Bike review

Motorcycle Live: Aprilia RS 660 concept


Meet the Aprilia RS 660 concept, a mid-weight sportsbike prototype from the Noale-based motorcycle manufacturer.

Details are scarce, but Aprilia has revealed some insights into the new RS 660, which Aprilia says is for a ‘new generation of riders looking to fulfil thrills on the road as well as on the occasional track day’.

Aprilia says the 660 is a parallel twin unit derived from the 1100cc that powered the Tuono 1100 and the RSV4 1100 Factory. Aprilia says this configuration was chosen for its compact nature and efficiency, the extremely low level of heat transmitted to the rider and for the freedom it gives its designers to create a sleek and lightweight frame and suspension.

The engine is mated to an aluminium frame and swingarm that helps keep the weight down, and the engine is used as a stress member of the frame. Other noticeable features include the curved shape of the right side of the swingarm, which allows for cleaner exhaust routing, and lack of linkage between the shock absorber and swingarm.


Motorcycle Live: Panigale V4R breaks cover



So, the covers are off, the manufacturers have made their move and Ducati has blown everyone out of the water with the Panigale V4R, its WSBK homologation special.

WSBK is a production-based race series, which sees tweaked versions of the actual bikes you can go and buy race against one another in competition – and this is why the V4R exists; to allow Ducati to take the WSBK fight to Kawasaki and wrestle the title out of the hands of the all-conquering Johnny Rea.

The new Panigale V4R runs a 998cc version of the Desmosedici Stradale 90-degree V4, with the stroke shortened from 53.5 mm to 48.4 mm, and the 81 mm bore untouched, essentially taking an extremely oversquare and rev-focused motor and making it significantly more oversquare and revvy.

The engine internals have also lost a fair bit of weight: the pistons are forged, with just two piston rings (one for compression, the other an oil scraper) and the crankshaft, high-lift valves and con rods are titanium. The crank alone saves an astonishing 1.1kg over the version used in the1103cc bikes, whereas the con rods save 100g each.

So as well as having less distance to travel with each revolution thanks to the shorter stroke, there’s significantly less mass to move as well. That means Ducati can rev this thing much higher than the 1103cc version: the V4S revs to 13,000rpm, and the R version keeps on pulling, up to a crazy 15,250rpm.

So the new R bike loses torque, which drops from a peak of 124Nm in the S bike down to 114Nm in the R, but gains significant horsepower at the top of its new stratospheric rev range: while the S bike makes 214bhp, the R boosts this to 221 in fully road-legal trim. Bin the legal cans for the Performance kit from Akrapovic and that horsepower figure leaps to 234 ponies.

The bodywork is notably different too, thanks to the gills on the side fairings, as well as the silver rear of the tank, the overall larger and higher front fairing and those black carbon winglets behind the headlights.

Ducati, of course, was the first manufacturer to push winglet technology in MotoGP, and even though that series has banned them, WSBK continues to allow their use.

Other stand out features include the Brembo Stylema brakes, traction, wheelie and control, cornering ABS Evo, up/down quickshifting, engine brake control, three riding modes, pit lane limiter, lap timing, data analysis and multimedia Bluetooth systems.

MotoGP: Marquez snatches difficult pole at Phillip Island


Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has secured pole position at Phillip Island, his fifth  consecutive pole at the track (equalling Casey Stoner’s five poles in a row).

Tricky weather conditions, including occasional rain, low temperatures and cold wind, made the search for bike set-up challenging and the track conditions demanding.

Marquez, wearing gloves and boots in Mick Doohan’s iconic colors as a tribute to the Aussie legend, was able to choose exactly the best moment to push, and his 1’29.199” lap time proved to be untouchable in the final minutes of the session.

With a 47-point lead in the Constructors Championship and three races remaining in the season, Honda have the chance to clinch their 24th Constructors Title tomorrow.

WSBK: imperious Rea continues winning streak with Race One victory in Qatar


2018 WSBK champion Jonathan Rea continued his impressive form, taking a commanding win in the opening race under the floodlights at Losail and equalling the existing record of 17 wins in a single season with his 11th consecutive victory.

