The High Fives Heard in Milwaukee

There were high fives heard all over Milwaukee last week. Reading the headlines and stories that came from Harley-Davidson’s Mega Monday announcement, one could only conclude that the American icon was back. They did it. They were showing signs of life again. Boomshackalacka. No one saw an adventure-touring bike with knobby tires coming from the Bar & Shield brand, and the idea of a sport bike from Harley-Davidson seemed inconceivable just over a week ago as well. Milwaukee even impressed with its more “core” offerings, with the Harley-Davidson Custom being perhaps the first cruiser we would want sitting in our garage. It looks gorgeous, and is just sporty and modern enough to be “a real motorcycle” in our eyes…we think.

Ducati’s Project 1309 Reveals a New Diavel Coming

We didn’t hear too much about “Project 1309” from World Ducati Week 2018, which is surprising considering what the past has shown us about Ducati’s secret reveals, but the Bologna brand was once again giving a teaser to fans in Misano. In the past, World Ducati Week has been the place where Ducati showed us the first Scrambler model, and last year the event debuted the return of the Ducati SuperSport. This year, it is another new bike. A new Diavel, to be precise. Set to compliment the current XDiavel model, the new Diavel features the same 1,262cc DVT engine with variable valve timing, but puts it into the more sport Diavel riding platform. This means tucked in feet on rearsets, rather than the XDiavel’s foot-forward controls.

VW CEO Outlines Two Possible Futures for Ducati

The Clash’s hit song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” might perhaps perfectly fit the business situation for Ducati, within its parent company, Volkswagen AG. The Italian motorcycle brand’s status in the German conglomerate has for the past few years been held on a tenuous string. Rumor about its divestiture, its selling to another company, are constantly dogging the iconic brand. Talking to Bloomberg TV after Volkswagen’s quarterly earnings report, VW CEO Herbert Diess explained that there are two paths forward for Ducati, and one of them includes selling Ducati to the highest bidder. “We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati,” said Diess to Bloomberg.

KTM’s Counter-Rotating MotoGP Engine Debuts at Brno

Ever since Jerez, when the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team debuted a new engine with a counter-rotating crankshaft, fans and journalists have been asking when factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith would be able to use the new engine on a race weekend. KTM test rider Mika Kallio had been very positive about the engine during the Jerez weekend, and Smith and Espargaro had spoken in glowing terms about it after the Jerez test. KTM’s response was always that it would not be ready until at least after the summer break. Reversing the direction of crankshaft rotation is not as simple as sticking an intermediate gear between the crank and the clutch, to allow the crank to spin in the opposite direction while maintaining forward thrust.

Retro Livery Pops on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superbike

We are big fans of the creations that Team Classic Suzuki has been churning out. Stop what you’re doing right now, look at this Katana race bike, and try to disagree with our enthusiasm. It cannot be done. Taking their touch to the current Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike, we see what this tire-shredder would look like in a retro-mod livery that is inspired by the bodywork found on the original GSX-R750. So far it sounds like the bike is a one-off, done by our friends across the pond, but we think Suzuki should seriously consider some throwback paint schemes in its lineup. Until then, items of note include a number of tasty Giles-made bits, straight from the Suzuki performance catalog, otherwise the bike shown here is pretty much stock.

BMW Plans To Launch Nine New Motorcycles

It might be still be summer, but our eyes are looking ahead to the new bike season in the fall and winter, where the major motorcycle manufacturers will debut their new motorcycles for the future. The big trade shows to watch are INTERMOT and EICMA, as these have traditionally been the venues of choice for new model unveils, prototype teasers, and concept debuts. One brand that is certainly going to be showing us some new motorcycles is BMW Motorrad, with the German company saying that it plans to launch nine new models in 2018. What those nine models will be is up for conjecture, though we have some good ideas, and some bad ideas, on what they could be. Let’s take a look.

Up-Close with the 2018 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R Suzuka 8-Hours Race Bike

In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation. This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands. Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike. This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Team Green Suzuka Bike

The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race. What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm. As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.

Up-Close with the Suzuka-Winning Yamaha YZF-R1

This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport. And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary. I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it. That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.

Harley-Davidson Outlines Its Future Electric Lineup

The biggest announcement from Harley-Davidson today wasn’t its adventure-touring motorcycle (though it looks interesting), and it wasn’t its new Streetfighter or Custom models either (one of these I like, the other not so much). The big news wasn’t the Livewire getting closer to production, though that is close to the mark, and where this story is ultimately headed. All of these announcement would have been worthy of their own day in the press cycle, but the real news from the Bar & Shield brand is a look at Harley-Davidson’s upcoming electric lineup, which is coming across as very robust, and shows a decisive plan for the future. I never thought I would see the day, but here it is. Harley-Davidson is going electric, in a big way.

