California Lane-Splitting Bill Moves Forward

California just moved closer to codifying lane-splitting in its vehicle code, as California Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) just passed the California State Senate Transportation Committee, with a 11-0 vote. This means that AB 51 now will go before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, before it can be presented to the Senate floor. For those who don’t recall AB 51, the bill aims to codify lane-splitting into the California Vehicle Code, and the bill expressly permits state actors, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), in developing and teaching educational guidelines for safe lane-splitting. California is America’s playground for motorcyclists, namely in that The Golden State permits motorcycles to split lanes between cars.

Ducati Debuting Two New Bikes at World Ducati Week

If you’re attending this year’s World Ducati Week, then you’re in for a treat, as Ducati is set to debut two new bikes at the gathering in Misano. Details are thin at the moment, but we do know that one of the machines will be a limited-edition motorcycle that celebrates Ducati’s 90th anniversary. Meanwhile the other bike is a new model to the Ducati range, which will be shown in a “closed room” setting as a sort of sneak peak before its official launch. The latter model is rumored heavily to be a large-displacement Scrambler model, with engine sizes of 1,000cc to 1,200cc being banded about. Loyal Ducatisti will remember that the first modern Ducati Scrambler debuted at World Ducati Week in a similar fashion, so there’s some precedent for the line to continue the trend of special “preview” events.

Suzuki’s Electric “Grom Killer” Coming to Market?

When the Honda Grom debuted in 2013, the other Japanese manufacturers took note. The first copycat was Kawasaki, which earlier this year debuted the Kawasaki Z125 Pro, but we shouldn’t forget the fact that Suzuki brought out its EXTRIGGER concept at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, as well. Listening to our calls, the Suzuki EXTRIGGER coming to market seems to be getting more likely now, as Suzuki has filed for patents in the China, Europe, and the United States for the plucky electric machine. Just in time, to battle with the freshly updated Honda Grom. With the Honda Grom showing great sales success and the Kawasaki Z125 Pro debuting to favorable reviews, there appears to be a demand for small unassuming motorcycles in markets that are normally dominated by big-displacement machines.

Indian Motorcycle Returns to Flat Track Racing

AMA Pro Flat Track is heating up. First, it was Harley-Davidson announcing its first flat track race bike in 44 years, the Harley-Davidson XG750R. And now, we get word that Indian Motorcycle is set to compete as well, debuting today a purpose-built v-twin engine for the job. The Indian Scout FTR v-twin engine is a 750cc liquid-cooled four-valve lump that is specifically designed for flat track racing. Using a specially built chassis, Indian aims to compete in AMA Pro Flat Track, with Jared Mees serving for now as the company’s test rider. Indian says it will compete at a single 2016 event, which is still to be announced, before going after the 2017 AMA Pro Flat Track title in full. Presumably Mees will headline that effort as well, which if the case, should make Indian’s entry a very potent one.

BMW Lac Rose Concept – A Vintage-Styled ADV Bike

What you see here is an homage back to a day when men were men, and the Dakar Rally actually went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal and the western-most point of Africa. Called the BMW Lac Rose Concept, this retooled BMW R nineT is named after Lac Rose (Lake Retba to some), which is just outside of Dakar – a picturesque locale, for a photogenic motorcycle. BMW Motorrad styled the Lac Rose concept after the Dakar Rally bikes of the 1980s, which adds to the retro flare that the German brand has been channeling though its R nineT platform. If you believe the rumors, the Lac Rose could very well go into production, as a 2017 model year machine, thus adding a trifecta of throwback machines to BMW’s R nineT lineup, with the R nineT roadster and scrambler models already strong sellers.

