Report: Harley-Davidson Looking to Buy Ducati

Rumors and reports continue to swirl around Ducati, as the Italian manufacturer is linked to one brand or another for a potential divestiture from the Volkswagen Group. And now, the latest name being thrown into the hat is none other than iconic American brand Harley-Davidson. In a report by Reuters, Harley-Davidson is linked to buying Ducati by unnamed sources, with a purchase price that is pegged around €1.5 billion, a number that has been put together by the bean-counting minds at Goldman Sachs. Volkswagen is said to be taking bids on Ducati this July, which means the fate of the Italian motorcycle brand could be decided by the end of this year.

Beauty Is Wedging an RZ350 Motor into an RS250 Frame

I am about to ruin your day, because I am going to show you something that you will want very badly, but can’t have. It is what happens when you have the best of both worlds. It is the two-wheeled version of having your cake and eating it too. This machine is called the Yamaprilia, and as the name implies, it is a mashup of the Yamaha RZ350 and the Aprilia RS250. Using the two-stroke, twin-cylinder engine from the RZ350, and the twin-spar aluminum chassis of the RS250, owner Gareth Evans is looking for the best of both worlds. The build is an interesting one – and is featured by our friends at BikeEXIF – as it involves Evans fabricating more than a few parts himself – something that is easier to do when you have a background in mechanical engineering, like Evans does.

The Ducati Panigale R and Its Carbon “Wheel Cover”

While everyone else seems to be turning a blind eye to aerodynamics, Ducati continues to be the brand pushing the aero envelope with its designs. As such, World Superbike fans may have seen this weekend that Chaz Davies was sporting a unique rear end, as Ducati Corse continues to experiment with a lenticular wheel setup. A piece of technology borrowed mostly from cycling, the carbon fiber disc “wheel cover” provides a more slippery surface for the wind to flow over, than the chaos that comes from a spinning spoked wheel on a motorcycle. Ducati has played with a lenticular wheel before, with Michele Pirro sporting the design in the recent MotoGP testing season.

Pirelli Responds to WorldSBK Tire Woes with Change

The Misano round of WorldSBK was dominated by talk of tires. As such, following a weekend fraught with failures, Pirelli will revert to an older specification of tire for the Laguna Seca round. The move sees Pirelli at a crossroads, after a series of high profile incidents during the scorching weekend in Italy. This includes Michael van der Mark’s crash from the lead of Saturday’s race, after a tire failure saw the Dutch rider robbed of his chance to claim his first podium for Yamaha. One has to remember too, Jonathan Rea also crashed out of the lead at the previous round in Donington Park, as it was a shock to see the previously robust Pirelli fail once again.

Oh My, The “Miracle Mike” Is One Tasty Indian Scout Build

That’s it. Hell must be freezing over, as I just had to mop up the floor after looking at photos of a cruiser. What you see here is called the “Miracle Mike” and it is the creation of the minds at Young Guns Speed Shop. The bike is built off the Indian Scout, an affordable entry-level cruiser that boasts pretty good performance for its $10,000 price tag, but is generally a pass for anyone that likes leaning more than 31°. Here at Asphalt & Rubber, we’ve had a bit of time on both the Scout and its sibling, the Victory Octane, and found the models to be potent, but in need of a better gearbox and front brakes…and a serious diet wouldn’t hurt too. The Swiss minds at Young Guns seemed to think the same, making smart improvements to the Indian Scout for their creation. And heck, a little nitrous “go juice” never hurts, right?

In Search of the Ultimate Motorcycle Paddock Stand…

Here is something interesting that popped up in my social media feed recently (see, online maketing does work!), which I thought was worthy of sharing with Asphalt & Rubber readers, as I am in search of the ultimate set of paddock stands for my fleet of motorcycles. Dynamoto is a new brand name in the age-old paddock stand business. It is rare to see new things in this space, but the folks at Dynamoto seem to have an interesting concept, as its a bike lift that can move freely around the garage with the bike still on it, using a novel dual-axis wheel design. If your garage is as choked full with motorcycles as mine is, being able to move a bike easily, especially on a service stand, is a valuable ability to have. Dynamoto seems to have this very need in its mind with its clever design, though their design does have its flaws.

2018 Yamaha YZ450F Debuts with Tuner App

Not one to let the other brands have all the fun, Yamaha has debuted its all new 450cc class motocross bike, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, which features the first engine tuning app available for a production MX bike. The new Yamaha YZ450F is truly an all-new machine, with a new engine, frame, and bodywork. For bonus points too, the new YZ450F comes with an electric starter, which means MX riders can now skip leg day at the gym, and still get their bikes running on race day. Available in July, in either “Team Yamaha Blue” or “White” color schemes, the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F will cost $9,199 MSRP. This price includes the onboard communication control unit (CCU), which allows the rider to connect to the bike via smartphone.

Pikes Peak Gets EMT Motorcycles from Ducati

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is rapidly approaching, and the iconic “Race to the Clouds” continues to mature, despite this year being its 95th running. Helping mitigate the safety issues that come with racing on the mountain’s 156 turns is Ducati North America, which already supports racer mentoring with the Squadra Alpina program. Now, Pikes Peak is taking another step forward. Again with the help of Ducati North America, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will have emergency first-responders on motorcycles. This is a page taken straight out of the Isle of Man TT, where traveling marshals move by sport bike between checkpoints, and are often the first medical personnel on the scene of a crash.

