Month: October 2014

2015 Year of the sportsbike: Japan fights back

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For years we’ve been told that sportsbikes are in terminal decline – sales dwindled as thousands of riders ditched their pocket rockets and switched to the ubiquitous adventure bikes and nakeds. The Japanese manufacturers noticed this trend and concentrated their efforts on tapping into this lucrative market, turning their back on sportsbike development and giving their flagships minimal upgrades. Honda’s CBRs, Yamaha’s Rs, and Suzuki’s venerable GSX-Rs received minor tweaks, the factories content that there was nothing to challenge their hegemony – they didn’t need to be cutting edge because there was nobody to challenge their dominance.

But nobody told the Europeans this, and bikes like Aprilia’s brutal RSV4, BMW’s brilliant S1000RR and Ducati’s focused 1199 Panigale caught the Japanese with their pants down – these cutting edge bikes featured the latest in electronic rider aids and in one foul swoop made the Japanese offerings seem technologically-retarded and outdated.

Kawasaki was the first to respond, creating the effective Kawasaki ZX-10R – traction control, switchable power modes, sports ABS and ABS, LED bar graph display – Yamaha and Suzuki gave their flagships fresh paint and Honda gave their Blade a blueprinted engine.

But this year sees the Japanese fightback. Kawasaki have already unleashed their H2R on an unsuspecting public – a 296bhp, 998cc supercharged inline four in a green trellis frame, wrapped in a carbon fibre fairing with winglets and featuring traction control, launch control and ABS. Yamaha are set to unveil their all-new R1 next week at the EICMA in Milan. The bike is expected to ditch the crossplane crank technology and return to a conventional firing order. It will be available in two versions – a racing version rumoured to make 230hp with a revised traction control system and electronic suspension, and a standard version.

However, the biggest news coming from Japan is that Honda are set to unveil the road-going version of their RC213V MotoGP bike at EICMA. This V4 will be produced for a Honda assault on the WSBK championships and will feature a host of technology from the prototype racer. Expect it to produce 200+bhp and feature state-of-the-art suspension and electronics but no seamless gearbox.

The sportsbike is dead. Long live the sportsbike.

Return of the king: Stoner tests at Motegi

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Love him or loathe him, Casey Stoner polarises popular opinion like no other rider of modern times. I fall firmly into the former camp, marvelling at his ability to spin the rear to steer the bike, using the inside curve to ride a have a wider exit. But it was his ability to ride a bike beyond its limit and utterly dominate it to make it comply to his will that really set him apart –he’s the only rider to master the notoriously recalcitrant Desmosedici, giving the Italian Factory team their only GP title in 2007. He’s a supremely gifted rider and the stats don’t lie – he’s a double world champion with 38 wins, 39 poles and 29 fastest laps under his belt.

And he’s just competed a two-day test at Motegi putting the 2015 Honda RC213V through its paces. As well as testing Marquez’s and Pedrosa’s 2015/16 settings, he also spent time assessing the current specification Bridgestone tyres and the 2016 Michelin tyres.

Stoner said: “It took some time to get used to riding the bike again after a year off but everything felt good and I got into the swing of things pretty quickly. Day one went pretty well, testing both Marc and Dani’s set-ups on the 2015 prototypes and analysing these side by side we found some interesting differences and useful data. We also did some engine development and some other new items Honda brought for this test.”

So why does this matter? Well, Marquez aside, Pedrosa, Bradl and Bautista have all had a disappointing season aboard their Factory Hondas with the bike struggling for grip in cold conditions. The RC213V is far from perfect, and Yamaha have made significant improvements to their YZR-M1. Honda know this and will be pulling out all the stops to turn the tide.

The 2014 season may be drawing to a close but the race for the 2015 season has already begun.

2014: King of the Mountain

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2014 has been a year of firsts on the biking front, a year that’s seen my biking bucket list get shorter and shorter – TT? Check? Off-roading? Check. Litre sports bike in the garage? Check?

The TT was magical. From the moment you pull on to Liverpool’s waterfront you know that you’re entering a different world, a world where two wheels are king. It doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride yourself, all that matters is that you’re ready to worship at the altar of motorcycle racing.

