Erik Buell’s Newest Project Is an Electric Street Bike

Erik Buell, we have missed thee. It has been almost a year since we last reported on the demise of Erik Buell Racing, but it has been over two years since we talked about the man himself. What has Buell been up to? Well, from the look of things, making a pivot into the electric motorcycle arena, it seems. Teaming up with New York City boutique bike brand, Vanguard Motorcycles, as well as Formula E car supplier, SPARK Racing Technologies, Buell is part of the new VanguardSpark venture. For its debut, VanguardSpark has two machines on offer. The first is an electric motorcycle (above), called the VanguardSpark Commuter. It’s a simple design, which we don’t find terribly appealing, though one should always reserve some judgments when only looking at a concept machine.

This Week’s “Ducati for Sale” Rumor

The Volkswagen Group got a new CEO last week, and in less than seven days, that news has already sparked renewed rumors in the German automobile conglomerate divesting itself of Ducati Motor Holdings. For those who have been following Ducati’s saga, there was much talk last year of Volkswagen selling off a number of its other brands, all under the reasoning that the German company would need to raise capital to cover its mounting Dieselgate liabilities. The logic for that reasoning wasn’t sound, but the actions were certainly there, with Volkswagen tendering offers from a number of would-be suitors. There was a fly in the ointment though: Volkswagen’s labor unions, who control half of the VW Group’s board seats, and were vehemently opposed to any brand divestitures.

Battery “Thermal Events” Lead to Zero Recall & Buy-Back

Zero Motorcycles is reporting a very serious defect with its 2012 model year bikes, specifically affecting the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DSP (Police) models. The recall concerns Zero’s battery architecture for the 2012 model year, which may cause cells to fail, and thus create a runaway “thermal event” (read: catches on fire) within the battery pack. In total, this recall affects 218 motorcycle units – the entire volume of Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DPS motorcycles that were sold for the 2012 model year. In its recall documents, Zero cites three instances (one in Hong Kong, and two in the USA) where the battery packs on the affected 2012 model bikes have failed and lead to a thermal event.

Benelli’s Grom-Killer Debuts for the US Market, A Review

For years, Benelli has lain dormant, at least in the US market. That changes with the Chinese owned, but Italian-run, firm releasing the first of many street bikes for American consumption. It kicks things off with the 2018 Benelli TnT 135 ($2,499). US importer, SSR Motorsports, hosted a quick day ride that began atop Southern California’s Ortega Highway, and concluded in Newport Beach. Renowned for its twists and turns, Ortega Highway is an amusing, but also very high-traveled ribbon of blacktop that links the bustling inland and beach communities. This stretch of roadway is known for accidents as well – would the tiny TnT be able to keep up with “always in a hur

UK Salary Data Shows Gender Gap at Triumph

The United Kingdom has a new law, requiring companies with 250 or more employees to report to the authorities the earnings of its workers, by gender. The topic has been a sticking point in the British news cycle right now, with woman across the company showing median earnings that are 12% lower than men, which is a sizable gap in income equality. Where does the British motorcycle industry falls into place in all this? Well as Visordown initially reported, that is more difficult to say, as it appears that only Triumph Motorcycles meets the reporting criteria, amongst motorcycle manufacturers. Technically, it is two brands that meet reporting criteria for gender pay gap, as Triumph Motorcycles Limited and Triumph Designs Limited split their duties for the British marque.

What Caused Jorge Lorenzo’s Crash at the Qatar GP?

After a poor start, which saw him drop from ninth on the grid to thirteenth at the end of the first lap, Jorge Lorenzo was making steady progress through the field at Qatar. His lap times were starting to come down to match, and on some laps even beat, the pace the leaders were running. As the halfway mark approached, and less than four seconds behind the leaders, Lorenzo started to believe he was capable of salvaging a decent result from a difficult start. That all ended on Lap 13. The Spaniard crashed out of the race at Turn 4, when his front brake failed and he had to drop the bike in the gravel. “I just felt that the level of the front brake was getting closer to my fingers and I didn’t have brake,” Lorenzo described the incident afterwards.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Looks Good Wearing Termignoni

For a long time, the name “Termignoni” was synonymous with “Ducati exhaust”, with the popular scarico-maker being a constant fixture in the Ducati Performance parts catalog. So prevalent was the brand, that if you see a turn-of-the-century (21st century, that is) Ducati clacking down the street with its dry clutch, chances are the exhaust you are also hearing was made by Termignoni. But that has changed in recent years, with Slovenian marque Akrapovič supplanting Termignoni in Ducati’s good graces. To find out why, all one had to do was examine the products themselves – where Termignoni’s pieces were poorly fabricated and over-priced, Akrapovič was infinitely better built and often cheaper.

