WorldSBK Approves the Use of Winglets*

The World Superbike Championship released the latest decision from the SBK Commission today, which clarified a few rules for the 2018 season, most notably the new rev-limiter and parts cost rules, which have been discussed already at great length here on Asphalt & Rubber (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3). There was another interesting rule change of note though, which is likely to get over-looked by the racing community, and that is the World Superbike Championship permitting the use of winglets, although there is a catch. In its rules update, the SBK Commission decreed that teams and manufacturers may fit aerodynamic components (e.g. winglets) to their superbikes so long as the winglets are fitted to the homologated motorcycle.

Crunching the Numbers: Rea vs. MotoGP vs. WorldSBK

The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike” season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi’s side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured. How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes?

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX Priced at $19,000 for the USA

Kawasaki’s newest supercharged motorcycle is also its most affordable supercharged motorcycle, with the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX coming to the USA with an MSRP of $19,000. Even the better-equipped 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE is an “affordable” $22,000, when compared to the more sport-focused H2 models. Featuring a 200hp version of Kawasaki’s supercharged, four-cylinder, 998cc engine, the Ninja H2 SX is a fully faired sport-tourer, with an emphasis on the sport side of the equation. The base model comes in any color you want, so long as it’s black, while the Ninja H2 SX SE comes in the traditional Team Green color scheme of Kawasaki.

Oh Yes, The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE Is USA Bound

Good news sport bike fans, Kawasaki USA in its infinite wisdom has decided to bring the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE to the United States for the 2018 model year. Debuted at this year’s EICMA show, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE takes the potent superbike and most notably adds Showa’s new semi-active suspension to the package. Other perks include the seven-spoke forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, found already on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, as well as an up/down quickshifter. Like what you hear? Well brace yourself…If you want a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE in your garage, you are going to need to shell out $21,899 MSRP for it. That sticker price represents quite the premium over Team Green’s race homologation machine, the ZX-10RR, which goes for $18,899.

PJ Jacobsen Racing in WorldSBK for 2018

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Yamaha Selling Shares in Yamaha Motor to Raise Money

The Yamaha Corporation announced today that it will be selling 8 million shares of its holdings in Yamaha Motor Co., a movement of shares that will see roughly 2.3% of the voting power in the powersports company changing hands. This deal is expected to close on December 4th, and the Yamaha Corporation says that it will be selling its position to various unnamed securities companies, presumably to then be sold on the open market. At the current market price for Yamaha Motor stock, this deal should be worth close to ¥26 billion, and ¥18 billion after tax expenses have been factored. The news means that while the Yamaha Corporation will remain the single largest shareholder in Yamaha Motor Co., its ownership position as a shareholder will drop from 12.22% to 9.93%, as a result of the divestiture.

Valentino Rossi’s Winter Test Helmet Gets Mexican Flair

It is another winter testing period for the MotoGP riders, and that means that Valentino Rossi has another special “Winter Test” AGV helmet design for us. This year, The Doctor takes his inspiration from Huichol bead art, after he visited the region on a recent vacation to Mexico. As such, Rossi’s winter test AGV Pista GP R helmet features a hand-painted bead design that plays on the winter motif, with the Italian’s usual affinity for symbols. “Huichol art immediately intrigued me, because it uses many of my symbols, like the sun and moon or the turtle,” explained Valentino Rossi. “We have tried to recreate the effect of the beads that the Mexicans use to bring color and shape to these objects, but to do so with a Valentino Rossi twist.”

Jonathan Rea Talks About New WorldSBK Rules

Three years of unparalleled success has seen Jonathan Rea notch up 39 victories, 70 podiums, and 3 WorldSBK titles. To put those numbers into context, only Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, and Noriyuki Haga have won more races in their WorldSBK careers. It truly has been a historic run of form for Rea and Kawasaki. For WorldSBK though the achievements have been outweighed by the reaction of fans to these results. Feeling that significant changes were needed to ensure a more competitive balance for the field, WorldSBK has introduced a wide range of new regulations to curtail the Kawasaki dominance. The goal isn’t to stop Rea and Kawasaki winning but simply to allow other manufacturers to get on an even keel.

