Mugen Debuts an Electric Motocross Race Bike

At the Isle of Man TT, Mugen is the team to beat, with the company’s Shinden electric superbike showing the state of the art, when it comes to electric motorcycles. The asphalt is apparently not enough for Mugen though, as the Japanese tuning house has “partnered” with Honda to build an electric motocross dirt bike. What you are look at here is the Mugen E.Rex, and don’t let the horrid dinosaur theme put you off, there is some seriously bad to the bone (sorry, couldn’t resist) pieces on this roost-maker. Keeping things in the family, it is not surprising to see the Showa and Nissin suspension and braking components being used here (Honda owns both brands), and like on the Mugen Shiden, no expense has been spared when it comes to top-shelf components.

A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

Since 1999, Yamaha has sold over 153,000 YZF-R6 supersport motorcycles, and for the 2017 model year the Japanese manufacturer adds a new chapter to that 19-year history. Big Blue calls the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a fourth generation motorcycle, but for those paying attention, it is obvious that Yamaha has merely taken its class-leading 600cc sport bike, made some refinements to the machine, and added an electronics package to the mix. While there is disappointment that Yamaha didn’t bring as revolutionary of a debut to the YZF-R6 as it did just recently with the YZF-R1 superbike, we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm with this most-recent addition to its lineup.

How About a Ducati 916 Superleggera?

Yesterday we brought you an interesting Photoshop mashup, where Ducati 851 Superbike fairings were CGI’d onto a Panigale chassis (it was a 1199 Superleggera, to be precise), with drool-worthy result. That lead to the guys at OTTO Revista pinging us, to show their work, which includes the bodywork from the venerable Ducati 916, photoshopped onto the Ducati 1299 Superleggera, Borgo Panigale’s latest and greatest. Taking from arguably the most beautiful Ducati ever produced, and adding to it the most technologically advanced Ducati street bike ever concieved, well…the result (above) speaks for itself. Just for kicks too, there is a Supermono mashup, as well as a TT2 (Pantah) version, after the jump.

We’re Going to Try a New Motorcycle Review Format

For a long time, I have been unhappy with how we do motorcycle reviews here at Asphalt & Rubber – and if I am being real honest, I have been unhappy with how the industry as a whole deals with motorcycle reviews, especially in this new crazy online world. Mea culpa, A&R is just as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing motorcycle reviews. We have been just as lazy as the next publication, as we try to chase elusive pageviews at the end of each bike launch, with timely but flaccid prose (with varying degrees of success, on both accounts, I should say). Well, I want that to stop. It is dumb, and it is bad for the ecosystem.

Ducati 851 Bodywork on a Panigale Looks Damn Good

If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, or listen to the Two Enthusiasts Podcast, you have probably heard our musings on where the next big design trend is coming, and know our affinity for the rise of bikes from the 1980s and 1990s. So, with the being said, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we are intrigued by the following piece of photoshoppery, which smashes together two Ducati superbikes, the 851 and the Panigale. At first you wouldn’t think that the two designs would work together, but the more we look at this, the more we are intrigued to see one in the flesh. The base chassis here looks to be from the 1199 Superleggera, while the bodywork appears to be from Raymond Roche’s 1990 Ducati 851 Superbike race machine. If this is what the future holds, then we are all for it.

Honda CBR250RR, Reporting for Racing Duty

Honda is taking the quarter-liter market very seriously. The debut of the Honda CBR250RR street bike proves as much, with Big Red doubling-down on the segment, just three years after the debut of the Honda CBR300R. The small-displacement category hasn’t converged on a single-displacement yet, with anything from 250cc to 400cc seemingly filling the gap, all of which makes the Honda CBR250RR an even bolder choice from the Japanese manufacturer, as it’s on the smaller end of the spectrum. We have yet to see the Honda CBR250RR come to the western markets, but in Asia, HRC is getting ready to go racing with its 250cc twin-cylinder platform. As such, the above is the Honda CBR250RR, in its Astra Honda Racing trim, which debuted this weekend at the Osaka Motorcycle Show.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Is Finally Ready

Every time I hear about how the Japanese brands are abandoning the 600cc sport bike market, I have a little chuckle with myself. Honda et al will tell you that the issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride supersports anymore. However, I am a firm believer that the real issue is that motorcyclists don’t want to ride the same old supersports that the OEMs keep cookie-cuttering out of their factories every year. In my mind, the Vyrus 986 M2 proves this point. I can think of no other machine that has generated a bigger response on Asphalt & Rubber than this 600cc Italian exotic. The sweet irony too is that it’s powered by a Honda CBR600RR engine. The motorcycle industry keeps trying to sell supersports, pitches them as watered-down superbikes, and then acts surprised when the bikes don’t sell.

