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 Brno: A Deserving Winner, & The Trouble with Tires

08/22/2016 @ 10:22 am, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

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There were a lot of firsts at Brno on Sunday. Perhaps the most consequential was the fact that we saw the first wet race in the MotoGP/500 class ever to be held at the Masarykring, the modern purpose-built circuit which replaced the old road circuit at Brno.

That had a lot of knock on effects: we saw a surprise winner in the premier class, a shift in the championship, and a long race of strategy, where some riders got it spot on, and others got it horribly wrong.

All this without the race even having to be restarted, or riders having to pass through the pits. Though of course, some did…

The MotoGP race was both fascinating and entertaining, and an object lesson in how changing weather can make morning warm up lead riders down the wrong path.

On a sodden track, with the rain still falling heavily in the morning, there were serious concerns among some riders that the softest compound wet tire which Michelin had brought was not going to be soft enough to provide enough grip.

“This morning with the extra soft the tire was completely new after nine laps,” Andrea Dovizioso said.

It rained throughout the Moto3 race – which provided enormous entertainment, a first-time winner and another first-time podium visitor – and kept raining during Moto2 – a less exciting affair, but one which still managed to shake up the championship.

The rain eased off on the final laps of Moto2, then just about stopped in the break between the end of the Moto2 race and the start of MotoGP. It was a welcome development for us hacks: chasing through the paddock to talk to Moto3 riders after the race, we had endured a soaking.

The same run down to the other end of the paddock in search of Moto2 riders was a far more pleasant affair. The need to scurry from garage to garage under the shelter of balconies was gone.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez Makes Records, Assessing Race Pace, & Carrying a Crown

08/20/2016 @ 9:26 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez Makes Records, Assessing Race Pace, & Carrying a Crown

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After he and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo had looked well in control of proceedings after the first day of practice at Brno, Valentino Rossi warned the media against drawing premature conclusions.

“I think it’s just Friday, it’s a long way to Sunday,” he said. We in the media ignored his warnings, of course, and painted a technicolor picture of a race where the Movistar Yamaha riders took back a hefty bunch of points from Marc Márquez, reigniting the championship.

Then Saturday happened, and Valentino Rossi turned out to be right again (and not for the first time, I might add). Friday had been just Friday. It was indeed still a long way to Sunday. Saturday, a stepping stone on the way to Sunday, helped turn a lot of things around.

Jorge Lorenzo is still fast. So is Valentino Rossi, though not quite as fast as he had hoped. Andrea Iannone is a genuine threat for the podium, or even his second win in a row.

Maverick Viñales could still get up front and complicate things, though he has a hill to climb after a problem with the brakes saw him qualify on the third row of the grid.

But any illusions the Movistar Yamaha men had of clawing back points from Marc Márquez will have to be shelved. Not only will the Repsol Honda rider start from pole on Sunday, but he also has the race pace which was missing on Friday.

All thanks to a breathtaking lap of Brno, and a large set of wings which helped cure some of the worst problems with the Honda RC213V.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez’s Super Save

08/20/2016 @ 12:03 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Friday MotoGP Summary at Brno: Marquez’s Super Save

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Honda have won four of the five last races held here at Brno. Casey Stoner has won one race, Marc Márquez has won one, and Dani Pedrosa has won two of those races between 2011 and 2015.

After the first day of practice for this year’s race at Brno, Marc Márquez sits atop the timesheets, with a lead of a tenth of a second over Andrea Iannone, and a shade more to Jorge Lorenzo. Does that mean that a fifth win for Honda is on the cards?

For the answer to that, see Marc Márquez’s improbable save during FP2 at Brno. As he turned in for the penultimate corner at Turn 13, he lost the front of his Repsol Honda RC213V.

With the steering at full lock, he hung on to the bars as his right foot slipped off the peg, trying first to lever the bike up with his elbow, then with his knee. Eventually the front slipped sideways, gripped, and the bike jimmied itself off the horizontal.

It had lost just enough speed for Márquez to regain control, and buck it back to the outside of the corner, and head straight into the pits.

Was it Márquez’ biggest ever save at Brno? “Still the 2014 save was bigger,” Márquez laughed, “But this one was very long. I leaned 67.5°, in 2014 68.3°.”

