Friday
Mar222019

E Bikes Are Coming...It's Only A Matter Of Time

The Big Red is taking an e-step.

 

Electric motorcycles are blossoming on the market like Spring flowers. While a lot of the most appealing models are offered by small-volume companies and startups, some of the industry’s biggest players are finally joining in. For instance, KTM introduced the Freeride EX-C dirt bike while Yamaha went the trials way with the TY-E. Others like Ducati and Kawasaki are supposedly working on emission-free models of their own. A new player has now officially (kind of) entered the e-game: Honda is going electric.

TThe terms “electric” and “Honda” sharing a sentence isn’t exactly news-worthy. The manufacturer has already dabbled in the technology on the automotive industry. On the motorcycle front, however, we’ve seen a few ideas from the company including its self-standing motorcycle as well as a partnership with Panasonic for the development of swappable e-scooter batteries. However, a proper, almost production-ready bike hadn’t exactly been part of the plan.

It now is. In fact, the Japanese giant surprised everyone by introducing an electric dirt bike prototype at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the CR Electric. The frame of the motocross is similar to a standard CR-F 250, that is an aluminum twin-spar structure with a prominent beam framing the engine. Even the block itself is deceptively similar to a petrol mill if not inspected up close—unlike other designs that enclose the battery and electric motor into a box.

Of course, as a prototype, there is very little information available such as battery size, power, range, weight, etc. There’s no need to have a keen eye to notice the massive “Showa” decorating the inverted fork at the front. Braking power (at least part of it) is likely provided by Nissin, if the fluid reservoir is any indications.

 

As a prototype, what’s interesting is the fact that Honda is choosing for the dirt path rather than the paved one to put its electric technology to the test—the same path a number of other companies have also chosen. The Honda representatives in Tokyo commented that “Motocross (off road) is the toughest test for electric bikes. Honda will develop the E-sports bike also.” An electric road Honda on the way? We’re looking forward to seeing that.

 

 

Friday
Mar222019

Herlings commits to MXGP amid speculation of Pro Motocross switch

Red Bull KTM talent anticipating riding return in late April.

 

Reigning champion Jeffrey Herlings has reaffirmed his commitment to the 2019 MXGP World Championship despite speculation previously linking him to campaign in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider broke his right foot at the end of January in a training incident, sidelining him for at least the first four rounds and resulting in increased talk of the Dutchman plotting an assault on the American pro circuit after being ruled out of grand prix title contention.

Today the Austrian manufacturer released a statement revealing Herlings will in fact remain in the world championship, with an anticipated return from injury scheduled for late April.

“Rehab has been going very well and I cannot wait to be back and to throw a leg over the bike again,” Herlings explained. “I want to be back at the GPs as quick as possible but we cannot say which race yet until I get some riding time.

“I’m also able to step-up my cycling and swimming now. For sure we’ll miss the next three rounds and we also don’t want to rush things and risk a set-back.”

KTM vice president of off-road added: “It is good to see that Jeffrey is making progress and we can perhaps see the end of this unfortunate injury that was so disruptive to our 2019 plans. It will be a big boost for us and the team to have Jeffrey back, fit and happy in MXGP. He is a very important rider for an important team for us in MXGP.”

Friday
Mar222019

FIM confirms introduction of E-Bike Enduro World Cup this year

Inaugural electric-powered enduro sanctioned by FIM to take place in France.

 

The FIM has confirmed the introduction of the inaugural E-Bike Enduro World Cup that will take place on 1-2 June 2019, as part of the Trophee de France E-VTT Enduro at Privas, France.

The electric-powered series will include two categories: Enduro1 (E1) – bikes equipped with a motor with a maximum rated continuous power of more than 250W without exceeding 45kph, and Enduro2 (E2) – also boasting a maximum continuous rated power of 250W that does not exceed 25kph.

Saturday’s opening day will utilise an urban prologue in the centre of the city, while Sunday’s main race will unfold in the surrounding hills. The main race will include three laps of approximately 25km per lap – comprising of the liaison route that will link the three special tests, that will vary in length.

These will be located in a nearby forest and will incorporate the local rocky terrain that will present its own technical challenges. Overall the course will look to test the E-Bikes’ technology plus physical condition and skills of the riders.

“I am particularly proud to announce the launch of our first E-Bike competition,” said FIM president Jorge Viegas. “Power assisted bicycles and electric powered cycles are not recent products and have long been part of the history of the FIM, as the vintage Indian motorcycle on display in our headquarters confirms.

“In fact the early motorcycles were much based on a bicycle frame with the addition of an engine, so the story has really returned back to the beginning of our evolution.

Thursday
Mar212019

Good dirt is expensive!

Why a scenic field in Hampshire is home to the British Motocross Grand Prix 

 

Motocross is one of the most exciting sports to watch, so it's no surprise that the British round of the World Championship is a hit with spectators        Credit: Ray Archer

Round two of nineteen in the 2019 FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship drops into the shallow ‘bowl’ of Matterley Basin, Winchester this weekend. The large site is a mud-splat away from junction 9 of the M3 and has been home to the British Grand Prix for the last decade.

It draws fans from across the UK and Europe to a location used once a year for motorcycle racing and a summer music festival. A (so far) stable weather forecast should see more than 30,000 people converge close to England’s former capital city come Sunday. They will crowd around a jump-laden and spectacular course with vast viewing potential for spectators, permitting full appreciation of a violent and perilous form of motorsport with a vast and unseen grass roots following.

Matterley Basin is epic in scale over its forty-four acres and was inaugurated in 2006 for the Motocross of Nations (a ‘world cup’ of the sport): a fixture that was blighted by rain in the build-up but did not deter an official crowd figure of 89,000. Since then the ground has been mined for the Nations again (2017) and has become the stable British stop on the MXGP calendar thanks to originator and driving force Steve Dixon.

Principal of the Bike it DRT Kawasaki team (that competes in the MX2 class of the series), local resident Dixon took a crash course in event-planning and all the regulations and permits required to make a world championship race occur to establish Matterley Basin. The venue is virtually unique on the Grand Prix agenda (that visits sixteen countries) because long after the bikes have throttled the English soil the circuit grasses-over and remains a quaint part of the countryside until the following year.

“Making the grand prix involves a ten-day build but it is a smooth process now,” said Dixon who has dealt with a myriad of problems and issues through ten editions of the British Grand Prix, ranging from parking, access, weather, communications, security, ticketing: all the imaginable head-aches of a major international occasion. Aside from running a Grand Prix winning team Dixon is now a venerable bank of knowledge when it comes to a large scale sanctioned sporting gathering.

 

He persists with Matterley Basin and a place that can welcome over 400 competitors, factory teams and race transporters once the support classes have made their way through the gates. “It’s a green-field site so everything has to be brought in,” he reveals. “That includes 7km of fencing, water pipes and temporary water structures, generators and other infrastructure to create the paddock.”

Matterley has clear advantages: size, uninterrupted views and a track that is widely rated amongst the grand prix riders as one of the best on the schedule. But the ‘temporary’ nature of the Basin does create hassle. The simple question for Dixon and his small organisational team, flanked by volunteers and other people enamoured by the sport is: why?

“To run a grand prix you need a lot of space and the established motocross tracks we know in the UK simply don't have the requirements or the specifications,” he reveals. “We’ve invested into Matterley with underground structure, communication lines and detailed traffic planning and management and a ton of small details such as flat-parking for trucks and lorries. A road racing circuit would have the facilities, but the costs of creating a motocross track inside are so high because you essentially need to close down the circuit from it’s day-to-day use and transport all the dirt into the site. Good dirt in order to make a Grand Prix track is very expensive and then you cannot control the rain or the drainage. It needs to be kept dry.”

“So Matterley is hard work but it is also fairly cheap and more sustainable,” he adds. “You also have to think that the distances for the fans from the track at a place like Donington Park or Brands Hatch will also have an effect on the atmosphere and we’d like to try and preserve that the best we can.”

This year Dixon took a gamble. He made a request to championship overseers Youthstream for the British Grand Prix to shifted from a traditional summer berth to earlier on the slate. The March date skirts closer to disaster with the weather but for something that costs upwards of a quarter of a million pounds to run the timing also has financial benefits (as well as possibly fishing for extra fans hungry for MXGP after a long off-season). “By moving the race to March I’d say we’ve saved 25% of the budget on infrastructure costs – a metre of fencing is 8-9 pounds instead of 15 – as it would be in the summer. There is a lot more means of transport available. It is a ‘feast or famine’ scenario compared to the summer and the music festival period. Having the race in March means we can cherry-pick our prices more.”

Dixon’s obsession with the grand prix has involved a lot of personal and professional sacrifice. It began in 2005 as an enterprise to support the promotion of his team and DRT is the only Grand Prix squad from the UK still in existence from the last century. “It was important for my team and the sponsors and there was a time when the race wasn't going to happen; we didn't have one in 2003,” he says. “I’ve run a race team for thirty years now so I know I am doing something right there!”

The British Grand Prix survives largely thanks to Dixon and his relationship with the Matterley landowner, local sponsors and companies and the support of the fans that still make the journey to Winchester. Getting people onto the grass banking is not getting any easier and this is a preoccupation that any motorsport – or sport – promoter can relate to.

“I still cannot really give an answer as to why I do it,” he admits. “I think if people were not prepared to give their time and their knowledge for sporting events like this then they wouldn't exist and that goes for pretty much any sport I believe.”

“MXGP is easy to see on TV and there are many other distractions for people today,” he adds. “So we cater for the ‘hardcore’ and have to make it work right for them. Compared to music festival goers that will buy tickets in just a few hours and well-in-advance, race fans tend to decide maybe a week before or even on the day, so it means cash-flow can be tight and it can be a stressful time.”

“I think if anyone came into this just for the money then there are too many variables for it to work,” he stressed. “It has to be driven by passion to make it happen. I’m at the point now where I don't want to give up and be seen to fail with it. When the first race starts on Sunday I still get a  good feeling: the hairs go up on my arms and I think ‘we did it again’.”

Wednesday
Mar202019

KR Struggles

 

Ken Roczen has always been one of the most open and honest racers in the pits, and so his short two-race slump of sub-par finishes has already resulted in a surprisingly candid response. After finishing eighth at the Indianapolis Supercross, which dropped him 27 points down from championship leader Cooper Webb, he could have just said he got a bad start on a track that didn’t offer much passing. No one would have noticed.

Instead, Roczen’s Team Honda HRC press release contained this quote: 

“There isn’t much to say about Indianapolis,” Roczen said in the team statement. “It just wasn’t a good weekend for us. I had some struggles during the week and over the past couple of weeks that have really held me back and have made it so I can’t ride and train to my full potential. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on and hopefully get some answers soon. I’ve just been getting tired and I’m not sure why. Right now I’m just trying to focus on getting my body and everything aligned so that I can fight back and ride like I was during the beginning of the season. I’m obviously not where I want to be at eighth, but if there’s a good thing to take away it’s that we’re physically healthy and heading to Seattle.” 

“Our goal is to get on the podium each week and we’ve been falling short of that, which is tough because we know both of our guys are capable of it,” said team manager Erik Kehoe. "Ken’s been consistent throughout most of the season but the last few weeks have been tough. Since he had been fighting the flu, he’s had a hard time bouncing back.”