Erik Buell’s Newest Project Is an Electric Street Bike

Erik Buell, we have missed thee. It has been almost a year since we last reported on the demise of Erik Buell Racing, but it has been over two years since we talked about the man himself. What has Buell been up to? Well, from the look of things, making a pivot into the electric motorcycle arena, it seems. Teaming up with New York City boutique bike brand, Vanguard Motorcycles, as well as Formula E car supplier, SPARK Racing Technologies, Buell is part of the new VanguardSpark venture. For its debut, VanguardSpark has two machines on offer. The first is an electric motorcycle (above), called the VanguardSpark Commuter. It’s a simple design, which we don’t find terribly appealing, though one should always reserve some judgments when only looking at a concept machine.

This Week’s “Ducati for Sale” Rumor

The Volkswagen Group got a new CEO last week, and in less than seven days, that news has already sparked renewed rumors in the German automobile conglomerate divesting itself of Ducati Motor Holdings. For those who have been following Ducati’s saga, there was much talk last year of Volkswagen selling off a number of its other brands, all under the reasoning that the German company would need to raise capital to cover its mounting Dieselgate liabilities. The logic for that reasoning wasn’t sound, but the actions were certainly there, with Volkswagen tendering offers from a number of would-be suitors. There was a fly in the ointment though: Volkswagen’s labor unions, who control half of the VW Group’s board seats, and were vehemently opposed to any brand divestitures.

Battery “Thermal Events” Lead to Zero Recall & Buy-Back

Zero Motorcycles is reporting a very serious defect with its 2012 model year bikes, specifically affecting the Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DSP (Police) models. The recall concerns Zero’s battery architecture for the 2012 model year, which may cause cells to fail, and thus create a runaway “thermal event” (read: catches on fire) within the battery pack. In total, this recall affects 218 motorcycle units – the entire volume of Zero S, Zero DS, and Zero DPS motorcycles that were sold for the 2012 model year. In its recall documents, Zero cites three instances (one in Hong Kong, and two in the USA) where the battery packs on the affected 2012 model bikes have failed and lead to a thermal event.

Benelli’s Grom-Killer Debuts for the US Market, A Review

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 hur

UK Salary Data Shows Gender Gap at Triumph

The United Kingdom has a new law, requiring companies with 250 or more employees to report to the authorities the earnings of its workers, by gender. The topic has been a sticking point in the British news cycle right now, with woman across the company showing median earnings that are 12% lower than men, which is a sizable gap in income equality. Where does the British motorcycle industry falls into place in all this? Well as Visordown initially reported, that is more difficult to say, as it appears that only Triumph Motorcycles meets the reporting criteria, amongst motorcycle manufacturers. Technically, it is two brands that meet reporting criteria for gender pay gap, as Triumph Motorcycles Limited and Triumph Designs Limited split their duties for the British marque.

What Caused Jorge Lorenzo’s Crash at the Qatar GP?

After a poor start, which saw him drop from ninth on the grid to thirteenth at the end of the first lap, Jorge Lorenzo was making steady progress through the field at Qatar. His lap times were starting to come down to match, and on some laps even beat, the pace the leaders were running. As the halfway mark approached, and less than four seconds behind the leaders, Lorenzo started to believe he was capable of salvaging a decent result from a difficult start. That all ended on Lap 13. The Spaniard crashed out of the race at Turn 4, when his front brake failed and he had to drop the bike in the gravel. “I just felt that the level of the front brake was getting closer to my fingers and I didn’t have brake,” Lorenzo described the incident afterwards.

The Ducati Panigale V4 Looks Good Wearing Termignoni

For a long time, the name “Termignoni” was synonymous with “Ducati exhaust”, with the popular scarico-maker being a constant fixture in the Ducati Performance parts catalog. So prevalent was the brand, that if you see a turn-of-the-century (21st century, that is) Ducati clacking down the street with its dry clutch, chances are the exhaust you are also hearing was made by Termignoni. But that has changed in recent years, with Slovenian marque Akrapovič supplanting Termignoni in Ducati’s good graces. To find out why, all one had to do was examine the products themselves – where Termignoni’s pieces were poorly fabricated and over-priced, Akrapovič was infinitely better built and often cheaper.

Honda CBR1000RRW Debuts for Endurance Duty

What you are looking at here is the bike that Honda hopes will win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race this year. It is called the Honda CBR1000RRW. It is not all that different from the WorldSBK-spec model, the one that Leon Camier and Jake Gange are competing with currently (and that PJ Jacobsen is helping develop), save for some interesting changes. For starters, the Honda CBR1000RRW dumps its Cosworth boxes, and instead runs the Magneti Marelli electronics package that Jacobsen is using in WorldSBK. Also, there are some obvious bodywork changes, namely where the exposed front spars of the frame would be, which are now covered by a silver painted panel.Then of course, there are the mechanical changes for endurance duty, like quick-change wheel pieces and functional lights.

