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.

I often berate the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) for not doing enough to promote and protect motorcycle riding in the United States, but we also have to give credit where credit is due, and the MIC is due a little credit for a change.

Working in conjunction with the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, the MIC hosted a briefing titled “Intelligent Transportation Systems and Automated Vehicle Applications Impacts on Motorcycle Safety,” which focused on vehicle-to-vehicle technologies, and how they apply to motorcycles.

The briefing featured a panel of industry and research experts on the issue: Sam Campbell, BMW Group; Gary Higgins, American Honda Motor Company, Inc.; Shane McLaughlin, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; and Eric Teoh, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

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Say what you will about American politics, but the US House of Representatives has passed the “SELF-DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388) – a bipartisan bill that would open up autonomous vehicle regulation for manufacturers.

The big advantage of the SELF-DRIVE Act is that it would supersede the varying and ad hoc state rules that manufacturers must currently adhere to while developing their autonomous platforms.

The bill would also do away with some safety standards put in place for vehicles with drivers, such as where the steering wheel and foot pedals must be located.

Lastly, the SELF-DRIVE Act would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to research and develop a way of conveying to consumers the level of automation a vehicle possesses.

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A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018.

Sent to Congress just last Friday, the text to H.R. 861 has not been published yet by the Government Publishing Office (the service usually takes a day or two), so details are light at this point in time on the bill’s fine-strokes.

However the writer of the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), has been clear in his statements to media outlets and on Twitter that the EPA is a burden on companies; individual states would be better at handling environmental issues than the federal government; and that abolishing the EPA would create more jobs.

H.R. 861 is co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R – Kentucky), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R – Mississippi), and Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R – Georgia) – all three co-sponsors have voiced notable opposition to the EPA in the past, and this bill comes at a time when the EPA is already slated to get a massive budget reduction by the Trump administration.

General politics aside, HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles.

But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

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Exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have finally gone into effect, which means that you can now legally hack the computer systems on your motorcycle and other motor vehicles.

The exceptions were put into place last year by the Librarian of Congress, despite pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who wanted to extend digital right management (DRM) practices to the computer systems that now permeate the two and four-wheeled spaces.

This is a win for security researchers and hobbyist mechanics, because it means that they can modify the software on their personal and research vehicles, without the fear of running afoul of the DMCA, which we should point out was written roughly 20 years ago.

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EPA Withdraws Racing Emissions Proposal

04/18/2016 @ 12:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events.

The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts.

Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.

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AMA Supports RPM Act – Fighting EPA Regulation

03/09/2016 @ 2:39 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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We are finally seeing some movement from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in regards to the EPA’s proposed regulations against converting street vehicles for racing purposes and the sale of aftermarket “race use only” parts.

Today, the AMA published a press release detailing much of the same information we brought you yesterday about the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 – better known as the RPM Act.

In its press release, the AMA says that it supports the efforts being made in Congress, and that the motorcycle lobbying group is also working with SEMA to keep EPA regulations for vehicles used in competition as they currently stand.

The AMA also says that its focus is to have language in the RPM Act that would specifically exempt competition motorcycles from EPA regulation, a move that would ensure that MotoAmerica and other race series in the US would continue to operate unrestricted.

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In case you missed it, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to close a loophole on how the Clean Air Act is applied to race-oriented vehicles, namely by cracking down on “race use only” parts and and going on to say that it is illegal to alter the emission control systems on a vehicle, even if it is not being used on-road.

The issue has caused quite a stir in the aftermarket parts business, which is understandable since the EPAs enforcement would likely mean hefty fines for any manufacturer who produces these “race only” parts.

Dealerships and other business that sold the racing components could also come under the long hammer of the EPA, with these proposed changes.

While there is some interesting discussion to be had on the matter, the EPA’s actions are certainly troublesome. The federal agency’s reversal on 46 year’s worth of precedent seems a bit disingenuous, and its unilateral “reinterpretation” of the Clean Air Act seems like nothing more than a well-lawyered land-grab.

Thankfully, we have Congress on our side.

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US Congress Passes Favorable Laws for Motorcyclists

12/08/2015 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler34 COMMENTS

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Don’t say that the 114th US Congress hasn’t done anything for you, as the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) is happy to report that our legislature has passed a $305 billion highway bill – The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – which has a number of favorable provisions for motorcyclists.

The big wins come in the form of funding for recreational off-road trails, and the prohibition against motorcycle-only checkpoints, two growing concerns that the AMA has been involved in fighting.

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You Can Legally Work on Your Own Motorcycle, Still

11/02/2015 @ 11:51 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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You may have not realized it, but if certain OEMs had their way, you would not be legally allowed to work on your own motorcycle. That’s right, because of a perversion of the US copyright law, it would have been illegal for you to turn a wrench on your motorcycle, all in the name of digital rights management.

The issues comes around because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law from 1998 that was originally intended to update the Copyright Act of 1976 for life in the digital age.

Of the more important provisions, the DMCA protects ISPs from copyright claims, and it defines how copyright law would work on the internet and other digital mediums.

One of the major sections of the DMCA deals with digital rights management (DRM), and attempts to circumvent digital systems that are meant to block access to copyrighted information and material. This effectively makes it a violation of the DMCA to circumvent any sort of DRM or encryption put forth by a rights holder.

The original intent of this provision was to protect record labels and movie studios, who were seeing their products shared on peer-to-peer networks ad infinitum, but crafty lawyers have been able to expand this portion of the DMCA to include just about any digital system, including your motorcycle…until now.

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