The Secret to Bridgestone’s Dominance at Suzuka

07/28/2018 @ 12:44 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

What's the difference between you and me? The Suzuka 8-Hours is dominated by Bridgestone tire. Why is that? And what is the difference between a Bridgestone a Pirelli, and a Michelin at this iconic race?

Even the most talkative factory riders get tight-lipped when the topic of tires is raised. Jonathan Rea was asked after securing pole position for tomorrow's Suzuka 8-Hours about the feeling he has with Bridgestone tires, compared to using Pirelli rubber in WorldSBK.

The three-time world champion sidestepped that landmine with customary ease by saying, “both are very high performance tires.” It was a similar situation when talking with MotoGP riders about comparing to Michelin tires in recent years. There are, however, some outliers in the paddock.

Riders with experience of Bridgestone, Pirelli, and Michelin tires, and who are able to speak about the contrasts.

To continue reading this story, you need to have an A&R Pro subscriber account. If you have an A&R Pro account, you can login here.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #82 – Bring the Noise

07/27/2018 @ 3:43 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 82 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and in it we talk mostly about track days, new riders, and the mental process of going fast on a motorcycle.

The show isn’t so much of a how-to for track days, as it is more of an hour-long philosophical discussion about riding motorcycles around a race track.

From there, we finish up with some news items, like Dani Pedrosa’s retirement, Yamaha’s mid-sized Niken, the lack of a Triumph Daytona 765, Ducati Streetfighter V4 rumors, a duo of new Kawasaki sport bikes (ZX-6R & ZX-10RR), BMW’s new superbike, and some racing gossip.

Lastly, we remember William Dunlop and James Cowton, who lost their lives road racing recently. Our thoughts are with their family and friends.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com.

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When I was a new rider, I cut my teeth on Pirelli Corsa tires (and later on the Pirelli Corsa III), and as I got into doing track days, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa became my tire of choice, both as a track tire and also as a street tire.

Almost as grippy as “the good stuff” and considerably cheaper than track-focused tires of the time, the Diablo Rosso Corsa hit that sweet spot of performance and price that my relatively unexperienced two-wheeled-self required.

Best of all, after a few track days, I could swap-out the rubber on my track bike for road duty, and thus had a nice supply of new rubber for my street biking needs.

As Asphalt & Rubber became a larger part of my life, this tire strategy had to give way to trying other brands and other tires, but I was recently intrigued when Pirelli told me that they were updating this stalwart in their sport bike tire lineup, as there isn’t a lineage of tire that I am more familiar with on the market.

Creating the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II tire for the 2018 model year, the Italian brand first invited A&R out to South Africa to see if this new incarnation of the Corsa lived up to the high-water mark its predecessor left behind. In short, it did.

But, only a couple days with a new tire can be tough to use to form an opinion. Not content to be so easily swayed, I have since spent a considerable amount of time on this new Pirelli.

Riding three more trackdays (on three different tracks), trying six bikes in total, and plowing down a thousand street miles later, I can honestly say that the Pirelli Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II might be the best sport bike tire on the market. Let me explain.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #81 – Sex Panther

07/17/2018 @ 11:23 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 81 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it is a marathon show – right at 2.5 hours in length. Because of that duration, we cover a huge range of topics, the first of which is a little news about Harley-Davidson, and the growing American trade war.

From there, we move to Jensen’s recent trip to Italy, where he rode the new MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS, which features a new auto-clutch for sport bikes, made in partnership with Rekluse.

Jensen’s travels then took him to Milan, where he visited Pirelli’s world headquarters and testing facility, which was a unique experience in seeing how tires are evaluated and produced.

Lastly came a trip south to Sicily, to visit the Metzeler/Pirelli R&D testing facility, where Jensen rode the entire Metzeler tire range up a volcano…no seriously.

Back home in the USA, Quentin was doing a bit of racing, as he lined up on the grid in OMRAA’s 250 Ninja Cup. He then played on the other side of the wrench in his travels to Pikes Peak, spinning wrenches for Michael Woolaway, who raced a custom Ducati Hypermotard up the Colorado mountain.

At the same time, Jensen was in Laguna Seca for the World Superbike weekend, and the following Pirelli track day. There, Jensen got to ride two very unique motorcycles: the Kramer HKR EVO2 and the BMW HP4 Race. A short review: they did not suck.

Since Quentin recently also got a chance to ride the Kramer, the two trade notes on the show about this interesting single-cylinder motorcycle, and how much fun it is to ride smaller-displacement motorcycles on the track.

Like we said, it’s a marathon show, but we think you will find all the topics not only interesting, but the stories entertaining.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com.