Honda CB300R Coming to USA with Retro-Modern Looks

One of the surprise pleasures at last year’s EICMA show was Honda’s family of “Neo-Sports Café” street bikes, which brought a retro-modern look to Big Red’s approach road bikes. While the new Honda CB1000R tickled our fancy the most, we were delighted to see that the theme extended all the way to the Japanese brand’s small-displacement platform, the Honda CB300R. An attractive and affordable entry-level bike, the Honda CB300R looks like it was designed in Europe, rather than Nippon, which is probably why the 286cc commuter is doing so well in the European market. Seeing that success, American Honda has confirmed the CB300R as an early 2019 model for the US market – available in July 2018.

Motorcycling’s April Fools Round-Up for 2018

Another year, and another April Fools Day is done and dusted. I am fairly certain that for journalists, April 1st is better than Christmas, as it marks the one day where media outlets make the news they wish they could report on daily. And as usual, the imaginations of the motorcycle media pool didn’t fail to disappoint. My colleague David Emmett had a nicely done story about the MotoGP World Championship. For my own part, I took advantage of the long-con approach, and fit a story into our ongoing series about the upcoming Suzuki Hayabusa, which seems to have no shortage of weekly rumors about this bike’s supposed features and technical specifications. How about from the rest of the industry though? In case you missed them, the highlights of April Fools Day are after the jump.

Gone Riding: In South Africa with Pirelli

04/10/2018 @ 9:44 pm, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Another day, another trip to Africa – the Asphalt & Rubber frequent flyer miles account is strong this year. As such, we are coming to you from South Africa, were we will be among the first to ride the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tire – the Italian company’s new high-performance street/track tire.

Replacing the original Diablo Rosso Corsa tire that debuted in 2010, the DRCII is a tire that is designed for modern high-performance motorcycles, many of which have advanced technologies like cornering ABS and IMU-powered traction control.

Pirelli says that the DRCII is the first multi-zone compound tire for the Italian brand, with two compounds and three zones on the front tire, and 3 compounds and five zones on the rear tire.

To take these tires for a spin (pardon the pun), Pirelli has two rides planned for us. For our street ride, we will be riding the roads near Kruger National Park (including the famous “Road 22”), which is the largest game reserve in Africa, and features perhaps the best riding in the country.

For the track portion, we will head to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which once was a stop on the World Superbike calendar. Recently renovated, riding this famous track should be a real treat, and a great place to showcase the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires.

So with that said, feel free to pick my brain about the new Pirelli tires, the bikes I’ll be riding (check posts on social media), and what it is like to visit South Africa, Kruger National Park, and the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.

As always, you can follow our thoughts on the tires via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #PirelliNation, #PirelliMoto, #PirelliDiabloRossoCorsaII, & #RossoCorsa2.

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“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” wrote the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Little minds or no, consistency is the one complaint that many riders still level at Michelin, the official tire supplier of MotoGP.

When it comes to grip, feedback, and chatter, complaints are few and far between. But consistency of feel between one tire and another remains a problem, at least in the minds of the riders.

The 2018 season opener at Qatar threw up several more examples of this lack of consistency. Ahead of the weekend, Cal Crutchlow had expressed concerns about the variation between what are supposed to be identical tires.

“You can show them the data, and if you have 20% throttle here, and this tire’s got this much more spin than the tire that you’ve got 50% throttle, and that’s got less spin. It doesn’t work. Apparently, they’ve come off the same batch.”

During the race, both Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa believed that a lack of consistency had hampered their performance. Zarco had led for the first 17 laps, before fading with what he believed was a faulty front tire.

“I got the best I could, I did what I could do, I did the job, and when I have a technician from Michelin and also on my team saying that something has been wrong, it means that OK, the rider’s job is done, then when you are doing this kind of sport, this can happen.”

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WorldSBK Buriram Debrief – A Recap from Thailand

03/25/2018 @ 10:00 pm, by Steve EnglishADD COMMENTS

If the second round of the 2018 WorldSBK season is anything to go by the regulation shake-up could see an absolutely compelling season. Buriram gave plenty to talk about!

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Gone Riding: In Morocco with Bridgestone

03/20/2018 @ 11:50 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Apologies if things have been a bit sparse here the last few days, as I’ve been making yet another trans-Atlantic crossing…my third in just seven days.

