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Yamaha MotoGP Return To The Future Is “Mission One”

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 12:10

Maverick Viñales was one of four MotoGP riders to beat Marc Márquez this past season. The 25-year-old Spaniard, who finished third overall in the title chase behind Márquez and Ducati-mounted Andrea Dovizioso, will remain with Yamaha through the 2022 season. (Yamaha/)

With four announcements in three days, Yamaha has once again flexed its MotoGP muscle, securing two of the youngest, most talented riders potentially able to arrest Marc Márquez’s championship domination, Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo. In addition, Yamaha kept the racing door open to nine-time titlist Valentino Rossi and once again secured the silky-smooth riding services of three-time premier-class champion Jorge Lorenzo. Let’s rewind the clock.

January 28: Maverick Viñales Contract Renewal

Yamaha announced Maverick Viñales will be one of two factory MotoGP riders for the 2021 and ’22 seasons. “We brought Maverick into the factory team in 2017 knowing he is a special talent,” Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis stated. “In his first three seasons with us, he has given Yamaha six wins, 19 podiums, and 100 percent of his commitment. Now, as the YZR-M1 is improving race by race, we foresee a very bright future for him at Yamaha. Maverick’s decision to sign with the Yamaha factory racing MotoGP team for two further years so early shows the strength of our mutual appreciation and underlines the shared conviction that together we can challenge for the MotoGP world championship title.”

RELATED: Ducati Announces 2020 MotoGP Plans

In the second half of the 2019 season, the 25-year-old Spaniard was more consistent, bucking the trend that in the past had seen him often on a roller coaster of emotions and results: ruthless and aggressive on some occasions, fragile and suffering amid Rossi’s dominance in others. With strong wins at Assen and Sepang, plus five additional podiums and third overall in points behind Márquez and Dovizioso, Viñales succeeded in convincing Yamaha to renew his contract, even after his position had been put in jeopardy by the revelation of the season, MotoGP rookie of the year Quartararo. With this recent announcement, Viñales has become the reference in the factory team.

“I’m extremely happy because I feel like I get to keep ‘my own team,’ ” he said. “This will be the second year with my current crew, and after this I have two more years to look forward to. For me, it was very important to make this announcement before the season started because I’m highly motivated and want to be able to fully concentrate on the 2020 season. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about the future. There were no reasons not to stay with Yamaha because they feel like family. Yamaha is giving me a lot of support and, as I said, I have ‘my own team,’ which is something I really need.”

January 29: Signing Rising Star Fabio Quartararo

The following day, Yamaha continued to surprise, welcoming Quartararo to its factory lineup for the 2021 and ’22 seasons; the Frenchman will complete his current contract in satellite Petronas colors on a works-spec M1. With this move, Yamaha took the 20-year-old rising star off the available-rider market. It was a second strategic move that showed Yamaha’s strong determination to stop the four-year Márquez/Honda streak that began in 2016. Lorenzo won the ’15 title on a Yamaha following an intense season characterized by an intrasquad squabble and the infamous Rossi/Márquez clash at Sepang.

In signing Quartararo, Jarvis and the Japanese have planned the future of the company by firmly investing in two of Grand Prix racing’s most promising young talents.

Yamaha didn’t dare lose Quartararo, who, in his debut season with the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, riding a year-old machine, scored six poles, seven podiums, nearly won at Misano and in Thailand, and finished fifth in the overall standings. “Now I have a clear plan for the next three years and I’m really happy,” the blond-haired talent said. “I will work hard, like I did last year. I’m extremely motivated to achieve great performances.”

The surreal situation is that the 2020 season has not started yet and all the attention is focused on ’21. Next week, Yamaha will start the first winter test in preparation of the 2020 season fully focused, lining up M1s for Rossi, Viñales, and the Petronas duo of Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.

In for 2020, out for 2021? Valentino Rossi will not be part of the factory Yamaha team after this season, even if he decides to continue racing. In 2004, Rossi gave Yamaha its first Grand Prix title of the four-stroke era, adding three more over the next five seasons. (Yamaha /)

What About Valentino Rossi?

With Ducati stalking Viñales and Quartararo, Jarvis and others at Yamaha simply couldn’t wait for Rossi to decide if he would continue racing after the 2020 season. At the same time, they couldn’t ignore the value of a nine-time world champion beginning his 15th season with the Iwata factory.

Ultimately, Yamaha and Rossi agreed that the decision will be made midseason. Should Rossi decide to continue as a MotoGP rider in 2021, Yamaha has promised a factory-spec M1 and full engineering support. This is a show of respect for the 40-year-old Italian whose impact on the sport is immeasurable.

If Rossi decides to continue racing, he won’t be part of a factory team, something that he hasn’t experienced since 2000, his first year in the premier class. Back then, Rossi raced a works Honda NSR500 on an independent team, with Jeremy Burgess, inherited from five-time 500cc world champion Mick Doohan, as his chief engineer.

“For reasons dictated by the riders’ market, Yamaha asked me at the beginning of the year to make a decision regarding my future,” Rossi said. “Consistent with what I said during the last season, I confirmed that I didn’t want to rush any decision and needed more time. Yamaha has acted accordingly and concluded the ongoing negotiations.

“It is clear that after the last technical changes and with the arrival of my new crew chief [David Muñoz], my first goal is to be competitive this year and continue my career as a MotoGP rider in 2021. Before doing so, I need to have some answers that only the track and the first few races can give me. I’m happy that, should I decide to continue, Yamaha is ready to support me in all respects, giving me a factory-spec bike and a factory contract.”

Jorge Lorenzo is forever linked to Yamaha’s past, having won three world titles for the Japanese manufacturer. Now, as a factory test rider, he may also play a role in its future. Lorenzo is the only person to beat Márquez for the title since the Honda rider joined the MotoGP class in 2013. (Andrew Wheeler/

January 30: Yamaha Signs Jorge Lorenzo As Test Rider

Yamaha completed its strategic preseason plan by announcing it had reached an agreement with Jorge Lorenzo to serve as a factory test rider during the 2020 season. The five-time world champion will work with Silvano Galbusera, most recently Rossi’s chief engineer, replaced this season by Spaniard Muñoz.

The 32-year-old Lorenzo, who announced his retirement in November after a disastrous season with Honda, will be back on track at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia on February 2–4 for the first 2020 YZR-M1 shakedown test. Yamaha further confirmed that Lorenzo will take part in all the official IRTA and private tests during the season. No wild card rides are planned at this time, but Yamaha says it is “open to that possibility” if Lorenzo wants to race again.

“The Yamaha really suited my riding style, and it will be very interesting to meet up with my old bike again,” said Lorenzo, who won all three of his MotoGP titles in 2010, 2012, and 2015 on M1s. “Returning to Yamaha brings with it some good memories. We secured many podiums, victories, and three titles together, so we know where our strengths lie. I want to thank Yamaha for this opportunity because it allows me to do what I love—riding motorbikes and pushing the limit—while enjoying a slightly calmer lifestyle than I did in previous years.”

As astrophysicist Carl Sagan once famously said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” These four announcements over three days unite Yamaha’s past (Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo), present (Maverick Viñales), and future (Fabio Quartararo) in an ambitious program that reminds me of “Mission One,” the project represented in 2001 by the YZR-M1 that opened a new chapter in the company’s Grand Prix motorcycle racing history.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Ducati Scrambler 1100 Pro And Sport Pro First Look

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 12:07

The Ducati Scrambler 1100 Pro and 1100 Sport Pro get new looks for 2020. (Ducati /)

The Scrambler model range represents more than one-fifth of the whole Ducati production for the year. It is undoubtedly a strategic model that opened new markets to Ducati. And the Italian manufacturer keeps investing in the Scrambler, honing it to slowly increase its appeal to excite potential Ducati customers who appreciate the style, the relaxed riding posture, the above average comfort, and the accessibility that characterize the Ducati Scrambler.

Ducati has equipped the Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro with more aggressive ergonomics than the 1100 Pro model. (Ducati /)

New additions to the Scrambler lineup push this concept to a higher level of performance. The Scrambler 1100 Pro and 1100 Sport Pro are powered by the hottest edition of the legendary Ducati air-cooled SOHC 1100 V-twin, now rated at a claimed 86 hp at 7,500 rpm. A 98.0mm-bore by 71.5mm-stroke engine features a very mild cam overlap of only 16 degrees in order for minimum emissions of hydrocarbons while delivering a very smooth and generous torque curve peaking at a claimed 66 pound-feet at a mere 4,750 rpm. This also comes from an 11.0:1 compression ratio, not too shabby for an air-cooled engine. In addition the unit is fed by a single, 55-millimeter throttle body with individual, sub-butterfly injectors, and the Y-shaped inlet manifold features generous runners that add extra fluidity to the torque delivery curve.

This engine powers both versions, while the two are clearly separated by some styling details, graphics, chassis settings, and riding posture. The Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro comes in a tough dark paint scheme that enhances the gold anodization of the Öhlins fork that is a major exclusivity of this version. The handlebar is low and sporty, while the 1100 Pro version features a more classic or standard Scrambler high bar.

A new LED headlight features a classic round shape, while the LCD instrumentation has a complex shape, being formed by a round tachometer and an oval digital speedometer.

Both the 1100 Pro and Sport Pro are powered by the same 1,079cc air-cooled engine. (Ducati /)

The big addition is in the electronics suite; three riding modes (Active, Journey, and City) are paired to traction control. Bosch cornering ABS is matched to a Brembo braking system featuring twin 320-millimeter front rotors and four-piston Brembo M4.32 Monoblock calipers.

The new Scrambler 1100 Pro and Sport Pro offer a little extra performance zest over the regular Scrambler 1100 version, and extra safety thanks to the additional electronics. Think of the Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro as the hip grandson of the original Ducati Monster 900.

Categories: Motorcycles

Is The Motorcycle A Leisure Product Or More Like An Identity?

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 05:00

Not a “leisure” product: For the author, like so many others, “real” life began on Friday nights of race weekends—bikes, tools and parts, vans, racetracks. Seen here in 1990, the late Randy Renfrow (5) leads then-reigning AMA Superbike champion, Jamie James. (Brian J. Nelson/)

When Japanese motorcycles hit the US market around 1960, they were small—50 to 305cc—and no threat to established brands: Harley-Davidson, Triumph, BSA, Norton. BMW existed in the US market but, in my experience, they were owned by university teaching assistants who had brought them back from Europe.

“It’s not a big motorcycle/Just a groovy little motorbike,” went the 1964 Brian Wilson/Mike Love lyrics of “Little Honda.” In other words, these cute little 50s were completely other than the big, loud, potentially bone-breaking motorcycles of that time, which were so often strongly opposed by parents. They were just good fun. Toys for adults.

The 1962 ad campaign “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” was Grey Advertising’s way of refuting head on the American mainstream prejudice against motorcycles and against the alleged “antisocial tendencies” of those who rode them.

Motorcycle sales doubled in the US from 1965 to 1970, and doubled again 1970–’75, causing the gentleman who squired me through Harley-Davidson as part of my job application to say, “Everything the Japanese have done has boosted our sales.”

I was soon off to the races, at first with crudely modified production bikes—linoleum brake lining, cams that wiped out rocker arms in 10 minutes—and then with made-for-the-job two-stroke production racers supplied in quantity at everyman prices by Yamaha.

Like it or not, I was now a member of a group. This “group” was not the racing club, standing for arbitrary rules and other such foolishness, but rather the personal cohesiveness of people happy to help each other enjoy racing. If you needed a magneto coil or a piston, someone would lend you one. Friendships grew out of this, continuing to this day. The racing paddock was a pretty good family.

Grey Advertising’s 1962 campaign included the following text: “Evidently nothing catches on like the fun of owning a Honda. You see so many these days. And the nicest people riding them.” The ads featured “respectable members of society,” and were a giant hit. (Honda /)

Sharing a common activity, especially if it is somewhat on the outs with the mainstream, fosters this cohesiveness. Therefore, when the Great Depression tightened its grip after 1930, Harley and Indian dealers, with some help from their manufacturers, worked to establish motorcycle clubs. Up to this time, riders had paid little attention to brand; you didn’t have to be “a Harley guy” or “an Indian gal” to belong. But in that less-than-zero-sum game, there was strength in having a clubhouse, in riding together, and in sharing experiences and skills. When in the 1990s I asked 90-year-old ex-racer Freddie Marsh if he’d ever known my dad’s college classmate Rody Rodenberg—who won a 200-mile race at Jacksonville, Florida, in 1938, the forerunner of the long Daytona tradition—his first words were, “Rody was an Indian man.” Loyalty forbade him to say more.

When I rode Japanese streetbikes in the 1960s and ’70s, I’d wave to other riders. Folks on Harleys seldom returned the greeting. Acknowledging the existence of ring-ding newbies risked loss of status. It might have tarnished their chrome.

I was offended in that period to see the term “leisure products” applied to motorcycles, as if they were hiking shoes or a Christmas badminton set. A casual, optional activity. Ambrosia? No, not for me—I had ambrosia yesterday. For me and for others I knew, the day job was, to paraphrase Oliver North, “just our cosmetic life.” Our real lives began Friday nights of race weekends as we loaded bikes, tools, and parts into vans and set off for racetracks as much as 500 miles away, to arrive at sunup into another life, one of sharp intensity.

That is the motorcycling I have known.

As Japan expanded into the US motorcycle market and British manufacturers committed collective suicide, Harley for a time considered competing, hardware for hardware. Biggest expression of this was the “Nova” V-4 of the late 1970s, looking far more Japanese than Milwaukee. But once Harley execs redeemed the company from its mergers-and-acquisitions owner AMF, Minneapolis ad firm Carmichael Lynch showed the tottering Motor Company a better way. It identified the long-established look of Harley-Davidson motorcycles with American nationalism, American values, and with the lone adventurer of the silver screen. To ride a Harley was to carry your own water.

Triumph went the other way, restyling its products in ways that traditional “Triumph guys” found strange and wrong. The key examples were the too-tall-to-ride oil-in-frame twins and the goofy Buck Rogers styling of the long-awaited Trident/Rocket III triple. People reflexively jump back from strange things they don’t understand, and that, for many, is what Triumphs became. Triumph had established in the minds of its faithful an enduring image of what a motorcycle should be. When the product swerved aside from that image, Triumph riders jumped back in considerable numbers.

Harley-Davidson was so successful in building brand loyalty with its new concept that first Ford and now GM have sought promotional partnerships with H-D in selling another specifically American lifestyle product: pickup trucks.

The Japanese producers meanwhile pushed out a full-spectrum line: sportbike, touring, off-road, etc., and it was remarked at the time that if all the makers’ bikes of a single type were painted gray, only an expert observer could tell the makes apart. They had become commodities. Ray Blank, American Honda’s senior VP in that era, responding to my question regarding a lack of personal identity in Japanese bikes, summed this situation up by saying, “We’re a performance-driven company.”

In that model, the prospective buyer would lay all the makers’ brochures on a table, compare the performances of the types of interest, and rationally choose the one with the best numbers. But a friend in advertising was astounded when he asked his son and three friends how they’d choose a 600cc sportbike.

“We figure, you know, it’s a marketplace, so competition guarantees that all the bikes perform about the same and last about the same. I mean, how fast do you really need to go? So that leaves which one looks the coolest. Which one would you pick?”

What happened to the idea that a particular brand of motorcycle is, as Roberta Flack put it in 1973, “Singing my life with his words”? Does any Japanese motorcycle create an irresistible and unique image of a life so perfectly attuned to your own hopes and dreams that it feels like home?

An Indian man. A Triumph guy. A Harley guy. Brand loyalty. Living in the brand. Identity marketing. Finding identity in consumer choices. Gentlemen: Choose your ad agencies.

Categories: Motorcycles

Catalina Grand Prix On For November 2020

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:18

The Catalina Grand Prix returns for 2020, 10 years after the previous running and only the 10th time in 69 years. Entries and lodging will go quickly when the actual race dates are announced. (Jeff Allen /)

The famed Catalina Grand Prix on Catalina Island off the California coast near Los Angeles has been scheduled for a date to be later determined in November 2020. Details are scarce at present, except that an agreement to stage the return of the famed race has reportedly been reached between the City of Avalon, the Island Company, and the National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series.

A Storied Past

In its own way, the Catalina GP of 1951 to 1958 was like a California version of the Isle of Man TT. The island is 26 miles off the SoCal coast, and the original event included races for lightweight and heavyweight bikes that incorporated streets within the quaint harbor town of Avalon, plus trails and fire roads winding through the surrounding hills. The Grand Prix was prominent in the day, with the main event won by American racing icons like Bud Ekins, Walt Fulton, and Chuck “Feets” Minert.

There is some historical importance to Catalina GP, as the 1958 running of the event represented the first international race event for Yamaha, which entered a handful of 250cc two-stroke twins in the lightweight class. Simultaneously, this was Yamaha’s first official US race effort, setting the stage for a bright future in all manner of racing here—and paving the way for other Japanese manufacturers who would follow suit.

Catalina thus represented the beginning of the end for English and European bikes that had dominated scrambles racing in the US after the war years. Found on period results sheets are marques that were once dominant but no longer relevant or even extant in racing, including AJS, BSA, Francis-Barnett, Matchless, NSU, Velocette, and Zündapp.

Logistically, the Catalina Grand Prix will require placing your motorcycle in a shipping container before the race and retrieving your bike from the impound area before the race. (Jeff Allen /)

A New Beginning

Reportedly, unruly, hooligan behavior by visiting bikers caused city officials to nix the event after 1958. Then after a 42-year hiatus, the event returned on a one-time basis in December 2010 thanks in large part to heroic organizational efforts by the late Vinnie Mandzak, AMA District 37, and others. Kendall Norman won the pro race that year, against such greats as Travis Pastrana and the late Kurt Caselli.

Kendall Norman took the win and the Catalina Grand Prix in 2010; it will be interesting to see which pros line up in 2020. (Jeff Allen /)

Now 69 years after its first running in 1951, the Catalina Grand Prix looks set to rev up for only the 10th time. That will make it a very special event indeed, and Cycle World plans to be there—to report and to race! Stay tuned for more info as it becomes available.

Categories: Motorcycles

KTM 790 Adventure R vs. 950 Adventure

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:17

The 790 Adventure R versus 950 Adventure—much has changed in the adventure world in 16 years, but how well would KTM’s original adventure hold its own against its newest. (Steinhardt Photography/)

KTM’s 790 Adventure R is fast becoming a darling of the adventure bike world, particularly for off-road adventure fans. So what better way to celebrate it than to pitch it against its great-grandpa, the original KTM 950 Adventure.

This is injectors versus carburetors; ABS versus braking feel; traction control versus throttle control—two bikes a decade and a half apart built to do the same job. But wait a minute, are they? Sure, the 790 Adventure R and 950 Adventure are both built to be twin-cylinder adventure bikes with a strong off-road bias (compared to the rest of the market), but they go about the task in very different ways. Is the old bike too uncompromising, too aggressive to work as a modern adventure bike? Or has the new 790 sold its soul in search of accessibility for riders who aren’t either A) awesome or B) insane?

Although both are up to the task of eating miles and rough terrain, the 790 Adventure R and 950 achieve these tasks in different ways. (Steinhardt Photography/)

Finding out was so much fun that the two-day test spilled over into a week’s worth of riding, with no rider wanting to hand either bike back. Once the new bike had eaten all the tires Bridgestone could send us and the 950 had emptied all the fuel cans, staggering around trying to suck the dregs from the drip trays, we were forced to stop screwing about and put words on the page. Although, maybe we should go ride that last trail again just to be sure…

VIDEO: 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R First Ride Review

Before the 950 ever made it to a showroom, it was hauling ass through the desert, winning Dakar, and, it would be disrespectful to forget, taking its toll on some of the best riders in the world. The 950 is a tall, hard, and fast rally bike pretending to be an adventure bike, when everything else in the genre was soft, comfortable, and forgiving. It’s a hard bastard, a seasoned desert racer trying to get into a gentlemen’s automobile racing awards dinner by sticking on a posh suit and brushing the dust out of its beard on the way in. Every manufacturer has at some time pulled the “Dakar DNA” card out for their new adventure bike, but nobody stuck to the blueprint quite as closely as KTM did with the original 950.

Even in a wet and cold Wales the 950 Adventure lets you harness its “Dakar DNA.” (Steinhardt Photography/)

Look up “known issues for 2003 KTM 950 Adventure” and it’s clear that the first run of production bikes carried the racebike’s servicing requirements to the showrooms too. But initial production niggles aside, if you lined up all the big-capacity, multi-cylinder adventure bikes from 2004 and rode them in fourth gear at a 2-foot-deep drainage gulley, only the rider on the KTM would be leaving with his collarbones intact.

When it came out, nothing could touch it for riding flat out off-road. Thanks in part to this, the 950 Adventure has garnered a cult following that makes religious extremists look like part-time hobbyists. To naysay the 950 KTM generates a defensive response from its followers so vehement, so damning that it’s a good thing none of them have the access codes for the nukes.

Not much, even 16 years later, can touch the KTM 950 Adventure in the dirt. (Steinhardt Photography/)

They may be prone to the odd hilarious mechanical hiccup (the bikes, not the nukes), but there is such an army of knowledgeable people available to offer advice on the best route of repair, that even breaking one becomes a good experience. “Huh, the battery has gone flat and the bike isn’t charging. Oh look, someone has written a fully illustrated step-by-step guide for diagnosing, then repairing the stator when this happens.” I came to the conclusion that 950 owners all ride like heroes, and when they inevitably have to take a few weeks off to let the broken bones heal, they spend that time writing repair guides.

RELATED: BMW HP2 vs. Honda XR650L vs. Husqvarna TE601E vs. KTM 950 Adventure - COMPARISON TEST

The 790 Adventure R doesn’t yet have the same kind of following; it can’t, it’s too new. But it has set a new benchmark for off-road performance on a multi-cylinder adventure bike, just like the 950 did, so give it time. At a time where adventure bikes had been relentlessly gaining weight, the arrival of the 790 was a breath of sub-450-pound (well, with half a tank of fuel) fresh air. Since then Yamaha has given us the light, simple Ténéré 7 and Honda has even shaved some kilos off its Africa Twin.

Lighter and faster, the 790 Adventure R is leading the charge into the next generation of adventure motorcycles. (Steinhardt Photography/)

The 790 clearly made a statement of function over form too; its low-slung side tanks might not be pretty, but they serve an important purpose. The spec is maybe not as high as the top-tier adventure bikes, but it forgoes some of those luxuries to focus on the riding side of things. Multistage traction control, two-way quickshifter, throttle maps, off-road ABS—all useful items in a rider’s artillery and, thankfully, all easy to access and set up. The only two riding modes you’ll find on the old 950 adventure are “working” and “not working.”

Side by side, the two KTMs share the same, er, unique styling ethos—looks that can hardly be described as pretty but are purposeful and deliberate. The old bike looks bigger, thanks to the slab-sided bodywork, but in reality it’s actually a bit narrower than the 790. When you consider them next to each other—both with low-slung fuel tanks, both with tall WP suspension—it’s surprising they ride so differently at low speed.

RELATED: Why Adventure-Touring Bikes Are So Popular

The 790 whirrs into life and its rider dives immediately into setup mode, scanning through the sophisticated display. On the 950, the old-style tach needle sweeps around next to a seriously dated-looking orange LCD dash. Choke on and the 950 clatters into life, the terrifying rattles settling down quickly to a barking, angry exhaust note that sounds for all the world like KTM made its 950 V-twin by welding two 450 motocross engines at right angles to each other.

We take it for granted with modern bikes that we can just hit the starter and leave them to manage their own cold-start strategy while we fiddle with gloves and helmet straps. I’m sure the rose-tinted nostalgia would wear off soon enough, but it was strangely satisfying balancing the choke lever and revs, coaxing the 950 into an idle steady enough to look after itself. Anyone with kids will know the feeling—the games and tricks required to get Little Precious off to sleep, one wrong move meaning you have to start the whole procedure from scratch.

Although a 2003 model, the KTM 950 Adventure is still an excellent adventure motorcycle with plenty of performance. (Steinhardt Photography/)

For anyone who has been riding bikes for a while, there’s a reassuring familiarity to the 950. The throttle responds directly, aggressively, but exactly as you expect it to. The carb-fed motor snaps at the leash through town, begging you to open those butterflies and let it charge up through the rev range. The 790 is less direct, the electronic throttle smoothing and masking your inputs. Too much gas at low rpm on the old bike has it juddering and shaking in protest, whereas the 790 remains calm, smooth, and sophisticated. The payback for this is that it takes a while to learn the 790’s throttle, to know when it’s going to peg you back and when it’s going to give you all the power you asked for.

The clutches on the two bikes echo the same sentiment: The 950 heavier and direct, while the 790 is lighter but with a little less feel. In fairness to the 790, the standard 950 clutch is known for being a little finicky, but this one has an upgraded clutch slave cylinder (a common mod) so had an unfair advantage. The power figures aren’t worlds apart between the two, the 950 claiming 102 hp to the 790’s 94 hp. The 790 tips the Cycle World scales at 470 pounds though, 37 lighter than the 950. Which highlights two things: One is just how light the new 790 is for a twin-cylinder adventure bike, and the other is how, even now, the 950’s credentials stand up well on paper.

When looking at the 790 Adventure R and 950 Adventure side by side, the evolution of KTM’s Adventure line is readily apparent. (Steinhardt Photography/)

Cruising through villages, the two bikes are not so much chalk and cheese as Dwayne Johnson and Daniel Craig. The 950 is all swagger and noise, popping wheelies off speed bumps and skidding up to intersections. It is no more possible to ride the 950 sensibly than it is for The Rock to blend into a crowd anywhere outside of Venice Beach. The 790, meanwhile, sits in a high gear, cruising along all quiet and genteel, but you know that any minute it is going drop three gears and start a fight.

Attacking a mountain pass, the 790 has the old bike covered at every apex, feeling more confident and more sure-footed. On a good sunny day, the difference is less pronounced, but on a poor road surface or wet day, when you need all the confidence you can get, the 950 never quite feels as trustworthy pitching into turns. Both bikes were running the same Bridgestone Adventurecross AX41 tires but the front end on the 790 seems to do a better job of pretending to be a road bike. If you attacked the road, braking hard into turns and firing out the other side, the 950 started to feel better. Even more so when you discover just how easy it is to power-slide in the wet. Ah, there goes another tire.

Power slides are plentiful from the 950 Adventure; it responds well to aggressive corner exits. (Steinhardt Photography /)

For day-to-day riding, I fell in love with the 950’s glove box and its ability to house multiple bags of candy, along with decent wind protection for my 5-foot-8 frame. The smooth, easy-to-cruise engine on the 790 was a blessing on early morning half-asleep rides, along with the safety net of ABS and traction control. But either bike constantly nagged to take the long route home, the one with all the puddles and that big, rocky climb. Both share an infectious enthusiasm that always makes you take that one extra trail. Owning one is like having a live-in buddy who always leads you astray. The 790 would say, “Fancy riding for three hours to find some snowy mountains, riding all day, and then home again that night?” to which the 950 inevitably replies, “Sure, but only if tomorrow we can do it all again and try and beat our time.”

The 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R will make you look like a hero and make you feel like one. (Steinhardt Photography/)

Head onto the dirt and the 790 will nurture you, look after you, cover up your mistakes, and flatter your shortcomings. The 790 builds confidence; the 950 runs on it. On a good day on the 950 you feel invincible. Using that exquisite throttle feeling, responsive engine, and well-controlled suspension to live out your rally fantasies. But show weakness and it’ll pounce on you. Get it stuck somewhere slippery, somewhere awkward and it stands poking fun at you. Suddenly it feels too tall, too top-heavy, and too angry to help out. Treat the 950 with an air of bravado, convince it that you are in charge, and it charges along with you, delivering an ability to go stupidly fast off road that few adventure bikes then or now can match.

Electronic aids such as ride modes and traction control make ripping the 790 Adventure R easier and less hectic than the older 950 Adventure. (Steinhardt Photography/)

The 790 Adventure R however, sits on the tail of the 950, carrying the same speed, but never quite feeling like it’s working as hard. On the trails we rode, the outright pace of each bike was eerily similar but the 950 always left you with a higher pulse rate. At the other end of the speed scale, the 790 is an absolute joy picking its way through slippery, technical terrain with an ease that the 950 cannot ever match. The 790’s lower center of gravity, better steering lock, and smoother power delivery at low rpm all combine to make it manageable and forgiving when the going is slow and tricky. There is no bothering with slow and tricky on the 950—you try for a few yards then give up, open the gas, bully your way through, and hope for the best.

When the terrain becomes technical, the 950 is not as sure-footed and easy to pilot as the 790 Adventure R. (Steinhardt Photography/)

If you want to be frightened, if you want a bike that offers a riding experience not dissimilar to blasting Baja rooftop-down in a trophy truck with your pants on fire, then a KTM 950 Adventure is just the thing for the job. But in all measurable ways (except outright power), the 790 is a better bike. It’s lighter, higher spec’d, and easier to ride. It still has that excitable edge that makes it a KTM; it still encourages you to turn the throttle that little bit harder, to make the most of what is still class-leading suspension performance. But where the 790 actually makes its difference known is back on the pavement. It no longer has the fish-out-of-water feeling the 950 can give you on the road, particularly when both fitted with knobby tires. It feels planted, happy to be ridden fast, slow, and everything in between. It is still an incredible off-road bike, but now it has the road credentials to be a formidable all-round adventure bike.

In the end, the 790 Adventure R and 950 Adventure are both some of the most capable ADV bikes out there, bookending KTM’s efforts to produce high-performance off-road-ready streetbikes. (Steinhardt Photography/)

The 950 was and still is an incredible adventure bike. And if we bring budget into the equation, they are an absolute bargain right now, providing you’re prepared to pull out the spanners more than once a month. People who love the 950 Adventure do so to the point of fanatical insanity and, after spending so much time riding one for this test, I began to understand why. It looks like the late, great Fabrizio Meoni’s Dakar racebike—just like it. It goes like a speedboat full of drugs over any terrain you point it at and, frankly, I can’t remember the last time a bike repeatedly scared the pants off me like this one does. Just when you’re feeling invincible, the handlebars snap side to side like a terrier puppy killing its latest chew toy. You stop to catch your breath and it then goes into a sulk and doesn’t start because of reason number 24 on the known-issues list. By this point it’s too late. You’ve already started making excuses for it, as you’re mentally listing other bikes on eBay to make room in the shed for the mad, one-eyed Austrian lunatic. If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the garage cleaning electrical terminals and safety-wiring flywheel bolts…

Categories: Motorcycles

Ducati Announces 2020 MotoGP Plans

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 07:20

Ducati returns to the MotoGP fight with Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, second and sixth overall, respectively, in the 2019 title chase. (Ducati /)

“Undaunted.” If Ducati’s 2020 MotoGP season were to have a theme, this is what Andrea Dovizioso would suggest. The Ducati factory rider has added this slogan to the seat of his leathers to remind first himself and secondly the entire team of their intentions to beat eight-time world champion Marc Márquez and his factory Honda.

“Last year, Marc won because he was faster—full stop,” Dovizioso said this past week at the team presentation in Bologna. “Strategy doesn’t count when you are slower in 19 races; you cannot beat him.”

RELATED: Marc Márquez Ends 2019 MotoGP Season With Victory At Valencia

At the end of the 2019 season, 151 championship points separated Dovizioso from the Honda ace, and that is the starting point for the relaunched challenge. “Finishing second means losing,” stated Gigi Dall’Igna, general director of Ducati Corse. “After three years as vice champions, the target doesn’t change. We are even more determined to renew the fight for the MotoGP title.”

At Borgo Panigale, the racing department has worked overtime to make another step forward. “We worked in all areas of the bike—chassis, engine, and aerodynamics,” Dall’Igna said. “The last test of 2019 gave encouraging feedback, especially at Valencia. We will bring new items to Malaysia and Qatar, in particular a swingarm and some aerodynamics solutions.”

Gigi Dall’Igna, general director of Ducati Corse (left), says the team has found more power and improved handling for 2020 and will unveil new parts at the Sepang and Qatar tests. (Ducati /)

As for the engine, the white-bearded engineer believes Ducati will regain the top-speed advantage it lost to Honda in 2019. “Last year, Honda improved a lot in terms of top speed, which was one of the strengths of the Desmosedici,” Dall’Igna said. “We worked hard to close the gap, and we are satisfied with the results achieved, but only the track will tell us where our competitors are.”

Regarding aerodynamics, Dall’Igna has often surprised the paddock with his creativity and skill to interpret and push gray areas of the rule book. “It’s every good engineer’s task to explore the limits of the rules—remaining on the legal side,” he said. “Unfortunately, nowadays, the stable rules and strict limitations don’t give us so much room to be creative and explore alternative paths; we are in a cage. The new fairing will be tested at Sepang or Qatar. You won’t see many new things outside; the new solutions lie underneath.”

Finally, the chassis. Ducati’s riders have continually asked for a bike that’s easier to turn. “Looking for more horsepower didn’t prevent us from developing the chassis,” Dall’Igna added. “We tested the new chassis at the Valencia test, and we had very good feedback. In Jerez, the difference between the 2019 and the ’20 version was not so huge, so we want to test it again in Malaysia.”

Dall’Igna is proud Ducati is the only European manufacturer that has been able to win MotoGP races and challenge Japanese giants Honda and Yamaha for the title. “We are smaller in terms of human resources and budget,” he said, “and this has an impact on the technological development and budget.”

With the contracts for all top riders expiring at the end of the 2020 season, future plans are in flux. Ducati returns for 2020 with Dovizioso, who has finished second in the championship three years in a row, and Mugello race winner Petrucci.

“This is my second year as a factory rider, and now I know what to expect,” Petrucci said. “Last season, I always gave my best, but I was not able to turn the difficult moments into positives. I tried using strength and instinct rather than a proper method. After the mistake I had in Austria, I found myself in crisis. Now it’s time to face the season with more confidence.”

If Petrucci is confident, an “undaunted” Dovizioso is even more so. “No one is unbeatable, even Marc,” he warned. “I have studied how to beat Marc, starting with myself. First, I trained a lot to improve my speed on the single lap. Taking the lead from the first row is essential in MotoGP, and in the past years I was struggling in qualifying while I was able to make the difference in the final part of the race. Marc is the reference, but there are five or six others that are able to fight for the title. Yamaha, in particular, made a huge step forward in the second half of the 2019 season, and Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo will tackle the 2020 season with a different mentality.”

Dovizioso knows good results on the track will be the best guarantee of his renewal for the 2021–’22 seasons with the Italian manufacturer. Yamaha has already signed Viñales and Quartararo through the 2022 season, and it will also support Valentino Rossi with factory equipment and engineering if he decides to continue racing.

Dovizioso and Petrucci are determined to challenge Marc Márquez for the 2020 MotoGP championship. (Ducati /)

Ducati was reportedly very close to signing Viñales and was also negotiating with Quartararo. In a sport where victory can be determined by a thousandth of a second, timing is everything, and Yamaha kicks off 2020 2–0 in the race for the 2021–’22 championship.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 13:23

2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin (Honda/)

When the “Africa Twin” graphic reappeared on a Honda motorcycle in 2016 for the first time in more than a decade, the large-bore adventure market got a little bit bigger and a whole lot sweeter. Available in both six-speed manual and dual-clutch-automatic versions, the 998cc CRF1000L was comfortable and capable on and off road. Fast-forward to 2020 and the CRF1100L Africa Twin. That’s right, the engine gets a bump in displacement via a 6.5mm stroke increase, along with IMU-aided electronics that include six ride modes, cornering ABS, wheelie and traction control, plus cruise control and Apple CarPlay compatibility—all trackable on a 6.5-inch TFT display.

Engineers further slimmed down the semi-double-cradle steel frame, lopping off a claimed 4 pounds, and redesigned the now-detachable and manufactured-from-aluminum subframe. The previous model’s tall windshield is replaced by a shorter screen that, Honda says, eases weight transfer when riding aggressively in rough terrain and reduces chest-level high-speed buffeting. If you’re seeking even greater off-road capability, Honda also offers the up-spec Adventure Sports ES models, for which DCT likewise remains an $800 option for those riders who want to leave clutch-work to old-timers.

2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin (Honda/)

Cycle World’s Annual Ten Best Bikes

Editorial reception for the 2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin was so positive that the brand-new model won Best Adventure Bike honors in its debut year. Thanks to its torquey 998cc parallel twin and balanced chassis—with wheel sizes that accept off-road rubber—the sophisticated machine delivered a rare combination of refinement and versatility.


2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

2020 CRF1100L Honda Africa Twin First Look

Africa Twin: Old vs. New

2019 BMW F 850 GS vs. Honda Africa Twin

Honda’s 2018 Africa Twin Adventure Sports On The Road In Europe

2018 Honda Africa Twin Vs. 2018 Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports

BMW R1200GS Adventure vs. Ducati Multistrada Enduro vs. Honda Africa Twin vs. KTM 1190 Adventure R - COMPARISON TEST

2016 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin - DYNO TEST

2020 Honda CRF1100L Africa Twin (Honda/)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $14,399/$15,199 (DCT) Engine Liquid-cooled, SOHC, twin-cylinder Displacement 1,084cc Bore x Stroke 92.0mm x 81.5mm Horsepower N/A Torque N/A Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 34.3/33.7 in. Rake 27.0º Trail 4.4 in. Front Suspension 45mm fully adjustable; 9.1-in. travel Rear Suspension Fully adjustable; 9.4-in. travel Front Tire 90/90-21 Rear Tire 150/70-18 Wheelbase 62.0 in. Fuel Capacity 5.0 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 501/524 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height N/A Dry Weight N/A Rear-Wheel Horsepower N/A Rear-Wheel Torque N/A 0–60 mph N/A 1/4-mile N/A Braking 30–0 mph N/A Braking 60–0 mph N/A

Categories: Motorcycles

Volker Rauch Classic Motorcycle Racing Photographs Part 2

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 10:12

Start of the 250cc GP at Hockenheim on May 26, 1963. Nearest is Tarquinio Provini on the Moto Morini. He set pole and won. One lonely megaphone! Honda’s 250cc fours were making 46 hp at 14,500 rpm, versus the Morini’s 37 hp at 11,000. Note how large the brakes on these bikes have become; now that they were making the horsepower of most 500s, they needed brakes to match. The 250s had become the class to watch. (Volker Rauch/)

We’ve all been thrilled by Volker Rauch’s dramatic midcorner photo of Mike Hailwood on the legendary Honda 250cc six at Clermont-Ferrand in 1967. It is therefore a privilege for me to dig out facts and relevant details relating to Cycle World’s trove of other Rauch photos, beginning in 1955 and continuing through the rise, dominance, and, after 1967, retirement of the classic Japanese Grand Prix teams.

There is for me wonderful incongruity in these other-worldly sharp black-and-white images of motorcycles and mechanics working on the ground in wooded paddocks. This was far indeed from today’s high-security “pit boxes,” lined and lighted for the event with theatrical flats carrying the corporate graphics that will be transmitted through every photographer’s lens.

When the big money comes into a sport, something is gained and something is lost.

This is a single-cylinder DKW 125 (actually 117cc) made by blanking two of the three cylinders of the 350cc triple. Testing had shown that the center cylinder produced more power than either of the two upright cylinders. The engineers took the hint. (Volker Rauch/)
International meeting 1958 Rhein Cup: This is the special 309-pound 500cc solo BMW raced that year by the late Geoff Duke. It was powered by the carbureted version of the Rennsport racing engine, but there was also a fuel-injected option, making a bit more power claimed to be 58 hp at 9,500 rpm. Duke’s best finish on it was fourth in Belgium, just over a minute behind John Surtees on the MV Agusta four.<br /><br /> This was during BMW’s romantic involvement with the Earles long leading-link fork, whose extra mass projecting to the rear caused a slow pendulum-like wallow in long corners. BMW wasn’t the only one giving it a try. Looks like Girling units at the rear.<br /><br /> Note that final-drive torque reaction is not fed into the swingarm but into the link you see below it. This prevented the comical “pinion climb” that could result from rolling throttle on and off on production bikes. As you opened the throttle, rear suspension extended as the drive pinion “climbed” the axle gear. When you closed it, the rear of the bike sank. But not on this racing model. Years later, Dr. John Wittner would do the same for the shaft-drive Moto Guzzi in AMA Battle of the Twins racing.<br /><br /> What is that lump above the valve cover? That conceals the bevel gears driving this engine’s overhead cams. Built-for-racing, Rennsport engines like this one would win 15 consecutive sidecar world championships, 1954–’67, then five more in the years before two-stroke domination began in ’75.<br /><br /> Limited PR resources? This bike is posed for the photo by leaning it against a tree. In roughly the same period, Formula 1 cars were chugged through public streets to reach the starting grid at Belgium’s super-fast Spa circuit. TV had not yet turned sport into spectacle. (Volker Rauch/)
Here is Ralph Bryans leading the 1964 West German Grand Prix at Solitude on the Honda RC115. The 50cc four-stroke twin produced 12 hp at 19,000 rpm, with redline at 20,000. Flat-slide carburetors were used. Thin sheet aluminum discs are fitted to the front wheel, presumably because “they looked right,” as the actual caliper brake unit can be seen just behind the fork leg at the top. Lots of gearbox speeds made the sound of acceleration “bee-bee-bee-bee” as the many upshifts followed each other—rather like modern automobiles with their eight, nine, and even 10-speed automatic gearboxes. This 50 had nine speeds and its engine was designed by Soichiro Irimajiri.<br /><br /> The “two-stroke squeeze” that would by 1975 push four-strokes out of every GP class including sidecars began in the smallest class first. It pitted the ultra revs of Honda’s four-strokes against the rising combustion pressure of the two-strokes. There was no doubt of the outcome. Despite Mike Hailwood’s sensational 1966–’67 wins on the 250cc six over Phil Read on the Yamaha RD05 square-four, Honda knew that even a water-cooled V-8 turning 20,000 rpm might not be enough.<br> (Volker Rauch/)
What does a bucks-up privateer racer do when he’s cracked or holed his last piston? In one outcome, he wraps a rag around the loose small end of the connecting rod, builds up the engine to look normal, and then pushes off at the start with the rest of the field. Why? To collect the starting money that sustained the more successful privateer racers. Non-GP international races like the 1958 Rhein Cup attracted competitors by paying start money, so every privateer constantly wrote letters on his special stationery—with printed lists of his successes on it—to race promoters all over Europe. With that start money, he could 1) afford a replacement piston and 2) carry on to the next event with gas in the tank and dinner in the tummy. But here is an alternative: Try to fix the wrecked piston with aluminum brazing. Good luck to all privateers! (Volker Rauch/)
This scene from Hockenheim-Rennen in 1956 shows the purpose-built DKW 125cc race engine resulting from the three-to-one experiment, giving 17 hp at 9,500 rpm on a special single-cylinder crankcase. This was the shape of things to come, and herein lies a tale. At DKW, engineer Erich Wolf’s job was to make two-strokes competitive under new rules forbidding supercharging. The use of separate charging pumps like those on the resounding pre-war “Deek” racers was replaced by using the crankcase volume under the piston as a charging pump. Various forms of rotating-drum and other mechanical inlet valves failed to give competitive power, but the much more sudden opening and closing of piston-controlled intake ports showed promise. And so did the late-1951 Wolf/DKW innovation of the divergent/convergent exhaust pipe.<br /><br /> Why didn’t this begin the two-stroke revolution? Standing in the way of the 350cc DKW triple was Moto Guzzi’s four-stroke 350, a light, handy, and fast-accelerating single making up to 38 wide-range hp. As DKW riders strove to balance outcomes on narrow two-stroke power, the Guzzi men pulled away to five consecutive 350cc championships.<br /><br /> The name of the technician fondly gazing at this 125cc creation is unknown to us, but his obvious feelings are familiar.<br /><br /> Over in East Germany, MZ’s Walter Kaaden had that company’s 125cc race engine making 16.5 hp at 9,200 rpm. Two more years of development would push its little cylinder past 20 hp and the revolution was on. Meanwhile, DKW succumbed to socioeconomic forces pushing consumers away from bikes and into the affordable small economy cars that had finally been tooled for production. (Volker Rauch/)
Look upon this short leading-link fork and consider yourself lucky. What keeps this front wheel from flabbily tilting sideways? Only one thing: making the axle nut real tight. Steering delay and wobbling, here we come! This is the front end of the 1958 MZ 125cc factory bike. MZ’s new racing manager, Walter Kaaden, soon found ways to pierce the Iron Curtain—MZ being then in East Germany—to smuggle in quantities of Norton telescopic forks to update MZ front ends. This leading-link job is very nicely made, with the lower fork crown beautifully welded to the fork tubes, but craftsmanship cannot make up for bad design. Alas, we humans are vulnerable to the changing winds of fashion, and the 1950s were the era of leading-link forks. (Volker Rauch/)
Here is the same fashion, this time on Dickie Dale’s solo BMW 500 in 1958. Again the question: What is there to resist sideways deflection of the front wheel? This front end, a long leading-link, is in effect a forward-pointing swingarm whose pivot, unseen in this photo, is behind the tire, pivoting on struts coming down from the steering head. When Porsche engineer Hans-Günther von der Marwitz took charge of BMW motorcycle development in the late 1960s, he was horrified by the in-corner rhythmic nodding and wallowing of the long leading-link fork on production and racing BMWs. His answer was to return to the front end BMW had pioneered and developed: the telescopic. His stated goal, only partly met in the resulting /5 production model, was to combine the race-bred handling of a Manx Norton with the cushy long-travel suspension of a touring bike. (Volker Rauch/)
Portrait of the artist as a young man. Phil Read had a few rides on the “Scuderia Duke” Gilera revival in 1963 but joined Yamaha for the 250cc Japanese GP, in which he was third. Yamaha had already served notice in the 250cc class in Belgium by winning 1-2 with Japanese riders Fumio Ito and Yoshikazu Sunako. Once the team was able to overcome a fuel-flow problem that had limited top speed, the two Yamahas motored away from Tarquinio Provini, Jim Redman, and the Honda grand fleet. Read on a Yamaha would be 250cc world champion in 1964 and ’65. (Volker Rauch/)
This woman is clearing a seizure of her Puch “split-single” two-stroke. The two connecting-rod small ends you see drove pistons in a pair of cylinders in a common casting with a shared combustion chamber. The forward piston controlled the exhaust port and the rear one the transfer function. When an engine seizes, metal particulates usually contaminate the bearings—connecting rod and mains. She has probably poured fuel into the crankcase to wash them loose and is now using an air line to blow it all clean before reassembly with a fresh exhaust piston. An alternative technique was to get some big fellows to turn the bike over and just dump the washout liquid. Because the exhaust piston leads by about 15 degrees, it produced most of the power and was the more likely to fail. (Volker Rauch/)

RELATED: Volker Rauch Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing Photo Gallery

This home project combined a prewar NSU 500cc single and an NSU Sportmax chassis. The engine is significant because it was originally designed as an SOHC by Walter Moore, the man who drew Norton’s CS1, which would evolve into the classic “Manx” racing single. When not appointed to the Norton board as he had hoped to be, Moore found work at NSU, where this very CS1-like engine was the result. The engine in this bike is clearly DOHC, the result of a redesign in the mid-/late 1930s. (Volker Rauch/)
This is Isao Morishita on the tiny Suzuki RM64 50cc single, making 12.5 hp at 14,000 rpm, competing in the ’64 West German GP. Meticulous Hugh Anderson had won the 50cc class the year before on Suzuki and would win it again this year. Ralph Bryans would retake victory for Honda in 1965 but be pushed down to second the year after. Honda then withdrew from the class. Now, imagine a Honda 50cc four with 1-inch pistons, turning 26,000 rpm, and making 17 hp. As Honda prepared to become a major carmaker, this kind of extreme was no longer seen as valuable; the Honda name had been “made.” Before the end of the 50cc class in 1983, single-cylinder two-stroke 50s would be giving 20 hp. Contrast the extreme rearward rider position—the seat’s butt stop is actually behind the rear axle—with what’s usual today. (Volker Rauch/)
Here are some of the 26 bikes MV Agusta brought to the 1957 German GP, entering 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc classes. This was the last year of full streamlining. Note, however, that none of these bikes has a tail fairing, which in those days could produce poor crosswind gust response. At the end of this season, Gilera, Mondial, and Moto Guzzi would withdraw from racing, leaving only tiny Ducati and the “hobby team” of Count Agusta to represent Italy in GP racing. Why the sudden bugout? Fiat’s tiny 600 automobile and other low-priced cars had put an end to the postwar “headstart” that motorcycles had enjoyed. The bus in the background carries Bosch’s <em>renndienst</em> (racing service). (Volker Rauch/)
This “Clinomobil,” photographed at the German GP at Hockenheim, was the 1957 version of today’s Clinica Mobile in MotoGP, providing on-the-spot emergency medical services to riders. This was an extension service of the Heidelberg University clinic. (Volker Rauch/)

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Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 14:34

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 (Yamaha /)

Small sportbikes needn’t be restricted to riders with small budgets. In fact, if you gather together a group of motorcycle journalists, many of ’em current or former roadracers, the bikes that they claim excite them most might surprise you. When pure, unadulterated fun is the objective, the folks who ride pretty much everything will more often than not choose a small-displacement machine for burning laps at a trackday. Being so light, the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 rewards smooth inputs through the controls. And with less than 40 hp on tap, there is nowhere to hide if you blow an apex or botch a braking marker.

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 (Yamaha /)

The R3 was unveiled in 2015 and given a MotoGP-inspired cosmetic makeover in ’19. Keep its revvy, liquid-cooled parallel twin on the boil, and this MotoAmerica Junior Cup-eligible model will make you feel like a hero. Not so many miles under your belt? Still mastering the fundamentals? A short first gear and light-effort clutch ease getaways, and a relatively low seat height inspires feet-flat confidence. An inverted fork, a liquid-crystal display, plus LED head- and taillights further equip the R3 for commuting as well as back-road duties.

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 vs. Kawasaki Ninja 400

2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 First Ride Review

2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 Horsepower And Torque

Yamaha YZF-R3 Gets Upgraded For 2019

2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 (Yamaha /)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $4,999 Engine Liquid-cooled, DOHC, two-cylinder Displacement 321cc Bore x Stroke 68.0mm x 44.1mm Horsepower N/A Torque N/A Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 30.7 in. Rake 25.0° Trail 3.7 in. Front Suspension 37mm nonadjustable; 5.1-in. travel Rear Suspension Preload adjustable; 4.9-in. travel Front Tire 110/70-17 Rear Tire 140/70-17 Wheelbase 54.3 in. Fuel Capacity 3.7 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 368 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications (2019)

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height 30.8 in. Wet Weight 379 lb. Rear-Wheel Horsepower 36.0 hp @ 10,700 rpm Rear-Wheel Torque 19.8 lb.-ft. @ 9,000 rpm 0–60 mph 5.2 sec. 1/4-mile 14.18 sec. @ 92.78 mph Braking 30–0 mph 45.0 ft. Braking 60–0 mph 165.9 ft.

Categories: Motorcycles

Yamaha Champions Riding School At Sepang

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 14:32

Can you imagine starting 2020 any better than this? Early January lapping Sepang International. (BHH Collection/)

We hopped out of the vans in the Petronas gas station and stared across the highway at the Sepang International Circuit sign outside the Grand Prix racetrack in Malaysia. The sun was just rising and we had some significant setup work to do before the school started at 9 a.m., but our excitement was palpable.

The night before we’d gathered in my room at the Sama-Sama Hotel and reviewed last year’s MotoGP race so we could get a handle on the track layout. Chris Peris, our lead instructor, had lapped Sepang two months previous during a vacation to Asia with his wife Jenn—a terrific advantage for the rest of our instructor crew (myself, Ben Walters, Eziah Davis, Michael Henao, and MotoAmerica racer Cody Wyman) who had watched Sepang GP races for years but never dreamed of riding there. Ten minutes after entering the hallowed grounds, Chris was lapping with us in the diesel van with a five-speed manual and right-hand drive. That was pretty hilarious.

This dream school came about because of one man: Rex Tan, owner of Singapore motorcycle dealership Ban Hock Hin. Rex had attended Yamaha Champions Riding School and jumped at the chance to become a certified coach when we announced the 3C (Champions Certified Coach) program two years ago. Rex and his wife Stephanie had been working on getting Sepang Champ School rolling for more than a year and here we were with a sold-out school of 24 students. Thanks, Rex and Stephanie, and kudos to Chris Peris for the US coordination; these three made it happen.

As always in this column, I think pics tell the story best.

The day before the (very long) flight to Sepang I discovered that the travel agent had put my name as Mr. Ienatsch Nicholas! Could that be a problem? Yes, as it turns out. The United Airlines agents scrambled and made it right, allowing me to get from Colorado to California to catch the All Nippon Airways flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, via Tokyo. (Nick Ienatsch /)
After 25 hours in airplanes and 45 minutes in a car from the airport, we checked into our first hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Chris Peris is at the desk, Michael Henao in the MotoAmerica shirt, and Cody Wyman in the black shirt. Our plan was to stay two days seeing the sights in KL… (Nick Ienatsch /)
…and then the transition to the Sama-Sama Hotel near the track for three more days, two of which were school days. The first two days were to accustom ourselves to the time change (an almost 12-hour difference) and, as I found out, visit as many bars as possible! Chris is obviously a great tour guide! (Nick Ienatsch/)
One secret of defeating jet lag is to get on the local time and stay awake all day, so off we went to the Batu Caves, protected by Lord Murugan (the Hindu god of war), whose legs are visible. Left to right: Michael with a fresh coconut drink, Chris and Eziah Davis showing their matching shorts, Ben Walters and Cody. Behind us are 272 steps to the caves and Hindu temples. (Nick Ienatsch/)
How do all the items get to the gift shop at the top of those 272 steps? The enterprising owner spies young, fit men and then cajoles them into carrying cases of water and other sundries! Jet lag plus a case of water equals a great pre-ride workout. Their payment was a free bottle of water. (Nick Ienatsch /)
The climb is worth it: Hindu temples and intricate dioramas—plus some not-bashful monkeys—hidden inside the cool and majestic caves are a welcome respite from the equatorial humidity. KL is one of the fastest-evolving cities in Asia, and the Batu Caves’ mystery was a great juxtaposition to the Petronas Towers—next on our tourist list. (Nick Ienatsch /)
Scooters far outnumber motorcycles on the streets of KL, and the driving/riding has a beautiful and almost always calm flow as bikes and cars fit together in the space allotted. In our walking and riding we saw no road rage and heard very little horn honking despite the crowded roads. We also enjoyed watching the occasional supercar flash by. (Nick Ienatsch/)
On the street of KL: Nicky love—forever and everywhere. (Nick Ienatsch /)
We signed up for the Petronas Towers tour, eager to see KL from 1,400 feet and doing our part to support the Petronas Yamaha MotoGP effort. The architects wanted to represent the Islamic principles of unity, harmony, and rationality in these structures. Total height is 1,483 feet (Nick has more than 88 stories—Editor). (Nick Ienatsch /)
This is the view of KL from the suspended walkway, a walkway that is not firmly attached to either tower so that it can adjust for wind and perhaps even earthquakes. After stopping here, we were shuttled even higher in the structure where we noticed that the gift shop has seriously underrepresented the MotoGP team significantly! We all hoped to get Fabio Quartararo’s autograph; maybe next time. (Nick Ienatsch /)
This was just half of our allotted garage space at the Sepang International Circuit… (Nick Ienatsch /)
…and this was just one of our three classrooms, used here to get everybody up to speed on body position and body timing (Eziah lecturing from Rex’s amazing and well-setup R1—a bike Cody dragged his elbow on in turn 15). Just before this we had the students working on stops in the paddock, and just after this we rolled onto the amazing smooth, wide, and consistent Sepang pavement. (Nick Ienatsch /)
Are we dreaming—or actually rolling out onto the Sepang MotoGP circuit? Turn 1 is a long-radius, tightening right-hander followed immediately by an amazingly slow left turn. This fires you into an accelerating, downhill turn 3 that gets you tickling fifth gear by the time you shut it down for the right-hand turn 4. (Nick Ienatsch /)
Yes, the YCRS staff is packed with riding talent (Pikes Peak 750cc record holder Michael Henao seen here), but there are processes to learning a new track quickly. We must jump our eyes out and back to feed our brain, roll off the throttle to the brakes because we aren’t hurt if we enter the corner too slowly, adjust our entry speed and position to maximize the exit, continue to up our entry speeds until our knees are dragging, and then make minor and major adjustments between sessions. By the second time out, my team was rolling quickly with a high level of safety. It isn’t the number of laps, it’s the quality of the lapping. (BHH Collection/)
Motorcycle passion is alive and well in Malaysia, as student Raniel Resuello illustrates (Philippine Superbike champion) on his tricked-out Aprilia RSV4. The 24-student school had some very quick racers, advanced and new trackday riders, and a handful of street riders that included some low-hour beginners. (BHH Collection/)
How about we start the film lap in one of the most iconic corners in the world? Sepang’s turn 15 was a great location to launch students for each day’s filming. Ben (without helmet) launched the students and encouraged me (center, yellow helmet) to “just run laps.” Okay! Meanwhile, our two fastest instructors Chris (#8) and Eziah (left) filmed. (BHH Collection/)
The Sepang Gang starting 2020 with two amazing days in Malaysia. (BHH Collection/)
Here are two hard-working motorcycle enthusiasts: Rex and Stephanie Tan, who brought this whole crew together with professionalism and a strong sense of enjoyment. Their BHH family-owned dealership is celebrating its 80th year in business. If you get to Singapore, stop in and say hello; great peeps. (Nick Ienatsch /)
On the day of <a href="">Chris Carr’s life celebration in Atlanta,</a> I was in Sepang…with these terrific and fast instructor friends. So much of the joy of two wheels is connected to the people involved; these guys, plus the Tans and our enthusiastic students, made this trip especially amazing. I thought of Chris Carr a lot, especially in the downhill, tightening-radius turn 5—a corner he would have loved. Lifelong memories were created on and off the track in Malaysia, especially karaoke on the last night when Rex taught us, “Yam seng!” (Nick Ienatsch /)

More next Tuesday!

Categories: Motorcycles

AMA Superbike Fabricator Todd Schuster Gone At Age 76

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 13:49

Here is Todd Schuster with Freddie Spencer's 1980 Honda CB750F-based, built-in-USA Superbike. Schuster's hand was also in Spencer’s shut-out dominance of Daytona in 1985. The soon-to-be three-time world champion swept the Superbike, Formula 1, and Lightweight classes. (John Owens/)

That vast and irrepressible personality, Todd Schuster, fabricator to a generation of distinguished AMA Superbike race teams, died January 24 after a trying illness. He was 76.

Think of moving a Butler & Smith BMW engine forward in its chassis to allow higher acceleration, while adding weave-suppressing stiffness with struts direct from steering head to swingarm pivot, and making it look factory fresh? It’s easy to imagine a serious, even nerdy craftsman of few words. No such thing. As Todd grandly led me to a bare frame during the show-and-tell of a 1983 Honda VF750F Interceptor Superbike, he stepped into it and began to pull it up with his massive arms as if it were a pair of pants, pronouncing that, “In the history of racing, there is only one chassis heavier than this one: the 1953 Hudson.” Quips like that flowed steadily from his imagination.

Schuster attends to Ron Pierce’s AMA Superbike-winning Butler & Smith BMW in 1977. “What can I say?” a longtime friend wrote about Schuster, who died this past week. “Todd was more than a mechanic or fabricator; he was an artist.” (John Owens/)

Why did Schuster fit a Chrysler Hemi engine into his Dodge van? Because only a Hemi could supply Todd’s transportation requirements. And if the top hat he liked to wear would not fit between his head and the van’s roof? The necessary clearance was provided by adding a “conning tower” just for the hat. Why? Because he could, and because he wanted it that way. Skills are a powerful form of freedom.

Whenever I was around Todd I thought of the “Kustom Culture of The Mad Torquer,” the screaming brain, louver presses, pinstriping. I thought of Big Daddy Roth and Von Dutch. No, those were just T-shirt salons. What Todd built for Superbike had to work and solve specific problems by first practice tomorrow morning.

RELATED: Advanced Two-Strokes To Power Formula 1’s Future?

When Butler & Smith, which had been the East Coast BMW importers, ceased racing, other racing projects appeared, but the “Big One” was American Honda’s decision to go big into AMA roadracing, beginning in 1980. Butler & Smith crew chief Udo Gietl brought Schuster with him to Honda. That was an era of 1,000cc engines too powerful for 1960s chassis and suspension, so Todd was thrown into the battle to restore something like balance. How do you make a mile-long chassis with 65-pound wheels nimble? Raise this tank. Reinforce this swingarm. Bracket these brake calipers. The work of creation.

It couldn’t last. The next generation of bike chassis was engineered for the races whose excitement would in turn sell the product. No more broom-handle frames. Where’s Todd? Oh, he’s somewhere, building something. Something interesting. That’s how I’m thinking of him now.

Categories: Motorcycles

How To Get Your Motorcycle License

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 12:39

Motorcycles like the 2020 Yamaha R3 make great beginner bikes because they don’t have the intimidating power of the 998cc R1 yet still have that sporty stance that some riders look for when they purchase their first motorcycle. (Courtesy of Yamaha/)

Deciding to get a motorcycle license is a big deal. It’s a huge step to freedom and takes commitment to learning, understanding, and preparing to safely maneuver the roads on a motorcycle.

You may have already started wrangling up the funds for a great-fitting helmet, protective riding gear, and the motorcycle itself. A key first step, though, is getting your motorcycle license.

RELATED: Great Beginner Motorcycles to Get You Into Riding

First Steps To Getting Your Motorcycle License: Take A Rider Training Course

A great starting point to acquiring your motorcycle license is to take a state-recognized training program through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), Total Control, or other similar organizations.

Although taking a basic rider course prior to licensing is not required in all states (see chart below), we recommend enrolling in one because they provide in-class instruction and closed-course training taught by professional instructors who thoroughly educate students on the basics of riding a motorcycle. Most schools provide a motorcycle to train on during the class too. Prices for these programs can range from $0 to a few hundred dollars, varying from state to state.

MSF provided the data gathered here that shows which states require rider education for licensing. Age is also a factor that increases the likelihood of the rider course being a requirement. (MSF/)

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse (BRC) curriculum is used by all branches of the US military and a majority of the states (excluding California, Idaho, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Ohio uses their own curriculum, but recognizes the MSF BRC. Alaska and Mississippi don't have an administering agency). According to the MSF website, MSF’s course involves approximately three hours of online instruction, five hours of classroom activities, and 10 hours of hands-on motorcycle skills development on a paved lot. If your state utilizes the MSF program, visit the MSF website to find a class near you.

Total Control’s Beginner Riding Clinic is taught in several states including California (known as CMSP MTC), Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. The Total Control BRC includes five hours of classroom and 10 hours of on-cycle instruction. For more information on booking a beginner class visit

Another course option is the Harley-Davidson New Rider course. This also offers classroom and two days of on-bike training. This course, depending on the schedule provided by your dealer, typically consists of three hours for the first class meeting, two days of paved-lot, closed-course riding, and finally, an in-class graduation day to complete paperwork and celebrate your completion of the course. Learn more about the New Rider Course here.

Next Steps To Obtaining Your Motorcycle License: Complete DMV Requirements

Once a state-recognized rider course is successfully completed it could potentially waive the skills riding and or knowledge portion of the Department of Motor Vehicles test, depending on the state.

According to MSF, Kentucky is the only state that does not waive the skills portion, D.C. does not offer the skills test (but rider must complete rider course approved by any US jurisdiction), and Alabama does not require a skills test. The rest of the states do waive the skills portion as a result of a successfully completed rider training course.

States that do not waive the knowledge test include: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.

If your state waives one or both of the above tests, bring the completion card and current driver’s license with you when you finalize the endorsement at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

If your state does not waive the license requirements, those tests (and potentially a vision test) will need to be taken and completed at the DMV to meet license requirements. Check with your department of motorized vehicles to confirm if the waiver applies.

Many states also offer motorcycle learner’s permits, which limit the learner to daylight riding as well as riding on specific roadways, riding without a passenger, and/or riding under supervision of an endorsed rider. As with licensing, states have varying requirements such as knowledge and vision tests, so be sure to check the specific steps your state requires. Taking a rider course prior to permitting is also recommended.

If you need to take the skills test at the DMV, a Kawasaki Z125 would be a great ally for the job. (Courtesy of Kawasaki/)

Like anything involving motorcycles, it is best to be prepared. Practice tests and handbooks are often available at the DMV so you can study up and best prepare yourself for a passing grade.

For more information, the AAA is also a valuable resource that breaks down the motorcycle permit or license laws/requirements for each state.

Different Classes of Motorcycle Licenses

California, for example, has different classes of motorcycle licenses including the Class M1, Class M2, and even Class C (the standard car-designated license). Class M1 grants access to ride any motorcycle or scooter. Class M2 is limited to only motorized bicycles, moped, or any bicycle with an attached motor. In California, a scooter can be operated with either an M1 or M2 license and a Class C license allows you to ride three-wheeled motorcycles or a motorcycle with a sidecar attachment. Other states such as Georgia, Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming call the endorsement “Class M” and these vary in including motorcycle, scooter/moped, or three-wheeler allowances.

What Is Tiered Licensing?

Tiered licensing is a motorcycle license system commonly found in Europe that limits the motorcycle engine size options for riders, so beginner riders don’t start on too-powerful motorcycles, but can work their way up. MSF provided a comprehensive list of the states that implement the tiered licensing system. These include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

You Have Your Motorcycle License. Now What?

  • Be sure you have the appropriate gear. The <a href="">Cycle World website</a> is filled with reviews and gear roundups to get you on the right path.
  • Purchase the most appropriate motorcycle for your skill level. The <a href="">“Great Beginner Motorcycles to Get You Into Riding”</a> would be a good place to start.&nbsp;
  • Make sure you have motorcycle insurance.
  • Don’t forget to take your riding to the next level by following up your training with higher-level riding courses from <a href="">MSF</a>, <a href="">Yamaha Champions Riding School</a>, or the like. Also, Cycle World contributor and lead instructor of Yamaha Champions Riding School Nick Ienatsch offers helpful riding tips in his <a href="">Ienatsch Tuesday</a> columns.
  • Enjoy the ride!
Categories: Motorcycles

A Revisionist View Of Vincent Motorcycles

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 05:00

“What have they done with the frame?” Motorcyclists might have asked this question upon seeing a Vincent Series B for the first time. Conventional downtubes were abandoned, and the engine and transmission were used as stressed members, hung from a large-section backbone doubling as an oil tank. (Veloce Publishing/)

Vincent enthusiasts I have known committed the lore of the brand to memory and were always ready to defend each and every feature of Vincent design as if they had been divinely inspired. Indeed, Phil Vincent and his sometime engineer/enabler, Phil Irving, did bring forth highly significant innovations. First among them was the triangulated swingarm rear suspension added soon after Vincent bought the HRD brand from Howard R. Davies in the 1920s. Another was the chassis-less construction of the postwar Series B Rapide, cited by the late John Britten as inspiration for the carbon structure of his own big twin. Sadly, cults of the iconic can be carried by their fervor considerably past the truth to an extreme position that insists useful motorcycle innovation ceased when Vincent’s company closed in the 1950s.

It was therefore a breath of fresh air to encounter Philippe Guyony’s book, Vincent Motorcycles—The Untold Story Since 1946, published by Veloce. Guyony clearly demonstrates his love of the make by having produced this photo-filled 400-page book of nearly 5 pounds weight. He insists upon telling the truth: that by 1950 what had been praiseworthy suspension since Vincent introduced it in the mid-1930s had fallen behind.

<em>Vincent Motorcycles—The Untold Story Since 1946</em> comprises eight chapters, filling 400 pages of text and photos. The book was a journey for author Philippe Guyony. “When I started riding in 1978,” he writes in the foreword, “I had only a vague idea of what a Vincent was.” (Veloce Publishing/)

“While the engine was surely the most potent on the market, the chassis was aging very quickly compared with the ‘super handling’ of some 500cc Grand Prix motorcycles—the Norton Manx and Matchless G50, for example. It did not take long before fellow Vincent racers started to cut and paste components from other bikes, or from the aftermarket, at high cost so that Vincent could remain ‘the world’s fastest standard motorcycle.’ ”

The truth of this was underlined by the results at the 1951 Goodwood meeting. As expected, Vincent employee and racing stalwart George Brown won the 1,000cc class, while Geoff Duke on the twin-loop “Featherbed” Manx Norton single won the 500cc. The shock was that Duke’s speed was 5-mph faster than Brown’s on a bike with half the displacement. Lest anyone be tempted to dismiss Brown as “just a factory tester,” know that he was offered a factory Norton ride by that company’s racing chief, Joe Craig.

RELATED: When Good Ideas Don’t Work Out

The coming of the short-stroke Manx in 1954 made many rolling chassis available at affordable price. The result was the “Norvin,” a Vincent 1,000cc V-twin tightly fitted into a Featherbed Norton chassis. No less a figure than John Surtees (and his father Jack) bought a Manx roller from sidecar champion Eric Oliver. They rebuilt and installed in the Manx chassis Jack’s blown-up Vincent twin, updated with a pair of Grey Flash big-port cylinder heads.

Motorcycle enthusiasts have for years known of the Egli Vincent, which is a Vincent engine in a chassis built by Swiss rider/engineer Fritz Egli. In early days, Egli attempted the Swiss hill-climb championship, in 1965 concentrating on engine power but without result. Switching his attention to suspension and braking, he set aside the stock Vincent girder fork in favor of a Matchless G45 front end and conical-hub brake. This, although an improvement, got him no higher than third in the ’66 championship.

Forced to widen his thinking, Egli, Guyony writes, “started to analyze more closely what the problem was. Soon he reached the conclusion that there were too many components in the front end, resulting in too much flex under stress, and no rider feedback.”

Rider feedback is essential because it is the motorcycle telling the rider how close they both are to the limit. Egli also saw that, “The contact surfaces of the cylinder-head bracket to the upper frame member were too small.” Mind you, this is not to imply that the original design, adequate for fast roadwork, was wrong. It was just that Egli could not win the Swiss championship with it.

He then designed an all-new chassis based upon a large 4-inch backbone tube, transmitting twist forces from the steering head, back over the engine and down a pair of beefy struts to the swingarm pivot, where use of the original Vincent tapered roller bearing was retained. To this, he added Ceriani suspension and Fontana brakes. With this bike in 1968 he achieved his original ambition: to win the Swiss hill-climb title.

As Guyony explains, this devotion to the brand arises from the then-unmatched broad torque and power of the Vincent twin. In the 60-odd years since Vincent ceased production, enthusiasts and builders all over the world continued to explore the original intention: to combine light weight with high power. The stories of many of their special motorcycles fill the pages of this book.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Yamaha YZ125X

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 14:00

2020 Yamaha YZ125X (Yamaha /)

The Yamaha YZ125X is a new addition to the tuning-fork brand’s lineup for 2020. This off-road-only motorcycle shares many of its major components with the YZ125 motocrosser, but features noteworthy changes to the engine and chassis that make it more suitable for cross-country riding. The KYB Speed-Sensitive System (SSS) coil-spring fork and KYB shock, for example, are relatively softly sprung and lightly damped, but they can be easily adjusted to suit a 160-pound intermediate-plus rider.

Tester Allan Brown was thoroughly impressed with the YZ125X as a whole and, in particular, its powerplant. “The engine runs clean and is one of the smoothest 125s I have ever ridden,” he wrote. “It builds power well from the midrange all the way to very high rpm. While it is normal to shift gears more often on a 125cc two-stroke, with this engine and its six-speed close-ratio gearbox, the YZ125X required much less shifting than I expected.”

2020 Yamaha YZ125X (Yamaha /)

In fact, with its tried-and-true chassis and responsive engine, the YZ125X is an exceptionally easy bike to ride, and its light weight makes it ridiculously easy to steer around trees and other obstacles on a tight single-track trail.

2020 Yamaha YZ125X Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

2020 Yamaha Motocross Models Released

2020 Yamaha YZ125X Review First Ride

2020 Yamaha YZ250FX Review First Ride

2020 Yamaha YZ125X (Yamaha /)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $6,699 Engine Liquid-cooled, two-stroke, single-cylinder Displacement 125cc Bore x Stroke 54.0mm x 54.5mm Horsepower N/A Torque N/A Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 37.6 in. Rake 26.8° Trail 4.6 in. Front Suspension 48mm fully adjustable; 11.8-in. travel Rear Suspension Fully adjustable; 12.4-in. travel Front Tire 90/90-21 Rear Tire 110/90-18 Wheelbase 57.3 in. Fuel Capacity 2.1 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 209 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height N/A Dry Weight N/A Rear-Wheel Horsepower N/A Rear-Wheel Torque N/A 0–60 mph N/A 1/4-mile N/A Braking 30–0 mph N/A Braking 60–0 mph N/A

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Yamaha YZF-R6

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:30

2020 Yamaha YZF-R6 (Yamaha /)

Some say the 600cc supersport class is dead, that it has left the station never to return. Detractors argue modern-day motorcyclists don’t want racy ergonomics, a top-end-focused powerband, or anything less than 150 hp measured at the rear wheel. Well, perhaps they should ride the latest-generation Yamaha YZF-R6 to remember why middleweight sportbikes were—and remain—so special. And why the R6 owns a big chunk of the trackday pie.

Unlike many smaller-displacement sportbikes that have an air of soft-edge civility, the R6 is pure race replica with trick bits to match. The engine boasts titanium valves, ceramic-composite-plated cylinder bores, and magnesium cases. With a 16,500-rpm redline, the R6’s key components need to be strong, slippery, and light. There is, as a matter of fact, a replacement for displacement: light weight.

2020 Yamaha YZF-R6 (Yamaha /)

To that end, the R6 also has a magnesium subframe, a titanium muffler, and an aluminum fuel tank. The electronics package features six-level traction control, including “off,” and three-way-adjustable throttle response. A slipper clutch and variable-length intakes further evince the single-minded pursuit of middleweight performance. The Yamaha YZF-R6, significantly updated three years ago, is a quintessential example of the breed.

2020 Yamaha YZF-R6 Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

First Ride Review: 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 Review

2020 Yamaha YZF-R6 (Yamaha /)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $12,199 Engine Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-cylinder Displacement 599cc Bore x Stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm Horsepower N/A Torque N/A Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 33.5 in. Rake 24.0° Trail 3.8 in. Front Suspension 43mm fully adjustable; 4.7-in. travel Rear Suspension Fully adjustable; 4.7-in. travel Front Tire 120/70-17 Rear Tire 180/55-17 Wheelbase 54.1 in. Fuel Capacity 4.6 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 419 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height N/A Dry Weight N/A Rear-Wheel Horsepower N/A Rear-Wheel Torque N/A 0–60 mph N/A 1/4-mile N/A Braking 30–0 mph N/A Braking 60–0 mph N/A

Categories: Motorcycles

Triumph Announces Partnership With Bajaj

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:17

In its formal announcement of a partnership with Bajaj, Triumph looks to be making a bigger push into Asian markets. (Triumph Motorcycles /)

The four largest motorcycle markets in the world all lie in Asia, with India chalking up the largest number of motorized two-wheelers sold in 2018/2019. That’s more than 20 million units (according to the Statista website) and with a population of more than 1.3 billion this burgeoning area is only projected to keep growing, so if you’re a successful motorcycle manufacturer looking to increase market share, ignore that data at your own risk. Motorcycle sales in India have generally skyrocketed over the past few years, with mostly local entities like market leaders Hero, TVS Motor, and Bajaj Auto battling it out for two-wheel supremacy.

Bajaj is India’s second largest motorcycle manufacturer, and its Pulsar series is a sales leader in several countries around the world. (Bajaj Auto Group/)

Naturally, upper-echelon manufacturers increasingly want a slice of that pie which is why Triumph Motorcycles has just announced a formal partnership with Bajaj, in order to “build a brand-new range of high-quality mid-capacity motorcycles.” More specifically, the announcement goes on to say that it will be a long-term, non-equity partnership, and that the new engine and vehicle platforms to be developed will be in the 200–750cc range, “and offer multiple options to address different segments in this class,” which seems to imply there will a focus on quality as well as affordability to attract new customers to the brand.

We’re thinking sporty middleweights should do well in this market, and from a purely economic standpoint, the collaboration makes sense for both regardless—Bajaj is the world’s third largest motorcycle manufacturer and India’s second largest, with more than 2 million units having been exported in 2018/2019. Its Pulsar and Boxer motorcycle brands are top sellers in many countries, and Bajaj is no stranger to partnerships, having inked a deal to co-develop small-displacement bikes with KTM back in 2016 (the Austrians’ sub-400cc products are manufactured at the Bajaj production facility in Chakan, India).

Triumph’s Tiger 800 is already a popular model in India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, but Triumph will be bolstering its middleweight lineup with smaller-displacement models for those markets. (Triumph Motorcycles/)

With Triumph looking to expand and diversify its product line, achieve economies of scale by manufacturing in India, and gain entry into several high-volume emerging markets (including much of Asia), the Bajaj collaboration looks like a natural fit. Plus Triumph’s bikes are already well-liked in India, with models like the Tiger 800, Street Triple, and Bonneville T120 all enjoying sales successes of late (even the first batch of 40 Rocket 3 Rs sold out).

RELATED: Triumph Tiger 900, Scrambler To Be In New James Bond Film

For Bajaj, it gains Triumph’s technical and design know-how, as well as a wider portfolio and broader reach into new markets. And since Triumph’s been on something of a global sales tear of late, with 2019 numbers projected to be the sixth consecutive year of growth, Bajaj benefits from the halo of that success by association.

Bajaj will also be taking over distribution for Triumph in key overseas markets. (Triumph Motorcycles/)

As it has with KTM, Bajaj will become one of Triumph’s key distribution partners in new markets for the Brits around the globe, as well as taking over Triumph’s Indian distribution. In other key overseas markets, Bajaj will step in for Triumph and offer the new bikes as part of the full Triumph line. In all other markets where Triumph already has a presence, the co-developed bikes will join the current product portfolio and be distributed by the Triumph-led dealer network worldwide.

RELATED: 2015 KTM RC 390 First Look

Triumph Motorcycles CEO Nick Bloor said: “This is an important partnership for Triumph and I am delighted that it has now formally commenced. As well as taking our brand into crucial new territories, the products that will come out of the partnership will also help attract a younger, but still discerning, customer audience and is another step in our ambitions to expand globally, particularly in the fast-growing markets of southeast Asia, but also driving growth in more mature territories like Europe.”


Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto India, said: “The Triumph brand is an iconic the world over. So, we are confident that there will be a huge appetite in India and other emerging markets for these new products.”

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 Suzuki Katana

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 07:20

2020 Suzuki Katana (Suzuki /)

Putting aside for a moment the GSX-F range produced from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s, the 2020 Suzuki Katana is a four-cylinder Metallic Mystic Silver (Solid Black is also available) tribute to its namesake drawn some 40 years ago by ex-BMW stylist Hans Muth. While that sleek, bikini-faired machine still knocks motorcyclists of a certain age on their heels, the current version is a thoroughly modern sporting standard powered by an earlier-generation GSX-R1000 engine with chassis underpinnings served up by the GSX-S1000. Translation? Smooth, traction-controlled liter-class acceleration and an aluminum frame and swingarm complemented by adjustable Kayaba suspension and antilock-equipped triple-disc Brembo/Nissin brakes.

Thanks to the relatively upright rider triangle afforded by a wide handlebar and moderately rearset footpegs, this is a motorcycle you could ride all day—or night, thanks to full LED lighting—on all types of tarmac if it weren’t for the near-complete absence of protection from the elements and smallish fuel tank. Those realities, however, won’t dissuade fans of the Japanese brand from swooning over the traditional bright red block lettering on said tank or grinning with the speed and ease with which the Katana covers ground.

2020 Suzuki Katana Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

2020 Suzuki Katana Arriving November 2019

How Much Power Does The 2020 Suzuki Katana Make?

The 2020 Suzuki Katana Is A Throwback Done Right

2020 Suzuki Katana (Suzuki /)

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $13,499 Engine Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-cylinder Displacement 999cc Bore x Stroke 73.4mm x 59.0mm Horsepower 150.0 hp @ 10,000 rpm Torque 80.0 lb.-ft. @ 9,500 rpm Transmission 6-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 32.5 in. Rake 25.0° Trail 3.9 in. Front Suspension 43mm fully adjustable; 4.7-in. travel Rear Suspension Preload/rebound-damping adjustable; 5.1-in. travel Front Tire 120/70-17 Rear Tire 180/50-17 Wheelbase 57.6 in. Fuel Capacity 3.2 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 474 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height 33.2 in. Wet Weight 475 lb. Rear-Wheel Horsepower 139.6 hp @ 10,100 rpm Rear-Wheel Torque 76.3 lb.-ft. @ 9,220 rpm 0–60 mph 3.2 sec. 1/4-mile 10.86 sec. @ 133.28 mph Braking 30–0 mph 33.7 ft. Braking 60–0 mph 133.9 ft.

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Bike Hauler Review

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 13:37

<em>Cycle World</em>’s GMC Sierra 1500 4WD HD Denali came fully optioned including the MultiPro tailgate. Did the six-function tailgate make for a more bike-friendly hauler? (John L. Stein /)

In 1961, the Chevrolet Corvair Rampside pickup debuted. Instead of a rear tailgate, which was impractical due to the rear-engine placement, it had a right-side gate that nicely lowered to the sidewalk or ground. This created a natural gentle slope for wheeling or carrying cargo on or off the truck. The Corvair’s bed height was around 18 inches, and with the side ramp lowered, this made for a nice easy vertical lift. Easy-peasy.

There is a point to this story: Fast-forward 50 years, and the typical height of a full-size 4WD pickup bed has doubled to about 3 feet, nearly half the height of an average rider. That is an absurdity for people attempting to roll 200- to 900-pound motorcycles into a truck. Manufacturers have not addressed this in a meaningful way with the exception of various Band-Aid tailgate-step options—the latest of which is GMC‘s MultiPro tailgate.

We tested a MultiPro-equipped Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab Denali over an 850-mile weekend to attend the 2019 AHRMA VMX series final round in Marysville, California. Our mission: Load up two bikes, race fuel, an E-Z Up, lawn chair, tools, food and liquids, camping equipment, riding gear, and everything else a race weekend requires, to see how the GMC works as a race hauler.

MultiPro or Muddled Mess?

The MultiPro tailgate, which is available across the board on GMC full-size pickups, is a creative attempt at slaying the over-height bed monster. Basically, it consists of a deployable “gate within a gate” (our term for lack of a better one). Perhaps easier shown than explained, the MultiPro tailgate can operate like a traditional pickup tailgate—upright and locked, or folded down level with the pickup bed. But its unique element is the smaller secondary inset tailgate. This hinged panel swings downward, allowing a third articulated piece to fold out, creating an intermediate step between ground level and the truck bed. A grab-pole on the left side of the bed swings up, offering a handhold that makes stepping up and into the bed easier. Dig?

