17th Annual Blue Ridge Gatherings

Blue Ridge Parkway
The gently curving Blue Ridge Parkway helped us get to the Blue Ridge Gathering — and lots of twisty mountain roads that aren’t so well known. Photos by the author.

The Blue Ridge Gathering is an annual meeting of sport-touring riders in western North Carolina, one of the best regions in the U.S. for motorcycling. In October 2018, riders came from as far as Newfoundland to ride some amazing mountain roads.

“I dug through the archives and the first records are from 2002, so this must be the 17th annual Blue Ridge Gathering,” said Phil Derryberry of Nashville, Tennessee, one of the event’s founders. “The original goal was to bring together Honda ST riders in these mountains, but it’s simply become a gathering of people who like to ride here. It’s not about what you ride, just that you do ride.”

Newfoundland license plate
Just how good are the roads in these parts? Good enough that Jim G. Gow rode from York Harbour, Newfoundland — 2,400 miles one-way — just to get here.

Phil is a self-described 7th generation Tennessee hillbilly. “The first Derryberrys were Adam and Eve — yes, really,” he smiled. “They settled there before Tennessee was a state. Both of my grandfathers were moonshiners and bootleggers at one point in their lives.” Though he’s a software developer and highly accomplished pianist, Phil embraces his hillbilly roots. Part of that, he told me, is knowing the best mountain roads, and he says they’re in these parts.

“People come to the Blue Ridge Gathering with a goal of riding some great roads they’ve never seen before,” he explained by a blazing campfire. “I study maps and explore, so it changes every year. If you’re not from around here, you’re not likely to find the roads that I found.” 

Moonshine Creek Campground in Balsam, North Carolina
Moonshine Creek Campground in Balsam, North Carolina, is ideally situated for easy access to some of the region’s best twisty mountain roads.

I can attest to Phil’s talent finding roads. These aren’t the ones you’ve heard of, like the gently curving Blue Ridge Parkway or the 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 129 known as the Tail of the Dragon (which crosses into Tennessee). Such roads are fun, but they’re also tourist attractions that get crowded. Phil finds roads that most people wouldn’t, ones with unexciting monikers like Lower Flat Creek Road and Macedonia Church Road. They are challenging, technical and demand each rider’s full attention. 

When riding these roads in a group, it helps to have a simple approach that keeps the group united while everyone rides their own ride. Phil is a proponent of Drop and Sweep. “Some guys who come to the Blue Ridge Gathering have skills close to pro racers and some are relative newbies,” Phil explained. “If you ride to the lowest common denominator, it’s not good for everyone. With Drop and Sweep, you ride your own ride at your own speed, but the group remains a group, just spread out. It’s a safer way to organize a group ride because it relieves dynamics based on skill level. I learned it while I was touring in England and it worked so well I started to use it here.” (To learn more about Drop and Sweep, visit unclephil.us/groupride.htm.) 

touring motorcycle riders
After breakfast, people joining the group ride review the simple rules for Drop and Sweep.
touring motorcycle riders
To learn more about Drop and Sweep, visit unclephil.us.

After riding several of Phil’s roads, I sat down at a coffee shop in Marshall, North Carolina, and asked Blue Ridge Gathering riders about their experiences. “All of us are at least a day’s ride from this area and we think nothing of riding here to ride these roads,” said Ashley Horn, a Honda ST1300 rider from Jacksonville, Florida. “I came here in my pre-motorcycle years for hiking and wished I had a motorcycle. My wife then was a big ‘no motorcycles’ person, so I got a new wife — and a motorcycle. This is my happy place.”

“I first came up here in my car to visit friends,” said Dave Doolin, also of Jacksonville, who came on a Honda Gold Wing. “They didn’t ride and when I was up here in their truck and saw the roads, I was fit to be tied without a motorcycle to ride. Ever since, I come on a motorcycle. This region has become an important part of my life.”

motorcycle camping
Honda ST1300s are still the most commonly seen bikes at the Blue Ridge Gathering, but all riders and bikes are welcome.
motorcycle camping
The Blue Ridge Gathering has always been primarily a camping event.

Wayne Efthyvoulou, a long-time sportbike rider from Easthampton, New Jersey, was on his first long tour aboard a purpose-designed sport tourer, his newly acquired Honda ST1300. He was succinct: “It’s great here.” 

