Hello from Santa Catalina Island, where we are about to go ride the new Honda Monkey mini-moto. A play on Honda’s past, the Monkey is built off the modern Honda Grom platform, but uses styling that is more at home in the 1970s.
A retro-modern approach to the mini-bike craze, the Honda Monkey is trying to rekindle some of those “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” feelings, which launched the Japanese brand into the public mainstream almost 50 years ago.
As such, we will be spending the day on this popular Californian destination to see how the Honda Monkey handles not only from a technical perspective on the road, but also we want to see what “je ne sais quoi” of two-wheeled fun the Monkey brings to the table.
With cars largely verboten on Catalina, bikes like Honda’s old Trail 70 and Trail 110 are popular choices here (as are golf carts, but that is an entirely different story), which makes the island a smart pick for this press launch.
Per our new review format, I will be giving you a live assessment of the Honda Monkey right here in this article (down in the comments section), and I will try to answer any questions you might have about this unique motorcycle.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Honda Monkey, before even my own proper review is posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Honda personnel. So, pepper away.
You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #HondaMonkey, #POWERofNICE #RideRed.
Where do you begin about the 2019 Honda CRF450L? You can start with the dearth of 450cc dual-sport motorcycles for the American market, for one. You can talk about Honda’s new 450cc dirt bike lineup, which has spawned five separate models for the 2019 model year.
We of course have to mention the domination of the market by a certain European manufacturer, which prefers the color orange. And naturally, we should give a nod to the resurgence of the American off-road scene, and how Big Red wants to be part of that growing movement.
The truth is, all of these points are realities when it comes to the new Honda CRF450L – a dirt bike that is street-legal from the factory, for all 50 states of the Union. The United States is the target market for the 2019 Honda CRF450L, and for good reason. Honda sees a real opportunity for a 450cc dual-sport in the USA, one that can slot in between the woefully old Suzuki DRZ-400S and the “race bike with lights” KTM 450 EXC-F (sold in the US only as its kitted-out “Six Days” variant).
Among the first in the world to ride the 2019 Honda CRF450L, American Honda brought Asphalt & Rubber out to our own backyard, and let us loose on the CRF450L in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Providing a mix of gravel roads, single-track, double-track, and proper street use, we spent over 100 miles getting to see how well the Honda CRF450L plays on both the dirt and asphalt. In short? Very, very well.
Riding bikes is what we do, and the dude abides, so I am out here in Moab, Utah swinging a leg over the new Triumph Tiger 800 XCa – the British brand’s fully loaded middleweight off-road focused adventure-touring bike.
Kitted with extra goodness, the XCa is the more premium counterpart to Triumph’s other off-road 800cc model, the Tiger 800 XRx…and if you are confused by Hinckley’s alphabet soup, don’t worry, you are not alone.
To be clear, the Tiger 800 XCa is the fully-loaded off-road model, complete with a 21″ front wheel and 17″ rear wheel. It includes also things like a heated seat and grips, an aluminum radiator guard, and LED lighting,
New for the 2018 model year is a bevy of updates, namely a revised dash and smoother three-cylinder engine. Triumph says that there are over 200 changes to the Tiger 800, though you would have a hard time seeing them. This truly a model refresh, not a new machine.
Still, these are welcomed updates to the class-leader, and I have high hopes for riding the XCa on Moab’s dusty and dirty trails – the previous edition was a very capable off-roader, after all.
Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Triumph Tiger 800 XCa right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Triumph Tiger 800 XCa, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Triumph personnel. So, pepper away.
The original factory streetfighter, the Triumph Speed Triple latched motorcycling’s punk movement in 1994, and never looked back.
Now for the 2018 model year, the British brand is updating its venerable streetfighter – dragging the Speed Triple into the digital age with a bevy of electronic updates. and other technical improvements.
With more power (148 hp), more torque (86 lbs•ft), and less weight (467 lbs wet), it is evolution, not revolution for the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple, which comes in two varieties, the S model and the RS model.
Triumph claims over 100 changes have occurred inside the Speed Triple’s 1050cc three-cylinder engine cases, most of them to help the triple rev-up quicker and to achieve its higher redline of 10,500 rpm (+1,000 rpm higher than the previous model).
