Ride in Peace, Nicky Hayden

It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of Nicky Hayden today, the American motorcycle racer finally succumbing to the injuries he sustained on Wednesday, at 7:09 PM CEST. The former-MotoGP Champion was struck by a car, while he was training on his bicycle near the Rimini coast. After the incident, Hayden was ultimately treated at the trauma center at the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he later passed away. While motorcycle fans around the world have been hoping for good news throughout this past weekend, and looking for signs that Nicky’s condition would improve, today Nicky’s race ended, with his family and friends at his side.

Americas Top Öhlins Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Daniel Laine Kyle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California – known best for his speed shop, Kyle Racing – pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government earlier this week, after it was found that Kyle had been hiding cash-based purchases made at this business. Dan Kyle Racing is known best for being the largest Öhlins suspension dealership in the United States (if not the world), as the company offered aggressive pricing on the Swedish-born suspension, and was one of the first Öhlins dealers with an online presence in the early days of the internet. According to the plea agreement made between Kyle and the US Attorney’s Office, Kyle pleaded guilty to tax fraud and structuring currency transactions in order to avoid the reporting requirements in the US Tax Code.

The 2017 Saroléa SP7 Is Ready for the Isle of Man TT

The focus for electric motorcycles at the Isle of Man TT may center around Team Mugen’s dual entry with John McGuinness and Guy Martin, but one should not overlook this very attractive entry from Belgium. Saroléa is back for the 2017 Isle of Man TT, continuing with its state-of-the-art carbon fiber chassis goodness and retro fairing design. On board will once again be Dean Harrison, who will be gunning for a podium-finish on the 2017 Saroléa SP7. If looks alone could get you across the finish line, then Saroléa would have our vote. The Belgians have always been in the running for a strong result though, finishing 4th in 2014 and 5th in 2015. Maybe this year will be “their year” at the TT.

India Is Now the World’s Biggest Motorcycle Market

Did you just feel that? That movement was a tectonic shift in the motorcycle landscape, as India just surpassed China as the world’s largest market for two-wheel vehicles. Just how big is the Indian motorcycle market? Last year, over 17.7 million motorcycles were sold in India. That is over 48,000 motorcycles sold…each day. Compared to China, that is a margin of roughly one million motorcycles per year (16.8 million units sold last year). India has seen a sharp rise in the sales of two-wheelers within its borders over the seven years, growing over 32% during that timeframe. Transportation in general has been growing in India, but that growth has been fueled by the country’s two-wheeler market.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents

I am really excited about the Suzuki brand right now. Out of the four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, the recession affected Suzuki the most, probably more than many people realize, but the Hamamatsu brand is poised to bring out some exciting machines in the coming few years. Could we finally see a turbocharged Suzuki this year though? The rumor mill is pointing to yes…but just pointing, and the reason is because of patents. Much of this internet rumors stems from a flood of patents that have been found, where Suzuki is patenting technology related to turbo-powered engines in motorcycles, or because of other patents that make reference or inference to being part of a turbocharged motorcycle.

No, Royal Enfield Isn’t Buying Ducati

I woke up this morning to a message from a colleague, with a link to a story that linked Royal Enfield to buying Ducati Motor Holding. The story was from a fairly reliable news publication, but the headline read “Royal Enfield Might Consider Buying Ducati Pretty Soon” – the grammarist in me cringed.* “Might consider” is the most nebulous phrase in the English language. Let’s think about that phrase for a moment, as it literally means that you are considering the possibility of considering something. Don’t get me started on the timeliness of “Pretty Soon” in the news realm, as well. Metaphysics and meaningless headlines aside, for our purposes this narrative devolves further in that this story offers nothing new, beyond the story that Reuters published two weeks ago, which set off alarms in the motorcycle industry around the world.

KTM Caught Testing an Electric Street Bike

Spy photos from Austria have caught KTM testing a rather interesting motorcycle – one that does not run on a petroleum-based fuel, but rather it has an electric drivetrain at its core. This isn’t the first time that KTM has experimented with an electric motorcycle, of course, with the KTM Freeride E being available in select markets. However, the machine seen here is a pretty big step forward for the Austrian brand, from its modest electric dirt bike. Using the chassis of a KTM 390 Duke to house the battery, inverter, and motor, KTM’s electric street bike (we’ll call it the KTM E-Duke for now) looks like a rolling mess, but is what you would expect from a project in its early stages of development.

