Harley-Davidson Q2 2017 Sales Tank 9.3% in the USA

Any hopes of the US motorcycle market making gains in 2017 appear to be going out the window, as Harley-Davidson reports that its Q2 2017 sales are down a whopping 9.3% – prompting the Bar & Shield brand to readjust its delivery numbers to dealers in the United States. Sales worldwide were equally bleak for the American company, with international figures down 2.3% for the same time period. This means Harley-Davidson’s combined worldwide sales numbers are down 6.7% for Q2 2017. As a result, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said that Harley-Davidson would see a reduction in its workforce, though he would not offer specifics on what that could look like for its mostly union workforce.

BMW Motorrad USA Issues “Stop Sale” on the R1200GS

What started out as a worldwide service campaign for the water-cooled BMW R1200GS models is turning into a massive global recall for the German motorcycle manufacturer, as now the United States has joined the United Kingdom in issuing a recall on the popular ADV machine. Accordingly, BMW Motorrad USA has issued a “stop sale” to BMW dealers, as documents for a recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are being readied for release. The recall sees BMW Motorrad dealers inspecting the fixed fork tube on R1200GS models produced between November 2013 and June 2017. If the inspected motorcycle has an excessively large gap between the fork pipe and the seal plug, then the fork cannot be repaired by the dealer, and must be replaced.

Ducati Multistrada 1260 Teases More Power in CARB Docs

A bigger burlier version of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is set to come to a dealership near you in 2018, as documents filed with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) show a new Ducati Multistrada 1260 model is in the works. Spotted by the eagle-eyes at Motorcycle.com, the 2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 is surely the Italian company’s popular adventure-tourer, now with the XDiavel’s potent 1,262cc engine inside its chassis. For those who haven’t swung a leg over the machine it resides within, the Ducati XDiavel engine is the cream of the Testastretta, making a potent 156hp in its power cruiser application, with Ducati variable valve technology installed. Judging from the the CARB documents, this potent motor could be set to make even more power in its ADV form, however.

BMW Motorrad UK Recalls R1200GS Forks, America Next?

Last week, BMW Motorrad made the interesting move of releasing a worldwide service campaign for the BMW R1200GS and its fixed fork tubes, which may get damaged from hard impacts. The service campaign affects R1200GS and R1200GS Adventure models made between November 2013 and June 2017, which by our math means that over 155,000 motorcycles are involved in this service campaign. Taking things a step further now, Visordown now reports that BMW Motorrad UK has issued a recall for the affected liquid-cooled R1200GS and R1200GSA motorcycles, within its market.

Ducati CEO Dishes on V4 Superbike Details

Talking to us at the launch of the Ducati 1299 Panigale Final Edition, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali gave us some details on the Italian company’s upcoming, and long-awaited, V4 superbike. Much has already been speculated and rumored about the successor to the v-twin Panigale, but Domenicali paints a pretty clear picture of what we can expect to see unveiled at the upcoming EICMA show, in Milan. The big news is perhaps not the fact that Ducati is moving to a four-cylinder format for its superbike program (though that is big news indeed), but instead the focus should be on what is inside the V4 engine, and how it operates. He also teased us with some news on a few other upcoming Ducati motorcycles, which should start a new chapter for the Italian brand.

Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

By my nature, I am a critical person. This isn’t exactly a desirable personality trait, but it serves me well in my chosen profession. Accordingly, I rarely ever use words like “perfect” or “flawless” when describing something. It’s just not in my nature. From my lens, there is always room for improvement. But, when it comes to seeing the Suter MMX 500 up-close and in person, I had to rethink my usual choice of words. I will sidestep superlatives and simply say that the Suter MMX 500 is a true rider’s motorcycle. On the Suter MMX 500, there are no electronic rider aids, no ride-by-wire throttles, no kickstands, mirrors, or lights. There is nothing on this machine that doesn’t serve a purpose, and the only acceptable purpose is to go as fast as possible.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition

As far as venues go, there might not be a better place on Earth to launch a new motorcycle than Pebble Beach, California – that is, if you are into the whole breath-taking view sort of thing. The party of course was for Ducati’s last v-twin superbike, the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, which is part Superleggera, part road bike, and part spaghetti dinner. Clad in a the an Italian tricolore livery, the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition puts out a potent 209hp, and features some of the best pieces of Ducati’s v-twin superbike lineage – part of a long goodbye to the desmodromic v-twin platform. For American Ducatisti, owning one will mean a $40,000 commitment, which isn’t such a lofty price tag, if you considered its half the cost of the carbon-fiber-everything Ducati 1299 Superleggera.

Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition Finally Debuts

Ducati has finally released its Final Edition of the Ducati 1299 Panigale superbike, and the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition packs a punch. Sharing engine parts with the Ducati 1299 Superleggera (sans its aluminum sleeved engine cylinders and sand-cast casings), the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition makes 209hp on Ducati’s chassis dynamometer. The FE also tips the scales at 419 lbs wet at the curb. For those keeping score, that mass is just a pound lighter than the Ducati 1299 Panigale S; and 13 lbs heavier than the Ducati Panigale R, which uses the 1199 motor. Priced at $40,000 for the US market though, this “half a Superleggera” still packs a considerable punch, and of course it holds the distinction of being the last of Ducati’s v-twin superbikes.

Suter North America Formed, To Bring Two-Stroke Hotness

If you are a fan of two-stroke motorcycles, then the Suter MMX 500 surely ranks highly on your list of bikes to have in your dream garage. And now for American motorcycle enthusiasts, owning a Suter MMX 500 just got easier, as the Arch Motorcycle Company has been named the exclusive importer for Suter’s motorcycle business. Establishing Suter North America in the process, Arch will begin selling these 195 horsepower / 280 lbs (wet) machines to the American public…assuming you can afford the 120,000 CHF (~$125,000 USD) price tag. Similarly, Suter will begin selling Arch Motorcycle’s power cruiser in Europe, which means the two brands are joining forces to expand their relevant markets.

Don’t Call It a Recall, BMW Issues Worldwide Service Campaign for BMW R1200GS Motorcycles

Water-cooled BMW R1200GS owners will soon be getting a call from their local dealership, as the popular adventure-touring machine is getting a worldwide service bulletin that affects models made between November 2013 and June 2017. The service bulletin concerns the fixed fork tubes on the BMW R1200GS and BMW R1200 GS Adventure models, which can suffer damage from high stress incidents (going over an obstacle, riding through a pothole, etc), and subsequently fail. By our math, this service bulletin affects over 150,000 motorcycles, making it a massive global undertaking for the German motorcycle brand, for its flagship model.

With all twelve factory riders on two-year contracts, there wasn’t supposed to be a MotoGP Silly Season in 2017, or at least, not much of one. That impression was further reinforced when the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad quickly tied up both Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger for an extra year, until the end of 2018.

As usual, reality intervened, of course. Though the factory seats were supposedly taken, there was plenty of interest in the satellite seats once the season got underway.

All eyes turned to the Moto2 class, and especially to the remarkable performances by Franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia. Alex Márquez, too, raised eyebrows. And so speculation started.

Then there were those factory seats. Yes, all twelve factory riders have two-year contracts, but all contracts have clauses that allow for either side to make an early escape.

Great managers make sure the escape clause benefits their rider. Great factory lawyers make sure the contract is in their favor. The measure of a rider manager is where they end up on that side of the equation.

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MotoGP Riders Pan New Chicane at Barcelona Test

05/24/2017 @ 5:19 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

What had originally been planned as a two-day private test for Ducati grew into something rather larger, with Honda and Aprilia also joining the fray.

At the end of two days, it was Marc Marquez who ended the test as fastest, a couple of tenths quicker than Jorge Lorenzo on the Ducati, while Alvaro Bautista was third fastest on the Aspar bike. 

The test at Barcelona gave the riders a chance to test two of the most important changes for the series. First, the new, much shorter chicane being used instead of the F1 chicane, replacing Turn 12 where Luis Salom tragically lost his life during practice last year.

And second, the riders got a chance to test the stiffer front tire (the ’70’) which will be used from Mugello onwards, and will therefore be used in Barcelona during the race.

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MotoGP Preview of the Americas GP

04/20/2017 @ 2:13 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

The most remarkable statistic about the Grand Prix of The Americas is surely this: Since his ascent to the MotoGP class, Marc Márquez has won every single race he has competed in, at a circuit in the United States of America.

He won both US races during his two years in Moto2 as well. In fact, you have to go back to 2010, and Márquez’s final year in 125s to find the reigning world champion’s last defeat on US soil. America agrees with Marc Márquez, though that does not automatically include all Americans as well.

So after a decidedly mediocre start to his defense of the 2016 MotoGP title, the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is the right place to get his season back on track. He comes to COTA knowing he can win, and knowing he can win on an uncompetitive machine.

That knowledge alone will be worth a tenth or two in Austin, perhaps enough to give him the edge over the all-conquering hero of the hour Maverick Viñales.

Why does COTA suit Márquez so well? It is really hard to say. Perhaps because it offers so many opportunities to make up time on the brakes. First, there’s the uphill monster of Turn 1, perhaps the weirdest first corner of the season (fittingly keeping Austin weird).

Then there’s Turn 11, the hard, sharp hairpin before the long back straight, at the end of which there is Turn 12, another spot requiring hard braking. And at the end of the lap, the two final corners, Turn 19 and Turn 20, which are shorter, but just as fierce.

Perhaps it’s not so much the braking, but more the strange section of combination corners stretching between Turn 2 and Turn 10. They are the kind of corners that reward the ability to turn on a dime, and the all-front-end, all-the-time Honda deals well with those.

Or perhaps the corners through the Stadium Section, and around the Grand Plaza.

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MotoGP’s weird and wonderful Argentina trip continues to confuse, with qualifying turning out as topsy turvy as ever. Or perhaps not quite as topsy turvy as yesterday: though the front of the MotoGP grid still contains more than a couple of surprise names (more on that later), there are the first signs that some semblance of normality is starting to creep back. 

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be 2009 again any time soon, when the grid basically predicted the finishing order, bar accidents, but bookies everywhere are worrying less about the chance of a rank outsider staging an upset. On Friday, all bets were off. On Saturday, they were hedging their bets again.

Oddly enough, part of that was down to the weather. It was a peculiar day in terms of weather, the morning starting cool and dry, but rain starting to fall at the end of MotoGP FP3. 

It dried out again after that, allowing Moto3 to start their qualifying session on a dry track, before the rain returned with a few minutes to go. MotoGP FP4 took place on a wet track, but the rain lifted and the track started to dry during qualifying. Q1 was wetter than Q2, and tire choice became crucial. Vacillating between the soft and the hard tires cost more than one rider passage through to Q2.

By the time Moto2 took to the track, a dry line was starting to form. Andrea Iannone had gambled on going out on slicks during Q2 but came straight back into the pits when it turned out to be impossible. 

The Moto2 riders went out on wet tires at first, but were quickly able to switch to slicks. With the track improving with every lap the riders put in, pole position was changing hands just about every time a rider crossed the line. In the last 22 minutes of qualifying, the pole time was slashed by eight and a half seconds.

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Scanning through reactions on social media and forums during the first day of practice in Argentina, and there is one phrase that seems to be popping up everywhere. “What is going on?” cry fans everywhere.

Or a variation of that phrase, with an Anglo Saxon word or two thrown in for good measure, along with capital letters and a handful of exclamation marks.

Why the fans’ confusion? A quick glance at the results answers that question. That Maverick Viñales should be at the top of the timesheets is hardly a surprise, in fact it feels like it is on the verge of becoming an iron law.

Nor is Marc Márquez in second anything which would normally raise an eyebrow. But Karel Abraham in third? Sure, the Ducatis are quick, and the Czech rider got a tow behind his Pull&Bear teammate Alvaro Bautista, who has proven to be quick throughout testing.

Look further, and you see Danilo Petrucci, Loris Baz, Cal Crutchlow, Jonas Folger. The next factory rider is Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia in ninth, followed by Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone in tenth.

Of the twelve factory riders in MotoGP, only six of them are in the top fifteen. Dani Pedrosa (29 MotoGP victories) is in thirteenth. Valentino Rossi (7 MotoGP titles, 88 MotoGP wins)? Sixteenth. Jorge Lorenzo (3 titles, 44 wins)? Eighteenth. The world has gone mad.

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MotoGP Preview of the Argentina GP

04/07/2017 @ 12:17 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

After the first MotoGP race held at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit had finished, Jarno Zafelli, the brilliant track designer behind the transformation from humdrum car track to fast, flowing, challenging circuit layout, was both deeply satisfied and mildly disappointed.

Satisfied, because the riders had to a man raved about the layout of the new track. Disappointed, because the average speed around the track had maxed out at 177.1 km/h, just a few kilometers per hour short of Phillip Island, at that point in time the fastest circuit on the calendar.

But it was only a minor let down: having so many riders enthusiastic about what he had done to the track was a far greater triumph.

Since then, both Termas and Phillip Island have been surpassed in terms of average speed by the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, round which Andrea Iannone was clocked at 186.9 km/h.

But Spielberg is a collection of long straights joined together by a few tight corners. It may be fast, but it is anything but flowing. It cannot hold a candle to either Argentina or Australia.

It’s not just the corners that slow riders down in Argentina, however. There is also the track surface. Not so much with asphalt – not much wrong with that – but rather the lack of use the circuit gets. For some unfathomable reason, the circuit owners don’t like the track to be used much.

The last event at the circuit was three weeks ago, when a track day was held for bikes. There are a dozen or so other events at the circuit through the year. Assen, by contrast, sees the track being used for 200 days of the year, and activity at circuits in Spain and Italy is even higher.

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Stefan Bradl’s period of enforced unemployment will be mercifully brief. Last week, the Forward Racing team announced they had released him from his contract at his request, as the problems facing the team continue.

Free from his contract, Bradl has signed with the Gresini Aprilia squad for the rest of the season, replacing Marco Melandri.

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Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

11/10/2014 @ 10:10 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season.

Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules.

The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli.

For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain. But with the Italian brand pulling resources from its WSBK project for its one in Grand Prix racing, the writing has been on the wall regarding which series would take priority.

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With the announcement that Scott Redding will ride with Marc VDS Racing in MotoGP, for the next three seasons no less, the rest of the pieces in the 2014 MotoGP Silly Season can finally start falling into place.

In the first of many announcements we expect to come in the following days, we learn that Alvaro Bautista has signed a two-year deal with Aprilia’s new MotoGP team.

The news is hardly a surprise, as Bautista currently rides for the Go & Fun Gresini Honda team, which will lose its title sponsor for 2015; and instead will manage Aprilia’s MotoGP efforts for the next four years, which will be called Aprilia Gresini Racing.

Keeping the team more or less intact, Bautista can expect a bike similar to the current-spec Aprilia ART of next season, while 2016 will see an all new bike (likely a purpose-built V4, that’s not too dissimilar from the 2014 ART)

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