Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

Rumors and reports continue to swirl around Ducati, as the Italian manufacturer is linked to one brand or another for a potential divestiture from the Volkswagen Group. And now, the latest name being thrown into the hat is none other than iconic American brand Harley-Davidson. In a report by Reuters, Harley-Davidson is linked to buying Ducati by unnamed sources, with a purchase price that is pegged around €1.5 billion, a number that has been put together by the bean-counting minds at Goldman Sachs. Volkswagen is said to be taking bids on Ducati this July, which means the fate of the Italian motorcycle brand could be decided by the end of this year.

Beauty Is Wedging an RZ350 Motor into an RS250 Frame

I am about to ruin your day, because I am going to show you something that you will want very badly, but can’t have. It is what happens when you have the best of both worlds. It is the two-wheeled version of having your cake and eating it too. This machine is called the Yamaprilia, and as the name implies, it is a mashup of the Yamaha RZ350 and the Aprilia RS250. Using the two-stroke, twin-cylinder engine from the RZ350, and the twin-spar aluminum chassis of the RS250, owner Gareth Evans is looking for the best of both worlds. The build is an interesting one – and is featured by our friends at BikeEXIF – as it involves Evans fabricating more than a few parts himself – something that is easier to do when you have a background in mechanical engineering, like Evans does.

The Ducati Panigale R and Its Carbon “Wheel Cover”

While everyone else seems to be turning a blind eye to aerodynamics, Ducati continues to be the brand pushing the aero envelope with its designs. As such, World Superbike fans may have seen this weekend that Chaz Davies was sporting a unique rear end, as Ducati Corse continues to experiment with a lenticular wheel setup. A piece of technology borrowed mostly from cycling, the carbon fiber disc “wheel cover” provides a more slippery surface for the wind to flow over, than the chaos that comes from a spinning spoked wheel on a motorcycle. Ducati has played with a lenticular wheel before, with Michele Pirro sporting the design in the recent MotoGP testing season.

Pirelli Responds to WorldSBK Tire Woes with Change

The Misano round of WorldSBK was dominated by talk of tires. As such, following a weekend fraught with failures, Pirelli will revert to an older specification of tire for the Laguna Seca round. The move sees Pirelli at a crossroads, after a series of high profile incidents during the scorching weekend in Italy. This includes Michael van der Mark’s crash from the lead of Saturday’s race, after a tire failure saw the Dutch rider robbed of his chance to claim his first podium for Yamaha. One has to remember too, Jonathan Rea also crashed out of the lead at the previous round in Donington Park, as it was a shock to see the previously robust Pirelli fail once again.

Oh My, The “Miracle Mike” Is One Tasty Indian Scout Build

That’s it. Hell must be freezing over, as I just had to mop up the floor after looking at photos of a cruiser. What you see here is called the “Miracle Mike” and it is the creation of the minds at Young Guns Speed Shop. The bike is built off the Indian Scout, an affordable entry-level cruiser that boasts pretty good performance for its $10,000 price tag, but is generally a pass for anyone that likes leaning more than 31°. Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we’ve had a bit of time on both the Scout and its sibling, the Victory Octane, and found the models to be potent, but in need of a better gearbox and front brakes…and a serious diet wouldn’t hurt too. The Swiss minds at Young Guns seemed to think the same, making smart improvements to the Indian Scout for their creation. And heck, a little nitrous “go juice” never hurts, right?

In Search of the Ultimate Motorcycle Paddock Stand…

Here is something interesting that popped up in my social media feed recently (see, online maketing does work!), which I thought was worthy of sharing with Asphalt & Rubber readers, as I am in search of the ultimate set of paddock stands for my fleet of motorcycles. Dynamoto is a new brand name in the age-old paddock stand business. It is rare to see new things in this space, but the folks at Dynamoto seem to have an interesting concept, as its a bike lift that can move freely around the garage with the bike still on it, using a novel dual-axis wheel design. If your garage is as choked full with motorcycles as mine is, being able to move a bike easily, especially on a service stand, is a valuable ability to have. Dynamoto seems to have this very need in its mind with its clever design, though their design does have its flaws.

2018 Yamaha YZ450F Debuts with Tuner App

Not one to let the other brands have all the fun, Yamaha has debuted its all new 450cc class motocross bike, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, which features the first engine tuning app available for a production MX bike. The new Yamaha YZ450F is truly an all-new machine, with a new engine, frame, and bodywork. For bonus points too, the new YZ450F comes with an electric starter, which means MX riders can now skip leg day at the gym, and still get their bikes running on race day. Available in July, in either “Team Yamaha Blue” or “White” color schemes, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F will cost $9,199 MSRP. This price includes the onboard communication control unit (CCU), which allows the rider to connect to the bike via smartphone.

