The Honda Africa Twin Gets Rally Raid Ready

When it comes to adventure-tourers that can actually go off-road, the Honda Africa Twin easily rises to the top of the list. Couple that to Honda’s pursuits in the Dakar Rally and other rally raid events, and its easy to see where the Honda Africa Twin Rally could be born. A special model being built by Italy’s Honda importer that was unveiled at this year’s Motodays show, the Africa Twin Rally won’t be hitting other markets any time soon (read: never), though it shows a machine that many ADV riders have been clamoring for, since the first shots of the Honda CRF450 Rally hit the internet. The Honda Africa Twin Rally loses roughly 15 pounds over its OEM predecessor, mostly by using carbon fiber and a minimalist LED headlight assembly. Yes, a roadbook is an optional accessory, for when you find yourself in the middle of The Dakar.

Yes, Winter Traction Tires Exist for Motorcycles

If you are in a region that gets all four of the seasons, you are likely counting down the days to the coming snow-thaw. As such, this article might be coming to you a little late for this season, but for next winter you should consider mounting some winter traction tires to your motorcycle. Yes, such things exist. To be fair, I too was unaware that you could get a motorcycle tire that met the criteria from the DOT, in order for it to carry the “mountain/snowflake” symbol, but apparently Turkish tire-maker Anlas has such tires in its line-up. That’s right, for regions of the world that require special tires during the snowy months, there is a tire out there to keep you riding all-season.

SWM Motorcycles Targets 6,000 Units in 2017

You probably haven’t heard of SWM Motorcycles, the off-road brand that carries on where Husqvarna left off in Italy. Built from the parts that KTM didn’t want when it bought the Swedish brand in 2013, SWM Motorcycles is based outside of Milan, Italy and produces a variety of off-road focused machines using pre-BMW Husqvarna engine designs. Many members of the company’s team are former Husqvarna employees, including the company’s CEO, Ampelio Macchi – all of whom were left out in the cold when the German brand sold Husqvarna to KTM. But, with a new production facility, support from the local government and worker unions, along with Chinese financing (from the Shineray Group), SWM Motorcycles has taken on a new life with a promising future.

How Dorna Is Ending the Spanish Armada in MotoGP

It is terribly fashionable in some circles to regard Dorna as a blight on the face of motorcycle racing. Their alleged crimes are both heinous and manifold. They have dumbed down the sport by exerting an ever tighter grip over the technical regulations. They killed off the two-strokes in favor of four-strokes. They have aggressively pursued copyright and trademark claims, at the cost of broadening the appeal of the sport. They have been relentless in their pursuit of financial gain over the spirit of the sport. They have meddled in the sport to favor one rider, or one nationality over the rest. Most of these complaints are either baseless, or an expression of anger at how the sport has changed over the years.

The 2017 Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP Race Bike Debuts

The final factory MotoGP to debut its 2017 MotoGP Championship race bike, Aprilia has finally debuted the 2017 Aprilia RS-GP that Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes will campaign this year. The Italian outfit continues to make quiet strides in its development with the RS-GP, though the efforts from Suzuki and KTM tend to dominate the headlines. For the 2017 season, Aprilia looks ready to take another step forward, especially with Aleix Espargaro at the helm. The biggest task for the 2017 will be to bring more horsepower to the Aprilia RS-GP. The machine reportedly handles quite well, though that is often an item of praise that changes as the power increases.

The Subtle Big Deal That Is Ducati Premier Financing

Ducati released a new financing program this week, maybe you saw the announcement already. If you even bothered to read one of the copy/paste jobs on this announcement, you probably got three sentences into it, and then realized you just lost a minute or two of your life, which you will never get back. It is hard to make this topic sexy, and motorcycle journalists are lazy creatures (myself included)…which is why you probably just saw the press release reprinted on a website, with some Ducati advertising placed next to it, just for good measure. The Ducati Premier Financing program is a big deal though, just not in a way that is immediately sexy to the casual motorcycle buyer.

