Harley-Davidson Q2 2017 Sales Tank 9.3% in the USA

Any hopes of the US motorcycle market making gains in 2017 appear to be going out the window, as Harley-Davidson reports that its Q2 2017 sales are down a whopping 9.3% – prompting the Bar & Shield brand to readjust its delivery numbers to dealers in the United States. Sales worldwide were equally bleak for the American company, with international figures down 2.3% for the same time period. This means Harley-Davidson’s combined worldwide sales numbers are down 6.7% for Q2 2017. As a result, Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said that Harley-Davidson would see a reduction in its workforce, though he would not offer specifics on what that could look like for its mostly union workforce.

BMW Motorrad USA Issues “Stop Sale” on the R1200GS

What started out as a worldwide service campaign for the water-cooled BMW R1200GS models is turning into a massive global recall for the German motorcycle manufacturer, as now the United States has joined the United Kingdom in issuing a recall on the popular ADV machine. Accordingly, BMW Motorrad USA has issued a “stop sale” to BMW dealers, as documents for a recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are being readied for release. The recall sees BMW Motorrad dealers inspecting the fixed fork tube on R1200GS models produced between November 2013 and June 2017. If the inspected motorcycle has an excessively large gap between the fork pipe and the seal plug, then the fork cannot be repaired by the dealer, and must be replaced.

Ducati Multistrada 1260 Teases More Power in CARB Docs

A bigger burlier version of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is set to come to a dealership near you in 2018, as documents filed with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) show a new Ducati Multistrada 1260 model is in the works. Spotted by the eagle-eyes at Motorcycle.com, the 2018 Ducati Multistrada 1260 is surely the Italian company’s popular adventure-tourer, now with the XDiavel’s potent 1,262cc engine inside its chassis. For those who haven’t swung a leg over the machine it resides within, the Ducati XDiavel engine is the cream of the Testastretta, making a potent 156hp in its power cruiser application, with Ducati variable valve technology installed. Judging from the the CARB documents, this potent motor could be set to make even more power in its ADV form, however.

BMW Motorrad UK Recalls R1200GS Forks, America Next?

Last week, BMW Motorrad made the interesting move of releasing a worldwide service campaign for the BMW R1200GS and its fixed fork tubes, which may get damaged from hard impacts. The service campaign affects R1200GS and R1200GS Adventure models made between November 2013 and June 2017, which by our math means that over 155,000 motorcycles are involved in this service campaign. Taking things a step further now, Visordown now reports that BMW Motorrad UK has issued a recall for the affected liquid-cooled R1200GS and R1200GSA motorcycles, within its market.

Ducati CEO Dishes on V4 Superbike Details

Talking to us at the launch of the Ducati 1299 Panigale Final Edition, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali gave us some details on the Italian company’s upcoming, and long-awaited, V4 superbike. Much has already been speculated and rumored about the successor to the v-twin Panigale, but Domenicali paints a pretty clear picture of what we can expect to see unveiled at the upcoming EICMA show, in Milan. The big news is perhaps not the fact that Ducati is moving to a four-cylinder format for its superbike program (though that is big news indeed), but instead the focus should be on what is inside the V4 engine, and how it operates. He also teased us with some news on a few other upcoming Ducati motorcycles, which should start a new chapter for the Italian brand.

Up-Close with the Suter MMX 500

By my nature, I am a critical person. This isn’t exactly a desirable personality trait, but it serves me well in my chosen profession. Accordingly, I rarely ever use words like “perfect” or “flawless” when describing something. It’s just not in my nature. From my lens, there is always room for improvement. But, when it comes to seeing the Suter MMX 500 up-close and in person, I had to rethink my usual choice of words. I will sidestep superlatives and simply say that the Suter MMX 500 is a true rider’s motorcycle. On the Suter MMX 500, there are no electronic rider aids, no ride-by-wire throttles, no kickstands, mirrors, or lights. There is nothing on this machine that doesn’t serve a purpose, and the only acceptable purpose is to go as fast as possible.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition

As far as venues go, there might not be a better place on Earth to launch a new motorcycle than Pebble Beach, California – that is, if you are into the whole breath-taking view sort of thing. The party of course was for Ducati’s last v-twin superbike, the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, which is part Superleggera, part road bike, and part spaghetti dinner. Clad in a the an Italian tricolore livery, the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition puts out a potent 209hp, and features some of the best pieces of Ducati’s v-twin superbike lineage – part of a long goodbye to the desmodromic v-twin platform. For American Ducatisti, owning one will mean a $40,000 commitment, which isn’t such a lofty price tag, if you considered its half the cost of the carbon-fiber-everything Ducati 1299 Superleggera.

Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition Finally Debuts

Ducati has finally released its Final Edition of the Ducati 1299 Panigale superbike, and the aptly named Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition packs a punch. Sharing engine parts with the Ducati 1299 Superleggera (sans its aluminum sleeved engine cylinders and sand-cast casings), the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition makes 209hp on Ducati’s chassis dynamometer. The FE also tips the scales at 419 lbs wet at the curb. For those keeping score, that mass is just a pound lighter than the Ducati 1299 Panigale S; and 13 lbs heavier than the Ducati Panigale R, which uses the 1199 motor. Priced at $40,000 for the US market though, this “half a Superleggera” still packs a considerable punch, and of course it holds the distinction of being the last of Ducati’s v-twin superbikes.

Suter North America Formed, To Bring Two-Stroke Hotness

If you are a fan of two-stroke motorcycles, then the Suter MMX 500 surely ranks highly on your list of bikes to have in your dream garage. And now for American motorcycle enthusiasts, owning a Suter MMX 500 just got easier, as the Arch Motorcycle Company has been named the exclusive importer for Suter’s motorcycle business. Establishing Suter North America in the process, Arch will begin selling these 195 horsepower / 280 lbs (wet) machines to the American public…assuming you can afford the 120,000 CHF (~$125,000 USD) price tag. Similarly, Suter will begin selling Arch Motorcycle’s power cruiser in Europe, which means the two brands are joining forces to expand their relevant markets.

Don’t Call It a Recall, BMW Issues Worldwide Service Campaign for BMW R1200GS Motorcycles

Water-cooled BMW R1200GS owners will soon be getting a call from their local dealership, as the popular adventure-touring machine is getting a worldwide service bulletin that affects models made between November 2013 and June 2017. The service bulletin concerns the fixed fork tubes on the BMW R1200GS and BMW R1200 GS Adventure models, which can suffer damage from high stress incidents (going over an obstacle, riding through a pothole, etc), and subsequently fail. By our math, this service bulletin affects over 150,000 motorcycles, making it a massive global undertaking for the German motorcycle brand, for its flagship model.

The MotoGP bikes have fallen silent for over a week now, the teams and riders dispersed to the four winds, nominally for “vacation”.

And while riders relaxed on a beach somewhere for a week, before returning to their training for the second-half of the season, teams and rider managers have been anything but dormant. There has been a hive of activity in preparation for the latter half of the season, and for some of the satellite teams, for 2018 as well.

For the Silly Season That Wasn’t Supposed To Be has stepped up a gear. The summer break has so far seen extensive negotiations going on over the MotoGP seats which will be free in 2018, and in some cases, whether a seat will become available or not.

Phone calls to team staff start with pleasantries about vacation time, but quickly reveal that vacation consists of at best a day or two taken in between meetings and preparations for the remainder of the year.

The first shoe to drop in the summer edition of MotoGP’s 2018 Silly Season is the revelation by Motorsport.com that Jack Miller will be joining Danilo Petrucci at Pramac Ducati for next season.

After losing his direct contract with HRC – that contract going to Cal Crutchlow instead – the Australian had been in talks with the Marc VDS squad about a contract directly with the team. However, a failure to agree terms over money, and a better offer from Ducati, pushed Miller towards Pramac.

The deal is yet to be announced, and teams are refusing to confirm anything officially. With Miller commuting between Japan for the Suzuka 8-Hour race and his home in Townsville, the Australian has been hard to reach for comment. But an announcement is expected when MotoGP convenes again at Brno.

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With all twelve factory riders on two-year contracts, there wasn’t supposed to be a MotoGP Silly Season in 2017, or at least, not much of one. That impression was further reinforced when the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad quickly tied up both Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger for an extra year, until the end of 2018.

As usual, reality intervened, of course. Though the factory seats were supposedly taken, there was plenty of interest in the satellite seats once the season got underway.

All eyes turned to the Moto2 class, and especially to the remarkable performances by Franco Morbidelli and Pecco Bagnaia. Alex Márquez, too, raised eyebrows. And so speculation started.

Then there were those factory seats. Yes, all twelve factory riders have two-year contracts, but all contracts have clauses that allow for either side to make an early escape.

