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Hello from cold and rainy Southern California, where we will be swinging a leg over the Honda Super Cub in order to find out if you really do meet the nicest people on a Honda.

This iconic motorcycle changed the American motorcycle industry in the 1960s , offering a break from the 1%’er image that dominated the two-wheeled landscape at the time.

Though the model has evolved over the years, Honda has been churning out the Super Cub continuously since 1958, with production spiking in the late-1990s and hitting the 100 million unit mark in 2017.

This makes the Honda Super Cub the best all-time selling motorcycle in the world…and now it is coming back to the United States.

Since 2008, there has been a unique motorcycle nestled into Ducati’s lineup, and it is called the Hypermotard.

Too big and heavy to be considered a proper supermoto, too tall to be considered a true sport bike, and too on-road focused to be considered a capable adventure-tourer, the Ducati Hypermotard has resided in its own category, with few direct competitors.

Instead, the Hypermotard gets compared to a large range of motorcycle models, likely because the Italians have positioned this maxi-moto to have attributes from a large cross-section of two-wheeled fun….and having fun is what the Hypermotard is all about.

The Hypermotard is a two-wheeled hooligan machine that was born to wheelie, jump, and slide, and throughout the model’s history, one maxim has remained true: if you are not having fun a Hypermotard, then you are probably doing it wrong.

And now, 2019 sees Ducati bringing a new iteration to the lineup, the Hypermotard 950. A clean-slate machine, virtually every part of the new Hypermotard has been changed from the pervious 939 model, making this the third generation of the Hypermotard line.

That being said though, the ethos of the Hypermotard 950 is an evolution, not a revolution over the outgoing Hypermotard 939. This is because Borgo Panigale has listened to its customer base while designing the Ducati Hypermotard 950, but also wisely kept the bike close to its roots.

The design is a modern riff on the original Terblanche design for the Hypermotard 1100; the package shares many attributes first seen on the 821/939 generation; and the overall fit and feel has been brought inline with the rest of the Ducati lineup.

All-in-all, when it comes to big liquid-cooled supermotos for the road, the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is at the top of the heap. In fact, it might just be the most fun you can have on the street with two wheels. Let me explain.

Hello from from the Canary Islands, where we have the curious reality of being in both Europe and Africa at the exact same time (the islands are politically part of Spain, and thus the European Union, but sit on the African continental shelf).

A winter retreat for Europeans, the archipelago provides a temperate climate for the elderly, and year-round riding for motorcyclists. As such, we are here to shred some tires, and we will be doing that the press launch for the new Ducati Hypermotard 950.

Ducati has for us a two-part program: a street ride and a half-day of riding on the track, which should help us to evaluate both the base model Hypermotard 950, as well as the up-spec Hypermotard 950 SP.

A motorcycle that is near and dear to this author’s heart, as the two previous models ended up in my garage as personal bikes, bought with my hard-earned blogging dollars, we will be especially keen to see if Ducati has retained the unique character of this plus-sized supermoto, while also refining some of its gremlins.

Hello from sunny SoCal, where we are about to go ride the new KTM 790 Duke, which is finally coming to the United States as an early 2019 model.

The first of KTM’s parallel-twin middleweights, the new Duke packs a lot of features into an affordable body, with promises of being a potent streetfighter.

To test that theory, the Austrian brand has brought us near its base of operations in the United States, and today we will tackle the roads along the Oceanside coast, and then head up to the famous Palomar mountain for some twisty fun.

The KTM 790 Duke has been on our short-list of bikes we have wanted to swing a leg over, ever since we saw the concept for the machine debut two years ago at EICMA.

Today, I am going to share with you a look behind the curtain - a look at several sides of the motorcycle industry that you don't usually get to see. Our story concerns the Indian FTR1200 street tracker motorcycle, which just debuted in Cologne, Germany at the INTERMOT show...but really, this story started three months ago, back in the United States.

It starts with a leaked photo of the Indian FTR1200, taken from a production event in Los Angeles, which was then sent to Asphalt & Rubber by a loyal reader. This turned into A&R finding its way to Minnesota to ride a prototype of the FTR1200, and us being amongst the first to ride this highly anticipated motorcycle.

An exclusive media event, Indian's plan was to have the largest publication from each critical market present, to give an early evaluation of this ground-breaking machine for the American brand.

While there were sole-representatives from the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia, Asia, etc - because of our efforts, from the United States there would now be two publications. Sorry for partying.

I have no doubt that the coverage from these other publications will read like initial reviews, part critique and part marketing pieces for the Indian Motorcycle Company. That's not a slight to my colleagues, that is just the reality of the situation. How do you evaluate a prototype motorcycle?

"I have no idea what they are talking about," I told an Indian staff member, while our post-ride video reviews/debriefs were being filmed. We had just ridden for a half a day on a motorcycle that we knew nothing about, and now we were expected to stand in front of a camera, and espouse our impressions of it.

Because of the looming weather, our tech briefing was after the ride, which is a frustrating thing when it comes to evaluating a motorcycle. As such, our impressions would be limited and relative. The power felt "good"...the brakes were "ok"...this exhaust looks like the work of a drunk plumber.

With no specs, no prices, no production volumes, no set list of features...what were these journalists talking about in their videos? I still don't know.At $9,000, the FTR1200 could be one of the best motorcycles on the market, but at $20,000 Indian would have clearly missed the mark.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the $13,000 / $15,000 price points for the base and S models, respectively. It feels high...but we will get to that in a minute.

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“How many axes does the IMU use?…And who makes it? Bosch?” asked a journalist during our press launch briefing for the new Honda Monkey. That journalist was yours truly. I am that guy at the Monkey launch.

To be fair, my curiosity was mostly personal. After all, one of the cheapest motorcycles in Honda’s arsenal comes available with IMU-assisted ABS, while more than a few of Big Red’s full-on sport bikes in the lineup do not…how weird is that? Please tell me more, Honda.

But, the question strikes a larger tone when it comes to bikes like the Honda Monkey: the tech specs don’t really matter. No one cares. The appropriate measuring stick for a bike like the Honda Monkey isn’t an objective one that is found on spec-sheets and lap times, which is a tough pill to swallow for a detail-oriented motorcycle journalist.

To that end, I am not sure if the Honda Monkey is a good motorcycle. But more importantly, I am not sure that it matters. Let me explain.

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 FacebookTwitter, 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.

For once, the motorcycle industry comes to us, as Asphalt & Rubber is up the road from our usual haunts, setting up camp in Washington state near Mt. Rainer, about we are about to ride the 2019 Honda CRF450L.

Sibling to the Honda CRF450X enduro, and cousin to the class-leading Honda CRF450R motocross bike, the Honda CRF450L is Big Red’s answer for those looking for a street legal 450cc  dirt bike.

It has been a long time since we have seen a proper 450cc dual-sport from a Japanese brand, and Honda is finally taking up the charge to take on the competition from KTM and Husqvarna. As such, the Honda CRF450L provides a crucial stepping stone for riders looking to upgrade from a CRF250L (the top-selling dual-sport in the market), and it provides an option to those who want to ride from trail-to-trail with a plated dirt bike.

Per our new review format, I would be giving you a live assessment of the2019 Honda CRF450L right here in this article (down in the comments section), but American Honda has imposed an embargo until next week for ride reviews and critiques. So while we won’t be able to talk immediately about our riding impressions of the new CRF450L until Monday (not cool), we will still be able to field questions from our eager readers, which Honda can try and answer. Show them no mercy!

You can follow our thoughts on the bike live via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #CRF450L #RideRed #DualSport.

Spec-Sheet Comparison of Relevant Models to the Honda CRF450L:

  Honda CRF450L KTM 450 EXC-F Alta Redshift EXR
Horsepower ~40hp 62 hp 50 hp
Torque 42 lbs•ft
Weight 289 lbs (curb) 255 lbs (curb) 273 lbs
Fuel Tank 2 gallons 2.3 gallons 5.8 kWh
Price $10,400 $11,700 $12,500

 
Photos of the 2019 Honda CRF450L:

When I was a new rider, I cut my teeth on Pirelli Corsa tires (and later on the Pirelli Corsa III), and as I got into doing track days, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa became my tire of choice, both as a track tire and also as a street tire.

Almost as grippy as “the good stuff” and considerably cheaper than track-focused tires of the time, the Diablo Rosso Corsa hit that sweet spot of performance and price that my relatively unexperienced two-wheeled-self required.

Best of all, after a few track days, I could swap-out the rubber on my track bike for road duty, and thus had a nice supply of new rubber for my street biking needs.

As Asphalt & Rubber became a larger part of my life, this tire strategy had to give way to trying other brands and other tires, but I was recently intrigued when Pirelli told me that they were updating this stalwart in their sport bike tire lineup, as there isn’t a lineage of tire that I am more familiar with on the market.

Creating the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II tire for the 2018 model year, the Italian brand first invited A&R out to South Africa to see if this new incarnation of the Corsa lived up to the high-water mark its predecessor left behind. In short, it did.

But, only a couple days with a new tire can be tough to use to form an opinion. Not content to be so easily swayed, I have since spent a considerable amount of time on this new Pirelli.

Riding three more trackdays (on three different tracks), trying six bikes in total, and plowing down a thousand street miles later, I can honestly say that the Pirelli Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corse II might be the best sport bike tire on the market. Let me explain.

The only motorcycle in MV Agusta’s lineup with a tall windscreen, bags, and a passenger seat designed for a human, it would be easy to call the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso a sport-tourer or an adventure-sport, and indeed we do.

But for the Italian brand, the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso is treated like a sport bike…a sport bike that one can ride all day, with bags and a pillion, if you so choose. 

It seems like a fine distinction, or perhaps even splitting hairs, but in reality it is a subtle nuance that shows how MV Agusta thinks of its business, what sort of motorcycles it wants to produce, and for which riders it has in mind when it produces them.

Riding the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso near MV Agusta’s factory in Varese, Italy, Asphalt & Rubber got to see first-hand how this “sport bike with bags” works in the real world. 

And while the motorcycle looks no different from the last time we saw it, at the base model’s press launch in the South of France, there have been subtle changes to refine the Turismo Veloce, and to make it compliant with Euro4 regulations.

Getting now to see the premium “Lusso” trim level, as well as MV Agusta’s new “Smart Clutch System”, there was plenty to try on this motorcycle, and while we have a few criticisms, the result with the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso is an ideal machine, if you could only own one motorcycle in your garage. Let me explain.