US Motorcycle Sales Down in 2016, While UK Sales Are Up

For many in the motorcycle industry, 2016 felt like an off year, and now we know that those feelings weren’t unsubstantiated. Early leaks of the MIC’s industry sales figures for 2016 show that the US motorcycle market contracted 2.1% in 2016, erasing the modest gains made in 2015. Meanwhile for our neighbors across the pond, things are going substantially better, with sales in the United Kingdom up 11.7% (128,644 registrations). We will have to wait for all the motorcycle OEMs to report their final quarter sales results to know who are the big winners and losers of the 2016 sales year. Though, we do know that KTM and BMW (up 5.9%) have shown signs of strong results internationally, whereas Duacti and Harley-Davidson are expected to post overall sales declines for 2016.

BMW R1200R Drag Bike by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit has a way of inking motorcycle designs that we didn’t even know we wanted. First it was drawings of dustbin motorcycles, and now its his drag bike creation, which is based off the BMW R1200R. BMW’s boxer-twin engine doesn’t lend itself to being a great platform for drag racing, but you have to admit that this is a handsome ride, even if it’s all show and no go. With BMW filling every niche under the two-wheeled sun with its bikes though, we wouldn’t be that surprised to see the Germans follow-up with something similar to what the French designer has done here. After all, BMW Motorrad is rumored to be working on an XDiavel-killer, and then there’s…

MV Agusta Relaunches in USA and Canada

It didn’t take long for the news to become officially official, but MV Agusta USA and MV Agusta Canada have come under new ownership, as the Italian brand attempts to relaunch itself in the North American market. Heading the new efforts is Urban Moto Group, headed by Joseph Elasmar, who imports MV Agusta, Benelli, EBR, Royal Enfield, and other brands into Australia. According to the their agreement, both MV Agusta and Urban Moto will co-develop the North America territories, with the aim of capitalizing on the region’s large market for big displacement motorcycles. “We are very excited to build a successful relationship with Urban Moto Group as a new partner also overseeing and developing the presence of MV Agusta in the USA market,” said Giovanni Castiglioni.

New Triumph Street Triple Debuts with 765cc Engine

As expected, today we get to see the 2017 Triumph Street Triple, with its new engine capacity: 765cc. The new engine displacement comes from both an increase in bore and stroke on the iconic three-cylinder motor, with Triumph using a new crank, pistons, and barrels in its construction. Three flavors of Triumph Street Triple will be available for 2017, with S, R, and RS-spec (above) machines being available, with obvious performance differences existing between the trim levels. As such, peak horsepower will be 113hp (S), 118hp (R), and 123hp (RS) – a notable boost over the 675cc machine’s 105hp. Meanwhile, peak torque has been improved from 50 lbs•ft, now to 53 lbs•ft (S) and 56 lbs•ft (R & RS). All the models tip the scales at 166kg (dry) according to Triumph, which is a 2kg reduction over the outgoing model.

Victory Motorcycles Ceasing Operations

Polaris Industries is starting the year off with some surprising news, announcing that it will cease operation of Victory Motorcycles and other related business operations to the brand. Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO, explained the decision as coming down to basic business factors, with Victory not showing the growth and volume in order to sustain its continued existence. Polaris in its press release also cites the changing landscape of the motorcycle landscape, and that the resources and investments required to make Victory competitive going forward were too hard to justify for the troubled brand. Instead, Polaris will focus solely on its Indian and Slingshot brands, for the motorcycle space.

Triumph Set to Become the Official Moto2 Engine Supplier

The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017. There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.

Walt Siegl’s Dakar Inspired Ducati Hypermotard

This Dakar Rally inspired Ducati Hypermotard is the latest creation from Walt Siegl Motorcycles, and it comes with some very appropriate timing. Not only are we full-swing into the 2017 Dakar Rally, but this 1980s-styled Ducati comes during a week where we have been talking about my not-so-secret love affair with the Ducati Hypermotard. Again, we see the air-cooled version of this street-going supermoto being used as a platform for a unique work, though this time Walt Siegl has been commissioned to make a bike that rolled right off the sand dunes of Africa. The exercise centers around mostly the restyling of the bodywork, to give us a little nostalgia for when the Dakar Rally was actually held in its namesake in Northern Africa.