For the Geeks, Your Luke Skywalker HJC Helmet Is Here

I am a solid Star Wars geek, but not in the dress-up and go to a convention sort of way – if you know what I mean. But, this new lid from HJC might have me singing a different tune, as it mimics Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing “Red 5” fighter helmet, in a DOT legal ¾ helmet format. That’s just cool…in a really un-cool sort of way. Based off the budget-friendly HJC IS-5 helmet, this Luke Skywalker replica will cost roughly $180 when it comes out (at a date still to be determined). Additionally, 10 versions of the lid will be signed by Mark Hamill, and auctioned for charity (UNICEF and the Starlight Children’s Foundation), if your geekdom takes you in such a direction (and you have a four-figure wallet).

Hayden: “It’s Clear That There Is A Problem”

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in its search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team’s struggles will continue. Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend, but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again. Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round, the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

The Rise and Fall of Danny Kent

“Danny is probably the most talented rider I have ever worked with,” Peter Bom, Danny Kent’s former crew chief at Kiefer told me several times last year. Bom has seen plenty of talent in his time: he also worked with Stefan Bradl at Kiefer, Chris Vermeulen in World Supersport and World Superbikes, Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport. World champions all, and to this tally he added Danny Kent. Less than a year after helping him win the Moto3 world championship, Danny Kent asked the Kiefer team for a new crew chief, abandoning his collaboration with Peter Bom. Kent felt that Bom had been slow to pick up on the changes in the Moto2 class during Bom’s three years in Moto3. Stefan Kiefer obliged, and Kent started the season with a new crew chief and a Suter Moto2 chassis.

A Short Review of the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR/RF

04/28/2017 @ 1:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

It is a tough gig when you have to ride back-to-back track days at America’s premier MotoGP circuit, but such is the life of a moto-journalist. Our next trip to the Circuit of the Americas sees us on Aprilia’s 2017 lineup for its V4 models, which consists of four machines in total.

This review will focus on the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR and 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RF, even though the RSV4 provides the basis for Aprilia’s other V4-powered sport bike, the Tuono V4, which we will cover in a separate piece.

In the United States of America, the Aprilia RSV4 is easily one of the most underrated motorcycles on the market, due largely to the brand’s tumultuous past, thin dealer network, and weak brand recognition. That fact borders on criminal, in our opinion.

From our perspective, the RSV4 has long been on our short-list of motorcycles you should have in your garage – and now after riding the 2017 version, we again have the feeling that Italy’s other superbike brand has set a new standard. Hide your wallet from this ride review.

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A Short Review of the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000

04/27/2017 @ 4:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler53 COMMENTS

Finally returning to the sportbike segment, Suzuki enters the 2017 model year with a brand new GSX-R1000 superbike – and when we say “all new” we truly mean it. This is because the only thing that the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 carries over from its predecessor is the logo on the fuel tank.

With much to like about the previous generation machine, new doesn’t necessarily mean better. So, to see how the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 goes around a race track, we headed to America’s premier racing facility, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. 

For our purposes, COTA is the perfect pressure test for a motorcycle like the Suzuki GSX-R1000. If you didn’t keep up with our live blogging from the event, we had a perfect day in Texas to see what the new GSX-R1000 has to offer.

Host to America’s sole MotoGP round, COTA has been built with long stretches that test straight-line speed; it has quick-transitioning esses that test handling, fast sweepers that test the motorcycle’s feedback to the rider; hard-braking zones that test the stability of the entire rolling chassis; and there is plenty of elevation and camber for the electronics to handle.

Put through the demanding gauntlet that COTA offers a motorcycle, the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 proved that the Japanese brand hasn’t forgotten how to make a potent superbike. But what about regaining its crown, as the King of Sportbikes? Continue reading to find out.

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Gone Riding: Aprilia RSV4 & Tuono V4

04/25/2017 @ 7:20 am, by Jensen Beeler65 COMMENTS

Hello again from Austin, Texas and the Circuit of the Americas. Fresh off yesterday’s sessions on the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000, we have another day of track riding ahead of us (it’s a tough life, I know).