Even Valentino Rossi was impressed. “He tries a lot, is his position on the bike, and is his ability,” the Movistar Yamaha rider said. “First he tried with the elbow, then with the knee, and at the end, he saved it. So it was quite impressive. I don’t know if I can do the same. But I go slower, so I don’t lose the front!”

Preview of the Czech GP: Titles, Fuel, & Moto3

08/19/2016 @ 12:25 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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It is but a short trip up the road from Spielberg to Brno, but it is a journey between two very different worlds.

From the hyper-modern facility at the Red Bull Ring, to the frayed-around-the-edges buildings of Brno. From a track which has been missing from the calendar for the best part of twenty years to a circuit which has seen racing almost since its inception, where teams often come to test.

From a track with a paucity of corners, all hard braking and acceleration, to one which flows from corner to corner, where bikes mostly exit in third gear when getting on the gas.

The starkest difference between the Red Bull Ring and Brno is the layout. Both tracks snake up and down hillsides, but where Austria is a track stuck up against a mountain, Brno is a winding road which threads its way through hills and vales.

Where Spielberg is basically seven corners, three of which are almost hairpins, all fourteen of Brno’s corners are long and flowing.

Ironically, Brno’s flowing layout makes it somewhat more simple to set up a bike for it. All of the corners are similar, with no camber and needing the same approach.

“The set up is more important than at other tracks because all the corners are similar,” Danilo Petrucci explained to us on Thursday. “You have to be good on braking and especially the feeling of the front. Because for more than 50% of the track you are on the edge of the tire.”

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Spielberg: Six of the Best

08/15/2016 @ 2:21 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

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The rain finally came at 7:30pm, just as we were leaving the track. From Saturday night, the threat of rain at 2pm on Sunday – race time, local time – had hung over the Red Bull Ring in Austria, scaring riders at the prospect of racing on the circuit in the wet.

Though everyone feared the effect of the rain on the excessive asphalt run-off, some were more worried than others. After two dismal results in the wet, Jorge Lorenzo had to get his championship back on track. In the cold and the wet, Lorenzo struggled. In the sun, Lorenzo could shine. Even against the Ducatis.

He got his wish, as did the reported 95,000 people in the crowd, who had flocked to the Austrian circuit for their first taste of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in the country for the better part of twenty years.

And what a taste it was. A brutal, thrilling opener of a Moto3 race, competitive to the line, with a new and popular winner. A fierce fight in Moto2, which took two-thirds of the race to settle. And a scintillating and intense MotoGP race that had the crowd holding their breath.

The Spielberg track may not be a classic motorcycle track, but it produced some fantastic racing from the Grand Prix bikes.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Spielberg: A More Level Playing Field Than Expected

08/13/2016 @ 6:38 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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So much for Ducati domination. Sure, the two factory Ducatis are on the front row, Andrea Iannone on pole, Andrea Dovizioso in third, but they did not destroy the competition in qualifying the way they did so in practice on Friday.

Austria is still Ducati’s best chance of a win since Casey Stoner left for Honda at the end of the 2010 season, but it is no longer the sure thing it seemed on Friday.

What happened? A lot of things, but most of all, the weather improved dramatically. That certainly helped Jorge Lorenzo find some confidence, and put him back into contention after a couple of tough races. Valentino Rossi found some acceleration, and improved his pace.

Marc Márquez worked on making up on the brakes what he is losing in acceleration. That puts the Ducatis, the Yamahas, and Márquez all within a tenth or two of each other in race pace. We really are going to have to wait for the fat lady to start singing on this one.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Spielberg: Cold Temperatures, Fast Ducatis, & Interfering Teams

08/12/2016 @ 10:33 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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It’s the Sachsenring all over again. Or almost: when the MotoGP bikes were here in July, air temperatures were in the low 30s, and track temperature was around 50°C. During FP1, the air temperature was just 9°, and track temperature was 14°C.

“The temperature this morning was pretty extreme,” Jorge Lorenzo said after practice was over. “Only a few times in my life have we been riding in such cold conditions.”

Cold temperatures meant cold tire crashes, especially in the morning. The most obvious was Dani Pedrosa’s crash, who fell at Turn 9 as he touched the front brake, the front folding as if the track were wet.

The crash caused the session to be red-flagged, as Pedrosa’s Honda ended up puncturing the air fence and landing on top of the tire barrier.

