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.

Thursday at the Ulster Grand Prix with Tony Goldsmith

08/15/2014 @ 12:53 pm, by Tony Goldsmith2 COMMENTS


Having travelled to Indianapolis through Dublin, it seamed only right upon my return to make the short trip over the border into Northern Ireland for the Ulster Grand Prix.

Having only visited The Ulster once as a spectator back in 2007, I’m pretty much a novice to the circuit. The corner names are not familiar, so I didn’t have much of a clue of were to shoot Thursday’s action from. One place I did know from my previous visit was the Deers Leap section, so I based myself there for the day.

The riders come onto the Deers Leap through a quick right-hand bend before wheeling over the crest at Deers Leap itself, and down under the trees into Cochranstown. There is a huge elevation change trough the section. Standing at the top looking down to Cochranstown it looks like the riders are dropping off the face of the earth as they the crest Deers Leap.

The racing on Thursday is actually the Dundrod 150, the traditional warm up to Saturday’s Ulster Grand Prix. After long delays due to two incidents in the early races, Guy Martin won the feature race of the day, after a race long battle with Bruce Anstey. Martin crossed the line only 0.244 seconds ahead of Anstey with Michael Dunlop 2.5 seconds further back in third.

All of  the results of the days racing can be found on the Ulster Grand Prix’s official website.

Thursday Summary at Sachsenring: On Breaking the Streak, Fighting for Contracts, & Keeping The Waterfall

07/10/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS


After winning the first five races of the season, Marc Marquez said he feared the trio of Mugello, Barcelona, and Assen, which were to follow. He would surely be beaten at one of those tracks, given they favored the Yamaha M1, and were strong tracks for both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Three races and three wins later, and Marquez is looking increasingly invincible. The Repsol Honda man keeps inventing new ways to win, and keeping his opponents at bay.

So if Marquez is impossible to beat at a Yamaha circuit, perhaps he can be beaten at a Honda track. So far, Dani Pedrosa has been the only rider to get close to beating his teammate, after pushing him all the way at Barcelona.

The Sachsenring is a track where Pedrosa has reigned supreme in recent years, having won four times in the last eight years. Impressive as it is, that does not do his record at the track justice. In his rookie year, he finished fourth in Germany, missing out by just three tenths of a second in one of the closest and most thrilling races to be held at the circuit.

In 2008 he crashed out of the lead in the wet, a result that would lead him to concentrate on improving his riding in the rain. In 2009 he finished third, close behind the battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and in 2013, Pedrosa was absent after breaking a collarbone during practice.

There is just one minor problem. If you think Dani Pedrosa’s record at the Sachsenring is strong – and numbers don’t lie, Pedrosa is the man to beat in Germany – just wait until you see what Marc Marquez has done at the circuit. For the past four years, in three different classes, Marquez has won the race after starting from pole.

The Spaniard won here in his last year in 125s, won both Moto2 races he contested here, then took victory in his first MotoGP race at the circuit. It was his second win in the class, after becoming the youngest ever winner at Austin earlier in 2013.

Marquez did not have to beat either Pedrosa or Lorenzo, of course, both men having withdrawn with broken collarbones. So this race is a straight fight for Sachsenring supremacy. The winner in 2014 may rightly call himself King of the ‘Ring.

Thursday Summary at Assen: The Weather Gods Smile, The Weather Gods Threaten

06/26/2014 @ 11:32 pm, by David Emmett3 COMMENTS


If there was one factor that surprised everyone on the first day of practice at Assen, it was the weather. Everyone had been prepared for rain, and had contingency plans for when the rain would eventually come. But it didn’t.

It rained all around the circuit, severe weather warnings were issued for several surrounding towns, heavy rain fell in nearby Groningen, and local beaches were evacuated because of thunderstorms, but the TT Circuit at Assen stayed dry all day.

The wind blew the morning clouds away, and the sun shone down gloriously on the circuit, catching out the unwary, and giving all three Grand Prix classes, plus the many support series a full day of excellent weather.

The riders made good use of the conditions, and the unexpected track time threw up a couple of serious surprises. In the morning, Pol Espargaro set the fastest time, finishing ahead of his brother Aleix. In the afternoon session, it was Aleix who was quickest, though this time Pol could not match the pace of his elder brother.

Thursday at Assen with Tony Goldsmith

06/26/2014 @ 11:18 am, by Tony Goldsmith2 COMMENTS

Thursday Summary at Catalunya: How To Beat Marquez & Silly Season Steps Up a Gear

06/12/2014 @ 10:25 pm, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS


It is becoming customary for any MotoGP preview worth its salt to begin with a single question: can anyone beat Marc Marquez this weekend? That same question was put to the riders during the pre-event press conference, to which Valentino Rossi gave the most obvious answer. Of course it was possible, he said.

“It is nothing special. What you have to do is do your maximum and improve your level.” The only trouble is, every time Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, or Dani Pedrosa improve their level, so does Marc Marquez. But it is still possible, Rossi believes. “We are not very far. It is not easy, but nothing special.”

Barcelona, like Mugello, is one of the tracks where Marquez is perhaps more vulnerable. It is a circuit where the reigning champion has always struggled – though for Marquez, “struggling” means only managing podiums rather than wins – and where the Yamahas, especially, have been strong.

