2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto, for France Only

America might have invented supermoto racing, but the sport’s largest support base easily comes now from that other side of the Atlantic – more specifically, from France. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that Honda’s French importer Superboost makes a special supermoto version of the Honda CRF450 for the French market. For the 2017 model year, the Honda CRF450 Supermoto follows that changes made to Big Red’s 450cc dirt bike, which notably includes the return of fork springs (goodbye air forks), an electric starter, and down-draft fuel injection. Basically a kit that is added at the importer level, the 2017 Honda CRF450 Supermoto lineup has three models, building off the CRF450R (€11,299), CRF450RX (€10,999), and CRF450X dirt bike (€10,999), with each getting their own taste of the supermoto treatment.

Three Rider Opinions on MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

As the sun set on the third day of the Jerez Test, Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with World Superbike runners, the story of the day was that Rea spent most of the day leading the “faster” GP boys. The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships? Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day, set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive, but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own, or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

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.