The “Smart” Approach to Writing the WorldSBK Rulebook

Scott Smart has been tasked with writing and rewriting the rule book for Superbikes around the planet. The FIM Superbike Technical Director has been instrumental in bringing about the recent regulation changes for WorldSBK, and speaking at the season ending Qatar round he explained the philosophy behind the changes. “There’s a lot of benefits to these changes, but the biggest factor is that we want to find a way to have more exciting racing in WorldSBK,” explained Smart. “With the new regulations each team on the grid has the chance to run the same specification as the factory teams or to develop their own parts. This gives a private team the chance to have a bike with development work already having been completed by simply buying the relevant parts for their bike.”

Ben Spies Returns to Motorcycle Racing…On Dirt Bikes

Ben Spies fans will be happy to hear that the Texan is returning to racing motorcycles, announcing the news while talking to Matthew Miles at Cycle World. However, the news might not be as expected, as Spies isn’t returning to the superbike paddock, but instead will compete in the AMA National Enduro series next season. As such, Spies will take part in several rounds on the Full Gas Sprint Enduro calendar, in the mid-level “Pro2” class; as well as an ISDE qualifier, with an eye on making the squad for Team USA. Certainly not the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship bid that was reported earlier, though Spies confirmed that he had been in talks with Ducati about racing a Panigale, and had also spun some laps on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at a track day in Texas.

Norton Teases Future 650cc Street Bike

11/15/2017 @ 1:08 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Norton is getting closer to releasing its next motorcycle, this one being a 650cc twin-cylinder street bike. As you can see above in the photo, courtesy of our friends at MotoFire, the Norton 650 will take a roadster form, with a positively vintage vibe.

The bike will serve as a platform though, for several 650cc motorcycles, one of which will be the basis for an Isle of Man TT race bike.

Said to make around 100hp, the Norton 650 would be a potent weapon in the Lightweight TT race class. It would also serve as a good counterpoint to Norton’s 1200cc superbike project.

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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.

Adding a TFT dash, IMU-powered traction control, cornering ABS, launch control, and an up-and-down quickshifter are all strong moves from the “Ready to Race” brand, making the KTM 790 Duke have not only the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, but it is also one of the most feature-packed.

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They are calling it “The Scalpel” – a smaller, more nimble sibling to “The Beast”, aka the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. Debuting today at the EICMA show in Milan, we are talking about the new KTM 790 Duke streetfighter, which will be a 2018 model from the Austrian brand.

Based around an all-new 799cc parallel-twin engine, the KTM 790 Duke makes 105hp / 63 lbs•ft of torque, while tipping the scales at only 418 lbs when at the curb, with a full tank of gas (373 lbs dry). KTM says this makes for the best power-to-weight ratio in the class.

The 2018 KTM 790 Duke comes packed with features too. LED lights, a TFT dash, IMU-powered traction control, cornering ABS, launch control, and an up-and-down quickshifter are all standard on this “Ready to Race” machine.

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There is no replacement for displacement, the old adage tells us, and that is exactly the driving force behind the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400, which debuted today at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Replacing the Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the lineup, the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is set to be Team Green’s new entry-level model, and help Kawasaki better compete against bigger bikes like the Yamaha YZF-R3 and KTM RC390.

This news may come as a shock however, since the Ninja 300 was only available for five years (whereas the Ninja 250R served in various guises for decades), but Kawasaki says the major driving force behind the new model is the Euro4 homologation requirements, which required a clean-slate design.

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Up-Close with the KTM 790 Duke Prototype

11/09/2016 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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One of the machines that caught our eye at this year’s EICMA show in Milan is the KTM 790 Duke Prototype. Powered by an all-new 800cc parallel-twin engine that’s being developed by the Austrian brand, the KTM 790 Duke adds an interesting dimension to the Duke line of street bikes.

Fitting in between the single-cylinder KTM 690 Duke and the v-twin powered KTM 1290 Super Duke R, the KTM 790 Duke with its parallel-twin engine will hopefully provide riders with something neither of the other two machines provides.

Still, we are curious to see how KTM handles such an impacted lineup of street-hooning machines, especially as the 800cc market moves more towards a 900cc format, something the Husqvarna Nuda 900R designers understood. As with the Nuda, thinking outside of the 270° crankshaft angle might be of benefit for KTM.