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Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuit, but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend. Continue reading for Asphalt & Rubber’s World Superbike debrief, from Misano Italy.

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This Is the Ducati Scrambler That We Really Want

06/18/2018 @ 1:23 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

The Scrambler Desert Sled concept from the Ducati Design Center is probably the best scrambler that you haven’t heard of – as the motorcycle had a very limited debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, around roughly this time last year.

The brainchild of Alex Earle – of Earle Motors fame – the Scrambler DS concept is very modern in its approach, and looks like it could easily do the deed when it comes to getting dirty in the muck.

Highlights include a beautifully machined double-sided swingarm; a large fuel tank up front, with an auxiliary tank in the rear; dual rear shocks and long-travel forks at the front; and a custom Akrapovic exhaust that tucks under the rear fender / fuel tank.

Overall, it is the bike that we wish Ducati would build, as it looks like a Scrambler that could really do some serious off-roading…while also adding to the premium look and feel that has made Ducati such an iconic brand.

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Episode 76 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is finally out, and in it we talk about Jensen’s recent trip to Africa. Well actually, it’s two trips to Africa.

First we talk about going to South Africa with Pirelli, riding on the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tire, which we got to test at the recently renovated Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, outside of Johannesburg.

Next up we head to Morocco, where we rode on two new tires from Bridgestone – the Battlax A41 adventure-touring tire, and the Battlax T31 sport-touring tire – riding in the desert region of Ouarzazate.

Three tires to test means a bevy of bikes were ridden too, which also means plenty of rabbit holes for us to jump down. As such, this show is a tad on the long side. Set aside a couple hours in your day, and enjoy.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. 

We hope you will join the conversation, and leave us some audio comments at our new email address: twoenthusiasts@gmail.com.

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Gone Riding: In South Africa with Pirelli

04/10/2018 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Another day, another trip to Africa – the Asphalt & Rubber frequent flyer miles account is strong this year. As such, we are coming to you from South Africa, were we will be among the first to ride the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tire – the Italian company’s new high-performance street/track tire.

Replacing the original Diablo Rosso Corsa tire that debuted in 2010, the DRCII is a tire that is designed for modern high-performance motorcycles, many of which have advanced technologies like cornering ABS and IMU-powered traction control.

Pirelli says that the DRCII is the first multi-zone compound tire for the Italian brand, with two compounds and three zones on the front tire, and 3 compounds and five zones on the rear tire.

To take these tires for a spin (pardon the pun), Pirelli has two rides planned for us. For our street ride, we will be riding the roads near Kruger National Park (including the famous “Road 22”), which is the largest game reserve in Africa, and features perhaps the best riding in the country.

For the track portion, we will head to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which once was a stop on the World Superbike calendar. Recently renovated, riding this famous track should be a real treat, and a great place to showcase the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires.

So with that said, feel free to pick my brain about the new Pirelli tires, the bikes I’ll be riding (check posts on social media), and what it is like to visit South Africa, Kruger National Park, and the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.

As always, you can follow our thoughts on the tires via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #PirelliNation, #PirelliMoto, #PirelliDiabloRossoCorsaII, & #RossoCorsa2.

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For the 2018 WorldSBK season, we are changing up our coverage format a little bit from last year, in order to provide more useful content for our racing fans.

First up, we are pleased to have Steve English providing coverage from the World Superbike paddock. Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize Steve’s name from a number of stories here on A&R, and he is also a regular host of our Paddock Pass Podcast.

With his day job being the voice of WorldSBK on the commentary feed, Steve’s expert insight will provide for us a preview of each WorldSBK round, as well as a debrief at the end of each race weekend, which will highlight the major takeaways from the racing action.

Additionally for our A&R Pro readers, Steve will be providing us with added racing analysis, as well as interviews with the WorldSBK riders, team members, and paddock fixtures, which you won’t want to miss. -JB

With that out of the way, let’s get to the opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season, which is now in the books and certainly provided us with plenty of excitement and plenty to talk about. 

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Because of tire wear issues during Race 1, at the World Superbike season-opener at Phillip Island, Sunday’s Race 2 will include a mandatory pit stop, where riders can come in and change machines.

Due to the extra-abrasive conditions found at Phillip Island this year, these race change will also affect Sunday’s World Supersport race, as well.

Similar to the tire issues we saw in the MotoGP Championship at Phillip Island, back in 2013, Sunday’s race will include a mandatory pitstop before the end of the 12th lap for WorldSBK riders (after nine laps for WorldSSP riders), which will operate under the series’ flag-to-flag rules.

This means that riders will dismount their machine, and mount a new bike, fitted with fresh Pirelli race tires, in order to avoid the tire-wear issues found during Saturday’s race.

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