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.

Paddock Pass Podcast #78 – Suzuka 8-Hours

08/02/2018 @ 9:16 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 78 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they discuss both this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

Perhaps the most important race to the Japanese manufacturers, the Suzuka 8-Hours is seeing a return to its former glory, with several manufacturers putting together truly factory teams.

The show covers this new dawn for the Suzuka 8-Hours race, as well as the action on the track, of which there was plenty. It may have been eight-hours long, but this was a proper sprint race, with only 30 seconds separating first and second place.

On the show we are also joined by Jonathan Rea and Michael Laverty, who shed a ton of insight into what it’s like riding the Suzuka Specials, the differences in tires at the Japanese track, and what it takes to win this iconic race. You won’t want to miss those conversations.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the Suzuka paddock.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

08/01/2018 @ 4:45 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

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.

The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race was the biggest effort that we have seen from Kawasaki, which enlisted the help of its future WorldSBK team (Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and part of the KRT pit box), to join the Japanese engineers and All Japan Superbike rider Kazuma Watanabe.

Part of the effort involved honing the specially prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike for the Suzuka 8-Hours, and this included a considerable amount of pre-event testing, with WorldSBK crew chief Pere Ribe overseeing the bike’s development.

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Winning the Pride of Japan, Eight Hours at Suzuka

07/29/2018 @ 5:42 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Yamaha Factory Racing made history at the Suzuka 8-Hours today, claiming their fourth consecutive victory in the great race.

This Japanese endurance race has become one of the biggest spectacles on the motorcycling calendar, and there were moments of today’s 199 laps that would have felt like an eternity for Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes.

With Katsuyuki Nakasuga ruled out with a shoulder injury following a crash in yesterday’s practice session, the burden fell on his teammates to deliver success.

They duly did, but not until they had overcome a huge challenge from Kawasaki.

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Track Guide: A Lap Around Suzuka

07/27/2018 @ 10:39 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

It is a race unlike any other, and it has a circuit unlike any other to match. The Suzuka 8-Hours is the biggest race of the year for Japanese manufacturers, and it is held on one of the longest laps of the year.

With lap times of over two minutes, it is very easy for time to burn during a session, and it is very easy to left rueing any mistakes you make.

The Japanese venue is one of the most technical on the planet. It is a lap of contrasts, with the sweeping corners of the opening half, followed by a hairpin and chicanes in the second half of the lap.

Getting it right takes time and any mistake is heavily punished on the stop watch.

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Jonathan Rea grabbed the headlines on Friday in Japan, with an unofficial lap record at the Suzuka 8-Hours, which put the Kawasaki Team Green ZX-10RR on a pole-position start.

The Northern Irishman was nine tenths of a second faster than Pol Espargaro’s 2016 pole lap, and Rea’s time was made all the more impressive by the fact that he, like the majority of front-runners, didn’t opt to use a qualifying tire.

The FIM Endurance World Championship regulations allow teams to use 14 sets of tires throughout the Suzuka weekend, and with eight tires allocated for the race, and two qualifying tires, it means that for the opening two days the front-runners focus on race pace with used tyres.

Though of note, Rea set his fastest time in the second qualifying session, with a fresh tire.

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Suzuka, Heaven or Hell?

07/26/2018 @ 5:35 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Can you tell the difference between heaven and hell? Suzuka reveals the soul of a rider by breaking them down through each stint.

Your lungs are burning, the skin is falling off your hands because, even bandaged tightly, the extreme conditions will get the better of them, the dehydration is setting in, and your mind is foggy and far from clear.

Once you're off the bike, and sitting in your chair, the realization slowly sets in that you still have to get back on the bike.

You look around and see the faces of your engineers, and they know what needs to be done, but the only thought running through your head is that fucking bike and the pain it's been putting you through.

Suzuka is one of the most spectacular challenges on the planet for rider and machine. It flows around the hills and winds its way on top of itself.

Fast and slow corners. Sweeping bends that lead into each other and tight chicanes. There's high speeds and heavy braking. Suzuka has it all and when you add in the heat and humidity of the final Sunday of July it becomes on of the biggest tests of character and will that any rider will go through.

This is heaven, this is hell. Which is which? Who can tell? The contrast between the feeling you get from riding a Superbike on the limit at Suzuka and the after effect is massive.

How do you deal with the physicality of racing in heat? Combat the mental strain of getting back on the bike? How do you deal with the sense pressure of expectancy? Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier, and Alex Lowes give us their thoughts on these three phases of the Suzuka 8-Hours.

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Episode 76 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we mix things up. Recorded at the Laguna Seca WorldSBK round, on the mics are Steve English and Jensen Beeler, and the duo covers the World Superbike Championship season thus far.

The show is the first part of a two-part series look at the WorldSBK paddock, which is currently on a two-month summer break. 

Starting with the opening round at Phillip Island, we look at what has happened thus far in production racing. We then move to the WorldSBK silly season, as the rider market for next season is just starting to get interesting.

Lastly, we make some predictions for the rest of the season, and take some quick looks at what is to come for the 2019 season in terms of riders, teams, and machinery.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info on the World Superbike Championship, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

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The Magic of Misano Strikes for WorldSBK

07/11/2018 @ 10:53 am, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

Five riders from four manufacturers stood on the Misano podium to show the strength and depth of WorldSBK.

“This is the real Superbike racing” was how Marco Melandri assessed the Sunday’s racing at Misano, and it was hard to argue with the Italian.

Under blue skies and a burning sun, the action on track was just as hot with Jonathan Rea, Michael van der Mark, and Melandri all fighting it out for the win.

With Chaz Davies keeping a watching brief following his Saturday podium, and Eugene Laverty having stood on the Race 1 rostrum, it was clear this was the best race weekend of the 2018 season.

Five riders spraying Prosecco on the podium, and four manufacturers able to see their riders on the box, it was a fantastic weekend to bring a close to racing before the summer break.

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Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuit, but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend. Continue reading for Asphalt & Rubber’s World Superbike debrief, from Misano Italy.

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