Report: New Suzuki GSX-R750 Coming, But No GSX-R600

For Suzuki, the debut of its first all-new superbike design went swimmingly well, with the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R impressing journalists at its launch in Phillip Island earlier this year. We would hope so, as the Japanese manufacturer once laid claim to being the King of Superbikes, but then cowardly abdicated its throne for an eight-year period, where only modest updates came to the line. Like most of Suzuki’s motorcycle lineup, the GSX-R models have suffered from abandonment by their caretakers in Hamamatsu, and while there is a new GSX-R1000 for us to drool over, what is to come of its 750cc and 600cc counterparts? Our friends from Down Under seem to have the answer, as Australia’s Motorcycle News reports that a new Suzuki GSX-R750 is in the works, likely to debut as a 2019 model year machine.

KTM Debuts Fuel Injection for Two-Stroke Motorcycles

The day has finally, come. The rumors can finally be put to rest. Fuel injection for production two-strokes is officially a thing, thanks to the clever minds at KTM. The Austrian announced today that it will bring fuel injection technology (called Transfer Port Injection) to its 2018 enduro lineup, which will debut later this May. Two KTM models will have the new technology, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI, and they will be coming to the global market. For the USA and Canada, a third model will come to market as well, the KTM 250 XC-W TPI. Fuel injection for two-strokes promises better fuel consumption, and it means that riders no longer have to pre-mix their fuel. KTM says that its transfer port injection technology provides a whole new experience for riding a two-stroke motorcycle, with better power and rideability.

One New MV Agusta Debuting in 2017, Two in 2018

It has been a long road for MV Agusta, over the past few years. However, the Italian brand seems ready to finally move on from its financial troubles, once we see its debt restructured in the Italian courts, and the investment secured from Black Ocean. MV Agusta latest issues, which concern cash flow difficulties, seem to be balancing out as well, though the effect on the company’s new model lineup has been noticeable, with a disappointing lack of new machines to show at the 2016 EICMA show. As such for the 2017 edition of the trade show, we should have measured expectations, with Giovanni Castiglioni saying in an interview with MCN that only one new model will debut later this year, and only two new bikes will be shown in 2018.

World Superbike Season Preview – Part 2

02/23/2017 @ 1:11 pm, by Kent Brockman4 COMMENTS

Our trained World Superbike reporter, Kent Brockman, has his eye on the World Superbike Paddock, and is ever vigil for the next big braking breaking story.

Submitting a lengthy preview of what to expect from the 2017 WorldSBK season, we have broken it up into two parts in order to make more money whet your appetite ahead of this weekend’s season-opener at Phillip Island.  

If you missed it, you can read Part 1 of his WorldSBK season preview here, other continue on for Part 2 of this opus. -JB

World Superbike Season Preview – Part 1

02/22/2017 @ 9:29 pm, by Kent Brockman4 COMMENTS

Our trained World Superbike reporter, Kent Brockman, has his eye on the World Superbike Paddock, and is ever vigil for the next big braking breaking story.

Submitting a lengthy preview of what to expect from the 2017 WorldSBK season, we have broken it up into two parts in order to make more money whet your appetite ahead of this weekend’s season-opener at Phillip Island. -JB

MotoGP Phillip Island MotoGP Test Summary – Day 3

02/17/2017 @ 10:51 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

On Friday at Phillip Island, shortly after a quarter to four in the afternoon, local time, a new chapter started in the annals of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Maverick Viñales had just passed the halfway mark of what was supposed to be a full race simulation when Marc Márquez entered the track. The reigning champion latched onto the back of the Movistar Yamaha, following him around the track.

After a couple of laps, Viñales lost his patience, and aborted his race simulation.

Viñales was not best pleased. “I don’t know what to say, because sure I don’t want to gain nothing, because there is nothing. But it’s not normal. You are doing your race simulation. Someone pulls out… you cannot stop. After five laps that he was behind, finally I needed to abort the race simulation. Anyway the track is 4 kilometers. Strange that he was there, where I was.”

Márquez played the innocent. “Today there was one run that I go out and I saw that he passed. Then there was some gap, but I was able to recover this gap. Then I followed him two laps and it was interesting to see a different bike.”

