WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands. This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market. At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

Get Ready for the 2018 Dakar Rally

12/04/2017 @ 3:24 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Track days are winding down, the new machines for next year have already been revealed, and the cold of winter is upon us. For the motorcycle industry, this is the low-point of the season.

There is something to look forward to in the off-season, however, and it’s the Dakar Rally.

In just about one month’s time, the world’s top off-road racers will take part in what is called the most grueling motorcycle race on the planet.

The 2018 Dakar Rally is the 40th edition of the iconic rally raid, and once again it will take place far from its namesake, with competitors racing through Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

This year’s route will take racers to the Pacific Ocean, through the Huacachina sand dunes, and beyond, until they finish in Córdoba.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #66 – EICMA

11/21/2017 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 66 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we cover all the new motorcycles that caught our eye at the EICMA trade show in Milan, Italy.

There are a bevy of new models that we discuss in the show, with bikes from BMW, Ducati, Aprilia, Indian, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph, KTM, and Husqvarna all tickling our fancy.

Some of the highlights include talking about the supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX; the three-wheeled Yamaha Niken; the 226hp Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale; the very attractive Honda CB4 Interceptor concept; KTM’s two 790 bikes, and BMW’s substantial updates to its GS models.

A bit light on sleep, and certainly over-caffeinated, we think you will find the conversation to be a bit…peppy. Nevertheless, we think you will enjoy this latest edition of the podcast.

One last note for our Californian listeners, we will be doing a live show at the Dainese D-Store in San Francisco on December 13th, at 6:30pm (the show mentions an incorrect time, as schedules have changed since we recorded the show). We hope to see you there!

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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The Three Big Trends That We Saw at EICMA

11/14/2017 @ 12:04 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The 2017 EICMA show has come and gone, and with it our glimpse at the new motorcycles that will arrive for the next model year, and beyond. EICMA week has always been my Super Bowl, as it culminates the year's work, and also sets the tone for the upcoming riding season.

Beyond just my limited world though, EICMA sets the trends and the expectations of the motorcycle industry. There is no trade show in our two-wheeled microcosm that has a larger influence than EICMA.

So, while all the new models that we just saw are the week's big headlines, it is really the trends and movements that will dictate the future of the motorcycle industry.

For this round of the EICMA show, three major trends presented themselves in Milan, along with a few more notable occurrences. Don't worry, I'll break them down for you, though it might take a while.

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Mega Gallery: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

11/07/2017 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

We have had to wait two years to see it come into production, but the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 will finally be available to motorcyclists in March 2018. As an added bonus, the street-going machine stays true to its concept design, which wowed the crowd at last year’s EICMA show.

This year in Milan, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is all the talk of EICMA, and while “Best in Show” at EICMA almost exclusively goes to an Italian marque, the real winners are surely coming from Austria, as both the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and KTM 790 Duke look like winners.

A duality from Mattighofen, KTM and Husqvarna approach motorcycles from two opposite spectrums. KTM lives in the extreme, with an edgy focus on its “Ready to Race” mentality. Conversely, Husqvarna is subtle and sophisticated…maybe even understated.

It is that understatement that has been the driving force behind the success of the brand’s Vitpilen and Svartpilen motorcycles, with both the “white” and “black” arrows showing unique design languages.

For the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, the 690cc single-cylinder engine is wrapped in a modern take on an old design. As such, this neo café racer makes 75hp, 53 lbs•ft of torque, and is made tame by a traction control system.

Still, this new Husky must be an odd duck around the office, as Husqvarna is very terse on its basic specs and features, instead focusing on the design of this café racer. Such is the state of a bike that sells on emotion and lifestyle, rather than outright performance.

We imagine then that if you’re here, you can to ogle some photos. We have kept the 90+ photos attached to post in such an annoying large format that we will probably have to pay Amazon quite a bite extra this month for all the bandwidth.

If you want to help foot the bill, might we suggest an A&R Pro account?

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In addition to showing us the production-ready Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, the Swedish brand also teased us with its dark side, debuting the Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 as a concept model.

A neo-retro take on the flat tracker aesthetic, this “black arrow” street tracker was designed to boast both minimalistic and sophisticated lines to motorcyclists around the world.

Centered around the same 690cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen 701, the two bikes are a sort of ying and yang to where the Husqvarna brand is headed with its street bikes.

They share common design elements, like the round headlight, exposed pod air filter, fuel tank shape, and muted color palette.

Likely to be a 2019 model, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 concept is very close to what we can expect to see on dealership floors, if the debuted Vitpilen 701 can be believed.

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To compliment the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen becoming a production model, Swedish marque Husqvarna will show a new concept bike at this year’s EICMA show in Milan. Unsurprisingly, that bike will be the Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen.

We know this because Husqvarna had not-so-subtley teased the new model on its Instagram account: giving us the name, size, and numerous detail shots of the motorcycle concept.

As such, we know that the Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen will carryover many of the design elements found on the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen. Like the other Svartpilen models though, the 701 Svartpilen will be a scrambler-styled bike, complete with Pirelli MT60 RS tires.

Given its preamble in Milan, we can expect that Husqvarna 701 Svartpilen to be a 2019 model year motorcycle…that is, if Husky can get its act together, as we are long overdue on the two 401 models becoming available, after their release at the 2016 EICMA show.

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On its Instagram account, Husqvarna is teasing the fact that its next Vitpilen model is finally going prime time. That’s right, the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen will be unveiled tomorrow at EICMA as a production.

This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise for anyone following the Swedish brand (or who read our EICMA preview story), but considering the reception that the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen concept got at last year’s show, we would expect the Husqvarna stand to be pretty crowded in Milan.

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2017 EICMA Motorcycle Show Cheat Sheet

11/05/2017 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The EICMA motorcycle show in Milan is the biggest motorcycle event in the world, and each year a bevy of manufacturers come to Milan to show next year’s production machines, as well as the two-wheeled concepts of the future.

For 2017, things are no different, and we expect see dozens of new machines for the 2018 model (here’s a list of all the new models we expect to see in Milan), as well as a few concepts and prototypes for 2019 and beyond.

Since there will be a barrage of article over the next few days, and we don’t want you to miss a single new motorcycle, we have created a single page to consolidate the different stories that we will be covering this week. Right here!

Go ahead and bookmark this link, and check back often, as we will be reporting 24/7 all week on this year’s EICMA show.

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The 2017 EICMA show is rapidly approaching, and if history is any indication, leaks of the motorcycles from Italy will start dropping any day now. Sooner, if we have our say in it.

As the motorcycle industry gears up for the largest show of the year, we thought we would put together an exhaustive list of everything we expect to see at EICMA.

It goes without saying of course, be sure to stay tuned into our up-to-the-minute coverage of the EICMA show, as we will be bringing you the first glimpses and details of all the machines that will be coming for the 2018 model year, and beyond.

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Husqvarna continues to be the only motorcycle manufacturer with a race-ready supermoto, straight from the factory, and what a machine it is, the Husqvarna FS 450. For the 2018 model year, the Swedish brand has added more updates for the Husqvarna FS 450, keeping it at the pointy end of technology.

The big changes come in the form of a new slipper clutch from Suter, and brand that any MotoGP team should be familiar with, along with a new map switch control on the handlebar, which continues to toggle on and off the bike’s traction control, dual engine maps, and launch control features.

The last change of note for the 2018 model year that Husqvarna wants us to share is that fact that there is a new graphics package…this year, the seat is blue.

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