At the AMA Supermoto Season-Opener in Bakersfield

It all started with the Superbikers. As a young man growing up in the late 70s, there were only three network TV stations for me to watch, and unlike today, motorsports programs were few and far between. Other than the Indy 500 and the occasional airing of stock car racing, motorsports just weren’t on the air very often. During one serendipitous Saturday, I happened upon ABC’s Wide World of Sports. And on that particular day, they were airing the Superbikers. Looking back, the influence that program had on the rest of my motorcycling life is immeasurable. An unusual combination of road racing, dirt track, and motocross, the Superbikers showcased racers I had only read about in the motorcycle magazines.

The WorldSBK Season So Far: Yamaha & Honda

While it has hardly been surprising to see Ducati and Kawasaki maintain their position as the dominant forces at play in WorldSBK, the battle for best-of-the-rest has been an interesting subplot for 2017. Over the course of the opening three rounds of the campaign, the form of Honda and Yamaha has been marked by their stark contrast in fortunes. Last year, Honda had been a podium and front-row regular as the season moved into the European swing, and Yamaha looked to be clutching at straws and looking for any positives they could find on their return to the series. This year has seen their roles have reversed, with Yamaha consistently the best-of-the-rest and in position to fight for a rostrum finish. Honda on the other hand have had a disastrous start to the campaign with an all-new Fireblade.

Investors Leveraging MotoGP for Sizable Payout

According to several reports in the financial sector, the investors behind Dorna Sports S.L. are readying themselves for another sizable payout from the media rights holder for the MotoGP and WorldSBK Championships. Using a bit of financial finesse, the move would see Bridgepoint Capital and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) – the two major investors in Dorna Sports – taking roughly €889 million off the books of the Spanish media company, according to Reuters. As such, today’s news would make this the third time that Bridgepoint and the CPPIB have raided the piggy bank for motorcycling’s premier racing series, having done similar deals in 2011 (€420 million) and 2014 (€715 million).

Norton Gets £3 Million to Increase V4 Production

If you have had your eye on a Norton V4 superbike recently, you might not have to wait as long for it to arrive, as the British marque has secured £3 million from the Santander Corporate & Commercial bank. The debt investment will allow Norton to triple its production rate on the V4 SS and V4 RR models, and also allow for the company to hire 40 new employees for the job. Additionally, according to Norton this will allow the company to increase its production volume to 1,500 motorcycles per year. “Having developed and pre-sold a huge number of bikes, we needed the funding to be readily available to pay for tooling, stock and people to allow production to move from 40 bikes per month to in excess of 130 bikes with effect from summer 2017,” said Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles.

Is The 2018 BMW HP4 Race About to Debut in China?

After this year’s April Fools hijinks, we have a whole new respect for the cunning that resides at BMW Motorrad, and the Germans seem to be honing that trait even further today. Announcing its plans for the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2017 later this month, BMW lists a number of four-wheeled news items for the Chinese auto show, and then casually slips-in at the end of the press release that we should expect a big unveil from BMW Motorrad. The statement reads that “the highlight of the BMW Motorrad stand is the world premiere of one of the most exclusive models ever offered by BMW Motorrad,” which is terse, though given what we know about the Bavarian brand, it should be easy to guess what they are hinting at.

Vyrus 986 M2 Street Bike Now Priced at €38,000

It is apparently more difficult to sell a kidney than I had previously thought (type o- / non-smoker / non-drinker…if you happen to be in the market), which isn’t good news when you are trying to get together some scratch for a Vyrus 986 M2 – the hottest supersport we have ever seen. Making matters worse is that Vyrus got in touch with A&R, updating us with their latest pricing structure for their Honda-powered hub-center steering masterpiece, which now comes with a price tag of €37,940 for the street bike, and €27,930 for the street bike kit. That is quite the change from the originally quoted €25,000 street bike model and €16,000 kit, and there is good reason for that, say the folks at Vyrus.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year. The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader. As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate. Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

You Didn’t Know You Missed It, But the Honda NM4 Is Back

Wednesday - 04/05/2017 @ 11:49 am, by Jensen Beeler31 COMMENTS

You probably didn’t even realize that the Honda NM4 was missing from Honda America’s model list for 2017, but the polarizing motorcycle is back for the 2018 model year.