Mike’s Carbon Fiber Motus MSTR

The Motus MSTR is a beast of a machine, it just oozes raw power and torque from its 1,650cc V4 engine; and to compliment all that grunt, the MSTR also comes tastefully wrapped in painted carbon fiber fairings. But when a composites expert wants one of your motorcycles, painting those carbon fiber body panels might not be the best of choices – it may even be an affront the Gods of Internal Combustion. When customer “Mike M.” wanted to see show off the weave of the Motus MSTR’s carbon fiber bodywork, he opted for his machine to come sans the livery. We think that was a pretty good choice, and the gods are surely pleased as well. So, to help get the New Year off to a proper start, and to return to the appreciation of all things two-wheeled, we give you Mike M.’s Motus MSTR motorcycle – how’s that for alliteration?

10 Things to Look Forward to in Motorcycle Racing for 2017

The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight. If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

Michael Lock Talks About the Future of Flat Track Racing

As discussed previously on Asphalt & Rubber, flat track racing in the United States will have a comprehensive makeover in 2017. The series will be rebranded as the American Flat Track Series, and the calendar expanded to 18 rounds. At the Superprestigio in Barcelona last weekend, the CEO of the American Flat Track series, Michael Lock, sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to discuss the reasoning behind the changes. The expat Englishman came to flat track with a unique perspective; that of an outsider. He was an Englishman abroad, and brought fresh eyes to the problem of trying to grow flat track racing once again. The single biggest change is to simplify the structure of the championship with the GNC1 class now just for twin-cylinder engined bikes, with the GNC2 class using the smaller singles.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Sepang: Mr. Nice Guy

10/30/2016 @ 10:13 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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2016 has been a weird season. Eight different winners in MotoGP, in eight consecutive races.

Tire issues in Argentina caused the race to be split into two parts; a mass false start in Moto2 at the first race of the year in Qatar; torrential rain at Assen causing the race to be abandoned; bike-swap shenanigans at the Sachsenring; and wet tire degradation at Brno.

With all that happening, why would anyone expect the Sepang round of MotoGP to be any less weird?

The expectation of weirdness has also meant that everyone has half expected there to be a ninth winner in MotoGP. Fans and journalists have come to accept this as the new normal, that every race throws up a new surprise.

A ninth winner would fit in perfectly with the string of surprises we have seen this year. The question is, of course, who might it be?

With six of the ten factory riders on the grid already having won a race, and the Aprilia RS-GP still too far off the pace to compete for victory, it came down to two realistic candidates: Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro, and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.

With the Ducati being the faster bike, and already having racked up a win and several podiums, Dovizioso was the betting favorite. But both were regarded as long shots.

Qatar World Superbike Debrief – Sunday

10/30/2016 @ 7:02 pm, by Kent Brockman7 COMMENTS

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Jonathan Rea confirmed his status as one of the all time WorldSBK riders by claiming back-to-back crowns on Saturday, but in the final race of the season it was Chaz Davies who claimed the spoils.

For Davies, it was a seventh win in the final eight races of the season, and six in a row, but ultimately the Welshman came up just two points short of Tom Sykes in the fight for second in the standings.

Those final points came courtesy of a gift from Rea to his teammate.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Sepang: Grip Gives Lorenzo Confidence in the Wet

10/29/2016 @ 6:36 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The riders may have been complaining that the new surface of the Sepang circuit takes too long to dry out, but about one thing, they are all agreed. It has fantastic grip.

“We have this problem of the track drying up, it’s very difficult,” Jorge Lorenzo told the press conference, agreeing with his teammate. “But the grip is perfect, it’s amazing the grip.”

That was obvious in the afternoon, when the MotoGP riders took to a track still soaking after the tropical downpour, which had caused the preceding Moto3 qualifying session to be red flagged.

The lean angle the riders were still getting despite standing water was remarkable. That was even true after the Moto3 downpour had ended, and the track was awash. The top Moto3 riders were still improving their times on a track which was wetter than at the start of the session.

The same grip had helped in the morning, when there were still a few wet patches on the track. As the sun started to burn the water off, Maverick Viñales dipped under the two-minute mark, posting two laps of 1’59.9.

That was on a track which was still not completely dry, the riders able to power through almost as if it had never rained.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Sepang: Wet Patches, And Why Pedrosa Isn’t Retiring

10/28/2016 @ 6:36 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Sepang: Wet Patches, And Why Pedrosa Isn’t Retiring

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The weather has not been kind to MotoGP in 2016. At the nine events since Barcelona, it has rained at some point or another at five of them. At two more, Austria and Motegi, it was the cold rather than the rain that was a factor.

Even Sepang, where in most years, it only rains once the riders have finished practice, has seen the rain ruin riders’ plans.

Heavy rains overnight left the track covered in damp patches, despite the resurfacing of the circuit, which was done to address the issue of standing water in some corners.

