KTM USA’s lineup for the past two year has been a curious one, as the 375cc naked bike has been selling quite well in other markets. Whatever reasons KTM USA might have for delaying the arrival of the KTM 390 Duke to the United States, the good news is that American riders will have it as an option starting next year. Pricing is set at $4,999, and includes Brembo brakes and WP suspension.

Wednesday Summary at Assen: A Generational Change, Yamaha’s Best Hope of a Win, & The Dutch Weather

06/25/2014 @ 7:29 pm, by David Emmett9 COMMENTS

Wednesday Summary at Assen: A Generational Change, Yamahas Best Hope of a Win, & The Dutch Weather assen track map 635x559

May I be permitted a little bias for the MotoGP round held in my adopted country? There are many magical motorcycle races around the world.

The Isle of Man TT has speed, danger, and one of the most remarkable backdrops in motorsports. Mugello has an astounding track, a hothouse atmosphere, and breathtaking scenery. Jerez has an intensity among the fans without equal, hosted in a beautiful part of the world when Andalusia is at its best, in the spring.

But I think I would still swap them all for Assen. Once, it was the greatest racetrack in the world. Fast, flowing, with challenges favoring any rider with the perfect combination of bravery and skill.

Full of fast kinks, banked turns, and with a camber and crown to the surface that was a throwback to the public roads which once comprised the circuit. Throughout the years, the circuit was pruned back, from 16 kilometers, to just under 8 kilometers, to 6 kilometers.

In 2006, the track was neutered altogether, as a combination of financial necessity and encroaching housing development saw the North Loop, the jewel in Assen’s crown, surgically removed and replaced with the much smaller, much shorter loop which now quickly folds back on itself and takes the riders back to the old southern section, where the old glory of the track lives on.

Hard braking for De Haarbocht, named for the village now absorbed by Assen’s urban sprawl, the everlasting right hander through Madijk and Ossebroeken round to the Strubben hairpin. A hard, short turn onto the Veenslang, the back straight.

Straight? Not so much: the literal translation is ‘turf snake’, and snake it does, down to the blistering right-left-right of the Ruskenhoek chicane. Through the right at Stekkenwal, and another snaking straight down to De Bult – ‘the lump’ and a very lumpy corner it is indeed.

From there it is all lefts, building speed through Mandeveen, Duikersloot, and Meeuwenmeer, on to perhaps the most perfect piece of race track in the world.

First, there’s the Hoge Heide – ‘High Heath’ – the right-left flick that looks like nothing at all on a track map, but is one of the most intimidating corners on the planet. Making that change of direction at over 270 km/h is not easy, especially as you still have to lift the bike over the crown of the track, avoiding the dip on the far end of the flick. The run through the Ramshoek, a hot-and-fast left, before the Geert Timmer bocht, the chicane named after the legendary circuit announcer.

The GT, as it is known locally, is steeped in history. Here, Carl Fogarty edged Frankie Chili out of the way in World Superbikes, causing Chili to storm into the podium press conference in his dressing gown to accuse Fogarty of cheating.

Colin Edwards lost his best shot at a MotoGP win there, cutting inside and getting on the gas on the astroturf, only to wind up on the ground and handing Nicky Hayden a crucial win. Stefan Bradl nearly succeeded in turning his Moto2 championship season from triumph to despair, suffering his first crash after a series of wins.

In Moto3 – or even better, the Red Bull Rookies Cup – eight or more riders enter this corner at the same time on the last lap, the victor anyone’s guess until they cross the line. In Moto2, and even MotoGP, the GT is still the ideal place for passing, with multiple lines possible and bravery and late braking always an option.

Apart from the circuit, there are the fans. There is a wild, uninhibited feel at Assen, reminiscent of Le Mans. At both circuits, you suspect you may not live to see the end of the race. The difference is, at Le Mans, you fear you will end up flayed and scalped, a human sacrifice to the gods of racing.

At Assen, you know you will die with a smile on your face, the campsite excesses of alcohol, petrol, and ill-advised nighttime stunts taking the inevitable toll. Both Assen and Le Mans share a common madness, but at Assen, the madness is one of joy.

Thursday Summary at Catalunya: How To Beat Marquez & Silly Season Steps Up a Gear

06/12/2014 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Catalunya: How To Beat Marquez & Silly Season Steps Up a Gear Circuit de Catalunya Aerial 635x453

It is becoming customary for any MotoGP preview worth its salt to begin with a single question: can anyone beat Marc Marquez this weekend? That same question was put to the riders during the pre-event press conference, to which Valentino Rossi gave the most obvious answer. Of course it was possible, he said.

“It is nothing special. What you have to do is do your maximum and improve your level.” The only trouble is, every time Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, or Dani Pedrosa improve their level, so does Marc Marquez. But it is still possible, Rossi believes. “We are not very far. It is not easy, but nothing special.”

Barcelona, like Mugello, is one of the tracks where Marquez is perhaps more vulnerable. It is a circuit where the reigning champion has always struggled – though for Marquez, “struggling” means only managing podiums rather than wins – and where the Yamahas, especially, have been strong.

Valentino Rossi has won here nine times, and Jorge Lorenzo has been either first or second at the track for the past five years. The track flows, and has a little bit of everything.

A long, fast front straight, some elevation change climbing up into the two stadium sections, the two “horns” of the Catalunya bull which the Montmelo circuit most resembles, a couple of esses, and long, flowing combinations of corners. Those corners more than compensate for the front straight.

Jorge Lorenzo reckoned that the Yamaha had a top speed deficit of perhaps 4 or 5 km/h on the Honda, but that at Barcelona, this was less of an issue than at other tracks. After all, he pointed out, there are some 3.7 kilometers of corners in which to catch a Honda ahead of you.

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Revival in Race 300, And How Marquez & Moto2 Are Changing MotoGP

05/30/2014 @ 3:39 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossis Revival in Race 300, And How Marquez & Moto2 Are Changing MotoGP Mugello Circuit Wireframe 635x341

The paradox of the motorcycle racer is that every race is a big race, yet no race is more important than any other. The pressure on the MotoGP elite is so great that they have to perform at their maximum at every circuit, every weekend.

Every race is like a championship decider, not just the race which decides the championship. There may be extra pressure at a home race, or on a special occasion, or when a title is at stake, but the riders cannot let it get to them. There is too much at stake to be overawed by the occasion.

Still, Mugello 2014 is a very big race indeed. It is Valentino Rossi’s 300th Grand Prix, and a chance for him to return to the podium on merit again, and not just because the crowds were calling his name.

It is the best hope of a Jorge Lorenzo revival, the Yamaha man having won the last three races in a row at the spectacular Tuscan track. It is the best hope for Ducati, the Italian factory having run well here in the past.

And it is the first realistic chance for Marc Marquez to fail, the Spaniard has never found the track an easy one, though it did not stop him winning there.

Thursday Summary at Le Mans: Can Anyone Stop Marc Marquez from Making It Five in a Row?

05/15/2014 @ 10:16 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Le Mans: Can Anyone Stop Marc Marquez from Making It Five in a Row? le mans bugatti track aerial 635x391

As the MotoGP circus descends upon the charming French town of Le Mans this weekend, there is one question at the front of everybody’s minds: can he do it? Can Marc Marquez continue his incredible string of poles and victories by winning at Le Mans?

On the evidence of the 2014 season so far, you would have to say he can. But Le Mans is a different circuit, and one where a gaggle of Yamaha riders have gone well in the past. This could possibly be the first race since Qatar where Marquez is made to work for it.

Marquez has a lot going for him in France. Leaving aside his form – a perfect record of poles and wins this year, as well as being fastest in over half the sessions of free practice so far – the track looks to play to the Honda’s strengths, on paper at least.

The stop-and-go nature of the Le Mans track sees the bikes spend a lot of time under hard acceleration, with slower corners needing hard braking. The Honda’s ‘V’ approach to the corners – brake late, turn hard, stand the bike up quickly and get on the gas – seems to be a much better fit to the Le Mans circuit than Yamaha’s ‘U’ style – brake early, enter faster, carry more corner speed and smoothly wind on the throttle.

And yet Yamaha riders have won four of the last six races at the circuit. Jorge Lorenzo has won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans three times, and each time with a very comfortable margin over his competitors. Valentino Rossi has won here twice on a Yamaha, in 2005 and 2008, and finished second behind Lorenzo in 2010.