Updates Coming for the 2017 KTM 390 Duke

One of the hottest bikes on the market since its 2013 debut, the KTM 390 Duke is seemingly set for a model refresh, with cosmetic updates and other minor technical changes coming our way. This photo above shows the 2017 KTM 390 Duke with its new headlight, and in it you can also see some of the styling changes to the fairings and fuel tank, along with the updated switchgear and dash design. Designed in Austria, but built in India, it doesn’t surprise us to see this photo leak coming from the Bajaj factory near Pune, India – where production has surely already started in anticipation for the next model year. Analyzing this photo, it is interesting to see KTM adopt a very unique split headlight setup for the 390 Duke.

Michael Dunlop Sets New TT Record: 133.962 MPH

To say that Michael Dunlop rode to an impressive win on Friday’s Senior TT, might be an understatement. While winning the Senior TT is his second TT race win for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, Dunlop’s true accomplishment can be found on the time sheets, with his record-breaking pace. A fortnight of records dropping, this year’s Senior TT was no different, and Dunlop set not only the fastest lap of the Senior TT race, but also the fastest lap of any Senior TT race ever held at the Isle of Man TT: 133.962 mph. This mark is also the fastest lap ever recorded during an Isle of Man TT race, and is the fastest outright lap ever at the Isle of Man TT. In other words, this is the new mark that all other riders will aspire to surpass in the coming years.

Harley-Davidson Going Electric Within Next Five Years

Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years, so says the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings, while talking to the Milwaukee Business Journal. This news comes almost exactly two years after Harley-Davidson debuted the LiveWire project, a demonstration model built with help from the now kaput Mission Motors. Details beyond this statement are lean however. The real news is that Harley-Davidson has finally green-lit its electric project, and has committed itself to bringing a commercially-viable version of the LiveWire to market, with the initial work on that new model now just beginning.

Up-Close with the 2016 Victory RR Electric Race Bike

It has been a while since we’ve done one our “up-close” sets of photos, so we sent our man Tony Goldsmith into the Victory Motorcycles tent at the Isle of Man TT, to get some snaps of the 2016 Victory RR electric race bike. The Victory RR is an evolved version of the Brammo Empulse RR project, Brammo of course being one of inaugural participants in the Isle of Man TT’s first electric race, which was called at the time TTXGP. 2016 marks the second year in a row that Victory Motorcycles has competed at the Isle of Man, with William Dunlop taking his seat on the Victory RR this year. This year, it was another podium finish for Victory, and the team improved its result to a second-place finish, and more importantly increased their best lap time to 115.844 mph.

Interview: John McGuinness and the Isle of Man TT

John McGuinness is the winningest active TT racer at the Isle of Man, and has been competing at the iconic race for the past 20 years. Once a teammate to Joey Dunlop, McGuinness is creeping up on the legend’s overall TT race wins, with just three more needed to tie Dunlop’s mark. This makes him a formidable rider in any of the TT’s solo-class races, and it also makes him a walking encyclopedia of the Manx circuit. At the end of the Isle of Man TT practice week, our man Tony Goldsmith managed to grab some time with 23-time TT winner John McGuinness, who gave us some insight into how he prepares for the challenges of riding the Snaefell Mountain Course, and what the TT is like from his eyes.

Friday MotoGP Summary at Argentina: Dirty Track, and Yamaha’s Goldilocks Principle

04/02/2016 @ 10:54 am, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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One statistic captured the state of play in Argentina after the first day of practice. Of the eighty-three (83!) Grand Prix riders who took to the track on Friday, just a single rider failed to improve their time from FP1 to FP2.

That rider was Tatsuki Suzuki, and the reason he did not manage to improve his time was because he crashed early in the session, leaving himself too little time to go faster.

Why is this remarkable? Normally, there would be somewhere between four and eight riders who do not manage to improve their time between sessions on Friday.

At Mugello in 2015, for example, there were six in MotoGP, five in Moto2, and eleven in Moto3, a grand total of twenty-two, and broadly representative of a normal race weekend. The fact that almost everyone managed to go faster illustrated the problem with the track perfectly.

The problem? The track is filthy, to put it simply. As a result of a lack of use, the dust and dirt which settles on any uncovered surface just settles into the asphalt, and is never swept from the track.