Pikes Peak Gets EMT Motorcycles from Ducati

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is rapidly approaching, and the iconic “Race to the Clouds” continues to mature, despite this year being its 95th running. Helping mitigate the safety issues that come with racing on the mountain’s 156 turns is Ducati North America, which already supports racer mentoring with the Squadra Alpina program. Now, Pikes Peak is taking another step forward. Again with the help of Ducati North America, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will have emergency first-responders on motorcycles. This is a page taken straight out of the Isle of Man TT, where traveling marshals move by sport bike between checkpoints, and are often the first medical personnel on the scene of a crash.

More Photos and Details of the MV Agusta RVS #1

Yesterday we showed you the MV Agusta RVS #1, the first creation from the Italian marque’s Reparto Veicoli Speciali program, which is making limited run machines out of MV Agusta models. Reparto Veicoli Speciali comes straight out of the Castiglioni Research Center, MV Agusta’s design studio, and this division will focus solely on making dedicated bikes for special customers. One bike, one customer, is the premise. The RVS #1 might bear familiar lines to the MV Agusta Brutale 800, but this machine is hand-built and features the most powerful three-cylinder engine in MV Agusta’s lineup, with 150 hp coming from the 350 lbs (and Euro IV compliant) machine.

The Updated 2018 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto Debuts

Husqvarna continues to be the only motorcycle manufacturer with a race-ready supermoto, straight from the factory, and what a machine it is, the Husqvarna FS 450. For the 2018 model year, the Swedish brand has added more updates for the Husqvarna FS 450, keeping it at the pointy end of technology. The big changes come in the form of a new slipper clutch from Suter, and brand that any MotoGP team should be familiar with, along with a new map switch control on the handlebar, which continues to toggle on and off the bike’s traction control, dual engine maps, and launch control features. The last change of note for the 2018 model year that Husqvarna wants us to share is that fact that there is a new graphics package…this year, the seat is blue.

Why Crutchlow’s Aero Fairing Is Not a New Fairing

06/24/2017 @ 1:43 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Just how clever has Honda been with its fairings? At Assen, Cal Crutchlow spent Friday going back and forth between bikes with and without the addition of aerodynamic side pods on the outside of the fairing.

That led to some confusion among the media. Had Honda homologated the aerodynamic fairing already? Or was this something new?

I went to see Danny Aldridge to ask what the situation was, and the MotoGP technical director explained the situation.

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Friday MotoGP Summary at Assen: Fast Yamahas, Unstable Bikes, & Aerodynamic Loopholes

06/24/2017 @ 1:21 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

MotoGP got off to an inauspicious start at Assen. Just a couple of minutes into FP1 on Friday morning, the red flags were already out.

The cause? Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 had started spewing oil all over the track on his out lap, causing first Jonas Folger to take a massive tumble through the gravel at Duikersloot. It also took down Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

“I felt some movement a few corners before,” Folger said of his crash. “I had a highside, and then the bike hit me as well.” After a brief check up at the Medical Center, Folger was sent on his way again.

Fortunately for the Tech 3 rider, it took the best part of half an hour to clean up the oil left on the track by Dovizioso, so he had plenty of time to get back to the garage and get ready again.

Surprisingly, the crash left him with few ill consequences. Folger was able to get back out, and build up his confidence again. So much so, in fact, that he ended the day as second fastest, with only a masterful Maverick Viñales ahead of him.

Where had his speed come from? Confidence mainly. He had gained confidence from the past couple of rounds, and especially at Barcelona. Being fastest during warm up in Barcelona, and seeing Marc Márquez struggle to match his pace had given Folger a boost.

This, and working out that he needed to brake later, had made a world of difference.

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Cal Crutchlow Signs Two-Year Deal with HRC

06/21/2017 @ 12:37 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Cal Crutchlow is to stay with the LCR Honda team for the next two years. The Englishman’s contract is part of a new deal between HRC and LCR, which will see Honda supply Honda RC213Vs to the LCR Honda team for the next two seasons, and signs Crutchlow directly to HRC, rather than LCR.

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MotoGP Silly Season Begins – Who Goes Where in 2018?

06/20/2017 @ 4:22 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

With all twelve factory riders on two-year contracts, there wasn’t supposed to be a MotoGP Silly Season in 2017, or at least, not much of one. That impression was further reinforced when the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad quickly tied up both Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger for an extra year, until the end of 2018.

