The ‘World’s Greatest Road’ Actually Sucks, Here Are Four Better Ones
Any road like Stelvio is amazing if you close it down. In reality, the Swiss side of Stelvio is crowded with RVs, buses, and people driving slowly. What’s also deceiving is the width. It’s so narrow. Sure, if you knew nobody was coming, you’d gun it. But you just don’t know that. And you don’t want to hit a bus at a million miles per hour or swerve off a cliff to avoid a car.
The hairpins on the Swiss side look incredible on film and from a distance, but driving them is repetitive and boring, even when you’re not in traffic. Hard right, hard left, hard right, hard left. It’s not flowing. It’s more of an engineering masterpiece than a great bit of driver’s road.
The Italian side of Stelvio redeems the boredom of the Swiss side. The scenery rocks. The road is still narrow, but you have faster corners that you can actually see around. It’s truly a hoot. It’s also perfect Cayman country. It’s a chance to push the bike, which has limits far higher than you’ll reach on a regular road.
The problem is that the road is still full painfully slow tourists checking out the views. You can’t get anything that resembles a clean run up or down the mountain unless you go at 6 AM on a weekday, and even then I doubt it’ll happen. You might string together three or four minutes of traffic free driving, but you’ll get caught again. And because the road is so narrow, you aren’t passing anyone.
If you leave the Italian side of Stelvio and head towards Switzerland, you’ll hit something called the Gotthard Pass. It’s a faster, wider road with even better scenery. It’s a test of braking and handling, which you find out when you see cars pulled over with brakes stinking like the dickens (technical term).
And at the top of the pass is a rest area with an old cobbled road, insane views, amazing lakes, and a man who serves you a bratwurst or a hamburger on a single piece of bread. It’s like a strange interpretation of heaven.
The downhill views off of Gotthard are incredible, and the way down the mountain has some hairpins, some fast turns, some straights, and some cows. It’s a melange of everything you want in a great driving road.
The base of the Gotthard Pass is also the start of the Furka Pass, which is, without a doubt, the scariest road I’ve ever driven on. The road up the mountain is unbelievable narrow. Like two Caterhams have a tough time squeezing by each other. And instead of a solid wall or guardrail, there are just these little concrete posts. I think they’re there to impale you before you fall of the cliff.
The real issue with the Furka Pass was the weather, not the road. Once you reach the top it widens out and becomes a lot of fun. But these mountains come with extreme weather, and we experienced some crazy shit on the pass.
Switzerland provided the wildest rain I’ve ever seen. Water flowed down the hill like a waterfall. Hail pelted down. Parking lots flooded. Bikers scrambled for cover. And after about 30 minutes of riding in it, it just stopped. Like God flipped a switch and said “ok, that’s enough.”
When you get through Furka, you come to a road called the Grimsel Pass. This is where things get really good. You’re no longer on the edge of a mountain where a small mistake will cost you your life. Instead, you’re on a road that was artfully drawn on the landscape. You can see the mountains, but you aren’t falling off of them.
As far as a being a road is concerned, the Grimsel Pass is amazing. Unlike the engineering exercise of Stelvio, Grimsel is roadwork art. And compared to the other three passes, it’s basically traffic free. And there are actual wide open bits to pass.
Top Gear called the Stelvio Pass the cherry on the top of the route. If anything, the Susten will make you forget Stelvio exists. You run up the hill from town through an alternating series of fast valleys and technical sharper hairpins and chicanes, all perfectly banked. I didn’t drift at all, but it’s perfect for it.
Jack Keen Round 4 – Brands Hatch 19th – 21st July 2013
As usual, the team arrived Thursday to set up for the manic Friday ahead.
Free Practice Indy: A busy day with us being out on track 3 times, this including a
free practice, qual and 1 race, all on the Indy circuit. Practice didn’t go great with
Jack not being used to the new engine and the fuel map wasn’t quite right! Jack also
went out on old tyres. Lap Time: 50.773
Qualifying Indy: He was more keen for qual with a new fuel map in the bike and
fresh rubber! He managed 12th position with a new PB lap time! Lap Time: 49.507
Race 1 Indy: Jack got a half decent start and managed to move up 2 positions but
again with a different map in the bike. Jack felt the engine was improving and
managed to push on to 10th position! Not what jack wanted but more points on the
table. Lap Time: 49.307
Free Practice GP: Saturday went better than expected with the bike still
improving and Jack trying to learn the circuit more from only 20 mins previous
experience. He ended up 12th and this was on old tyres from Race 1. The team
again spent Saturday afternoon going over Jacks feed back and practice data to try
and improve! Jack opted for a gamble and wanted a change.
Lap Time: 1,35,053
Race 2 GP: Race 2 went ok and he managed to pull off another 10th place but
again Jack being Jack wasn’t happy and knows he should be battling in the top 5!!
Unfortunately the gearing change the team made didn’t work to plan but Jack
managed ride around the problem and keep his head down! Lap Time: 1,34.440
Overview: Overall an average weekend for team JKR but again more experience
gathered and ready to battle on for the next round. We would like to say a massive
thanks to ETL Cambridge, Team Havoc Racing and P&H Motorcycles for getting
us back out on track at Brands Hatch. Jack now stands 12th in the Ducati 848
Challenge Championship, and looks forward to Oulton Park in August.
Massive Thanks to all our Sponsors, supporters and everyone that helped!
Triumph Street Triple
They say: “The envy of the middleweight sector.”
We say: “…and a bunch of other sectors.”
Motorcycles sometimes outgrow their original concepts. Such is the case with Triumph’s seminal hooligan bike, the Speed Triple, which over two decades grew from a stout, 885cc middleweight to a full-size, 1050cc streetfighter.
The gap in Triumph’s lineup was filled in 2007, when the chaps in Hinckley scaled the already-proven streetfighter idea down to fit the successful 675cc supersport powerplant. We loved the Street Triple as much as the rest of the world, which embraced it to the tune of more than 50,000 units in its first 5 years on the market.
Like its Daytona 675 sibling, the 2013 Street Triple gets a chassis refresh and an undersl
This year saw the Street’s first major redesign since its inception, as Editor at Large Aaron Frank discovered riding the R-spec version (Feb. MC). Most notable is the under-slung exhaust centralizing mass and (perhaps most importantly) matching the look of the Street’s supersport sibling, the Daytona 675. The redesign also includes an all-new frame and swingarm, which are lighter and together create half a degree less rake and 2.6mm more trail, intended to make the Street more nimble and more stable. A new subframe also saves weight, making the Street a claimed 16 pounds lighter.
One piece of the Daytona 675 that did not make the jump is the new short-stroke engine. The Street Triple still uses the previous-generation powerplant. No worries, though, because it’s a gem. A muscular 44.6 lb.-ft. of torque back up the engine’s exhilarating top-end rush of 94.4 horses. Slightly abrupt throttle takeup is avoidable with a gentle wrist, but that’s hard when twisting the grip is so much fun.
The main gripes are the seat and brakes, the former too hard and the latter too soft. The brakes perform well, but seem to suffer from extra piping for the ABS that leaves the lever feeling a little spongy during hard braking. The saddle seems to match the intention and aesthetic of the Street Triple to a tee, simple and uncompromising, except that the Street isn’t as harsh as it looks.
As thrilling as it is to ride, the Street’s ergos are mature enough to use all day. In defense of the firm perch, the crowning achievement of the bike is how absolutely small it feels.
So, then, it’s tidy, potent, stylish, and huge fun to ride. But you shouldn’t buy one. The tragedy of the standard Street Triple is that the up-spec “R” version is just $600 more. And for that you get the same willing engine in a delightfully nimble chassis, but with radial calipers up front, adjustable versions of the fork and shock, and spicy red styling accents. Still for less than £8k
|Engine type||I-c inline-triple|
|Valve train||DOHC, 12v|
|Front suspension||KYB 41mm inverted fork|
|Rear suspension||KYB shock with adjustable spring preload|
|Front brake||Dual Nissin two-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS|
|Rear brake||Brembo one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS|
|Front tire||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa|
|Rear tire||180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa|
|Rake/trail||24.1°/ 3.9 in.|
|Seat height||31.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity||4.6 gal.|
|Claimed curb weight||400 lbs.|
|Verdict 4 out of 5 stars|
|Thrills, charisma, style, versatility, and huge fun. The only thing better is the R model.
2013 Ducati Diavel Strada First Ride USA
Ducati now has a solution for those looking to strike out past the horizon on its muscle-bound cruiser, the 2013 Ducati Diavel Strada. For the 2013 model year the Italian marque has bestowed the Strada treatment to both the Diavel and Hypermotard to broaden their demographic appeal with touring features. But does the concept really work? Do bags, a windscreen and a few other tweaks make for a touring motorcycle?
The equipment change list for the Diavel Strada from the standard model is not long, but it is notable. Most prominent is a windscreen mounted above the Duc’s headlight and a set of molded textile side bags. A rear backrest and grab handles up the passenger amenities, while the entire seat gets more padding without raising the low 30.3-inch reach to the pavement.
All other details and specs are identical to the standard model, including the 1198.4cc Testastretta 11, L-Twin powerplant that cranked out 137.62 rear-wheel horsepower and 81.99 lb-ft of torque on the MotoUSA dyno. Twisting the throttle on the Diavel Strada brings forth acceleration unmatched by any stock cruiser or tourer. Wheelies and burnouts are a snap of the wrist away. For those not looking for such behavior, the engine’s output and delivery to the rear 240mm Pirelli can be tempered via Ducati’s Riding Modes (Sport, Touring and Urban) that can deliver as low as 100hp in the Urban setting. For me the choice was either Sport or Touring as the two settings give full power, but the later softens the initial hit for a more controlled response. No matter the mode, the Diavel Strada’s engine is one of our favorites.
One downside to the Diavel’s wonderful engine (besides the risk to your license) is the fuel economy and range. While testing we averaged 31.6 mpg with a combination of highway, back roads and city work combined with a overactive throttle hand. That gives you 142 miles out of the 4.5-gallon tank, not very good for a model meant for touring duty. The tank will be dry long before your body needs a break. Go easy and you could probably get closer to 40 mpg in touring or urban mode, but that only increases the Strada’s reach by another 40 miles. You want power? You’re gonna have to pay for it at the pump.
Another gripe with the Diavel Strada is with the two most obvious features of the machine – the windshield and the side bags. At highway speeds the air coming off of the shield takes the pressure off the rider’s chest but lands it squarely on the helmet. This causes quite a bit of buffeting and gets annoying quickly. Every tester that rode the Duc looked for an adjuster to raise or lower the screen to smooth the turbulence. Alas, there is no adjustment causing us to hunker down behind the shield, negating the comfortable bend of the handlebars and roomy cockpit.
The side bags on the Diavel Strada are not what we could classify as roomy, and to be honest they barely classify as adequate. The 10.8-gallon capacity is good enough for a couple changes of clothes, a pair of shoes, toiletries and not a whole lot more. Locking the bags requires the use of a combination luggage lock. Overall the bags feel like an afterthought especially when compared to the Ducati accessory bags for the Multi.
Suspension on the Strada is firm, but not too taut to make life on the super slabs uncomfortable. You will want to avoid contact with potholes and ridiculously rough pavement, but the solid ride has an upside. When the road goes ‘round the bend the Diavel will blow other cruisers and touring cruisers into the weeds. Turn-in effort is slightly heavy thanks to that massive meat at the back, but once it’s leaned over the feel is so stable you’ll think of taking a shot at streetfighters and standards in the bends. Yes, the weight can be an issue if you come in too hot, but ride within the very generous safe zone and you’ll be rewarded with a bike that handles far better than expected. This is where the Diavel Strada shines. Pick a mountain or curvy coastline and enjoy the sure-footed handling and copious amounts of power on tap.
As mentioned before, the Diavel will run out of go-juice before your body needs a break thanks to an easy reach to the bars and extra cushion in the seat. Five-hundred-mile days are achievable, and you’ll arrive no worse for wear. It just takes a little longer due to the extra fuel stops. The heated grips are a very nice feature to have and heat up quickly with three levels of warming goodness.
Overall the Diavel Strada is a great bike, and we still love it for its wonderful engine, stable handling and unmistakable Ducati-ness. The added comfort makes it a bike that you can tour on – if you are willing to accept it for its diminutive saddlebag capacity, short fuel range and less than perfect windscreen. Unfortunately the Diavel Strada is not the very best bike to chew up miles. For that, Ducati offers the Multistrada. But if your idea of touring is traveling light, stopping more often and enjoying what’s along the way, the 2013 Ducati Diavel Strada is one of the coolest ways to do just that.
MotoGP leader Marc Marquez wins US Grand Prix DNA
Spanish rookie sensation Marc Marquez outduelled pole sitter Stefan Bradl to win the US Grand Prix for Honda on Sunday and stretch his lead at the top of the MotoGP standings to 16 points.
It was the second consecutive win and third of the season for the 20-year-old, who becomes the youngest rider to win back-to-back races in the premier class. The previous youngest was American ‘Fast’ Freddie Spencer, the 21-year-old winner of the opening two races of the 1983 season.
Bradl, the first German to start a premier class race on pole in the modern era, settled for second and his first podium in MotoGP. Italy’s seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi completed the podium places after holding off Spain’s Alvaro Bautista to take third for Yamaha. “I could see that Marc had a good speed, he was behind me all the time,” said LCR Honda rider Bradl. “But anyway I am very happy with my first podium in MotoGP. “It’s a great result for me and also for the team.
“It was so important because the pressure was high and all the last weekend we were close to it. We knew we had the speed and now we jump on the podium and it’s so nice.” Marquez has 163 points to compatriot and team mate Dani Pedrosa’s 147 in the championship race. “I am very happy not for that moment but for the 25 points because that race was very important for me,” said Marquez.
“At that circuit I expected to be struggling a little bit but in the end we take 25 points. I am so happy.” The Honda rider also becomes the first rookie to win at California’s Laguna Seca circuit with its famed Corkscrew twisting turn. Marquez set up his victory with a daring pass on the Corkscrew, diving under Rossi and briefly leaving the track.
The inspiration for the move came to Marquez from watching video of the 2008 race, when Rossi pulled off a similar pass on Casey Stoner in the same part of the circuit. “I watched a video of him on Casey, I thought that was impossible to repeat but then when I tried to pass him in the braking point, he stayed there and I just released the brakes and I go in the same way that Valentino did in 2008,” explained Marquez.
After missing last weekend’s German Grand Prix with collarbone injuries, world champion Jorge Lorenzo and Pedrosa were both back in action on Sunday. Honda’s Pedrosa took fifth to keep his championship hopes on track while Lorenzo guided his Yamaha to a sixth place finish.
Ducati Panigale R
What’s it all about?
The latest Ducati Panigale R spearheads one of the most impressive model ranges in the manufacturer’s history. This model has so many innovative features that you could spend many hours just discovering the detail of the most advanced superbike ever produced. The R sits above the basic model and the S and has been specifically developed for racing.
What does it cost?
Ducatis are never cheap so you’ll be well prepared to pay a premium price to get your hands on one of these beauties. The Panigale R will set you back a cool £26,550, so you had better know what you are buying. If you can’t quite stretch to this then an S with ABS and lower gearing will be a nice compromise and save you £4,000.
How does it handle?
