The new Ducati SuperSport recently broke cover at World Ducati Week. All we really have to go on is a questionably taken spy shot, and a couple of interviews with forthcoming Ducati folks talking about the new bike. I think the new SuperSport is a fantastic idea. Let me tell you why.

Road Bike Focus

Have you ridden an 899 or 959? They are very track-focused bikes. I spent a demo ride of roughly 40 minutes on public roads on a 959. That was enough. There is no way I’d want to ride it on anything other than on a track. Commuting on one seems a rather poor joke, and spending a road trip on one is totally out of the question.

With the pending demise of the CBR600RR as a sign of the times, we are seeing more bikes that have a balance of features that people would actually like to ride daily. The new SuperSport is the first Ducati I’ve been excited about since I started riding in 2011. I get excited about a bike when I start having sweaty daydreams about writing a check at a local dealer and riding it home.

I normally ride a Triumph Sprint ST daily. It’s a great all-around sport tourer in the true sense of the word. You can ride it to work, throw the hard bags on and head for a weekend road trip, or tackle local twisty roads just fine as well. It’s a comfortable bike to spend a day on. I know, I’ve done it often enough. But the Sprints stopped being imported a few years ago, and the platform was long in the tooth. The Sprints are under-appreciated do-it-all bikes that’ just didn’t sell well in the U.S.

May Be a Decent Sport Tourer

Ducati hasn’t had a true sport-tourer in the lineup since the ST2/3/4 series got the axe in 2008. Yes, you can hop on a Multistrada and ride across the country. The Multi is a great bike, but it’s not a focused sport tourer in the vein of the ST4, VFR, or even Ninja 1000. The Multi is also a very tall bike, and pretty expensive as well. The uprated versions get into the low 20K range pretty easily. Now, I like the Multi, but I don’t like it enough to spend 22K on a brand new one. That’s some serious change. The rumors of the new SuperSport put it in the 15K range, and a bit more for the S versions with the Ohlins suspension, and some bits to be named later.

The details that have been published by places like MotorcycleNews state that the new bike will be based on the chassis of the Monster 1200. The Monster 1200, unlike the 959 is a very friendly bike to ride.  I thought it had great feedback, and allowed a rider to get comfortable with the bike, then push when ready without there being any surprises. A Monster chassis with fairings sounds like a great bike to me.

I’ll take the long-shot wager and bet the folks in Borgo Panigale launch a touring version if the bike sells well in the first year or 2. Borrow the side cases from the Hyperstrada, give it a slightly taller windscreen, and maybe a slightly bigger tank, and call it a day. The motor is a 937cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve L-Twin that makes 113hp at 9,000rpm and 72.2lb/ft torque at 7,500rpm. That’s right in line with what the Triumph Sprints produced for over a decade, and more than fine for sporty touring duties.

While the new SuperSport has only been revealed recently. it could mean good things for both Ducati and motorcycling in general. Companies don’t usually launch several new models when times are tough. Ducati has been doing well over the past few years after some tough times. The aftershocks of the financial crisis of 2008 were felt for many years. We’re starting to see the arms race of the mid-2000’s heat up again. We’ve witnessed a ton of groundbreaking bikes introduced in the past couple years, like the new Yamaha R1. It would appear Winter is over. Summer is coming. Let the good times roll.

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“I’m a stockbroker”
“Oh, so you’re a stockbroker? I heard this story about a guy named Bernie Madoff…he went to jail for fraud”

“I’m a baseball player”
“Did you hear the story about Pete Rose? I hear he was banned from Baseball for life.”

No one does the above at any type of cocktail party. I mean NO ONE. Your Friday night invites would dry up pretty fast if you did that. Why then do people think it’s ok and acceptable to tell tales of things gone wrong to motorcycle riders?

Yes, I get it. Your brother’s second cousin’s uncle in law once had to lay his Harley down to avoid the crash(ha!). Sorry to hear that. I hope he’s doing well, and was wearing gear at the time.