The MultiPro tailgate is novel but isn’t the perfect solution. For starters, with its electromagnetic latches, it’s not as easy to use as Ford’s manual tailgate step, and the Ford’s extendable assist pole is better positioned too.

However, the MultiPro tailgate does include a pair of Kicker speakers, a USB port, an auxiliary (MP3) input, and a control panel for playing Black Sabbath at 6 a.m. in the pits. It’s a cool idea, though not totally unique because Honda’s Ridgeline, for example, also has a rear audio system ready for raging.

Nice Bed, But Too Short

Inside the Sierra’s bed, things get better. The bed’s coated with a factory spray-on liner, which is grippy, textured, and durable, meaning that après moto, your beautifully gritty dirt bikes and gear can ride home without damaging paint or finishes. It also helps keep cargo from sliding around while that metal box on wheels is rushing down the road.

A spray-on bed liner and multiple tie-down options make for a great bike hauling space on the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500. The MultiPro tailgate was less impressive. (John L. Stein /)

Someone whose brain was fully awake in a GMC cubicle came up with a great plan by adding 12 robust steel tie-down points at floor level, and at intervals along the box walls. This is the most tie-down points we’ve found on any standard pickup, and GMC should be celebrated for making such a bike-friendly bed. Although we only had two bikes with us for the Marysville weekend (no, that’s a lie! The author bought a CZ 400 and 1-1/2 Ossa Pioneers on the way home—Editor), the multiple anchor points suggested this truck can absorb more, even without using wheel chocks that many riders chose to integrate. However, its 5-foot, 10-inch bed requires that the tailgate be left down for transport. Trust us here: After encountering every bed length in the business, we’ve determined that for dirt bikes, a long bed option is best if you want to close the tailgate, but those are few and far between in the half-ton class. This of course allows ancillary gear to ride along without jitterbugging from the open truck bed onto the fast lane.

Plenty of room for two or three bikes in the GMC Sierra 1500 width-wise, but the standard 5-foot, 10-inch bed lacks the length to get the tailgate closed. There is a 6-foot, 7-inch option however. (John L. Stein /)

Cushy Crew Cab

The reason for this GMC’s relatively short bed has much to do with the crew cab. In order to keep trucks from becoming inordinately long, the cab size and bed size are interrelated. Bottom line: Often, the longer the cab, the shorter the bed. It’s a trade-off that you may have to make: More inside room equals less outside room (obviated here if you order the Sierra’s optional 6-foot, 7-inch bed).

2020 GMC Sierra Denali backseat (John L. Stein /)

Inside, the Sierra’s crew cab paid dividends by accepting all of our riding gear, a cooler, camping gear, and valuable tools and spare parts with room to spare. When we got to the Marysville track, luckily no rain was forecasted but with cold temperatures projected overnight, I decided to crash inside the rear cab because I flew solo to the season finale. With some padding, a sleeping bag, a pillow and blankets, the 5-foot-wide by 2-foot-long rear floor area made an acceptable bed. Yes, $100 saved on a motel.

Hit and Miss Electrics

As night arrived, racers in their motorhomes and toy haulers began firing up generators for lighting, heaters, and appliances. Oh, well, we had instead…cold and darkness. Or rather, that plus the Sierra’s annoying LED interior and bed lighting. One wonders if any GMC bean counters, product planners, or engineers actually use what they design and sell. Because, frankly, every such LED lighting system we’ve tried is junk. They draw so little current, you’d think a robust battery of the caliber required to start the Sierra’s turbo diesel could run the lights for days. But, no, instead, they shut off after a precious few minutes—even though you’ve faithfully pressed the intended button with this basic wish: “Lights, please illuminate and stay illuminated until I decide otherwise.” You know, like a ’61 Corvair Rampside would do! Piling on grievances here, the LED lighting is insufficient for doing any kind of detailed work. Fail.

AC/DC Solution

Thoughtfully, the company provides a 120-volt AC power outlet at the right rear of the truck bed. Once again though, there’s a caveat: The engine has to be running for the outlet to work. That’s understandable, but a reasonable solution would be to equip the truck with a second battery designed for running such accessories, you know, like in the pits at a race? That way the primary battery that starts the engine and runs the basic systems can’t be depleted by unwitting overuse of lighting, chargers, or the AC outlet. Importantly, this would also permit adopting better interior and bed lighting, and allow using AC without running the engine. Anybody offer a kit for this? Let us know. Thank you.

Best Diesel Economy

We were delighted to see the Duramax 3-liter V-6 turbodiesel, backed by a 10-speed automatic, return up 27 mpg on our weekend MX blitzkrieg. That’s the highest we’ve ever seen in decades of reviewing full-size pickups. Nice job, GMC. The diesel clatter is louder than in the Ram Rebel we tested recently, but the fuel economy is more than 17-percent better, a fair trade-off.

GMC’s 3-liter turbo diesel returned 27 mpg on the 850-mile race-weekend road trip. (John L. Stein /)

Another Sierra success is its suspension compliance. With bikes and gear loaded the ride was plenty good, even with the bad-boy 22-inch wheels and all-season 275/50R-22 tire package; we noted only modest tire-initiated noise, vibration, and harshness—impressive considering the low-profile rubber.

Command Central

Whether you’re doing 100- or 1,000-mile days, the Sierra Denali seats are pure comfort: Neither too hard nor too soft, they’re ready to go for as long as you are. The CarPlay-enabled touchscreen is a great asset, even though its merely average 8-inch size needs upgrading, stat. Cars like the Tesla Model 3 and its giant touchscreen are leading the way in driver interfaces, making normal touchscreens like the Sierra’s seem outmoded.

Elsewhere in the truck’s broad electronics suite, the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are bloody good. The truck won’t drive itself but nearly does so, and so while you actually need to stay engaged on a long interstate trip, they’re excellent safety watchdogs, as are the auto-high beam LED headlights.

Sierra Summary

Initially, our focus in testing the new Sierra 1500 was the MultiPro tailgate. It’s clever, but at its core only a patch-job for the bike loading and unloading problems posed by pickups with tall beds. And so, despite GMC’s design and marketing prowess, we found that a long ramp and a step stool are still just as valuable, if not more so.

Even with the MultiPro tailgate, you’ll still need a ramp and long legs or a step stool to load bikes in the back of the GMC Sierra 1500. (John L. Stein /)

We’re waiting for a company to invent a full-size pickup with independent rear suspension and a commensurately low or even adjustable bed height, fold-down sides, or some other feature that makes them easier for bikers to load and unload (upcoming Tesla Cybertruck maybe?). Until then, though, certain criticisms aside, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab Denali ($71,850 as tested, by the way!) is an exceptional truck overall; delivering great fuel economy and sterling comfort, it’s truly a great traveling companion. Just bring a step stool and a flashlight.

Cycle World Bike Hauler Grade: B+

Categories: Motorcycles

2020 KTM 350 SX-F

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:32

2020 KTM 350 SX-F (KTM/)

The KTM 350 SX-F has been a popular choice among the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer’s dirt-riding clientele since the midsize motocrosser was introduced in 2011. The electric-start engine has respectable bottom-end, good midrange, and seemingly never-ending top-end. No internal engine changes were made to 350 SX-F for 2020, but the new vented airbox cover is a simple and effective addition, and it is included with the purchase of the bike.

“It’s like going from pump gas to high-end race fuel,” test rider Allan Brown said after installing the optional cover. “It adds power across the entire rpm range and makes the engine feel like it wants to rev to the moon. I tried to find the rev limiter a few times but, assuming I came out of most corners in the correct gear, it was almost impossible to reach.”

What’s more, revised settings for the WP Xact air fork and shock have resulted in increased plushness at both ends of the motorcycle. So if you’re an all-round rider or racer who likes to dabble here and there—motocross, off-road, and trails—seriously consider the 350 SX-F when making your next dirt-bike buying decision.

2020 KTM 350 SX-F (KTM/)

2020 KTM 350 SX-F Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition

2020 KTM 450 SX-F First Ride Review

2020 Husqvarna FC 450 First Ride Review

2020 Yamaha YZ250F First Ride Review

Manufacturer Claimed Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Price $9,799 Engine Liquid-cooled, DOHC, single-cylinder Displacement 350cc Bore x Stroke 88.0mm x 57.5mm Horsepower N/A Torque N/A Transmission 5-speed Final Drive Chain Seat Height 37.4 in. Rake 26.1° Trail N/A Front Suspension 48mm fully adjustable; 12.2-in. travel Rear Suspension Fully adjustable; 11.8-in. travel Front Tire 80/100-21 Rear Tire 110/90-19 Wheelbase 58.5 in. Fuel Capacity 1.9 gal. Claimed Wet Weight 219 lb.

Cycle World Tested Specifications

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;border-color:black;} .tg .tg-0lax{text-align:left;vertical-align:top} Seat Height N/A Dry Weight N/A Rear-Wheel Horsepower N/A Rear-Wheel Torque N/A 0–60 mph N/A 1/4-mile N/A Braking 30–0 mph N/A Braking 60–0 mph N/A

Categories: Motorcycles

Honda Collection Hall’s Vehicles Are Ever Ready To Ride

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 08:22

The Honda Collection Hall houses historically significant machines from the manufacturer, and each one is kept in perfect mechanical condition. (Honda /)

In 1998, the world-famous Honda Collection Hall was established in the compound of Twin Ring Motegi, Honda’s very own racetrack. A most appropriate location to proudly display and keep in perfect functional shape 350 of the most iconic pieces of two- and four-wheeled machinery—machines that made history in motoring and motor racing starting in the late 1940s.

Most of the motorcycles at the museum are Hondas, but the Honda Collection Hall hosts some very unique specimens from the competition, like the legendary 1957 World Championship Mondial 125 and 250 GP models that won in the hands, respectively, of Tarquinio Provini and Cecil Sandford. As the legend is told, Soichiro Honda visited the Mondial factory in Milan and spent lots of time analyzing those all-conquering 125cc and 250cc singles. At the end of the visit he asked Mondial owner, Count Giuseppe Boselli, to sell him one. Count Boselli donated Provini’s 125 GP title winner to Honda, and now the bike is the first on show when one enters the Collection Hall. Other times, other gentlemen…

The Honda Collection is unique not only for the exclusiveness of the pieces contained within, but also because all are kept in perfect functional condition, ready for a ride at any time. It takes a super-professional organization to accomplish such a complex undertaking, and the man leading this team of five super specialists is Kuniyoshi Iwata.

You can take a virtual tour of the Honda Collection Hall <a href="">here</a> that includes video clips of some of the machines on the racetrack. (Honda /)

Iwata learned his supreme skill working at the Honda factory and then as a member of the team that, from the 1980s through part of the 1990s, kept the NSR500s of Freddie Spencer and Mick Doohan in world winning conditions. Iwata has a special love affair with the first edition of the NSR500; it was the first race motorcycle he worked on. That was the NSR500 with the tank located under the engine. It did not win the 500cc World Championship, but from it, HRC learned a lot about motorcycling dynamics.

In addition to having the immense pleasure and privilege of keeping all those fantastic machines in top form, Iwata does get to ride many of the motorcycles, but only at low speeds during shakedown checks before the bikes are paraded by other riders at events in Japan and around the world.

Kuniyoshi Iwata’s team keeps the motorcycles and cars housed within the Honda Collection Hall prepared for operation at any time. (Honda /)

Last November, Honda celebrated its riders and pilots at Honda Racing Thanks Day; that day some of the most precious pieces of the collection were cheered by a crowd of almost 20,000 people. Those in attendance went wild seeing Eddie Lawson’s 1989 NSR500 World Champion bike and Ayrton Senna’s 1988 McLaren-Honda MP4/4 World Champion F1 car, both screaming back to life with a long-lost sound.

To get their impressive mission accomplished, Iwata and his five colleagues can count on support from Honda R&D Center Asaka for motorcycles and from Honda Racing Development Sakura for cars. Since opening in 1998, Honda Collection Hall has fulfilled the dream of company founder Soichiro Honda, who realized the importance of showing the company’s history to the public. Thanks to the tireless effort of Iwata-san.

Categories: Motorcycles
©2020 Richard Esmonde. All rights reserved.