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August 2017

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There is big news from the other side of the motorcycle industry, as Harley-Davidson has merged its Dyna and Softail lines into one, while releasing 13 “new” motorcycles for the 2018 model year. The new bikes fill out the Softail and Touring lines for the Bar & Shield brand, and feature the company’s new Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines. These changes for the 2018 model year mark the most performance that the Softail line has ever seen, with Harley-Davidson Product Portfolio Manage Paul James saying that the new bikes required “the most extensive research and development program in the company’s history.” The eight new Softail models include: Fat Bob (above), Street Bob, Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, and Breakout.

We are in the final days of Confederate Motors, as the Alabama-based company just debuted its last motorcycle: the FA-13 Combat Bomber. Once the uniquely styled cruiser is sold out though, a new company will be formed: Curtiss Motorcycles. The name Curtiss is a nod to aviator Glenn Curtiss, who before he battled with the Wright Brothers for control of the sky, was an avid motorcycle builder and motorcycle racer. Like its namesake, Curtiss Motorcycles will be looking to the future, and thus its first model will be an all-electric motorcycle. As such, Curtiss Motorcycles has partnered with Zero Motorcycles to build the Hercules, an electric motorcycle with two Zero motors. This should produce roughly 175hp and 290 lbs•ft of peak torque.

If there is one thing that makes real life much more interesting than fiction, it is that real life is no respecter of plausible plot lines. If you were to take a script of the 2017 MotoGP season so far to a movie producer or a fiction publisher, they would reject it 30 seconds into your pitch. It is all a little too implausible.

Five riders battling for the championship after 12 rounds? Never happens. A championship leader with a record low number of points? A ridiculous notion. Riders winning races one weekend, then struggling to make the top five, or even top ten the next?

A horribly transparent plot device to create tension. Championship leaders conveniently crashing, struggling with tires, or suffering bike problems? A little too convenient to be credible.

How about the supposedly colorless second rider in a team suddenly blossoming into a championship contender? The most trite of clichés, like the mousy librarian who transforms into a babe once she takes her glasses off.

The struggle of a rider swapping bikes to become competitive, making up and down progress, and a big step forward when handed a technological MacGuffin? So blatant it’s obscene. No professional writer of fiction would stoop to such depths.

Is it going to be Argentina or Austin on Sunday at Silverstone? Two of the bumpiest circuits of the first half of the season had very different outcomes.

At the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit, Marc Márquez took off like a scalded cat to try to take the win, and claw back the valuable points from Maverick Viñales he had handed him at Qatar.

In undulating Austin, Márquez rode his usual imperious race to take victory, while it was Viñales’ turn to make a silly mistake.

The perils of a American bumps were rather bike-specific. It wasn’t just Marc Márquez who crashed out of the lead in Argentina, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa managed the same feat.

Cal Crutchlow rode cautiously to finish third, while there were four Yamahas in the top six. At Austin, Márquez won, Pedrosa finished third, Crutchlow fourth. Valentino Rossi’s charge came too late, and he finished well behind Márquez. A year earlier, it had been Rossi making a silly mistake in Texas, and slipping off.

So how does Silverstone compare to the two American tracks (North and South)? In Austin, the bumps were on corner exit, Maverick Viñales explained, whereas at Silverstone, the bumps are on corner entry.

“So it seems more difficult to ride,” the Movistar Yamaha rider said. In Argentina, it wasn’t so much bumps as massive undulations which were causing the problems.