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.

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking.

In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways.

In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa’s brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden’s championship challenge was over.

Valentino Rossi’s heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time.

Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia.

The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship.

And Sunday’s drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn’t finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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Andrea Dovizioso’s manager arrived in Le Mans on Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon, the Italian had a new two-year contract with Ducati, provisional pole after FP2, and a new lap record.

Not a bad start to the weekend, and a harbinger of good things to come, you might think. This is after all not particularly a Ducati track, yet here he was, on top of the timesheets.

Perhaps having his future settled helped, but Dovizioso has been an expert at excluding distractions from his race weekends.

The simple fact is that the Ducati man was quick at Jerez, and is quick here, because he is in good form, and the bike is working really well. Dovizioso heads into qualifying feeling confident.

But there is a fly in the ointment, and it is Márquez-shaped, as always. Dovizioso had been pretty quick throughout the first part of FP2, just a couple of tenths behind the leader Márquez.

Then in his final run, he fitted a new soft rear slick, dropped six tenths of a second off his best time and set a new lap record around Le Mans. It was an impressive showing of blistering speed.

Dovizioso had demoted Marc Márquez to second place, yet that still left Dovizioso much to fear. Márquez may have been nearly two tenths faster than Dovizioso, but Dovizioso had set his quickest lap on a new soft rear with just four laps on it.

Márquez had set his best time on an old hard rear tire with twelve laps on it. In terms of outright race pace, Márquez looks very hard to beat.

But it is still only Friday, and the difference between the soft and the hard rear tires is not as great as you might think.

After all, Dovizioso had set a 1’32.562 on an old soft tire with nineteen laps on it, or about two-thirds race distance. Race pace for both Dovizioso and Márquez looks to be very strong indeed.

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For the past decade or so, Le Mans has been a Yamaha track, with Yamaha riders taking seven wins in the last ten races. The answer to whether that situation can continue or is simple: it depends. Maybe a Yamaha can win at Le Mans on Sunday. Or maybe another bike will take victory here instead.

That answer is generic almost to the point of meaninglessness, but beneath it lies a kernel of truth. The first four races in MotoGP have taught us a few lessons which point to who and what could do the winning on Sunday.

The more precise answer? If a Yamaha is going to win, it is more likely to be be the Tech3 bike of Johann Zarco, rather than the factory Movistar machines of Valentino Rossi or Maverick Viñales.

If a Yamaha doesn’t win, then the Ducatis are in with a much better chance than you might expect, with Andrea Dovizioso and, who knows?, maybe even Jorge Lorenzo in with a shout.

But the lesson of the first four races of 2018 is that the most likely outcome on Sunday is that a Honda will win, and probably a Honda in the hands of Marc Márquez. That is clearly what most of the riders felt on Sunday.

The one recurring theme that came back from riders on every competing manufacturer was that they were both impressed and feared how much the Honda has improved since last year.

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MotoGP Preview of the French GP

05/16/2018 @ 8:07 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

In a city where no sporting event is taken seriously if it lasts any less than 24 hours – Le Mans even has a literary festival that features 24-hour readings – MotoGP feels slightly out of place.

Yet over 100,000 fans come to watch what is surely the greatest motorized show on earth, flocking to what remains a legendary racing venue, despite the fact that MotoGP runs on the much shorter, tighter Bugatti circuit rather than the full length layout used by the 24-hour car race.

The race is very much a throwback to the past. The atmosphere is different to almost every other race: there is a constant edge, a sense of danger lurking just below the surface.

Some revel in that excitement, others – myself included – grow tired at spending the evening wondering if you will make it out of the track alive if you leave after dark. If Quentin Tarantino directed a movie about MotoGP, he would set it at Le Mans.

The track may be rather tight and stop and go, but it presents a unique and fascinating challenge.

Just making it through the Dunlop Chicane after the blisteringly fast first corner at Dunlop Curve is an achievement at the start, and it remains a favorite passing place throughout the race.

The downhill right hander at La Chapelle can be treacherous, as can Musee, the long left hander which follows.

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There is a lot to love about the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As an event, it is fantastic: the facilities at the track are great, the city of Austin is a wonderful place to visit, with a lively party atmosphere downtown, and a million other things to do.