The first thing that struck me looking at the mass swarm of bikes on the quayside was just how wide the appeal of the TT is – sportsbikes, cruises, tourers, classics, sidecars, crossers, customs, rat bikes, monkey bikes – the machines on display were just as varied as the nationality of the numberplate they’re sporting. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you ride, or where you’re from, the appeal of watching the ultimate test of man and machine across the 37.8-mile island circuit is universal.

The second thing that struck me was just how challenging the TT course is, to both rider and machine. TV coverage doesn’t give a true reflection of just how steep, bumpy and narrow the island’s roads are. It’s a thousand times removed from the short circuit racing scene back in the UK – there are no crash barriers and no gravel traps, no room for error. The roads are bumpy, really really bumpy, the bike’s suspension works overtime to try and smooth out the ride, and the only protection offered to the competitors are the ubiquitous airbags. They’re everywhere – tethered to the red telephone boxes, lampposts, drystone walls. You just can’t get your head around how hard hard it must be to ride a bike that fast around here.

The third thing that struck me was just how accessible the whole event is. It’s the polar opposite of the sanitised MotoGP circus – here it’s about being inclusive, not exclusive. Stroll through the paddock behind the grandstand and you’ll see Guy Martin signing a young girl’s T-Shirt, William Dunlop sharing a joke with a couple of mechanics, Keith Flint laughing with his rider Steve Mercer and Bruce Anstey chewing the fat with a couple of racegoers under the Mugen awning. You really can get as close to the bikes, the riders and the action as you like.

Want to watch superbikes roar past at some 160mph just metres away your feet on a grass bank at Cronk Y Voddy? No problem. Want to see the Norton team spannering Cam Donald’s bike? Step this way. Want to check just how firm the front end of a Lightweight race bike is? Go and say hello to MCN’s Adam ‘Chad’ Child.

Then there’s riding the Mountain itself, there’s nothing quite like it in the world. As you approach Parliament Square you suddenly become painfully aware of just how many bikes there are swarming in your rear view mirrors. Your senses start working overtime, ears picking up every engine rev while your eyes notice every swerving headlight. Heading up May Hill, under the famous gantry, your heartbeat increases as you realise that soon your speed will be governed only by your own sense of self preservation. Tip into the Waterworks and then take a wide left into the Ramsey Hairpin before traffic cones funnel you into one lane, throttling off a little to give yourself a bit of space from the bike in front. After taking the Gooseneck right-hander the cones suddenly stop and the road effectively becomes a racetrack. It’s just you against yourself. There is no speed limit, the laws of the road no longer apply and the only limitation is your own talent and bravery. The next 10-miles and 13 corners are a blur of overtakes, being overtaken, hugging the racing line in left-handers while being horribly offline in right-handers, fear of falling off the road and down the rugged mountainside getting the upper hand over my desire to be quick. The views are spectacular but there’s no time to take in the scenery – your eyes are constantly scanning the road as far ahead as possible while checking the mirrors looking for approaching headlights. Some five minutes later I signal left and pull into the layby by Creg-ny-Baa and jump off the bike, the Aprilia’s engine pinking hard in the cool Mountain air after its early morning workout. My legs had turned to jelly, I was wet with sweat and I felt sick, yet I loved every breathtaking mile.

And there’s plenty more to TT fortnight than the racing. Here are 11 things I learnt from my first time on the Island:

1) Bray Hill is a lot, lot steeper than it looks

2) Queenies rock

3) Malteser and banana cake rocks even more

4) Cruiser riders pull out of every junction without looking

5) French riders are dangerous – give a wide berth

6) When it’s raining and foggy on the Mountain it’s hot enough for ice cream in Douglas

7) Staying with a local with an empty garage is good

8) Staying with a local who knows the roads like the back of his hands and has a Land Rover Defender that he’s happy to use to take use up the trails to the Mountain is even better

9) Riding the Mountain makes me feel sick

10) The phone signal on the Island is crap

11) Kriega luggage is the kit of champions. Nothing else comes close.

Tried & Tested: Alpinestars GP Pro 1-pc suit

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This brilliant set of vented leathers has seen Alpinestars pull themselves out of the doldrums after a fair few years of producing mediocre suits. They’ve taken a proper battering after a high-speed low side at a wet and greasy Oulton Park, and I’m happy to report that they crash well.

I lost the front of the bike at speed tipping into Old Hall Corner and slid for eight seconds before coming to a crumpled halt, and everything performed exactly as it was designed to – the heavy-duty plastic external armour on the knees shoulders and elbows took the force of the impact, ensuring I kept moving and that nothing dug in to the ground. The CE-approved armour on the forearms, shins and knees stayed in place and although the 1.3mm thick leather took a pounding on the arse, thighs and forearms as I slid along the tarmac, it don’t hole, tear or burst. In fact, the only injury I suffered was friction burns on my thighs and forearms, and most of the damage on the forearm seems top have been caused by the CE armour inside the suit wearing the leather out from the inside.

In short this is a comfortable, brilliantly protective suit and I wouldn’t hesitate to wear the same model again. And the best bit is you can now pick it up online for just £500.

Moto Guzzi V7 – harking back to the glory days of the seventies, but with the reliability and quality of modern machinery

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When Guzzi launched the entry-level retro-styled V7 to the world in 2008 it looked the part but was more an exercise in style over substance – yes, the styling was gorgeous and while it had character, charm and authenticity by the bucketload, its asthmatic 42bhp powerplant let it down. Badly. It just couldn’t compete with rivals such as the Triumph Bonneville or Ducati Sports Classic.

In 2012 Guzzi concentrated their efforts on thoroughly refreshing their 744cc V-twin lump, replacing or revising all of the components apart from the crankshaft and cases. The results are impressive. As well as increasing power to 51bhp, the engine feels more refined and offers better fuel economy (Guzzi claim a 12 per cent increase) and improved emissions. The only downside to this refinement is that the engine has lost its signature square cam covers for rounded ones.

The chassis remains unchanged, but the new models’ wheels are significantly lighter – 1.44kg less at the front and 0.86kg at the rear, which results in a machine that feels agile.

Swing a leg over the saddle and the first thing you notice is just how small the bike is. It’s tiny but relaxed. Everything falls to hand and the feels light and easy to manoeuvre.

Thumb the starter motor and the bike burbles in to life with a pleasingly deep exhaust tone. Guzzi’s team of engineers spent a lot of time perfecting the sound of the bike and it shows; they’ve got it spot on.

The engine feels perky and eager. Open the throttle and the engine makes itself heard in two ways – through the sideways rocking of the sideways rotational forces through the chassis and the fruity, burbling tone emanating from the exhaust. There’s no redline on the V7 and it doesn’t need one. It’s all about torque, not revs, and will willingly shove you forward from as little as 2000rpm. Change up early, sail along on a sea of torque and savour the views.

The only area the V7 suffers is with its suspension, it’s just too soft. It’s perfectly adequate at lower speeds, but the lack of damping sees it struggle when the speed increases, clattering over over bumps and potholes like bikes of old. But then again this isn’t a performance bike, so for many riders this won’t be an issue.

The V7 is a glorious mix of sublime detailing and retro looks, but it now has the performance it deserves. It’s a retro-styled bike that manages to look contemporary while still remaining true to Guzzi’s roots. It’s a tricky balancing act to pull off, but Guzzi have mastered it with ease.

V7 STONE

The Stone is the base level model in the V7 range and comes with cast wheels and is available in black, green or red.

V7 SPECIAL

The Special is arguably the closest to the original 1970’s V7, and comes with wire wheels and two-tone paint.

V7 RACER

Manufactured in a numbered limited edition as shown by the commemorative plaque on the steering yoke, the sporty V7 Racer shares the same engine and chassis as the Special but gets a red frame, red hubs, red wheels and a red swingarm. It also gets a chrome tank, drilled alloy side panels, a single seat suede saddle with race number, rearsets, clip-on bars and an upswept exhaust.