The Blue Ridge Gathering is not a commercial event so riders only pay for a campsite or cabin, meals and gas. (Fair warning: you’ll eat up tires faster than usual!) “What makes the Blue Ridge Gathering different is we take roads that aren’t on anybody’s radar,” said Phil. “Most don’t make the ‘Tour North Carolina’ maps. They’re steep, twisty, challenging mountain roads unique to this part of the U.S. I’d love for people who come to have a great safe ride, enjoy some scenery, talk around a campfire after dark and leave feeling like they learned something. And that’s about it.”

For more information, visit blueridgegathering.com.

Macedonia Church Road (State Route 1326) in Rosman, North Carolina
Steve Efthyvoulou and his son Wayne, both from New Jersey, rest along wonderfully winding Macedonia Church Road (State Route 1326) in Rosman, North Carolina.
Macedonia Church Road
Speaking of wonderfully winding Macedonia Church Road…here it is.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Honda Reaches 400 Million-Unit Milestone in Cumulative Global Motorcycle Production

1949 Honda Dream D-Type
1949 Honda Dream D-Type. The Dream D-Type was Honda’s first motorcycle. Images courtesy Honda.

Beginning with the introduction of the Dream D-Type back in 1949, Honda has reached a milestone in cumulative global motorcycle production, marking 400 million units as part of its celebration of 70 years as a motorcycle manufacturer.

Read “Honda Celebrates 60 Years in America” here!

Honda was founded in 1948 and began mass-production of motorcycles at its first overseas production facility in Belgium in 1963. Since then, Honda has expanded its production globally in accordance with its fundamental principle of producing locally where there is demand. Honda currently produces a wide range of motorcycles, from 50cc commuters to 1,800cc models, at 35 facilities in 21 countries.

Check out some of the other milestone’s on Honda’s path to today:

  • 1948: Honda Motor Co., Ltd. founded
  • 1949: Honda releases its first major motorcycle model, the Dream D-Type
  • 1958: Honda releases its first Super Cub, the Super Cub C100
  • 1963: Honda begins motorcycle production in Belgium (its first motorcycle factory outside of Japan)
  • 1967: Honda begins motorcycle production in Thailand
  • 1968: Honda reaches 10 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production
  • 1971: Honda begins motorcycle production in Indonesia
  • 1976: Honda begins motorcycle production in Brazil / Honda begins motorcycle production in Italy
  • 1979: Honda begins motorcycle production in North America 
  • 1980: Honda begins motorcycle production in Nigeria
  • 1984: Honda reaches 50 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production
  • 1992: Honda begins motorcycle production in China
  • 1997: Honda begins motorcycle production in Vietnam / Honda reaches 100 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production (achieved in 48 years)
  • 2001: Honda begins motorcycle production in India
  • 2004: Honda exceeds 10 million-unit annual motorcycle production for the first time
  • 2008: Honda reaches 200 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production (11 years since 100 millionth unit)
  • 2013: Honda begins motorcycle production in Bangladesh
  • 2014: Honda reaches 300 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production (6 years since 200 millionth unit)
  • 2018: Honda exceeds 20 million-unit annual motorcycle production for the first time
  • 2019: Honda reaches 400 million-unit milestone for cumulative global motorcycle production (5 years since 300 millionth unit)

“For 70 years, Honda has provided to customers worldwide motorcycles that make life easier and enjoyable. As a result, we have achieved our 400 million-unit milestone. I am grateful to all of our customers, and everyone involved in development, manufacturing, sales and service of our products. We will continue to do our best to provide attractive products that meet the needs and dreams of our customers worldwide.” – Takahiro Hachigo, Chief Executive Officer, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

2021 CBR1000RR-R
The 2021 CBR1000RR-R represents today’s height of Honda’s sportbike technology.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT | First Ride Review

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Cornering lights get progressively brighter as lean angle increases. Photos by Kevin Wing.

KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT is a sport tourer that checks all the right boxes. It has a powerful, torque-rich, visceral V-twin, high-tech yet easy-to-use electronics, transcendent semi-active suspension, 30-liter locking saddlebags and enough comfort and wind protection for long-haul days, all in a svelte, lightweight package. Acceleration is addictive. Handling is sublime.

When the GT debuted for 2017, we gushed. EIC Tuttle described it as “nearly flawless, the perfect sport-touring bike for a rider who doesn’t want to give up sportbike levels of engine performance and handling.” The superlatives continued following our six-month, 3,500 mile test: “the GT is designed to excite you more than pamper you…few bikes feel so eager, so ready to take your breath away” (also in Rider, April 2017). No surprise, then, that it was on our short list for 2017 Motorcycle of the Year.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Among the updates for 2019 is a full-color TFT display with Bluetooth and navigation.