Washington Lane-Splitting Bill Passes State Senate

Legalizing lane-splitting in Washington State just got a step closer to reality, as the State Senate of the Washington State Legislature has passed a bill that would allow lane-splitting under very specific circumstances. Senate Bill 5378 (SB 5378) would allow lane-splitting only during slow traffic conditions – up to 10mph faster than the flow of traffic, but no faster than 25 mph – and only on numbered highways that have a median and multiple lanes of traffic in each direction. The bill passed the senate with 32 “yea” votes from both Republicans and Democrats, while the 17 “nay” votes came solely from Democrat members.

Indian Working on an Electric Motorcycle?

Polaris Industries says it is working on a new electric motorcycle, to replace the now discontinued Victory Empulse TT model that was scrapped when the Minnesota company closed the doors to the Victory brand earlier this year. According to a report from Reuters, the new electric motorcycle will be released under the Indian Motorcycle brand name, and will be focused towards riders who ride for pleasure, rather than those who commute or do long-distance trips. The report says that Polaris is targeting a 120 to 140 mile range – almost double of what was available from the Empulse TT – from this new electric motorcycle model, when ridden at an aggressive pace.

Indian’s Flat Track Racer Now Available to Mere Mortals

When the Indian Scout FTR750 flat track race bike debuted, our comments section was filled with enthusiasts screaming for a production version of the water-cooled 750cc machine. Well my friends, your prayers have been answered…in part. Indian is making the Scout FTR750 available to anyone who has the coin to spend, with a couple caveats: 1) you will need to pony up $50,000 in order to purchas the bike, and 2) it will be a race-only model. Still, the news should be exciting for privateer flat track racers who are keen to use Indian’s very trick racing package, which looks to be far more purpose-built than Harley-Davidson’s Street 750 based offering.

Report Says Sport Bike Sales in USA Dropped 4.7%

The data continues to support the notion that sport bike sales are contracting, with Powersports Business releasing a report that sport bike sales dropped by 4.7% over a 12-month period that ended in October 2016. According to the dataset put together by Statistical Surveys Inc., 75,469 sport bikes were registered in the United States during last year’s time period, compared to the 79,225 motorcycles that were registered the previous year. While the general trend across the country is a drop in sport bike sales, the research also showed some interesting locations where sport bike sales actually increased dramatically, showing that there may be a location element to the demise of the sport bike.

MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 1 Summary: A Fast Rossi, A Fast Open Yamaha, & A Slow Black Honda

02/04/2014 @ 12:15 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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It has been a fascinating first day of testing at Sepang. And like all fascinating days, it has been long, tiring, and utterly inspiring. There were surprises, disappointments, and rumors confirmed and denied. It was, in short, a good day at the office.

Marc Marquez was fastest – it barely goes without saying – the 2013 World Champion picking up where he left off. He was quick from the off, and put in a final burst of speed at the end of the day to open the gap on the rest, finishing with half a second advantage.

Braking stability was the watchword for the Repsol Honda team, especially rear grip on braking and corner entry, with both Marquez and Dani Pedrosa working on a slightly revised version of the 2014 RC213V which both men had tested at Valencia last year.

Their main focus – like those of everyone on their first day back on a MotoGP – was just to get used to the speed again. The switchover had been toughest for Cal Crutchlow, the Englishman claimed. He had ridden a motocross bike for exactly one day, he said, spending the rest of his winter training on his bicycle. The speed differential between a 20-speed racing bicycle and a 6-speed Ducati Desmosedici is nothing if not cavernous.

The happiest faces were at Yamaha, though in different garages and on unexpected faces. Valentino Rossi took the second fastest time, had led for a large part of the test, and looked a much happier rider all round. The rapport with new crew chief Silvano Galbusera was good, the atmosphere in the team was good, but above all, a few small changes which Yamaha had made to the YZR-M1 had proven to be significant.

Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec-ECU?

12/30/2013 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

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The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing’s premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams; however, only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves.

If a team decides to run Dorna’s standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two – entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software – is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna.

Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal-breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies.

The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection, and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category.

The Dangerous Power Struggle Inside Repsol Honda

10/23/2013 @ 5:53 pm, by David Emmett44 COMMENTS

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The 2013 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island – likely to be known henceforth as ‘The Debacle Down Under’ – taught us many things. It taught us that tire companies need to find ways to test at newly surfaced tracks (especially when a newly retired world champion and now Honda test rider lives in the same country), that pit stops in dry conditions are potentially dangerous when each stint is less than 10 laps, and that hurriedly changing rules and race lengths are far from ideal when trying to organize a MotoGP race. Those were the lessons that were immediately obvious to anyone watching.

There were more subtle lessons from Phillip Island as well. Marc Marquez’s disqualification was not just a failure of either strategy or his ability to read a pit board, it was also a sign of growing tensions inside the Repsol Honda box. The reactions of the various members of Marquez’s crew after he failed to enter the pits to swap bikes at the end of lap 10 (shown in an excellent free video on the MotoGP.com website) suggests a deep-seated failure of communication among the entire crew.

Most of his crew appeared to be surprised and shocked when Marquez didn’t come in to swap bikes, but Marquez’s inner circle, Emilio Alzamora and Santi Hernandez, appear unperturbed as he races by on the lap that would lead to his disqualification. Cristian Gabarrini, formerly Casey Stoner’s crew chief and now HRC engineer assisting Marquez’s team, is immediately certain of the consequences, the cutting motion across the throat showing he knows it’s over.

After the race, Marc Marquez told reporters that it had been deliberate strategy to ride for the extra lap. The strategy had been decided by a small group. “We made the plan together, with three or four guys, with Santi [Hernandez] and with Emilio [Alzamora],” Marquez said, but the plan had backfired.

“The biggest problem was that we thought that it was possible to make that lap,” Marquez said, expressing his surprise at being black flagged. He had thought the penalty was for speeding in the pit lane or crossing the white line too early.

MotoGP: This is HRC & This is How They Party

09/28/2013 @ 10:25 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

REPSOL HONDA TEAM 2013

Marc Marquez has made a name for himself this season, not only by being a prodigy on two wheels, but also for being the light-hearted breath of fresh air that the MotoGP Championship needed so dearly.

Marquez himself is perhaps a stark contrast to his employer, the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC), which is known for being a bit more uptight and mechanical with its persona.

After watching the video after the jump, we think we can safely say that Nakamoto-san and his crew have redefined HRC…and they might just be having the most fun in the MotoGP paddock in the process.

Video: Casey Stoner Rides the Honda RC213V at Motegi

08/08/2013 @ 1:39 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Completing two days of testing for HRC, Casey Stoner was back in the saddle of a MotoGP machine this week (at Motegi, of all places). The former World Champion only did a handful of laps on Tuesday (six in total) before the rain came in to the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit; but on Wednesday, Mother Nature cooperated a bit. Getting to do 47 laps in total on the 2013 Honda RC213V race bike yesterday, Stoner tested some “small items” for his former employer.

Positive about the test and being back on a bike, Stoner reaffirmed his decision to stay out of MotoGP, and dashed the hopes of any fans that were hoping to see the Australian make a wild card run at Phillip Island. Much to the disappointment of the media, Stoner did not get a chance to swing a leg over Honda’s planned MotoGP Production Racer, though HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed that a future test of the machine by Stoner is in the works.

A private test, and thus free of Dorna’s video restrictions, the fine folk at HRC have put together a short video of Casey on-board the RC213V in Japan. A far cry from the great material we got from Honda’s private test at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin (at some points  in the video, we wonder if the videographer had some angry scarab beetles in their trousers), GP fans will surely still have an auralgasm as the RC213V goes by in anger.

First Photo of the Honda MotoGP Production Racer

05/26/2013 @ 11:33 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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After Shuhei Nakamoto was just talking last week about some of the technical details of Honda’s MotoGP production racer, HRC has released a photo of the RC213V-derived race bike testing at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.

Small in resolution, and taken with little zoom, the photo gives us few new details about the coming HRC production racer (that’s the point though, right?), but we do know that the still unnamed machine will cost roughly €1 million, be devoid of HRC’s “seamless” gearbox and pneumatic valves, and will come with Nissin and Showa components.

MotoGP: Shuhei Nakamoto Talks Tech Specs & Development of the New Honda RC Production Racer

05/22/2013 @ 2:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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A return of the production racer to the Grand Prix Championship, Honda’s RC213V-derived race bike for private teams is seen by many as a welcomed alternative to the current CRT formula. Based off the V4-powered bike that HRC’s factory and satellite teams race in MotoGP, Honda’s new RC-whatever-it’s-called is a slightly watered-down version of its true prototype progenitor, and comes with the distinction of being a purchased machine, rather than a lease from HRC.