PRICE £6932 (Stone), £7132 (Special) and £8132 (Racer)

ENGINE 744cc, air-cooled 90º V-twin

POWER 51bhp@6200rpm

TORQUE 44.lb.ft@2800rpm

TANK CAPACITY 22 litres

TRANSMISSION 5-speed, shaft

WEIGHT 179kg

SEAT HEIGHT 805mm

2015 TT: Dunlop out, Suzuki out

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So it looks that 11-time TT winner Michael Dunlop is without a ride for the 2015 season, as the Northern Ireland-based TAS squad looks set to be confirmed as BMW’s officially supported team for next year’s BSB and road campaigns, breaking a long and successful partnership with Suzuki.

What that means is that Michael’s elder brother William, and the enigmatic Guy Martin, will be riding the Moneymore team’s S1000RRs, effectively leaving 25-year-old Michael out in the cold. It seems that winning BMW’s first title for 75 years and crushing all around him is no longer enough to guarantee a seat – Michael won the 2014 Superbike, Senior and Superstock TTs riding for the Buildbase Hawk BMW team, while Guy Martin landed second place in the Superbike race and third place in the Senior on the TAS Suzuki.

This isn’t the first time Michael has lost his place within a winning team – in 2013 Michael effectively priced himself out of a deal at Honda, despite dominating the TT and winning the Superbike, the Superstock and both Supersport races.

So where does this leave one of road racing’s fiercest competitors? One intriguing option could see him switch manufacturers yet again and compete aboard the all-new R1 for 2015. Mar-Train Racing announced at Brands that they were turning their back on BSB and have signed a two-year deal as Yamaha’s official road race team for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The team will consist of one rider and will campaign the three main classes, Supersport, Superstock and Superbike in the three international road races plus selected national road races.

Another option would be to compete under his own banner, but one thing is certain; there’s no chance he’ll take a year’s sabbatical, like he threatened after losing his Honda deal. “I have 11 TT trophies on my mantelpiece and only three were won on a BMW, so I plan to be back with another manufacturer. I will wait and see what happens, but I can assure you I will be back to win lost more TTs and North West 200s next season and beyond.”

Any angry Michael Dunlop with a point to prove? BMW, Honda and Bruce Anstey had better watch out…Ian Hutchinson’s haul of five victories might just be equalled, and we might also see the first sub 17-minute lap. 2015’s TT promises to be spectacular…

PROVEN ON TRACK: JOHNNY REA

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The undisputed King of Cadwell Park (he attacked the Mountain with even more aggression than Josh Brookes – just google Johnny Rea Cadwell Park jump), WSBK hard charger Johnny Rea, 27, has been at the front of the grid ever since he first began his career on two wheels riding motocross.

In 2005 he landed a ride on a Factory Honda Fireblade, and was runner-up in BSB in 2007, before switching to World Supersport with Ten Kate Honda. He took his first win at Brno and was fighting for the championship right up until the last round, when he was pipped to the title by his teammate Andrew Pitt.

He joined the WSBK series in 2009 and took took his first win at Misano the same year. He’s been a regular visitor to the podium ever since. He’s had his share of big offs and knows what kit works and what doesn’t. Here he shares his hard earned kit wisdom.

HELMET:

“Your helmet is your most important piece of kit. It has to be, it protects your head. The best way to explain why I wear Arai is to YouTube my crash at Misano (http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=LCjVrhchqS0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DLCjVrhchqS0).

“It was a big crash. I landed on my head and how I didn’t suffer any head or neck injuries I’ll never know. I didn’t even get knocked out.

“My RX-7GP is an off-the-shelf, standard Arai in an S that you can buy yourself, and apart from the paint, it’s not been changed or modified in any way. What I love about it is that everything works perfectly – it fits me, the lining is comfortable and effective at wicking away the sweat, the ventilation is superb, and the vision is excellent.

“I’ve been with Arai nearly all my career, from 2004 to today, and wouldn’t trust any other helmet. I’ve been to the Arai factory in Holland, and I’ve seen them test their own lids against those from other manufacturers, with the logos removed so we didn’t know what was what. The Arai came out on top, which says everything I need to know. There’s a reason the RX7 costs so much – everything is researched and made to the highest level. I’d even buy one to race in if I had to.