What is really pleasing and surprising about this bike is that it is incredibly comfortable to ride even for relatively tall riders. Ducatis have always been admired for their power, performance and style but never rated highly for rider comfort. Take a bow, Ducati.
The superb V-twin has been modified to include titanium con-rods and a lighter crank, which has allowed Ducati to increase the rev ceiling by 500rpm to 12,000rpm. This plus changes to the gearing provide increased grunt at the back wheel for the same power and torque figures.
With such an extreme engine, never before has Ducati’s unique desmodromic system been so vitally important. With the high engine speeds at which this engine operates combined with such large valves, it would be impossible for the valve’s rocker-arm to follow the steep closure profile of the cam lobe using normal valve closure springs.
The desmo system actuates valve closure mechanically with the same method and accuracy as it opens, enabling steep cam profiles, radical cam timings, large valves and high-operating speeds. This system is used on every single Ducati motorcycle and constantly proven on Ducati Corse’s World Superbikes.
The new bike is awash with clever Ducati technology. With the click of a button, the Ducati’s riding modes can deliver performance with enhanced rider confidence by combining seven class-leading technologies. The latest-generation sports ABS system, Ducati traction control, Ducati electronic suspension, Ducati quick-shift, Ducati’s new race-derived engine brake control and ride-by-wire are now all programmed into seamless, electronic rider assistance. Even the world’s most advanced LCD dashboard with the full colour thin film transistor display changes to suit the rider’s environment. All pretty impressive stuff!
This bike is just unbelievable and although some traditionalists will moan about the non-trellis frame design, the bike’s overall performance and looks will dispel any negative thoughts. Ducati has produced a magnificent race bike and answered many of the questions that were voiced above its previous race models. In the Ducati Panigale R you have the ultimate race machine as long as you’ve got the asking price.
Bike: Ducati Panigale R
Engine: 1198cc V-twin: 8-valve, desmodromic, liquid-cooled
Weight: 189kg (dry)
Tank size: 17 litres
MV Agusta F3 800 First Ride Review
It had to happen, sooner or later. After the acclaim accorded to the punchier, torquier, 798cc long-stroke version of MV Agusta’s 675cc three-cylinder F3 engine in the 800 Brutale naked bike, the Italian company has now followed this up with an F3 800 sportbike version. And it’s already in production.
After riding the new bike for a full day at the Misano GP circuit under Italian sunshine, there’s only one conclusion to be made: this new bike is truly the best of both worlds, combining the slim build, nimble handling and appetite for revs of a 600cc Supersport, with the torque and rideability of a 1200cc V-twin.
To create it, MV’s R&D team headed by its Direttore Tecnico, Marco Cassinelli, has developed an uprated version of the 800 Brutale motor, similarly obtained by increasing the stroke from its F3 675 sister bike’s 45.9 mm to 54.3 mm, while the bore size remains unaltered at 79mm. This has increased engine performance by 20 hp, or 15 percent, to a peak of 148 hp/108.8kW at 13,000 rpm, with maximum torque of 88Nm/8.97kgm delivered at 10,600 rpm – a 10 percent step up from the 800 Brutale’s and produced 2000 rpm lower.
The rev-limit has been reduced to 13,500 rpm from the F3 675’s 15,000 rpm redline, but in weighing exactly the same at 381 pounds, it results in a huge step up in the power-to-weight ratio of 13.5 percent that allows MV’s latest and greatest to compete on overall performance terms with bigger-engined, more potent, but heavier and less agile one-liter Superbikes.
It also gets the slipper clutch that’s missing from the F3 675, and MV claims a homologated top speed of 167 mph for the new bike – 10 mph up on the smaller model, obtained via a longer final drive ratio raised from 16/43T to 17/39T.
To achieve this lift in output, MV has fitted the same cylinder head as the F3 675, with titanium valves all around (the 800 Brutale has steel valves), while the three 50mm Mikuni throttle bodies each now carry twin injectors, same as on the smaller F3.