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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.

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.

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.

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.

Out riding bikes, because that’s what we do, for this edition of “Gone Riding” it is the last three letters of the name “MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso 800 SCS” that you want to pay most attention to.

Those three letters stand for “smart clutch system” and they represent the new semi-auto clutch technology that MV Agusta has developed with Rekluse for its street-going motorcycles, and it is the main reason that we are in Varese today, riding the Italian brand’s up-spec sport-tourer.

The Lusso line of the Turismo Veloce 800 features integrated panniers and semi-active suspension over the base model, and of course the SCS in the name adds the new clutch design, with its attractive clear clutch cover. The special clutch also adds €700 to the price tag, over the regular Lusso.

We have already had some seat time on the base model, a few years ago, and found the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 to be a capable and fun sport bike that was comfortable for longer trips, though we would have liked a few more ponies coming out of the three-cylinder engine.

Getting to see this motorcycle again, our focus today will be on the changes that have been made with the new clutch and the move to Euro4 emission standards, as well as the more premium elements that come with the Lusso name.

Per our new review format, I will be giving you a live assessment of the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 SCS right here in this article (down in the comments section), and there he will try to answer any questions you might have.

So, here is your chance to learn what it’s like to ride the Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS, 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 MV Agusta personnel on-hand. 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 #TurismoVeloceSCS

“Ride the Revolution.” That’s Yamaha’s tag line for its latest sci-fi powersport creation— the three-wheel equipped NIKEN.

But the NIKEN is more than just a Transformer-esque motorcycle equipped with an extra wheel, instead, its engineered specifically to increase cornering grip, while maintaining an authentic leaning experience that only a motorcycle can provide.

Easier said than done, right? Well, after spending a day riding high in the Austrian Alps, we can see merit in Yamaha’s latest production concept.

Some loyal A&R readers may already disappointingly know that Yamaha Motor USA has blacklisted Asphalt & Rubber from Yamaha events, which is a dumb decision in its own right, but when it comes to press launches, Yamaha Motor USA proved this week that it truly has its head completely up its own ass.

This is because the American subsidiary of the Japanese brand has embargoed reviews for the new Niken three-wheeler until next week – a full seven days after American journalists were in the Austria alps on the leaning multi-wheel vehicle.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing (worthy of mentioning at least), except the embargo is region by region, and other English-speaking publications have been allowed to post their reviews as they write them (check VisordownMCN…even the horrid MoreBikes has a short review up).

This means you won’t read a review on the Yamaha Niken by us, or any other US publication, until next Monday…if you even bother reading them at that point. It almost makes you wonder why Yamaha Motor USA even bothered sending journalists to Europe in the first place, but I digress.

Of course, everyone is very curious to know how the Yamaha Niken handles on the road.

So far from what I’ve read coming from Europe, the three-wheeler comes across as being a bit complex, and a little vague in the front-end. The bike (if we can call it that) loses grip in the rear too often, possibly because of the adventure-touring tires it has mounted, and suffers in general from a lack of power and braking ability.

The Niken makes up for those negatives though with a front-end that is solidly planted to the ground, a bulk that doesn’t feel like a nearly 600 lbs bike at speed, and which turns into a fun ride when carving at speed. The European price-point seems fairly affordable as well.

Surmising from our colleagues across the pond, the Niken sounds like a intriguing touring option, though it seems to miss the boat when it comes to being a sport-bike platform, which is unfortunately how Yamaha has pitched this unique vehicle.

Of course, what you really want to know is whether the Yamaha Niken can wheelie, like any god-fearing motorcycle should. Thankfully Adam Waheed was in Austria to answer that exact question.

You can read Adam’s in depth review next Monday, along with the rest of the American journalists, but until then you should enjoy his behind-the-scenes videos, if you haven’t already. The answer to your most burning question is in Part III, around the 3:19 mark.

For years, Benelli has lain dormant, at least in the US market. That changes with the Chinese owned, but Italian-run, firm releasing the first of many street bikes for American consumption. It kicks things off with the 2018 Benelli TnT 135 ($2,499).

US importer, SSR Motorsports, hosted a quick day ride that began atop Southern California’s Ortega Highway, and concluded in Newport Beach.

Renowned for its twists and turns, Ortega Highway is an amusing, but also very high-traveled ribbon of blacktop that links the bustling inland and beach communities.

This stretch of roadway is known for accidents as well – would the tiny TnT be able to keep up with “always in a hurry” SoCal drivers?

I always joke with industry folk that “it’s called Asphalt & Rubber for a reason,” as I am a dyed in the wool street bike guy. So when Alta Motors invited A&R to ride the new Alta Redshift MXR, I knew there were better people for the job than I.

This is where heterosexual life partner Carlin Dunne comes into the mix. On top of being one of the fastest men ever up Pikes Peak on two wheels, as well as the fastest electric motorcycle to compete in The Race to the Clouds, Carlin is an accomplished off-road racer – both with and without a motor between his legs.

So, we sent Carlin down to Southern California to ride Alta’s newest machines, and with already a bevy of time in the saddle on electric motorcycles, I can’t think of a better person’s opinion for these electron-powered off-road racers. I think you will find his insights very interesting. -JB

It was a crisp mid-week morning as we pulled into Perris Raceway for the 2018 Alta Motors product launch. Backed up against a boulder strewn hillside, opening up into a open valley, Perris MX offered a unique backdrop for the unveiling of a uncommon motorcycle.

The weird new kid usually gets picked last for dodge ball, so in its sophomore year, Alta hopes its 2018 offerings and their undeniable performance numbers will get them on the court in the brutally competitive MX bike market.

And here we are today at Perris raceway, being presented with two models from their 2018 range, the competitively priced Redshift MX and the new Redshift MXR.