What You Need to Know About the 2018 Honda Gold Wing

We just finished riding the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour in Austin, Texas – a day early I might add…because it’s snowing…in Texas. Still, clocking close to 200 miles on Honda’s sixth generation of this venerable touring machine has provided us with some interesting insights into the next Wing. A bike designed for long-distance riding, we have gathered our thoughts on the new Honda Gold Wing Tour, in a short and sweet format, so you can sound informed at your next bike night or internet forum. Overall, the all-new Honda Gold Wing Tour is a smart update to an iconic motorcycle, and it brings the Gold Wing name inline with the current state of technology. As we found on the road,  the new Gold Wing is an improvement over its predecessor, but that comes with a caveat or two.

Brembo Issues Statement on Its Master Cylinder Recall

Just over a week ago, we broke the news that a massive recall was coming to motorcycles equipped with a particular Brembo master cylinder. Since then, we have seen recall notices from Aprilia and Ducati (affecting roughly 10,000 motorcycles in the USA) with more recalls expected from other brands. Because recalls in the United States typically come from the motorcycle manufacturer and not the part supplier, mum was the word from the folks at Brembo, though there were a number of questions regarding these recalls that weren’t answered in the NHTSA documents. Today, Brembo has finally decided to speak about the recalls that are underway in the United States, and presumably will be occurring in other markets as well.

Come Drool Over “Kahn” by Mehmet Doruk Erdem

Regular readers of Asphalt & Rubber by now should be well aware of my unrequited love for dustbin-style motorcycles. A&R diehards should also recognize the work of Mehmet Doruk Erdem, as the Turkish designer has penned more than a few concepts that have gone viral on the internet. Today we have another of Erdem’s work for you to consider, a BMW-powered dustbin that is simply named “Kahn”. Based on the Bavarian brand’s twin-cylinder boxer engine, Erdem once again creates an eye-catching shell to house the mechanics of the machine, and hide them from the wind. An eagle-eyed viewer will note a few similarities between Kahn and Erdem’s other most-recent work, which was called “Alpha” and also powered by a BMW engine.

Ducati Now Part of the Massive Brembo Brake Recall

Yesterday we broke the news about a massive recall that is affecting a number of sport bikes with Brembo master cylinders. The first wave of that recall included Aprilia’s two offerings, the Aprilia RSV4 superbike and the Aprilia Tuono 1100 streetfighter. Today, we get our first official word of another manufacturer that is involved with this massive Brembo brake recall, and it is Ducati. With six affected models, spanning four model years, Ducati North America is recalling roughly 8,000 units because the piston in their master cylinder may crack. If you recall our previous coverage, the issue stems from the plastic piston in the master cylinder possibly cracking after hard use. If this happens, the master cylinder can stop operating, which can lead to front brake failure. This is an obvious safety concern

Today Is the First Day of a Massive Brembo Brake Recall

Today is the first day of a massive recall for Brembo brakes, as our inbox just received the first official notice of what is expected to a recall that touches a multitude of brands that use the Italian company’s high-performance line of brake master cylinders. The issue stems from the Brembo’s popular PR16 radial master cylinder unit (the master cylinder that is often paired with the Brembo M50 calipers), which apparently can crack internally at the piston, which can then lead to front brake failure. Because of the physical properties of the piston material used on the master cylinder, and the porosity generated during the injection process used to create them, the piston could crack when used on race tracks, or with frequent ABS intervention, or when the motorcycle falls to the ground.

MV Agusta Buys Back Shares from Mercedes AMG

A bit of a housekeeping item, but today it was announced that MV Holding has completed the acquisition of the shares that were previously held by Mercedes AMG, thus effectively removing the German brand from the Italian motorcycle company’s business operations. This means that MV Agusta is now solely controlled by Giovanni Castiglioni and the Sardarov family, though today’s news is likely due to investments by the latter, into the struggling motorcycle brand. For fans of the MV Agusta brand, this surely is the start of a new chapter for this mercurial motorcycle marque. In case you haven’t been keeping track, the ownership structure for MV Agusta is very complex, and it involves several layers of ownership.