“I run my own MotoCross team and have given them Arai. I don’t get given them, I’ve had to buy them, but I don’t mind because I know they work.”

LEATHERS:

“I need my leathers to be comfortable, though err on the side of tightness. They also need to fit, and all the internal and external armour needs to sit where it’s supposed to – if it moves it’s not going to do you any good in a crash. It’s no good them being too loose and rolling up when you hit the Tarmac. A good test is to pull the leather at the wrists and ankles. If they move up your arm or leg then they’re too big. You need to try them on in the correct way – by sitting as if you’re crouching on the bike. It’s no good just trying them on standing up as this wont replicate how they’ll sit on your body when you’re on the bike. When you crouch, the suit changes and you need to realise this.

“I don’t use an airbag system, I just use a standard one-piece leather race suit. I’ve not been asked if I want to wear an airbag suit, and I’m not sure I’d be interested if I was offered one – it adds some 5kg to the suit’s weight, and as the battery pack sits in the hump, it stops you from using a hydration pack.

“My leathers crash well and are nearly always repaired. I’ve been in Alpinestars most of my career and I’ve had my share of spectacular offs, yet my leathers have never holed. That speaks volumes for the quality.

“I’ve been an Alpinestars factory-supported rider since 2008, and that’s seen my leathers become even more comfortable. Before that my sponsors used to have patches on the suit, but now they’re printed, which makes the suit lighter and more aerodynamic.

“I’d quite happily wear the same suit over a whole season, they’re good enough to stand up to a few crashes, but obviously that wouldn’t keep the sponsors happy. Instead, Alpinestars allocate me with four suits, and rotate them over the course of the season. That way if I have a spill and the suit gets damaged they can send it away to be repaired or replaced.”

BOOTS:

“There are a lot of bones in your feet, and the ankle’s a really complicated joint, so you can’t afford to take chances. You need your boots to be protective.

“I wear Supertech Rs. They’re well ventilated and light. It’s the inner boots that make them so great – they’re not so rigid that they restrict all movement, yet they feel protective. I’ve not had too many foot or leg injuries so I know they work.

“They’re also all-day comfortable. They feel like trainers – you could easily ride to a race meet and wear them all day while you’re watching the races without noticing you’re in race boots. They’re that comfy that I can wear a box-fresh set in a race with no problems – they don’t even need breaking in.

“And they’re quiet too. I’ve been on the podium a few times, and it’s on the climb up to the podium that you’ll hear a lot of riders boots squeaking and making a right old racket.”

GLOVES:

“I’m quite picky when it comes to gloves because I need them to look after me. I’ve had a bad injury to the ring finger on my right hand, and had two wrist reconstructions on my right arm, so I’m quite prepared to sacrifice comfort for protection.

“I wear GP Techs as they have sturdy plastic armour which extends up the forearm. It takes a session to break a pair of gloves in, but once they’re worn in they’re great. I’d quite happily wear the same gloves all season, and I’m happy to continue wearing them even if I crash in them – and I can vouch that they crash well.”

BACK AND CHEST PROTECTORS:

“I wear a standard off the peg back protector that you can buy in the shops. I like my back protector to be on the short side, so that it sits just below my shoulders. It’s odd but I can’t race without one. I’d forgotten mine at Assen and just didn’t have the feeling of security, so I couldn’t push as hard as I’d have liked. My team got me another one sent out and the transformation was amazing. It’s not like you think about crashing, but it’s nice to feel protected if you do, and I don’t feel protected if I’ve not got one under my leathers. My back protector gives me peace of mind.

“Having said that I don’t wear a chest protector and I’ve never given one any thought. I’ve never had any problems with my chest, and I don’t suffer any problems with my chest hitting the bike’s tank.”

BASELAYERS AND SOCKS:

“I’ve tried everything – compression suits etc but I’ve settled on base layers. They’re brilliant. They make it easier to get your leathers on and off, they wick away moisture and they’re just so comfortable. I use mine a lot off the bike too.

“I used to wear race socks but now I wear thicker Motocross socks that come up to the knee. I’ll even wear them at really hot tracks like Misano.”

