According to various online weather services I looked at prior to jumping on a plane to Bahrain, the desert country only gets about 10 days of rain for the entire year. With those kind of odds it’s no wonder Ducati chose this location to hold the international press launch of its new and improved 2020 Panigale V4 S in the middle of January; with beautiful sunshine, a world-class Formula1 track, and stacks of Pirelli tires at hand, it’s every track rider’s dream, and a perfect venue to test the improvements Ducati have made.
It’s easy to take for granted the dynamics involved in creating a fairing for a motorcycle. Sure, you could easily mold a piece of plastic or resin and create a shape, but what thought process and research goes into such a mold? We take something like fairings for granted because they’re so commonplace. Big OEMs have the resources to hire big-name designers to create something that’s easy on the eyes, then study the fluid dynamics behind the designer’s sketch to see how different lines bend and shape the wind as it flows through it. Then these big players can utilize finite element analysis to dictate the strength of a part or component and adjust as needed for a given application. But nobody talks about these things anymore because this is simply something we expect. We’re numb to it. But when we stop and think about it, the fit and finish of a motorcycle determines its legitimacy.
How can any red-blooded American not love Suzuki, the blue-collar working motorcycle so many of us thrashed as youths, left parked in alleys with no loss of sleep, covered in fur for a brief period there in the (I think) ’90s… In spite of all the abuse we dished out, Suzuki’s loyalty was never in question.
I didn’t like the Ducati Panigale V4 S when I rode the first-generation version a few years ago. Despite the fact the Panigale has been the best selling superbike in the market for two years running, to the tune of one-in-four superbikes sold worldwide is a Panigale, I just never got on with it. In our head-to-head test of the Panigale V4 S and the Aprilia RSV4 RF, I noted how the Desmosedici Stradale 1103cc 90º V4 is an absolute monster of an engine. Unfortunately, it was wrapped in a chassis completely unable to provide any feedback to the rider. Where the RSV4 could carve a racetrack with scalpel-like precision, the Panigale was more like a butcher knife, chopping up swaths of racetrack with brute power instead of agility and precision. Sure it could set a fast lap, but trying to repeat that performance over the course of a 20-lap race would be next to impossible.
Motorcycle categories have gotten a bit widespread, haven’t they? Companies like Ducati aren’t making things any easier when they call its 955cc Panigale V2 – an update from the 959 Panigale – a “Super-Mid.” Ironic, especially considering Ducati’s iconic 916 was formerly the cream of the sportbike crop. I think the proper way of looking at the current nomenclature is to consider the machine’s performance. With 1100cc V4s skewing the definitions of what a Superbike is, it seems natural for the Panigale V2 to follow along and break the middleweight rules, too. Because, looking at it from a performance aspect, this is the new level of middleweight performance. Time marches on, everyone, and technology just gets better and better.
How much do we like the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure? How about enough to name it Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle of the Year. That’s high praise. So, when we found video assets from the 790 Adventure’s introduction kicking around the MO Video Archives, we thought that time was right to share Ryan’s firsthand experience with those who don’t like to read. But first a little refresher.
It’s an interesting time in sportbike land, as displacement limits have gone up, technologies are ever-improving, and in general, motorcycles are getting better and better. But one fact of life no manufacturer can escape is the looming Euro5 emission regulations. The toughest standards to date, Euro5 rules are said to be significantly more stringent than the Euro4 rules that preceded it. To meet the new standards, some OEMs have simply added displacement to engines to offset the increase in the number (or size) of catalyzers.
Clearly, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to ride two of my favorite sportbikes – the Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M – around one of the best circuits in the world, the Circuito de Jerez. But an evolution, not revolution, of the current R1 platform first introduced in 2015 (which, coincidentally, I was also present for) seemed hardly a reason for Yamaha to spend a sizeable chunk of cash to rent the world-renowned track, fly journalists in from all over the world, feed them, and put them up in a fancy hotel. What was up?
