MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

This Is Pretty Much What the Monster 800 Will Look Like

With the advent of the Ducati Monster 1200, it was only a matter of time before Ducati’s middleweight liquid-cooled “Monster 800″ would be spotted, and unsurprisingly the machines have a great deal in common. The one big difference seems to be that the 821cc Monster gets a double-sided swingarm, which has become Ducati’s new way of differentiating between its big and medium displacement models of the same machine, see entry for Ducati 899 Panigale. With the spied Ducati Monster 800 looking ready for primetime, and a pre-fall launch isn’t out of the question. Giving us an excellent glimpse into what the Ducati Monster 800 would look like, Luca Bar has again used his Photoshop skills to render up images of the still unreleased “baby” Monster.

Photos of the Mugen Shinden Ni sans Fairings

Given the competitive nature of the electric racing realm, its rare to see the big high-power bikes without their fairings, as teams are reluctant to reveal their secret sauce. Debuting the Mugen Shinden San this past weekend in Tokyo though, Team Mugen did just that, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the team’s 2013 race bike, the Mugen Shinden Ni. You don’t have to be an electron-head to get excited by these photos, as any race bike with a carbon fiber frame and swingarm is pretty drool-worthy, though the Shinden Ni’s carbon fiber battery enclosure does hide a great deal of the electric superbike’s geek factor. While the sheer size of the battery bike is impressive, it was expected when the Shinden was first announced.

Mugen Shinden San (神電 参) Electric Superbike Revealed

Mugen’s third purpose-built electric superbike for the Isle of Man TT, the Mugen Shinden San, has been revealed in Japan. Campaigning two machines for this year’s TT Zero race, Mugen has John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey at the helm of its “Shinden San” bikes, as the duo looks for a one-two finish in this year’s race. With MotoCzysz not racing at the Isle of Man this year, Mugen is a hot favorite to take the top podium spots, as well as crack the 110 mph barrier for electrics on the historic Snaefell Mountain Course (Mugen is targeting a 115 mph lap). An evolution on the company’s previous designs, the Shinden San fits 134hp — 10hp more than last year, thanks to a new smaller three-phase brushless motor provided by Mission Motors — into its 529lbs bulk.

Trackside Tuesday: The Winning Personality of Jack Miller

Chatting with a couple of NASCAR fans recently, I was reminded that any competition is boring if you don’t care who wins. But if you do care, then even cars driving around in circles can be very compelling entertainment. Those NASCAR fans really cared about how their favorite drivers finished, and not only how they finished in the latest race, but what and how those drivers were doing off the track as well. Those fans had been captured by the personalities of those drivers. One of the things NASCAR does well is sell personalities. All major sports-related businesses do this to some extent, but some organizations do it better than others.

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way. This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant. This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.

Fuel or Electronics? Where Are Nicky Hayden & Scott Redding Losing Out on the Honda RCV1000R?

The news that Honda would be building a production racer to compete in MotoGP aroused much excitement among fans. There was much speculation over just how quick it would be, and whether it would be possible for a talented rider to beat the satellite bikes on some tracks. In the hands of active MotoGP riders, the gap was around 2 seconds at the Sepang tests. Nicky Hayden – of whom much had been expected, not least by himself – had made significant improvements, especially on corner entry. The difference in performance and the big gap to the front has been cause for much speculation. Where are the Honda production racers losing out to the Factory Option bikes?

Modular Design & Why the BMW R nineT is Such a Big Deal

12/03/2013 @ 2:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

Modular Design & Why the BMW R nineT is Such a Big Deal bmw r ninet design sketch 635x330

The first of the new BMW R nineT motorcycles rolled off its assembly line today, a fact that is only newsworthy because so many motorcycle publications are struggling for content in these coming winter doldrums.

It was only a month ago that we were overwhelmed with stories of new bikes debuting in Milan, and now we motorcycle journalists must scrounge around for anything lurid that is at least tangentially related to motorcycles. I hear there is a law student in Italy selling nude photos of herself so she can buy a new scooter. Juicy.

Who doesn’t like a good tit story, right? But instead I offer to you perhaps the biggest development in motorcycling this year — a story that no one else has thought to discuss, until now — and it is about the BMW R nineT itself, and what it represents not only for BMW Motorrad, but also for motorcycling as a whole.

The Germans pitched the nineT as a motorcycle that commemorates the past 90 years of BMW Motorrad’s history — an old-school air-cooled boxer-twin engine, housed in a fetching new roadster design. The end result is an attractive bike that should be fun for weekend day-trips and coffee shop racing. It’s a pity about the name though.

