Skully Investors Oust Founders, Marcus & Mitch Weller

TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff. The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.

2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260 Gets “BNG” – Still Awesome

Normally, we would roast a brand for bringing a “bold new graphics” model to market, but in the case of the 2017 Montesa Cota 4RT260, we will give the Spanish firm a pass…purely because we think trials riding is AWESOME. So, yup…for the 2017 model year, Montessa is brining basically the same machine to market, with the big changes being the red, white, and blue HRC-inspired color scheme, along with the chromed fork tubes that have black-painted lowers. If it counts as a technical change, the kickstarter lever has been made longer than on what is found on the 2016 model, and of course there is a “race replica” version, which drips in carbon fiber, Showa suspension pieces, and has the traditional Repsol livery.

Bottpower BOTT XR1R – The Street Tracker You Deserve

The Bottpower BOTT XR1R is the bike that Harley-Davidson should be building right now, and it’s the kind of machine that actually would have benefitted from Buell’s “innovations” for street bikes. With 150hp and a target weight of 150kg, the BOTT XR1R should be plenty of fun on tight circuits, but still powerful enough for longer courses. And then of course, once you’re done flogging the XR1R for the day, you will still want to spend a couple hours drooling over its titanium frame, carbon fiber bodyworks, and modern-day electronics. We have always been a fan of Bottpower’s work, but it still feels strange to say that the Spanish builder has created the bike that America has been dreaming of for the past decade or more.

Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – Celebrating 90 Years

Ducati is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, with the culmination of that celebration happening at World Ducati Week. As we previewed already, Ducati would give a sneak peak of a new model at the event, and debut a limited edition machine as well. Well, we have had more than a sneak peak of the upcoming Ducati Supersport model, and now we get the full monty of the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario – a special superbike that commemorates 90 years of Ducati motorcycles. Only 500 machines will get the Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario’s limited edition paint job, gold-colored metal pieces, and bevy of technical upgrades. One interesting new feature though is the debut of the EVO version of the Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) systems.

Some Details on the New Ducati Supersport

You may have already seen the leaked photo from World Ducati Week, which shows that the Ducati Supersport is making a return to Bologna’s lineup. We haven’t seen the “Supersport” sport-touring line in almost a decade, but it will be making a return for the 2017 model year, with two bikes. Since yours truly is at World Ducati Week this year, I was able to get a peak at the Supersport, and can share with you some details on the machine. The Ducati Supersport has a rich history as a sport-tourer; back when that segment actually existed, and was distinct from being just a superbike for the road. This model seems very much a return to that past.

Ducati SuperSport S Spotted at World Ducati Week

Of the many attractions at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Ducati is giving enthusiasts a chance to preview a new bike that will officially debut at the EICMA show in Milan (in addition to the two machines that will unveil tomorrow). The affair is a strictly managed, no cellphones allowed, sort of sneak peak at the new machine – thus, it comes as no surprise that some fan has snapped a photo of the secret bike on a hidden phone. In case you were wondering, this is why we can’t have nice things. You can’t put the cat back in the bag though, so get ready folks because we have good news: the Ducati SuperSport is coming back! As you can see in the photo, the machine in question is called the Ducati Supersport S, an homage to the bikes of the same name that came almost 40 years before it.

The Bullshit Argument That It’s Time to Say Goodbye to the Honda CBR600RR and Other Supersport Machines

British magazines MCN dropped a bombshell on the motorcycle world today, reporting that Honda was set to discontinue the Honda CBR600RR, with no supersport replacement in sight. According to their reports, the main impetus for the Honda CBR600RR being discontinued is the Euro 4 emission standards, which the Honda CBR600RR does not meet. Honda feels too that the demand for a 600cc sport bike is too low to warrant updating the CBR600RR to meet Euro 4 regulations, let alone building an all-new machine for the market that would be Euro 4 compliant.

KTM Is Working on an 800cc Parallel-Twin ADV Bike

“If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to” seems to be KTM’s marching orders right now, as the Austrian brand is pushing into seemingly every segment and market with its motorcycle lineup. KTM already has a robust off-road lineup, which they have used to launch themselves into the ADV category with great success. As such, the KTM 1190 Adventure series already sees strong sales success with adventure-touring riders, but KTM isn’t resting on those laurels. Set to debut a 800cc parallel-twin platform later this year, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer has revealed, while talking to MCN, that his company will soon have a rival for the Honda Africa Twin.

