Ben Spies Making a Return to Motorcycle Racing?

Could we see the return of Ben Spies to motorcycle racing? That’s the talk of the paddock right now, and the former MotoGP racer is helping fuel the fires with his social media posts. Our sources point to Spies gearing up for a return to domestic racing, as he looks to ride in the MotoAmerica Championship (presumably on a superbike), and possibly also as a team owner as well, fielding his own entry. This should come as a surprising but welcomed bit of news to motorcycle racing fans, as the 33-year-old seemingly retired from motorcycle racing after the 2013 MotoGP Championship season, after extensive damage to his shoulders seemed to rule him out of a future of racing motorcycles.

Ducati Will Stay as a Part of Volkswagen

Reports out of Italy are confirming the news that Ducati will remain as a part of the Volkswagen Group, with the German company ceasing its pursuits of divesting the Italian motorcycle company from its ranks. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Ducati’s business situation, as reports of the divestiture stalling out were circulating this time last month. The news seems to come with a bonus, with Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali reportedly confirming the news internally (other reports quote Audi CEO Rupert Stadler doing the same as well). With that, Evercore Partners – the investment bank that was hired to solicit bids on Ducati Motor Holding – will stop pursuing brands that may want to see Ducati within their corporate holdings.

Rumor: Street-Touring Version of the Kawasaki H2 Coming?

I like this rumor. I like what this rumor says. And, I like that this rumor doesn’t seem to go away. The scuttlebutt of the motorcycle industry right now is suggesting that the street-shredding Kawasaki Ninja H2 might be joined by a sport-touring variant. This Kawasaki Ninja H2 GT – as some are calling it – takes the potent supercharged liter-bike, and makes it a little bit better suited for long-distance riding…well, as better suited to touring that a 200hp+ fire-breathing motorcycle can be. It remains to be seen how Kawasaki plans to expand its supercharger lineup of motorcycles: whether these rumored new machines will vary slightly in form-factor to accommodate different kinds of riding (using the current H2 as a platform for new models), or if Kawasaki will debut an all-new chassis design for these rumored motorcycles.

Solid-State Batteries, A Game-Changer for EVs?

This week’s big news is that California is looking at how it can join China, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom in the banning of internal combustion engines in the coming decade(s), a move that will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicles. While the social and political pressures are coming into alignment for electric cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the technology for these next-generation vehicles is still not fully baked, and the biggest rate-limiter for EVs are their batteries. That is about to change, however, with solid-state batteries (a battery that has both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes) looking like the silver bullet that could make electric vehicles comparable in performance and price to their internal combustion counterparts.

Investigator Releases Report on Nicky Hayden Crash

On May 17th, 2017, Nicky Hayden was out training on his bicycle, near the Adriatic Coast, when he was struck by car in an intersection very close to the Misano World Circuit. The incident would prove to be a fateful one, and send ripples through the motorcycle industry, as Hayden died five days later in a hospital outside of Rimini, Italy. Since then, the accident has been under investigation by the local prosecutor, and the results of that forensic investigation have now been released to the public. Reconstructing the incident through statements made by the driver, eyewitnesses, and CCTV video footage, the investigation has found fault on both sides of the crash – assigning 30% of the blame to Nicky Hayden, for running the stop sign, and 70% of the blame to the driver, for excessive speed.

California Considers Killing Internal Combustion

Bloomberg is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown is considering ways to ban the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines – a move that could have massive implications not only for vehicle sales, the environment, but potentially the motorcycle industry as well. Still in the early days of consideration, the news comes from remarks made by Mary Nichols, who is the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and her remarks and relaying of thought from Gov. Brown don’t make it clear if the ban would apply only to passenger vehicles, or if it would include modes of transportation like trucks, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles. However, the move mimics similar bans that we have already seen in places like China, and follows a trend that is catching on in European countries as well.

MV Agusta F4 LH44 Limited Edition Debuts

Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta, and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton have re-upped their contract for collaboration, and one of the first fruits of that labor is a limited edition MV Agusta F4 superbike. Confirming our story from earlier today, the MV Agusta F4 LH44 picks up where the MV Agusta Dragster RR LH44 left off, adding Hamilton’s “unique” tastes and stylings to MV Agusta’s tapestry of motorcycles. Like with the MV Agusta F4 RC, the exercise is primarily visual, though like on the RC edition, MV Agusta adds its race kit to the package, which is good for a claimed 212hp. The big technical change of note is the titanium race exhaust from SC Project, which does away with the beautiful four-pipe undertail exhaust that Massimo Tamburini made famous.