Despite not starting on pole, Rea took the holeshot into turn one and from then on ran at his own pace to add yet another win to his impressive haul, his 56th for Kawasaki; a record for a single rider with a single manufacturer in WorldSBK. Eleven race wins in succession also moved Rea’s recent record of ten consecutive races on by one.

Sykes was on strong form from the start at Losail this weekend and extended his career Superpole record with a 1’56.124 lap in SP2 that just edged our Rea by 0.131 seconds.

Speaking after the race, Rea said: “There is a lot of hard work done to arrive in this position. It is really difficult; to build the package, the team atmosphere and a feeling with the bike. This weekend I have not quite felt myself on the bike and I said to my guys yesterday evening that this game is so much about confidence. We have been lucky this year in that I have had such a great feeling with the bike and that we have had that little bit extra. That gives you confidence and you are able to ride in a certain way. That is how it is done; that confidence the bike gives me, working with the team. Every time we are struggling, or my confidence is down, my crew chief Pere Riba finds a way to re-invent that, and turn things around. I am really grateful for that. People can find a good team and a good bike, and a good team can find a good rider, but trying to put all the elements together is really difficult.”

Race two will take place on Saturday the 29th of October 2018, again under the floodlights at 19.00 local time.

MotoGP – Silverstone ends in shambles as rains stops British MotoGP


Raceday at the British GP at Silverstone was a shambles as rain cancelled the race. Yes, the most obvious of British weather conditions brought the MotoGP Championship to a standstill. Yet, it took Race Direction some five and a half hours to finally bring the curtain down on a truly miserable day in every sense of the word.

The circuit owners blamed the cancellation on the riders and teams refusing to race, the teams blamed the standing water and the lack of drainage and the riders blamed safety – standing water was an issue during Saturday’s sessions (a major crash in the water during FP4 sent Tito Rabat to the hospital via helicopter, while four other riders ploughed into the gravel traps).

It is clear that Silverstone’s owners have fudged the recent multi-million fund resurfacing, which it boasted had removed the many bumps which had plagued the track for years. Standing water could be seen at much of the circuit, seemingly unable to cope with the most likely of weather conditions at this race track.

In an effort to beat the weather conditions, race organisers announced that the MotoGP race would be moved forward in the schedule to 11:15am in an effort to get the big bikes on the track before the rain was again expected to hit the circuit.

However, while the MotoGP warm-up session was held during dry conditions, rain began falling during the Moto3 warm-up and this quickly turned into a steady stream of rain.

With the Dorna and the track’s officials delaying Sunday’s races for as long as possible, Dorna, IRTA, and the MotoGP riders, bar Jack Miller and Johan Zarco, finally decided to cancel the race late in the afternoon, just before 4pm, as the rain showed no chance of stopping, and the track surface was clearly not safe enough to race upon when it was wet.

So, that was that…a shambolic end to a truly miserable day for British racing.

Tested: Arai RX-7V


This is my fourth RX-7V and I have nothing but praise for it.

This is my sole lid, and it’s the exact same helmet that you see top racers such as Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Vinales and Rea wearing each weekend.

I love this helmet and with good reason too – it’s truly all-day comfortable, and the non-itch lining does a good job of keeping my scalp dry and sweat free. Its performed faultlessly on the roads and the brilliant combination of powerful and effective visor vents and Pinlock means you’ll never suffer with misting, and the retractable chin spoiler is a neat, well-thought out touch.

This lid features Arai’s new visor change mechanism, which is far easier to master than the old system, and I know this lid will look after me in the worst case scenario – I threw my old GP down the road when I came off at speed and slid some 110m down the road, smacking my head hard in three different places. The shell took a proper battering but everything worked as it should and I didn’t get so much as a headache. This new lid features a new, smoother outer shell, a longer diffuser, a new, bigger visor tab and a new interior.

The new outer shell is a result of Arai’s philosophy that a smoother shell offers the best protection through its enhanced ‘glancing off’ properties – the theory is that a smoother shape spreads the impact load across the whole helmet and thus helps reduce the amount of energy transferred to a rider’s brain in a spill. The shell itself is 30g lighter than the outgoing model, thanks a mainly to the new resins used, and there is now 3mm extra space around the rider’s mouth and chin.