Updates for 2019 gave us an excuse to request a new 1290 Super Duke GT for our indulgence…er, I mean, testing purposes. Its liquid-cooled, 1,301cc LC8 V-twin has new lightweight titanium inlet valves and intake resonator chambers for smoother low to midrange torque delivery. Its WP semi-active suspension, which has three modes (Sport, Street and Comfort), has been revised. Other newfangled newness includes an LED headlight, hand guards, cruise control switches moved to the left handlebar, a reshaped windscreen with a manual height adjuster, a redesigned front fairing and the 6.5-inch, full-color TFT display with KTM My Ride navigation we’ve seen on other models. As before, the GT has riding modes, multi-mode cornering ABS and traction control, an up/down quickshifter, keyless ignition and fuel filler cap, heated grips, tire-pressure monitoring and a 6.1-gallon fuel tank.

Even though it’s gained a few pounds (our 2019 tipped the scales at 533 pounds, up from 524), the GT’s on-road performance is every bit as thrilling as it was before; it goes fast, turns fast and stops fast with a level of precision and control that’s hard to beat. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the 2019 GT cranked out 157 horsepower at 10,100 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 7,400 rpm at its rear Pirelli Angel GT sport-touring radial. Being tall of gear, the 1290 chugs along at 60 mph in top gear at just 3,200 rpm. Set the cruise control and leave your worries behind. Or exit the highway, find a sinuous road and watch the TC light flash as it tames the torque that easily lifts the front wheel on every brisk corner exit.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Deep-lean corners are where the 1290 Super Duke GT really stands out. Its light weight, compact dimensions and stout chassis impart intuitive handling.

Issues we raised in earlier tests — a speedo that reads too high, a low-fuel warning that comes on too early and excessive engine heat on warm days — have yet to be resolved. The first two are easy to live with; the engine heat can be a real drag when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in August, but such may be the price for having such a potent engine right between one’s knees. To my eye, the 2019 styling refresh was a step backwards. All of the sharp angles and surfaces on Kiska-designed KTMs have always been fine by me, but the GT’s new proboscis is too disconnected from the windscreen above it. I’ve always been more of a function-over-form guy, so all it takes is a twist of the throttle to make me forget about aesthetics. Bring on the blurred scenery!

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT is a high-tech, high-speed sport tourer that sends 157 horsepower and 92 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel.

2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Specs

Website: ktm.com
Base Price: $20,499 ($20,599 for 2020 model)
Motor Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 75-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,301cc
Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 71.0mm
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.9 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 in.
Wet Weight: 533 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 AKI min. (low/avg/high) 35.2/37.3/40.5

Keep scrolling for more photos…

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
The 1,301cc LC8 V-twin, which gets new titanium inlet valves and intake resonator chambers, churns out huge heaps of torque and a blistering top-end rush.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
The 30-liter saddlebags are easy to remove, re-install and pack.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Massively strong Brembos are backed up by multi-mode cornering ABS.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
A new headlight arrangement mimics other KTM models, but its overall execution leaves something to be desired.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Suzuki seeks 1440cc Hayabusa patent

It’s almost news too good to be true, but it seems Suzuki Motorcycles has filed for a patent for a new Hayabusa engine with 1440cc of tarmac-tearing oomph!

The former world’s fastest motorcycle is now in wind-down mode as it no longer meets the tough new Euro5 emissions regulations coming next year.

While some will still be made for the Australian and US market, the future of the bike depends on developing a new, cleaner engine.

There has been speculation for some time that Suzi would make a bigger donk.

1440cc donk

According to Bennetts of the UK, it will have a 1440cc engine which is 100cc more than the 148kW outgoing model.

They also say it will have a slimmer design, double exhausts like the current model and an evaporative emissions control system.Suzuki Hayabusa 1440cc

Third patent

It is no longer just rumour that the Hayabusa will be retained as this is the third patent for an upgrade.

The ageing Hayabusa has only had two major upgrades in its 17-year history.

While many are expecting turbo or supercharger technology, the first two patents were for a semi-automatic transmission.

The first patent in February 2018 detailed how actuators would be used to control clutch engagement and the shifting of gears.