XTR Pepo’s “Siluro” Custom Ducati Monster 1200

It has been a while since we showed you one of XTR Pepo’s custom works, so please forgive our sins. To make it up to you though, we have the Siluro, a custom Ducati Monster 1200 that Ducati Spain commissioned from the Spanish bike builder. If I’m honest, Ducati’s Monster line has really never struck a chord with me, but there is something about the Siluro that’s got me more than a little twitterpated. Perhaps it is the high-mount, scrambler-styled Termignoni exhaust, or maybe it is Pepo’s signature “RAD” seat, that has adorned so many custom Ducati’s before this one, but is now wrapped in suede. Whatever it is, it’s working.

MotoGP Bans Winglets from 2017 Season Onward

Winglets are to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement among all manufacturers on a joint proposal. There has been much discussion of winglets over the past few months, as they have taken on an ever greater importance. With the introduction of the common ECU software, winglets were one way of reducing the amount of wheelie MotoGP bikes had. But as the factories – and especially Ducati – gained more experience with winglets, the winglets grew larger, raising safety concerns over the effect of an impact during a crash.

Thursday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: The Return of Racing, Tire Troubles, & Silly Season Starting Early

03/17/2016 @ 11:36 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Bikes are on track, and the roar of racing four strokes is filling the desert skies in Qatar. We can check our moral compasses at the door, sit back and once again revel in the glory of Grand Prix racing.

The fog of testing is lifting, exposing the reality which lies beneath. We don’t need speculation any longer. We have actual timesheets.

Conclusions from Day One of 2016? We learned a lot.

Some of it confirmed what we already knew: the Yamahas are quick, especially Jorge Lorenzo; Maverick Viñales can be competitive; Hector Barbera is going to surprise a few people; the Hondas are still juggling the electronics in search of the right set up; there is a clear elite group in Moto2, which includes Sam Lowes and Alex Rins; the rookie group in Moto3 is exceptional this year.

Some of it surprised: MotoGP silly season is already in high gear, with reports that Johann Zarco has already signed for Suzuki, and talk about Tech 3 for next year; Zarco’s poor times in testing were anything but representative; Livio Loi is in deadly form at Qatar, opening up a gap which shouldn’t really be possible in Moto3; the rubber left on the track by the different tire brands is affecting Moto2 far more than MotoGP, instead of the other way round, as it was last year.

Wednesday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: Oppressive Regimes, Muzzled Speech, & Unknown Quantities

03/16/2016 @ 11:57 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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There is good news and bad news for MotoGP fans. The good news is that the 2016 season is just a few hours away from kicking off, with the Moto3 bikes the first to go out at 6pm, shortly after the sun sets in Qatar.

The good news is that the season opener takes place at the Losail International Circuit, a first class facility featuring a fantastic track, with a good mixture of fast and slow curves, and a serious test of both rider and machine.

The good news is that with the switch to spec electronics and the unified software, the racing is set to get closer among the factories, and put more control in the hands of the rider.

The best news is that the MotoGP field has never been so strong, so deep in talent, and feature such a broad range of competitive machinery, that Moto2 looks like being much more of a contest this year than it was in previous seasons, and that Moto3 features some spectacularly talent rookies, up against fiercely competitive established riders.

The racing this year is set to be outstanding in all three Grand Prix classes.

The bad news, though, is really bad. Of immediate importance to MotoGP fans is that it has rained on and off in the Gulf region for the past couple of weeks, and rained all day on Wednesday.

The fact that Qatar is a night race means that if it rains at any time, the track will be immediately closed, the floodlights causing dazzling reflections from any water on the surface, making it impossible to ride.

The current forecast is for it to stay dry until Tuesday, but whether such forecasts can be trusted remains to be seen.

The worst news is that the opening race of the season is in Qatar. The first race of the year will be held in front of a tiny crowd (more fans will often turn up at a European track on a Thursday, when there is no on-track action, than on race day in Qatar), at a track surrounded by desert, where sand and dust tends to blow in and cover the track, causing severe tire wear and making the track treacherous if a rider gets off line.