Eugene Laverty Explains His 2017 WorldSBK Season

A return to World Superbike, with the bike that he came so close to winning the championship on – it all appeared like a dream opportunity for Eugene Laverty, to put himself into a position to win the title. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare, and from the start of winter testing it was clear that major work needed to be done to return the RSV4 to the front. Moving to the Milwaukee Aprilia squad understandably led to heightened expectations. In their second year in WorldSBK, the former British Superbike champions were expected to make a leap forward. Teething problems were expected with the switch from BMW to Aprilia, but not the struggles that lay ahead. “During the winter you can go in the wrong direction with the bike,” commented Laverty. “Unfortunately, that was the case for us.”

Superbike Deathmatch Round #1: Aprilia vs. Ducati

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Asphalt & Rubber’s 2017 Superbike Deathmatch – our take on the motorcycle media’s superbike shootout review format, and the solitary path for a motorcycle to become the A&R Superbike of 2017. For those just tuning into the Superbike Deathmatch, the rules are easy. In each round, two bikes enter the race track, but only one bike leaves. We have six motorcycles from the eight superbike manufacturers on the market. For our first round, we have started things off with a special treat, and a battle for the right to call a bike the “Best Italian Superbike” on the market. That’s right, we are going to pit the Ducati 1299 Panigale S against the Aprilia RSV4 RF.

Photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing Leak Online

What you see here are early leaked photos of the 2018 Honda Gold Wing – one of the most successful and important motorcycles for the Western markets. Honda is expected to debut this new model at a media event in October, but our friends at MaxxMoto and Oliepeil managed to get their dirty Dutch-speaking mits on these low-res gems, ahead of time. Beyond the styling refresh, the most obvious change that we can see for the Honda Goldwing is the new front-end, which appears to be a Hossack-styled design – similar to what BMW uses on its K-series motorcycles. The engine continues to be a flat-six, from the view in the photos, though we can expect some changes to the massive block – likely with fewer emissions, maybe with more torque/power.

Two Enthusiasts Podcast #58 – California Dream

07/19/2017 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen BeelerADD COMMENTS

Episode 58 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast chronicles a busy week in California, as we head down to Laguna Seca for the World Superbike and MotoAmerica racing rounds.

The weekend involved getting the first glimpse of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, the last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand. We also got to talk to Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali about the company’s new V4 superbike, with more than a few surprises being told about the new machine.

Of course there was the on-track action, which includes yours truly getting a some seat time the Monday after the races, riding at a no noise restriction track day (something that almost never happens) with the good folk at Pirelli tires.

While there, we sat down with Giorgio Barbier, the Director of Pirelli’s Motorcycle Racing program. We talked a bit of shop while at the track day, and have included that conversation towards the end of the show, for your listening pleasure.

The audio isn’t perfect, since we’re right on the track – did I mention there was no noise restriction for the bikes? – but you should be able to hear Giorgio with no problems.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #52 – COTA

05/17/2017 @ 12:24 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off on Two Enthusiasts Podcast #52 – COTA

Episode 52 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and it prefaces our adventures in Austin, Texas. A week-long motorcycle excursion, Quentin and I soaked in some MotoGP racing action, and then on to ride the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 and the new Aprilia RSV4 and Tuono V4.

Before we get to riding bikes, we had a chance to ride something a bit different, taking a Polaris Slingshot for a rip around the back roads of Austin. We then got to see how the timing systems work for MotoGP, which is a lot more complicated than you would think.

We also got to talk a bit to Kevin Schwantz, Kenny Roberts Jr., and Randy Mamola. The show then wraps up with a preview of our ride experience on the Suzuki and Aprilia superbikes. Short version: they’re awesome.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #51 – Coda

05/02/2017 @ 9:13 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Episode 51 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is out, and covers a variety of interesting subjects for your two-wheeled lifestyle. First up, we talk shop about going to track days, such as the benefits of using tire-warmers and how to slide a motorcycle in and out of a corner.

The conversation then gets more serious, and focuses on the recent financial news about Dorna Sports (media rights holder to MotoGP and WorldSBK), and how its investors are using the media company as a piggy bank.

We finish the show discussing some movements by GoPro in the action camera sector, as the behemoth video company tries to deal with its product increasingly becoming a commodity.

It’s worth pointing out that this show was recorded before our trip to the Circuit of the Americas, so we will be trickling out that content going forward…there’s a lot of it.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #40 – Adverse Possession

12/13/2016 @ 10:23 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Episode 40 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is a busy one, as we are back in the studio (my living room) after our live show in Portland

The show starts with a talk about the new A&R Pro premium accounts on Asphalt & Rubber, and then morphs into a discussion about the changing media landscape. Obviously, that makes it a good time to talk about the changes occurring over at Motorcyclist as well.

We then turn our attention to a recent press launch with AGV, where I rode with the new AGV Corsa R and AGV Pista GP R helmets. Quentin gets his first taste of them on the show, which is funny in a way only Quentin can make it.

We wrap-up that conversation with a discussion about heavy metals near Bakersfield, CA – home of Buttonwillow Raceway, as well as my first impressions of the new Michelin Power RS street tires.

Lastly, our final topic turns to MV Agusta, which is about to sign a financing deal with Black Ocean, a Russian investment group the hopes to make Italian motorcycles great again. All in all, it’s a jam-packed show.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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dainese-d-bag

Only peasants pack their leather suits in regular old duffel bags. Not you though, you are a rider of stature, and that is why you need the ultimate two-wheeled luggage system, the Dainese D-Bag.

Motorcycle racing’s elite trust Dainese not only with their protection on the race course, but the Italian brand also helps racers and track day enthusiasts arrive to the track, in style.

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Niccolò Canepa Charged for Track Day Altercation

08/04/2015 @ 11:30 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

niccolo-canepa-wsbk-laguna-seca-jensen-beeler

Niccolò Canepa is in deep water with Italian officials for an incident that occurred at Mugello, back in 2013. Allegedly participating at a track day at the iconic Italian circuit, Canepa has been named as the rider that closed-circuit cameras picked up having an altercation with another rider, on track.

The camera footage shows quite clearly two riders gesticulating to each other while riding around the track between the Poggio Secco and the Materassi turns.

The footage then goes on to show that the rider, who is alleged to be Canepa, intentionally hits the other rider’s front brake, causing that rider’s bike to fall and nearly take out another non-involved rider in the process.

The crashed rider has been identified as Davide Cappato, who fractured his collarbone in the fall. Taking recourse with authorities in Florence, Cappato seems finally set to have his day in court with Canepa.

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TrakTape-motorcycle-covers-03

I’ve been riding track days for almost as long as I’ve owned a motorcycle. It’s something that goes hand-in-hand with my motorcycle experience, and probably is the reason why Asphalt & Rubber has such a sport bike / racing slant when it comes to our story-mix. So, I know all too well the trials and tribulations of taping up a bike before heading to the track.

Some track groups don’t require tape, as long as you pull the fuses to your headlight, tail light, and turn signals. Some track groups recognize that the plastic used on these lighting systems is brittle, can easily shatter, and thus need some tape over them for the unthinkable. Regardless, I guarantee that if you do enough track days with anything but a dedicated track bike, you will learn the hassle of taping a headlight at some point in time.

When it comes time to doing this right of passage, there are two schools of thought: 1) duck it and fuck it, and 2) razor blade artistry. The prior involves just slapping tape (usually horrid blue masking tape) in one easy but sloppy job, while the latter means painstakingly applying perfectly measured strips of matte black gaffer tape, and then trimming the excess with a razor blade. One theory is quick and easy, while the other can mean attractive track photos, but hours of your life lost.

That’s not the case anymore though, dear track day enthusiasts. Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process.

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Friday-Qatar-GP-MotoGP-Scott-Jones-13

Graduating from the Moto2 Championship, which does not come across the pond for the US GP at Laguna Seca, Andrea Iannone is one of a few riders in MotoGP this year that have never seen the Corkscrew and the Californian circuit’s other ten turns.

Not wanting to be at a disadvantage come race day, the Ducati rider will take a page out of Stefan Bradl’s playbook, and participate in a track day at Mazda Raceway this week, ahead of the Americas GP in Austin, Texas.

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Ducati-1199-Panigale-R-wheelie-Circuit-of-the-Americas

I just arrived back in California, after spending the last few days in Austin, Texas — taking part in the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch at the new Circuit of the Americas race course.

As I put the finishing touches on my reports about Ducati’s new homologation-special, as well as the newest MotoGP circuit in the United States, I thought I would share a view not too many track day enthusiasts will get a lap to see: a lap around the Circuit of the Americas.

Unless you are one of the few lucky riders who will attend the very limited number of events COTA has to honor this year, riding on this purpose-built GP circuit is going to be an expensive proposition.

That is a real shame because the Circuit of the Americas is a first-rate facility, and once you get the hang of this very-unstraight-forward track, COTA is a very rewarding course to ride on two wheels.

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circuit-of-the-americas

If you are anything like me, you can’t wait to take a few laps around the new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) facility outside of Austin, Texas. The only purpose-built GP course in the United States, COTA will host MotoGP for the first time ever this April, giving motorcycle racing fans three races in the United States this year.

If MotoGP is anything like Formula One, then COTA will also attract a number of international fans as well, as last year’s F1 race attracted a number of Mexican fans, along with a number of fans from Latin and South America — so much so that CRT-rider Yonny Hernandez might have to consider COTA his home round.

While Asphalt & Rubber will make the trek out to Texas later this year to see MotoGP race at this new circuit, and witness first-hand the dinosaur-shaped observation tower, tastefully painted curbs, and general Southern hospitality, that fresh tarmac beckons us.

Taking a few laps on this 20-turn circuit will be difficult though, as COTA offers only a limited-number of dates for track rentals, and more importantly, the going rental price is $50,000 per day (lunch included). Ouch!

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