TVS Akula 310 – Hot, Small, Sporty, & Almost a BMW

The Auto Expo in India isn’t usually an event we would cover, but some interesting machines have turned up in New Delhi. The first one to grab our attention is the TVS Akula 310. On its own right, the TVS Akula 310 is a sharp looking small-displacement machine, especially when its dripping in carbon fiber (Daddy like). Beneath the skin though, the Akula 310 is exactly the same as the BMW G310R sport bike, which is pretty interesting. This is because TVS and BMW Motorrad collaborated to bring both models to market; and as such, the Akula 310 gives us an idea of where BMW could be headed next with its 300cc class offering. We knew that when BMW unveiled the G310R that the small sport bike was just one of several machines to come from the platform.

New Honda Superbike for 2017, But Will It Be Any Good?

It’s the worst kept secret in the motorcycle industry right now, Honda is finally updating its superbike offering for the 2017 model year – replacing the now extremely long-in-the-tooth Honda CBR1000RR. The interesting part of that news of course is whether that new superbike will go by the name CBR or RVF, as there is a bit of a debate regarding what kind of engine will power the Honda. Despite whether it is an inline-four like the CBR1000RR, or a V4 like Honda’s MotoGP bike, the new superbike will have big shoes to fill. Honda is the last Japanese brand to offer an update to its liter-bike platform, with Suzuki bringing a new GSX-R1000 later this year as a 2017 model, the Yamaha YZF-R1 now fully a year old, and even the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R saw a strong update for the 2016 season.

Report: Cycle Gear to Acquire RevZilla?

Respected newswire Reuters is reporting that Cycle Gear is close to finalizing the purchase of motorcycling e-commerce giant RevZilla. Citing a source “familiar with the matter” at hand, Reuters suggests that the deal could close in the next coming days, with the new venture worth between $400 million and $500 million. If true, this acquisition would mark a titanic shift in the motorcycle retail space, with America’s largest brick and mortar chain combining with the industry’s most prominent online parts and apparel purveyor. In all likelihood, it is J.W. Childs that will be doing the purchasing of RevZilla, though that might be an issue of semantics for some. RevZilla declined to comment on this report, at this time. We hope to have more on this story, as it develops.

Some Thoughts Regarding MV Agusta, From 30,000 Feet

I’m on my second-to-last airplane ride on this two-week travel stint, and while I might be headed to San Diego, CA for the Ducati XDiavel launch, my thoughts are still back in Spain, on another Italian motorcycle manufacturer: MV Agusta. I have always found MV Agusta to be a fairly open company, bordering on the territory of over-sharing sometimes. That perhaps is something that is endemic to MV Agusta’s family-styled atmosphere, as the brand comes across more as a close-knit group of motorcycle enthusiasts, rather than a bunch of corporate suits. That is an observation that cuts both ways of course, with MV Agusta perhaps needing some more business structure in order to ensure its long term success.

Ducati North America Has Record Sales Year in 2015

Ducati North America is reporting a record year for sales, selling 12,132 motorcycles in 2015 – this number includes all Ducati sales in the USA (9,674 units, +10%), Canada (1,458 units, +12%), and Mexico (1,003 units, +85%). The news is perhaps not surprising, since Ducati sales grew globally by 22% last year, for a total of 54,800 motorcycle sold in 2015. Ducati North America’s numbers continue a six-year trend of solid sales growth, with last year’s sales being fueled primarily by the Ducati Scrambler. Ducati North America isn’t breaking down sales by machine, though it does say that behind the Scrambler, the 899 Panigale and Monster 821 were top-sellers in the region. In the USA, it says that the 1299 Panigale and Multistrada 1200 were “sales standouts” for the country.

Secret KTM Moto2 Race Bike Breaks Cover

KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday. KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.

XXX: The 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP Race Bike

These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016. As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides. Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.

Casey Stoner’s First Day Back at Ducati Was A Success

www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi5yZ_6OS2s

Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self. He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.

Six New MV Agusta Models Will Debut in 2016

Another more tidbit of news to come from the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale press launch (read the review here), is word from CEO Giovanni Castiglioni that MV Agusta will unveil six new models this year, ahead of the 2016 EICMA show. Castiglioni wouldn’t say which three models it would be, though he made hint with the above slide that three of them would be naked sport bikes, while the other three new models would be fully faired sport bikes. With these hints, it makes the guessing game fairly straight forward. We already broke the news to you that an updated Brutale 675 would debut in Q2 2016, with new Dragster 800 and Brutale 800 RR models soon to follow, with MV Agusta’s updated 798cc three-cylinder engine that now meets Euro4 emission standards.