The Repsol Honda rider then commented that he had also followed a Ducati and a Suzuki, to see where they were strong.

He gave the game away when asked whether he expected Maverick Viñales to be his main rival this year. “When you arrive in the first race you see because the race weekend is completely different to here,” Márquez said.

He spoke only in general terms: both Yamaha riders would be strong. Ducati may be struggling here, but they will be in the mix in Qatar. Dani Pedrosa will be stronger than most expect. Yes, Viñales was fast, but the Yamaha is such a stable bike, so what do you expect?

MotoGP Phillip Island MotoGP Test Summary – Day 2

02/16/2017 @ 11:30 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Scouring through the timesheets after the second day of the MotoGP test at Phillip Island, and reading through everything the riders have said, a picture emerges, not just of what happened on Thursday, but also how history has affected them.

Seeing Marc Márquez’s workload, his approach, the things he is working on, and it is hard not to think back to his past three seasons in MotoGP. The lessons learned in each of those seasons color everything he is working at Phillip Island, and give us a glimpse of his objective for 2017.

On Thursday, Márquez put in 107 laps around Phillip Island. That is 20% more than most of his rivals, and nearly double the amount that some of them rode.

Asked if he was playing games in suggesting the 2017 Honda RC213V was not ready, Márquez was curt. “I don’t play games, because if I’m ready I would not make 107 laps! Because my hands are destroyed.”

Why put in so many laps? A look at the past three seasons offers an insight. In 2014, Márquez destroyed the field in the first part of the season, winning ten races in a row, and a total of thirteen.

For a man with a thirst for victory matched perhaps only by Valentino Rossi, this was an ecstatic period. It also lured him into a false sense of security, the bike suffering as a result. This was not helped by Honda’s insistence on building a bike as powerful as possible, with no view of making it easy to use.

2015 was a watershed year for Márquez. He crashed out of so many races trying to win them that he threw away any chance of defending his title. He put the lessons learned into 2016, and won the title last year by learning to settle for points.

Sometimes, after the race, you could see from the expression on his face that not winning races had caused him something approaching physical pain.

MotoGP Phillip Island MotoGP Test Summary – Day 1

02/15/2017 @ 4:57 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

There’s this thing called sandbagging in motorcycle racing. You’ve probably heard about it. It’s where a rider doesn’t show his hand completely ahead of the season, doesn’t smile in public, hangs a tale of woe on the media, about how he is struggling with the bike, and how much work they have to do.

Then, when the flag drops and the racing starts for real, the rider goes out and completely destroys the opposition.

The key to sandbagging is not to give too much away on the timesheets. Riders find all sorts of smart ways of doing this. Working on one sector at a time, perhaps. Pushing for the first half of the lap, then backing off for the second half.

On the next run, they back off in the second half of the lap, and push for the second half. The bare lap time shows up as unimpressive, but put the two halves together and you have something very impressive indeed.

Marc Márquez appears to be trying to sandbag at Phillip Island, but he is not doing a very good job of it.

He has the act down just fine: lots of criticism of the bike, a lot of concerns about which areas still need work, pointing out that Phillip Island tends to hide the weak point of the Honda RC213V. The point where he is falling down on is hiding it out on track.

2017 MotoGP Phillip Island Test Preview

02/15/2017 @ 12:15 am, by David EmmettComments Off on 2017 MotoGP Phillip Island Test Preview

MotoGP is heading down under. After the initial excitement of the first test of 2017 at Sepang, the atmosphere at Phillip Island is a little more subdued.

The novelty of bikes back on track has worn off a little, and now it’s back to the grindstone, the hard work of running through lots of parts and changes and verifying the results found at Sepang.

Phillip Island is a strange place to go testing. It is a truly unique place, like no other. It is a test of rider more than bike, of courage more than technology. The track has a lot of fast flowing corners, very little hard braking, very little hard acceleration.

What you learn from testing at Phillip Island is how stable the bike is in very fast corners, how well it wants to change direction at high speed, and how good you are at making your tires last.

That last reason is the real benefit to testing at Phillip Island. It is above all a chance for Michelin to put their tires through some serious punishment, and one of the main reasons for testing there.

The series went from having two tests at Sepang in February to a test in Malaysia and then Australia in 2015, in response to the disastrous race in 2013, when Bridgestone’s tires turned out not to be up to handling the new asphalt.

Michelin wanted to be prepared, so tested there in 2015, gathering data to build tires that worked.

