Ben Spies Making a Return to Motorcycle Racing?

Could we see the return of Ben Spies to motorcycle racing? That’s the talk of the paddock right now, and the former MotoGP racer is helping fuel the fires with his social media posts. Our sources point to Spies gearing up for a return to domestic racing, as he looks to ride in the MotoAmerica Championship (presumably on a superbike), and possibly also as a team owner as well, fielding his own entry. This should come as a surprising but welcomed bit of news to motorcycle racing fans, as the 33-year-old seemingly retired from motorcycle racing after the 2013 MotoGP Championship season, after extensive damage to his shoulders seemed to rule him out of a future of racing motorcycles.

Ducati Will Stay as a Part of Volkswagen

Reports out of Italy are confirming the news that Ducati will remain as a part of the Volkswagen Group, with the German company ceasing its pursuits of divesting the Italian motorcycle company from its ranks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Ducati’s business situation, as reports of the divestiture stalling out were circulating this time last month. The news seems to come with a bonus, with Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali reportedly confirming the news internally (other reports quote Audi CEO Rupert Stadler doing the same as well). With that, Evercore Partners – the investment bank that was hired to solicit bids on Ducati Motor Holding – will stop pursuing brands that may want to see Ducati within their corporate holdings.

Rumor: Street-Touring Version of the Kawasaki H2 Coming?

I like this rumor. I like what this rumor says. And, I like that this rumor doesn’t seem to go away. The scuttlebutt of the motorcycle industry right now is suggesting that the street-shredding Kawasaki Ninja H2 might be joined by a sport-touring variant. This Kawasaki Ninja H2 GT – as some are calling it – takes the potent supercharged liter-bike, and makes it a little bit better suited for long-distance riding…well, as better suited to touring that a 200hp+ fire-breathing motorcycle can be. It remains to be seen how Kawasaki plans to expand its supercharger lineup of motorcycles: whether these rumored new machines will vary slightly in form-factor to accommodate different kinds of riding (using the current H2 as a platform for new models), or if Kawasaki will debut an all-new chassis design for these rumored motorcycles.

Solid-State Batteries, A Game-Changer for EVs?

This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles. While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries. That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.

Investigator Releases Report on Nicky Hayden Crash

On May 17th, 2017, Nicky Hayden was out training on his bicycle, near the Adriatic Coast, when he was struck by car in an intersection very close to the Misano World Circuit. The incident would prove to be a fateful one, and send ripples through the motorcycle industry, as Hayden died five days later in a hospital outside of Rimini, Italy. Since then, the accident has been under investigation by the local prosecutor, and the results of that forensic investigation have now been released to the public. Reconstructing the incident through statements made by the driver, eyewitnesses, and CCTV video footage, the investigation has found fault on both sides of the crash – assigning 30% of the blame to Nicky Hayden, for running the stop sign, and 70% of the blame to the driver, for excessive speed.

California Considers Killing Internal Combustion

Bloomberg is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown is considering ways to ban the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines – a move that could have massive implications not only for vehicle sales, the environment, but potentially the motorcycle industry as well. Still in the early days of consideration, the news comes from remarks made by Mary Nichols, who is the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and her remarks and relaying of thought from Gov. Brown don’t make it clear if the ban would apply only to passenger vehicles, or if it would include modes of transportation like trucks, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. However, the move mimics similar bans that we have already seen in places like China, and follows a trend that is catching on in European countries as well.

MV Agusta F4 LH44 Limited Edition Debuts

Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta, and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton have re-upped their contract for collaboration, and one of the first fruits of that labor is a limited edition MV Agusta F4 superbike. Confirming our story from earlier today, the MV Agusta F4 LH44 picks up where the MV Agusta Dragster RR LH44 left off, adding Hamilton’s “unique” tastes and stylings to MV Agusta’s tapestry of motorcycles. Like with the MV Agusta F4 RC, the exercise is primarily visual, though like on the RC edition, MV Agusta adds its race kit to the package, which is good for a claimed 212hp. The big technical change of note is the titanium race exhaust from SC Project, which does away with the beautiful four-pipe undertail exhaust that Massimo Tamburini made famous.

Eugene Laverty Explains His 2017 WorldSBK Season

A return to World Superbike, with the bike that he came so close to winning the championship on – it all appeared like a dream opportunity for Eugene Laverty, to put himself into a position to win the title. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare, and from the start of winter testing it was clear that major work needed to be done to return the RSV4 to the front. Moving to the Milwaukee Aprilia squad understandably led to heightened expectations. In their second year in WorldSBK, the former British Superbike champions were expected to make a leap forward. Teething problems were expected with the switch from BMW to Aprilia, but not the struggles that lay ahead. “During the winter you can go in the wrong direction with the bike,” commented Laverty. “Unfortunately, that was the case for us.”

Superbike Deathmatch Round #1: Aprilia vs. Ducati

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Asphalt & Rubber’s 2017 Superbike Deathmatch – our take on the motorcycle media’s superbike shootout review format, and the solitary path for a motorcycle to become the A&R Superbike of 2017. For those just tuning into the Superbike Deathmatch, the rules are easy. In each round, two bikes enter the race track, but only one bike leaves. We have six motorcycles from the eight superbike manufacturers on the market. For our first round, we have started things off with a special treat, and a battle for the right to call a bike the “Best Italian Superbike” on the market. That’s right, we are going to pit the Ducati 1299 Panigale S against the Aprilia RSV4 RF.

Photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Leak Online

What you see here are early leaked photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing – one of the most successful and important motorcycles for the Western markets. Honda is expected to debut this new model at a media event in October, but our friends at MaxxMoto and Oliepeil managed to get their dirty Dutch-speaking mits on these low-res gems, ahead of time. Beyond the styling refresh, the most obvious change that we can see for the Honda Goldwing is the new front-end, which appears to be a Hossack-styled design – similar to what BMW uses on its K-series motorcycles. The engine continues to be a flat-six, from the view in the photos, though we can expect some changes to the massive block – likely with fewer emissions, maybe with more torque/power.

With the 2011 MotoGP season concluding in Valencia this weekend, the 2012 MotoGP season got underway with its first testing session, also held at the Spanish track. A glimpse into the re-established 1,000cc era, perhaps the most anticipated unveiling was Ducati Corse’s aluminum perimeter-style frame, dubbed the GP0. Just one step in the long process of addressing the Ducati Desmosedici’s front-end feeling problem, Ducati Corse’s latest incarnation of a MotoGP chassis has been rumored for some time now.

With all eyes in the GP paddock looking to see if a the conventional frame design would be the silver bullet to Ducati’s woes, the testing sessions in Valencia have been interesting to say the least. With everyone playing Monday Morning Pit Boss over Ducati Corse’s issues, the past two days of tests have been important for Ducati Corse to understand the issues inherent in their design, as well as establishing what the teams does, and does not, know.

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BMW did an amazing thing two years ago. Not really known for its performance street motorcycles, BMW took the competitive superbike market head-on, bringing out a motorcycle that not only had class-leading performance figures, but was also priced extremely competitively against its Japanese competitors. That lethal combination of price, quality, and performance made the BMW S1000RR the sport bike to have over the past two years, and it shows in the S1000RR’s sales figures, which eclipsed every other liter bike.

Not wanting to rest too heavily on its laurels, BMW has updated the S1000RR for the 2012 model year, and while the bike may look the same, the German company hopes it has done plenty to its halo bike to make would-be buyers give the S1000RR a good looking over next season, despite going into its third year of production. While the same 193hp engine resides at the heart of the S1000RR, and the curb weight remains a paltry 449 lbs (90% fuel), the 2012 BMW S1000RR gets a bevy of suspension, chassis, and electronics for the new model year.

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According to both GPone and MCN, Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse will test a new aluminum frame at Jerez this week. Though the two MotoGP authorities differ on what sot of frame exactly will be used during the test (MCN says twin-spar, while GPone maintains an “open cradle” frame that leaves the motor still as a stressed object). Regardless of the style, the new chassis is reportedly made by FTR, and is another attempt by the Italian racing team to figure out how to solve the vague front-end feeling coming from the Ducati Desmosedici GP11/GP11.1/GP12.

Possibly similar to the chassis style used by Honda and Yamaha, this new frame design marks the fourth major chassis change this year for Ducati. Unable to compete against the top pack on the grid, Rossi has lately even struggled to keep up with his fellow Ducati riders come race day. While technically considered a test for the 2012 season and on the GP12 motorcycle, the results from the Jerez test (Ducati’s seventh test of an allowed eight) could easily find its way onto this season’s Desmosedici.

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Valentino Rossi to Use Aluminum Chassis at Aragon GP

09/15/2011 @ 12:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

Valentino Rossi finally put an end to the speculation today at the MotoGP pre-race press conference, and announced that Ducati Corse will use an aluminum chassis during the Aragon GP this weekend. First tested last week on the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, the FTR-built aluminum frame has improved the front end feeling for the Desmosedici, an issue that has plagued the Ducati all this season. Rossi will first use the new aluminum parts during Free Practice tomorrow, though the team hasn’t confirmed their use in the race just yet.

“We tested last week after the race, and it was not so bad,” said Rossi when talking about Ducati Corse’s post-Mugello test. “We tried something different on the bike to improve the front feeling and turning, and the lap times were not so bad. I was a bit faster than the last time, and basically the feeling was quite good, so we’re moving forward.”

When pressed about what changes Ducati made, and whether or not Rossi test the rumored aluminum frame, the nine-time World Champion was quick to correct. “It is not a frame,” explained Rossi. “The philosophy of the Ducati is the same, but the front part of the bike is a bit different, and is in aluminum, and not in carbon like before. But about the material, it is a question of time. We have to work to try and understand how the bike and with aluminum you need a lot less time compared to the carbon. The bike improved a bit, but this is just the first step. We need to keep working to come back and fight for the front.”

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Testing at Mugello today and tomorrow, Ducati has very discretely (like that could actually happen) begun testing its Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” – a modified version of the GP12 that features an aluminum frame made by FTR. Replacing Ducati’s innovative carbon fiber “frameless” chassis, the twin-spar aluminum frame is an attempt by the Italian factory to bring more front-end feel to its riders (read David Emmett’s analysis of the Desmosedici’s troubles here). Testing today with Franco Battaini, we get these first photos of the Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” (or is it GP12.1?) testing at the Italian track.

