The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

Riders, teams, journalists, fans, almost everyone likes to complain about the layout of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. Three fast straights connected by hairpins, with a long left hand corner thrown in for the sake of variety.

The facilities and setting may be magnificent, but the track layout is pretty dire. Coming from the spectacular, flowing layout of Brno, the contrast could hardly be greater.

And yet the Red Bull Ring consistently manages to produce fantastic racing. The combined gap between first and second place across all three classes on Sunday was 0.867 seconds, and nearly half a second of that was down to Moto3.

The MotoGP race was decided on the last lap again, just as it had been in 2017, though the race was decided at Turn 3, rather than the final corner. Spielberg once again served up a breathtaking battle for MotoGP fans, with a deserved winner, and the rest of the podium riders losing with valor and honor.

If we were to be picky about it, it would be to complain that the protagonists of the MotoGP race were rather predictable.

It is no surprise that the factory Ducatis would play a role at the front of the race: a Ducati had won in Austria in the previous two races, and the long straights from slow corners are almost made to measure for the Desmosedici’s balance of power, mechanical grip, acceleration, and braking stability.

Nor was it a surprise that Marc Márquez should be involved, the gains made by Honda in acceleration giving the RC213V the tools to tackle the Ducatis.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #80 – Austrian GP

08/14/2018 @ 11:11 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 80 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Neil Morrison & David Emmett on the mics, as they discuss the recent Austrian GP at Spielberg.

Naturally, the show starts with a look at Ducati’s third-straight victory at the Red Bull Ring, and how it came to be that Jorge Lorenzo stood on the top podium step, come Sunday afternoon.

Part of Lorenzo’s victory can be credited to his tire choice, which creates some discussion as well about the Michelin rear tire selection. 

The conversation then turns to Marquez’s increasing lead in the MotoGP Championship standings, as he continues to gain on Valentino Rossi, who is making the best of a lackluster year on the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1.

Lastly, the show takes a look at Aprilia Racing, which seems to be making little progress on its MotoGP program. The show covers the various reasons why Aprilia is struggling, and how the factory team can turnaround its fortunes.

Of course, the show finishes with out winners and losers from the weekend, which you won’t want to miss.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Jorge Lorenzo Wins a Methodical Austrian GP

08/12/2018 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

It is a good job it will be dry on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring. Because if it were to stop raining half an hour before the race started, the rest of the field wouldn’t see which way Marc Márquez went.

That is the conclusion we can draw from Saturday morning in Austria, when FP3 started on a wet track with a dry line forming.

Márquez waited patiently in the pits for half an hour, then when the dry line got wide enough, went out on slick, and destroyed the field, lapping 2 seconds or more faster than anyone else.

It was a display of just how useful all that riding flat track has been to Márquez. There is no one quite so good at searching for grip on a sketchy surface, and clinging so precisely to the thin line of drying track which offers grip.

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Marquez Trumps Ducati at Austrian GP Qualifying

08/11/2018 @ 12:30 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

MotoGP Preview of the Austrian GP

08/10/2018 @ 12:26 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

It is hard to imagine two tracks more different from one another than Brno and Austria.

From one of the most flowing and challenging circuits on the calendar, which caters to many different styles of bike and many different types of rider, to one of the plainest and simplest tracks which emphasizes braking and acceleration, and little more.

The Red Bull Ring at Spielberg in Austria is an amazing facility, set in a stunning backdrop, but the track layout remains a simplistic and uninspiring affair.

“You can split the track in two parts,” Johann Zarco explains. “The first part until Turn 4, that you have hard braking and then strong acceleration, you restart from the corner from almost no speed to 300 km/h.”

From Turn 10, the last corner, there is the front straight, braking hard uphill for Turn 1, then the climb up the hill through the narrow and fast kink of Turn 2, before braking for the hairpin at Turn 3, then following a gentle downward slope along the hillside down to another tight right hander at Turn 4.

Gas-brake-gas-brake-gas-brake.

“Then second part with fast corners, but not many,” the Monster Tech3 rider continues. The loop through Turn 5, then the omega of Turns 6 and 7, the kink of Turn 8, then the hard right of Turn 9, which is crucial for lining up the final corner at Turn 10, and back onto the straight again.

“You get focused on four corners, and you are already finished the lap,” Zarco said. “And I don’t know, I like that, you repeat things many times, so it’s a lot of concentration for a short time, and then you repeat it.”

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What are you doing for the next 4 hours and 45 minutes? Take a break from your office-drone life and come watch the hardest single-day motorcycle event in the world.

