The Only Motorcycle Statistic That’s Worth a Damn

Every year the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) releases data about motorcycle fatalities in the United States. The results are never that surprising, and despite some fluctuations year-to-year, the basic takeaways are always the same. Motorcyclists are way more likely to die (28x more likely per mile traveled) than automobile drivers and passengers; fatal motorcycle crashes are more likely to involve alcohol than other vehicle fatalities (25% vs. 21% for passenger cars); and motorcycle fatalities closely correlate to new motorcycle sales. The figures are of course important, but reporting the results is an exercise in playing a broken record, over and over again. Except for one statistic that caught our eye this year: motorcycle fatalities as a percentage of overall vehicle fatalities.

Up-Close with the Krämer HKR EVO2 R

If I said that there was an 81hp track bike that weighed less than 280 lbs ready to race, would that be something you’d be interested in? If so, say hello to the Krämer HKR EVO2, a purpose-built track bike from Germany. Built around KTM’s 690cc single-cylinder engine, which is found in KTM 690 Duke and Husqvarna’s 701 series of bikes, the Krämer HKR EVO2 features a bespoke steel-trellis chassis, custom bodywork, and a host of top-shelf components. The real tasty part about the Krämer HKR EVO2 though is the attention to detail and the purposefulness of its design – take for instance the 12-liter XPE plastic fuel tank that doubles as a subframe, which has integrated crash sliders, and a sighting hole for easy adjustment of the rear shock damping.

Motorcycle Sales in Europe Show Strong Growth

Motorcycle sales in the United States might be tanking, but things are looking fairly positive across the pond in Europe, as the ACEM reports a 4.7% increase in motorcycle sales for Q1 2018, for a total of 203,853 units sold in the first three months of this year. The increase in sales is due to key markets like France (+9.1%), Germany (+1.9%), and the UK (+7.4%) showing good growth, compared to Q1 2017. However, not all the European countries are showing increases in motorcycle sales, with the Czech Republic (-17.3%), Poland (-28.7%), and Austria (-18.9%) pulling the sales growth figure down considerably. Not all segments are growing too. While the big bikes are seeing sales increases, European sales for mopeds are down considerably for Q1 2018 (40.2%), to the tune of a 24,996 unit sales decline over last year.

This Week’s Honda V4 Superbike Rumor

I have to admit, this rumor is more than a week old, as Japanese magazine Young Machine breathed new life into the Honda V4 superbike rumor mill about a month ago. And of course, the reality is that this rumor is much, much older than this tiny fraction of time. If you know your motorcycle news history, talk of a Honda V4 replacement for the CBR1000RR line has existed for almost two decades now…but hey, a broken clock is correct twice a day, right? So what is new from the Land of the Rising sun that we haven’t heard before? The big eye-catching component to this story is that Honda has/had a two-stage upgrade path for the CBR1000RR, of which we are about to see the second phase.

Official: Alta Motors Racing at the 2018 Erzberg Rodeo

We broke the story yesterday, but today the news is officially official: Alta Motors will race in the 2018 Ezerberg Rodeo, which is part of the Red Bull Hard Enduro series. The most grueling and difficult single-day event in motorcycle racing, the Erzberg Rodeo sees 1,500 entires whittled down into what is usually a single-digit summation of race-finishers – and not every year sees a racer cross the finish line – that’s how tough this race is. Racing for Alta Motors will be Ty Tremaine and Lyndon Poskitt, two riders with a lot of off-road experience. For those who don’t recognize those names, Tremaine is currently racing with Alta in the 2018 AMA EnduroCross series, meanwhile Poskitt has previously competed in a number of enduro events, including the Ezberg Rodeo, and most notably just soloed the 2018 Dakar Rally to completion. 

Come Drool Over SERT’s All New Endurance Race Bike

The winningest team in the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team is the standard by which other endurance teams are measured…and that is a measuring stick that has seen a lot of use in recent seasons. This is because the FIM EWC is a hot bed for competition right now, with a bevy of factory-backed teams capable of winning on any race weekend. This has made it tough for SERT, and its riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson, and Gregg Black, who currently sit sixth in the 2018 FIM Endurance World Championship standings. For this season, SERT hopes that a new racing platform will make the difference, as the French team has finally jumped onboard with the current-generation Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Johann Zarco Signs Two-Year Deal with KTM

One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place. Today, KTM announced that they have signed Johann Zarco to a two-year contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. That Zarco would leave the Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad had been widely anticipated, the only question being which factory team he would end up in. The Frenchman was an extremely hot property, after displaying blistering speed on the satellite Yamaha M1 in 2017. Zarco had offers from Suzuki, Repsol Honda, and KTM, though only Honda and KTM were in the frame for the Frenchman. Zarco and his management were still unhappy with the way Suzuki had treated the Frenchman, after the Japanese factory failed to honor a pre-contract Zarco had signed ahead of the 2017 season, choosing Alex Rins instead.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Gets Its First Two Recalls

New model teething issues are always a reality, and it seems that the Ducati Panigale V4 is no exception to the rule. Finding not one, but two issues with the Panigale V4’s fueling system, Italy’s newest superbike is being recalled in the United States. Both recalls seem to affect the full-lot of Panigale V4 models that have made it to US soil thus far this year, which means 692 units (base, S, and Special trim levels) are being recalled for two issues related to the bike’s fuel system. As such, the first recall centers around the breathing system valve plug on the Panigale V4, which might have a fuel leak if the O-ring was damaged during production. Accordingly, the second recall involves the fuel tank cap, which can spray gas when opened, because again of breathing issues within the fuel system.

Are BMW’s Heritage Models Finally Done?

Has BMW Motorrad called it quits for its heritage lineup of motorcycles? That is the rumor at least, and there is some good evidence to support the notion. This is because buried on the 60th turn of BMW’s 260-page annual report for 2017 is the headline: “R nineT family now complete” – a nod that the German brand’s lineup of air-cooled retro-styled motorcycles has reached its zenith and logical conclusion. That makes sense, since there isn’t really a category left of the R nineT family to explore. It has a roadster, a standard, a scrambler, an adventure bike, and a café racer model all in the lineup. No hipster stone has been left unturned. The post-authentic styling trend is over. It’s dead. BMW called it, right? Well…Not so fast.

Up-Close with the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE

At the Grand Prix of the Americas, Aprilia USA debuted a special new superbike for the 2018 model year, the Aprilia RSV4 RF LE. Limited to only 125 units for North America (100 for the USA, 25 for Canada), the big feature of the 2018 Aprilia RSV4 RF LE is the bike’s fairing winglets, which draw from Aprilia Racing’s aerodynamic progress in the MotoGP Championship. Getting a chance to see the new Aprilia RSV4 RF LE in the flesh while in Texas, we grabbed some up-close photos of this limited edition RSV4, for your viewing pleasure, along with some other details. Aprilia’s wings are an interesting development, and a brave new world for production superbike design. For its part too, it seems that Aprilia isn’t quite sure what to make of the development as well, offering us two narratives for the winglets.

A Statue & “Nicky Hayden Day” for Owensboro, KY

05/11/2018 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Nicky Hayden’s hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky is gearing up to honor its local hero, with plans to erect a statue of the Kentucky Kid on the front lawn of the Owensboro Convention Center.

The statue will capture one of Hayden’s most memorable moments, and one of the most iconic images of the MotoGP Legend – his race win at Laguna Seca from the 2006 MotoGP Championship season (shown above).

Just like in the photo, the bronze statue of Hayden will include him holding an actual American flag. And in addition to the statue, the City of Owensboro is also declaring June 9th Nicky Hayden, a reference to Nicky’s racing number: 69.

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WorldSBK at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/20/2017 @ 1:47 pm, by Scott JonesADD COMMENTS

A Tale of Two Americans from Laguna Seca

07/16/2017 @ 7:41 pm, by Andrew KohnADD COMMENTS

Last weekend’s World Superbike race at Laguna Seca was one of mixed emotions for American race fans. On one hand, it was an opportunity to say goodbye to Nicky Hayden, a man who left this life too soon and was revered at this iconic race track.

On the other hand, it was a chance to see another American, Jake Gagne, make his debut in World Superbike as part of the same team of which Hayden was a member.

As I walked around the track, there were tributes to Nicky everywhere. The number 69 was ubiquitous throughout the weekend, with flags, banners, t-shirts, and stickers displayed by proud fans who now miss him so much.

Both Chaz Davies and Toni Elias flew Hayden flags on their respective victory laps; a moving tribute to a man they held in such high esteem.

Additionally, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sponsored a track walk in memory of Nicky. Hundreds of fans lined up to remember Nicky and support the memorial fund that bears his name.

Both American Honda and Laguna Seca had murals, on which fans could leave messages of remembrance for Nicky and words of support for those he left behind. Nicky’s impact on road racing, and American road racing in particular, was obvious throughout the event.