Troy Bayliss Racing in Australian Superbike for 2018

Don’t all it a comeback, Troy Bayliss has been here along, as the Australian never really hung up his racing leathers. Partaking over the yeas in numerous one-off and short-term racing endeavors, the 48-year-old Australian is looking for a little bit more two-wheeled action in his life though, and accordingly has his eyes on a proper championship go. As such, Bayliss has announced that he will compete in the 2018 Australian Superbike Championship, riding with the DesmoSport Ducati team, which he co-owns with team manager Ben Henry, with an eye on the series’ #1 plate. “Initially I did want to see another young guy on the bike, but after I rode it I felt that I needed to contest the championship and try and win myself the elusive Australian Superbike title,” explained Bayliss.

Energica Will Supply FIM Moto-e World Cup Race Bikes

In recent months, the FIM and Dorna have been pushing ahead with the planned FIM Moto-e World Cup for the 2019 season, and today the electric motorcycle racing series took a serious step forward, as it was announced that Energica will provide the spec race bikes for Moto-e. As such, teams competing in the inaugural season of the FIM Moto-e World Cup series will race on modified versions of the Energica Ego street bike model, which will presumably use the production model’s 134hp PMAC motor, and will almost certainly be lighter than the bike’s 570 lbs curb weight. With Energica being owned by the CRP Group, a highly regarded engineering firm in Italy’s motor valley, the company’s ties to Formula 1 and other racing ventures certainly played to Energica’s strengths in the bidding process.

More Rumors About Suzuki’s Turbo Project

I had to go back through the Asphalt & Rubber pages to see when we first heard about Suzuki’s turbocharged motorcycle musings. For the record it was, just over four years ago when the Suzuki Recursion concept was teased at the Tokyo Motor Show. Since then, we have seen a slow trickling of information about Suzuki’s turbocharged project, especially in the time since we got out first glimpse of the twin-cylinder 588cc concept engine. When will the folks at Hamamatsu release this turbo bike? What form will it take? Is it the start of more forced-induction models from the Japanese brand? Or, will it be a one-off model? Does it wheelie? These are all good questions, and if you believe the latest rumors, we have some answers for you.

Is a Baby Africa Twin Coming from Honda?

The Brits over at MCN have an interesting story right now, whereby Honda is considering making a middleweight version of its Africa Twin adventure-tourer. Really, that thought isn’t so shocking, and if this year’s EICMA show was any indication of things, it’s that the middleweight ADV segment is of particular interest to motorcycle manufacturers right now. One look at Honda’s lineup, and it is obvious that Big Red is missing something that can go head-to-head with bikes like the BMW F850GS and Triumph Tiger 800, and the soon-to-come KTM 790 Adventure and Yamaha Ténéré 700. Focused for off-road use, the Honda Africa Twin may not be the pluckiest liter-class adventure-tourer on the market, but it certain is at the top of the pack when it comes to trail riding capability.

Phillip Island always delivers. If you came to the track on the edge of the world hoping for a spectacle, you got more than your money’s worth.

Three stunning races at arguably the greatest racetrack in the world. Three races which really mattered: with just two rounds left after Phillip Island, the results had a significant impact on all three championships.

And to cap the day off, one of the best MotoGP races of all time, the second here in the space of three seasons. The sun even shone. Well, most of the time, anyway.

Is it a coincidence that two of the greatest Grand Prix races, perhaps of all time, have happened at Phillip Island in the last three seasons? I don’t think so. This place, and this time, have conspired to create the perfect conditions for motorcycle racing.

Firstly, there has never been a greater concentration of riding talent on the grid at the same time in the premier class. Secondly, performance parity between the different factories, and between factories and privateers, has never been so great.

And thirdly, the Phillip Island circuit is simply made for motorcycle racing. A flowing track in a stunning setting, where brave and skilled riders can make passes at nearly half of the corners on the track.

The 2015 MotoGP race at Phillip Island was a four-way dust up which saw Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Valentino Rossi pass each other a grand total of 52 times in 27 laps.

The 2017 race saw seven riders slug it out over the same distance, passing and repassing each other a total of 73 times. Blink, and you missed a change of the lead.

But you had to blink, just to catch your breath. It is a good job the assiduous Tammy Gorali was willing to go back and tally up the action.

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If there is one thing that you need to ride fast around Phillip Island – apart from an appetite for scaring yourself silly, that is – it is confidence.