It’s even a track where Colin Edwards has shone in the past on a Yamaha – and where perhaps he can do well once again, despite hating the current Yamaha chassis he is riding at Forward Yamaha. This is the first in a series of circuits where Yamaha riders have dominated in the past.

If Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi want to start fighting back against the might of Marquez, Le Mans is as good a place to start as any.

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestone’s Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez

05/01/2014 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestones Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez jerez circuit track design map 635x423

There’s a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter?

Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can’t get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won’t be doing much slowing down.

Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won’t be up to much.

It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more.

Friday Summary at Argentina: Of Dirty Tracks, Confusing Lap Times, & MotoGP-Hungry Argentinians

04/26/2014 @ 12:54 am, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

Friday Summary at Argentina: Of Dirty Tracks, Confusing Lap Times, & MotoGP Hungry Argentinians marc marquez argentina HRC

What did we learn from the first day of practice at the brand new Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina? We learned that Marc Marquez and Jack Miller learn tracks very quickly indeed. We learned that Moto2 is tight as ever. We learned that South America has been crying out for a round of MotoGP almost since the moment the series left Argentina for the last time in 1999.

And we learned that a brand new track always faces teething problems the first time it appears on the calendar. In Argentina, the biggest problem is a dirty track, covered in sand, wreaking havoc on the tires. That, though, is a relatively easy problem to solve: a few more sessions and a grand total of 90 different bikes circulating will clean the track up very quickly.

If anyone was in any doubt as to whether building a circuit in a small town in the middle of the Argentine pampas was a good idea, the crowds lining up to get into the circuit on Friday morning should have dispelled their fears. Reports were that the fans were queuing to get into the track at 7am on Friday.

That is quite unheard of in Europe, where the first day of practice is always a good day to spend at the track if you want to explore it and see the action from various points around the circuit. The Argentina round is reportedly already a sell out, with 70,000 tickets sold and only VIP passes left on the open market.

This bodes well for the future of the event, and justifies the investment made by government in the facility. If the aim is to attract tourists to Termas de Rio Hondo, and put the town on the map, they have clearly already succeeded.

Thursday Summary at Argentina: A Long Awaited Visit to the Middle of Nowhere

04/24/2014 @ 6:07 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Argentina: A Long Awaited Visit to the Middle of Nowhere circuito termas de rio hondo argentina 2 635x448

Why on earth would you organize a MotoGP race in what is effectively the middle of nowhere? The answer is as simple as it is obvious: money. Dorna are being well paid by the circuit to bring the three Grand Prix classes to the little town of Termas de Rio Hondo in the heart of the Argentinian pampas.

And in case you should start to rail against Dorna’s greed, it is fair to point out that a significant part of that money will also go to the teams, to pay transport costs and to cover at least part of their annual budget. Some of that money, but not all.

A more relevant question might be why would a circuit in the middle of nowhere pay Dorna a massive amount of money to come race there? If it’s in the middle of nowhere, then surely they are unlikely to make back at the gate what they paid to Dorna to organize the race? They won’t, but that is not necessarily the point.

The circuit, after all, is not paying most of the fee. The vast majority of the cash (indeed, probably all of it) is being paid by the regional authorities, with help from the central government. The regional tourism promotion council is counting on the increased profile of the Santiago del Estero province attracting more visitors to the region, and to Argentina in general.

In essence, the Argentinian government and the Santiago del Estero province are making the same gamble as the province of Aragon did for the circuit at Alcañiz. They hope that by raising the visibility of the area to the outside world, more people will choose to visit, and that will being more revenue to the region and boost the local economy.

Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years

03/19/2014 @ 7:58 pm, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years losail international circuit aerial 635x423

It has been a long and confusing wait for the 2014 MotoGP season to begin. An awful lot has happened since the MotoGP bikes were rolled into their packing crates after the Valencia test and shipped back to the factories and workshops from whence they came. There have been shock announcements, shock testing results, and shock training crashes.

There have been last-minute rule changes, made in an attempt to keep all of the different factions in the paddock from rebelling. The final rules for the premier class were only announced on Monday, and even then, they still contain sufficient ambiguity to confuse.