Switching things up a bit, we will be on the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Aprilia RSV4 RF, Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, and Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory. That’s a lot of bikes to ride in a single-day format, but we should be able to get some good seat time on each of the new Aprilia models for you.

Our focus for the day will be on the bevy of changes that Aprilia has brought to its V4 platform for the 2017 model year, as the Italian brand looks to continue the evolution of both its RSV4 and Tuono V4 lineups.

The big changes at hand are more power, an updated electronics package, new suspension pieces for the RSV4 RF and Tuono V4 1100 Factory, and upgraded brakes (cornering ABS from Bosch and larger brake discs) on all the models.

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Gone Riding: 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000

04/24/2017 @ 6:13 am, by Jensen Beeler55 COMMENTS

Good morning from Austin, Texas. After a long weekend watching some of the fastest racers tackling the 20 turns of the Circuit of the Americas, we are going to try a hand at it today, riding the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000.

COTA is a perfect test track for a bike like the GSX-R1000, with a mix of long straights, elevation changes, quick transitions, and fast sweepers. Run, turn, stop – that is the mantra behind the Suzuki GSX-R1000, and we will be testing those three attributes.

For the 2017 model year, the GSX-R1000 is an all-new machine – though we are told that fans of the “King of Superbikes” should find this machine to be a familiar soul.

Not everything is familiar though, as the outgoing model was noticably behind the times. As such, the 2017 version features near-200hp performance figures and a state-of-the-art electronics suite, which includes ABS, IMU-powered traction control, and ride-by-wire.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 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 new Suzuki GSX-R1000, 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 Suzuki personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at COTA. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Suzuki & #GSXR1000 for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #49 – Send It

04/03/2017 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Episode 49 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is mostly about our chance to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 at Thunderhill Raceway, though there are certainly enough rabbit holes of side-discussion that we suppose we can make note of a few other topics that we covered as well.

Obviously, the show includes a look at the supersport segment, as we talk about the latest 600cc four-cylinder machine to hit the motorcycle industry. We also talk about the Bridgestone R10 DOT race tire, as well as the Bridgestone W01 full-rain race tire, both of which we got to try at Thunderhill in mixed conditions.

In our talk about the “new” Yamaha YZF-R6, we got side-tracked by a number of interesting topics, like wet track riding and chassis setup/dynamics, as well as the problem of choice overload, as it pertains to the motorcycle industry. Another Two Enthusiasts classic, we hop you listen and enjoy the show.

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. Enjoy the show!

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A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/23/2017 @ 2:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler65 COMMENTS

Since 1999, Yamaha has sold over 153,000 YZF-R6 supersport motorcycles, and for the 2017 model year the Japanese manufacturer adds a new chapter to that 19-year history.

Big Blue calls the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a fourth generation motorcycle, but for those paying attention, it is obvious that Yamaha has merely taken its class-leading 600cc sport bike, made some refinements to the machine, and added an electronics package to the mix.

While there is disappointment that Yamaha didn’t bring as revolutionary of a debut to the YZF-R6 as it did just recently with the YZF-R1 superbike, we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm with this most-recent addition to its lineup.

We should also give full-marks to the the realization that for Yamaha’s competitors in the supersport category, it will be considerably harder going forward to compete with Yamaha’s 600cc offering – a task that has already been a tough feat.

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Gone Riding: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/22/2017 @ 8:30 am, by Jensen Beeler62 COMMENTS

Good morning from cloudy California. Today’s adventure takes us to one of my favorite race tracks, Thunderhill Raceway Park, to test the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6.

It should be an interesting day, namely since Northern California is getting some much-needed rain, although that makes it tough to test a 120hp+ supersport machine.

On second thought though, maybe these are ideal conditions for the “new” R6 – with its freshly added traction control, riding modes, and anti-locking brake system.

It’s this electronics suite that will be the focus of our testing today, considering that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 keeps the same frame and engine as its predecessor.

Definitely more evolution than revolution, other changes to the R6 for 2017 include revised suspension and braking components, magnesium subframe, aluminum tank, and bodywork that improves aerodynamics.

Yamaha calls this its “4th Generation” YZF-R6 model, though the spec list is suggesting something closer to a “3.5 Generation” machine…maybe 3.75, if I have had my Mountain Dew this morning and am feeling generous.

Yamaha feels confident that the 2017 model is a “new” bike though, and they even brought a 2016 model to ride, in order to prove the point to us. So, that will certainly be interesting. It looks like Bridgestone W01 full-wet rain tires will be the order of the day, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that things don’t get too moist out there.

Per our new review format, we will be giving you a live assessment of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 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 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, 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 Yamaha personnel (we have members from both the Japanese and American teams here on-site) that are here with me here at Thunderhill. So, pepper away.

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can also try searching for the hashtags: #Yamaha #RWorld #R6FirstRide for the thoughts of my colleagues as well.

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We’re Going to Try a New Motorcycle Review Format

03/22/2017 @ 12:55 am, by Jensen Beeler79 COMMENTS

For a long time, I have been unhappy with how we do motorcycle reviews here at Asphalt & Rubber – and if I am being real honest, I have been unhappy with how the industry as a whole deals with motorcycle reviews, especially in this new crazy online world.

Mea culpa, A&R is just as guilty as the rest when it comes to publishing motorcycle reviews. We have been just as lazy as the next publication, as we try to chase elusive pageviews at the end of each bike launch, with timely but flaccid prose (with varying degrees of success, on both accounts, I should say).

Well, I want that to stop. It is dumb, and it is bad for the ecosystem.

So, starting today we are going to try a new motorcycle review format – one that I have been chewing on for several months now. It is a three-pronged approach to bike reviews, which sees us trying to achieve different goals with each of our three postings about the new motorcycles we ride. Let me break them down for you.

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Gear Review: AGV Corsa R Helmet

12/14/2016 @ 7:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

AGV Corsa R Helmet

New for 2017, the AGV Corsa R is the Italian company’s update to its top-of-line sport bike helmet offering. Building off the success of the Corsa that proceeded it, the Corsa R makes a number of modifications to the already robust helmet package, thankfully listening to the feedback of customers.

As such, it is evolution not revolution for the AGV Corsa R, but we think that riders will enjoy the bevy of changes made to the Corsa R. Standout improvements include a liner that is more plush, improved air ventilation, and a more stout visor package.

For this review, we took the AGV Corsa R helmet for a spin at the race track (Buttonwillow Raceway), and the street (PDX), to see how the Corsa R compares to its predecessor, and we came away pleased with the result.

The AGV Corsa R should be on your short-list – that is, if you are in the market for a near-$1,000 sport-focused helmet.

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Not-A-Review: Alta Motors Redshift MX

09/06/2016 @ 2:59 pm, by Quentin Wilson40 COMMENTS

Alta-Motors-RedShift-MX-Two-Enthusiasts-Podcast-1

For a long time now, Asphalt & Rubber has been following the progress of Alta Motors (formerly BRD Motorcycles), as they have worked to make a lites-class comparable electric motorcycle.

With the Redshift MX motocross and Redshift SM supermoto bikes now shipping from the company’s San Francisco facility, the motorcycle community can finally see in the flesh what I have been calling one of the most competent electric motorcycles yet produced.

I have no problems saying I have had a hearty drink of the Alta Kool-aid. I was impressed with the Redshift SM prototype that I rode back in 2009, and the finalized form of the Redshift has only matured further from its strong start. 

I don’t want you simply to take my biased word for it though, so for today’s post, I have enlisted the help of my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host, Quentin Wilson. For those who don’t follow the show (shame on you), Quentin is a former chassis mechanic for the Graves Yamaha AMA team and the MotoCzysz MotoGP project. 

He is also an accomplished racer, generally go-fast guy, and has a fair bit of electric motorcycle riding experience as well. It also helps that he is familiar with the woodsy trails we have here near Portland, as we were riding Alta Motors’ motocross machine for the first time, at the Browns Camp OHV Area.

Quentin is like me though: we see electric motorcycles not as an answer to saving the environment, though that is a nice side effect, but instead as a superior method of making motorcycles not only faster, but more rideable.

With those two aspects in mind, I asked Quentin for his thoughts on the Alta Motors Redshift MX, after a couple hours of trail riding.

As you will see, Quentin’s usual ride is a Christini Honda CRF250X, which is an unusual bike in its own right, but fits into the 250cc class that Alta Motors is targeting right now with the Redshift series.

It is an interesting contrast, to be sure, but we think you will enjoy it. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks too for my more measured review on the Alta Motors Redshift SM. -JB

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