Ride Review: 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800

It seemed when MV Agusta debuted only a solitary machine at the 2015 EICMA show, the MV Agusta Brutale 800, with less power, more weight, and subtle design revision, that the Varese-based company had taken a step backwards from its forward progress. Now that we have had the opportunity to ride the machine in Málaga, Spain – we can see that is not the case. The new Brutale 800 signals an elevation of MV Agusta, from a brand with a shiny veneer and little beneath the surface, to a motorcycle company that can not only tug on the heartstrings of our moto-lust, but can also pique our more reasonable senses into seeing the substance beyond the glossy paint and subtle lines. Quite simply put, the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is the best machine to come from Varese.

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old?

06/17/2014 @ 3:18 pm, by Richard Mushet2 COMMENTS

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With Michael Dunlop’s second successive year taking the lion’s share of silverware at the TT, a changing of the guard appears to be taking place as a new generation of riders lay claim to the podium places on the famous Mountain Course.

Debut victories by James Hillier and Dean Harrison, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and John McGuinness’ pair of solitary trips to the top step of the podium in the same years appear to confirm this.

Before any cries of ageism are thrown in my direction, the age of a rider bears no relation to whether they belong in the old or new guard. Experience around the course is what separates the old from the new.

With over 200 apexes to learn and countless lumps, bumps and cambers to memorise, it’s believed by many who have raced it, that the Mountain course takes years to truly learn, even with the advent of HD-quality on-board videos to study.

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet

06/08/2014 @ 5:13 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

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For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.

After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.

From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.

For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.

The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.

IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

06/07/2014 @ 11:02 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

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Due to the weather, another postponed race yesterday (Wednesday), meant that I had the opportunity to shoot the second sidecar race and a couple of practice sessions from another location.

Looking for a place I hadn’t been to before, I thought that the backdrop of Kirkmichael village would make for a dramatic image that really shows off the spectacle of the Mountain course.

Accelerating through the village, between rows of houses only a yards away from the curb, the exhaust notes reverberate down the road, giving any spectators an aural treat that will raise the hairs on the back of their neck and arms.

A fairly straightforward place to shoot from, this public viewing point gave me a chance to play around with different ways to frame the riders and really try to convey the experience of watching the TT from the roadside.

IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

06/05/2014 @ 12:33 am, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: The Bungalow with Richard Mushet

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Before heading up to the Bungalow for today’s races, the weather looked fairly promising with only cloud cover, and no ominous darker clouds threatening rain.

Once I’d arrived it was a different story, with the low clouds covering the tram stop at the top of Snaefell – the island’s highest peak at over 2,000ft – threatening to roll down towards the circuit.

Thankfully it held off long enough to complete the TT Zero and second Supersport races, but had enveloped the surrounding area before the second sidecar race and some practice sessions could run.

The Bungalow is one of the highest points on the course, as the riders exit the Verandah and continue on their way towards Kate’s Cottage. If you watched last year’s TT highlights you’ll recognise it as the point where Michael Dunlop’s CBR600RR made a damn good attempt to throw him off, leaving rubber on the road and forcing him to take a much wider line through the corner than usual.

Usually the backdrop to any image at the Bungalow is a lush, green hillside, but today it was mainly the low, rolling clouds. This makes the camera try to expose the whiteness of the clouds, leaving the bikes underexposed if you don’t work around it.

IOMTT: Ballaugh with Richard Mushet

06/03/2014 @ 5:58 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: Ballaugh with Richard Mushet

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After yesterday’s eventful trek up to Kate’s Cottage, I returned to familiar (and solid) ground at the exit of Ballaugh village.

After jumping the famous Ballaugh Bridge, and planting both wheels firmly back on the tarmac, riders are faced with a right-hand kink past The Raven pub, then a left-hand curve towards the drag out towards Ballacrye and Quarry Bends.

As the riders flash past the driveways and front gates of the houses, people can be seen peering over the front walls and peeking out of bushes to get the best view of the racing.

Despite having to go over the bridge at a relatively sensible speeds, to avoid damaging the bike and its components, the riders are already well into triple-figures on the speedo, and shifting up the gearbox as they exit the village.

Like any viewing point in the numerous villages on the circuit, the sound of screaming engines reverberating between the buildings is just another unique feature of one of the greatest spectacles on the planet.

IOMTT: Kate’s Cottage with Richard Mushet

06/03/2014 @ 2:39 am, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

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Once again, the weather played its part in my plans today. With a delayed Supersport race start due to low clouds and overnight rain, I decided against my plan of locations and revisited the Creg-ny-Baa and Kate’s cottage.