Beside the track sits the Lusail Sports Arena, part of a massive expansion of sporting facilities which have cost the lives of over 1200 migrant workers already, and are set to cost the lives of more.

You see these migrant workers packed into buses as you drive to the track, on their way to work long hours for little pay, which all too often they do not receive. They cannot leave, as under the country’s Kafala system, the employers take away their passports, making travel or complaint impossible.

Qatar MotoGP Test Wednesday Summary: Lorenzo’s Strength, Viñales Confirmed, & Outrageous Aerodynamics

03/03/2016 @ 12:18 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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Qatar is a tough place to test. First, there’s the timing. The track is open between 4pm and 11pm, giving a full seven hours of track time. In theory, that is. In practice, the first two hours are pretty much unusable, as track temperatures are much higher during daylight than after the sun sets.

The final hour is a risky proposition, as the moisture in the air tends to settle at some point after 10pm, forming dew on the track. The dew is as good as invisible, yet it drastically reduces grip. Crashes start to happen without warning, and at high speed.

Then there’s the sand. The first day of testing is usually more about cleaning the track than setting times, as the dust blows in from the desert to the west. It is better than it was: much of the construction in the area has now been completed, making the sand on the track just a smattering, rather than a full four-ply coating.

Effectively, there are four hours of usable track time, and a little less on the first day of the test. For the first two hours of the Qatar test, only the official test riders present at the track were actually circulating, putting laps on bikes and creating a clean line.

The official MotoGP riders were left to act the vampire, only venturing out once the sun removed its deadly rays from Arabian skies.

Phillip Island WSBK Notes: World Superbike Turns a Corner

02/28/2016 @ 9:39 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

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We are racing at last. The first round of World Superbikes at Phillip Island means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The long, dark winter is over, and motorcycles are circulating in earnest once again.

What to make of the first weekend of World Superbikes in the new format? Those who worried that spreading the racing over two days would hurt attendance and ruin the series have not seen their fears realized. Attendance at Phillip Island was around 75% of the MotoGP attendance there, really strong figures for the track.

Some caveats apply, of course: firstly, the Phillip Island MotoGP round is one of the most poorly attended on the calendar, though last year numbers improved.

Secondly, the combination of Australian Superbikes with World Superbikes meant there was a full program of racing, and plenty for fans to see.

The real test of the new format will come at tracks like Donington and Jerez, where attendance has been dismal. If they can get more people through the gate there, the Saturday-Sunday format will be more of a success.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Friday Summary: What We Learned, And What We Still Don’t Know

02/19/2016 @ 11:34 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from the Phillip Island MotoGP test? We learned that the rule changes for 2016, new electronics and Michelin tires, have made learning anything from testing very difficult.

To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, we learned that there are still plenty of known unknowns, and even more unknown unknowns. The most interesting thing to come out of the test is that a few of the unknown unknowns turned into known unknowns.

To put it more simply and bluntly, we had our noses rubbed in our ignorance. What we learned from Phillip Island is that the teams and manufacturers are still slap bang in the middle of adapting to the new regulations, and that things are changing fast.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Thursday Summary: A New Alien, It’s Tough at the Top, & Bradley Talks Tires

02/18/2016 @ 5:16 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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Faces dropped as teams headed into the paddock at Phillip Island on Thursday morning. Another day of rain? Surely not. Had they not suffered enough?

What was needed was some dry track time, so that the teams could get on with the piles of work they still have to do getting ready for the 2016 season, and Michelin could start to get some proper feedback on their slicks.

Their supplications to the heavens did not go unanswered. As the day went on, the sun came out and the track dried out, conditions getting better and better.

By the end of the session, lap times were tumbling, riders getting close to the times set during the race in October, and Maverick Viñales getting a tenth under Marc Márquez’s best race lap.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Wednesday Summary: A Sodden Southern Summer

02/17/2016 @ 8:23 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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“Go to Phillip Island to test,” they said. “It will be summer, conditions will be perfect.” What they didn’t say was that this was summer in Phillip Island, a season which can include all four of the other seasons of the year.

