Rumors of a New Aprilia RSV4 Begin

This is the 10th year of the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, and despite that duration, the V4 superbike remains one of the top machines that you can stick in your garage. Part of this is due to the fact that the RSV4 is an incredibly well-engineered high-tech motorcycle. After all, it was the first superbike to use an inertial measurement unit (IMU) in conjunction with traction control, and one of the first superbikes to have a ride-by-wire throttle. The other part of Aprilia’s dominance comes down to the fact that the Italian brand has consistently updated the RSV4 every couple of years, helping keep it at the sharp end of the superbike stick. Now if you believe the rumors, the 2019 model year will be no different.

Cameron Beaubier Headed to WorldSBK for 2019?

When you talk to veterans of motorcycle racing about which American could be the next champion at the international level of the sport, one name is almost always included in that very short list: Cameron Beaubier. This is not only because of Beaubier’s status as a two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion, but also his experience abroad. A promising young rider, Beaubier impressed during the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup season, which found him some riders on the international stage before returning to the USA. Now a proven talent on domestic soil, along with his experience abroad, Beaubier is an easy pick to make when looking for Americans to promote to a paddock like the WorldSBK Championship. And now that is exactly the case, with the Cameron Beaubier tipped for ride in World Superbike next season.

More Details on the KTM 790 Adventure R Emerge

The KTM 790 Duke hasn’t even made it to American soil yet — though, it strangely can race in the production middleweight class at Pikes Peak… — and we are already talking about its off-roading sibling, the KTM 790 Adventure R. Built around the same 799cc parallel-twin engine found in the Duke model, the Adventure variant takes things to a whole new level for ADV riders. Promising light weight, plenty of off-road power, and Dakar-inspired chassis components, this should be the adventure-tourer that dual-sport riders have been asking for. With the production version of the KTM 790 Adventure R set to debut later this year at the annual industry trade shows, most of our appetite has been sustained by the prototype bike, which has been making the marketing rounds.

Tom Sykes, Where Will You Be Racing Next Year?

With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca. You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him. Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market. Chaz Davies is another top rider who is highly sought after in the paddock, and he is likely to remain at Ducati.

Moto2 Builders Out Testing the Triumph Triple

The 2019 Moto2 Championship is rapidly approaching, and next year’s season sees the introduction of a new spec-engine platform. Using a 765cc three-cylinder engine from Triumph, Moto2 competitors have begun testing their new chassis designs for the British triple. Out in Aragon, we get our first glimpse of the front-running race bike providers: Kalex, KTM, and NTS, as well as Triumph’s own test mule, which uses a Daytona 675 chassis. Shaking down their machines ahead of the start of next season, bike manufacturers focused on learning the new race engine and its accompanying spec-ECU. The Kalex was ridden by Moto2 racer Alex Marquez and test rider Jesko Raffin; on the KTM was Julian Simon and test rider Ricky Cardús; and on the NTS was Moto2/MotoGP veteran Alex de Angelis.

Polaris Moving Production to Europe Because of Tariffs?

President Trump’s trade war is about to see another player in the motorcycle industry jump ship from American soil, and this time it is heavyweight Polaris Industries. According to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Polaris is considering moving some of its production capacity to Europe, eyeing a production facility in Poland that would build units for the European market. The move is a direct response to the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the European Union on motorcycle imports, which itself was a response to the Trump Administration’s taxing of steel and aluminum imports.

Here’s Why Suzuki’s New Factory Is Such a Big Deal

One of the more overlooked announcements this week is perhaps one of the bigger ones we have seen in a while, as Suzuki Motor Corp has announced the creation of a new manufacturing plant in Hamamatsu, Japan. The new factory combines engineering, development, engine production, and vehicle assembly into one location, which will streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce production costs on Suzuki’s Japanese-made motorcycle models. Over 40 acres in size, the new factory is massive, and it sits in the Miyakoda district of Hamamatsu. Part of a five-year consolidation plan, the new factory replaces an engineering and development facility in Ryuyo; an engine production plant in Takatsuka; and a motorcycle assembly line in Toyokawa.