Talking to MotoGP.com, HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto explains that the project is behind on its development schedule by about a month (paddock chatter says Big Red had to scramble a bit to formulate the production racer in order to appease Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta) though the machine should still be ready in time for the 2014 season, as HRC hopes to catch back up in its development.

Does the 2013 Honda RC213V Have a 90° V4 Engine?

02/18/2013 @ 1:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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The internets are a buzz today with photos from the MotoGP test a Sepang, which seem to suggest that the 2013 Honda RC213V prototype race bike has a 90° V4 engine configuration. The news should certainly come as a surprise for many Ducatisti MotoGP fans, as Ducati Corse’s front-end woes have often been attributed by couch racers to the Italian company’s 90° V4 engine configuration. Seeing how dominant Honda has been at the pre-season testing in Malaysia though, one cannot help but admit that the cylinder configuration is not necessarily to blame for Ducati’s troubles.

Talking to Spanish magazine SoloMoto, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto explains that the 90° V4 engine has benefits over the company’s previous 75° engine configuration, namely that the 90° engine doesn’t require a balancing countershaft. Nakamoto-san further explains that because of the balancing shaft’s absence, Honda’s 90° V4 runs with more power, and less vibration that its 75° predecessor, making the engine a formidable enhancement to the RC213V platform.

HRC Boss Reveals Details of Honda’s Production Racer: Conventional Valves, Standard Gearbox, & 1 Million Euros

02/07/2013 @ 11:44 am, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

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The production racer version of Honda’s RC213V is another step closer to reality. At Sepang, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto spoke to reporters and the MotoGP.com website about the new bike, and the progress being made on the machine, which will take the place of the CRT machines from 2014 onwards. The bike is delayed, Nakamoto said, but it will be ready in time for the tests at Valencia, after the final race of the season in November.

Nakamoto gave a brief rundown of the specifications of the production RC213V – a bike which, given the amount of publicity it is going to be generating over the next few months, badly needs a new name – though the list contained few surprises.

The bike will have conventional valve springs, as opposed to pneumatic valves on the factory machine. It will not have the seamless gearbox used by the prototypes – again, not a surprise, as maintenance on the gearbox is still an HRC-only affair. This was not a matter of cost, Nakamoto said, claiming the seamless gearbox now costs almost the same as a standard unit.

MotoGP: HRC’s Shuhei Nakamoto Looks Back At 2012

01/11/2013 @ 11:39 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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With the kickoff to the 2013 season growing ever closer, those involved in motorcycle racing are starting to look back at 2012 and look ahead to 2013. After yesterday’s review from Bridgestone, Honda are the next organization to issue a press release interview with a senior management figure. The press release interview with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto makes for fascinating reading, providing an insight into the 2012 season and expectations of 2013.

The interview covers the preparations for the switch to 1,000cc, and the confidence with which HRC went into the new era. However, Honda soon ran into trouble, with the increase in the minimum weight added in December 2011, and the revised construction of Bridgestone tires supplied for the 2012 season, both the softer rear tire and the revised front tire (for additional detail into why the weight increase was announced so late, see my note below the interview).

Nakamoto provides some interesting details on how HRC dealt with the extra weight and the revised tires, revealing that it cost them half a season to solve the problems they had created. The HRC boss also explains why he believes that having multiple tire manufacturers is a better solution for all involved, creating more competition and allowing multiple solutions for different bikes. Nakamoto states that he believes this is one of the reasons why MotoGP racing has become so predictable.

Nakamoto also has very high praise for both Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, the man brought in to replace him. His compliments on Marquez approach and talent are telling, Nakamoto revealing that at the HRC test in Sepang, Marquez was already lapping at the same pace that Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were running. Nakamoto also provides insight into why he will miss Casey Stoner, and exactly how important the Australian was to Honda’s racing program. Nakamoto rates Stoner above any other rider in the MotoGP paddock.

The interview is an absolutely fascinating read, with one of the most intriguing and interesting characters in the MotoGP paddock. Highly recommended: