Motorcycle

Yamaha’s MotoGP woes in stats

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Many in the MotoGP world are questioning the horrible performance of Yamaha in 2018. As it stands Yamaha holds no victories this year with a handful of races left in the season. This would equal its worst performance in 15 years.

Yamaha’s successes really started to trend much higher after hiring Honda legend Valentino Rossi (who took the 2001, 2002 & 2003 crowns for Honda). He subsequently took 2004 & 2005 crowns for Yamaha. After narrowly missing the 2006 title to Honda’s Nicky Hayden and losing to Aussie Casey Stoner in 2007 on a Ducati (the first title for the Italian maker) Rossi won for Yamaha in 2008 & 2009.

Yamaha won the championship again in 2010, 2012 & 2015 under Jorge Lorenzo. Honda won the 2011 with Stoner and the 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017 titles under Marc Marquez who looks odds on to win 2018. At tonight’s Aragon GP in Spain, Yamaha’s four riders start 12th, 14th, 17th & 18th on the grid.

In August this year after the poor performance at the Austrian GP, Yamaha made the unprecedented motion of apologizing to its riders for having such a rubbish bike. The problem has continued for 18 months now. No doubt the developers in the team back in Iwata, Japan are still busy working out how to take responsibility instead of working to fix it.

The reality is that the other motorcycle teams have got much better. The Italians didn’t qualify for the recent Football World Cup and Germany was bailed out in the pool games. So Yamaha needs to stop resting on the laurels of having two world class riders with 10 championships between them to come up with a competitive product.

N.B. Suzuki withdrew from MotoGP in 2012 & 2013. Ducati entered MotoGP in 2003.

Two diplomats and the bloke who said what everyone else was thinking

Yesterday CM wrote about the terrible sportsmanship of Romano Fenati who tried to cause a competitor to crash by grabbing his front brake during a race. Race winner Andrea Dovisioso and reigning world champ Marc Marquez gave diplomatic answers as to what punishment fits the crime but 3rd place getter Brit Cal Crutchlow told the refreshing truth – that Fenati’s team should have immediately fired him. Race Direction handed out a pithy 2 race ban. Fenati’s team agreed with Crutchlow.

Fenati’s team said,

Here we are. Now we can communicate that the Marinelli Snipers Team shall terminate the contract with the rider Romano Fenati, from now on, for his unsporting, dangerous and damaging conduct for the image of all. With extreme regret, we have to note that his irresponsible act endangered the life of another rider and can’t be apologised for in any way. The rider, from this moment, will not participate in any more races with the Marinelli Snipers team. The team, Marinelli Cucine, Rivacold and all the other sponsors and the people that always supported him, apologised to all the World Championship fans.

Foolish Fenati

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Moto2 racer Romano Fenati (13) completely  lost the plot when he reached for the front brake of another rider Stefano Manzi (62) during the race in Misano. While neither were fighting for points, Fenati had a brain snap. While Manzi didn’t crash from the incident Fenati was rightly black flagged. There was an incident in an Italian race at Mugello where the attacked rider was pitched over the handlebars.

Fenati was sacked last year from the Sky VR46 Moto3 team in 2016 for “unexplained” behavior. Something tells me he may get booted for that stupidity.

BMW Motorrad soft in H1. FY forecasts trimmed

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BMW Motorrad’s H1 performance was soft showing a 1.6% drop in unit sales and 23.6% drop in profit. The number of motorcycles sold during the Q2 reporting period was partially influenced by the model change in the mid-class segment, with 51,117 units sold between April and June (2017: 52,753 units).

In Europe, the number of motorcycles delivered to customers totalled 53,989 units (2017: 58,617 units; – 7.9 %). Germany (11,739 units) was also down on the previous year (2017: 14,461 units. Shortfalls in France (9,068 units; 2017: 9,447 units; – 4.0 %) and Italy (8,647 units; 2017: 9,099 units; – 5.0 %). By contrast, motorcycle sales in Spain improved slightly by 1.3 % to 5,647 units (2017: 5,573 units). In the overall contracting US market, the BMW Motorrad reported a slight increase (+ 3.1 %) in six-month deliveries to 7,379 units (2017: 7,157 units).

With effect from the first quarter of 2018, the Motorcycles segment is forecast to achieve a slight increase in deliveries (2017: 164,153 units). BMW said in its Annual Report 2017, that “a solid increase was expected.”

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S review

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CM testrode the latest KTM 1290 Super Adventure S (SAS) model and redicovered what a lunatic’s grin was. Having owned the KTM 1290 Superduke R (SDR) CM was aware of how addictive the shared 1301cc v-twin engine is. While the SAS does with only 160hp vs the SDR’s 180hp, the engine is still a thermonuclear device. It dominates. It’s probably a bad choice in nanny state NSW. It is truly addictive.

While a more extensive test ride is required (like the 3 day test ride of the BMW R1200GS Rallye X) to find how it is to live with from day to day some short observations here.

Engine – KTM 4.5/5

The KTM has so much grunt but gets cranky at low rpm. It will protest below 3,000rpm in higher gears. Yet the BMW is far happier to pootle around in any gear and pull away regardless of what speed. Yet when winding the throttle open, the KTM’s extra 35hp quickly shows itself.

Suspension – KTM 4.5/5

The SAS has semi-active WP suspension which has a wide range of adjustment. The BMW’s self leveling suspension set up seems simpler (dialing in height and firmness) than the SAS which requires individual selection of each load. The BMW telelever front end behaves differently to the traditional telescopic forks but the feedback on the KTM is superior. Part of that is down to the lighter weight of the Austrian.

Brakes – 5/5

The brakes have plenty of bite, feel and the rear has good modulation. Fork dive is noticeable under heavy application but half of that is due to the fact the BMW won’t dive due to the telelever set up

Gearbox – 5/5

The quick shifter is far slicker than the BMW especially upshifts. BMW gearboxes are usually rubbish. CM blew two of them in his old K1600GT (see below) inside 4,000km.

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Ergonomics – 4/5

The KTM feels slightly firmer in the seat than the BMW but there is a power parts option including one with heating.  TFT screen is excellent. Clear and allows one’s mobile maps to synchronize to the screen and headset. The menu operation is not as good as the BMW’s mouse wheel.

The KTM offers a mobile phone compartment with a USB socket but it won’t swallow a iPhone Plus with cover on. Petty but something that will be righted soon enough. Backlit switchgear good.

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Tyres- 4/5

The Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres on the KTM are so much better than the BMW’s Michelin Anakee III although later models are shod with Bridgestone A41s.

Quality – 4/5

The tactile feel of the switchgear is better on the BMW. No question. Fit, finish and attention to detail are all better on the BMW. KTM has improved miles in this regard but the industrial design of the Beemer is better.

Overall – 4.5/5

A bit early to judge but no question that the SAS puts a smile on the rider’s face immediately. Something the BMW can’t manage. The BMW is very competent everywhere but rarely does it excite the rider. The KTM is good in some areas (quality) and amazing (engine) in others. That 1301cc engine dominates the experience in noise and performance. You buy the BMW with the head and the KTM with the heart.

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Note BMW is introducing a new R1250GS (1254cc) which will have 136hp (up 11hp) in 2019. It supposedly has variable valve timing but it is unlikely to be much more than a nice improvement on the 1170cc engine’s civility. The faithful will be pleased.

Hats off to the Jorges

The performances of Spaniards Jorge Martin (Moto3) and Jorge Lorenzo (MotoGP) at the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday were nothing short of master classes.

Martin may have finished 3rd on the day but he rode with a broken left arm, operated on some 8 days ago. Talk about grit. The acceleration forces may not be huge on a Moto3 bike but the braking and cornering forces are. It must have pushed mind and body to the limit. Such is the will to win that pain took a pillion seat.

His main championship rival in the Moto3 class, Marco Bezzecchi doffed his cap to Martin after qualifying such is the respect he holds for such heroics. How demoralizing for the rest of the field to be trailing a guy with metal plates, stitches, swelling and muscular pain in this left arm?

As for Jorge Lorenzo, he rode as aggressively as CM has ever seen him. Lorenzo has generally been one of the riders everyone loves to hate. Cold with the media, never smiling at the camera, making an excuse for everything and detailing a littany of complaints when he was dusted up on track by the other riders. His 2015 world championship was one full of scandals including trying to weigh in on getting the race stewards to penalize his team mate and main rival Valentino Rossi so he could win it. So bad was the reaction that on winning the 2015 crown in Valencia, Spain an all Spanish crowd booed the Spanish rider as he received his trophy from the Spanish King. Instead of soaking up the accolades Lorenzo ran off the podium as quickly as possible. It was an ugly affair.

His first year at Ducati in 2017 showed he had lost none of those bad habits. His face was full of being shown up for a rider whose talents were not worth the €25 million shelled out for his services. It was eating him up. Then it all came together. His first victory on the Ducati GP18 in Mugello was the sweetest of his career no doubt. Not only did he prove his detractors wrong, he proved to himself that he could overcome all of the odds. All of a sudden he was smiling. Someone who had lost the weight of the world off his shoulders.

He has since lost the chip on his shoulder, often smiles at the camera and CM truly respects the 180 degree change. Three slices of humble pie and deepest apologies for writing Lorenzo off in joining the Bologna factory. He deserves everything he gets.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Harley-Davidson to go into the Adventure category

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Actually credit where credit is due. Harley maybe very late to the party but realizes it must be bold to survive in the long run. Adventure (ADV) bikes (think of them as 2-wheeled SUVs)  are one of the most popular motorcycle segments now due to versatility but the competition is fierce and only getting moreso. Harley plans to launch a 1250cc ADV bike in 2020.

It is unlikely to cause segment leader BMW to quake in its boots with respect to its best seller GS series although the question is can the Harley brand can carry any sales at all? At the luxury end BMW, KTM, Ducati, Triumph, Moto Guzzi and Aprilia all have ADV bikes. BMW & KTM are the sales chart leaders. BMW for inventing the segment and KTM for strapping a 160hp nuke to its expertise in off road and 17 straight wins in the Paris-Dakar.

It is fast becoming a horsepower war. BMW is looking to launch a 145-150hp 1250cc next year for the GS from the 125hp 1170cc twin it currently has to keep up with the competition.

Without a spec sheet it is hard to tell much about the Harley ADV. It looks heavy. Weight matters. The BMW is around 240kg. The KTM 210kg. Will the Harley keep it under 260kg?

Horsepower is not a Harley strong suit. You won’t find power in a Harley spec sheet at the dealer. Will it use a clump of lazy torqued Milwaukee pig iron for an engine? In a low slung cruiser one can get away with it but in a tall ADV bike, when negotiating goat tracks (that’s a wide belly pan!), traction, power delivery and how a bike carries its weight is crucial. Can Harley produce over 120hp from this 1250cc engine with flexibility across the rev range? Will it be chain driven? Shaft? Belt? These things matter to the ADV snobs.

The design of the ADV Harley is certainly bold. CM likes it although if you drop it that headlight unit sure looks expensive to replace. Like many SUVs never see more off-road than a gravel driveway, the most dirt tracking Harley ADVs will see might be some road repairs on Route 66. The Pan America name certainly rings of highway biased use.

The next thing will be price. Even before (and after) we have full specs can Harley launch the bike at a competitive price? Harley can’t just rock up into a segment it’s never been active in and demand the type of premium it’s cruisers carry. It’s top of the line CVO series can be $50,000. BMW is considered the premium offering in ADV. Luxury Italian brand Ducati tried to price it slightly north and was caned in the sales race. KTMs are priced slightly cheaper but BMW remains king and having owned one know exactly why. The BMW is good at absolutely EVERYTHING.

Harley has history in new ventures. It broke the mold decades ago and took a stab at sports bikes with the Buell brand, but it was an abject failure. Porsche was called into help develop the V-Rod engine some 18 years ago but that is no longer sold.

Harley also aims to launch electric bikes, smaller 250-500cc categories for Asian markets and a mid range 500-1250cc for new sport type street fighters. All looks margin crushing from a distance.

From an investor perspective the accountants will require a lot of volume to justify the R&D expense. The shares closed toward the lows on the announcement.

Without getting too Harvard MBA, Harley feels extension of product is vital. To a degree it is right. Unfortunately graveyards for such strategies are too commonplace. Few get it right. Buell was case in point. BMWs K1600 Bagger will flop because it was an excuse trying to find a home for its 1600cc 6-cylinder regardless of capabilities. Customers see through this.

Harley’s ADV will have distribution channels as it’s biggest weapon. It will have a hard time converting ADV faithful unless it offers something truly better at a competitive price. Otherwise it will gather dust on showroom floors.

Personally this ADV will probably do better than most think. It won’t get close to toppling the Beemer but there are enough quirky people out there who want to be different. Nice job Harley but can it turn groups profitably around? The last 5 years have been a disaster. The question is all this product arrives at a time when the economy is likely to turn south.