Aprilia MY16 RSV4RF and MY16 Tuono V4
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
April(ia) 15, 2015 

 by Sam Q. Fleming

 My knee hit the ground by the fifth turn and I knew the bike was good.  Anything with 200bhp deserves respect but the V4 power delivery, tempered ever so slightly with electronic aids, made the speed deceptively easy.  It was only when I lifted my head above the bubble to find my old line through Misano's fifth gear Curvone and my Arai was immediately crushed flat against my mouth that I realized just how much speed we'd picked up in the previous five seconds.  It might have been the jet lag, it might have been the late night contemplative stroll down the Adriatic coast the night before, it might have just been the exuberance of a sun drenched Italian racetrack but, whatever the reason, my braking for my first entrance into turn one was late. 

I dropped two gears and hoped the electronics would allow the rear wheel to catch up to my mistake as I dumped the clutch and went hard for the front brake.  The bike remained composed and still pointed straight but, with the brake still firmly applied, I was running out of racetrack, so I turned in trail braking, hard, for a second gear apex with a whole 1:58 seconds of experience on a new motorcycle.  My knee hit and my calf slider grounded, followed by what sounded like expensive stylish fairing being used as a track marker.  And then, nothing.  The bike made the turn.  Surprised that I was still on top of the bike, I released the brake, picked it up, and threw it left for the 90 degree turn two.  There was only a slight oscillation from the front end as the bike responded instantly to my indecisive inputs before eagerly dropping to full lean.

By the time I had finished my second lap I knew, this is the best production track bike I have ever ridden.

Aprilia MY16 Tuono V4RR
Emilia-Romagna, Italy
April 15, 2015

by Samuel Quarelli Fleming

I love the RSV4 with all my soul, but unless I really had a full season of track activities scheduled for the bike, it would be tough to justify the purchase.  At the start of a non-track related weekend of riding, I would undoubtedly grab the keys to a different bike rather than force the RSV to suffer the indignities of speed limits, gravel, and spilled diesel fuel. I would saddle up a bike with more street friendly ergonomics and maybe more power lower down in the rev range.  Something almost exactly like the new Tuono.

I know that the English language is the bastard love child of elegant and sophisticated Latin and guttural and glottal German, but even so, the Italian construct of "naked" and the English use of the term have diverged greatly over the centuries.  For although Aprilia insisted that the Tuono is a naked bike, it quite noticeably has a fairing that extends from above the gauge cluster all the way past the 1 part of its 4-1 exhaust system.  It is so faired, in fact, that at first glance the bike looks like a full on no compromise sport bike.  Really, only the handlebars give it away.

Circuit Of The Americas
Austin Texas
π - 3

by Sam Q. Fleming

Having just campaigned a BMW S1000RR for two years in national endurance races, and after winning a championship in 2014 on the platform, I may be a little sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of the S1000RR.  However, even with two years on the bike I was a little baffled by the purchase options, the upgrade paths, and even the riding mode configurations offered by the factory.

The RR is a very important halo product (halo products put a shine on a brand beyond that extends beyond the actual product) for BMW.  They released the original S1000RR in 2010 into the bottom of the motorcycle market collapse.  Their market share has tripled over the last five years, even while sport bikes continue to be a declining share of the market.  Having the fastest 1000 on the planet went a long way toward washing the old man smell off the BMW brand, even as the average age of the motorcycle buyer keeps climbing.

BMW has had it pretty easy with the RR since their astounding debut.  With the Japanese in retreat from an expensive yen and eviscerated sales and development budgets, the RR, with its reasonable price point and high performance, was not significantly challenged.  That ends this year with Yamaha's M model R1 but BMW is not going down with a fight.

2015 Suzuki GSX-S 750
The Economy Turns, And We Turn With It.

by Sam Q. Fleming

Motorcycles sales were at a record high in 2006, in 2007 the foundation shook, and in 2008 the bottom fell out, and then kept falling.  The total sales of motorcycles in the US has been cut in half since only eight years ago.  As motorcycle sales evaporated, racing sponsorship, contingency programs and, subsequently, participation, sublimated. 

For the last couple of years the premium European brands have been expanding while the Japanese sales shrank.  One social dynamic which drove this was that the American motorcycle consumer has followed the general socio-economic trend of a big split in income distribution, folks that can buy $20,000 motorcycles could still buy them, folks that could buy $8,000 motorcycles could no longer afford them. 

2015 Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha Superbike
New Jersey Motorsports Park
September 14, 2015

by Sam Q. Fleming

My Monday was to be the physical manifestation of the Venn diagram of “Tracks where I most recently crashed”, “Motorcycle Racers who have both won four Superbike championships and slept on my floor” “Best race bike in the country”.

September 13th saw the culmination of the inaugural Moto-America Superbike Championship.  Monster Energy / Graves Yamaha had fielded, apparently, the only competitive bikes in the series and, therefore, had won every single round.  If the season had been a Paul Neuman movie, Beaubier would have played the part of the cocky upstart kid while Hayes the part of the crafty veteran.  Except, in this case, Beaubier is not cocky, he is actually a little shy.  And Hayes is very proud of his teammate’s accomplishment.