What We Learned at the Sepang MotoGP Test, Part 1

02/02/2017 @ 9:48 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

What did we learn from the Sepang MotoGP test? More than we thought we would on Sunday night. The forecast was grim: plenty of sporadic rain and a track that wouldn’t dry quickly promised three wasted days.

But by the time the teams packed up on Wednesday night, after nearly a full day of testing, Sepang had turned out to be both productive and instructive.

After three days of testing it is clear just how close the field is this season. The top ten riders are separated by just four tenths of a second. Sixteen riders are within a second, from Maverick Viñales in first to Hector Barbera in sixteenth.

The top four riders are on four different manufacturers, less than two tenths apart, and there is a good mix of manufacturers throughout the top of the timesheets.

The two exceptions are Aprilia and KTM, but there is hope for them too. Aprilia made huge strides last year – Aleix Espargaro is thirteenth, 0.740 behind Viñales, and two whole seconds closer to the front than Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista were at the same test last year – and now basically just lack horsepower.

KTM is in its first season in MotoGP, but is already closer at Sepang than Suzuki was at its first Sepang test in 2015. The level in MotoGP is now unbelievably high, and unbelievably close.

Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday Summary

01/31/2017 @ 12:58 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS

What looked like a wasted day quickly turned around at Sepang. Tuesday started wet, the streets and circuit taking a while to dry after Monday evening’s torrential rain.

Sepang’s weakness was once again exposed: the track took a long time to dry, wet patches remaining on the track for several hours. It was not until 1pm that a few riders started to venture out, and by 2pm, the track was full with riders trying to make up for valuable lost time.

Some riders made use of the conditions, as far from ideal as they were. Jorge Lorenzo put in ten laps in the wet, and Johann Zarco put in eight laps. The reason? To help build confidence, for Lorenzo in the wet, for Zarco, to try to figure out what a MotoGP bike is capable of.

Zarco rode a pair of wet tires to destruction, feeling how the soft, moving rubber exaggerated every movement of the bike. It served as a sort of magnifying glass for how a MotoGP bike behaves, amplifying the feedback and making it much clearer to fully understand, Zarco explained. By the end of the run, he had learned a lot, and made a massive step forward.

How much difference had it made? When the red lights came on for the end of the session, Zarco’s name was still fifth on the timesheets, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha rider less than a tenth behind Valentino Rossi, and half a second behind Maverick Viñales in second.

The Frenchman had found a way of understanding where the limits lay, without pushing himself over the edge.

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview

01/30/2017 @ 1:39 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

In a few hours time, the grandstands at the Sepang International Circuit will echo with the booming assault of MotoGP machines being pushed to their limits. The entire MotoGP grid has assembled for the first test of the preseason, meaning that the 2017 MotoGP season is about to get underway, at last.

That, at least, is the plan. The reality is that the grandstands may echo only to the sporadic rasp of a MotoGP bike being warmed up, and the occasional intrepid test rider being sent out to test conditions.

The resurfaced Sepang continues to be plagued by drainage problems, water remaining on the track for a long time. In high humidity, relatively low track temperatures and without the burning tropical sun, the water left by unusually heavy rains is not evaporating.

Parts of the track remain wet all day, making it impossible to push the bikes to the limit, and very risky to try.

Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio expressed the concerns shared by most teams.

“You never know how many hours you can test, because the track remains wet for a long time. And if it rains a lot in the evening, maybe you have to wait a long time in the morning. So it’s a little bit of a question mark now, how much you can test.”

Some Notes on the 2017 Dakar Rally

01/16/2017 @ 6:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The 2017 Dakar Rally is done and dusted. The competitors are either already on their way home, or now spending a well-deserved vacation in South America, after tackling what is easily the most difficult motorcycle race on the planet.

The Dakar is of course iconic and well-known for its difficulty, where it is not uncommon to see riders perish on its course, but this year’s rally raid was billed as one of the most challenging editions of the Dakar Rally ever.

When a man like Marc Coma – a man who has won the race five times – tells you that, your default mode is to believe him.

Tackling that challenge were 143 riders, of which only on 96 made it all the way to Buenos Aires. And while KTM has been the dominant manufacturer for the past 15 years, the 2017 edition saw early on that any of the major four brands could have a hand on the trophy in Argentina.

Of course we know that KTM made it to a sweet 16th victory, sweeping the podium no less, but the results sheet betrays what happened on the course. As such, I wanted to share some notes I have from the 2017 Dakar Rally.