Honda CBR1000RRW Debuts for Endurance Duty

What you are looking at here is the bike that Honda hopes will win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race this year. It is called the Honda CBR1000RRW. It is not all that different from the WorldSBK-spec model, the one that Leon Camier and Jake Gange are competing with currently (and that PJ Jacobsen is helping develop), save for some interesting changes. For starters, the Honda CBR1000RRW dumps its Cosworth boxes, and instead runs the Magneti Marelli electronics package that Jacobsen is using in WorldSBK. Also, there are some obvious bodywork changes, namely where the exposed front spars of the frame would be, which are now covered by a silver painted panel.Then of course, there are the mechanical changes for endurance duty, like quick-change wheel pieces and functional lights.

Honda CB300R Coming to USA with Retro-Modern Looks

One of the surprise pleasures at last year’s EICMA show was Honda’s family of “Neo-Sports Café” street bikes, which brought a retro-modern look to Big Red’s approach road bikes. While the new Honda CB1000R tickled our fancy the most, we were delighted to see that the theme extended all the way to the Japanese brand’s small-displacement platform, the Honda CB300R. An attractive and affordable entry-level bike, the Honda CB300R looks like it was designed in Europe, rather than Nippon, which is probably why the 286cc commuter is doing so well in the European market. Seeing that success, American Honda has confirmed the CB300R as an early 2019 model for the US market – available in July 2018.

Motorcycling’s April Fools Round-Up for 2018

Another year, and another April Fools Day is done and dusted. I am fairly certain that for journalists, April 1st is better than Christmas, as it marks the one day where media outlets make the news they wish they could report on daily. And as usual, the imaginations of the motorcycle media pool didn’t fail to disappoint. My colleague David Emmett had a nicely done story about the MotoGP World Championship. For my own part, I took advantage of the long-con approach, and fit a story into our ongoing series about the upcoming Suzuki Hayabusa, which seems to have no shortage of weekly rumors about this bike’s supposed features and technical specifications. How about from the rest of the industry though? In case you missed them, the highlights of April Fools Day are after the jump.

Photos: Ducati Desmosedici GP15

02/16/2015 @ 4:34 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a machine that has been long in the making. It represents Gigi Dall’Igna’s next step forward for the wayward Ducati Corse MotoGP team, and it is the dubious honor of holding the hopes of Ducati fans around the world, who see the machine as the silver bullet that will return Ducati to the forefront of racing prowess. No pressure.

Since theDesmosedici GP15 was a no-show at Sepang, Ducati held a special unveiling ceremony in Bologna today, and also used the opportunity to unveil the 2015 team and its livery.

The most obvious change that can be seen on the GP15 is the re-routing of the exhaust, with the undertail pipes collecting on the right-hand side of the machine, rather than coming in from both sides and meeting in the middle.

Also, the 90 degree V4 engine has been rocked backwards, giving more room to the front tire, and thus a more compact stature inside the frame.

The bodywork is obviously different, and the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is physically slimmer, with a much smaller tail section. The twin-spar aluminum chassis remains, though it is of a completely new design. Easy to see as well are the carbon fiber subframes fore and aft.

Can you spot any other changes in the high-resolution photos after the jump? Let us know in the comments.

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Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo Concept by Alex Garoli

01/08/2015 @ 11:14 am, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine.

At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession.

Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos. Check out the photos after the jump.

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After all the speculation of massive changes in Ducati’s MotoGP team, all is to remain the same. During the World Ducati Week event held for fans of the Italian marque at Misano, both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow announced that they would be remaining with Ducati for 2015.

The news means Crutchlow chose not to exercise his option to leave, and Dovizioso was persuaded to sign-on for two more years. In addition, it means that Ducati has exercised its option to extend the contract with Andrea Iannone, with Iannone to be given factory support.

The decisions by all three riders are a both a show of confidence in the ability of Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna to build a more competitive MotoGP machine, as well as a lack of alternatives elsewhere.

The only other factory rides available are the two seats at Suzuki, but given the slow pace of the bike during testing and the amount of development work needed, that was a bigger risk than staying at Ducati.