While the memories of Nicky Hayden were palpable throughout the weekend, Jake Gagne quietly went about the business of adapting to a new team, learning a new motorcycle, and racing in a new series.

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I’ve just spent the last three days shuffling around in my car, so apologies for the delay, but here is my final installment of photos (don’t miss Friday & Saturday too) from the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca, which were taken during Sunday’s warm-up session.

I caught the riders at Turn 11, the slow left-hander that brings them onto the front straight, hoping to get a particular shot where their bodies would be in transition back into the saddle, while the bike would also be power-wheeling out of the turn.

In other words, I have quite a few different takes on the same scene, which might be visually a bit boring. What is interesting though is the subtle details from rider to rider. 

For instance, it was noticeable to see Jake Gagne struggling with the bucking Honda CBR1000RR SP2, which seemed much more apt to loft the front wheel, due to having more rudimentary electronics. Conversely, the Ducatis and Kawasakis were well in control, slowly lifting and never getting out of shape.

How the riders deal with these differences is of note as well, so take notice of the body positioning, especially with where their butts are in the saddle. Interesting stuff. Until next year, and thanks for viewing.

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The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

07/13/2017 @ 10:07 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS

After Laguna Seca, the future of World Superbike was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer, though.

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city, but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status quo. 

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera, and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading.

It's always easier to swim with the tide, but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive and making the wrong decision.

Since Imola, the WorldSBK paddock has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec-ECU, will there be concessions for different manufacturer, will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams?

The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

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Ducati CEO Dishes on V4 Superbike Details

07/10/2017 @ 10:03 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Talking to Asphalt & Rubber at the launch of the Ducati 1299 Panigale Final Edition, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali gave us some details on the Italian company’s upcoming, and long-awaited, V4 superbike.

Much has already been speculated and rumored about the successor to the v-twin Panigale, but Domenicali paints a pretty clear picture of what we can expect to see unveiled at the upcoming EICMA show, in Milan.

The big news is perhaps not the fact that Ducati is moving to a four-cylinder format for its superbike program (though that is big news indeed), but instead the focus should be on what is inside the V4 engine, and how it operates. 

Talking during the WorldSBK weekend at Laguna Seca, he also teased us with some news on a few other upcoming Ducati motorcycles, which should start a new chapter for the Italian brand.

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Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

07/10/2017 @ 9:55 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

By my nature, I am a critical person. This isn’t exactly a desirable personality trait, but it serves me well in my chosen profession. Accordingly, I rarely ever use words like “perfect” or “flawless” when describing something. It’s just not in my nature.

From my lens, there is always room for improvement. But, when it comes to seeing the Suter MMX 500 up-close and in person, I had to rethink my usual choice of words. I will sidestep superlatives and simply say that the Suter MMX 500 is a true rider’s motorcycle.

On the Suter MMX 500, there are no electronic rider aids, no ride-by-wire throttles, no kickstands, mirrors, or lights. There is nothing on this machine that doesn’t serve a purpose, and the only acceptable purpose is to go as fast as possible.

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Saturday at Laguna Seca, I spent my time working the fence line from Turn 1 to Turn 2, catching the World Superbike riders as they came down the harrowing fast T1 section, before hitting the double-apex that is T2 – also known as the Andretti Hairpin.

Turn 1 is easily the fastest part of the Californian track, and it is a section of tarmac where the MotoGP riders would get both wheels off the ground…at nearly full lean. The WorldSBK machines don’t quite hit the same speeds at the GP bikes, but don’t be fooled – this is a corner that separates the men from the boys.

Turn 2 on the other hand is one of the slowest places at Laguna Seca, as riders make a double-apex turn out of the left-hander, and then accelerate to Turn 3 – often popping a wheelie in the process.

If T1 shows a rider’s mettle, T2 shows a bike’s prowess, and it is plain for everyone to see who has their electronics dialed, and who does not.

The juxtaposition of these two turns was my playground for FP3, while I spent both Superpole sessions in pit lane, shooting the front straight and team pit boxes. Meanwhile for the race, I chose to shoot the grid, as it meant I could still watch the racing action from the media center.

I hope you enjoy these high-resolution shots from my Saturday at Laguna Seca.

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Laguna Seca WorldSBK Debrief – Sunday

07/10/2017 @ 12:02 am, by Kent BrockmanADD COMMENTS