“My ass is on the line, but I’ll have no regrets.” Jake Gagne jumped in at the deep end, but the Californian has learned a lot about racing and himself during his rookie WorldSBK campaign.
Just picture it. You are BMW, and you made the S1000RR superbike, the machine that completely changed the game in the liter-bike market. And now, you are about to crank things to 11, with an all carbon fiber version of this wickedly popular motorcycle.
Perhaps the best track bike ever created, the BMW HP4 Race makes an honest 212hp at the crank, weighs 378 lbs…fully fueled at the curb, and it has all the top-shelf components you can dream of, all of which are bolted onto the carbon fiber frame, carbon fiber swingarm, and carbon fiber fairings.
A thoroughbred. A true race bike, by DNA. The astounding thing about the BMW HP4 Race is that it is more than the sum of its parts, which is saying something because the parts are simply the best that the motorcycle industry has to offer.
I know this because I got to spend a lucky five laps on the BMW HP4 Race at Laguna Seca, courtesy of BMW Motorrad USA, and while that duration is far too short to give any sort of meaningful feedback about this track-only superbike, the BMW HP4 Race is exactly what you think it is: an S1000RR taken to the next level.
So then, why has the BMW HP4 Race been a colossal failure in the United States? Because it most certainly is.
Back in April, Kevin Dunworth of Loaded Gun Customs ran into Miguel Galluzzi at the Handbuilt Show in Austin and asked him to come to Los Angeles to serve as a judge for the inaugural Golden Bolt Motorcycle Show.
For those of you who don’t know who Miguel Galluzzi is, let me clue you in. He is the designer of the iconic Ducati Monster, the Moto Guzzi California 1400, and the Aprilia Dorsoduro, just to name a few.
Additionally, he is currently running Piaggio’s Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, California. Not only that, he is a lifelong motorcyclist and a heck of a nice guy.
I had a chance to sit down with Galluzzi for about 15 minutes during the Golden Bolt to talk about motorcycles and the industry in general. His insights were illuminating.
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.
The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.
It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.
For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren’t rattled.
Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don’t get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn’t scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.
The Dutchman’s opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that’s exactly what happened.
Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.
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.
Can you tell the difference between heaven and hell? Suzuka reveals the soul of a rider by breaking them down through each stint.
Your lungs are burning, the skin is falling off your hands because, even bandaged tightly, the extreme conditions will get the better of them, the dehydration is setting in, and your mind is foggy and far from clear.
Once you’re off the bike, and sitting in your chair, the realization slowly sets in that you still have to get back on the bike.
You look around and see the faces of your engineers, and they know what needs to be done, but the only thought running through your head is that fucking bike and the pain it’s been putting you through.
Suzuka is one of the most spectacular challenges on the planet for rider and machine. It flows around the hills and winds its way on top of itself.
Fast and slow corners. Sweeping bends that lead into each other and tight chicanes. There’s high speeds and heavy braking. Suzuka has it all and when you add in the heat and humidity of the final Sunday of July it becomes on of the biggest tests of character and will that any rider will go through.
This is heaven, this is hell. Which is which? Who can tell? The contrast between the feeling you get from riding a Superbike on the limit at Suzuka and the after effect is massive.
How do you deal with the physicality of racing in heat? Combat the mental strain of getting back on the bike? How do you deal with the sense pressure of expectancy? Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier, and Alex Lowes give us their thoughts on these three phases of the Suzuka 8-Hours.
I first rode a Zero back in 2009. It was a horrible machine. It was so bad, I don’t even dare call it a motorcycle – the execution on that goal was just too far off the mark to warrant calling that creation a motorcycle.
For an example of this, I remember going for a ride on an early Zero S and the on/off switch was marked in sharpie, right on the frame.
The brakes were like wooden blocks attached to the wheels, which didn’t matter much because the tires were cheap rubber from China that were absolutely useless (and terrifying) in the rain.
It wouldn’t take long to learn that Zero’s focus on lightweight components was a bad decision as well, as we would see frames on the dirt bike models collapsing when taken over any sort of jump.
The bikes from Zero were so bad, the product reviews on them could serve as a litmus test of who in the media was bought and paid for, and who was actually speaking truth to power.
These machines were objectively awful, and anyone telling you otherwise was getting paid – straight up.
I could probably go on and on about the quality issues of these early machines, but it would rob us time from discussing the constant management issues that Zero has faced in the past decade, its failed dealership and servicing model, not to mention just the general branding issue of calling your product a “Zero”.
To their credit though, the folks at Zero have improved their product with each successive iteration. The management team finally seems to be stable; Zero now uses a traditional dealership model, and isn’t wasting time sending technicians all over the country in a van; and well…the branding is still tough, but there is a new corporate logo.
Most importantly though, Zero’s motorcycles are actually now motorcycles. The quality of these machines has improved dramatically, and generally the bikes are fun to ride.
So what is keeping me from putting a Zero in my garage, and using that massive electric torque to put a grin on my face? The answer is right there above these words, in the lead photo of this story.
The American Frontier was about finding a way to survive. To do this, people from all over the world had to work together and find a way to coexist on the open plains and in the mountains. They did this because they knew the rewards could be massive.
Unimaginable wealth was underneath the rivers and mountains of the West Coast, and everyone believed they would find it.
Every racer in the world also believes that their trophies and points are at their fingertips once they have the tools at their disposal. Finding a way to work with a group of people from all over the world, and making them believe in you, is crucial.
The American Dream was founded on the ideal that anything was possible, and Racer’s Dream is based on the belief that you’re the best in the world and any issues you’re having are just a temporary delay of the inevitable.
At Laguna Seca, we had proof once again that the Racer’s Dream is real.
“I was going to make it…or I wasn’t,” was how King Kenny Roberts summed up one of his Grand Prix victories in the late seventies.
The three-time 500GP world champion knew the importance of momentum and psychology on a race track better than anyone, and knew that at times, riders need to take a win it or bin it mentality.
That mentality was at the front everyone’s minds as they watched last weekend’s Czech WorldSBK round, where the importance of coming out on top of an internal team battle bubbled under the surface.
On Saturday, Jonathan Rea claimed his 60th career victory, but on Sunday the tensions of four years at Kawasaki overflowed.
I feel like I always end up writing these posts while I’m stuck in an airport. Regardless, without further ado, here is your next installment of “What We’re Reading”.
Much has happened since our last post, so our reading list spans stories that go between the motorcycle industry and also non-endemic media outlets.
This edition focuses heavily on technology and the media, a topic that is of course near and dear to my heart…don’t worry, there’s still a bit of “it’s loud and goes fast” articles in here too.
Part clearinghouse for stories that we will never get our full attention, and part book club for our loyal readers who are doing their best to survive the work day, say hello to the next installment of the “What We’re Reading” column series.