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MotoGP: A Ducati Desmosedici GP13 Production Racer?

06/29/2013 @ 12:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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Speaking with MotoGP.com, Ducati’s MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti has revealed that the Italian factory is considering making a production racer version of the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 that will be made available to privateer MotoGP teams.

Conceived along the same vein as Honda’s RC213V-based production racer, the Ducati race bike would be available only to privateer teams in MotoGP, and would fall under MotoGP’s new rules, which make distinctions between factory and privateer bikes.

“Since the new rules came out for next year, where it is actually possible for a full MotoGP bike to run in what would have been the CRT class – using the single ECU and single software – we are considering to make available the 2013 bike with this package,” said  Ciabatti while talking to MotoGP.com

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Up-Close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13

04/25/2013 @ 12:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

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It’s hard to get up-close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. For starters, she’s always traveling somewhere — a slave to her jet-setter lifestyle. And, when she finally touches down long enough for you to get a glimpse of her, she’s surrounded by men in red uniforms, who whisk her out of sight almost immediately.

Occasionally though, she gets all buttoned-up and makes a public appearance, and if you have the right credentials (not an easy feat in its own right), you can elbow your way in for a look at her scarlet glow.

Dodging other bikes, riders, and mechanics in the hot pit lane of the Grand Prix of the Americas, we had such a brief opportunity, and thus bring you our spoils from the moment. We have been up-close with a number of race bikesexotics, and even exotic race bikes, but the Desmosedici GP13 stands out even in that prestigious crowd.

A rolling piece of unobtanium, with the very best of what is available in the two-wheeled world gring its chassis, and yet Ducati’s four MotoGP riders struggle mightily with the machine. Maybe if we look closely enough, we can figure out why. Twenty-two 2000px-wide photos are waiting for you after the jump.

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“This is the reality,” factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo.

While Dovizioso’s qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.

The problem appears to be twofold. Firstly, a chassis issue, which is a mixture of weight distribution, gearbox output shaft layout, frame geometry, and to a lesser extent chassis flexibility. And secondly, a problem with engine response, an issue which is down in part to electronics, and in part to Ducati still using just a single injector per throttle body.

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Very much a cloak and dagger affair, it is always fairly entertaining to read the information that the manufacturers release regarding their MotoGP machines. Despite the fact that these are some of the most drool-over motorcycles on the planet, by rule of thumb the factories publish only the most general technical specifications possible.

If a company like Ducati thought they could get away with it, the release for the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 technical specifications would read something like “a racing machine with possibly two wheels and an engine” when disclosed to the press and public.

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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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Head of Ducati Corse, Filippo Preziosi is a busy man under regular circumstances, and with the shenanigans going on in Ducati Corse’s MotoGP team right now, the former motorcycle racer is a hard man to get a word with, let alone on a race weekend in Brno. Somehow catching up with Preziosi during MotoGP’s Brno test, our friend David Emmett at MotoMatters, along with several other journalists, sat down with Ducati’s Maestro of MotoGP to ask him about where the Italian team was headed, and the challenges it is currently facing.

There is of course a tremendous amount of chatter going on in the MotoGP paddock about Ducati’s “frameless” carbon fiber chassis, a switch to an aluminum twin-spar frame, the Bridgestone tires, and Valentino Rossi’s psyche, all of which Emmett has already summarized for us in his detailed analysis of Ducati Corse’s situation. Taking on all of these issues, Preziosi sheds some insight on what is going on behind the scenes at Ducati, and is candid about what issues they are and are not facing.

Dismissing out right that the “L” engine configuration is at least partially to blame for Desmosedici’s lack of front-end feel, one of the more interesting points Preziosi makes is his preference for the v-twin motor. Acknowledging that the package will perhaps make less power/torque than a four-cylinder, Preziosi opts for instead the two-cylinder’s rideability, and if the rules allowed it, the motor’s weight advantage over the inlines (this of course coming from a man who has figured out how to make a v-twin without the weight of a traditional frame).

His comments raise some interesting thoughts about the way rules are constructed in motorcycle racing classes, and perhaps speaks to the central issue occurring MotoGP: that the rules are pigeonholing the development of GP motorcycles into one particular slot, that just happens to be a four-cylinder motorcycle with a conventional frame that reacts to a prescribed tire construction methodology. Preziosi makes some other interesting comments that read well between the lines, check them out in transcribed interview after the jump.

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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