Great managers make sure the escape clause benefits their rider. Great factory lawyers make sure the contract is in their favor. The measure of a rider manager is where they end up on that side of the equation.

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Why go testing on Monday after a race? Even though riders are pretty drained after a full race weekend, riding on Monday provides really useful feedback. First of all, the track is clean and already rubbered in.

Weather conditions are usually close enough to race day to provide good comparison. But above all, the riders are already up to speed, so no time is wasted.

Johann Zarco put it very nicely: “I enjoy it so much, because you don’t lose half day to find the feeling, you already have the feeling,” the Frenchman said. “You just wake up, warm the bike up and you are ready, and you can start to work.”

“We did the same today. It’s good anyway. Even if you are tired from Sunday, you go on the bike, going over 300 km/h and that’s just a nice life!”

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MotoGP Riders Pan New Chicane at Barcelona Test

05/24/2017 @ 5:19 pm, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

What had originally been planned as a two-day private test for Ducati grew into something rather larger, with Honda and Aprilia also joining the fray.

At the end of two days, it was Marc Marquez who ended the test as fastest, a couple of tenths quicker than Jorge Lorenzo on the Ducati, while Alvaro Bautista was third fastest on the Aspar bike. 

The test at Barcelona gave the riders a chance to test two of the most important changes for the series. First, the new, much shorter chicane being used instead of the F1 chicane, replacing Turn 12 where Luis Salom tragically lost his life during practice last year.

And second, the riders got a chance to test the stiffer front tire (the ’70’) which will be used from Mugello onwards, and will therefore be used in Barcelona during the race.

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Monday MotoGP Test Summary at Jerez

05/09/2017 @ 12:33 am, by David EmmettADD COMMENTS

For some race fans, the news that the tire wars are back will be music to their ears. The trouble is, the new tire wars which broke out at Jerez are of a very different kind to the period before the advent of the spec tire, when different manufacturers went head-to-head in pursuit of outright performance.

The Jerez tire wars are a very different beast indeed. These pit rider against rider, rather than manufacturer against manufacturer, with the prize being the future direction of tire development in MotoGP.

The weapon handed to both sides was a front tire from Michelin using a stiffer construction, first used at the Valencia race and test at the end of last year. The two (or perhaps three) sides in the debate are using the outcome of the Jerez test to try to gain an advantage in the remainder of the championship.

If you wanted proof that Jerez was above all a tire test, look no further than Ducati’s decision taken late on Sunday night to stay on for the Monday test.

Originally, they had been scheduled to skip the Jerez test and head to Mugello, where they will have a private test to prepare for what is arguably their most important race of the year.

But when it became apparent just how much stock some riders were putting in the new tire, the factory Ducati team decided to stay and give the tires a whirl.

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Jerez, the Spanish round of MotoGP, and the first event back on European soil, would in the end come down to a trial of grip. The riders and teams who understood the circumstances best, exploited their strengths, and disguised their weaknesses would come out on top.

In all three races on Sunday, the cream rose to the top. Despite rising temperatures and falling grip levels, the smart riders and teams triumphed in all three classes.

Grip was already poor for Moto3, but the lighter bikes and their smaller tires are the least affected of the three classes. Things got a lot worse for Moto2, riders struggling for grip, and the race decided by one of the two men battling for victory crashed out a third of the way into the race.

The burning Andalusian sun raised track temperatures even higher for MotoGP, and that would prove decisive in the race. Those capable of handling the poor grip triumphed, those who had counted on their good form from the morning warm up transferring to the race came away bitterly disappointed.

In Moto3, KTM made a welcome return to the front, with the Austrian bikes back to challenge the hegemony of Honda in the smallest of the three classes. That race would be won in a brilliant last-corner move when the two riders battling for the lead opened the door for the bike in third.

In Moto2, a tense duel would be settled by a mistake, leaving the last man standing to deal with staying concentrated for the second half of the race. And in MotoGP, a thoroughly imperious display saw one rider conquer Jerez, leaving a bloodbath in his wake. Jerez saw three deserving winners emerge.

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Coming into the weekend of Jerez, we knew several things to be absolute certainties. 1. Jerez is a Yamaha track. 2. Ducati always does terribly at Jerez. And 3.

The Hondas will struggle against the might of the Yamaha. After qualifying, a swift dose of reality has flushed those preconceptions out of our systems, showing them up for the fallacies that they are.

