Valentino Rossi’s Special Yamaha XJR1300 Flat Tracker

It is good to be Valentino Rossi. Not only do you have nine world championships to your name, legions of yellow-crazy fans, but you also get pretty nice gifts from your friends. Take “Mya” for example – a special Yamaha XJR1300 custom flat tracker that the folks at VR|46 built for their fearless leader. Now, when you think about bikes that should be the basis for a custom project, the Yamaha XJR1300 doesn’t exactly come to mind. It probably doesn’t help that this decades-old model is only Euro3 compliant, and set to sunset at the end of this year. The XJ1300 certainly doesn’t strike us as the appropriate starting point for a flat track bike either, especially with its 530 lbs weight figure. That all being said, the VR|46 crew have done a pretty good job of spiffing up the old girl.

That Suzuki Katana 3.0 Concept Though…

One of the less-publicized motorcycles on display at this year’s EICMA show was this Suzuki Katana concept, which has since been making the rounds on social media. Rightfully so, we would say, as the “Katana 3.0” is a very intriguing idea into how Suzuki can revitalize one of its most iconic names. A creation by the folks at Motociclismo, with the help of designer Rodolfo Frascoli and Engines Engineering, the Katana 3.0 concept isn’t the “official” concept that many had hoped for from Suzuki. However, the fact that Suzuki hosted the concept inside its EICMA display is a sign that the Japanese manufacturer is certainly listening to the feeback the bike generates.

The KTM 790 Duke’s Killer Feature? Its Price Tag

The KTM 790 Duke launches a new platform for the Austrian brand, based around an 800cc parallel-twin engine. As such, we already know that we can expect the twin-cylinder platform to spawn an adventure version of the bike, with the KTM 790 Adventure R prototype debuting at EICMA as well. We can also expect other “790” models in the coming years, both from KTM and likely from Husqvarna as well. That is a good thing, because the KTM 790 Duke is a potent bike, rich with features. The real kicker though – if early indications about the pricing can be believed – is the KTM 790 Duke’s price tag, as KTM has been quoted as pricing the 790 Duke at below €10,000. This would put US pricing around the $11,000 mark, if not cheaper.

The Three Big Trends That We Saw at EICMA

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.

ARCH Motorcycle’s Next Bike Won’t Be a Cruiser

ARCH Motorcycle is in Italy right now, and they just took the wraps off three bikes, one of which isn’t so much a cruiser, as it is a naked roadster model. Built using carbon fiber MonoCell chassis technology, a building technique usually reserved for ultra high-end sport cars and Formula 1 racing chassis, the ARCH Method143 features a potent 143ci (2,343) v-twin engine. Though, instead of the performance cruiser layout the company is better known for, the ARCH Method143 will have mid-body rearsets for the feet, and clip-on handlebars for the hands, making for a very sporty riding position. Backing up that notion is the use of Öhlins suspension, which includes a proprietary Öhlins FGRT series front fork with carbon fiber airfoil covers.

No One Seemed to Notice that the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR Is New for the 2018 Model Year

We had to search high and low for information about the 2018 MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR – it doesn’t help that MV Agusta’s press site is offline right now – but it seems just about every news publication missed the fact that this attractive roadster got some serious changes for the 2018 model year. These unnoticed changes certainly are partially due to the fact that MV Agusta went without a press introduction at this year’s EICMA show, but it is also due to the company’s never-ending line of “bold new graphics” changes, one-off customs, and special livery designs, which only muddy the waters for when actual changes occur.

Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe Brings Modern to Retro

Kawasaki made an impression at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, debuting the new Z900RS standard. The premise was simple there: take the potent Kawasaki Z900 street bike, and dress it in retro clothing. The effect was something that looked incredibly like the Kawasaki Zephyr of old, but with modern brakes, suspension, traction control, and even a slipper-assist clutch. Now we see that Team Green plans on already expanding the line, debuting today the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja Z900RS Cafe. Basically the Z900RS with a bikini fairing, this modern café racer should be a perfect fit for those riders that want an older looking motorcycle that doesn’t run like an older looking motorcycle. Mostly a visual exercise, the basic stats of the Z900RS Cafe don’t stray too far from the donor bike from whence it came.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Debuts with Track Goodies

For the 2018 model year, Kawasaki continues to develop its superbike package. As such, the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE brings some special new features, to earn those extra letters after its name. The big addition is the new Showa electronic suspension, which is the only semi-active suspension system on motorcycles that includes built-in stroke sensors. These stroke sensors are able to measure the movement of the fork and shock internals, allowing Showa’s suspension to measure and change its damping settings on the fly, as you ride. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE also gets the forged aluminum wheels found on Kawasaki’s homologation-spec superbike, the Ninja ZX-10RR, which should help the Ninja ZX-10R SE feel more nimble on the race track, despite its 459 lbs wet weight.

So Many Photos of the New KTM 790 Duke to Drool Over

We are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the new KTM 790 Duke is the bike of this year’s EICMA show. Making a potent 105hp from its 799cc parallel-twin engine, packed into a 418 lbs (wet)steel trellis body, the 2018 KTM 790 Duke brings a host of features to the middleweight sport bike category. In typical KTM fashion, the 790 Duke left no angle behind in its high school honors geometry course, and the LED headlight builds upon the common design features that KTM has been putting together on its street-going machines. Not quite the vision that was the KTM 790 Duke prototype, the production model still evokes the same emotions, and is handsome in its own right – allaying our fears when seeing spy shots of the machine.

Mega Gallery: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

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.

More Photos from the Laguna Seca WorldSBK Weekend

07/23/2017 @ 11:53 pm, by Andrew KohnComments Off on More Photos from the Laguna Seca WorldSBK Weekend

WorldSBK at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

07/20/2017 @ 1:47 pm, by Scott JonesComments Off on WorldSBK at Laguna Seca with Scott Jones

A Tale of Two Americans from Laguna Seca

07/16/2017 @ 7:41 pm, by Andrew KohnComments Off on A Tale of Two Americans from Laguna Seca

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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Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Sunday by Jensen Beeler

07/13/2017 @ 1:02 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Sunday by Jensen Beeler

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 BrockmanComments Off on The Herculean Task of Fixing World Superbike

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 BeelerComments Off on Ducati CEO Dishes on V4 Superbike Details

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 BeelerComments Off on Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

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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Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Saturday by Jensen Beeler

07/10/2017 @ 12:31 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Laguna Seca WSBK Photos – Saturday by Jensen Beeler

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 BrockmanComments Off on Laguna Seca WorldSBK Debrief – Sunday

WorldSBK Race Results from Laguna Seca – Race 2

07/09/2017 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on WorldSBK Race Results from Laguna Seca – Race 2