Take a Look at the Norton Atlas, Another British Scrambler

Today we get another look at Norton’s 650cc project, now named the Norton Atlas. We have already seen concept sketches for this British scrambler, and now Norton is showing us some engineering renders. This is because the physical machine should debut later this year, at the NEC bike show in November. Details are still vague and light, but we do know that the 650cc parallel-twin engine will piggyback off the work done for Norton’s V4 superbike. Essentially the using the V4 engine with its rear cylinders lopped off, the parallel-twin engine shares the same head, pistons, valves, etc as the V4 bike. Several flavors of the Atlas are expected to come to market, with 70hp and 100hp naturally aspirated versions already planned, as well as a supercharged version that is said to clear 175hp.

Limited Edition Celebrates 25 Years of the Ducati Monster

This year marks the 25th year of the Ducati Monster, one of the most iconic motorcycles ever to come out of the Borgo Panigale assembly line. To commemorate this 25-year mark, we have the aptly named Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario. A special edition version of the Italian naked bike, only 500 Anniversario models will be produced for the world’s market, with the highlight being the machine’s tricolore livery and gold frame and wheels. Mostly an aesthetic exercise, the Ducati Monster 1200 25° Anniversario comes with some top-shelf parts, and a number of pieces to make this a unique member of any Ducatisti’s garage. Key features include Öhlins suspension, forged Marchesini wheels, and Ducati’s up/down quickshifter mechanism.

Harley-Davidson Moving Production Because of Trade War

We have already reported on the European Union’s 25% tariff increase (6% to 31%) on American-made motorcycles, and how those import taxes are going to affect in particular Harley-Davidson. The short version: not well. Seeing that writing on the wall, Harley-Davidson has responded to Europe’s retaliatory tariffs, though it is perhaps not the response that the American government was hoping for when it began taxing aluminum and steel from European Union member states. As such, Harley-Davidson plans to shift its production for motorcycles destined to the European market from its factories in the United States to it facilities abroad.

Heads up GP fans, as the MotoGP Championship is set to close two crucial loopholes in its rulebook for the 2019 season, which the Grand Prix Commission says in its press release are needed in order to keep the sport within the spirit of the rules.

The first loophole blandly affects the spec-ECU and its CAN protocol and connection, which is fairly innocuous until you read between the lines of it, while the second concerns the regulation of aerodynamic bodywork, which should be more obvious to regular MotoGP fans.

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Andrea Dovizioso’s manager arrived in Le Mans on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Italian had a new two-year contract with Ducati, provisional pole after FP2, and a new lap record.

Not a bad start to the weekend, and a harbinger of good things to come, you might think. This is after all not particularly a Ducati track, yet here he was, on top of the timesheets.

Perhaps having his future settled helped, but Dovizioso has been an expert at excluding distractions from his race weekends.

The simple fact is that the Ducati man was quick at Jerez, and is quick here, because he is in good form, and the bike is working really well. Dovizioso heads into qualifying feeling confident.

But there is a fly in the ointment, and it is Márquez-shaped, as always. Dovizioso had been pretty quick throughout the first part of FP2, just a couple of tenths behind the leader Márquez.

Then in his final run, he fitted a new soft rear slick, dropped six tenths of a second off his best time and set a new lap record around Le Mans. It was an impressive showing of blistering speed.

Dovizioso had demoted Marc Márquez to second place, yet that still left Dovizioso much to fear. Márquez may have been nearly two tenths faster than Dovizioso, but Dovizioso had set his quickest lap on a new soft rear with just four laps on it.

Márquez had set his best time on an old hard rear tire with twelve laps on it. In terms of outright race pace, Márquez looks very hard to beat.

But it is still only Friday, and the difference between the soft and the hard rear tires is not as great as you might think.

After all, Dovizioso had set a 1’32.562 on an old soft tire with nineteen laps on it, or about two-thirds race distance. Race pace for both Dovizioso and Márquez looks to be very strong indeed.

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For the past decade or so, Le Mans has been a Yamaha track, with Yamaha riders taking seven wins in the last ten races. The answer to whether that situation can continue or is simple: it depends. Maybe a Yamaha can win at Le Mans on Sunday. Or maybe another bike will take victory here instead.

That answer is generic almost to the point of meaninglessness, but beneath it lies a kernel of truth. The first four races in MotoGP have taught us a few lessons which point to who and what could do the winning on Sunday.

The more precise answer? If a Yamaha is going to win, it is more likely to be be the Tech3 bike of Johann Zarco, rather than the factory Movistar machines of Valentino Rossi or Maverick Viñales.

If a Yamaha doesn’t win, then the Ducatis are in with a much better chance than you might expect, with Andrea Dovizioso and, who knows?, maybe even Jorge Lorenzo in with a shout.

But the lesson of the first four races of 2018 is that the most likely outcome on Sunday is that a Honda will win, and probably a Honda in the hands of Marc Márquez. That is clearly what most of the riders felt on Sunday.

The one recurring theme that came back from riders on every competing manufacturer was that they were both impressed and feared how much the Honda has improved since last year.

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Once upon a time, a post-race test would see almost a full complement of riders taking part. But in the past couple of years that has changed, as spec software has meant fewer things to do.

The spec software, the engine freeze, the aerodynamics freeze: there is less to test, and so more factories are opting out of the one-day post-race tests.

So it was at Jerez on Monday that the factory Ducati riders, the Ecstar Suzuki team, and the Gresini Aprilia squad all decided to skip the test at Jerez in favor of some private testing at Mugello later in the week.

Behind closed doors, they can work a little more freely, away from the prying eyes of the press, and especially of a contingent of photographers.

There are other reasons to be wary of a post-race test. The track is in as good a condition as it is going to get on the Monday after a race. It has been swept clean by a weekend of racing, and the last class to smear its rubber all over the track is MotoGP.

So the bikes are treated to a clean, well rubbered in circuit, allowing lap times to drop. The average improvement between the race and the test was nearly 1.3 seconds a lap.

About half the 16 permanent riders who took to the track on Monday improved their times from qualifying. It is fair to say that Monday tests can be deceptive.

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2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE

The first production superbike with winglets has finally dropped, ushering in what is likely to be a new era for sport bike design. As we teased earlier this week, the new machine is called the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE, and only 125 units will be made (and only for the North American market).

As such, 100 lucky owners in the United States, along with 25 Canadians, will have a chance to own the new Aprilia RSV4 RF LE, that is of course if they can afford the $24,499 USD price tag ($25,495 CDN).

For that $1,000 premium over the highly acclaimed Aprilia RSV4 RF (note the $500 price bump because of the strengthening euro against the dollar), limited edition buyers get the benefit of the new carbon fiber winglets, a special livery, and a numbered production plate on the triple clamp.

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New Aprilia RSV4 RF LE to Debut with Wings

04/18/2018 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Aprilia RSV4 RF is one of the best liter-bikes on the market right now, and for 100 lucky people in the USA (25 in Canada), the V4-powered superbike is about to get a bit better.

This is because Aprilia will be bring a limited edition version of the RSV4 RF to North America. Why is this a big deal though? Because the Aprilia RSV4 RF LE will be the first production superbike with winglets.

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We expected practice at Termas De Rio Hondo to be dominated by the weather, and we were right, though not in the way we expected.

Rain had been forecast for all of Friday, but it largely held off except for the odd wayward shower which caused more of a nuisance than any real disruption.

But a combination of a dirty track and strong and gusty winds made conditions difficult at the Argentinian round of MotoGP. It turned the field on its head: Andrea Dovizioso, the man who had won the previous race at Qatar, finished FP2 as 24th and last on Friday in Argentina.

The track played a big part in making life difficult for the riders (or more accurately, everyone not called Marc Márquez). The resurfacing had been a major improvement, removing the worst of the bumps, but the new surface didn’t really have any extra grip, the riders said.

“It’s positive about the bumps,” Andrea Dovizioso said. “Apart from Turn 4 all the other corners are much better, almost perfect. The grip is not good like the old one, maybe it’s worse, maybe it’s too new, I don’t know when they did.”

Valentino Rossi agreed. “The new surface is a bit better because we have less bumps,” the Italian said. “I think Michelin was a bit worried about the level of grip because they bring more tires. At the end the level of grip of the new asphalt is the same as the level of grip with the old asphalt.”

The real problem was the track still being dirty, and not being rubbered in, Marc Márquez explained.

“It’s good. In terms of grip, very very similar the new and old, you cannot feel the difference, because there is no rubber, it’s just dirty. But it’s so good about the bumps. Last year it was at the limit, quite dangerous with big bumps, but this year it’s completely flat,” the Spaniard told reporters.