After qualifying at Jerez, we have an all Honda front row. Two Yamahas start from the second row, but their performance during both qualifying and free practice was far from convincing.

The first Ducati sits on the third row, but during practice, Jorge Lorenzo made the Desmosedici GP17 fly, finishing second in FP3 and fourth in FP4.

Where did this shake up come from? The issue is mainly one of grip. After the rain on Friday, there is very little rubber on the track, and the warmer track temperatures have made Jerez its normal, greasy self.

The Yamahas perform well when grip is high, whether that be in warmer or cooler temperatures. Extra grip merely helps the RC213V want to wheelie, something for which it needs little encouragement anyway.

Robbed of its winglets, the Ducati needs extra rear grip to get good drive out of corners, and exploit its strongest point.

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There was plenty to talk about after the first day of practice in Jerez, though none of the real talking points came from the action on the track. Rain in the morning proved that the track has great grip in the wet.

On the other hand, a drying track in the afternoon proved that you don’t really learn anything at all in sketchy conditions. Some riders pushed with a soft tire, some didn’t. Some riders took risks to set a time, some didn’t.

The session was pretty meaningless, most riders agreed. Nobody had fun out there, with the possible exception of Pol Espargaro on the KTM. But more of that later.

Off track we learned a lot more. It looks like next year, LCR Honda will expand to a two-bike team, with Takaaki Nakagami moving up to ride alongside Cal Crutchlow, with backing from Moto2 sponsor Idemitsu.

Rumors persist that the Sky VR46 team is to move up to MotoGP with two Yamahas, though Valentino Rossi denies it. The contract to supply Moto2 engines has been signed, though a few details remain to be wrapped up, meaning the actual engine manufacturer will not be announced until Le Mans.

And all of these have various knock-on effects, which will effect the entire series in one way or another.

First, to the on-track action. For a circuit which is not supposed to suit the Honda, there sure were an awful lot of RC213Vs crowding the top of the time sheets, both in the wet and in the dry.

The reason the Honda is good in the wet is simple, according to Marc Márquez: a wet track takes Honda’s biggest weakness out of the equation, leaving its strongest points intact.

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A full paddock marks the return to some semblance of normality for the MotoGP circus.

This is why the riders and teams regard the first European round as the “real” start of the season: the riders sleep in their motorhomes rather than hotels, the teams eat in hospitality units instead of makeshift tents, those hospitality units adding a touch of vibrant color which is missing from overseas rounds.

At the rounds outside Europe, the paddock is so obviously a workplace, a temporary spot which is only filled during the day. Inside Europe, the paddock becomes a village again, noise, music, and chatter filling the daytime and the night.

The return to Europe also saw an immediate return to work. Aprilia headed to Mugello, to a wasted private test where cold temperatures and the threat of rain kept Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes huddled inside their garages.

“Every time we headed out of pit lane, it started spotting with rain,” Lowes joked. He was frustrated at not being able to get many laps, but especially because Aprilia had spent money to hire the whole track for two days, and that money had basically been wasted.

Espargaro was exasperated by the sheer amount of testing Aprilia are doing. “We have many days of tests,” the Spaniard told us. “Too much, actually. For example after America, I landed on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I jumped on the bike, and it was a disaster because I couldn’t sleep, I was super tired.”

Aprilia are testing almost on a weekly basis until Valencia. “I go two days home and then on Monday I fly to Le Mans, we test here in Jerez, then we have a test in Barcelona… We have many tests.”

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2017 MotoGP Season Preview: Part 4 – The Rookies

03/24/2017 @ 2:42 pm, by David EmmettComments Off on 2017 MotoGP Season Preview: Part 4 – The Rookies

2017 sees arguably the strongest group of rookies to enter the MotoGP class in a very long time. Perhaps only 2006 was stronger, when Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa moved up to MotoGP, along with Randy De Puniet and Chris Vermeulen.

There have been plenty of promising riders (some of whom have lived up to that promise) moved up in the past, but it has been a while since so many of them, all equally strong, entered MotoGP at the same time.

Will Alex Rins, Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger, or Sam Lowes match the achievements of Stoner or Pedrosa, Márquez or Lorenzo? It is far too early to tell. But testing has only confirmed the pedigree of the four newcomers.

They were all fast in Moto2, racking up a total of 25 wins between them, and they have been quick during the preseason. There is no doubt these four are an exciting addition to the MotoGP grid.

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