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  1. We thought the world of KTM’s 890 Duke R when it appeared last year. It was like a 790 Duke, but better. It was the middleweight naked that rocked our world more than a middleweight naked had any right to. But KTM were keen to tell us that it wasn’t a replacement for the 790, “the 890 Duke R is a track weapon” they told us. Well now, because we loved the 890 Duke R so much, they have (as expected) replaced the 790 Duke with the 890 Duke (minus the R). The new 890 Duke will sit aside the 890 Duke R, as the more road focused weapon, proudly inheriting the moniker ‘The Scalpel’. Here’s everything you need to know… The new 890cc engine makes 115hp and 92Nm of torque which is a bit more than the 790, but not quite as much as the 890 Duke R. Like the R, the new 890’s crank has 20% more rotating mass than the 790. Apparently this makes for a better behaved engine at tick over, and better stability when cornering, thanks to its increased gyroscopic effect. Ultralight Chromium Molybdenum has been used to craft the tubular steel frame, and the subframe’s made from cast ally to keep the weight down. Incredibly, despite the extra capacity, the 890 tips the scales at the same 169kg (dry) as the 790. You get WP APEX forks and a gas monoshock which, according to KTM, has all been updated. Lean-angle sensitive traction control will help you keep those 115 ponies in check and the rider modes include ‘sport’, ‘street’ and ‘rain’. There is also the optional Track mode, which includes 9 levels of traction control, launch control, and the option to disable anti-wheelie. The cornering ABS is switchable with KTM’s deliciously fun Supermoto ABS mode, for when you want to make some proper shapes. And wear some flat spots in the new Continental ContiRoad tyres. By the sounds of it, the 890 Duke isn’t going to be quite as manic as the 890 Duke R that we have come to know and love. But that’s no terrible thing. We’ve no word on the price yet, but it’s bound to be slightly more affordable. And it might even be a little bit easier to get along with (not that the Duke R was too much of a handful). I expect this will be a decent step up from the 790 Duke, which was already a most excellent motorcycle. Let’s hope this one’s even more excellent.
  2. In the bleak midwinter, when frosty winds doth blow, all the racing’s stopped on telly and Boris has closed the pubs down for the umpteenth time since the C word befouled each and every one of our lives, you’re probably bored shitless. And even if we are allowed to mix with family (perhaps you’re reading this in a post-covid world) let’s face it, an afternoon with the in-laws is more than enough for anyone. Once you’ve worn your fingers to a knub scrolling through every social media platform imaginable, and you’ve completed 44T’s back catalogue of YouTube videos, you’ll no doubt be looking for something to keep you entertained. So, because we’re massive fans of free online content (our aforementioned YouTube channel is a case in point), we’ve put together a list of our Top 5 free MotoGP documentaries you can watch online right now. As always, if you think there is anything we’ve missed out, or just got it completely wrong, let us know, and we’ll try and do better next time. 5 – Building Success (The Petronas SRT Story) This is a six-part documentary that goes behind the scenes of the Petronas Yamaha SRT MotoGP team throughout their debut year in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship. You’ll witness the highs and lows of MotoGP racing through the eyes of a Petronas SRT insider as satellite Yamaha team riders, Fabio Quartararo and Franko Morbidelli, battle it out on the track. The documentary also captures the more mundane side of the sport as the cameras follow the GP superstars to press interviews and events all over the world, as it aims to give the viewer a better understanding of what life’s like for a professional MotoGP rider. You’ll join the team for pre and post-race briefings as well as getting an idea of what the team manager looks for in his next rider, and the decisions that need to be made when choosing the right one. If that tickles your fancy, you can watch all six episodes for free on motogp.com. You’ll have to register, or sign in, to view the content, but they won’t take money off you, and once you are in, there’s tons of other free stuff to watch to keep you entertained. Daniel Goetzhaber/Red Bull Content Pool4 – Brad Binder: Becoming 33 “It’s a fine line between being completely out of control and being as fast as possible” – Brad Binder, 2020. This lad’s gone from being virtually unknown, to winning a MotoGP race in the space of a few years and ‘Brad Binder: Becoming 33’ explores just how that’s happened. The documentary has been nearly 10 years in the making and includes archive footage from his early racing career and family life as well as his meteoric rise to stardom. There’s stuff from the Red Bull Rookies Cup, Moto3, Moto2 and finally MotoGP, where he is currently riding for the factory KTM team (and has just been crowned MotoGP Rookie of the year). If you’ve ever wondered how much it takes to get to the top level of your sport; the cost; the hard work; the sacrifice; Becoming 33 has it all. So next time you have an hour or so spare, put the kettle on, get your feet up and head over to redbull.com – in fact you don’t even have to type anything, just click here and I’ll take you there. Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool3 – Valentino Rossi: The Doctor Some, nay many, say Valentino is the greatest motorcycle racer of all time and this five-part series examines exactly what makes the Italian such an icon. There’s no denying the fact that, although he’s in the autumn years of his MotoGP racing career, he’s still one of the most popular riders in motorcycle racing history. That’s why his home GP of Mugello still turns a shade of yellow thanks to his tens of thousands of ‘VR46’ tee shirt-clad fans squeezing into the stands trackside. This documentary reveals how much pressure that spotlight puts on the nine-time world champ. But not only that, the cameras follow Vale back to his ranch in Tavullia to see how he passes the time of day when he isn’t racing his Yamaha MotoGP bike or selling Valentino Rossi merchandise to his fans all across the world. The five-part documentary was shot by his long time sponsor Monster Energy who uploaded it to their YouTube channel back in 2016, and it’s still there for you to enjoy. Click here for episode one. Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool2 – The Age of 27 (the Casey Stoner Story) When two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner announced his retirement from motorcycle grand prix racing at the tender age of 27, I couldn’t believe it. He was one of the best in the world and he just chucked the towel in, he’d had enough. The Age of 27 follows the story of Stoner’s remarkable career from racing as a kid, working his way through the ranks to MotoGP, being crowned champion, and then his seemingly early retirement. I had loads of questions to ask Casey Stoner when he retired back in 2012, questions that I didn’t think would ever get answered. This documentary fills in a lot of the gaps, answers a lot of questions and highlights a lot of the challenges a professional sportsperson can face. This is another one on motogp.com (or BT Sport if you have it), so you have to register or sign in to watch it, but it’s free to watch once you do. Gold & Goose/Red Bull Content Pool1 – Racing together: The History of the World Championship This is THE documentary that every motorcycle racing fan needs to watch. It’s been put together by the FIM and Dorna and it documents the entire history of Motorcycle Grand Prix racing from when it started back in 1949. From the days of 50cc two strokes, through the Honda vs MV Agusta years, through the Agostini, Sheene, Spencer, Doohan years, the reign of Rossi and the end of the 500cc two-stroke era, to today’s modern-day MotoGP racers; Racing Together has it all, with thoughts and opinions from some of the very best world champions there’s ever been. At two hours long, it’s a bit of an epic, so make sure you’re sitting comfortably when you decide to watch it. Like the Petronas and the Brad Binder video, it’s on motogp.com (and BT Sport), so you have to register or sign in, but like the others it’s free to watch… and it’s worth it. Enjoy. Share the love:
  3. Graeme Brown / Red Bull Content PoolCan you remember when Leon Camier ran away with the British Superbike Championship on his blue and white Airwaves Yamaha. It doesn’t seem like yesterday, does it? Well that’s because it wasn’t yesterday, it was over 11 years ago. And it was 11 years ago that the lanky Kentish man signed with Aprilia to race in the World Superbike Championship. How time flies. Since then, he’s raced for Suzuki, BMW, Ducati, Honda and even MV Agusta. What a whore. But after years of trying, the WorldSBK crown has eluded him. Will he have more success as a team manager? Well, we are going to find out. Over the last couple of years, Camier’s results have continued to suffer thanks to a poorly shoulder that just won’t get better. After signing with Barni Ducati to race the Panigale V4 in 2020, his shoulder problems prevented him riding right from the very start of the season, so they swiftly binned him off. I expect that was the straw that broke the camels back in his decision to hang his leathers up. There’s no doubt that there would have been other opportunities for the ex-BSB champ, however when Alberto Puig, HRC big-wig, and ex-top-level-racer himself, offered Camier the opportunity to stay in the industry that he loves, in a slightly different capacity, I don’t suppose it took him long to say yes. Graeme Brown / Red Bull Content Pool Camier had this to say about his new job… “I’ve been a Honda rider for several seasons during my career and I’m now very happy and proud to be back with the company for what is a major change in my professional and personal life. I thank Honda for the trust they have put in me – the WorldSBK project is very important and the new CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE looks absolutely great. I’m prepared to work hard to achieve our goals; I always did so as a rider and I will continue in the same way as Team Manager. Having raced in SBK for many years, I know the championship and its challenges very well, although the current period further exacerbates these issues. But in working alongside two very strong riders like Alvaro and Leon, and such a professional group of people as Team HRC and the HRC engineers, I am confident we’ll be able to reach our full potential and fight for top results. We now have two days of testing at Jerez, it will be my first opportunity to work with the team and I really look forward to starting this new and exciting adventure.” For his first ‘work trip’, Camier will be taking his riders, Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam, to Jerez for some pre-season testing on the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade on the 20-21 of January. It’ll be a chance for the lads to get their heads into gear in time for the first round at Assen on the 25th of April. And a chance for Camier-san to get used to holding a clipboard. Share the love:
  4. We knew Aprilia were working on something, so when the press release for the new RSV4 and RSV4 Factory landed in the 44Teeth inbox all of a sudden, it didn’t come as a massive surprise. But when I opened it up and saw that it was only a page and a half long, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting to read about a few tweaks to the suspension, perhaps, and a couple of new colour schemes. Oh, how wrong I was. This isn’t just a makeover; this is a serious overhaul. It’s difficult to know where to begin with this one, because Aprilia have worked on nearly every aspect of their superbike, so let’s start with the first thing you’ll notice first; the aesthetics. The new styling, they’re telling us, has been inspired by the little RS 660 that was launched at the back end of last year, with the shapes and angles modelled after hours in the wind tunnel. It seems a little peculiar, to me, to model your flagship sportsbike on something that’s half the price and that’s aimed at new riders, but I’m sure there is method behind the madness. And the RS 660 is a decent looking bike, to be fair. Before we move away from the subject of aerodynamics (and aesthetics, to some degree), you’ll notice that the winglets are no longer bolted onto the side of the fairing. Instead, they are built into the twin walled fairings. This is said to improve stability at high speeds as well as improve engine cooling, as it rams fresh air onto the side of the engine. I also think it looks a bit more neat and tidy. Speaking of ramming fresh air into things, Aprilia have managed to increase the airbox pressure, which leads us to the engine. And it’s a new one. Well, sort of. Details about the ‘revamped’ engine are a little scarce, but we do know that it’s up from 1,077cc to 1,099cc, and there’s a new exhaust system. And although it maintains it’s peak power of 217bhp, it does gain a little bit more torque (although they haven’t told us exactly how much more torque, yet). To help you get a handle on all that power, the new RSV4 comes with a new Marelli 11MP ECU with a new six-axis IMU. That’s a much more powerful electronics system, so hopefully that means an improvement in the operation of the Aprilia Performance Ride Control systems. If you had to mark down the outgoing RSV4, it would probably be on the operation of its APRC systems. The tweaked APRC suite includes a new engine braking function, TC, wheelie control, ABS and all the usual suspects. You get six riding modes, three for the track and three for the road. To help you navigate through the APRC settings, there’s a new dash and apparently the electrical controls are more “functional and intuitive”. The DRL headlights are all LEDs, and they include the “bending light” function, or cornering lights, if you speak English. Whether you are riding in the daytime or the night time though, the new RSV4 ought to be more comfortable than the last one, with a new seat and fuel tank which allows more space and a more natural riding position. Sounds lush. The press release also talks about “drastic changes to the chassis architecture”, although as far as I can see, it’s just a new swinging arm. To be fair though, it’s lighter than the last one and, a bit like their MotoGP swinging arm, is designed to lower the centre of gravity of the bike and increase stability when you’re hard on the gas. There are still two options, the standard RSV4, and the RSV4 Factory. They both have the 1,099cc engine, but the Factory comes with forged ally wheels, Brembo Stylema brake callipers, Öhlins EC2.0 electronic suspension and a massive fanny magnet, fitted as standard. Prices and more details to follow… Share the love:
  5. The Honda Superbike Challenge Program is Honda Motor Company’s latest venture, which aims to give national level racers the leg up they need to take the next steps in their careers. It’s just been announced that, as part of this program, 22 year old Japanese rider, Ryo Mizuno, has signed on Honda’s dotted line to compete in the British Superbike Championship in 2021 for Havier Beltran’s Honda UK Racing team. Joining him will be Glenn Irwin, who’ll start his second season aboard the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP Superbike, and Tom Neave who will once again ride the stocker for the Louth-based outfit. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Ryo Mizuno (not many people have) but by all accounts, he knows how to pedal a bike round. He’s raced in the Suzuka 8 Hours, and he’s won both the All-Japan J-GP3 (a bit like Moto3) and All-Japan J-GP2 (a bit like Moto2) championships, so he’s obviously half handy. He said he is “really looking forward to the new challenge” and that he “can’t wait to get started”, which I know isn’t particularly inspirational, but I think we can let him off on this occasion. He’s probably scared shitless; the thought of arriving from Japan and heading straight to Skegness is enough to scare anyone. Mizuno will no doubt be hoping to pick the brains of his Honda team-mate, Glenn Irwin, who rode his ‘Blade to victory at Snetterton, and stuck it on the podium on five more occasions last year. I expect the Irishman will have to speak very slowly if Mizuno-san is to stand half a chance of understanding a word he’s saying. Irwin reckons their continued development is only going to improve their package “but there wont be any room for complacency”. Tom Neave will once again be piloting the stocker in the National Superstock 1000 Championship. In 2020, the Lincolnshire lad won four races and just missed out on the championship, so he’ll be keen to make amends this year, and hopefully earn his place on the superbike for 2022. It’s good to see big Honda (Honda Motor Co. Ltd) and little Honda (Honda UK Racing Team) working closely together again. I’ve got a feeling good things are going to happen because of it. And I’ve also got a feeling that BSB’s ‘new kid’ is going to turn a few heads. The last time Honda shipped a Japanese rider over to have a go at BSB, his name was Ryuichi Kiyonari. He did alright, didn’t he? Ryo didn’t waste time getting to grips with the ‘Blade, even if they did only give him wets.Share the love:
  6. Over the years, I’ve been admitted to hospital more times than I can remember, and every single time it’s been after an incident involving a motorbike. I soon learnt that injuries are the true cost of bike racing. Bones-wise, I’m running out of things to break; I’ve done both feet, both legs, my hip, my pelvis, my spine in a few different places, two hands, one arm and a wrist. Consequently, half of my joints are now riddled with metal and/or osteoarthritis, and I’m only 30 years old. And that’s just the ‘mechanical’ stuff. After years of abuse, I’ve been left with irreparable nerve damage that’s left me with vast swathes of skin without any sensation whatsoever, and constant pins and needles in my little fingers and big toes. I’ve also got nerve damage to thank for some serious issues in the water closet (both ends) which, for the last ten years, has been the biggest pain in the arse out of the lot (if you’ll pardon the pun). In the process of smashing my body time and time again, I’ve written off more bikes than I care to remember. Even if I could remember all the bikes that I have smashed up over the years, I don’t think I’d dare add up the value of all the crash damage I’ve caused. It’d be a very big number, which is one of the reasons I’ll never be a rich man. It’s also the reason my poor old dad will never be a rich man either; sorry George. When I was a kid, my racing was paid for exclusively by George. I think he enjoyed taking me racing almost as much as I enjoyed going. But he didn’t enjoy seeing his little boy cartwheeling himself and his race bike through the gravel every other weekend. He’d have to spend another month’s pay packet putting the bike back together. That wasn’t the worst part of it though; he’d also have to explain to my mother (don’t worry, they are happily divorced) why we were sat in A&E. Again. Once he’d bought me a bike, all the kit, paid for entries, fuel, tyres and all them really expensive things, he didn’t have a whole lot left. “I could be driving round in a Ferrari, if it wasn’t for you, ya little bastard!” he would tell me. I don’t think he meant it, he likes his van way too much, and anyway, the silly old fucker is far too old to get in a Ferrari without putting his hip out or something. The older I got, the higher up the racing food chain I got and before I knew it, I was working my arse off all week to plough all the money I earned myself into racing – as well as some of George’s and anything I could get from my sponsors (which was sometimes a decent amount, other times a mere pittance). I’ve had some decent jobs in my time, but I never seemed to have a penny to scratch my arse with and I know exactly why. It’s because I’ve spent it all going racing. And I’m not the only one. I know folk that have remortgaged their house for the sake of another season racing, and others that have lost everything and gone officially bankrupt off the back of it. Fortunately, bankruptcy has never befouled me because I’ve never spent cash that I don’t have. There are plenty of bike racers, or ex-bike racers, that can’t say the same. But the best case scenario for me now is spending the rest of my life with a constant limp, eating nothing but £1-a-go frozen pizzas and anything with a yellow ‘whoops’ label on it in the supermarket. Worse case? Well that’s probably me not being able to walk at all, or afford a pizza, never mind a wheelchair, so I’ll be dragging myself around town on my arse, sleeping bag over my shoulder, looking for a vacant railway arch to get my head down in. Perhaps I’m being slightly melodramatic there, but I’m sure you catch my drift. But has it been worth it? Well, sometimes I sit and consider the differences between my experiences and the experiences of the lads I went to school with, both growing up, and in ‘adult’ life (referring to myself as an adult still makes me cringe). As young kids, whilst they were getting up early on Sunday mornings to visit their grandparents, I was getting up, getting the van packed and heading to the motocross track with my old man for a full day in the fresh air, learning new skills and mixing with different people all the time. As a young teenager, whilst they were shooting zombies on their PlayStation, I was racing in the Aprilia Superteens. Now I was mixing with boys, girls and adults from all over the country, learning way more about building relationships that you’d ever learn at school (or playing the PlayStation), and racing bikes that might only be kids bikes, but were still capable of 100mph plus. When I was 17, I started racing in the British Championship, and although it might have only been Superstock 600 at the time, I was convinced I’d made it into the big leagues. At home we’d started getting in pubs and nightclubs, we’d dance the night away and swap bodily fluids with strangers. It was great fun and I loved every minute of it, but for a lot of them boys, it was all they did. Hull night clubs were alright, but I soon learnt that there was a much more attractive stock of females in the BSB paddock to fraternize with. Over the next ten years I swapped Stock 600 for Superstock 1000, whilst my mates swapped the Hull night life for daytime beers and football (watching other people play football on telly, I might add, not playing the fucker themselves). I’m 30 now and, thanks to getting involved in bike racing at an early age, I feel like I’ve done more than most do given 300 years on this planet. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and race some of the fastest and best bikes in some of the most iconic motorcycle races in the universe; the Isle of Man TT, the Le Mans 24hr, British Superbikes, Spanish Superbikes, Dutch Superbikes. I’ve grown up rubbing shoulders with lads that have gone on to be world champions and although I didn’t make it there myself, I had a bloody good go. So in summation, I’d have to say yes, it has all been worth it. The fortune that I’ll never own, the physical fitness that I’m never likely to enjoy again and the fact that I missed quite a few of my friends and families weddings over the past 20 years all pails into insignificance when I sit and think about the stuff I’ve done, the bikes I’ve raced, the people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made. Memories that I’ll take with me to my grave. If I ever have kids of my own, there’s no doubt in my mind that, should I be able to scrape the funds together, I’ll do everything I can to give them the opportunities I’ve had, because despite there being ups and downs in any bike racers ‘career,’ the astronomical ups far outweigh anything crap the sport can throw at you.
  7. 2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

    When word got out about the RS 660, we were all pretty gosh darn excited. We rode the RS last year and, despite not being able to firmly place it in a particular motorcycle genre, were pretty impressed with its peachy little engine, the way it handled and its space-age tech. That said, the most exciting news to come out of the RS 660 launch was that we were to expect a Tuono 660; and it’s finally been unveiled. The mummy-bear Tuono isn’t just an RS with the fairings ripped off. There are a couple of big differences, and a couple of subtle ones too, but we’ll get to that later. First of all, let me talk you through the similarities. Like the RS, the Tuono has the same 659cc, forward facing V-Twin engine which is, very roughly speaking, the front two cylinders off the RSV4 with a different cylinder head and a slightly longer stroke. With only 95bhp, it’s not quite as fast as the RS (which has 100bhp), but it’s shorter gearing most likely more than makes up for that in the acceleration stakes. The Tuono benefits from all the same Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) electronics as the RS with five rider modes, – three for the road (Commute, Dynamic, Individual) and two for the track (Challenge, Time Attack). It’s got eight levels of traction control, anti-wheelie, cornering ABS, cruise control, and adjustable engine braking and throttle maps – just in case all of its 95 horses are bit too aggressive for you. You get Brembo brakes, adjustable (although not very adjustable) KYB suspension, LED daytime running lights and a fairly trick TFT dash, just like you do on the Tuono’s sportier sibling. I would say the most notable difference is the lack of a fairing, but as it happens, the Tuono is actually reasonably well ‘faired’ – let’s say the lack of a ‘full fairing’. The bits of fairing that the Tuono’s got are fairly substantial for a ‘naked’ but it gets my vote – especially that screen, which is only going to make longer, faster rides more comfortable abord the 660 Tuono. Aprilia will no doubt wax lyrical about the ‘double fairing’ with integral aerodynamic wings, should you give them half a chance, but I can’t see wings of any kind making any difference at all to a bike like this. You get bigger, wider handlebars and a higher riding position on the Tuono which, according to Aprilia, makes it more appropriate for street riding and daily use (to be honest though, the RS 660 seemed pretty good at that anyway). Some new geometry, including a different fork plate offset, promises to improve the bikes control, responsiveness and agile handling… let’s wait and see if it does. Like the RS 660, Aprilia are marketing this bike as a stepping-stone for younger, or less experienced riders, who might one day fancy buying themselves a big Tuono (Tuono V4). I think to aim a bike like this solely at newcomers though, is to do it a disservice. A bike that is comfortable, has a reasonable amount of very manageable power and all of the rider aids that ‘big bike’ lads have grown used to, to me would be the perfect step down for old boys that don’t want 200bhp any more, as well as being a step up for the lads that, one day might. The same goes for the Tuono 660’s sportier brother, the RS. The 2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 will cost you £9,700, which sounds about right given that the RS is £10,149. If you fancy one, they’ll be coming in Concept Black, Iridium Grey and Acid Gold (or should I say Acrid Gold).
  8. 2021 Ducati Monster

    When you’ve sold as many Monsters as Ducati have – more than 350,000 – you know you’re onto a winner. But whilst the Monster 1200 always seemed to be exactly what it said on the tin (a Monster), its smaller sibling, the Monster 900 never seemed quite as monstrous as I’d have liked. However, the unveiling of this new ‘Monster’ (it’s just Monster now, no numerical suffix), sounds like we might finally see the little Monster’s teeth, and here’s why… In Ducati’s official press release, the first subheading is ‘Sporty and Fun.’ It’s in big, bold letters and looking at the numbers alone is enough to see exactly what they’re getting at. The 937cc Testastretta L-Twin engine has an extra 116cc over its predecessor, and is 2.4kg lighter (that’s just the engine). You get 111bhp at 9,250rpm and 95Nm of torque at 6,500rpm, with better throttle response and more torque all the way through the rev range, especially at the bottom end. And it’s not just the engine that’s lighter, either, with almost everything on the bike being redesigned to try to create a ‘lightweight and compact bike’. The Panigale V4-esque frame, which fixes directly to the cylinder heads, is a slender 3kg; that’s less than half the weight of the 7.5kg steel trellis jobby on the previous model. The wheels, subframe and swingarm are all substantially lighter, resulting in a dry weight of 166kg – that’s 18kg lighter than the Monster 821. How’d ya’ like those onions, Weight Watchers? If more power and less weight aren’t enough to give you a mild Casey, then let’s have a dive into the bike’s electronics and see if we can induce a bit of penis-bound blood flow. On second thoughts, that might not actually do the trick. I am pleased to report that the new Monster does come with an up and down quickshifter, which is always going to get my vote, but aside from that, it’s really just the basics. Cornering ABS, traction and wheelie control and three riding modes (Sport, Urban and Touring) are about your lot. If it’s any consolation, the TFT dash looks quite nice and it does come with LED lights and Launch Control as standard. You can buy a 2021 Ducati Monster in Ducati Red, Dark Stealth or Aviator Grey, and there is a slightly tricker version available too, which comes with a windscreen and a rear seat cover. You can even order one to ride on your A2 license, if you want. If you fancy one, get yourself to a Ducati dealership – they should be available there from April 2021. Chaz’s mate, Mike shredding on the all-new Monster
  9. 2021 BMW S 1000 R

    BMW has finally given the S 1000 R a long-overdue update; it’s 5.1kg lighter, it’s got a new chassis and yes, before you ask, it does include the newer spec S 1000 RR based engine… sort of. Ok, it’s not in the same 200bhp+ state of tune and you don’t get shifting cams, but essentially, it’s an all-new engine compared to the one in the outgoing S 1000 R. That said, the power and torque figures remain at 165bhp @ 11,000rpm and 114Nm @ 9,250rpm. They say that the new, and particularly linear, torque curve helps to make the new model even more rideable than the last – not that rideability was an issue in the last model – if anything, it was almost too rideable and lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. I had been living in hope that BMW would somehow zhoosh the package up a little bit, but unfortunately it seems that, as far as the engine goes, they’ve done the opposite. They haven’t bothered giving the new model BMW’s famed Shift-Cam technology, so as previously mentioned, you don’t get any more torque or power. They’ve also stretched out the ratios in fourth, fifth and sixth gears (one, two and three are the same as before) – they are telling us that it will mean lower engine revs when cruising along at any given speed, so more comfort and better fuel economy (an 8% reduction in fuel consumption, apparently), but surely it’ll just make the bike feel that bit more lethargic when you open the taps. The chassis’ all-new as well, and is ‘significantly’ lighter than the last one. The ‘flex frame’ uses the engine as a load bearing part, to a much greater extent than before, and has a considerably narrower design (particularly between the knees), allowing a much more relaxed riding position and with more freedom of movement. The ‘R’ get gets the same underslung swingarm as the Double R, the same shock and Full Floater Pro linkage which is now further away from the engine to help keep it cool. The S 1000 R Sport comes with the new generation Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), or electronic suspension to you and me, which is linked to the various riding modes. And those riding modes are Rain, Road, and Dynamic, and if you’ve got the Sport model, you get Riding Modes Pro, too. The standard S 1000 R is pretty techy, though, with the big 6.5 inch TFT dash (that you can connect your phone to), LED lights (including turning lights and DRLs on the Sport), ABS Pro, TC with anti-wheelie, engine braking with drag torque control and hill-start control. If you did decide to spend the extra cash on the S 1000 R Sport, you’d get the aforementioned headlights, the comfort package (which includes keyless ignition, USB charging socket, heated grips and cruise control) and the Dynamic Package (which includes a quickshifter, electronic suspension, Riding Modes Pro, launch control, pitlane limiter and an ‘engine spoiler’ whatever that last one is). The latest Double R really is thing to behold, and it smashed the opposition to smithereens in our 2020 megatest, on the road and on the track; it’s the closest thing to a perfect sportsbike that we’ve ever come across (and we definitely came across it at Portimao – all over it in fact). So the RR based R should be a weapon, shouldn’t it? Well I’m really hoping so but it’s no more powerful than the last one (where’s the shift-cam, come on Beemer) so I’m not sure how it will cope against the likes of Ducati’s Streetfighter and Aprilia’s Tuono. Let’s just hope that the chassis improvements are worth as much as BMW say they are. If the new S 1000 R floats your boat you should be able to pick one up from spring (2021) for £12,055, or if you fancy the Sport, £14,000 (so, to be fair, considerably less than the aforementioned Streetfighter and Tuono). Tell us what you think.
