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.

Ducati DTC EVO Will Cost $565 MSRP

08/12/2017 @ 11:15 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

A couple days ago, we told you that Ducati would be making the updated electronics package on the 2017 Ducati 1299 Panigale, called DTC EVO, available to 2015 and 2016 Panigale owners.

The software update lets the Panigale take full-advantage of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) that is onboard, letting the traction control not only manage wheelspin, as it does on the 2015 and 2016 models, but also allowing it to control how much rear-wheel slide is allowed, as on the 2017 machine.

While DTC EVO is standard on the 2017 model, the software wasn’t developed in time for the earlier 1299 Panigale models. Thankfully, it is an easy feature to add retroactively. Unthankfully though, Ducati is charging a pretty penny for the update: $565 MSRP.

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If you happen already to own one of the 2017 Ducati 1299 Panigale models, including the recently released Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition and Ducati 1299 Superleggera models, then you already have the latest and greatest electronics suite from the Italian manufacturer, dubbed the Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO).

But, if you own a 2015 or 2016 Panigale, whether it be a “base” model or “S” model, you have been out of luck when it comes to taking full advantage of your bike’s Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU)…until today.

Ducati is announcing that it will retrofit its DTC EVO system for older 1299 Panigale machines, so they can take advantage of IMU’s ability to manage sliding the rear wheel, via a revised algorithm.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #36 – Tikka Masala

11/01/2016 @ 11:19 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Recapping the recent INTERMOT show, Episode 36 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast covers the three big themes that emerged from Cologne: homologation specials, vintage motorcycles, and rider aids.

With these themes in mind, we have a good conversation about the three homologation specials we saw from the Japanese manufacturers at INTERMOT: the Honda CBR1000RR SP2, the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.

The conversation then turns to the neo-vintage models we saw in Germany, and how brands like Triumph and BMW are investing heavily in this trendy niche.

We finish up the show talking about motorcycle electronics, inertial measurement units (IMUs) to be specific. This game-changing technology continues to permeate through the motorcycle industry, along with other rider aids, so we have a good conversation about the rise of the IMU.

As always, 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. Enjoy the show!

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The Three Big Trends That We Saw at INTERMOT

10/08/2016 @ 7:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler42 COMMENTS

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News from the INTERMOT show is winding down, with the motorcycle industry waiting until the next trade show (AIMExpo) to get its fill of new motorcycles and products.

Such is the time of the season, where we jump from one headline to the next, as we get our first glimpse of next year’s wares. Sorry for flooding your social media feeds.

In my opinion, INTERMOT is the second-most important trade show on the schedule (the first being EICMA), as we always see strong showings from the Germanic brands at INTERMOT, and we can count on a few surprises from the Japanese OEMS as well.

When it occurs (INTERMOT is held every-other year, unlike EICMA and AIMExpo which are held every year), the German show is good for revealing trends in the industry, and this year was no different.

As such, I saw three big trends emerge from INTERMOT this year, which promise to shape the motorcycle industry for several years to come.

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2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX Brings an IMU to the Street

10/06/2016 @ 2:02 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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It might seem like the 2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX brings only modest updates to Team Green’s liter-bike street bike, what with Kawasaki touting the machine’s “double-bubble” adjustable windscreen, LED headlamps, revised rider and passenger seats, and pannier mounts.

Yawn. Nothing to see here, right? Thanks for playing Kawasaki…but wait…hold on a second. What really sets the new Kawasaki Z1000SX apart is the fact that it also includes a six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU).

This ties into the brakes, traction control, and riding modes on the 2017 Kawasaki Z1000SX, adding another level of sophistication to this popular sport bike, while also raise the high-water mark in the street bike market.

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Before INTERMOT this year, Kawasaki USA sent out a cautionary email that Kawasaki bikes debuting at trade show in Germany would be for the European market only, and that those bikes coming to the USA would debut later next month.

So, we can’t say for certain for our North American readers that the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR will be crossing the pond, but for our European compatriots, here is a new superbike that should get your motor really running.

A byproduct of the World Superbike rules, the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR is a homologation special, of which only 500 units will be made for public consumption.

To get that extra “R” on its name, the folks at Kawasaki have taken their already stout ZX-10R superbike, and massaged in some pretty choice engine, chassis, and electronic upgrades.

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The Massive 2016 MotoGP Rule Update

01/08/2016 @ 2:14 am, by David Emmett12 COMMENTS

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With major changes to the technical regulations for MotoGP in 2016, it has taken some time for the FIM to produce a new and revised version of the rulebook.

The first provisional version was made available today, the new rules bringing together all of the new rules agreed over the past few years into a single set of regulations.

Most of the new rules have already been written about during the year, but putting them into a single rulebook helped clarify them greatly.

The biggest changes are to the technical regulations. The abolition of the Open class means everyone is back on a single set of rules. Or rather, nearly everyone.

There are still two types of manufacturers: manufacturers subject to the standard rules, and manufacturers who have not yet had sufficient success, and therefore have been granted a number of concessions.

Those concessions are more limited than the Open class, though, and relate now only to testing and to engine development. Everyone will have the same amount of fuel, the same tire allocation, and everyone will use the same electronics, the spec hardware and the unified software.

Though many fans are disappointed that there isn’t just a single set of rules, the concessions which remain are absolutely vital to the long-term health of the series.

