At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

Gone Riding: Aprilia RSV4 & Tuono V4

Tuesday - 04/25/2017 @ 7:20 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Hello again from Austin, Texas and the Circuit of the Americas. Fresh off yesterday’s sessions on the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, we have another day of track riding ahead of us (it’s a tough life, I know).

Switching things up a bit, we will be on the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Aprilia RSV4 RF, Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, and Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory. That’s a lot of bikes to ride in a single-day format, but we should be able to get some good seat time on each of the new Aprilia models for you.

Our focus for the day will be on the bevy of changes that Aprilia has brought to its V4 platform for the 2017 model year, as the Italian brand looks to continue the evolution of both its RSV4 and Tuono V4 lineups.

The big changes at hand are more power, an updated electronics package, new suspension pieces for the RSV4 RF and Tuono V4 1100 Factory, and upgraded brakes (cornering ABS from Bosch and larger brake discs) on all the models.

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Gone Riding: 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000

Monday - 04/24/2017 @ 6:13 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Good morning from Austin, Texas. After a long weekend watching some of the fastest racers tackling the 20 turns of the Circuit of the Americas, we are going to try a hand at it today, riding the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000.

COTA is a perfect test track for a bike like the GSX-R1000, with a mix of long straights, elevation changes, quick transitions, and fast sweepers. Run, turn, stop – that is the mantra behind the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and we will be testing those three attributes.

For the 2017 model year, the GSX-R1000 is an all-new machine – though we are told that fans of the “King of Superbikes” should find this machine to be a familiar soul.

Not everything is familiar though, as the outgoing model was noticably behind the times. As such, the 2017 version features near-200hp performance figures and a state-of-the-art electronics suite, which includes ABS, IMU-powered traction control, and ride-by-wire.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the new Suzuki GSX-R1000, before even my own proper reviews are posted.

As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Suzuki personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at COTA. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Suzuki & #GSXR1000 for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Austin: Leaders Crashing, And Rossi vs. Zarco

Monday - 04/24/2017 @ 5:45 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

When riders get off to a blinding start in the first couple of races, it is easy to get carried away and start penciling their name onto the championship trophy. Doing that after just two races is plainly ridiculous.

Doing it after three races is hardly any better. Yet the temptation to do so remains strong: when a narrative presents itself, it is hard to resist following it.

That has been the case so far this year. In Moto3, Joan Mir has looked untouchable winning the first two races from tough fights. In Moto2, Franco Morbidelli had dominated, controlling races from start to finish.

And coming into Austin, Maverick Viñales had won the first two races of the season quite comfortably, nobody anywhere close to being able to match him.

During practice, a new narrative presented itself in MotoGP. Marc Márquez has dominated the racing at the Circuit of The Americas since it first joined the calendar, winning all four races held there before this year.

Maverick Viñales has dominated the opening two races of the year, and came to Austin looking capable of ending Márquez’ winning streak.

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Watch the BMW HP4 Race Do Its Thing

Sunday - 04/23/2017 @ 10:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

BMW Motorrad is one of the few brands still growing in this motorcycle economy, even in the United States, which is facing another year of doubtful sales increases. That’s no easy task.

Not so easy is also improving upon the BMW S1000RR superbike – a machine that tops the lists of many motorcycle publications, near and far. When you ride the BMW S1000RR, it is easy to see why the Bavarian Bullet is so popular.

The BMW S1000RR is beating the Japanese brands at their own game, offering a 1,000cc inline-four superbike with near-200hp peak horsepower figures, anemic measurements on the scale, and a full-suite of electronics…all with aggressive pricing.

How do you improve on this design? Well, a carbon fiber chassis is certainly one way to start; a WorldSBK-spec 212hp engine certainly helps; and factory-set electronics don’t hurt nothin’ either. In other words, you make the BMW HP4 Race.

There are so many reasons why we should heap praise on BMW Motorrad for building the 2017 BMW HP4 Race, but instead we are just going to let this video from the German brand do the talking.

Does anyone know what the 3asy pricing on the HP4 Race is looking like? What if I use my kidney as a down payment? No, seriously…asking for friend.

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Sunday at Austin with Scott Jones

Sunday - 04/23/2017 @ 9:51 pm, by Scott Jones2 COMMENTS

Marc Marquez Continues His Streak at the Americas GP

Sunday - 04/23/2017 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Saturday MotoGP Summary at Austin: Explaining Crashes, And New Rivalries

Sunday - 04/23/2017 @ 11:03 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

There is a move afoot among MotoGP riders to have qualifying changed. Or rather, to have the way the selection is done for Q1 and Q2. A lot of riders have complained about the current system of prequalifying using combined times from FP1 through FP3.

The riders complain that they lose too much time to trying to set a fast lap in each session, just in case conditions change. The current counter proposal from the riders is to use just the FP3 times to select which riders go through to Q2 directly, and allow the teams to spend Friday focusing on setup.

Saturday morning exposed the weakness of such an idea. A combination of cold tires, strong wind, a bumpy track, poor tire selection on Friday night, and the narrow temperature working range of the Michelins saw eight riders crash a total of ten times in FP3.

Alex Rins crashed so heavily he broke both the radius and ulna in his left arm, and put himself out of action for Austin and Jerez, and possibly for Le Mans as well. The rest escaped relatively unscathed, but with many a temper blazing.

Basing passage into Q2 solely on FP3 results was not without risks of its own, Valentino Rossi told the Italian media. “Today, that would have been a stupid idea, because we would have had to take a lot of risks in difficult conditions,” Rossi said.

If there had been a total of ten crashes in a session in which most riders hadn’t pushed to improve their time, how many would have fallen if they had all been pushing to get through to Q2?

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Q&A: Jorge Lorenzo on Developing the Ducati

Saturday - 04/22/2017 @ 9:25 pm, by Andrew Kohn9 COMMENTS

This has been a challenging year for Ducati Corse, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso. The Desmosedici GP17 is a new platform with a new aerodynamic package, sans winglets, and there have been development challenges along the way.

With a double DNF at Argentina, Ducati was definitely looking for some good news in Austin.

As it turns out, qualifying went better than expected. Lorenzo seemed quite pleased at the end of qualifying, pumping his fist in the air as he entered his garage.

This afternoon, Asphalt & Rubber had a chance to sit down with Lorenzo for a few minutes to discuss the challenges of switching from Yamaha to Ducati, and the difficulty of developing a new MotoGP machine.

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Saturday at Austin with Scott Jones

Saturday - 04/22/2017 @ 6:04 pm, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

MotoGP Qualifying Results from Austin

Saturday - 04/22/2017 @ 3:49 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS