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.

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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Valentino Rossi Meets the Yamaha Motobot

05/23/2016 @ 2:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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When Valentino Rossi was in the US for the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, a little bird told us he would be stopping by Yamaha’s San Francisco offices, where the Yamaha Motobot autonomous riding robot project is coming to life.

It looks like our sources were right, as Yamaha has released a video showing Rossi “meeting” Motobot, at what looks like Thunderhill Raceway, just north of San Francisco.

The video is interesting, because it shows the rapid progress that Yamaha, and its partner SRI International, are making with automated two-wheeled systems.

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Bell Pro Star Helmet, Protecting A Head Near You

02/17/2016 @ 6:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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The narrative that surrounds the Bell helmet brand is a long and storied one, with some of the more interesting bits happening in just recent time, as the brand’s many different elements and organizations have finally come back together under one roof.

As such, Bell is keen on changing some of the perceptions of its products, especially in the motorcycle space, and has made great strides in doing so with its latest crop of Star helmets.

A full-featured race helmet, priced to undercut the top offerings from AGV, Arai, Shoei, et al, the Bell Star now sees its successor, the Bell Pro Star progeny coming to market.

We don’t talk a lot about gear here on Asphalt & Rubber, but that is slowing going to change in the coming months, and we wanted to give a nod to what Bell is up to with the Pro Star.

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Lee Johnston Talks Electrics & The IOMTT with Victory

05/20/2015 @ 4:25 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Victory Motorcycles will be at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and while that brand name is certainly a shocking one, no matter what class the American motorcycle manufacturer enters, and the fact that it will be in the electric TT Zero race at least makes for a good use of the word “shocking” in a punny sort of way.

Jokes aside, it’s a big announcement for the IOMTT, electric racing, and Victory Motorcycles itself. The evolved Brammo Empulse RR race bike that Victory will be using is certainly a well-sorted race machine, capable of giving Mugen a run for its money — not mention,William Dunlop and Lee Johnston are certainly some of the top riders around the Manx road course.

Testing with Brammo Victory at what looks like Thunderhill Raceway, Lee Johnston gives his first thoughts on riding an electric race bike, and what competing in the TT Zero class will be like at the 2015 Isle of Man TT.

We will be excited to see what Victory can accomplish this year at the TT. Hopefully this is what reignites the interest in electric motorcycle racing, and electric motorcycles in general.

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Spy Shots: Brammo Empulse RR Testing at Thunderhill

01/28/2011 @ 4:37 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

Yesterday was a sunny day in the San Francisco/Bay Area, with weather in the mid-60’s. Just recently getting my bike back from a tune-up, I was itching for a ride and decided to pack things up early for the day, and go for a quick jaunt up to Thunderhill Raceway to gatecrash Brammo’s latest testing session with the Empulse RR electric race bike (close-up shots from Laguna Seca last year here).

Using my best ear-to-ear smile at the front gate, I rode into the paddock to see Brammo’s Director of Product Development Brian Wismann shaking his head upon my arrival, and muttering something about someone posting the session’s schedule online. Always a good-sport, Wismann graciously allowed me to stick around for the remaining day’s sessions, while Brammo’s CEO Craig Bramscher definitively removed me from his Christmas card list (you’ll still get a card from me though Craig).

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Spotted: What Do a Zero S, Suzuki GSX-R, and Shawn Higbee Have in Common?

05/07/2010 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

UPDATE: It looks like Zero is using Team Agni’s GSX-R based electric motorcycle, which won the inaugural TTXGP last year at the Isle of Man. Picture in the comments posted by our very own John Adamo (skadamo).

They were all at Thunderhill Park Raceway yesterday testing for Team ZeroAgni, that’s what. With a Suzuki GSX-R (600 we’re assuming, but impossible to tell) and a modified Zero S that was sporting the K² logo, the team from Santa Cruz was out getting their lean on with some special help from Shawn Higbee, of AMA privateer fame. The assumption from these findings is that Zero Motorcycles was out pacing the K² Zero S, against the sportbike to see how the two compare. We can only assume that the added presence of Buell-tour-de-force Higbee means the AMA rider has been tapped to pilot ZeroAgni’s race bike at Infineon on May 16th.

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