More Photos and Details of the MV Agusta RVS #1

Yesterday we showed you the MV Agusta RVS #1, the first creation from the Italian marque’s Reparto Veicoli Speciali program, which is making limited run machines out of MV Agusta models. Reparto Veicoli Speciali comes straight out of the Castiglioni Research Center, MV Agusta’s design studio, and this division will focus solely on making dedicated bikes for special customers. One bike, one customer, is the premise. The RVS #1 might bear familiar lines to the MV Agusta Brutale 800, but this machine is hand-built and features the most powerful three-cylinder engine in MV Agusta’s lineup, with 150 hp coming from the 350 lbs (and Euro IV compliant) machine.

The Updated 2018 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto Debuts

Husqvarna continues to be the only motorcycle manufacturer with a race-ready supermoto, straight from the factory, and what a machine it is, the Husqvarna FS 450. For the 2018 model year, the Swedish brand has added more updates for the Husqvarna FS 450, keeping it at the pointy end of technology. The big changes come in the form of a new slipper clutch from Suter, and brand that any MotoGP team should be familiar with, along with a new map switch control on the handlebar, which continues to toggle on and off the bike’s traction control, dual engine maps, and launch control features. The last change of note for the 2018 model year that Husqvarna wants us to share is that fact that there is a new graphics package…this year, the seat is blue.

Analyzing Valentino Rossi’s Two-Year Deal with Yamaha

03/19/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by David Emmett24 COMMENTS

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So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.

That Rossi would renew his contract with Yamaha is hardly a surprise. The Italian has a long and storied history with the Japanese manufacturer, from his triumphant and daring switch to Yamaha at the start of the 2004 season, in which he won both a memorable first race on the YZR-M1, going on to become champion, through a total of four world titles and a seemingly endless string of wins.

Rossi was welcomed back into the fold, suitably chastened, after his failed adventure with Ducati, and after a slow start, returned to being competitive in 2014, and especially in 2015.

Even the bitter aftermath of the 2015 season, when Rossi lost the title to his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo could not sour the relationship.

When Yamaha awarded its MotoGP merchandise contract to Rossi’s VR46 Racing Apparel business, and then signed a long-term support deal with Rossi’s VR46 Riders Academy, it was obvious that Rossi would stay with Yamaha, though it was uncertain that he would still be racing.

Rossi repeated publicly that he wanted to take the first few races of 2016 before making a decision, but it was clear that the decision would be continuing with the Movistar Yamaha team and retirement.

No doubt Rossi could have ridden elsewhere if he had chosen to – though the doors at Honda were almost certainly closed to him, after his defection at the end of 2003 – but realistically, Rossi’s future was tied to Yamaha.

When he retires, Rossi will continue as a figurehead for Yamaha, in much the same mold as Giacomo Agostini. The press release from Yamaha states as much, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis saying “When Vale returned home in 2013 it was ‘a decision for life’.”

That is worth a lot more to both Yamaha and Rossi in the long run. Though financial details of the deal were not released – they never are, the world of MotoGP salaries being one which is shrouded in secrecy and myth – the money part of the equation was most certainly not an issue.

Rossi has been racing for glory and the chance to win another title for the past few years, rather than financial compensation. Ironically, the most financially valuable of the four MotoGP aliens is probably on the lowest salary.

What is a surprise is the timing of Rossi’s announcement. The general expectation was that Rossi would stay on at Yamaha for another two years, but that the announcement would come some time in May or June.

Instead, the deal has been announced ahead of the first race of the season. The question everyone is asking now is, why the hurry?

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Friday Summary at Mugello: More on the Problem with the Honda RC213V, & Ducati vs. Yamaha

05/29/2015 @ 6:34 pm, by David Emmett4 COMMENTS

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What did we learn from the first day of practice at Mugello? We learned that Jorge Lorenzo is still at the same steamroller pace he was at Jerez and Le Mans. That Valentino Rossi is following a plan, rather than chasing a lap time.

That the Ducatis are fast, almost obscenely so, and that’s before they put their special Mugello engine in. That Aleix Espargaro is one tough son of a gun. That the Hondas are still fast, when the conditions are right. And that Mugello might just be one of the places the conditions are likely to be right.

Why would the Honda be good at Mugello when it was so bad at Le Mans? Marc Márquez explained in a little more detail after practice on Friday. The biggest problem of the Honda RC213V is the aggressive nature of its engine, both in acceleration and braking.

In braking, the bike is sliding more than the riders want it to, and in acceleration, the riders are having to fight the bike’s willingness to wheelie and spin out of the corner.

Because Mugello is such a fast track (more of that later), the teams have to gear the bikes longer, both for the main straight and for the more flowing corners. Longer gearing means that the engine has to work harder to try to lift the front wheel, taming the power a little.