More rain at lunchtime meant the afternoon sessions were done on a wet track that dried slowly, despite the tropical sun beating down.

The track should have been dry in the morning, after the sun had had four hours to burn off the water. But patches remained at various points around the track, most away from the racing line, but there were some spots where the water remained on the racing line.

“The dampest part of the track is Turn 3 –that’s the slippiest,” Scott Redding said. “Turn 3 still had a lot of patches. Turn 4 had some too, especially on that acceleration point. There were a few into Turn 14. The angle that you have most, where Zarco went down, it was just everywhere around there. You had to work out a line, the way through there, without hitting any puddles.”

Preview of the Malaysian GP: A Year Is a Long Time in Motorcycle Racing

10/28/2016 @ 12:42 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Preview of the Malaysian GP: A Year Is a Long Time in Motorcycle Racing

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Two down, one to go. The last of the flyaways is always the hardest, in many ways. Three races on three consecutive weekends means that riders never have time to heal from even the small injuries they receive each weekend, from minor falls, or the blisters on their hands.

Spending many hours cloistered in aircraft flying long distance makes catching colds, flu, or other respiratory diseases inevitable. Team members being cooped up together for nearly four weeks means relationships are at best strained, at worst verging on violent.

Then there’s the contrast in climate. Even at its best, Phillip Island can be chilly, so traveling from there to the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia is a physical shock. To step on a plane in the freezing cold, then step off it to be drenched in sweat is tough for people already drained from so much travel and racing.

Then to race for 45 minutes in punishing heat and humidity, at a track which is physically very challenging, because of the heavy braking zones around the track. The stress, mental and physical, is enormous.

Perhaps it was that stress that caused the MotoGP series to explode at Sepang last year.

Smarting from being beaten into fourth place at Phillip Island by Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Iannone, Valentino Rossi seized upon the theory apparently put forward by his friend and business partner Alessio ‘Uccio’ Salucci, that Márquez had decided to conspire against Rossi to hand Jorge Lorenzo the 2015 MotoGP title.

Márquez had attempted to accomplish this by beating Lorenzo in Australia. And in the press conference at Sepang, he launched his accusations against the Repsol Honda rider.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Phillip Island: What Is an Alien, Anyway? And Who Is One?

10/23/2016 @ 11:57 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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Is there such a thing as an Alien? The provenance of the term is uncertain, though most people believe that it was coined by Colin Edwards in 2009, after he kept finishing in fifth place behind Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa.

Whatever he tried, he could not stay with them. “They are riding out of this world,” he said.

The term has stuck. Since then, the term Alien has been applied to the top four riders, the only difference being that Marc Márquez has been swapped for Casey Stoner now that the Australian has retired.

The reality is that since Jorge Lorenzo entered the class until the start of the 2016 season, the five MotoGP Aliens had accounted for all but two of the 143 MotoGP races held.

The two non-Alien wins were by Andrea Dovizioso (Donington 2009) and Ben Spies (Assen 2011). Both of those races came in unusual conditions. The five Aliens dominated the podiums throughout that period as well.

2016 looks like becoming the year the Alien died. Or perhaps more realistically (and less dramatically) the year we had to readjust the concept of a MotoGP Alien. The season was going very much to plan up until Assen, when Jack Miller won an interrupted race in the driving rain.

Then in Austria, Andrea Iannone finally did what everyone has been waiting for, won a race with a Ducati. Cal Crutchlow used a drying surface to his advantage to win at Brno, and then Maverick Viñales won at a dry but cold Silverstone. Questions were asked whether Maverick Viñales was the next Alien.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Phillip Island: Why Hondas Thrive & Yamahas Struggle in the Cold

10/22/2016 @ 7:14 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Phillip Island: Why Hondas Thrive & Yamahas Struggle in the Cold

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There are plenty of ways of explaining the results of qualifying at Phillip Island. Lack of setup time in consistent conditions make the qualifying order a bit of a lottery.

Rain and wind coming in off the Bass Strait, and the weather changing every minute or so, meant getting your timing and strategy right was crucial.

Changing track conditions and unpredictable weather meant that some teams gambled right on whether to have their bikes in a wet set up, on intermediates, or on slicks. Or even on the correct mixture of tires front and rear.

In reality, though, the main factor in determining the qualifying order was this: the temperature in the front tire. Riders who could generate it had confidence in the front and could push hard in the sketchy and cold conditions.

Riders who couldn’t, languished well down the order, unable to feel the front and unable to lap with any confidence or feedback from the tires.

That explains why Marc Márquez and Cal Crutchlow are on the front row of the grid at Phillip Island, while the factory Yamahas languish back in twelfth and fifteenth place – or “on the fourth and fifth row of the grid” as it is known in press release speak.