This focus on ‘glancing off’ has seen the RX-7’s visor pivot lowered by 24mm to allow Arai to keep the shell of the RX-7V completely smooth above the test line of the Snell standard, further improving impact performance.

The new helmet also sports a prominent visor tab, which Arai has carried over from its F1 programme. The system is much chunkier than its predecessor, which makes it easier to use with gloved fingers.

Arai’s slogan is ‘there is a difference’ and they’re right. This is very much a top of the range lid, and it’s worth every penny of its hefty price tag.

MotoGP – ‘racy’ Lorenzo takes gritty win in Austria

fileDucati’s Jorge Lorenzo deep to take a gritty  victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at thee Red Bull Ring.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from the front row of the grid following yesterday’s third place in qualifying, opted to begin the race with ‘soft’ tyres both front and rear, and after leading over the line at the end of the opening lap, he was then passed by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso looked to be falling behind, but on Lap 18 the race sprang into life.

After Lorenzo reclaimed the lead on the next lap, both he and Marquez battled it out until the end, with Lorenzo eventually crossing the line with an advantage of just 130 thousandths of a second.

Lorenzo said: “It was an incredible race, maybe one of the best of my career, quite simply spectacular! Winning with Ducati on this circuit, where I had never won before, after a close quarters battle with Marquez, has a really special taste. Before the race I had thought about which strategy to use, and I decided to do like Brno, administering the tyre wear well and then attacking in the final part of the race, especially because I was one of the few riders who had chosen ‘soft’ tyres and my riding style allowed me to conserve them until the end.

“When I found myself fighting against Marquez I knew that it was going to be difficult to pass him, so I decided to improvise by making the best use of the Desmosedici GP’s acceleration and it worked perfectly. Now we’re third in the championship standings, but above all I’m proud and very pleased with the way we’re working because the feeling with the bike is better and better all the time and I believe we can fight for the win in many other races.”

The next round of the championship will be the British Grand Prix, scheduled for the Silverstone circuit from 24th to 26th August.

MotoGP – Lorenzo dominates to claim second win in a row


Two weeks after his Mugello triumph, Jorge Lorenzo made it two in a row by winning the Catalan GP at the Montmeló circuit.

The rider from Mallorca, who started from pole, moved into the lead of the race onLap 2 when he passed Honda’s Marc Marquez, and then firmly held onto that position right until the chequered flag, finishing more than four seconds ahead of his Honda rival.

Lorenzo has now moved up to seventh place in the overall standings on 66 points, followed by Dovizioso with the same haul, while Ducati now lie second overall in the Constructors’ championship with 132 points.

Lorenzo said: “Today’s win was really fantastic! We showed that we can win not only by entering the first turn in first place, but also by recovering and overtaking the others. It was actually a complicated race because I got off to a bad start and lost a lot of metres to Marquez, but I told myself that the race was long and I had to keep calm.

“It wasn’t too difficult to take Marquez, because I had that little bit extra under braking, but he stayed pretty close to me right down to the flag.

“Now we’ve got a very competitive package and I think that this is the most complete Ducati bike of all time:  We must capitalise on this situation because the Desmosedici works well at virtually every track, it doesn’t consume the tyres too much, and this is a big advantage. Now let’s enjoy this win and then we’ll think about the next race.”

The next race of the MotoGP championship will be in the Netherlands, in two weeks time, at the Assen circuit for the Dutch TT from June 29  to July1.

Road riding – ten things I’ve learnt from riding a 2011 Yamaha Diversion 600F

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01) The Diversion 600F is tiny, really tiny for my 6’2in frame

02) OEM tyres from 2011 don’t age well…

03) The state of the roads in Lincolnshire is shocking – potholes everywhere

04) The standard of drivers isn’t much better; everyone seems glued to their phone or sat nav…the telltale weave is a giveaway

05) The temperature may be warm during the day right now but at twilight it’s still too early in the year for vented leathers and boots

06) The bugs are much bigger riding after 8pm too

07) The engine may be small, but it’s still lively and has enough poke to put a smile on your face

08) It’s crying out for an aftermarket can though…sounds like a washing machine

09) It begins to weave once you get it singing

10) The 600F may just be the perfect post-test bike to cut your teeth on