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October 2017

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We have already reported on how Ben Spies is trying to put together a superbike comeback, with an eye on the 2018 MotoAmerica Championship. There is a long road from here to there though, and the biggest hurdle for the American road racer is finding a ride.

Our Paddock Pass Podcast colleague Neil Morrison has some news on that though, and as he reported on Crash.net, Spies could be looking to Ducati for support on his return to motorcycle racing.

Talking to Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti, Morrison (that handsome devil) reports that Ducati is prepared to help the Texan…if he can foot the bill.

Keanu Reeves is confirmed to attend this year’s EICMA show, and that’s a good thing, as his ARCH Motorcycle brand is set to debut three models at the trade show in Milan, Italy. The first bike will be the 2018 version of the ARCH KRGT-1, which we expect to be a maturation of ARCH’s first motorcycle design. Judging from the location of its debut, we expect the ARCH KRGT-1 to be available in the European market next year – and thus now Euro4 compliant – likely with some help from the folks at Suter. The second bike is the ARCH 1S, which will be a more sporty version of the already performance-focused cruiser model. The ARCH 1S features a single-sided swingarm, as well as a more aggressive rider position.

Motus Motorcycles looks to be working on its second motorcycle model, as a naked prototype of the Motus MST has been making appearances on the American brand’s social media channels, including a very tasty video of the bike testing a 4-2-1 Akrapovic exhaust on the dyno (watch it, after the jump).

We reached out to Motus about its latest project, and the company confirmed its interest in making a naked version of the Motus MST sport-tourer, though it is waiting to see the feedback from other Motus owners and potential customers before committing to make the machine.

Still, Motus is teasing some very intriguing performance specs and design elements, which is more than whetting our appetite.

Honda seems set to update the Africa Twin, its plucky ADV model, with a more off-road focused machine. Teasing the new model online, the Honda Africa Twin “Big Tank” – nicknamed for its supposedly larger 22-liter fuel tank – is expected to debut next week at the EICMA show in Milan. Not too much is known about the machine, but we expect it to borrow heavily from the Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports Concept, which debuted at the Osaka Motorcycle Show last year. Accordingly, we can expect more off-road goodness for the Africa Twin in Italy, with a slight styling refresh as well. The larger fuel tank (up from the stock 18-liter unit) will necessitate some bodywork changes, which includes a redesigned flat seat.

Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR)…these are the three bid buzzwords of Silicon Valley right now. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the motorcycle industry blindly latching onto them, in order to keep some sort of relevance in the space.

From the manufacturers, we have seen more than a few mentions of how the motorcycles of the future will use artificial intelligence to improve the two-wheeled experience, though with virtually none of the brands talking about how an AI-powered motorcycle would be better…or even work.

Yamaha has finally made the jump though with its MOTOROiD concept, taking AI and viewing the technology through the company’s long-term focus with “kando” – the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.

Sometimes, winning a championship requires a little bit of help from your team. Especially when championships are tight.

A little help from your teammate, perhaps persuaded by a quiet word in their ear from the team boss. Who knows, maybe even a little financial sweetener to help swallow a bitter pill, a cut of a win bonus. It helps if you and your teammate don’t actively despise each other, of course.

Team orders are something of a taboo subject in motorcycle racing. Journalists, riders, teams all pussyfoot around the issue, while fans speculate like mad about which results were down to riders doing what they were told by team bosses, rather than putting it all out on the track.

With no ship-to-shore radio communication, the only methods of communication are via the pit board, and since last year, via a list of permitted messages on the dashboard.

In a way, not having radio communication has led to more speculation about team orders, rather than less. Because pit boards are visible to other teams, and space is necessarily limited, the messages tend to be both terse and obscure.

Valentino Rossi is forever being asked to explain what the letters BRK on his pit board mean. Dani Pedrosa is in a league of his own in this regard: at one point during a race, the word DOGMA appeared on his pit board. At another, the letters ZZTT were shown at the start of the last lap.

Will we have a 2017 MotoGP champion by Sunday night? The odds are on the side of Marc Márquez. Second place would be good enough to wrap it up for the Repsol Honda rider wherever Andrea Dovizioso finishes.

If Dovizioso doesn’t win, then Márquez has to finish within eight points of the Italian. If Dovizioso is second, then fourth is good enough. If he’s third, then eighth is good enough. So far this season, Marc Márquez has always finished sixth place or better. Except when he doesn’t finish, of course…

Márquez has two obstacles to overcome. The first is the weather. The forecast for Sunday at Sepang is heavy rain, from around the time warm up for MotoGP tends until early evening.

On Friday, it was Andrea Dovizioso who was strongest in the rain, while Márquez was a little slower, and had a fleet of Ducatis to contend with.

The second obstacle is the big group of very fast riders at Sepang. Going by the timesheets in FP3 and FP4, there are a bunch of people who are capable of a podium, and maybe even a win.

“I think there are five, six, seven riders who have similar pace, there is not a clear favorite,” was Jorge Lorenzo’s assessment.

“It’s very, very open the fight for the victory, the fight for the podium,” Valentino Rossi concurred, “because have a lot, a lot of different riders that for sure have the pace for the podium but also for the victory.”

Episode 64 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and celebrates another trip around the sun for our lovely podcast…and one of its hosts.

In the show, we talk about Harley-Davidson’s vanishing motorcycle sales, which could be a canary in the mine for the future of the American motorcycle industry.

We also look at two intriguing models that Yamaha will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show: version of the Yamaha Motobot and the Yamaha MOTOROid concept – both which are intriguing machines, with tragic names.

Our show wraps up with KTM’s launch of the new Freeride E-XC electric dirt bike, and what it means for the future of the Austrian brand, and where transportation is headed.

There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy it.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

If there is one thing clear from Friday at Sepang, it is that neither Andrea Dovizioso nor Marc Márquez believe the 2017 championship is done. The two men left in the title fight came out punching, chasing fast times just that little bit harder than the rest.

Dovizioso topped both morning and afternoon sessions, blatant about his intentions to make a final bid for the championship. Márquez was a little slower in the mixed-but-drying conditions of FP1, but only half a second behind Dovizioso in a wet FP2. Márquez will give as hard as he gets.

The headline times are deceptive, though, as were the conditions. The morning session started with a track that would not dry fast enough – a persistent problem since the track was resurfaced, and an issue with drainage in certain sections of the track – and riders choosing to sit out the first third or so of FP1.

Even once the riders took to the track in earnest, times were variable. It was only towards the end where track was dry enough to start to post quick times.

In the dry, Márquez focused on pace, putting in a single long run, while Andrea Dovizioso got on with setup work, ending FP1 at the top of the timesheets, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista. “I’m really happy about the lap time I did this morning,” Dovizioso said.

“It was quite fast but the conditions were strange. There was not a lot of rubber on the ground so it wasn’t normal. Anyway, this was the condition for the other riders. We did a good lap time. I was first.”