Yes, I get you mean well by trying to tell me the “risks,” as if I didn’t know them, far far better than you do.

Me? I’ve fallen off twice so far. Still, I ride. The second time I didn’t fall, I was pushed. Thanks to the jackwagon in Austin who just couldn’t miss his onramp and had to move me out of the way. Still, I ride.

I lost my Uncle George who was hit by a to a drunk driver a few years back whole on his Road King. Still, I ride.
I’ve visited friends in the hospital when they’ve had a get-off. (I hope you read this Stuart, and are feeling better.) Still, I ride.

The best I can do while riding a motorcycle is try to be as safe as I can, while enjoying fast bikes as intended. Want a good counter-punch to Chuck from accounting who wants to lecture you about your oh so dangerous motorcycling ways?

1. Get Training

Most folks take a driver’s ed class in high school, and that’s the extent of their training behind the wheel. They can drive from 16 to 86 without any other education. None. Yet we as an American society somehow find this acceptable. I bet you $1 that driving would change vastly if people were required to take at least one continuing education driving class every so often. Even one weekend at something like Skip Barber’s Driving School would forever change a person’s outlook and capabilities while behind the wheel.

As motorcyclists, we don’t get the luxury of being wrong. Being wrong doesnt mean fixing a bumper. Being wrong means going sliding down the road on our arse. Therefore, we have to be far better than your average car driver. Serious motorcycles take further learning classes, or instruction after passing their license exam. We have a wealth of riches when it comes to classes and resources, such as RideSmart Trackday School.

2. Wear Gear

Many motorcyclists wear the absolute minimum when it comes to gear. What do you think of people that do the absolute minimum? Gear up, and you’ll be much less likely to be injured. I recently wrote an article for HD Forums regarding the results of Michigan repealing the helmet law. The results are not good. Wear proper gear and you’re much less likely to be someones brother’s second cousin in law that had to lay his bike down and got really hurt. A kevlar bandana only does so much.

Also, I’ll just leave this here:
full-moto-gear-in-kitchen

3. Be a Good Example

Yes you CAN pop a sick wheelie on you new sweet Gixxer brah. Is it wise to be doing that a lot on public roads, and in traffic? Not so much. I’m not telling you how to ride, but I can say that way too many bad actors give the rest of us a bad name. You can ride balls out or you can ride for a long time. The odds are better if you play it smart.

People often ask me “you’re not one of those guys that weaves in and out of cars are you?” I say no, I ride like an adult, and do lane split in slowed traffic wisely. I ride quick on the roads, but not overly so. And I sometimes take the bike to the track, where I learn the bike and push the limits a lot further than on the road. I’m not a saint, but I try to play it smart. I hope you do too. I really dont wanna hear about your story at a cocktail party.

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“If you lose the front on a car you go wide. If you lose the front on a motorbike, you crash.” – Casey Stoner.

I was preparing for a long weekend in Arkansas, and my front tire was toast. There was no way it would hold up for the trip up there and back. Last thing I needed was worrying about my front tire during a much-needed moto getaway. Fortunately, a local shop had a bike night on Thursdays, and their shop stayed open late. Did they have time to fit a new front tire for me? They did.

Upon arriving at High 5 in Dallas, I asked what the tire selections were. I was hoping for the same thing I normally use, which is a Michelin Pilot Road 3. It’s a great touring tire, grips well in crappy conditions, and gets monster mileage. They didn’t have those in stock. My choices were a Michelin Pilot Power 2CT, or the Michelin Pilot Power 3. I knew straight away that those were pure sportbike tires. I thought they had little application for a sport touring bike which serves commuting duty, and does a ton of miles compared to most folks who use their bikes for Sunday leisure rides. Feeling torn, I asked which tire got better life out of them. They suggested the newer Pilot Power 3, and I went with it, thinking the tire would last as long as Tony Romo being healthy and staying on the football field this year.

Not only did the Michelin “sportbike tire” last the Arkansas trip in July, it lasted through 1 track day, roughly 6 thousand miles, and changed my perspective on matching motorcycle tires on my bikes.

Better Feedback & Feel

As much as I loved the PR3’s for their mileage, and ability to stick in the cold and wet, I didn’t get much feel or feedback out of them. I couldn’t feel what the front tire was doing. They stuck without question, but I didn’t know where the limit was. This is a similar issue as the current MotoGP switch from the Bridgestones to Michelin fronts. The Bridgestones would take a lot of abuse, you could break very hard on them, and they would stick. Riders had to “trust the tire,” according to the reports I’ve read on the issue.

Feedback leads to Confidence which leads to Speed. 

I found the PP3’s to have much better feel and feedback to them, which gives a lot of confidence in the front. Especially when I took the bike to the track. I had the confidence to brake later, and lean much farther than I would on the road. The front always telling me what was going on was a big part of that.

Decent Mileage

I really thought these tires would melt like hot taffy in the summer sun, or like the Dallas Cowboys playoff chances this year. Neither are looking good. I was surprised that the front had lasted this long. I’ll likely replace it soon, but 6-8K out of a confidence-inspiring front, instead of the 15K I was getting on the PR4’s is a trade-off I’m willing to make.

Mix & Match

Changing the front tire removed a bit of a “sticking point” regarding feel and my confidence in the bike. Racers mix and match their front and rear compounds every race to get the best performance. I’m not sure how many road riders do the same, to get the best of the characteristics they need for their riding style.

I still run a Michelin Pilot Road 4 on the rear, rather than a sport rear. The reason is that I put about 1 to 1.5K miles on my bike a month.  The Sprint ST has a very linear powerband, and I’m pretty progressive with the throttle. I don’t have issues with rear grip or feel with the rear. It just sticks. And they get great life out of them. I didn’t see the rear being an issue really. If I have a bike with a ton more power, I might rethink that arrangement.

How about you? Do you mix and match your tires, or go with matched sets?

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I, for one, welcome our new self-driving car overlords. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over the coming advent of self-driving cars. I think many of the fears are overblown. The move to autonomous vehicles are actually great for those of us who, eat, breathe, and have sweaty dreams about motorcycles.

Lane Splitting Will Be Easier

During lane splitting, or filtering for my U.K mateys, cars are not an average width apart. At all. So you have to zig-zag a lot, and judge distances. Being squished between two semis isn’t really my bag. You also have to watch out for Crazy Ivan moves in traffic that can catch you by surprise.

I bet you a dollar that computer driven cars won’t do any of that. They will maintain proper lane position, and won’t feign mock outrage and a self-righteous sense of moral superiority if you split in a state where it’s not specifically legal. They definitely will know you’re coming up the lane instead of texting their bestie about last night’s boyfriend drama and not paying attention to the road. Everyone wins.

Less Drunk Driving

I have it on good authority that folks have been drunk driving for centuries. Nothing like crashing your Roman chariot on a night of drinking too much mead after long day working at the Colosseum.

Being able to hop into a driverless Uber, or personal car after a night on the town has great benefits to society at large. Drunk driving would quickly become a thing of the past. Hypothetically, if you’re on your motorbike, and have had a few..beverages…you could be able to summon your autonomous car to come get you, should you own one. This keeps the NIMBYs happy and everyone safe.

Removes People Who Don’t Like Driving

There’s a very good reason Toyota sells so many beige appliance-mobiles. Most folks, truth be told, don’t actually LIKE driving. They do it to get to where they want to go. That’s it. Removing folks who drive as a necessity rather than for actual enjoyment makes things a lot safer for them and for us motorcyclists. Who likes to put effort and passion into things they don’t enjoy? Not me. That’s like me taking a class on cooking broccoli, or learning to neatly fold my boxers into an origami owl. Not gonna happen.

I’ll be glad for the day when those who don’t want to drive, don’t have to. Many cities make driving an absolute need, due to terrible planning, or woefully underfunded public transit (looking at YOU Dallas).  In well planned cities, cars are less of a necessity. The dawning of the age of driverless cars or automated public transit options will curb that option even further.

Cuts Down On “I Didn’t See Him” Accidents

Distracted driving causes 9 deaths and over 1,100 injuries PER DAY in the Unites States, according to the CDC. That’s too damn high. Self-driving cars already do a much better job of monitoring the surroundings, and well, just paying attention to the damn road. I bet you a dollar that if you get in a wreck with a self-driving car, it’s not going to say “Sorry I didn’t see him.”

Self-driving cars monitor the surroundings many times a second,, and can pick up things a lot smaller than a motorcycle. They literally have “eyes” in the back of their digital heads, unlike humans who only look forward at the radio, or their cell phones.

Will Cause A Rise In Recreational Vehicles

In the 80’s motorcycles split into several sub-categories. This was the first time we had cruisers, sport bikes, touring bikes, and standards as we know them today. Many people own different bikes that do different things. I’m wagering that self-driving cars will do something similar. Families and affluent single individuals will own one practical or commuter vehicle, and one fun vehicle. With motorcycles becoming overall safer as noted above, and the relative inexpense of motorcycles, sales of motorbikes will rise.

I wager the same thing will happen with cars. People will buy a practical commuter vehicle that whisks them off to the office in the morning. And next to that in the garage will be a Porsche 911, vintage Mustang, or Miata. (To be fair,  a Miata is not The Answer and a crappy substitute for a motorbike. Article coming soon.) (Miata Is Always The Answer. – Ed.)

What say you? Do you think self-driving cars will be good or bad for those of us who love two wheels?

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My First Track Day

by jchannell

msr-cresson-morning-sunrise

I woke up at 4AM a stranger in a strange land, excited and nervous for what was to come. I was about to do my first track day at MSR Cresson. No matter how much I had read about track days, nothing prepared me for the impending moments of actually pulling out of the pits and heading down the track. I managed to get faster throughout the day and not throw my bike down the track this time around. I attribute my success due to excellent coaching and the fear of riding the train to work. Riding the DART train to work being special kind of punishment that should be reserved for people the drive slowly in the left lane, and those that are offended by literally everything.

It’s Intense

“Track days are as addictive as heroin, and possibly more expensive.” Know the feeling you get when the roller coaster is going up the big hill?  You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and you’re strapped in tight. The point of no return. The first couple of sessions will be like that, for 20 minutes at a time. I’m not sure anything can prepare you for the first couple of sessions. It’s like a carnival ride, and you’re driving. It’s intense and addictive. If you’re a certain kind of adrenaline junkie, you’ll be hooked. Hard.

On the track there’s so much going on at once. You’re focusing on the track, your lines, your braking points, the other riders. A lot gets thrown at you. I didn’t look at my speedo once, and my tach maybe twice. I was so focused on all the other things, that looking down just wasn’t an option. If some yahoo asks “how fast did you go?” you know they’ve never been to the track. Top speed is irrelevant anyway. Lap times and learning are king. There’s no reward for being the fastest guy in session 2.

Prep Your Bike

Being on the track will stress your bike like most street riding won’t. Especially your front brakes. Being on the track is no time for mechanical surprises. Go over your bike, or have a pro look it over. I took mine to European Cycle Sports in Plano for a once over. Chuck there used to be a race mechanic, and he sees things most others miss. I’m still not sure what all he did to prep my bike, but it felt FANTASTIC.

At the track you’ll need to tape or remove your mirrors, and tape over turn signals and lights. You’ll need to change your tire pressures to track specs. Fortunately at Cresson, they had a tire guy there that had a serious knowledge of tire pressure specs. He dropped my tires to the low 30s, and I was good to go.

Get Coaching

The coaches are there to help. And very likely, they are a hell of a lot faster than you. They’ll tell you what to work on, where you can improve your lines, and overall knowledge.

Ridesmart has a system where you grab a colored jersey and put it on over your leathers to let others know you’re being coached. I was advised by others that had done these days before to grab a jersey as often as possible, and pick up as much coaching as possible. I did exactly that.