With Honda, Yamaha, and since last year, Ducati, all subject to a freeze on engine development and limited testing, Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM, when they join the series in 2017) stand a chance of cutting the gap to the more successful factories.

Without concessions, the smaller factories wouldn’t stand a chance of catching the others, especially not a factory with almost limitless resources like Honda. Indeed, without the concessions granted to Ducati, there is a very good chance the Italian factory would have left MotoGP in 2014, after three long years without results.

The previous era, when the factories all competed under a single set of rules, ended up with just 17 bikes on the grid, and manufacturers showing more interest in leaving MotoGP than in joining. That situation has been completely reversed.

A more intriguing change has been the introduction of clear rules on the safety equipment to be used by riders. Back protectors and chest protectors are now compulsory, and minimum standards have been imposed for helmets, leathers, boots and gloves.

Rider safety equipment will now be much more closely regulated and monitored.

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2016 Yamaha FJR1300 Comes with Improvements

11/30/2015 @ 3:30 am, by Andrew Kohn25 COMMENTS

FJR1300A USA 2016

The Yamaha FJR1300 is an icon in the sport-touring world. First introduced in the U.S. in 2002 as a 2003 model, the FJR1300’s development over the years has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

2016 is no different, with beneficial new features added to both the standard model (FJR1300A) and the electronic suspension model (FJR1300ES), while retaining the tried and true 1,298cc in-line four engine with shaft drive and familiar FJR styling.

The sport-touring market in the U.S. has changed a lot over the last decade, with much of that change being driven by the ever increasing popularity of ADV bikes. Most of the big Japanese and European manufacturers have shifted their focus to the adventure market, and have either chosen not to update their sport-touring line, or have eliminated it all together.

Yamaha is keenly aware of that fact and continues to actively update their sport-touring machines in what they see as an important market niche. As such, Yamaha has done a lot of research on the desires of its sport-touring customers and found that these bikes are being used less for short rides and commuting and more for full day rides and long touring.

Additionally, their research found that technology is extremely important to the sport-touring rider. With that in mind, Yamaha added a number of new features to the 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 that should enhance comfort and safety, while still retaining the same familiar look and feel of previous generations.

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The move to a standard electronics package, both hardware and software, had raised the hopes of fans, teams and organizers that a more level playing field could be established, and costs cut.

The ideal sketched by Dorna and IRTA when the plan first came out has proven to be impossible to achieve. The manufacturers have resisted calls for a completely spec hardware and software package, and so a compromise has been reached.

The ECU hardware and software will be built, updated and managed by official electronics supplier to MotoGP, Magneti Marelli. Factories will be free to choose their own sensors, but those sensors will have to be homologated, and made available to any other manufacturer which wishes to use it at a reasonable price.

Not quite all of the sensors, however. In response to a request by the factories, the inertial platform will remain what is called a free device, i.e. any manufacturer can choose to use whichever inertial platform they like, without first submitting it for a approval to Dorna, or making it available to their rivals at a price.

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Here is the $184,000 Honda RC213V-S Street Bike

06/11/2015 @ 2:47 am, by Jensen Beeler118 COMMENTS

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Honda has finally debuted its “absolute MotoGP machine for the street” – the highly anticipated and hyped Honda RC213V-S. First off, the rumors are true: this is not going to be an affordable motorcycle.

The 2016 Honda RC213V-S will cost $184,000 in the USA, while Europeans will get stuck with a €188,ooo sticker price (¥21,900,000 in Japan & $244,000 in Australia). In order to buy an RC213V-S, customers must register on a special website, which will open on July 16th.

Each RC213V-S street bike will be hand-built at Honda’s Kumamoto factory, at the pace of roughly one motorcycle per day. For those inclined to doing the math, we’ll save you the trouble…fewer than 300 units will be made, with that number likely closer to 200.

The 2016 Honda RC213V-S will be available in two colors: the HRC Tricolor or plain-jane carbon fiber (our pick). Both colors have carbon fiber fairings, and come with coil spring valves (not pneumatic valves, like on the race bikes). Other changes from the racing machines include the gearbox, tires, brakes, and maximum steering angle.

As far as electronics go, there are five rider modes, a sophisticated traction control system, along with engine braking control, a quickshifter, and an inertial measurement unit (IMU).

Honda says that the RC213V-S tips the scales at a claimed 170kg dry weight (188kg wet in Europe, 190kg wet in the USA), which isn’t exactly mind-blowingly light. For example, the Ducati 1199 Superleggera weighs 155kg dry and 178kg wet.

For track riders, there is a “sport kit” that will bring the bike to even closer spec to the racing machines. It includes a new ECU, revised ram-air tubes, and of course a racing exhaust system. This kit drops the dry weight to 165kg (177kg wet), but it oddly won’t be available to USA market machines…and that’s an important fact to remember.

In the US market, the Honda RC213V-S will be tuned for 101hp at 8,000 rpm (66 lbs•ft of torque) — a figure the bike will be stuck at, since the sport kit is not available to the US market.

In Europe and Australia, the RC213V-S will make a still disappointing 157hp at the 11,000 rpm-spinning crank, but with the sports kit installed, that figure will get bumped to over 210hp at 13,000 rpm. Peak torque is set at 75 lbs•ft at 10,500 rpm, with the sports kit lifting that figure to over 87 lbs•ft.

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