This was mainly because of the dark clouds that made me unsure if a full race would be completed today, never mind both of the two scheduled races.

With the dramatic backdrop of Onchan and Douglas bay, riders approach Kate’s after the quick Keppel Gate turn, on the descent from the Mountain summit. A fast left-hand turn at the cottage sends the riders on the long drag towards the Creg.

The walk to Kate’s from the Creg is a mix of gorse bushes (shorts were a bad choice today) and spongy, sodden marshland. The marsh almost claimed one of my walking boots when I found myself up to my knee in moss, mud, and slime on the walk back down, but thankfully, my gear remained dry.

IOMTT: Creg-ny-Baa with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 10:03 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: Creg-ny-Baa with Richard Mushet

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For the first real racing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, I had to choose Creg-ny-Baa. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition for me now, as I’ve shot the Superbike TT race from there a few times now. As an added bonus, there aren’t any midges, which is a relief after Barregarrow’s flying bug population feasted on me last night!

One of the most recognisable and iconic sections of the course, the Creg (as it is usually mentioned) signals what is essentially the end of the descent from the top of the blindingly-quick mountain section.

It is fairly similar to a short circuit corner, which I usually try to avoid taking photos of at the TT, as corners like this, and those at the Gooseneck and Signpost, just don’t convey how spectacular the TT is to watch.

Despite my usual reasoning, the Creg has a few unique features, which include the backdrop of the Creg-ny-Baa pub when you’re on the inside of the corner, and Kate’s Cottage when shooting from the front of the pub.

Another great feature there are the rows of fans lining the grass at the side of the road who will wave, applaud, and cheer the riders as they pass, especially on the final lap when the leading rider has essentially wrapped-up victory.

IOMTT: Barregarrow with Richard Mushet

05/31/2014 @ 1:04 am, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

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For this evening’s session, I decided to shoot from a place on the course I’ve seen pictures from numerous times before, and always had an itch to shoot there myself one day.

Following the famous Cronk-y-Voddy straight, Barregarrow (pronounced “Beh-garrow” by the locals) is an infamous dip where machinery is pushed to the limit. Accelerating from the top of the section, down a hill most people wouldn’t want to cycle up, the bikes hit a small rise that momentarily jumps them and the rider into the air.

Par for the course on the Mountain circuit, until the bike lands and its suspension is fully compressed as the riders hit the bottom of the hill, which is also a fairly severe dip in the tarmac, which can be felt at anything above 30 mph.

This ensures plenty of scraped belly pans, spectacular images, and sometimes a few sparks, but never the dropping of revs, as the riders hit their apex and continue on their way to Kirk Michael village. All the obvious challenges of shooting a spot like this are present – the immense speeds and the fading light as the sessions progress.

The sidecar session especially, was fairly tricky due to the lowering evening sun. But, tonight had a more evil enemy than the technical aspects of using a camera, as I was eaten alive by the bloody midges, which have left me with blotchy red bites all over my arms and legs.

IOMTT: Lezayre with Richard Mushet

05/30/2014 @ 3:51 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

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Returning to Lezayre for Thursday evening’s practice, with the promise of better weather than the previous night, there was still the threat of rain in the air when I arrived.

Lezayre is an eye-wateringly fast section of the circuit. It is on the run towards Ramsey, and is the most northernly section of the circuit.

Also known as the Conker Fields or “K” Tree, the riders wrestle with the bike as it rears it’s front end towards the heavens on a left-handed, fifth-gear kink. To give you an idea of the “K” Tree’s challenge, skip to 1:10 on this video to see Dan Kneen in full-flow through there.

Despite the rain holding off, tonight was another challenging session to shoot, as the ever-fading light under the trees made it increasingly difficult to track the riders with the autofocus on both of my camera bodies. Quite an issue when riders are travelling at speeds easily approaching 150 mph!

IOMTT: Grandstand Paddock with Richard Mushet

05/28/2014 @ 9:41 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

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After a glorious Tuesday evening practice, the weather was looking decidedly gloomy before this evening’s session. Due to an abundance of cloud cover and impending showers, I can honestly say that my decision to shoot from Lezayre wasn’t the best idea I’ve had so far this TT.

Unfortunately the session was stopped, after most riders had only managed a solitary lap, due to an incident at the top of Barregarrow. Combined with the failing light and ever-heavier rain showers on the Northerly sections of the circuit (including myself at Lezayre) the Clerk of the Course cancelled all sessions this evening.

Due to a lack of racing action I will leave you all with a few sights from around the paddock today, and hopes for better weather (and light) for tomorrow’s practice.