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.

Paddock Pass Podcast #55 – Dutch TT

06/28/2017 @ 11:07 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 55 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison back on the mics, as they cover the Grand Prix racing’s stop in The Netherlands, for the Dutch TT.

The longest-running round in the MotoGP Championship, Assen always provides good racing for fans, and this year was no different. Assen was also the stage for Valentino Rossi’s return to winning form, with the Italian taking his first race win in over a year.

The results of the Dutch TT have big consequences for the MotoGP Championship, and Assen also gave us our first glimpse into the growing rift between Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, inside the Yamaha team.

Per usual, once the MotoGP talk is done, the conversation turns to the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, before the guys talk about their winners and losers of the two weekends.

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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MotoGP Preview of the Dutch TT

06/22/2017 @ 11:46 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

For the first ten years I spent writing previews for the Dutch TT at Assen, I would start have to start of on a tangent, with a brief summary of the schisms and splits of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Without the background to the religious topology of The Netherlands, it is hard to explain why the race was held on Saturday. Last year, when the MotoGP race was held on a Sunday for the first time, I had to recap that, to explain why it was a big deal for the race to be held on Sunday, and to be moved from Saturday.

This year, 2017, I can leave aside the history of Dutch Protestantism and its aversion to any activity on the Sabbath. This will be the second time the race will be held on Sunday, and so the novelty of the change has worn off.

It has fallen in line with the rest of the calendar, and so it is just another race weekend, same as any other. Although of course, being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

If anything, the switch from having a Saturday race to a Sunday race has been a positive boon. Though some feared the traditionalists would stay away, offended by change, visitor numbers were up last year, especially on Friday and Saturday.

More people came for the race as well, despite taking place in an absolute downpour. Over 105,000 fans packed a flooded Assen, because being Assen, it is still something a bit special.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #54 – Italian & Catalan GP

06/15/2017 @ 11:55 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 54 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison doing double duty, as they cover the last two rounds for the MotoGP Championship’s – the Italian GP and the Catalan GP.

The show’s focal point is obviously the double-win for Ducati Corse and Andrea Dovizioso, as the Italians are clearly finding their stride this year with the GP17. Dovizioso’s double also means a shake-up in the MotoGP Championship standing, which David and Neil discuss at length.

The brings up a conversation about what is happening inside the Honda and Yamaha garages, as both factories seem to be struggling this season, though at different times, at different tracks, and under different conditions.

The show also covers the events of Monday’s MotoGP test at Barcelona, which sees some talk of Yamaha’s different chassis, and what tires Marc Marquez prefers from Michelin.

The conversation then turns to the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, before the guys talk about their winners and losers of the two weekends.

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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Monday MotoGP Test Summary at Catalunya: Yamaha Chassis, Honda Tires, & The First Signs of Silly Season

06/12/2017 @ 9:53 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Why go testing on Monday after a race? Even though riders are pretty drained after a full race weekend, riding on Monday provides really useful feedback. First of all, the track is clean and already rubbered in.

Weather conditions are usually close enough to race day to provide good comparison. But above all, the riders are already up to speed, so no time is wasted.

Johann Zarco put it very nicely: “I enjoy it so much, because you don’t lose half day to find the feeling, you already have the feeling,” the Frenchman said. “You just wake up, warm the bike up and you are ready, and you can start to work.”

“We did the same today. It’s good anyway. Even if you are tired from Sunday, you go on the bike, going over 300 km/h and that’s just a nice life!”

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Sunday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: Triumph of Experience, And Yamaha’s Woes Addressed

06/12/2017 @ 11:10 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Are Michelin deciding the 2017 MotoGP championship? That would be an easy conclusion to draw after the war of attrition which the Gran Premi de Catalunya at Barcelona turned into. It would also be inaccurate.

This race, like the race at Jerez, was about managing tires in poor grip conditions, with the added complication in Barcelona of extremely high tire wear. The riders and bikes which managed that best ended up at the top of the results sheet. The bikes and riders which struggled with that went backwards, and lost out.

And yet Michelin undeniably has a role in all this. After the race, Honda boss Livio Suppo pointed out that we were seeing different manufacturers do well at each different race.

The pendulum swings between one and another, as a particular team or a particular factory hits the performance sweet spot for the tires, and gets the most out of them. At the next race, it’s a different rider, a different bike, a different team.

The criticism Suppo had was that the sweet spot for the tires could be hard to find. “The tires seem to have a very narrow operating window. If you get it right, you can be competitive,” he told me.

If you didn’t get it right, if you couldn’t find that operating window, you are in deep trouble. “Maybe it would be better if that window was bigger.”

That may be true. When Bridgestone were official tire supplier to MotoGP, their tires had a much wider operating window. But that tended to reward the teams with the biggest budgets to spend the most time analyzing data, finding the perfect setup, and the riders who could ride with inch-perfect precision for 25 laps.

That left little room for improvisation, for adapting to circumstances, for the element of surprise. Whether you prefer the Bridgestone way, rewarding relentless precision, or the Michelin way, rewarding the ability to adapt quickly, is probably a factor of where you as a fan fall on the Motorcycle Racing Purist Scale.

However you feel about it, though, the racing in the Michelin era is undeniably more entertaining.

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Saturday MotoGP Summary at Catalunya: A Primer on Asphalt, And A War of Attrition

06/11/2017 @ 2:01 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Sunday at Barcelona is going to be a war of attrition. Everything is conspiring against the riders, and most especially the tires.

Temperatures are expected to rise even higher than they were on Saturday, when air temperatures hit over 32°C, and track temperatures climbed to 55°C and above.

Those are punishing temperatures in which to race a MotoGP bike, especially at Montmelo, where the heat gets trapped in the bowl of hills which holds the circuit.

Then there’s the tires. There is much complaining about the lack of grip and the fact that grip drops off a cliff after seven or eight laps.

It would be more accurate to blame that on the track, though: the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has not been resurfaced in twelve or thirteen years, and is very heavily used, both by bikes and by cars.

That has created a surface which is both too smooth to provide grip, while simultaneously being incredibly abrasive.

That sounds contradictory, so when Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert spoke to a group of journalists on Friday night, I asked him to explain. The Frenchman explained that grip and abrasiveness came from two different parts of the surface.

Asphalt (or rather, a road or racing surface) consists two parts: binder and aggregate. Aggregate is basically small stones, specially selected for size and shape. Binder is usually a special formulation of bitumen, often containing other ingredients.

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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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