On the video below, you’ll see Quan video me, then we pull into the pits for a quick discussion. This was session 2 out of 7 of the day. I got better and faster later on in the take. Yes, I know I have a lot to work on. Be gentle in the comments.

[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/EA3bIypcqS4″]

Be Progressive..Be Be Progressive!

They warned us in the morning riders meeting, about bring your speed up progressively. The morning was about 46 degrees when I woke up, and about 50ish when we went 0ut for the first session. Tires are cold, the track was cold, and the grip levels were low. One guy didn’t heed the advice and threw his brand new R1 down the track in the first session of the day. Don’t be that guy.

As the day went on, I learned the lines better, braked later, and leaned the bike over further. I didn’t drag knee this time around sadly. I was dragging my pegs well before that pretty often. I’m going to switch out my footpegs for the next time around, as they are fine for street riding, but drag way early on the track. I do have some well scuffed toe sliders on my Gaerne race boots though.

Your Bike Can Handle More Then You Think

MSR Cresson is a 1.3 mile twisty track with 2 basically blind corners, and a lot of elevation changes. It’s no cupcake track. Several people during the day found that out, by throwing their bikes down the track or going offroading by accident.

As someone who rides on the street daily, I was well amazed by how much front braking the bike would take, and how much grip the front had. I always try to leave a lot on the table on the street, in case I need it. The downside or upside of that is I didn’t know what the limits of the bike were, as I never got anywhere near them. The track lets you brake much harder and later than you can on the street. You can lean a lot more than you should be doing on the street.

I swore I smelled something cooking a few times while lapping. Pretty sure it was my front brakes. “I love the smell of napalm..I mean cooked brakes in the morning. “msr-cresson-track-day

Schedule a Track Day

There’s a prevailing saying that “I cant take my bike to the track, because I don’t want to wreck it.” I get that, because I thought that too. I was scared of doing a track day, as my bike is my main transportation.  After doing a track day, I wish I had done one a long time ago. I’ve learned several bad habits in 60K worth of road riding that I may not have acquired, had I done a track day much sooner.

The Ridesmart folks who put on the track day I attended were all very helpful, and pretty cool. I didn’t get any “holier than thou” attitude from anyone.

I plan on doing more track days over the coming year to get better as a rider. I’m even looking for a dedicated track bike. If you have a well loved R6 let me know. I promise to ride it well.

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A Few Of My Favorite (Motorcycle) Things

October 26, 2015

While raindrops on kittens, and roses tied up with strings are nice, you can’t use them on a motorbike. Since today is my birthday, I’ve channeled my inner Julie Andrews and am posting about some of the moto related stuff I like or would love to try out. Here are a few of my favorite motorcycle […]

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5 Tips For Long Motorcycle Trips

October 18, 2015

The best way to see the world is riding a motorbike. You get to be in the environment and still cover lots of ground in a day. You get sights, sounds, and smells you just can’t while being in a car. Some motorcyclists compare being in a car to that of being in a cage. Motorcycle […]

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7 Reasons a Motorcycle Will Save Your Marriage

October 12, 2015

“There must be some kinda way outta here…” is a common refrain in far too many relationships. Long term relationships can sometimes just be work. You said something that got misunderstood, and you’ve got an argument on your hands. You might argue about whether the new organic peanut butter actually needs to be refrigerated because […]

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Moto-Getaways: Keeping Your Head On Straight

October 5, 2015

Wanna get away? It is more than just a recent promotion from Southwest Airlines. A weekend getaway on your motorbike is a great way to help keep things in perspective in your life and have a great time with your significant other or friends, should you choose to bring them along on your jaunts. Here’s a […]

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The 17 Most Ridiculous Lawyer Ads Of All Time

October 1, 2015

Lawyer ads are not known for their restraint. At all. They usually feature over the top yelling, cheesy graphics, and laughably bad tag lines. And those are the respectable ads. The ads below fall into a league of their own. I scoured high and low to bring you the 17 most ridiculous lawyer ads of […]

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