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.

Map App Waze Adds Better Motorcycle Support

11/30/2017 @ 11:13 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

I know all you old-timers haven’t heard of it, but all the cool kids are using an app called Waze to get from Point A to Point B these days.

For motorcyclists, the popular “live map” program just a got a bit friendlier too, announcing today that it was adding motorcycles to its selectable vehicle types.

Don’t know what this means? Think of Waze like a social version of Google Maps. In fact, Google owns Waze and uses its data to power Google Maps’ route selector.

Unlike the users of Google Maps and the like though, Wazers (that’s the preferred nomenclature, dude) can report things to the app, like traffic jams, fuel prices, and our personal favorite: police speed traps.

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If you needed a bigger sign that the current zeitgeist of vehicle transportation is electric, look no further than BMW’s recent investment of €200 million for what the German brand is calling a “battery cell competence centre.”

The rather large capital expenditure, based in Munich, centers around the German brand’s commitment to electric vehicles, and its desire to develop next-generation electric drivetrains.

Specifically, the battery cell facility will allow BMW to explore new battery cell designs, chemistries, and technologies, so it can better work with battery cell manufacturers for the automotive company’s growing needs.

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More Details About Yamaha’s AI-Powered MOTOROiD

10/30/2017 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR)…these are the three bid buzzwords of Silicon Valley right now. So, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the motorcycle industry blindly latching onto them, in order to keep some sort of relevance in the space.

From the manufacturers, we have seen more than a few mentions of how the motorcycles of the future will use artificial intelligence to improve the two-wheeled experience, though with virtually none of the brands talking about how an AI-powered motorcycle would be better…or even work.

Yamaha has finally made the jump though with its MOTOROiD concept, taking AI and viewing the technology through the company’s long-term focus with “kando” – the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #64 – Sol Crushing

10/28/2017 @ 1:45 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 64 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and celebrates another trip around the sun for our lovely podcast…and one of its hosts.

In the show, we talk about Harley-Davidson’s vanishing motorcycle sales, which could be a canary in the mine for the future of the American motorcycle industry.

We also look at two intriguing models that Yamaha will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show: version of the Yamaha Motobot and the Yamaha MOTOROid concept – both which are intriguing machines, with tragic names.

Our show wraps up with KTM’s launch of the new Freeride E-XC electric dirt bike, and what it means for the future of the Austrian brand, and where transportation is headed.

There’s plenty for everyone in this show, and we think you’ll enjoy it.

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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Valentino Rossi Defeats Motobot…For Now

10/25/2017 @ 3:08 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Back in 2015, Yamaha Motors set out with an ambitious objective: to create a robot that is capable of beating around the race track one of the greatest motorcycle riders of all time, Valentino Rossi.

Along the way, the Japanese manufacturer would learn a limitless amount of information about how motorcycle racers achieve the lap times that do, and Yamaha would then be able to quantify one of the great mysteries in how to make a motorcycle go faster.

With the Motobot project born to achieve all these goals, Yamaha now two years later has pit its creation against their factory-back MotoGP racer, and the results are very interesting.

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Photos of Suzuki’s New MotoGP Aeros

10/16/2017 @ 5:22 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

If you watched the Japanese GP this weekend, then you have already seen that the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has updated its aerodynamic package for the season, adding a more radical design to the Suzuki GSX-RR, in the pursuit of better lap times.

The new aeros take some visual inspiration from what we have already seen from Ducati Corse, adding a complex shape that mimics a winglet design, while staying within the letter of the law of MotoGP’s current winglet ban.

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Yamaha’s New Leaning Car Concept…The Future?

10/13/2017 @ 11:49 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Remember the Yamaha Tesseract? The four-wheeled concept is about as close to a motorcycle that something with four wheels can get. And now, the Tuning Fork brand is building upon that idea, but with a fully enclosed vehicle concept that picks up where the Tesseract left off.

Called the Yamaha MWC-4, this four-wheeled concept brings the idea of the Tesseract’s leaning chassis and multi-wheel design into a more practical form for everyday use, and it’s debuting at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.

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Motobot vs. Valentino Rossi – Who is Faster?

10/12/2017 @ 2:15 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Two years ago, Yamaha set out on an ambitious adventure: to create a motorcycle riding robot that can ride a motorcycle as fast as one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time, Valentino Rossi.

Besides being a solid PR stunt, the development of Motobot brings with it some seriously powerful technology and insights into one of motorcycling’s great mysteries: rider dynamics.

With a machine the is capable of replicating human inputs on real-world motorcycles, Yamaha can improve its breed, both on the street, but also on the race track.

Now, the Japanese firm (with help from its Californian subsidiary) is just about ready to show us the results of its head-to-head matchup between Motobot and Valentino Rossi, but first it wants you to guess the results.

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Say Hello to Your New Pet Yamaha MOTOROiD

10/12/2017 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Yamaha has a bevy of tech that it plans on displaying at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month, and one of the more intriguing world premieres is the Yamaha MOTOROiD concept.

A futuristic take on the motorcycling condition, Yamaha’s MOTOROiD seems to be part motorcycle and part pet dog, with the two-wheeler able to recognize its owner and interact with them, like a living creature.

This is because the Japanese brand boasts that it will use artificial intelligence to bring people new experience of “Kando” – the Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #63 – Back, To The Future

10/09/2017 @ 12:27 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 63 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it is a massive deep dive into the future of transportation and the rise of electric motorcycles.

But before we get back, to the future, we first talk about Jensen’s recent trip to California, to ride the Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 (named after a university district of Venice, Italy – by the way) and the Aprilia Shiver 900.

Both bikes are revised for the 2018 model year in the United States, and are interesting machines in Aprilia’s lineup. You can read Jensen’s full review on them here and here.

From there, our discussion turns into a impromptu deep conversation about electric vehicles, urban infrastructure, global politics, and the future of transportation.

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