With no bikes or cars circulating regularly, the track remains green, its virgin surface unsullied by the dark rubber of motorized monsters. No vehicles on track means no grip.

Preview of the Argentinian GP: A Living Legend

03/31/2016 @ 10:48 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The vast amount of work I have had to do to over the past five days has left me desperately short of time to write a proper preview for the Argentina round of MotoGP. This is a shame, as the Termas de Rio Hondo track is utterly magnificent, and deserves all the praise it can get.

So instead of a full preview, here are my notes on this weekend. What to watch out for, and what is likely to be important. For a fuller review, listen to the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast, where Steve English and I look forward to the weekend ahead.

MotoGP: Lorenzo/Ducati Rumors Heat Up

03/30/2016 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

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They call it Silly Season for a reason. Every year, the MotoGP paddock engages in intrigue and speculation as to where certain riders will land for the upcoming season.

Lately, this means that the MotoGP Silly Season has its ebbs and flows, as the contract cycle for many of Grand Prix racing’s riders have come into synch with a two-year cycle. As such, it is game-on for this year, as the 2016 season has turned into a perfect game of contractual musical chairs.

We have already seen Valentino Rossi sign a two-year deal with Yamaha Racing, likely The Doctor’s last contract in MotoGP, as many expect the nine-time world champion to retire at the end of that stint.

We have also already seen Bradley Smith sign a two-year deal with KTM’s new MotoGP entry, which is perhaps the ideal situation for both the Austrian factory and the British rider.

These are both important pieces to the Silly Season puzzle, but the seat that everyone is watching the closest is that of Jorge Lorenzo, and whether the reigning world champion will remain as a Yamaha rider, or try his hand elsewhere – likely at Ducati.

Paddock Pass Podcast – Episode 21 – MotoGP at Qatar

03/24/2016 @ 11:59 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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The first race of the 2016 MotoGP Championship is finally in the bag, and the boys at the Paddock Pass Podcast have all the analysis and insight from Qatar that you have been waiting for.

In this episode, Neil MorrisonSteve English and David Emmett cover everything surrounding the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 races at the Qatar GP.

There’s a great discussion about how the Michelin tires and spec-electronics have changed/not-changed the racing in the MotoGP class; of course the events in the Moto2 class cannot go without some discussions; and the boys wrap-up with a quick chat about Moto3 and who they have their money on this season.

Since there were some contract announcements at Qatar, the lads also have a wee chat about the current state of affairs in the MotoGP silly season. If you’re a true motorsport fan, you won’t want to miss this one.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Sunday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: Moto2 Madness, And The Dawning of a New Era

03/20/2016 @ 11:47 pm, by David Emmett15 COMMENTS

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May you live in interesting times, runs an apocryphal Chinese curse. The first Grand Prix of 2016 certainly provided us with plenty of events which might be termed interesting, in both the common sense of the word and the apocryphal curse.

The three races at Qatar were thrilling, tense, intriguing, and mind-bogglingly bizarre.

It is hard to know where to start. The first race of the day proved to be the most conventional, Moto3 serving up its usual treat.

A very strong group of eight riders, including all of the championship favorites bar Fabio Quartararo, battled all race long for victory, Niccolo Antonelli finally coming out on top by just 0.007 seconds, beating Brad Binder into second.

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Qatar: On Unpredictable Racing, and the Futility of Mind Games

03/20/2016 @ 12:21 am, by David Emmett16 COMMENTS

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Practice, like testing, doesn’t really count for much, riders will tell you. When you talk to the afterwards, they will tell you that they didn’t set a really fast lap because they were working on setup, trying to figure out which tire will be best in the race, or working on race pace rather than one lap pace.

Maybe they were saving tires, maybe they ran into traffic, or maybe there wasn’t enough time left in the session to go for a fast lap. Even the rider who is fastest will tell you they were surprised, they were not really pushing for a time, but it just came naturally.