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The MotoGP riders have had their first laps of the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, and the reviews are in. Simple to learn, but more fun than it looks on paper, is the short version.

“The layout, I remembered it was more similar to Austria, so I was very worried,” Valentino Rossi said, summing up the general feeling. “But when you ride maybe it is more similar to Argentina. It’s good to ride, you have a good feeling, you enjoy. The track is not very difficult but anyway it’s fun.”

It was a change from what he had said at Sepang, when the Italian dismissed the Buriram circuit as “boring”. “I rode the track in 2015 with a Yamaha 300 together with [Jorge] Lorenzo and [Pol] Espargaro,” Rossi explained. “I remember that the track was similar to Austria. But in reality it’s better, have good corners. Technically it’s quite easy, but it’s not boring.”

On a side note, Rossi ended the day in eighth, less than four tenths behind the fastest man Cal Crutchlow. He finished three place and a tenth of a second ahead of his young teammate Maverick Viñales, the rider who was prematurely anointed world champion after preseason testing in 2017.

Friday was Rossi’s thirty-ninth birthday, and the start of his twenty-third season in Grand Prix racing, and nineteenth season in the premier class.

To still be racing at his age and after so many years is a remarkable enough achievement. To start the season as a legitimate championship contender – or perhaps, to still have the desire, the discipline, the ambition to do what it takes to start the season as a legitimate championship contender – is truly the mark of his greatness.

When Valentino Rossi retires (not yet, he looks certain to sign on for two more years) he will be remembered for his titles.

But to my mind, what marks him out above all other riders is the fact he is still competitive even now, when so many others have (understandably) given up on the hard physical and mental slog that racing at the very highest level demands.

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Preview of the MotoGP Test at Buriram, Thailand

02/15/2018 @ 8:08 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The Sepang MotoGP test proved to be most instructive, both for the fans, who got a first taste of what the 2018 season could look like, and for the factories, who put the first imaginings of this year’s bikes – and especially engines – through their paces.

We learned that Ducati has taken another step forward, that Honda has improved, that Yamaha has solved one problem but possibly created another, that Suzuki is showing promise, that Aprilia is still waiting on a new engine to match their new chassis, and that KTM is starting to realize that closing in on the top ten was much easier than getting into the top five will be.

From Sepang, MotoGP moves to Thailand, some 1300km almost due north. The Chang International Circuit – mostly referred to as Buriram among the MotoGP faithful, as the circuit is owned by (and named after) the main Thai rival to Official MotoGP Beer Supplier Singha – may prove a good deal less instructive than Sepang, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it offers more of the same, especially from a climate point of view. And secondly, it offers less, in terms of variety of corners and bike maneuverability.

The layout of the Buriram circuit is relatively simple. There are no real elevation changes, though the track has one or two crests and dips.

The track consists of three straights strung together with tight corners, and then an ornery section of tightish corners taking the riders back to the final first-gear corner, and back onto the relatively short start and finish straight.

It is, unsurprisingly, a Hermann Tilke track, and exactly what you would expect as a result.

That doesn’t mean the track is completely without entertainment value. Turn 4 is fast left hander with a lot of run off behind it, giving riders the confidence to attack it. The long Turn 9 is relatively slow, but it leads onto a complex left-right section taken at speed which demands a lot of effort from the rider.

The final corner is a favorite overtaking point, but it tends to bring out the worst in riders. The only pass available is one of the kamikaze variety, offering glory or the gravel trap. To see a lap of the Buriram circuit, watch this video on the WorldSBK website.

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Come Drool Over “Kahn” by Mehmet Doruk Erdem

01/08/2018 @ 2:38 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber by now should be well aware of my unrequited love for dustbin-style motorcycles. A&R diehards should also recognize the work of Mehmet Doruk Erdem, as the Turkish designer has penned more than a few concepts that have gone viral on the internet.

Today we have another of Erdem’s work for you to consider, a BMW-powered dustbin that is simply named “Kahn”. Based on the Bavarian brand’s twin-cylinder boxer engine, Erdem once again creates an eye-catching shell to house the mechanics of the machine, and hide them from the wind.

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