The trip has been worth it though, as I have been fortunate enough to ride in Morocco with Bridgestone the last few days, testing out the new Battlax A41 adventure-touring tire, and the Battlax T31 sport-touring tire.

Because of the schedule, we are going to have to Tarantino this “Gone Riding” post a little, and do thing in reverse, but there is plenty to talk about.

Our routes have been based out of Ouarzazate (productions like Gladiator and Game of Thrones have been filmed here), and it is a high-desert terrain with red rocks and plenty of sand and wind.

With two different tires, I have been on a host of bikes as well. On the Battlax A41, it was the BMW 1200GS Rallye, KTM 1290 Adventure S, and the Honda Africa Twin; while for the Battlax T31, it was the Suzuki GSX-S1000F, BMW R1200R, and KTM 1290 Super Duke GT.

Feel free to pick my brain about the new Bridgestone tires, the bikes I have been on, and what it is like to visit Morocco and the Ouarzazate region.

As always, you can follow our thoughts on the tires via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and you can see what our colleagues are posting on social media by looking for the hashtags #BattlaxA41 & #BattlaxT31

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Qatar is always a strange place to kick off the MotoGP season: a windswept circuit in the middle of the desert (though not for long, as the suburbs of Doha are rapidly approaching the track), racing under the floodlights, around a circuit with just a single grandstand and a VIP pavilion.

It is an odd location with a weird atmosphere. The race feels surreal, part of a science fiction spectacular, an impression reinforced as you drive back to Doha afterwards, the huge Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers awash with ever-shifting patterns of blinking lights.

You would think that the season opener couldn’t get much odder, but series organizer Dorna has found a way. In response to complaints of dew forming after 9pm in the evening, rendering the track treacherous.

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For the 2018 WorldSBK season, we are changing up our coverage format a little bit from last year, in order to provide more useful content for our racing fans.

First up, we are pleased to have Steve English providing coverage from the World Superbike paddock. Regular Asphalt & Rubber readers will recognize Steve’s name from a number of stories here on A&R, and he is also a regular host of our Paddock Pass Podcast.

With his day job being the voice of WorldSBK on the commentary feed, Steve’s expert insight will provide for us a preview of each WorldSBK round, as well as a debrief at the end of each race weekend, which will highlight the major takeaways from the racing action.

Additionally for our A&R Pro readers, Steve will be providing us with added racing analysis, as well as interviews with the WorldSBK riders, team members, and paddock fixtures, which you won’t want to miss. -JB

With that out of the way, let’s get to the opening round of the 2018 WorldSBK season, which is now in the books and certainly provided us with plenty of excitement and plenty to talk about. 

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Because of tire wear issues during Race 1, at the World Superbike season-opener at Phillip Island, Sunday’s Race 2 will include a mandatory pit stop, where riders can come in and change machines.

Due to the extra-abrasive conditions found at Phillip Island this year, these race change will also affect Sunday’s World Supersport race, as well.

Similar to the tire issues we saw in the MotoGP Championship at Phillip Island, back in 2013, Sunday’s race will include a mandatory pitstop before the end of the 12th lap for WorldSBK riders (after nine laps for WorldSSP riders), which will operate under the series’ flag-to-flag rules.

This means that riders will dismount their machine, and mount a new bike, fitted with fresh Pirelli race tires, in order to avoid the tire-wear issues found during Saturday’s race.

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At the MotoGP round for which they are title sponsor, Michelin announced that it has extended its contract as official tire supplier to MotoGP for a further five years. As such, the French tire manufacturer will continue to be the sole tire supplier until the end of the 2023 season.

The news did not come as a surprise. Dorna has made no secret of how happy it has been with the job Michelin have done for them, in helping to make the MotoGP series a much closer and exciting championship.

During the press conference held to announce the deal, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta lauded the fact that there had been nine race winners in 2016, saying “this is a championship of bikes and of riders”. Ezpeleta added “We are happy Michelin has helped the competitiveness of the championship.” 

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When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title “Weather”. The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship.

Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.

Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day.

For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.

This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams’ lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting.

The championship ain’t over till it’s over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.

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Metzeler Brings Out 18″ Tires for Classic Racers

09/19/2017 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Vintage racers know all to well the difficulty there can be when it comes to finding appropriate tires for the race track, as the odd rim sizes of classic motorcycles are often outside the sizing parameters of good modern sticky tires.

This leaves many racers using street-focused tires for their racing needs, but that could all come to an end, as Metzeler is expanding its Racetec RR Range to include 18-inch wheel sizes.

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