You have to have blind faith the front will stick as you pitch it in to Turn 1 at 190 km/h, or slide the rear at 250 km/h plus through Stoner Corner. You want to be sure you’re going to make it through, because if you don’t, you’ll fall off at speed, and it will hurt. A lot.

Meanwhile, the elements are doing their best to sap your confidence. Gusts of 40 km/h or more are coming in off the Bass Straight at different angles, picking the bike up in some places, pushing it down in others, getting in under the fairing and trying to pull the front away from you.

Clouds rush past, some sprinkling droplets onto your visor, others dumping enough rain onto the track to leave it soaked, most blowing over without leaving a mark. Cold winds suck the heat out of your tires.

When you’re in the zone, you can blaze around the track lap after lap, banging in times that should be good enough for the podium.

But one misstep and you take a tumble. And one tumble is enough to shake your blind faith in the front end, plant the seeds of doubt in your mind. At other tracks, that might cost you a tenth or two. Phillip Island will find your lack of faith disturbing, and punish you with a second or more on your lap time.

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Motegi was tempestuous, in every sense of the word. It was as if the elements were conspiring to become a metaphor for the 2017 MotoGP season.

The weather is always a factor in an outdoor sport such as motorcycle racing, and in Japan, the elements threw almost everything they had at MotoGP, the cold and the rain leaving standing water all around the track, throwing yet another spanner into the works.

The teams had seen almost every variation of wet conditions during practice, from soaking wet to a dry line forming, so they at least had an idea of what to expect. What they feared was that each rider, each team had their own Goldilocks zone, the precise amount of water on the track in which their bike worked best.

For one rider, too little water meant they would eat up their tires, whereas for another, a track that was merely damp was just right. For one rider, too much water meant not being able to get enough heat into the tires to get them to work and provide grip.

For another, a lot of water meant they could keep the temperature in their tires just right, and really harness the available traction.

One man seemed immune to this Goldilocks trap. Whatever the weather, however much water there was on the track, Marc Márquez was there or thereabouts. He was quick in the wet, he was quick in the merely damp.

So confident was he at Motegi that he even gambled on slicks for his second run in qualifying, which meant he missed out on pole and had to start from third. But would it make any difference? Would anyone be able to stop Marc Márquez from taking another step towards the championship?

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If anyone needed an argument that MotoGP’s current system of qualifying is arguably the best available, Saturday at Motegi was proof positive.

There are plenty of arguments that can be made against it: there are fairer systems imaginable, and there are simpler systems imaginable, but in the end, the element of chance the current system injects opens up opportunities for riders to seize. And it can either reward or punish those willing to gamble.

The weather at Motegi provided ample evidence of the spoils on offer, and the risks involved. A wet morning practice, a damp FP4, and a track which was starting to lose water from the surface.

As Q1 progressed, the faintest hint of a dry line started to appear. Still too wet for slicks, but perhaps the ten minutes between Q1 and Q2 would be just long enough for the dry line to consolidate itself. Would anyone be brave enough to go out on slicks?

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After months of speculation of an impending rider change at KTM, the Austrian factory has issued a press release clarifying its 2018 line up in MotoGP.

The KTM factory team will continue with both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as their contracted race riders, while Mika Kallio remains contracted as a test rider. 

The move will be welcomed inside the team, restoring stability and removing the uncertainty which had surrounded Bradley Smith and his future as a factory rider.

The Englishman had struggled badly to be competitive in the first part of the season, while his teammate Espargaro seemed to go from strength to strength.

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When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title “Weather”. The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship.

Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.

Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day.

For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.

This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams’ lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting.

The championship ain’t over till it’s over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.

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Silverstone was its glorious best on Friday. The sun shone, fans wandered round in t-shirts and shorts, and bikes bellowed their way around a magnificent circuit. It was a good day for motorcycle racing.

“First of all, riding the MotoGP at Silverstone with this incredible weather is great,” Valentino Rossi summed up his day. “I enjoy it a lot, because this track is fantastic and this weather is a big surprise for everybody.”

So good has the weather been that it has given the small contingent of British journalists in the MotoGP paddock a new hobby.

A conversation overheard on Friday afternoon: “I’ve just been over to taunt some Italians about the sunny weather.” “Ah yes, I was just doing the same to an Australian.”

Two weeks ago, we English speakers were getting stick about having to pack winter coats and rain gear for Silverstone. Revenge is all the sweeter when served up under blue skies and radiant sunshine.