Riding the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS in Almería, Spain, Asphalt & Rubber got to see first-hand how these updates build upon Triumph’s street-hooligan reputation, and whether the Triumph Speed Triple RS is a worthy alternative to the bevy of robust machines already in this category.
The result? The 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS is a smart update to the British brand’s streetfighter, and though it falls short of the high-water mark in the space, it offers some strong bang-for-the-buck hooning, which makes it very appealing. Let me explain.
An update over the previous model, Triumph is boasting over 100 new pieces for the engine alone (along with a power bump to 148hp), but one quick look at this venerable streetfighter and it is obvious to see that it is evolution over revolution here for the Speed Triple.
That is not to say that Triumph hasn’t brought some meaningful updates to its awkwardly styled – yet beloved – machine, which should help the Speed Triple RS stack up very nicely against the very competitive models in the streetfighter segment.
The inclusion of IMU-powered traction control and brakes (RS model only) is the first major change made to aid that effort. The electronics suite is similarly robust with a ride-by-wire throttle, different power modes, and a 5″ TFT dash – keep things felling modern.
Helping earn the “RS” badge is OEM-spec Öhlins suspension, as well as an Arrow exhaust. Carbon fiber bodywork also comes on the RS model.
To test the new Speed Triple RS, Triumph has a two-fer for us today, riding on the streets of Spain, and then heading to the Circuito de Almería.
I’ve heard good things about Almería, so the day’s riding should be a perfect example of what one does with a dank-whoolie monster, such as the Speed Triple RS.
I was a big fan of the outgoing model, so I have high hopes for the 2018 edition, especially now that it stacks up better against the competition on the spec-sheet. The streetfighter segment is incredibly fierce though, and Triumph has some stiff competition, which means grading will be tough and merciless.
Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Triumph Speed Triple RS right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Triumph Speed Triple RS, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Triumph personnel. So, pepper away.
You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags: #Triumph & #SpeedTripleRS
Is the Ducati Panigale V4 S the most anticipated motorcycle of 2018? If you are a diehard sport biker, the answer is probably yes, though a number of significant models are debuting this year, from several manufacturers.
Still, in terms of ground-changing machines, the Panigale V4 has to rank high up on the list, as it is Ducati’s first proper four-cylinder motorcycle to go into mainstream production.
Yes, the Apollo came before it – all ~1.9 models that were produced – and the Desmosedici RR was also a MotoGP-inspired V4 motorcycle, but those were only available to a select few, with a total of 1,500 units ever made.
The Ducati Panigale V4 and its progeny, however, are here for everyone…and Ducati has taken quite a gamble in producing this “New Opera” – as the tagline goes.
I am writing to you today from Valencia, Spain – where we just finished a day of riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is better known as the final stop on the MotoGP Championship calendar.
It is a new track for me to ride, and I have to give Ducati credit for picking a venue that doesn’t play just to the strengths of its new motorcycle. A short and technical course, the Valencian circuit is fun and rewarding to ride, but it is also a torture-rack test for a motorcycle’s handling prowess.
It would have been really easy for Ducati to take us somewhere, say like Mugello, where a fast and flowing circuit could hide any flaws in the Panigale V4 chassis design, while in-turn it could also hightlight the superbike’s claimed 214hp.
But here we are in Spain, getting to ride the first entry into this next chapter of Ducati superbike history, so let me tell you what you need to know about Ducati’s new flagship motorcycle, the Panigale V4 S.
The Asphalt & Rubber traveling circus doesn’t stop, and after spending less than 12hrs at home after the Honda Gold Wing launch, I’m back at it…this time in Valencia, Spain for the Ducati Panigale V4 international press launch.
Arguably the most anticipated motorcycle to debut for the 2018 model year, the Panigale V4 is a huge step for Ducati, mostly because of the Italian company’s radical departure from its iconic v-twin power plant configuration, in favor of the 90° V4 engine configuration.
Now with four-cylinders of fury, this 1,103cc, 214hp, V4 machine is set to tackle the superbike market, but will it live up to the hype? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out.
To do so, Ducati has us riding at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, which is just outside of Valencia and home to the final round of the MotoGP Championship. A fun and flowing track with a little bit of everything, Valencia should be a good spot to see how the Panigale V4 truly handles.
We will have five track sessions, four of which will be on the Ducati Panigale V4 S, and of which will be on the 226hp Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale.
With a bevy of electronic upgrades and plenty of features, we will need all the time that we can get to in order to play around with Ducati’s flagship model, and see how it goes.
Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Ducati Panigale V4 S right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Ducati Panigale V4, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Ducati personnel. So, pepper away.
The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond.
Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.
That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday.
While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall’Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season.
New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.
Andrea Dovizioso has spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to.
“A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years” is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge.
Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. “The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years,” he said. “There are many riders who can win races. It wasn’t like this in the past.”
MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.
At last year’s launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract.
The assembled press was skeptical, despite the clear progress that Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, its first wins coming in 2016.
Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati was surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title.
Ducati was delighted by the Italian’s first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria.
By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn’t score a single podium all year.
So on Monday, when Dall’Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati’s objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious.
There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso’s results and Lorenzo’s improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.
Hello from Texas Hill Country, just outside of Austin, Texas. In addition to soaking up some of that prairie life, I am out here to ride the 2018 Honda Gold Wing.
For this model year, the iconic touring bike gets an all-new design, making it the sixth generation of the Honda Gold Wing, which has a focus on being more compact, refined, and built for today’s modern touring rider.
As such, roughly 90 lbs of fat have been trimmed off the ol’ Wing, thanks largely to a more compact engine design and what Honda calls a “double wishbone” front end (you might call it a Hossack suspension design).
In total, there are five variations of the new Gold Wing. The Honda Gold Wing Tour is the design you will most likely recognize, as it comes with integrated trunk and passenger chair, it in turn has three flavors: standard, DCT (dual-clutch transmission), and the airbag model returns to the lineup as well.
Replacing the Honda Gold Wing F6B is what Big Red simply calls the Honda Gold Wing. It has a more bagger look, with the trunk/passenger chair removed. It comes in two flavors, standard and DCT.
A hallmark technology for Honda now, this is the third generation of Honda’s dual-clutch transmission, which has considerable refinements over the previous generation, especially in its Gold Wing application, and features seven speeds for optimal cruising.
With snow and ice expected in Texas this week, our ride plans have changed a bit, but we still should be able to give the new Gold Wing a couple hundred miles of testing, riding through the hill country, outside of Austin.
For bonus fun, Honda has brought some of its 2017 models as well, so we should be able to give a good comparison between the two generations of this incredibly popular motorcycle (roughly 800,000 of them have been sold worldwide, and most of those were in the USA).
Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the new Honda Gold Wing models right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Honda Gold Wing, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Honda personnel. So, pepper away.
More evolution than revolution, for the 2017 model year Aprilia has revised the Dorsoduro and Shiver them with a 896cc engine – increasing the stroke from the previously 750cc 90° v-twin lump.
This gives both models a modest power bump and torque gain, while bringing the two street bikes into compliance with Euro4 emission standards. While at it, Aprilia has also updated both machines, leaving no stone unturned in the process in making them better motorcycles.
As such, virtually every aspect of the Aprilia Dorsoduro and Aprilia Shiver have been updated, most notably the electronics, which now include a traction control system, along with new ABS and ride-by-wire hardware and software pieces.
Hopefully, this means that these two rather bland machines from Aprilia have become the potent weapons we always hoped they would be.
To test that thought, we will be riding one of my favorite roads in the world, Highway 33, which stretches from Ventura to Ojai, and into Lockwood Valley – ending at Interstate 5. A good set of twisties, it should be the happy hunting ground for these two motorcycles.
Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the Dorsoduro 900 and Shiver 900 models right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there we will try to answer any questions you might have.
So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride these affordable street shredders, before even my own proper reviews are posted. As always, if I don’t know an answer, I will try to get a response from the Aprilia personnel. So, pepper away.