As usual, reality intervened, of course. Though the factory seats were supposedly taken, there was plenty of interest in the satellite seats once the season got underway.

All eyes turned to the Moto2 class, and especially to the remarkable performances by Franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia. Alex Márquez, too, raised eyebrows. And so speculation started.

Then there were those factory seats. Yes, all twelve factory riders have two-year contracts, but all contracts have clauses that allow for either side to make an early escape.

Great managers make sure the escape clause benefits their rider. Great factory lawyers make sure the contract is in their favor. The measure of a rider manager is where they end up on that side of the equation.

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Friday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: The Last Waltz?

06/10/2017 @ 2:25 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

There are a lot of reasons to visit Barcelona. It is one of the greatest cities in the world, a triumph of the architectural movement known as Modernisme, a vibrant center of culture, a place where you can eat, drink, and sleep well, after a day spent gazing mouth agape at some of the most remarkable buildings created by human hands, and human minds.

Once upon a time, the Montmelo circuit was also a good reason to visit the city. A track full of fast, sweeping corners challenging riders and bikes in equal measure.

That was before the aging asphalt turned the track greasy in the summer heat, and the repeated abuse from fat F1 tires left the surface rippled and bumpy, cracked and patched.

Tragedy struck with the death of Luis Salom – probably the victim of a wayward bump sending him flying towards a patch of gravel-free run off – and the Safety Commission (consisting of MotoGP riders, Dorna, and the FIM) decided to neuter the second half of the track, removing one of the fastest and most furious final sections on the calendar. There is little left to love about Montmelo.

I asked several riders whether it would be possible to race in Montmelo next year if the track had not been resurfaced. The response was unanimous. “No.”

Worse than that, Bradley Smith explained how the Safety Commission had grown impatient with the circuit, which has been singularly unresponsive to their requests to adapt the track to make it safer. Hopefully, MotoGP would not return, Smith told us bluntly.

“That’s finally what it comes down to. This is the only track on the calendar that’s not actually reacting to Safety Commission / rider / organizer’s requests. So at some point, you have to give them an ultimatum, and I think that this is the last year that they’ll be in that situation. We have enough people that want us to go race there, we don’t have to come here.”

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Thursday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: First Shots Sounded in Satellite Silly Season

06/08/2017 @ 11:21 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Last year, at Jerez or thereabouts, I had a chat with Livio Suppo about the insanely early start to MotoGP’s Silly Season that year.

Suppo bemoaned the fact that so many riders were switching factories so early, with contracts signed as early as Qatar (in the case of Bradley Smith and Valentino Rossi), and the ensuing hullabaloo surrounding Jorge Lorenzo, and whence he was bound.

“Normally, we start talking after a few races, in Mugello or so,” Suppo said. “You want a few races to see how strong a rider is.”

While last year’s Silly Season was nearing its close at Mugello last year, it seems that 2017 is taking a slightly more normal trajectory. This year, Mugello may have seen the early conversations, which kick off the period where riders discuss their future options.

And Barcelona was the first race where they started to discuss – or more accurately, hint at – those options publicly.

Why is this year’s Silly Season so much later (or so much more normal) than last year’s? Put simply, it’s because last year, every single factory rider was out of contract, and every factory seat was up for grabs.

This year, all the factory seats are still taken for 2018 (or at least, unless a factory boss decides that one of their riders is grossly underperforming), and there are only the satellite bikes at stake.

Fewer seats are available, and those which are available have less money attached, and less chance of competing for podiums and victories. All that combined leads to a lower sense of urgency when it comes to negotiations.

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MotoGP Preview of the Catalan GP

06/08/2017 @ 12:40 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

From Mugello to Barcelona, with, in most cases, nary a chance in between to head home and wash your smalls. It used to be that the trip from Mugello to Barcelona was a chance to see MotoGP race back-to-back at two of the great motorcycle racing circuits.

Now, it’s one and a half great circuits, with a nadgery little section tagged on at the end to slow everything down. Or as Marc Márquez described it in Mugello, “You arrive [at Montmelo] and you know that it’s kind of two different tracks: the first part is really fast and wide, the last part tight and slow.”

What was a temporary fix to solve the immediate issues exposed by the tragic death of Luis Salom last year – one year on, the paddock will doubtless be full of memorials to the bright young Spaniard – has been turned into a rather horrible bodge job.

The fast sweeper of Turn 12, where Salom fell and found himself on an unexpected trajectory across asphalt, and not gravel which would have slowed him down, is replaced by an even tighter and shorter chicane than last year, made so because of the proximity of the walls on the inside of the F1 chicane used last year.