Sure, it was warmer than in October, but rain kept blowing in off the Bass Strait, drenching the track, then the winds drying the track out, before another shower drenched the track.

“Honestly, it was a waste of a day for everyone,” was Cal Crutchlow’s assessment of the day. “The last two corners were dry at the end but the first four corners were soaking wet and the rest were somewhere in between.”

Dani Pedrosa was in broad agreement. “I think it’s quite rare to have full wet conditions in this track, because it dries up so quick. We had most of the day, half the track dry, half the track wet, and spraying all the time, and drying again all the time.”

Going by the number of laps posted by each rider – between twenty and thirty, where eighty or ninety might be more normal – the first day of the second MotoGP test at Phillip Island could indeed be regarded as wasted.

Phillip Island MotoGP Test Preview – What Is There To Learn Down Under?

02/16/2016 @ 3:56 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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Phillip Island is arguably the greatest race track for motorcycles in the world. It is a circuit where every racer wants to race, where every trackday rider wants to cut some laps, where every race fan wants to visit. There are a million reasons to visit Phillip Island, all of them good.

Testing in preparation for a MotoGP season is not one of them, however. Phillip Island has a long history of riders winning based on bravery and ability, rather than equipment.

In October, Maverick Viñales finished in sixth on the massively underpowered Suzuki GSX-RR, just a second behind Dani Pedrosa, who had won a week previously at Motegi and would win a week later at Sepang.

Between the two of them, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have won twelve of the last fourteen races on a variety of Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis.

Testing at Phillip Island does not teach you as much about the motorcycle underneath the rider as it does about the rider on top of the motorcycle, and the testicular fortitude they are able to display at the circuit.

Viñales described testing at the track as being about checking to see if he had “the cojones” around the circuit. With a new, more powerful GSX-RR at his disposal, there was one useful aspect of testing at the Island: “I need to use more cojones if I have more power,” he quipped.

Sepang MotoGP Test Wednesday Summary: What We Learned So Far

02/03/2016 @ 11:12 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from the first proper MotoGP test of the new era of Michelin tires and spec-electronics? More than we hoped, yet less than we think. A quick run down on the state of play after Sepang, with more to come over the following days.

Michelin

The riders approached the Sepang test with some trepidation, fearing that Michelin had not fixed its wayward front that caused so many crashes at Valencia and Jerez.

Their fears were unfounded, the new front tires which Michelin brought – a total of five different types, of varying construction and compound – were all a massive step forward.

They were not as stable as the Bridgestones they replaced, but they had gained a lot of predictability and feedback. There were very few crashes that the riders said they had not seen coming.

That does not mean that all of the problems have been solved. A couple of people went down at Turn 5 on Tuesday, in crashes they described as strange. Casey Stoner (more on him later) had a typically concise and thoughtful analysis.

“There’s a little point after probably 45°, that [the tire profile] goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn’t seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we’ve tested,” Stoner explained.

“That gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn’t like that feeling. It makes the bike a little nervous, and I think that’s when the front wants to break away.”

Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday Summary: Exploding Tires, Changing Compounds, & Stoner’s Return

02/02/2016 @ 1:15 pm, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

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If being the official supplier to a racing series is a double-edged sword, then being the sole supplier of equipment as essential as tires is doubly so.

Leaving aside the complexities of exactly what a four-edged sword would actually look like, being official tire supplier to MotoGP is a role that offers massive opportunities for raising the role of a brand, and having it associated with the most famous names in motorcycle racing.

It gets your brand name and logo in front of many tens of millions of race fans and motorcycle enthusiasts every weekend. It also sees your logo plastered all over just about every photo which appears in magazines and newspapers about MotoGP, as well as filling thousands of column inches on websites and in magazines.

If you had to pay for the same exposure – a concept known as equivalent advertising value – it would cost you many, many times the €25 million Bridgestone were rumored to have paid for the contract.

There is a downside, of course. It is extremely uncommon to hear riders heap praise upon your tires spontaneously. Bridgestone had to announce they were pulling out of the role as official supplier to receive the praise they deserved, riders immediately paying tribute to just how good their racing tires actually are.