  10. The KTM 690 Enduro R and 690 SMC R are two bikes that are very easy to get carried away on. I know this because when they launched the updated 2019 versions in Portugal, I got carried away on them both. And crashed them both. On the same day. Luckily, I didn’t spanner myself (for once) or smash either bike up too badly, so the matter was brushed under the carpet – but it’s certainly not been forgotten. Now, two years later, KTM are about to release updated, Euro5 ready versions of both models, and I couldn’t be more excited! Let’s start with the 690 Enduro R. This is the bike that’s as comfortable off-road as it is on-road thanks to its mx-esque stance and WP XPLOR suspension (adapted specifically for this model), and whatever surface you find yourself riding on, you’ll have a right laugh with the Enduro R’s 74hp and 73.5Nm of torque. For 2021, KTM have tweaked the rider modes; there is still Street Mode and Off-Road mode, but now the Off-Road setting disengages the ABS to the rear wheel without needing the plug-in dongle, as per the previous model, so you can lock the back wheel up and get it stepped out, to help you turn or just because it’s as cool as fuck. The 690 SMC R is KTM’s Supermoto bike for the road, and you’ll have just as many laughs on this thing as you’ll have on the Enduro. The SMC R comes with WP APEX suspension, Cornering and Supermoto ABS modes and now, Brembo M4.32 Monobloc brake calipers for some serious stopping power. Both models have been treated to a new ABS modulator unit for better ABS control, which also means the ABS settings can be adjusted on the fly. Both get a new dash with a rev counter and gear position indicator, a new catalytic converter (to get it through Euro5) and some sexy new stickers. If you haven’t got a full license, both the SMC R and the Enduro R can be set to 35kw (47bhp), so you can ride on an A2 license if you need to, but we’ll be riding them in full power, and I’ll be trying my best not to loop them this time. No promises, though.
  11. 2021 Ducati Panigale V4 SP

    I think you’ll all agree that this thing looks pretty gosh darn saucy. The 2021 Ducati Panigale V4 SP is the newest addition to the Panigale V4 family, and it’s a very welcome one indeed. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the SP (Sport Production) initials on a Ducati sportsbike, too long really, but Ducati haven’t completely forgotten what it means. It means slapping a slack handful of mega trick parts at an already fairly trick bike, and charging you through the nose for the privilege. That said, if I had £32,295 burning a hole in my bank account, I think I’d be getting in the queue for one of these bastards. What’s so SPecial about it? Well, when the ‘blank canvas’ is a Panigale V4 S, they’d have to try really hard to fuck it up. If the numbered billet steering head and dedicated ‘Winter Test’ livery isn’t enough to give you a woody, then the smattering of Superleggera parts ought to be. The V4 SP has got the same five spoke carbon fibre wheels and Brembo Stylema R front brake calipers as the £86k Superleggera, with Brembo’s MSC adjustable master cylinder and remote adjuster. The carbon wheels are 1.4kg lighter than the forged ally units on the V4 S, and the Brembo getup at the front end promises to provide strong, sharp braking for long (I don’t know how long they mean by ‘long’) timed track session without any fade. The SP is powered by the same 1,103cc Desmosedici Stradale engine as the V4 and V4 S and makes the same 214hp (@12+3,000rpm) and 124Nm of torque (@9,500rpm), but it puts all that through a STM EVO-SBK dry clutch. They say the dry clutch guarantees much more effective ‘anti hop’ control even in the most aggressive downshifts, making it even more suited to the track. And then, of course, there is the dry clutch rattle that, love it or hate it, is ‘oh so Ducati’. In fact, there’s a very ‘track-focused’ feeling to all the upgrades they’ve treated the SP to, not least of all the 520 pitch chain and the adjustable billet rear-sets. You even get a Ducati Data Analyser (DDA+), so you can go through all your data in the pub, after your trackday, and see why you weren’t on lap record pace! On paper, it really does seem like the kind of thing that would be much more at home on a racetrack than on the road, which is a sentiment echoed by Ducati’s statement “an amateur rider on the ‘SP’ will be faster than if he were riding the more demanding ‘R’ version”. As well as the aforementioned DDA+, you get a full suite of Ducati electronics including their latest Traction Control EVO 3 which effectively tries to predict wheelspin and stop it before it happens. And then of course you have all the other rider aids; wheelie control, slide control, shifter/blipper as well as Öhlins Smart EC2.0 suspension. I know, at £32,295 it’s not exactly cheap and it doesn’t even come with a trick system, but it’s still proper cool isn’t it. I can’t afford one and I doubt I’ll ever be able to, but if any of you out there can, and you are thinking of going for it, will you let me know because I’d love to come and have a look at it. And touch it. And maybe give it a lick.
  12. When Fagan threw himself off an SV 650 and onto the tarmac at Castle Combe, pulling his poor shoulder out of its socket in the process, he quickly rendered himself unable to fly to Italy to test the all-new, ever-so-fancy Aprilia RS 660 – what a bastard! But his loss, on this occasion was my gain, so I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag, had the obligatory Covid 19 test (that, at the moment, the Italians won’t let you in without) and jumped on a half-empty BA fight to Italy. Details were fairly scarce about the RS 660 before we got to the launch – all we knew was that it had a parallel twin 100hp engine, and a bunch of fancy electronics. That was it, they didn’t even tell us the price, which I had estimated to be around the £13k mark. When we finally got hold of an official Aprilia press release, I was thrilled to see the new model sporting the much more slender price tag of £10,149, which considering it’s spec, didn’t seem completely out of the question – I mean, let’s have a look at it for a second; it’s got 100hp, weighs 169kg (dry), it’s got Brembo brakes, a shifter and blipper, as well as a suite of electronics that a £20k + superbike would be proud of. I can’t think of another sportsbike, for that sort of money, that has half the electronic wizardry as the RS 660. We’re talking eight modes of traction control, wheelie control, cruise control, adjustable engine braking, adjustable engine maps, cornering ABS, adaptive LED headlights, the list goes on. Needless to say, I was thrilled about the prospect of throwing my leg over Aprilia’s latest weapon, so I made sure I only had one beer too many during the socially distanced press briefing, where we were told how the RS 660 is here to fill the huge gap in Aprilia’s sportsbike line-up that exists between the RS 125 and the RSV4. But despite the umpteen pages of bumph that we’d been issued, I still wasn’t sure what the RS 660 was going to be. Or more specifically, which end of the sportsbike spectrum it was going to be closest to. When I first jumped on the RS, the seat felt dead comfy and the suspension soft and fairly unsupportive, so I wasn’t expecting a MotoGP bike when I rolled out of the hotel carpark – that said, I was pretty happy to be sat on the thing; the high bars and low pegs made trundling through town a very pleasant affair, very easy on your arms and back, although I couldn’t help thinking that this would be to the detriment of its skillz when we got up into the twists and turns of the Italian Alps. But more on that later, because the first thing that impressed me was the motor. I was expecting a thumpy little engine that packed a reasonable punch at the bottom of its rev range, but one that would feel wheezy and lethargic when you really made it sing – that’s just normal procedure for a little 650(ish) twin – but that wasn’t what I got. The 660’s motor, which, if you are interested, is (roughly speaking) the front two cylinders off the RSV4 with a different cylinder head and a slightly longer stroke, delivers decent, usable power from about 4k, all the way to its 11,500rpm redline. It’s not eyeball-bursting, arm-socket-wrenching power, but it’s lovely and smooth and the little engines revviness definitely gives the bike a playful feel. It just makes you want to twist the throttle. And when you do twist the throttle, you’re not only rewarded with delicious acceleration, your ears are treated to a pretty tasty soundtrack too. In fact, if you were to close your eyes, and have a rev of the mummy bear RS, you could be forgiven for thinking there was a rip-snorting RSV4 in town, and that’s with the standard exhaust system; I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like with the “For Race Use Only” Akrapovič. I had a little play with the rider modes, of which there are five – three for the road (Commute, Dynamic, Individual) and two for the track (Challenge, Time Attack) – and they can be toggled between on the move. I found myself using ‘Individual’ mode most of the time, as this is the mode that the most customisation of all the leccy controls – i.e. let me bin off the systems that were going to stop me having the most fun! It wasn’t long before we were up in the hills and I was pushing and pulling the 660 from side to side, trying my best to burn through a new set of Winona Ryders (sliders), and I was beginning to really fall for the medium sized Aprilia. It didn’t matter how twisty the roads got, its lightweight tekkers made it a piece of piss to turn and put where ever I wanted on the road. I had worried that the bikes low pegs might have been troublesome at gentlemen levels of lean angle, but thanks to the bikes narrowness, I never found them to be a problem at all. Throw some super sticky, red hot race tyres at it, and it might be another story, but on our test ride both foot pegs remained unscathed Upping the ante a bit meant squeezing the Brembos ever harder, and not once did I ever feel like I needed more power from them. The cornering ABS, set to level 1 allows skids and stoppies when you are upright, so it never reared its ugly head when I was anchoring on for the corners , but it still gave me peace of mind whenever I needed to trail a bit of brake, or squeeze them mid bend (usually when I’d been a bit ambitious with the old throttle hand). Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to start feeling like I was asking a bit too much of the suspension. The standard KYB forks can be adjusted but not a whole lot, I would wager, and I can’t imagine it would cope very well with a trackday. Hard braking was using way too much of the fork travel and the shock didn’t really offer much support when you started chucking it around and being a bit ham-fisted with the throttle. It could definitely do with better suspension, but I suppose that’s a reflection of the bikes reasonably modest price tag. After a full day in the saddle, there were no aches, pains, numb bits or sore bits, which we all know can be par for the course on a full-blown superbike, so the 660 definitely gets a tick in the box for comfort, but is that because it’s not really a sportsbike? Well, in a word, yes, it’s not a real sportsbike, in the true sense of the word – but that’s not a bad thing. It’s sporty enough to ride like a sportsbike, if you really want to, but it has a chilled enough riding style that you don’t have to ride like a maniac eight days a week. And for that reason, I can’t really discern exactly what this bike is supposed to be going up against. It’s not quite a supersport bike; it’s not powerful enough to go up against the likes of a Yamaha YZF-R6, or a Kawasaki ZX-6R and it’s not quite sporty enough either, but it’s a lot more comfortable than both and it would tear both of them a new arsehole in a game of ‘electronics-package Top Trumps’. And then there are the other 650 ‘sportsbikes’ that aren’t really sportsbikes at all, they just have a fairing – I’m talking about Honda CBR650Rs, Kawasaki Ninja 650s and the like – the Aprilia is better than any of the other manufacturers offerings in that category, in every way; but it’s a bit dearer, too. I’ve tried to work out exactly who the RS 660 is for. If you’ve got an RS 125, you love the Aprilia brand, and your long term goal is to be an RSV4 owner, the 660 is the perfect stepping stone. At the same time, it wouldn’t be a bad shout for the bloke that’s too old and worn out for a ‘big’ sportsbike, and wants something a little bit easier going, but something that still looks good and still has all the electronic bells and whistles that he’s become accustomed to. Would I have one? Well if I had £10k and I was looking for a middleweight, sporty road bike, that I was unlikely to take on a track, I think the RS 660 would be right at the top of my shortlist. As it happens, I’m not looking for a middleweight, sporty road bike, but I am looking for something to take to the Isle of Man next year for the 2021 Lightweight TT – and it’s not at the top of my shortlist for that… it is my list! WATCH THE VID ⬇️ [embedded content]
  13. It looks like we’ll be waiting at least another year for the much-craved Honda V4 superbike, as the Big H has just released details of its 2019 Fireblade – and it’s not a V4. In fact, and not surprisingly after just two years, it’s very similar. While it looks damn identical to the previous model (bar some subtle paint changes), there are significant alterations to the electronics suite and you could argue Honda has fixed the 2017/8 version. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), which is essentially the Fireblade’s traction control, has been heavily refined for a smoother execution during corner exit. And previously, HSTC and Wheelie Control functions were combined, meaning a compromise in electronic set-up, whereas for 2019 the two are separate. Yippee. The operation speed of the Throttle-By-Wire (Honda’s ride-by-wire) has also been increased, which means the time required for revs to drop from full-throttle on throttle closure has been reduced by 45%. And the amount of power delivered when opening a semi-closed throttle has been increased. So it’s basically faster? Perhaps the real winner here – for track riders – is the ABS intervention being reduced on the 2019 Honda Fireblade, so you’ll actually be able to brake with more than a whiff of finger.
  14. It looks like we’ll be waiting at least another year for the much-craved Honda V4 superbike, as the Big H has just released details of its 2019 Fireblade – and it’s not a V4. In fact, and not surprisingly after just two years, it’s very similar. While it looks damn identical to the previous model (bar some subtle paint changes), there are significant alterations to the electronics suite and you could argue Honda has fixed the 2017/8 version. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), which is essentially the Fireblade’s traction control, has been heavily refined for a smoother execution during corner exit. And previously, HSTC and Wheelie Control functions were combined, meaning a compromise in electronic set-up, whereas for 2019 the two are separate. Yippee. The operation speed of the Throttle-By-Wire (Honda’s ride-by-wire) has also been increased, which means the time required for revs to drop from full-throttle on throttle closure has been reduced by 45%. And the amount of power delivered when opening a semi-closed throttle has been increased. So it’s basically faster? Perhaps the real winner here – for track riders – is the ABS intervention being reduced on the 2019 Honda Fireblade, so you’ll actually be able to brake with more than a whiff of finger.
  15. The fully-loaded M Sport model Here it is sports fans; perhaps the most eagerly-awaited sportsbike model update for years. You’ve probably seen some shit internet pics being tossed around in recent weeks but the 2019 BMW S 1000 RR – thankfully – looks pretty sexual in production trim. And with actual paint. Anyway. Enough of the subjective guffery. You want the hard stuff; the 2019 BMW S 1000 RR churns out a claimed 207bhp (up 8bhp) and weighs just 197kg (down 11kg) in kerb trim. A lot more power, a lot less weight. A spiffing start. The completely new engine itself weighs 4kg less than the old lump and features BMW’s ShiftCam Technology – already debuted on the new GS – which varies valve timing and valve stroke, and allows a wider spread of power for longer; apparently “at least” 100Nm of torque from 5,500rpm to 14,500rpm. The previous incarnation was hardly short on useable power parameters, so this technology is juicily intriguing. The ShiftCam begins work at 9,000rpm and works in conjunction with variable inlet trumpets. 2019’s must-have is obviously variable valve technology… Other motor upgrades include titanium hollow-bored intake valves (a world first in production), which are activated by DLC-coated rocker arms that are 25% lighter. This allows the redline to be upped to 14,600rpm – some 2,000rpm short of Ducati’s new V4R. Cams are now powered directly via the crank (which means fewer moving parts), while the water and oil pumps are now merged. For 2019, BMW has also allowed a much easier way of reversing the gear pattern for tracks/racing – a real gripe with the previous model – and the throttle bodies are split, meaning a world of power and electronic options. An all-new aluminium bridge frame still houses the engine at a 32-degree angle but the engine forms more of load-bearing structure. With a fresh headstock assembly and new chassis layout, the 2019 RR is 13mm narrower where you grip your knees – as if you were cracking a nut with your botty. The weight distribution has also changed; more weight on the front from 52.3% to a whopping 53.8%. Nosey. BMW engineers wanted more agility, feedback and precision for better mechanical grip at the rear-end, so the steering head angle is now steeper (by 0.4 degrees), offset by a 9mm longer wheelbase to 1,441mm. An all-new underslung swingarm weighs 300g less than the old unit and, as you’d expect, the linkage system has been completely redesigned to suit, utilising BMW’s Full Floater Pro Kinematics. The fork diameter is now 45mm (previously 46mm) and comes with more modern closed cartridges, while the rear shock gets a larger 46mm piston, and both ends come as standard with refined Dynamic Damping Control semi-active suspension. New rims also shed weight, weighing 1.6kg less, and there are forged and carbon alternatives as part of the M Performance package. BMW is the only manufacturer still using its own electronics in WorldSBK, so the new RR surely benefits from this. A new 6-axis ‘sensor cluster’ (IMU) regulates revised rider aids, including DTC Wheelie Function which now comes as standard. Rain, Road, Dynamic and Race are the four modes available, with Race Pro again being offered as an extra for racier electronic fine tuning – you also get Engine Brake options as part of the upgrade. Of course, you also get Launch Control and a Pit Lane Limiter. And, wait for it, the 2019 S 1000 RR comes with Hill Start Control. We all laughed when the original RR came with heated grips… The throttle is now ‘full-e electromotive,’ meaning it’s basically fully electronic which gives an even lighter action, and BMW has also finally ditched the old skool clocks and opted for a rather swanky 6.5-inch TFT screen. Of course, being BMW, there’s an onslaught of performance enhancing upgrades via the M Performance range; everything from carbon wheels, rearsets, and lightweight battery, to remote brake adjusters and seats. And the price? No confirmation as yet but we’re hearing rumours of the base model starting at around £14,000. Bargain. In the press guff, BMW reckons that “Our fascinating brief was to take the predecessor model – which has been a dominating force in all disciplines for 10 years – and significantly improve on its performance.” Mmmm, not strictly true now, is it? While it’s unquestionably one of the best road bikes out there, and won every superstock championship going, the RR has proven to be a bit of a munter in superbike trim with no world titles in 10 years of competition. The 2019 BMW S 1000 RR looks set to change that…
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