2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S – A Poor Man’s R1

All the conjecture can finally be put aside, as Yamaha has finally pulled back the curtain on its rumored third variant of the current YZF-R1 – we simply know it as the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S. As was rumored, the Yamaha YZF-R1S sits below what we used to call the “base model” R1, offering an even more affordable option for riders who couldn’t quite afford the current R1’s hefty $16,490 price tag. Yamaha made no qualms about saying that the current YZF-R1 was a track bike first, a street bike second. Now replacing some of the more exotic parts on the R1, the R1S keeps much of the R1’s track-oriented DNA, but offers it in a more paltry $14,990 price tag, on a bike that is directed at more price-conscious street riders.

Ducati 959 Panigale Spotted – Not Much Has Changed

Ducati was all the talk of last week, after its Ducati 959 Panigale and Ducati Hypermotard 739 were outed in filings with the California Air Resources Board. According to the CARB documents, the new “middleweight” Ducati sport bike is set to get a 955cc displacement increase, though we wondered what else would change. Now we have a pretty good answer, as “spy photos” of the production machine are floating around the internet now, which show that the 959 Panigale is very similar in shape to the 899 Panigale it replaces. Like the evolution from the 1199 Panigale to the 1299 Panigale, this year is mostly a model refresh, rather than a new design from the ground up. Aside from the larger displacement, it will be interesting to see what changes Ducati has made more subtly, with the electronics perhaps.

Honda Grom 50 Scramblers Are the Cutest Dirt Bikes Ever

The Honda Grom has been a huge success for Honda, with the unassuming pocket bike basically selling out in its inaugural year, and it is still selling strong to this day. With two Grom concepts debuting alongside two other concepts of the Honda Super Cub, it is easy to draw some parallels between the iconic Cub line, and its modern-day equivalent, the Grom. Pint-sized, lovable, and affordable…come on, you know you want one. If you don’t, well first off, we think you’re lying, secondly you should see what Honda is set to show off at the Tokyo Motor Show. Creating two concepts that take the Honda Grom off-road, Honda has turned the Grom into more of a scrambler, with a modern version as well as a more retro variant. New or old, you take your pick, but we like them both.

Honda Super Cub Concept Brings Modern Flare to a Classic

In addition to the Honda EV-Cub concept, which surely means that the venerable Super Cub scooter is set to get an electric variant, Honda has also sent us photos of the Honda Super Cub concept, which shows us a modern scooter design based off the iconic Cub model. The Honda Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle ever, and in the United States its known best as the poster child for the “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” campaign. It is a motorcycle that has transcended the motorcycle industry. Obviously Honda is taking a big risk by changing its most famous creation, but we think that this modernized Super Cub concept is a fitting successor to its namesake.

Honda EV-Cub Concept Debuts, Yet Again

We’re not really sure why Honda is debuting the EV-Cub concept again at the Tokyo Motor Show, but it is. Taking the iconic Honda Super Cub design, and adopting it to a new electric platform, Honda is making an obvious play with one of the “nicest” machines it ever created. Unlike Big Red, we won’t rehash the idea again, other than to say just build it already, Honda – electric scooters make a lot of sense, especially in dense urban environments. The Honda Super Cub is the best selling motorcycle of all time, and we’re sure the EV-Cub will continue that heritage.

Honda Neowing Concept – A Hybrid Leaning Trike

It seems that the Japanese are really exploring the idea of leaning multi-wheel concepts. First was the Yamaha Teseract, with its four wheels of leaning fury, which gave rise to the production of the Yamaha Tricity scooter, and the Yamaha 03GEN-f & Yamaha 03GEN-x concepts. Team Green has explored this space with the Kawasaki J Concept, Piaggio has its MP3 500 maxi-scooter (and supposedly has the lockdown on patents for this innovative design), and now Honda has its Neowing – a gas/electric hybrid leaning three-wheeler. Like its counterparts, this trike has two wheels in the front, with the rider in a motorcycle-styled sitting position. Adding to the motorcycle experience, the trike leans through turns. Huzah!

Suzuki GSX Concept Hints At…Something

Unlike the Honda “Light Weight Super Sports” concept, which gives a clear indication as to the cut of the Japanese manufacturer’s jib, the Suzuki GSX concept leaves a bit more to the imagination. We know that the Suzuki GSX-R line is woeful need of an update, and our best information pegs the Suzuki GSX-R1000 finally getting a refresh in mid-2016, as an early 2017 model. Other rumors suggest we’ll see something interesting from the Suzuki brand at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, and hopefully that doesn’t mean just this GSX concept. Maybe this is a nod that Suzuki had finally awoken from its slumber, and plans on refreshing some of its most iconic sport bikes.

Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” Concept Gives Hope for a Honda CBR250RR in the Near Future

When it comes to the small-displacement trend that we’ve seen from manufacturers, Honda’s offering is competent, but lacking when compared to what has come out from Kawasaki, KTM, and Yamaha. If the Honda’s “Light Weight Super Sports” concept (super high-resolution photo above), which will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, is any indication though, the Japanese manufacturer is about to blow the competition out of the water with what will likely be the Honda CBR250RR. The concept shown has a different chassis from the Honda CBR250R and Honda CBR300R, which bode well for the machine being substantially different from what is on the market now from Honda.

The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically. Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course. That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

New 937cc Ducati Hypermotard 939 Outed for 2016

In addition to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale, Ducati is set to update the Hypermotard line, according to documents filed with the California Air Resources Board. The filing shows three new Hypers: the base model Hypermotard, the up-spec Hypermotard SP, and the touring-oriented Hyperstrada. Unfortunately the CARB filings don’t tell us too much about the machines, other than their emissions are lower (thanks to Euro 4 compliance), and that all three street bikes will use a 937cc engine and a six-speed gearbox. These Hypers surely represent three of Ducati’s upcoming nine models set to be released at the 2016 EICMA show, and we have to say that we are looking forward to seeing what the Italian marque has done with what is surely our favorite motorcycle on the market.

Sunday Summary at Motegi: Pedrosa, Rossi, & Lorenzo

10/12/2015 @ 12:42 am, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS


Saturday at Motegi had offered the mouthwatering prospect of the battle we have been waiting for all year. Valentino Rossi had cracked his qualifying jinx and lined up on the grid next to Jorge Lorenzo.

The pair were close in qualifying times and in race pace, and with 14 points separating them in the championship, there was a lot at stake. Finally, we might get to see Rossi and Lorenzo go head to head in the struggle for supremacy, and to seize the momentum in the MotoGP title race.

As has so often been the case, the hopes of the fans withered on the vine on race day. The rain wrecked any chance of a straight and open battle between the two protagonists in the title chase, throwing the day’s schedule into disarray, and turning what could have been an all-out war into a cagey battle of tactics.

We may not have been given what we hoped for, but there was still plenty for the fans to get their teeth into. Jorge Lorenzo looked to have the race sewn up by the halfway mark, but a slowly drying track blew the race wide open.

There were very few direct battles, at least not up front, but an increasingly dry line radically changed the dynamic of the race. There was tension, there were surprises, myths, and shibboleths were shattered.

The championship took on a new impetus, and the strain of the fight going down to the line started to take its toll. This is going to be a tough year for the men who would be champion.

Saturday Summary at Motegi: The Key To Rossi’s Qualifying, The Perils of Data Sharing, & Fast Fenati, Finally

10/11/2015 @ 12:37 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS


Has Valentino Rossi finally mastered qualifying? The Italian has struggled since the format changed, from the extended hour of qualifying which started out as free practice and ended up as an all-out time attack, to the frenetic fifteen-minute dash for pole.

His biggest problem, he always explained, was getting up to speed from the start: leaving pit lane and going flat out from the very first meters. He had spent a lifetime slowly sidling up to a blistering lap, rather than getting the hammer down as soon as the lights changed.

The switch from an analog to a binary format had been hard to swallow. Millions of older fans sympathized, as they faced the same struggle in their own lives.

Lorenzo, on the other hand, has thrived in the new format, having learned the skill while doing battle with Casey Stoner. The Australian’s greatest legacy was his ability to go as fast as possible the moment he left the pit lane.

I was once told by Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner’s crew chief, that when they looked at his sector times, they would see that he had set his fastest sector times on his out lap. To beat Stoner, Lorenzo had to learn to emulate him.

Friday Summary at Motegi: The Key To Zarco’s Title, Lorenzo’s Strong Shoulder, & The Threat from the Ducatis

10/09/2015 @ 11:03 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS


It’s only Friday, but already, one championship has been decided. Tito Rabat’s mission to outscore Johann Zarco was tough enough before he crashed at Almeria and broke his wrist, but trying to handle the immense braking stresses of the Japanese circuit with a freshly plated radius proved too much to ask.

Rabat’s attempt was brave, but ultimately doomed to failure. After riding in FP1, Rabat realized that it wasn’t so much the pain, but rather a lack of strength in the arm needed to control the bike safely. Forced to withdraw, Rabat’s title defense came to an end, and Johann Zarco became the 2015 Moto2 World Champion.

It was a rather bewildered Zarco who faced the press later on Friday. His mind was still focused on Sunday’s race, rather than on becoming champion. He could barely comprehend that he had already won the title.

Mentally, he had prepared to celebrate on Sunday, after the race, so the title had come unexpectedly early. It did not put him off his stride, however. Zarco was twelve thousandths slower than Tom Luthi in FP1, and nineteen thousandths faster than Alex Rins in FP2. He remains the man to beat in Moto2, exactly as he has been all year.

Thursday Summary at Motegi: The Walking Wounded, Yamaha’s Supremacy, & Hayden’s Switch

10/08/2015 @ 8:58 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS


Motegi was the stage for a parade of the walking wounded on Thursday. The first question to half of the riders in the press conference was, “How’s the injury?”

The answers mattered quite a lot, given that Jorge Lorenzo is engaged in a battle to the wire with Valentino Rossi for the 2015 MotoGP crown, Marc Márquez has proved to be capable of being the joker in the podium pack, and Andrea Iannone is the dark horse always looking to disrupt proceedings at the front.

If any of those three are severely hampered by their injuries, it could have a major impact on the outcome of the championship.

There is, of course, one minor problem with asking riders how their injuries are, and how much trouble they are causing: you never know just how close to the truth the answer they gave you actually is.

This is not necessarily because they are trying to deceive you, but as Valentino Rossi himself pointed out, often, a rider does not know just how much trouble an injury will cause until they actually get on a bike and ride. “For me, I think it’s impossible to know,” he replied, when asked if he thought Lorenzo might be hampered by his injury at Motegi.

Preview of the Japanese GP: The Long Haul Towards the Championship Showdown

10/07/2015 @ 10:33 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT


And so the most crucial part of the season begins. Although you could justifiably make the argument that every race is equally important, the three flyaways to the Pacific Rim often punch well above their weight in terms of determining the outcome of the championships.

If riders haven’t all but wrapped up the title before heading East for the triple header at Motegi, Phillip Island, and Sepang, then events can throw a real spanner in the works of a title fight.

These are three grueling weeks of racing under any circumstances; throw in the pressure of a championship battle and mistakes are easily made.

The first challenge the riders face is the sheer amount of travel it takes to get from one race to the next. First, they must spend at least 18 hours on planes and at airports traveling from Europe to Tokyo.

They face a further two-hour drive to get to Motegi, and unless they are well-paid enough to be staying at the circuit hotel, will have a 50-minute commute into the circuit every day ahead of the race.

On Sunday night or Monday morning, they return to Tokyo for another 10-hour flight (or longer, if they can’t fly direct) to Melbourne, and a drive down to Phillip Island. A week later, another flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, this time an 8-hour flight.

After the Sepang round, they finally get to head home, another 17+ hour return flight back to Europe, and a week to rest up ahead of the final round of the season at Valencia. They travel from a wet and humid Motegi, to the chill of Phillip Island’s early spring, to the sweltering tropical heat of Sepang.

Sunday Summary at Aragon: Of Deceptive Speed, Unforced Errors, & A Championship Reopened

09/27/2015 @ 8:06 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS


Just when it looked like the three Grand Prix championships were getting closed to being wrapped up, along came Aragon. The three races at the last European round before the Pacific flyaways left the title chase still open in all three classes.

The outcome in both Moto2 and Moto3 still looks pretty much inevitable, but a win by Jorge Lorenzo in MotoGP meant that the battle for supremacy between the Spaniard and Valentino Rossi is anything but over.

The Moto2 and Moto3 crowns may end up being handed out at Motegi, Phillip Island or Sepang, but the championship fight for MotoGP will most likely go all the way to the last race in Valencia.

That may be hard on the fans of the two riders involved, but for MotoGP as a series, it is great. The pressure and the tension goes up with every race, and makes watching an ever greater joy.

Saturday Summary at Aragon: Can the Weather Save the Championship Lead?

09/26/2015 @ 7:26 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS


The last two races have followed a familiar pattern. On Friday and Saturday, Jorge Lorenzo has laid down a scorching pace, which his rivals – and more importantly, his teammate and rival for the 2015 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi – have been unable to follow.

Lorenzo’s name was penciled onto the winner’s trophy, and his grip on the MotoGP class looked secure.

Then on Sunday, everything changed. The weather gods intervened, rain lashed down at Silverstone, then started and stopped at Misano, throwing the race into disarray. Both times, Valentino Rossi handled the conditions better than Lorenzo, gaining big points in both races.

At Silverstone, Rossi won comfortably, while Jorge Lorenzo struggled home in fourth. At Misano, Rossi rode a tactically poor race, but still managed to come home in fifth. Lorenzo got caught out by the pace of Scott Redding, failing to understand that the Marc VDS rider had already been out for several laps and had his tires up to temperature and his brain up to speed.

The Movistar Yamaha rider tried to stay with Redding, and paid the price when he turned left after a long series of rights, crashing out and scoring zero points.

What do we have at Aragon? Another weekend where Lorenzo is dominating, Marc Márquez his only clear rival, with Dani Pedrosa there as a dark horse.

Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, is struggling with tire degradation, the performance of the tires dropping in the heat. Rossi could lose a big handful of points to Lorenzo on Sunday, if he is unable to match the pace of the top three.

He really needs a bit of a miracle, either in the shape of rain, or in the form of colder temperatures.

Friday Summary at Aragon: Sandbagging, Strategy, & Grip

09/25/2015 @ 11:10 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT


What’s the value of testing? Judging by Jorge Lorenzo’s time on Friday – a second under the race lap record, and three tenths off the outright lap record – you would have to say that it’s good at least for a day’s worth of practice.

The Movistar Yamahas came to the Motorland Aragon circuit having tested here twice, once after Barcelona, once before Misano. The test in September allowed them to find a strong set up for this weekend, one which works well, as Lorenzo’s blistering lap time in the afternoon showed so clearly.

Though Lorenzo set his time, as Valentino Rossi put it, in “a real time attack, 100%,” it was one lap in a series of four, three of which were quicker than anyone else. It was perhaps not so much an early attempt at a qualifying lap as it was simulating the start of the race.

Thursday Summary at Aragon: Being Fastest vs. Finishing First, And Advice for Young Riders from a Moto2 Champion

09/24/2015 @ 5:17 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS


When different riders agree on a subject, it is worth listening. Summing up the 2015 championship, both Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso independently came to the same conclusion.

When asked in the press conference who was stronger, Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez explained that it wasn’t as simple as that.

“It’s difficult to say,” Márquez said. “If you ask me, I would say Jorge is faster because his speed is really good. On the other side, Valentino is doing his 100% and he always finishes in front these last two races.”

Earlier in the day, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had been asked if he could become one of the wild cards which could help decide the championship.

“In a normal situation, it’s quite difficult. But not impossible,” Dovizioso replied. But the championship was far from decided, Dovizioso went on to add.

“I think that the points gap between Valentino and Lorenzo is quite big now, and Valentino is really good at managing the points. But I think Lorenzo has the speed to fight and to gain the points. Still there a lot of races left. I think he has the speed and is strong enough thinking about himself to try to win the race, and anything can happen.”

Dovizioso and Márquez echo a broadly-held opinion in the paddock: that Jorge Lorenzo is the faster of the two, but Valentino Rossi is the man who finds a way to cross the line first.

Preview of the Aragon GP: Championship Battles on the Line

09/23/2015 @ 7:37 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS


From the coast to the high plains. From the hubbub of a string of seaside resorts along the Adriatic Riviera to the vast unspoiled mountains and hills of Baja Aragon. From the green and fertile Po basin to the arid olive orchards and vineyards of the Maestrazgo.

Contrasts don’t get much greater than between Misano in Italy and Motorland Aragon in Spain.

The tracks, too, are very different. Misano is fairly slow, with a lot of tight first gear corners. Aragon is much faster, with some tighter sections, but a couple of seriously fast and flowing corners.

Misano is pretty much flat as a pancake, where Aragon has its own version of Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew, though not quite so precipitous, and a long, fast downhill back straight leading to a long double-apex left hander and a climb uphill to the finish.

The scenery may change, but the storyline in MotoGP remains the same. The championship remains a head-to-head battle between the Movistar Yamaha men, much as it has been since Le Mans.

After Misano, the ball is very much back in Valentino Rossi’s court, having extended his lead over Jorge Lorenzo to 23 points.

He will need that cushion, as the championship now arrives at Aragon, a circuit where Lorenzo arrives as a clear favorite, having had some strong results here in the past. Rossi, meanwhile, is at one of his worst tracks, Aragon being one of just two tracks where the Italian has never won, Austin being the other.