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While Ducati might not be getting a two-wheel drive system in MotoGP anytime soon, the Italians are apparently in the process of running a parallel program to its MotoGP racing effort that explores the concept of Ducati Corse switching to an aluminum twin-spar frame. Uncovered by French journalist Thomas Baujard of the French magazine Moto Journal (yes, we really wanted to make sure you knew the French were involved with this), Ducati Corse has apparently enlisted the help of a third-party chassis manufacturing and engineering firm to construct a prototype aluminum chassis.

This news plays into the fact that Ducati has absolutely no experience in making an aluminum twin-spar frame, having dropped the steel trellis design for an all carbon fiber version back in 2009. Not wanting to start from zero, like Corse did with the carbon chassis in 2009, and with the “frameless” chassis in 2010, Ducati hopes that with aid from a third party, the Italian company can come up to speed on the twin-spar design, and begin to make improvements for the GP11/GP12 for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.

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The obvious point to make in the 2011 MotoGP Championship is that Ducati Corse is struggling to compete with Yamaha and Honda, despite having the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, riding for the Italian squad. The recent history of the Desmosedici is fraught with bullet points of issues, most of which coming back to the bike’s notoriously vague front-end. Though showing moments of promise, even brilliance, including a World Championship with Casey Stoner at the helm, the Ducati Desmosedici has earned the reputation as a career-ender and a confidence destroyer among its less fortunate pilots.

When the dream team of development came to Ducati, in the guise of Valentino Rossi and Jeremy Burgess et al, the talk before the 2011 season was that the nine-time World Champion and his perhaps even more impressive garage crew could have the Desmosedici figured out in no-time at all. With the now infamous quote from Burgess that the GP10 could be sorted out in about 20 seconds still resonating in the MotoGP paddock, we stand now well over half of the way through the current MotoGP season, and the Championship standings hide what’s been apparent from day one: the Desmoproblema requires more than a quick-fix.

The solution to fixing the Ducati Desmosedici can be broken down into three camps, and depending whose opinion you solicit, you’ll get one of the following causes for Ducati’s uncompetitive season: the motor, the chassis, or the rider. Walking us through that analysis is our good friend David Emmett (bookmark his site MotoMatters.com right now), who may not be the most astute automatic transmission driver we’ve ever seen, but when it comes to comprehensive MotoGP analysis, the man is second to none.

Putting together an exhaustive digest on the issues that are surrounding Valentino Rossi, Ducati Corse, and the Desmosedici, Emmett weighs and measures the different dynamics of the problem at hand. Head on over to MotoMatters with your beverage of choice in-hand, and hear what MotoGP’s most-enlightened journalist has to say on the biggest subject in MotoGP.

Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

Ducati Corse continues to battle a war on two-fronts: both by trying to market itself out of an otherwise disastorous MotoGP season, and also to rapidly develop and search for answers to the lackluster Ducati Desmosedici GP11. The latest news out of Bologna now leans more towards this latter effort (or is it the prior?), as Ducati Corse has announced that it will bring a version of its 2012 chassis to Assen for Valentino Rossi to use in the Dutch TT.

The Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as they’re calling it, features a modified motor, and will debut Ducati’s next-generation gearbox: the Ducati Seamless Transmission (DST). Ducati hopes bringing out the new chassis, which has already been given the nod by both Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden, will not only help turn around the season’s results, but also expedite development for the Ducati Desmosedici GP12. Along with a new carbon chassis, the GP11.1 features an inverted swingarm design, which sees the rear shock mounted higher-up with a special rear-subframe assembly.

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Recall: 2010 MV Agusta F4

04/15/2011 @ 11:36 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

MV Agusta is recalling 211 of its 2010 MV Agusta F4 superbikes again, this time for a faulty subframe design. According to the statement issued by the NHTSA, the MV Agusta F4’s rear subframe could crack or break because of the upper fixture points not being “robust” enough. This problem creates a safety issue for a rider and passenger, who could find their stability on the motorcycle compromised under such a situation.

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2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R Price Slashed to $16,499

02/14/2011 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

KTM must have read our wish list for Christmas (we originally asked for a reduced price and free puppy with every purchase), as not only has the Austrian company improved upon its already impressive KTM 1190 RC8 R v-twin awesomebike, but they’ve considerable slashed the RC8 R’s MSRP. Prices so low, they’re practically giving the bike away, the 2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R will retail for $16,499 — a nearly $3,500 price reduction from the 2010 model (the RC8 R effectively takes over the price point of the RC8, which has been discontinued for 2011).

Making 175hp (with the right fuel), the 2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R benefits from a dual spark plug ignition setup that features two different spark plugs for different ignition points. Improving not only performance levels, the new spark plug configuration also gives the RC8 R a 12% fuel economy increase, while decreasing emissions. Also new for 2011 is a new crankshaft and flywheel which have increased masses (100g & 1,000g respectively) to smooth out the power pulses of the RC8 R.

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