EARPLUGS:

“I tried personalised earplugs but couldn’t get on with them – they’re just too fiddly. I now buy my own disposable earplugs. I wear the green Motrax plugs. I tried the orange ones but they’re a lot harder.

“A bag of earplugs will last me a whole season. I’m not saying I’m dirty but I’ll use two or three sets over a weekend, though if I get angry I’ll throw them at something.”

ANY CRASHES WHERE YOU FEEL YOUR KIT WORKED PARTICULARLY WELL?

“I’ve had some massive offs, but two spring to mind immediately. The crash at Imola in 2012 was a massive impact and I managed to walk away. I can remember thinking how lucky I was to have come away from that with no injuries.

“Misano in 2011 was even bigger and I wasn’t so lucky. I was in the first fast kink and I ran onto the white line. It was slippy and I had a massive high side. I crashed at turn 9, but my body ended up at turn 11. I don’t know if I was knocked out or not. I broke my wrist. That was one of those crashes where I was relieved that was all I got because it was so fast.”

The future’s here…why we’ll all be wearing airbags soon

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Airbag technology may be are prohibitively expensive at the moment, but it works, and once the cost comes down this is kit we’ll all be wearing. Airbag leather suits are a familiar site on our TV screens, with stars from the MotoGP and road racing world now wearing air suits – Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow can be seen putting the Alpinestars Tech Air suit through its paces while Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl, Pol Espargaro and Guy Martin all sport Dainese’s D-Air Racing system. The giveaway is the electronic monitoring LEDs flashing away on the left forearm and shoulder respectively.

And they seem to work too. Dainese claim that none of the 306 crashes by riders wearing the D-air Racing System between 2007 and 2013 have resulted in fractures to the collarbone and shoulder joint areas, which is remarkable when you consider the forces generated in high speed spills.

Alpinestars began work on airbag technology in 2001, and since then their suit has developed into a fully-electronic and wireless airbag system which offers comprehensive protection to large areas of the body – this season Marquez and Pedrosa are testing one-piece airbag systems that offer protection to the shoulders, full back, torso sides and hips.

This new system uses an airbag that is eight times greater in volume than its predecessor – it’s constructed using a special weaving technique which does away with stitched seams to secure the bag within the suit. As on the previous model, the system is operated by a micro-processor which is powered by an internal battery connected to an inflator module, and is housed in a special shockproof casing. The battery, which is housed in the suit’s aerodynamic hump, offers more than eight hours’ worth of protection in full ‘active’ and ‘armed’ mode, and will last for several weeks in standby mode, and is fully rechargeable.

SO HOW DOES IT WORK?

The Alpinestars system automatically arms itself as soon as the sensors detect the rider is seated on the bike and moving at low speed. Once the micro-processor is armed and sensing, it constantly monitors the rider’s movements and the forces experienced every two milliseconds, via sensors on the arms and legs. If the system senses the rider has lost control – if it detects any irregularities in rider movement or external forces acting on the rider – it deploys and releases a cold, pressurised, Nitrogen-based gas mix with a small pyrotechnic charge to fire the airbag from the shoulders, with the bag fully inflated within 50 milliseconds.

Once inflated the airbag offers more than five seconds’ worth of protection before it begins to deflate – the suit features specially engineered expansion chambers that accommodate the bag in its fully inflated state.

Once the bag is fully deflated, the suit returns to its normal state and fit and the airbag is armed again. It can be deployed twice before the gas needs replacing.

IN ACTION

Marc Marquez had the fastest MotoGP crash ever when he lost control of his Repsol Honda RC213V at 209.9mph during the Friday Free Practice 2 session at Mugello last year. Marquez bailed from his bike at some 170mph as he approached the San Donato corner to avoid the fast approaching wall. He escaped with a battered chin, a small fissure to his humorous bone and some soft tissue injuries to his shoulder, remarkable when you consider that both Marquez’s left and right shoulders maxed out the suit’s accelerometers as he rolled.

The data shows the crash lasted for 4.25 seconds, and it took the airbag’s micro-processor just 0.08 seconds to detect the crash, and another 0.05 seconds to deploy the airbag.

IS THE TECHNOLOGY RELIABLE?