Suzuki automatics patents in Hayabusa
Suzuki automatics patents in Hayabusa

So it’s not totally automatic as riders would still need to change gears but without the need to use a clutch.

While the patent application used a drawing of a Hayabusa, it was not necessarily meant for that bike.

However, the second patent described the gear position sensor, confirming that it was destined for the Hayabusa.

Hayabusa GSX1300 second patent
Second Hayabusa GSX1300

The rest of the drawings show the bike much as it is now.

Suzuki president Toshihiro Suzuki has confirmed that Suzuki engineers are working on the new bike, but has not said when it would be due.

He says it will follow the same style, but gain several electronic riding aids.

Fastest rider Beccie Ellis on her Hayabusa Turbo - wheelie second patent
Beccie Ellis on her Hayabusa Turbo

There is not much they can do with the styling as the bike was designed to be aerodynamically stable at high speeds.

It was apparently designed on paper by aerodynamic experts, but not tested in a wind tunnel until several years later when it was confirmed the aero theories actually worked.

So when it was updated in 2008 and 2017, there was no need to change the shape. 

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Husqvarna confirm Norden 901 adventurer

Husqvarna Australia has confirmed they will import the production version of the Norden 901 Concept model unveiled at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan last month.

That was a quick move from concept to production confirmation.

However, Husqvarna Motorcycles say the concept was so well accepted by consumers they took no time in announcing their decision to go ahead.Husqvarna Norden 901 concept (7)

Husqvarna Australia has not yet released a scheduled arrival date or pricing, but we expect it some time in 2020.

Let’s hope they get the pricing right on this after the debacle of the overpricing for the single-cylinder 401 and 701 Svartpilen and Vitpilen street models.

Sales were consequently so slow, they dropped prices between $3000 and a massive $7000 in August.

Norden specsHusqvarna Norden 901 concept (7)

The Norden will be only their second attempt at the street/adventure market since the company became part of the KTM group in 2013.

While specifications have not yet been released, it will be powered by an 889.5cc parallel-twin engine.

Like the 401 and 701 models, it will likely be a reworked KTM engine, possibly the new 799cc motor powering the 790 Duke and Adventure.Husqvarna Norden 901 concept (7)

Also, like the the Husky street models, it will be suspended by premium WP suspension which is also part of the KTM group.

If the concept is anything to go by, it will be shod with a 21-inch front Pirelli Scorpion Really STR front tyre for off-road ability with an 18-inch rear.

We are not sure how much of the attractive concept will make it into production.

However, these images show it will be set up for adventure touring with lots of luggage and protection options.Husqvarna Norden 901 concept (7)

Husky promises the slim and light adventure tourer will have comfortable ergonomics and “confidence inspiring handling”.

If it’s as successful as the KTM 790 Adventure, it will be another great option for adventure riders … so long as they get the pricing right!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Have you seen this missing Sportster rider?

The family of Jody McDonald-Spurdle, last seen riding his black 2012Harley-Davidson XL883 Sportster near Tin Can Bay, Queensland, on Friday (20 December 2019), hold grave concerns for his safety.

Queensland Police are now seeking public assistance to find the 51-year-old man of Toolara Road, Tin Can Bay.

His family say he suffers from a medical condition.

Cody was last seen wearing a black MZR open face motor cycle helmet, blue T-shirt, grey jeans and black leather motorcycle boots. The number plate on his Sportster is 191PQ.

Jody McDonald-Spurdle Saportster rider missing
A similar 2012 Sportser

If you have any information for the police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24 hours a day.

You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers, a registered charity and community volunteer organisation, by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24hrs per day.

Quote this reference number: QP1902547326

Missing riders

In August this year, Brisbane rider Siemon Mulder went missing after heading out for a ride on his Triumph Sprint ST.

Tragically his body wasn’t found for six days.

Funeral cortege plan for Siemon Mulder
Riders at the scene of Siemon Mulder’s crash

In a rare coincidence he was found by a fellow rider who crashed on the same corner.

We sincerely hope Jody hasn’t met with similar consequences.

These incidents are examples of why riders should always tell someone where they are going and carry a charged-up phone or other tracking device so they can be located.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Confirmed: Rossi did beat Hamilton

It’s taken more than a week, but it can finally be confirmed that Valentino Rossi beat Lewis Hamilton in a vehicle swap “race” at Valencia circuit.

The victory is no surprise to us as we predicted he would beat Hamilton last week and went to great lengths to explain why. Click here for details.