All valid explanations, but not necessarily true, of course. After all, free practice is just free practice, and as long as you are inside the top ten, with a good chance of advancing straight to Q2, then there is no reason not to dip into your Bumper Book of Excuses to fob off journalists with.

They are unlikely to challenge you on such excuses, because as long as your explanations are plausible, they have no way of countering them. It is impossible to know the mind of Man.

Qualifying is different. Qualifying matters, because there is something at stake. Not as much as on Sunday, and the forty-five minutes for which motorcycle racers sacrifice everything, the only forty-five minutes during which they feel truly alive.

But still, riders know the excuses afterwards will sound a little hollow. Qualifying is not the time to be laying all of your cards on the table, but you do have to be able to ante up, and to maybe call for a card or two.

Analyzing Valentino Rossi’s Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

03/19/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.

That Rossi would renew his contract with Yamaha is hardly a surprise. The Italian has a long and storied history with the Japanese manufacturer, from his triumphant and daring switch to Yamaha at the start of the 2004 season, in which he won both a memorable first race on the YZR-M1, going on to become champion, through a total of four world titles and a seemingly endless string of wins.

Rossi was welcomed back into the fold, suitably chastened, after his failed adventure with Ducati, and after a slow start, returned to being competitive in 2014, and especially in 2015.

Even the bitter aftermath of the 2015 season, when Rossi lost the title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo could not sour the relationship.

When Yamaha awarded its MotoGP merchandise contract to Rossi’s VR46 Racing Apparel business, and then signed a long-term support deal with Rossi’s VR46 Riders Academy, it was obvious that Rossi would stay with Yamaha, though it was uncertain that he would still be racing.

Rossi repeated publicly that he wanted to take the first few races of 2016 before making a decision, but it was clear that the decision would be continuing with the Movistar Yamaha team and retirement.

No doubt Rossi could have ridden elsewhere if he had chosen to – though the doors at Honda were almost certainly closed to him, after his defection at the end of 2003 – but realistically, Rossi’s future was tied to Yamaha.

When he retires, Rossi will continue as a figurehead for Yamaha, in much the same mold as Giacomo Agostini. The press release from Yamaha states as much, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis saying “When Vale returned home in 2013 it was ‘a decision for life’.”

That is worth a lot more to both Yamaha and Rossi in the long run. Though financial details of the deal were not released – they never are, the world of MotoGP salaries being one which is shrouded in secrecy and myth – the money part of the equation was most certainly not an issue.

Rossi has been racing for glory and the chance to win another title for the past few years, rather than financial compensation. Ironically, the most financially valuable of the four MotoGP aliens is probably on the lowest salary.

What is a surprise is the timing of Rossi’s announcement. The general expectation was that Rossi would stay on at Yamaha for another two years, but that the announcement would come some time in May or June.

Instead, the deal has been announced ahead of the first race of the season. The question everyone is asking now is, why the hurry?

Valentino Rossi Signs Two-Year Contract with Yamaha

03/19/2016 @ 1:18 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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Yamaha Racing and the MotoGP Championship as a whole will enjoy two more years of Valentino Rossi, as the Italian has agreed to extend his contract with Yamaha for another two years.

Rossi’s continued interest to race in MotoGP likely doesn’t come as a surprise to many in the MotoGP paddock, as Rossi once again is at the pointy end of the stick when it comes to speed, team, and race package.

While he may not be the top pick on every journalist’s list to win the Championship, there is no denying that The Doctor is certainly in title contention, as we head into the season-opener at Qatar, and could easily prove “the experts” wrong with his 10th World Championship this year.

Rossi’s contract extension is also the first piece of the Silly Season puzzle, and now all eyes will be trained on the other side of Yamaha’s garage – to see what Jorge Lorenzo does in response. This is because paddock pundits are busy dissecting whether the Spaniard will stay with Yamaha, or if he will defect to Ducati in 2016.

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.