Valentino Rossi has won here nine times, and Jorge Lorenzo has been either first or second at the track for the past five years. The track flows, and has a little bit of everything.

A long, fast front straight, some elevation change climbing up into the two stadium sections, the two “horns” of the Catalunya bull which the Montmelo circuit most resembles, a couple of esses, and long, flowing combinations of corners. Those corners more than compensate for the front straight.

Jorge Lorenzo reckoned that the Yamaha had a top speed deficit of perhaps 4 or 5 km/h on the Honda, but that at Barcelona, this was less of an issue than at other tracks. After all, he pointed out, there are some 3.7 kilometers of corners in which to catch a Honda ahead of you.

Thursday Summary at Mugello: Rossi’s Revival in Race 300, And How Marquez & Moto2 Are Changing MotoGP

05/30/2014 @ 3:39 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS


The paradox of the motorcycle racer is that every race is a big race, yet no race is more important than any other. The pressure on the MotoGP elite is so great that they have to perform at their maximum at every circuit, every weekend.

Every race is like a championship decider, not just the race which decides the championship. There may be extra pressure at a home race, or on a special occasion, or when a title is at stake, but the riders cannot let it get to them. There is too much at stake to be overawed by the occasion.

Still, Mugello 2014 is a very big race indeed. It is Valentino Rossi’s 300th Grand Prix, and a chance for him to return to the podium on merit again, and not just because the crowds were calling his name.

It is the best hope of a Jorge Lorenzo revival, the Yamaha man having won the last three races in a row at the spectacular Tuscan track. It is the best hope for Ducati, the Italian factory having run well here in the past.

And it is the first realistic chance for Marc Marquez to fail, the Spaniard has never found the track an easy one, though it did not stop him winning there.

Thursday Summary at Le Mans: Can Anyone Stop Marc Marquez from Making It Five in a Row?

05/15/2014 @ 10:16 pm, by David Emmett10 COMMENTS


As the MotoGP circus descends upon the charming French town of Le Mans this weekend, there is one question at the front of everybody’s minds: can he do it? Can Marc Marquez continue his incredible string of poles and victories by winning at Le Mans?

On the evidence of the 2014 season so far, you would have to say he can. But Le Mans is a different circuit, and one where a gaggle of Yamaha riders have gone well in the past. This could possibly be the first race since Qatar where Marquez is made to work for it.

Marquez has a lot going for him in France. Leaving aside his form – a perfect record of poles and wins this year, as well as being fastest in over half the sessions of free practice so far – the track looks to play to the Honda’s strengths, on paper at least.

The stop-and-go nature of the Le Mans track sees the bikes spend a lot of time under hard acceleration, with slower corners needing hard braking. The Honda’s ‘V’ approach to the corners – brake late, turn hard, stand the bike up quickly and get on the gas – seems to be a much better fit to the Le Mans circuit than Yamaha’s ‘U’ style – brake early, enter faster, carry more corner speed and smoothly wind on the throttle.

And yet Yamaha riders have won four of the last six races at the circuit. Jorge Lorenzo has won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans three times, and each time with a very comfortable margin over his competitors. Valentino Rossi has won here twice on a Yamaha, in 2005 and 2008, and finished second behind Lorenzo in 2010.

It’s even a track where Colin Edwards has shone in the past on a Yamaha – and where perhaps he can do well once again, despite hating the current Yamaha chassis he is riding at Forward Yamaha. This is the first in a series of circuits where Yamaha riders have dominated in the past.

If Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi want to start fighting back against the might of Marquez, Le Mans is as good a place to start as any.

Thursday Summary at Jerez: On Bridgestone’s Withdrawal, Slower Lap Times, & Stopping Marquez

05/01/2014 @ 7:07 pm, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS


There’s a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter?

Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can’t get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won’t be doing much slowing down.

Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won’t be up to much.

It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more.

Thursday Summary at Argentina: A Long Awaited Visit to the Middle of Nowhere

04/24/2014 @ 6:07 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS


Why on earth would you organize a MotoGP race in what is effectively the middle of nowhere? The answer is as simple as it is obvious: money. Dorna are being well paid by the circuit to bring the three Grand Prix classes to the little town of Termas de Rio Hondo in the heart of the Argentinian pampas.

And in case you should start to rail against Dorna’s greed, it is fair to point out that a significant part of that money will also go to the teams, to pay transport costs and to cover at least part of their annual budget. Some of that money, but not all.

A more relevant question might be why would a circuit in the middle of nowhere pay Dorna a massive amount of money to come race there? If it’s in the middle of nowhere, then surely they are unlikely to make back at the gate what they paid to Dorna to organize the race? They won’t, but that is not necessarily the point.

The circuit, after all, is not paying most of the fee. The vast majority of the cash (indeed, probably all of it) is being paid by the regional authorities, with help from the central government. The regional tourism promotion council is counting on the increased profile of the Santiago del Estero province attracting more visitors to the region, and to Argentina in general.

In essence, the Argentinian government and the Santiago del Estero province are making the same gamble as the province of Aragon did for the circuit at Alcañiz. They hope that by raising the visibility of the area to the outside world, more people will choose to visit, and that will being more revenue to the region and boost the local economy.

Thursday Summary at Austin: Edwards Retires, Blandspeak Returns, & The Dearth of US Racers

04/11/2014 @ 7:58 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS


It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.