That’s right, the entire Erzbergrodeo is up on YouTube (complete with a livestream chat feed), for your dirty-biking pleasure and two-centric practice of schadenfreude.

This year was the 24th running of the Erzbergrodeo, and this hard enduro hare scramble lived up to the hype once again. Only 23 riders finished this year’s race in the four-hour time limit (out of the 1,500 entrants and 500 qualifiers), and the clear winner didn’t emerge until the end of the course.

The “Iron Mountain” proved once again to be a great equalizer in rider skill and machine setup, which is why so many people flock to this old iron mine in Austria.

Over the years, thanks largely to the support of Red Bull, the Erzbergrodeo has become one of those iconic motorcycle races that lives a live of its own. Each year we see more top riders flocking to Erzberg, and this year saw the debut of the race’s first electric competitor: Ty Tremaine with Alta Motors.

We don’t want to give too much away, for those who don’t know the result and want to come into the stream clean, but it’s a worthwhile watch. Grab a beverage (or ten), turn off the phone, and enjoy!

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“Ride the Revolution.” That’s Yamaha’s tag line for its latest sci-fi powersport creation— the three-wheel equipped NIKEN.

But the NIKEN is more than just a Transformer-esque motorcycle equipped with an extra wheel, instead, its engineered specifically to increase cornering grip, while maintaining an authentic leaning experience that only a motorcycle can provide.

Easier said than done, right? Well, after spending a day riding high in the Austrian Alps, we can see merit in Yamaha’s latest production concept.

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Some loyal A&R readers may already disappointingly know that Yamaha Motor USA has blacklisted Asphalt & Rubber from Yamaha events, which is a dumb decision in its own right, but when it comes to press launches, Yamaha Motor USA proved this week that it truly has its head completely up its own ass.

This is because the American subsidiary of the Japanese brand has embargoed reviews for the new Niken three-wheeler until next week – a full seven days after American journalists were in the Austria alps on the leaning multi-wheel vehicle.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing (worthy of mentioning at least), except the embargo is region by region, and other English-speaking publications have been allowed to post their reviews as they write them (check VisordownMCN…even the horrid MoreBikes has a short review up).

This means you won’t read a review on the Yamaha Niken by us, or any other US publication, until next Monday…if you even bother reading them at that point. It almost makes you wonder why Yamaha Motor USA even bothered sending journalists to Europe in the first place, but I digress.

Of course, everyone is very curious to know how the Yamaha Niken handles on the road.

So far from what I’ve read coming from Europe, the three-wheeler comes across as being a bit complex, and a little vague in the front-end. The bike (if we can call it that) loses grip in the rear too often, possibly because of the adventure-touring tires it has mounted, and suffers in general from a lack of power and braking ability.

The Niken makes up for those negatives though with a front-end that is solidly planted to the ground, a bulk that doesn’t feel like a nearly 600 lbs bike at speed, and which turns into a fun ride when carving at speed. The European price-point seems fairly affordable as well.

Surmising from our colleagues across the pond, the Niken sounds like a intriguing touring option, though it seems to miss the boat when it comes to being a sport-bike platform, which is unfortunately how Yamaha has pitched this unique vehicle.

Of course, what you really want to know is whether the Yamaha Niken can wheelie, like any god-fearing motorcycle should. Thankfully Adam Waheed was in Austria to answer that exact question.

You can read Adam’s in depth review next Monday, along with the rest of the American journalists, but until then you should enjoy his behind-the-scenes videos, if you haven’t already. The answer to your most burning question is in Part III, around the 3:19 mark.

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Gone Riding: Yamaha Niken

05/21/2018 @ 7:13 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Today, we get ready to ride one of the most intriguing motorcycles that has ever been released – the Yamaha Niken. This leaning three-wheeler caught our attention last year, not only for its crazy looks, but also for its interesting tech.

It seems that all the manufacturers are exploring what the future holds for motorcycles, and some of that future involves a move away from the traditional two-wheeled format. As such, bikes like the Niken are an exploration of what is possible when you eschew established norms.

Using an advanced parallelogram front-end for its two forward wheels, the Niken is basically a Yamaha MT-09 from the headstock back, with the peppy three cylinder engine providing a familiar power plant to an otherwise unfamiliar machine.

To give us a sense of this radically new machine, we have sent motorcycling’s favorite wild man, Adam Waheed, to go ride the Yamaha Niken in Austria and report back to us.

Per our new review format, Adam will be giving you a live assessment of the Yamaha Niken right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Niken, before even Adam’s own proper review is posted. As always, if we don’t know an answer, we will try to get a response from the Yamaha personnel. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #Yamaha #Niken

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