The good weather complicated tire selection for the MotoGP teams. Many a rider was out trying the hard rear much earlier than expected, trying to judge how it would hold up over race distance.

The warm weather has pushed the temperatures to the upper range of the Michelins’ operating window. The tires are still working, but everyone is having to go a step harder than expected.

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MotoGP Preview of the British GP

08/25/2017 @ 12:20 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

The 2017 British Grand Prix at Silverstone is the race that nearly didn’t happen. OK, that’s an exaggeration: Dorna was always going to ensure that a British Grand Prix would happen.

The British Isles are such an important market that it is unthinkable for the series not to race here. But the collapse of the Circuit of Wales project meant that a lot of negotiation had to go into ensuring that the British round of MotoGP would actually take place.

For many observers, the refusal of the Welsh Government to underwrite the construction of the circuit was inevitable. The numbers being claimed seemed at best wildly optimistic, and at worst woefully inaccurate.

Was Dorna wrong to get into bed with the Heads of the Valley Development Company, the organization behind the Circuit of Wales? Possibly. Dorna has a history of making deals with circuits that never get built, as anyone who can recall the saga of the Balatonring can surely tell you.

Then again, what has Dorna lost? They signed a deal with the Circuit of Wales for five years starting in 2015, with an option to extend for a further five years. The deal was reportedly lucrative, well above what Silverstone was offering to pay to host the race.

Donington Park was no competition at the time, the circuit in financial difficult and badly in need of upgrades. Since the deal was signed, Dorna has had two successful races at Silverstone, for which they have been well paid.

When the Circuit of Wales project collapsed, Silverstone stepped in to take over. Dorna will still be paid by Silverstone, though it will be less than the Circuit of Wales would have paid.

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Paddock Pass Podcast #57 – Czech GP

08/09/2017 @ 3:09 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 57 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison on the mics, as they cover the Czech GP at Brno.

Once again this season, the weather conditions were tricky, and as such we saw the MotoGP riders taking a mix of opinions on what tires to run for the race, as well as on their backup bikes in the pit lane.

This lead to some interesting racing action on the track, which will have big consequences on the hunt for the 2017 MotoGP Championship title. David and Neil discuss all the angles (including the angles of all the new aerodynamic fairings), as well as some news from Monday’s test.

The show then concludes with a discussion of the weekend’s biggest winners and losers, as is becoming the custom on the podcast. It’s another great show from the Paddock Pass crew, and you won’t want to miss it.

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 Mid-Season Review – A Wild Ride So Far

08/01/2017 @ 10:09 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

Can part two of the (melo)drama that is the 2017 MotoGP season live up to part one? It has been a wild ride so far, but like any great fairground ride, we have ended up more or less back where we started.

Just five points separate Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales at the top of the championship, and Valentino Rossi in fourth is only ten points behind Márquez, with Andrea Dovizioso in between, a point behind Viñales.

If Márquez does not win the Czech Grand Prix at Brno on Sunday, there is every chance the championship will have a new leader. If there is, it would be the fifth time the title lead had changed hands so far this year. It has been a wild ride indeed.

So how did we get here? Through a mixture of rider swaps, tire changes, weird weather, and changing track conditions. Add in a healthy dose of spec electronics, the loss of winglets for this season, and a brace of astonishing rookies, and you have an explosive mixture.

At Mugello, perhaps the nearest thing we have had to a normal MotoGP weekend this year, the gap from the winner, Andrea Dovizioso, to Jack Miller in fifteenth was 30.7 seconds, with 50 seconds covering all 20 finishers.

In 2015, 30 seconds covered just the first eight riders. In 2013, only five other bikes finished within half a minute of the winner. Those kinds of gaps have been the rule for most of the modern era. But the old rules no longer apply.

Michelin can take much of the credit, or shoulder much of the blame, depending on your perspective. In their second year back in MotoGP, the French tire manufacturer have been a much more stable force in the series, the tires changing less this year than in 2016.

But that has not stemmed the complaints: there have been a string of riders muttering that the Michelins are not up to scratch, that they change too much from one race to the next, and even from one day to the next.

Are their concerns valid? Michelin deny it, of course, and give a long list of entirely plausible reasons for the tires to react differently from day to day.

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