Full disclosure before we begin: I’m a former Alpinestars employee. But don’t take that to mean I’m a fan of all its products. There are definitely some duds. A perplexing one was the first-generation Missile Tech-Air suit. At a thousand bucks, it was a novel idea as a relatively affordable entry-level airbag-compatible suit. The thing going against it was fit (at least for me) – I didn’t like the fit at all. At 5-foot, 8-inches, 150 pounds, with a 30-inch inseam and 31-inch waist, I’m about as average as they come in regards to body size and type. Still, the Missile was uncomfortable. The proportions were wrong and it was tight in the hips and knees, making it difficult to move my lower body the way I wanted.
I’ve long maintained that riding a supermoto is one of my favorite forms of motorcycling. I’ve also maintained that I have no desire in owning one with headlights and a license plate. The reason is simple: they are one-way tickets to jail. The idea of a dirtbike – a small, nimble, light, and relatively powerful motorcycle made to jump over things – on road tires is batty. It’s an absolute riot, but it’s also batty and crazy. All this is a way to say I wouldn’t be able to control myself if one ended up in my hands. Which is why I relegate myself to riding supermoto on tracks, or when the occasional press bike comes my way.
By now I’ll assume you’ve already read my First Ride Review of the 2020 BMW S1000RR. In it, I mention how this new version of BMW’s flagship sportbike is a decade in the making and comes totally revamped from the ground up compared to its predecessor, with more power, Shiftcam technology (aka variable valve timing) for more power earlier in the rev range, updated and revised electronics, and a host of weight-saving measures to drop total weight by 25 pounds over the outgoing model. And guess what – the asymmetrical headlights are gone! In this video supplement to my written review, you now get to see and hear me talk about the changes to the new RR and see how the bike works around the glorious Barber Motorsports Park – including a bit where it protests and almost bucks me off!
If you type in “Ducati Panigale V4 R Review” in Google, you’ll notice not many publications have gotten their hands on one – including us. Ducati’s been very selective about who gets to ride the pinnacle Panigale, and we’ve been told, for 2019 anyway, Ducati won’t have a single V4 R in its US press fleet. Meaning we won’t get to ride the bike that forms the base upon which Alvaro Bautista has been dominating World Superbike.
In this internet age, we understand everyone’s attention spans are very short. So we get (even if we’re a little saddened) if you didn’t get to read all the way through my First Ride review of the 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory. It’s a couple thousand words long, and though I thought it made for a good read, inevitably some of you didn’t get all the way through it. Thankfully YouTube exists, and while at the glorious Mugello Circuit in Italy, I recorded my thoughts and impressions of the RSV4 for the video you can view below. It’s complete with a short overview of the bike and some action footage, including a blast down the 1.1km Mugello straight where the 1100’s speedo flashed 307 kph at one point! Later, my GoPro GPS revealed my top speed to be only 180 mph, but it was still a rush all the same.
Blah, blah, blah, we say it all the time – the Aprilia RSV4 is one of our favorite bikes ever. But seriously, it really is special. So how, then, does one improve upon a fan favorite? Give it more power, of course. That’s exactly what we have with the new 2019 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory. On the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong in saying Aprilia telegraphed this move long ago – four years ago in 2015, actually – with the Tuono 1100, even though doing so would make the RSV4 illegal for basically every racing class out there.
The Paris-Dakar rally, a true test of endurance, the ultimate adventure. I’m referring to, of course, the Paris-Dakar of old, when it ran from France to the west African capital of Senegal, Dakar. It was a time when men were men and women were women and the rally itself was more of an adventure, where “winning” was simply finishing. The rally has changed a lot since its inception in 1978. Now, the incredibly competitive teams are hell-bent on racing through the South American Dakar rally stages at break-neck speeds to ensure their spot in Dakar history whilst backed by chase vehicles full of sponsorship money.