Branding issues aside, the reality is that the nineT has less to do with BMW’s past, and more to do with the company’s future. You see, the most important aspect of the BMW R nineT isn’t its homage to BMW Motorrad’s rich history on two-wheels, but instead it is the nineT’s modular design, which allows for customers to tailor the motorcycle with ease to their tastes and uses.

A commercial realization of what BMW set in motion with its LoRider concept so many years ago, purpose-built modular motorcycles like the nineT will be the new trend for motorcycles in the coming years, especially as OEMs try to justify bottom lines.

The real technical beauty of the BMW R nineT is the ability to build multiple variations of motorcycle upon the same chassis. For BMW Motorrad, the options are primarily limited to changing out the nineT’s seat and rear subframe, which can take the motorcycle from a chopped roadster, to an attractive two-seater, and finally to café racer aesthetic.

Working with customizers like Roland Sands, BMW Motorrad has ensured that a robust array of official BMW parts are available in the company’s aftermarket catalog for the nineT. The hope of course is that since modifying the nineT was something planned for in its design that then other customizers would jump on board, and offer even more options for the nineT. If you build it, they will come, as they say.

Time will tell on how the market reacts to the BMW R nineT and whether a builder culture can be cultivated around the machine, but that is for the marketers to worry about. Meanwhile in Bavaria, the bean-counters are quietly praying for what designs like the nineT could do for profitability and sustainability.

Basing multiple motorcycles off the same engine is nothing new for BMW Motorrad, and it is something that the European manufacturers do exceptionally well. The European brands don’t have the resources, nor do the volume, to develop a new engine for every new model like the Japanese OEMs do.

Instead, they repurpose engine designs for multiple applications. BMW is a great example of this cost-saving strategy, but no brand does it better than Ducati. Arguably the single-most-expensive piece of a motorcycle to develop, reusing engines not only allows OEMs to bring bikes to market quicker, but they can do so more affordably.

If engines designs are already modular between models and model segments, the next logical step is for chassis to follow the same trend. The BMW R nineT is perhaps the first real application of this idea, albeit in a limited capacity, but larger-scale implementations are just around the corner.

For the accountants and financiers, there is no better lure than the possibility of capturing some aftermarket accessory sales, which can easily pad another 10% to an OEM’s take-home income. Initial tooling and design costs might be higher, but the added benefit of building three motorcycles instead of one, as has been exemplified with the nineT, is a seductive proposition.

This concept also means that OEMs can offer affordable customization packages for each model they offer — something BMW already does to a lesser-degree with its different trim levels and feature packages. The idea will be fully realized when a brand like BMW can offer not only different subframe packages, but also different front-end designs, fuel tanks, etc to any one of its models.

Imagine being able to buy a nineT and having the choice between having Duolever, traditional telescopic forks, or even hub-center steering on your motorcycle. Tricky, but not technically impossible.

The growing electric motorcycle segment will take this concept a step further, as the unique mechanical characteristics of conventional engines will be replaced by different firmware packages for a motorcycle’s electric motor and controller.

That, of course, is something farther along down the pipe. It will happen though, and we will mark the BMW R nineT as the first production motorcycle to embrace this concept of motorcycle production.


  1. kww says:

    jeez, was is that long ago that BMW had a whole range of boxer bikes? The R, S, ST, and touring models. I think there are a lot of potential customers who won’t buy a parallel twin or even straight 4 BMW, but will buy a boxer. If BMW thinks they can rely on the aftermarket to provide that range, they may be kicking potential customers to the curb again.

    I did check out the R NineT product page, lots of Tshirts and a chain wallet featured, very little technical information (sad).

  2. gabe says:

    Didn’t Harley try this with the Dark Custom?

    I offer some dissent.

    Should customization be the ultimate goal of BMW? And here I was thinking that Orange County Choppers is no longer relevant!

    And having design boutique RSD in your corner is a positive how? I would say that their output is a mixed bag from good, to interesting, to lame.

    The benefits of modular construction aside, I am thinking the R9T could be popular, but also a gimmicky retro vehicle. The likes of the newer Beetle, the Mini, the Thunderbird, PT Cruiser, the Plymouth Prowler…

  3. Rob Evans says:

    I guess if that’s what it take to continue making motorcycles. But different chassis for different bikes is good, because you can design a bike for a specific purpose. This seems like other than asthetics, the bike won’t be ‘GREAT’ at anything.

  4. Doug says:

    Good article Jensen. There is a shop that is capable of building 3 bike styles using a single chassis of their own design & transmission/motor package:

    1. Sportbike
    2. Cafe racer or Sport Classic
    3. Sport tourer that would be along the lines of a Motus (more solo touring in a Hotrod style than the high tech)

    They are located near you too if you need more Moto content this winter.