But this confusion and chaos cannot disguise the fact that 2014 looks set to be the most intriguing championship in years. Gone are the reviled CRT machines – unjustly reviled; though slow, they were still jewels of engineering prowess – and in their place is a new class of machinery, the Open entries.

A simpler demarcation has been made, between factories running their own software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, and the Open teams using the championship software supplied and controlled by Dorna.

The latest rule change adds a twist, allowing underperforming Ducati all the benefits of the Open class – 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, 12 engines per season instead of 5, unlimited testing and a softer tire – until they start winning races. But the 2014 grid looks much more like a single coherent class than the pack of racing motorcycles that lined up last year.

Sepang MotoGP Test (2) Preview – Intrigue Abounds Despite a Missing Marquez

02/25/2014 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

Sepang MotoGP Test (2) Preview – Intrigue Abounds Despite a Missing Marquez Sepang International Circuit SIC map 635x457

MotoGP returns to the track at Sepang in just a few hours, and the second test at the Malaysian circuit offers just as much intrigue as the first did. Interest at Sepang 2 centers on notable absentees, Ducati’s plans, and progress made so far. There is much to watch in Malaysia.

One thing we know for sure. Marc Marquez will not be the fastest man at the second Sepang test. The reigning world champion dominated the first test at the beginning of the month, but a training crash saw him fracture his right fibula.

Even in adversity, Marquez’s luck held, the injury being relatively quick to heal, the bone not being displaced. He will definitely be back in action at the first race of the year in Qatar, and he could possible attend the Bridgestone test at Phillip Island early next week, but he will be forced to miss Sepang 2.

With Marquez out, others will have a chance to shine, though the question of how any times set would hold up if the Repsol Honda man had been present will remain. Nobody had an answer to Marquez’s pace at the first test – especially when you compare his race pace on long runs – and his rivals will have to drop well under the two-minute mark to make an impression.

Marquez’s absence leaves the burden of testing in the Repsol Honda team to Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard had a relatively anonymous first Sepang test, working quietly while never stamping his authority on the test.

Work will continue on seeking more corner speed for the Honda RC213V, retesting the new chassis tried at the start of the month, and giving the latest rear Bridgestone tire another workout.

Sepang MotoGP Test Preview – Honda vs. Yamaha, Open vs. Factory, & What Will Ducati Do?

02/03/2014 @ 11:28 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

Sepang MotoGP Test Preview   Honda vs. Yamaha, Open vs. Factory, & What Will Ducati Do? Sepang International Circuit SIC map 635x457

The test ban is over, and the MotoGP season is about to get underway. Bikes are already circulating, as the test riders put the first versions of the 2014 models through a shakedown to ensure that everything is in place, and working the way the engineers intended. In a few hours, we get the first glimpse of what the 2014 season could hold.

The rule changes for 2014, though at first glance are relatively small, could have a major impact. For the front runners, the fuel allowance is dropped from 21 to 20 liters, a change requested by the manufacturers to give them the engineering challenge they demand to justify their involvement.

All of the Factory Option (the designation for the bikes which have been referred to as factory prototypes for the last two seasons) entries must now use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, but they retain the ability to develop their own software for the computer which sits at the heart of every modern vehicle.

That reduced fuel allowance will place a premium on fuel conservation, meaning the manufacturer who can reduce friction, thermal efficiency and combustion efficiency will hold the upper hand.

It’s not just the factory bikes that have a new designation. The CRT category has disappeared, replaced by the Open class. The change is not as big as the renaming would appear. Like the CRT bikes, they have 12 engines instead of 5 to last the season, and 24 liters of fuel to last each race. And like the Factory Option bikes, they must also use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU.

The difference, with both the Factory Option bike and last year’s CRT machines, is that now they must use the Dorna-controlled software, written by Magneti Marelli to Dorna specifications. The switch to control software means that the claiming rule, which defined the CRT class, has been dropped. Anyone can enter anything in the class, from modified Superbike (as long as, like Aprilia’s ART machine, it uses a prototype chassis) to full-fat factory engine, as long as they use the spec software.

What effect will the new rules have on the racing? Less fuel is rarely a positive factor in any form of racing. Of the various ways of limiting performance – engine capacity, rev limits, and fuel flow – fuel limits are invariably the most expensive, both in terms of engine development and in terms of the price riders pay to keep their weight down.