The Hondas have a tendency to overheat the tires due to the way they brake and their geometry. The Yamahas lean heavily on the front tire to generate corner speed, and on the edge of the rear tire to maintain it. At Phillip Island, it was too cold and too windy to do either.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Phillip Island: Rossi’s Tire Troubles, & Lorenzo’s Woes in the Rain

10/22/2016 @ 2:12 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Phillip Island: Rossi’s Tire Troubles, & Lorenzo’s Woes in the Rain

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Though I am not one to blow my own trumpet, my Phillip Island preview turned out to be prophetic – of course, it helped that my prediction was written just a few hours before the start of practice in Australia.

The Southern Ocean imposed its will on the Australian Grand Prix, and heavy rain and strong winds hampered morning practice, then caused the afternoon practice to be called off.

All three classes used their sessions in the morning, and the Moto3 class set off boldly for FP2, despite worsening conditions. They battled through to an increasingly damp finish, but the rain intensified, postponing MotoGP FP2 for some 40 minutes.

Eventually, the session was given the green light, but only a few riders went out to attempt a few laps. After thirteen minutes, Race Direction decided it was too dangerous. FP2 was red-flagged, and all action canceled for the rest of the day.

The poor weather made most of the day’s action meaningless, but it also had an upside. Hector Barbera finished the red-flagged FP2 session as fastest, while Mike Jones, his replacement in the Avintia team ending in second.

Whatever the circumstances of the session, that goes down in the record books forever. Just as Josh Hayes timed his fast lap in morning warm up at Valencia in 2011 to perfection, and ended up quickest, Mike Jones can say he was second fastest in a MotoGP practice.

Preview of the Australian GP: A Wild Weekend at the Greatest Track in the World

10/20/2016 @ 8:58 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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If you needed to find a time and place to organize a MotoGP race, then Phillip Island in October is among the worst combinations in the world.

A track located on the edge of the freezing Southern Ocean, with nothing between it and the South Pole but the brief blip of Tasmania.

Held while the southern winter still has a firm grip on the track, wracking it with blasts of icy wind and soaking it in freezing rain. And yet it is the best race on the calendar.

The answer is simple. Phillip Island is arguably the purest motorcycle racing circuit in the world. Like all great circuits, it follows the lines dictated to it by the landscape. The track ebbs, flows, dips, and rises its way around the rolling hills which sit atop the cliffs overlooking the Bass Strait.

It is fast, the second fastest track on the calendar, but unlike the Red Bull Ring, which knocked it off top spot, its speed is all in the corners, brutally fast turns which require courage, balance, and bike feel in equal measure. It is above all a test of the rider, rather than machinery.

That makes Phillip Island beloved of every rider on the grid. The love of the place is nigh on unanimous, up there with Mugello, and the uncastrated part of Assen. It encapsulates the reason motorcycle racers ride: a chance to surf the wave of inner terror, face it down, and overcome it.

The flood of adrenaline that engulfs the senses, knowing that you are teetering on the brink of disaster, and if you step over, it is going to hurt. Controlling the bike, sensing its movement, riding the edge of the tires and the limits of adhesion. This is what it means to feel alive.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Motegi: The Path of the Sensei

10/17/2016 @ 4:33 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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Chasing down a championship lead can be both liberating and extremely stressful. On the one hand, your objective is simple: beat the rider who is leading the championship, and try to outscore them by as much as possible.

On the other hand, you have to take more risk, as riding conservatively means you risk not scoring enough points to close the gap to the leader. Finding the balance between the two is always difficult.

Defending a championship lead is just as stressful. The best way to defend it is to keep trying to win races, and make it as hard as possible for your rivals to catch you.

But winning races means taking risks, and a crash can mean throwing away a big chunk of your lead in a single race. Riding conservatively is not necessarily an easier option: it is paradoxically harder to ride just off the pace than right on the pace, requiring more focus and concentration to manage the race.

Giving away points every race can be like Chinese water torture, your rivals closing the gap with each drip. Tension rises every race, and containing it without bursting is extremely stressful.

The Motegi MotoGP race provided a perfect example of both of these situations. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo came into the Japanese Grand Prix knowing that they had to win the race if they were to retain any hope of keeping the 2016 MotoGP title out of Marc Márquez’ hands.

The job was significantly easier for Rossi than for Lorenzo. Outscoring an opponent by 52 points in four races is easier than trying to make up a deficit of 66 points. Conversely, that put more pressure on Rossi: keeping an achievable target within reach makes winning paramount.