It is a tragedy – I use that word advisedly, as it cannot compare with the loss of a young man’s life – to sacrifice one of the great sections of a motorcycling track.

But it is also an inevitable consequence of Grand Prix motorcycles getting ever faster, being able to brake later, carry more corner speed. The progress in motorcycle development is pushing their performance beyond the capacity of race tracks to safely host that performance.

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Mugello: Il Canto Degli Italiani

06/05/2017 @ 1:46 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Each MotoGP event has its own character. Ostensibly, most Grand Prix are the national races of a particular country. The Grand Prix of Great Britain. The Czech Grand Prix. The Grand Prix of The Americas.

Most, however, are only the national Grand Prix by virtue of taking place in a particular country. A few, a very few, are much more than that.

There are only really two races which fully embody the national character of the country which holds them though: the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and of course, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

This year, Mugello was rendered even more Italian by virtue of the fact that it started on the Festa della Repubblica, the day on which Italy celebrates its founding as a republic at the end of the Second World War. It was a moment for Italian teams and Italian riders to break out Tricolore-themed liveries and helmets.

The Sky VR46 team added a tasteful green, white, and red pinstripe to their mainly black fairings. The Forward Racing team clad their bikes and riders in a particularly well-done green, white, and red fairing and leathers.

Valentino Rossi added a homage to an Italian soccer legend which was only really comprehensible to those steeped in the Italian language and Italian sport.

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MotoGP Preview of the Italian GP

06/01/2017 @ 2:05 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

There are a lot of reasons to love Mugello. First, there is the setting: a dramatic backdrop of Tuscan peaks and dales. A place so fecund you need only stretch out your arm to grasp the riches of the earth: nuts, fruit, wild mushrooms, stag and boar.

To the south, Florence, one of the marvels of the Renaissance and a city so beautiful it breaks your heart to look upon it alone. At every bend in the road on the way to the circuit, the view takes your breath away. And there are a lot of bends. Hypoxia is a real concern.

Then there’s the track itself. It snakes across the landscape like a discarded shoelace, a thin filament of tarmac hugging the hillsides of the valley into which the track is wedged.

It has everything a motorcycle track needs to make it truly majestic: long, fast corners like the Arrabbiatas; fast combinations like Casanova/Savelli or Scarperia/Palagio; a terrifyingly fast front straight where the braking point is blind; and a corner where front brakes and front tires are tortured, as riders dump their speed into San Donato.

No pass at Mugello is ever a done deal, there is always an opportunity to counterattack. No bike has outright superiority at the track, for the nature of motorcycle dynamics is compromise, and each manufacturer chooses to make their compromises in different areas.

Mugello rewards only perfection, and perfection is almost impossible to sustain for 23 laps at such blistering speeds.

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Le Mans: An Age of Champions

05/22/2017 @ 12:04 am, by David EmmettComments Off on Sunday MotoGP Summary at Le Mans: An Age of Champions

It sucks being the best rider in the world. Just as you believe you have everything under control and can dominate your rivals, along comes some jumped up kid with ideas above his station, determined to administer a king-sized kicking to your behind.

That kid has answers to all the tricks you learned to use to beat your rivals, and now you have to reinvent yourself, push harder than you wanted just to stay in the game.

Back in 1998, for example, a cocky Italian swaggered into the 500cc class and threatened the supremacy of Mick Doohan. Doohan finished Max Biaggi off at the end of that year, but he had to dig deep.

After Doohan retired, another cocky Italian took his place to rough Biaggi up, just as the Roman Emperor thought he owned the premier class. After a string of titles, Valentino Rossi, the cocky Italian in question, found himself facing a couple of rookies giving him real trouble.

Casey Stoner beat him at the second time of asking in 2007, then Jorge Lorenzo took the fight to him inside Rossi’s own team, getting the better of him in 2010.

Just as Lorenzo was settling in to take what he considered as his rightful place atop the MotoGP pile, along came a cheeky-faced Spanish youngster on a record-breaking spree, winning his second race and the title at his first attempt.

After winning two titles in a row, then an impressive third last year, Marc Márquez suddenly finds himself grappling with an improbably fast Yamaha rider with steel in his soul and the name of a warrior (albeit a fictional one).

And in addition to Maverick Viñales, Márquez has to contend with Johann Zarco, who has sprung from Moto2 like a jack-in-the-box, scaring the living daylights out of the regulars.

This is the circle of racing. Every racing series is in a state of permanent revolution, where the newcomers dream up new ways of usurping the established riders, and the old guard have to adapt or die.

The moment you get comfortable is the moment your era has passed. The ultimate reward for being top dog is to ride around with a massive target on your back.

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