Check out the videos of their respective laps:

But now we can confirm that Rossi was only 1.5 seconds off Hamilton’s benchmark lap in his 2017-spec Mercedes W08.

Meanwhile, Hamilton, riding Rossi’s Yamaha M1, was 13 seconds slower than Fabio Quartararo’s pole-winning lap last month of 1m29.978s.

Although we don’t know Rossi’s exact lap time, we can make an educated guess.

The videos doesn’t give exact lap times, although Rossi’s video lasts 1:23 and Hamilton’s is 1:51.

F1 doesn’t race at the circuit, but the unofficial F1 record is held by Anthony Davidson, set in 2006 in a Honda RA106, with a time of 1:08.54.

Surely a 2017 F1 car is quicker.

We can also confirm that Hamilton had a small crash, but was still able to ride the bike.

Rossi on four wheels?

While Rossi’s time was good, 1.5 seconds in F1 doesn’t make him competitive. But it would put him in the field if he ever chose to make the move.

Rossi has long wanted to get into four-wheeled racing, especially rallying where he has already had some success.

Rossi beat hamilton
Rossi behind the wheel

And last weekend he helped pilot a Ferrari 488 GT3 to a class win in the Gulf 12 hour endurance race at Abu Dhabi.

Rossi beat hamilton
Rossi’s Ferrari leads the pack

After winning nine world titles, Rossi has little left to prove on two wheels.

While Rossi is contracted to MotoGP for another year, he had a poor 2019 season.

If he has another poor showing, he may just figure it’s time to double his wheels!

Meanwhile, six-time F1 champ Hamilton returns to Mercedes in 2020 and swaps to Ferrari in 2021.

Although, he is a longtime fan of motorcycles, particularly MV Agusta for which he is a brand ambassador and has put his name to four limited-edition models, he isn’t likely to swap to two wheels.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Honda integrating phone for riding apps

Honda will join several other motorcycle companies in integrating your smartphone with your bike and car so you can access all sorts of tech and apps while on the go.

Honda calls its system Smartphone As Brain.Honda integrating Smartphone As Brain system

Integrating apps

Like other systems such as Apple Carplay, the smartphone shows some of the phone apps on the motorcycle instruments.

They will include satnav, texting apps, weather forecasts, phone calls, music and an app that looks like Waze where you can note potholes and other road hazards.Honda integrating Smartphone As Brain system

While some apps can enhance rider safety, we seriously question the distractions caused by other apps such as texting.

Access to these apps appears to be via handlebar controls and voice recognition.

The latter is already available to any rider who already has a Bluetooth intercom.

For example, you can ask your phone to read your last message, then dictate and send a reply, without having to take your hands off the bars.Honda integrating Smartphone As Brain system

Although, it is a distraction at a time when riders should be concentrating 100% on the road ahead and the vehicles around them.

So far safety nannies have not been able to legislate against this tide of distracting technology in cars, trucks and now motorcycles.

But since it seems impossible to change motorists’ behaviour, it may actually be safer for them to at least access phone apps via handlebar and voice controls than handling their phones.

The first week of a trial of new cameras that detect illegal mobile phone use in NSW have caught more than 3000 offenders.

They will only be cautioned during the three-month trial. Other states are keenly watching this trial.

Meanwhile, Honda will introduce its Smartphone as Brain tech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on 7 January 2020.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Object may have killed rider

This black object may have fallen off a vehicle and caused a rider to crash and die on a Darling Downs road last week.

The body of the 58-year-old Nobby male rider was found on Cudmores Rd about 5.50pm on Friday, 13 December 2019.

He had been riding south on a blue and white Suzuki GSX1400.Passing driver finds rider's body

Queensland Police originally said he “lost control of his motorcycle, leaving the roadway and crashing into a concrete culvert”.

Passing driver finds rider's body
Image: Google Maps (not the vehicle in question)

Police are now seeking information about the identity of the make and model of the vehicle that lost the black component pictured at the top of this page.

The black component is about 18cm in length and was located at the scene of the incident.object

The renewed call for help seems to indicate that the object may have caused the rider to lose control and crash.

Police are also seeking witnesses who saw his Suzuki or anyone with relevant dashcam footage to contact them.

They believe a box may have been carried “in some fashion” on the bike at the time. We suspect they mean a top box.

If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24hrs per day.

You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers, a registered charity and community volunteer organisation, by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24hrs per day.

Quote this reference number: QP1902484971

Once again, our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased rider.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com