  5. Jimbo says:

    Ok, but how much does this bike cost? When are they gonna set a price?!

  6. Lincoln says:

    Great stuff Jensen.

    You could add Triumph to the list. I looked at three of them parked next to each other at the dealer the other week. A scrambler, a cafe racer and a ‘standard’ bike. All the same chassis, tank and motor but three distinctly different motorcycles.

  7. Gabe, I’m not advocating a move to a custom-motorcycle business model. Big displacement motorcycles are incredibly personal purchases for motorcyclists — this is about offering as many flavors of motorcycle in one package.

    What I’m really talking about here is making a motorcycle into a platform. It’s a platform for OEMs to get a bigger piece of the aftermarket pie, and it’s a platform that third parties can build off of as well. It doesn’t matter what you think of RSD, some people like their products, and would likely be into what Roland makes for the nineT.

    If anything, your dissent of RSD proves the point. Maybe there is a treatment that RSD does that BMW would never touch, for fear of alienating its core demographic. It doesn’t matter, the bike is a platform, and an RSD fan will buy it and go to RSD that company’s wares.

    All BMW is doing here is making that transaction more likely to happen. Nothing lost, but possibly something gained. Even better, what if a year down the line, they don’t like the RSD look anymore. Normally you’d have to sell the bike, here a nineT owner could just dive back into the parts catalog and bolt-up whatever the flavor du jour is that day.

  8. Jake F. says:

    Jensen says: “Normally you’d have to sell the bike, here a nineT owner could just dive back into the parts catalog and bolt-up whatever the flavor du jour is that day.”

    That’s an interesting point as it begs the question, “to what extent, if any, does adding versatility to a model inhibit future sales?” After all, why buy a new bike when you can easily modify the one you have to achieve the desired result?

  9. toddyo says:

    When did motorcycles become dolls that you dress up with new clothes? “Customizing” your Harley or “farkle-ing” your adventure bike or “cafe-ing” your Triumph is really just about playing with dolls. Put $5,000 of chrome, pipes, guards, racks, bags, etc. on a bike, ride it to Starbucks to show off, sell it with under a thousand miles, rinse, and repeat.

    I was okay with new riders buying motorcycles so they could play dress-up (looking at you, Harley riders), but now the bikes are all about playing dress-up, too, and it is stifling motorcycle technology/advancement. Now if manufacturers used the profit from selling all these motorcycle mannequins to put out new product every two years for enthusiasts (like they used to do in the early 80′s), that’d be great. But instead we get rehashes like the nineT, a bike specifically designed to be a clothes horse for $$$$ parts.

  10. Sid says:

    @toddyo – bikes have been tinkered with since the beginning. Reference to dolls is your problem

  11. johnc says:

    modular design (base platform, offering multiple ergonomic and cosmetic options to the owner) is nothing new in the motorcycle world … pierre terblance designed the v12 concept for moto guzzi a few years back, that were unveiled at eicma. the concept was voted best design at eicma by all the designers.

  12. TRL says:

    “customizers like Roland Sands”…well spoken.

  13. SkidLid says:

    I’d love the chance to add some well incorporated customizations. I’d buy a new Street Triple today if Triumph sold a kit for the older dual round headlight style.

  14. kww says:

    Honestly, how is this bike not a retrograde of the R1200R?

  15. Jimbo says:

    It looks much nicer than a R1200R, and doesn’t have the stupid a-arm/balljoint/strut front suspension.

  16. Gabe says:

    Having a customized bike in which all the parts came from the dealer catalog seems antithetical to the whole customization thing for me. I much rather spend time with the measuring tape, micrometer, perusing part fiches, ebay, and scrap yards if I want to create something somewhat unique.

  17. Richard Gozinya says:

    @Jimbo I’d actually like to compare the two, as they’re essentially the same bike, with different front ends. Same weight, same engine, pretty sure wheelbase, rake and trail are all the same too. Could be a fun test, to see the real effects that Telelever front end has.

  18. SkidLid says:

    No one said the modular platform idea is to be unique. Moto Guzzi does similar things with it’s V7 line. The point of having modular platform is to add extra options for buyers, so that if someone wants a BMW power crusier then get the NineT PC option instead of buying it from another brand. Or, if someone just has to have a BMW cafe then BMW doesn’t have to design a whole new bike or lose the cash to

  19. Sean says:

    There are platforms and plaforms. My BMW F800S shares lots of parts with others in the F800 series, but i doubt that it would be practical to try to change my bike into an F800R or GT.

  20. jim says:

    seems like honda just did that with those 500s. fairly effectively too