“It looks like here the character of the engine is smoother, also because the final sprocket is longer and then the gearbox is longer,” Márquez told us. “The bike is pushing less, the corners are faster and don’t have that big acceleration and that helps us.”

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Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Jorge Lorenzo – 3rd

12/31/2014 @ 12:56 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

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The third part of our review of the 2014 season, in which we take a look at the top 10 finishers in MotoGP, sees us turn to Jorge Lorenzo, the man who took the final spot on the 2014 MotoGP podium:

3rd – 263 points –  Jorge Lorenzo

If Marc Márquez’s season was one of two halves, then Jorge Lorenzo’s 2014 was doubly so. The 2010 and 2012 world champion ended the first half of the season in fifth place overall, 128 points down on the leader Marc Márquez. By season’s end, Lorenzo was third, having outscored Márquez by 29 points.

If Lorenzo hadn’t gambled on a tire change at the last race at Valencia, the difference would have been even greater: in the eight races before Valencia, Lorenzo had outscored Márquez by 54 points in total.

It all went wrong for Jorge Lorenzo during the winter. The Movistar Yamaha rider was under the surgeon’s knife three times during the winter break to fix some minor problems and remove old metalwork, most notably from the collarbone he broke in 2013.

That made putting together a training schedule more difficult than usual, and Lorenzo’s fitness, usually his strong point, took a nosedive.

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Sunday Summary at Brno: Breaking The Streak

08/17/2014 @ 8:35 pm, by David Emmett22 COMMENTS

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The hot-hand fallacy finally caught up with Marc Marquez. His amazing streak of consecutive wins stays at ten, the Spaniard being beaten for the first time this year.

In his twenty-ninth race in the MotoGP class, Marquez and his crew finally failed to find a good enough set up to win, or even make it onto the podium.

The Repsol Honda man has only missed out on the podium twice before, once at Mugello last year, when he crashed, and once at Phillip Island, when he was disqualified from the tire fiasco race.

Defeat had been waiting in the wings for Marquez for a while now. Look solely at the points table, and his dominance looks complete. But go back and look at his winning margin, and his advantage has not looked quite so large.

Of his ten wins, only two were by a considerable margin: one at Austin, where he has always been better than the rest; one at Assen, where rain created large gaps. His advantage at Argentina and Indianapolis was 1.8 seconds, at Jerez, Le Mans and the Sachsenring under a second and a half.

Marquez could only eke out victory at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, races he won by a half a second or less. At most races, Marquez was winning by a slender margin indeed, lapping on average just five or six hundredths of a second quicker than his rivals. It was enough, but it was really not very much at all.

Marquez’s slender advantage over his rivals was a sign of just how close they really were. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa had all come close to beating Marquez, and in the case of Pedrosa at Barcelona, Marquez had been forced to delve deep into his bag of tricks to beat his teammate.

Marquez’s talent may have loaded the dice he was rolling, but eventually they would fall another way. “People said winning was easy for me,” Marquez told the Spanish media, “but I know how hard it was.”

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A Prelude to MotoGP’s Silly Season, Part 1

04/07/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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It is going to be a busy – and lucrative – year for the managers of MotoGP riders. With almost everyone out of contract at the end of 2014, and with Suzuki coming back in 2015, top riders will be in high demand. The signs that competition will be intense for both riders and teams are already there, with the first shots already being fired.

Silly season for the 2015 championship kicked off very early. At the end of last year, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made a few casual remarks expressing an interesting in persuading Jorge Lorenzo to come to Honda. He repeated those comments at the Sepang tests, making no secret of his desire to see Lorenzo signed to an HRC contract.

Lorenzo has so far been cautious, ruling nothing out while reiterating his commitment to Yamaha. He is aware of the role Yamaha have played in his career, signing the Spaniard up while he was still in 250’s, and bringing him straight into the factory team alongside Valentino Rossi in 2008, against some very vigorous protests from the multiple world champion.

Yamaha have stuck with Lorenzo since then, refusing to bow to pressure to the extent of letting Rossi leave for Ducati, and in turn, Lorenzo has repaid their support by bringing them two world titles, 31 victories, and 43 other podium finishes.

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Interview: Jorge Lorenzo & Crew Chief Ramon Forcada

05/10/2012 @ 3:07 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

One of the most fascinating areas of MotoGP is the relationship between rider and crew chief. The way that those two individuals communcate and interact can be the difference between winning championships and riding around mid-pack. Riders need a massive amount of talent to go fast, but they also need to understand what the bike is doing underneath them and be able to communicate that to their chief engineer. Likewise, crew chiefs have to have a solid grounding in race bike physics and an understanding of how to make a machine that is capable of lapping very fast, but they also need to be able to listen to what their rider is really saying, and understand what he needs to allow him to go faster.

It is a subject that has fascinated me for a long time. At Estoril, I had the chance to interview Jorge Lorenzo together with his crew chief Ramon Forcada. 2010 World Champion Lorenzo came into MotoGP off the back of two 250cc World Championships in 2006 and 2007, and was joined by Forcada, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Prix paddock, in the factory Yamaha team. Both men were known for their ability, but they had to find a way to work together to get the best out of the relationship, and out of the Yamaha M1. Here is what they had to say about how that relationship works:

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