Dainese claim their D-Air Racing system reduces energy transferred by impact by 85 per cent compared with traditional composite body armour. And thanks to their use of accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS, the micro-processor will only deploy the airbag when the needed  – it won’t deploy the airbag at speeds below 30mph or when the dynamics don’t require the extra protection of an airbag. It obviously works as crashtastic Stefan Bradl has yet to break his collarbone despite regularly crashing, and crashing hard.

SO, MUCH DOES THIS TECHNOLOGY COST?

At the moment, the Alpinestars Air tech suit costs £5400 while the Dainese D-Air costs £2400 and although the technology is expensive it will come down once manufacturers embrace the technology. Dainese have already teamed up with Ducati and BMW and the effects have been immediate – the Ducati Multistrada D-air is the world’s first motorcycle with a fully integrated airbag system.

Why Ducati’s DVT matters – more power, more torque and more miles per gallon

02  DUCATI TESTASTRETTA DVT

Ducati’s Desmodromic Variable Timing, which will be fitted to the company’s new Multistrada, is the first time variable valve technology has debuted on a V-twin powerplant.

The system can change the intake and exhaust timing independently, and across the whole of the rev range, optimising engine performance to guarantee the highest power, smooth delivery and low down grunt. An added benefit of all of this is that the engine passes strict Euro 4 noise and emission regulations.

Other changes include Ducati targeting the fuel injectors to spray directly onto the rear of the hot intake valve, instead of the colder surface of the intake port wall.

All this means that the Multistrada’s 1198cc Testastretta lump now produces 160hp and 100 lb.ft of torque, up from the current model’s 150bhp and 91.8lb.ft of torque, all while reducing fuel consumption by eight per cent.

As well as the Multistrada, the technology is expected to feature in the upcoming 1299 Panigale, which is also set to get a ‘Tiptronic’ gearbox.

Comment: Wet, wet, wet

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There are no two ways about it – riding in persistent rain sucks. I’m not talking about getting caught out by a light shower, I’m talking about incessant, heavy rain, the type that finds its way under your kit, then sets about chilling you to your core. Exactly the type of rain that I’ve been riding in these past two days…the kind that takes any pleasure away from riding and turns what is usually a fun-packed commute into a miserable feat of endurance; a chore.

We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather this year when I think about it – even the week spent hustling the RSV-R around the Isle of Man for the TT wasn’t too bad – and it’s only this week that I’ve been finally been forced to ditch my trusty vented leathers for textiles.

I’ve got to admit I’m a dyed-in-the wool sports bike rider and will only ditch the leathers for textiles when the rain is biblical or when the snow and ice appear. The fairings on modern sports bikes do a good job of keeping the worst of the elements away from you, and I figure that as long as I can keep my top half dry then I’m laughing. And normally I am, thanks primarily to my trusty Alpinestars Eclipse Tech jacket that slips over my leathers and keeps the wind and rain at bay without obscuring my movement and making me feel like Bibendum’s chunkier brother.

But this week has seen the first telltale signs of winter’s icy grip slowly taking hold and I’ve begrudgingly made my annual transition to textiles. And I can’t say I’m pleased. I’ve slid some 110m down the road in leathers when the GS I was riding hit an oncoming deer, and I know they work…my second skin did its job and I managed to walk away (actually I was stretchered, but that’s another story) relatively unscathed. I can’t imagine the textiles would have performed so well – actually I know they wouldn’t. Thanks to my five-year stint at RiDE I know they’ll have worn away to nothing in next to no time. They’re not that great at keeping the water out either. The collar will always let water in, or it will collect and pool around the crotch area, eventually penetrating the fabric and leaving you soaked. And even when they do work, their sheer volume means you’re about as nimble on the bike as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

So, even though I fully admit that the best textile kit is flawed, would I swap the bike in favour of the car? Never. As unenjoyable as these past two days have been, I’ve still cut a swathe through traffic while my four-wheeled brethren sat stuck, going nowhere for mind-numbing minute after mind-numbing minute. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

So, I may be wet on the outside, but inside I’m dancing. Bikes still rock, even in the wet.