The crash seemed to be a warning of the excesses of tarmac run off, but Pedrosa was happy that there wasn’t a gravel trap at the edge of the track. “I crashed in fifth gear, so I was going very fast,” Pedrosa said.

“From one point of view I think, most of the run-off area was asphalt so maybe the bike didn’t decelerate enough. But on the other side I was very lucky it was only asphalt, because I crashed so fast that if I went into the gravel I would have tumbled over and over with a lot of speed.”

There are upsides to asphalt run off sometimes.

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Sachsenring: Of Intermediates vs. Slicks, Gambling Right, & The Evils of Radio

07/18/2016 @ 2:32 am, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS

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It was a wild and weird weekend at the Sachsenring. The second in a row, after the bizarre and thrilling two-part race at Assen three weeks ago. The weather proved to be decisive, favoring the brave and the smart.

And, perhaps, the lucky, but luck is always a part of racing. Sometimes the conditions come to you, and when they do, you have to capitalize.

That is precisely what happened in the MotoGP race at the Sachsenring – and in the Moto3 race as well, come to think of it. For motorcycle racing’s big guns, they started on a soaking wet track with a light drizzle falling, but by the halfway mark, the first hints of a dry line were starting to form.

That line would start to grow over the next few laps, and then it came down to two judgment calls: when to come in and swap bikes, and whether to gamble on slicks, or play it safe with intermediates.

Bike swaps are governed by circumstances as well as choice. Windows of opportunity open quickly, but they are often overlooked. The information the riders have to base their decision on is limited to what the team can convey via the pit board, and what they can glean from the jumbotron screens that line the circuit.

They find themselves locked in battle with other riders, something which can easily devolve into a game of chicken. Unlike the game of chicken, though, it isn’t the rider who blinks last who wins. It’s the rider who blinks at exactly the right time.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Sachsenring: A Weird Grid, Examining Lorenzo, & The Toughness of Q1

07/16/2016 @ 9:57 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on Saturday MotoGP Summary at Sachsenring: A Weird Grid, Examining Lorenzo, & The Toughness of Q1

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Starting on pole, or at least on the front row, is important at every race track, but at the Sachsenring, it is doubly so. There are very few passing opportunities at the German circuit: Turn 1, though it is not easy. Turn 12, after the run down the hill.

And if you are smart, Turn 13, the final corner, but that is usually only possible if you have just been passed on the way into Turn 12, and the rider who passed you is now off line.

So a strong qualifying is crucial. Normally, that means the fastest riders make their way to the front of the grid. But not on Saturday.

At the Sachsenring, a series of crashes meant that the grid had a strangely unfamiliar look. Three satellite riders on the two front rows, and two riders universally acknowledged to have the strongest pace well down the field.

At least they weren’t crashing in Turn 11. With the sun out, the asphalt significantly warmer, and with riders having learned the hard way that they need to get the line right through that viciously fast corner, riders were instead finding different ways to crash.

Andrea Iannone went down unexpectedly at Turn 1. Jorge Lorenzo hit the deck at Turn 8, then again at Turn 1, bringing his crash total for the weekend to three.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Sachsenring: Turn 11 Again, Replacing the Sachsenring, & Marc vs. Maverick

07/15/2016 @ 10:12 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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It was a wasted day at the Sachsenring. The day started cold but with a dry track, then, ten minutes into MotoGP FP1, a fine mist of rain started to fall, making already tricky conditions positively terrifying.

A few journalists walked through the Sachsenring paddock up towards the end of pit lane, where the fences give you great views of Turn 1 and Turn 11.

Just as we arrived, Scott Redding’s battered Pramac Ducati returned to the paddock in the back of a recovery trailer. When we turned around to watch the bikes coming through Turn 11 again, Jorge Lorenzo slid through the gravel towards us, his foot caught up in his bike for a while.

While we were watching Lorenzo hit the gravel, we heard another bike scrape across asphalt and into the gravel. It was Stefan Bradl’s Aprilia, the German having lost the front at Turn 11, just as Lorenzo had.

The rain continued, never really heavy enough to soak the track properly, only lifting towards the end. A few riders went out on wet tires to check their repaired bikes, coming straight back in again.

The morning session was lost to the weather conditions. The afternoon session was a little better – at least it was dry – but the track temperatures meant that the tires never really got to the operating range they were designed for.