The landscape the track sits on is great for spectators, and the surrounding countryside is charming.

It is a race the riders love, and they have grown to love the track. “I like this track very much, it’s very good,” Valentino Rossi says of the Circuit of the Americas. “It’s good to ride because it’s very difficult, you have emotional corners, so it’s good.”

The bumps around the track have made it much tougher to ride, but the layout is still a favorite among many of the MotoGP paddock. It is highly technical and has a bit of everything: hard braking, hard acceleration, fast corners, slow corners, flowing combinations of corners which reward precision.

As great at the track is, it still produces rather lackluster races. The average margin of victory over all six editions has been 3.458 seconds, and that is discounting the time lost to the inevitable easing off to celebrate in the certain knowledge that victory is in the bag.

The gap has never been under 1.5 seconds, and there has never been a closely fought battle for victory, or even the podium spots, in the history of racing at the track. The result of the MotoGP race in Austin is usually set in stone before the halfway mark.

Even the normally mental Moto3 races are decided by seconds rather than hundredths. Only two of the six Moto3 races run so far were won by a margin of less than a second.

In Moto2, the winning margin has only once been under two seconds. That was in 2015, when Sam Lowes beat Johann Zarco by 1.999 seconds. The result in Moto2 has never been close.

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Marc Marquez Makes His Mark at the Americas GP

04/24/2018 @ 11:54 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

At the core of every great sport is great storytelling. Mighty heroes take one another on, and overcome insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of glory.

The leather patches, helmet designs, and in in the current fashion conscious age, tattoos in motorcycle racing bear this out: everywhere you look are nothing to loses, against all odds’, and never give ups.

Motorcycle racing has so many truly great story lines that it doesn’t need any artificial plot twists or turns to hold the viewer’s interest.

Sometimes, though, it feels like the script writer for MotoGP gets a bit lazy. The hero whose efforts went unrewarded at one race goes on to win the next race. The villain of the piece one weekend immediately gets his comeuppance the following week.

The plot lines are so self-evident and obvious that it they become more cheap made-for-TV melodrama than a grand sweeping blockbuster the sport deserves. It’s all just a little bit too obvious.

So it was on Saturday in Austin. The story of the day had been telegraphed two weeks ago in Argentina: the reigning world champion Marc Márquez made a stupid mistake on the grid before the start of the race, then turned into a one-man crime spree trying to make up for the ground he had lost, culminating in a collision with his arch rival Valentino Rossi, reigniting the slumbering war which has existed between the two since the 2015 season.

Two weeks later, at the regular meeting of the Safety Commission, where the riders meet the series organizers to discuss how to improve the safety of the sport, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta promises that in future, the penalties handed down by the FIM Panel of Stewards would be more severe, to try to prevent a repeat of the reckless actions such as those committed by Marc Márquez at Termas De Rio Hondo.

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Maverick Viñales got some vindication today from the FIM MotoGP Stewards, as the rules committee handed Marc Marquez a three-position grid penalty for Sunday’s Americas GP.

The ruling comes after Marquez slowed on the racing line, and effectively blocked a charging Viñales, who was on his way to a then pole-setting lap time.

As such, the move means that Viñales will takeover the pole-position starting spot from Marquez, with Iannone and Zarco completing the front row, in that order.

Doing the math, Marquez will then obviously start from the fourth position, four meters directly behind the man he obstructed.

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There was good news and bad news for the MotoGP paddock after the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas.

The good news is that the work done to the track to try to remove the bumps had not made the track much more abrasive, as some had feared. Tires are wearing normally, so pit stops or worse will not be needed.

The bad news is that the work done to try to remove the bumps has not done anything to remove the bumps. It has moved them about a little, improved them in some places, made them worse in others, but the net effect has been zero, or worse than zero.

What’s worse, the process used has generated a huge amount of dust, bikes coming down the back straight billowing clouds of dust in their wake.

“It’s worse than Qatar,” Jack Miller said. “I said to the guys, ‘I hope you’ve got the air filter in from Qatar, because you’re going to need it’.”

At the first race of the season, the teams have to run a special air filter to prevent the desert dust from entering the engine and causing excessive wear. “The dust is far worse than Qatar, it’s that crappy concrete dust,” Miller explained.

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