Looking at the photos from EICMA, the design of the KTM 790 Duke prototype is striking, though we should expect as much from the folks at KISKA, especially after seeing the KTM 1290 Super Duke R prototype from a few years ago.

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For KTM, the 2016 EICMA show is all about the Duke line of streetfighters. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R got a pretty sizable upgrade for 2017, the KTM 690 Duke received a facelift, and the KTM 390 Duke is now easily the best bike in its class.

The Austrians didn’t stop there though, they also gave us a taste of what is still to come for the Duke brand, teasing us with the KTM 790 Duke prototype.

Rumored heavily before the new bike season, this “KTM 800 Duke” features an 800cc parallel-twin engine, slapped into an upright motard-esque chassis.

The Kendo-styled LED headlight that’s finding its way into the entire KTM range features here as well, though that is hardly the most radical part of the 790 Duke’s design – checkout the undertail exhaust, which probably spit plums of fire before the lawyers got ahold of it.

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Part of Yamaha’s 2016 EICMA show program includes a nod to the future, teasing us today with the Yamaha T7 concept. Picking up the torch where the Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré left off, the Yamaha T7 concept uses the same 270° parallel-twin engine found in the Yamaha MT-07/FZ-07 street bike.

Yamaha has wrapped that stout twin-cylidner engine in a brand new chassis that is suited for dual-spot riding, and hopes to focus its efforts on offering a middleweight adventure-tourer that is high on off-road brapping, and low on electronic wizardry.

This should appease those who complain about ADV bikes being too road focused and sophisticated for true adventure riding, and Yamaha hopes to use the T7 concept to develop a bike that meets this ethos, and is suitable for production, but also capable of proper rally raid riding.

As such, the Yamaha T7 is a fully functional prototype, and it is being developed with help from the Official Rally Team in France, Yamaha R&D in Italy, and GK Design in The Netherlands.

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Norton Announces V4 Superbike, Again

08/10/2016 @ 1:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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A year ago, to the day, Norton announced that it was working on a street-going superbike that featured a 200hp, 1,200cc, V4 engine. Now, Norton confirms that news, saying that we will see the limited-production (200 units) machine later this fall. Yay.

On the bright side, Norton posted a concept drawing of the new bike to its Facebook page, giving us at least something new to whet our appetites on the new motorcycle.

The concept looks very similar to the sketch we saw last year, making today’s new a little bit about nothing. But, our friends at MotoFire report that Norton is still working on a 650cc project, which will debut later this year as well.

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Yamaha Tracer 700 Sport-Tourer Debuts for Europe

04/20/2016 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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There are two big things to note with the debut of the Yamaha Tracer 700 in Europe today. One, Yamaha firmly believes in the future of the sport-touring segment; and two, the Japanese brand is getting excellent mileage out of its three-cylinder and two-cylinder machines that comprise its new FZ/MT line of motorcycles.

As such, the Yamaha Tracer 700 offers to be a fun and affordable machine for those riders who find themselves many miles down the road after a “spirited” ride.

With bike sales in Europe finally on an upward trend, Yamaha hopes that the release of the Tracer 700 is well-timed, and of course the brand has more models in the works that are based on the same 689cc parallel-twin power plant.

Using a similar chassis and the same motor as the MT-07 (that’s the FZ-07 for us Yanks), the Yamaha Tracer 700 adds a longer swingarm (+50mm), larger fuel tank (+3 liters), revised suspension settings, manually adjustable windscreen, a new seat and headlight, as well luggage options.

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Aside from Husqvarna bringing the Vitpilen & Svartpilen concepts into production, another gem to come from KTM’s investor report for 2015 is that the Austrian company is working on what it calls a revolutionary two-cylinder engine design.

KTM is surely referencing the parallel-twin project that has been spotted a few times by spy photographers (shown above, and featured after the jump), which is rumored to feature an 800cc lump.

We are not too sure what is so revolutionary about a parallel-twin power plant – my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host Quentin loves to go on rants about how much he hates the engine design – but what is interesting is to hear that KTM plans on using the engine as a platform for multiple models.

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