The first 2018 motorcycle to be announced so far this year from Honda, it probably helps that the Honda NM4 is featured in the Ghost in the Shell movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson. Laugh if you want, but the NM4 is a surprisingly pleasant to ride, even if you aren’t dressed like the Caped Crusader.

As such, the Honda NM4 represents a tradition of motorcycles from Big Red that have pushed that boundaries of not only what we visually accept a motorcycle to look like, but it also blurs the distinctions we make between different motorcycle segments.

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US Senate Establishes Motorcycle Caucus

Wednesday - 04/05/2017 @ 10:06 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

The motorcycle industry has found more allies on Capital Hill this week, with the creation of the first “motorcycle caucus” in the United States Senate.

Established so motorcycle manufacturers and motorcyclists would have a greater voice in the upper chamber of the American legislature, the Senate Motorcycle Caucus is the work of Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan).

Motorcyclists typically aren’t single-issue voter – not for issues pertaining to motorcycles, at least – but with several important political issues currently affecting the motorcycle industry, the formation of the Senate Motorcycle Caucus comes at an advantageous time.

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World Superbike Follows MotoGP, Drops Penalty Points

Tuesday - 04/04/2017 @ 4:33 pm, by David Emmett1 COMMENT

After the Grand Prix Commission abolished penalty points at their meeting at Qatar, it was inevitable that they would meet the same fate in World Superbikes.

At the latest meeting of the Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, the penalty point system was abolished in the World Superbike Championship, just as it has been in MotoGP.

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Recall: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

Tuesday - 04/04/2017 @ 3:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Confirming our earlier report, KTM North America has issued a recall of the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT street bike, a recall that affects 487 units which were sold for the 2016 and 2017 model years.

As we reported earlier, the recall centers around a pre-formed fuel hose that can develop small holes or cracks, which could potentially lead to a fuel leak.

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Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

Tuesday - 04/04/2017 @ 3:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year.

After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI.

Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

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This Jet Ski Is Powered by Zero Motorcycles

Monday - 04/03/2017 @ 5:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

The idea of an electric personal watercraft is a little troubling at first, I mean…we are talking hundreds of volts and hundreds of amps surrounded by water, in an inherently unstable vehicle…what could go wrong, right?

But, for those who aren’t adverse to a little wake-up jolt, the all-electric Free Form Factory Gratis X1 personal watercraft might be an interesting way to spend a sunny afternoon.

And for savvy motorcyclists, the electric bits on the Gratis X1 should be familiar, as Free Form Factory is using Zero Motorcycles’s Z-Force powertrain to propel its watercraft.

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Motorcycling’s April Fools Round-Up for 2017

Monday - 04/03/2017 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Another year, and another April Fools Day is done and dusted. I am fairly certain that for journalists, April 1st is better than Christmas, as it marks the one day where media outlets make the news the wish they could report on daily. And as usual, the imaginations of the motorcycle media pool didn’t fail to disappoint.

My colleague David Emmett had a timely story about the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, which hosted a nearly rained-out Qatar GP a couple weeks ago. As such, his piece focused on improvements Losail could make for inclement weather, namely a radiant heating system below the asphalt. It’s so crazy, it just might work.

If you were confused by our WorldSBK coverage on Saturday, that’s because our man Kent Brockman had some fun with the race results and his debrief report, changing the names of all of the riders to “Jonathan Rea” as a nod to the Northern Irishman’s dominance so far in the Championship. Those results are now correct, by the way.

Of course you know I can’t pass up some love on April Fools, so we ran two stories. The first one was about Ducati’s new “Quattrofromagi” superbike – I owe the idea to my fellow Two Enthusiasts Podcast host Quentin Wilson, so of course it was a pretty cheesy story.

My other story included Aprilia, and how the Italian brand’s bag of well-lettered motorcycles are helping kids to learn and read good. As some noted in the comments, the idea of a motorcycle brand product-placing in a show like Sesame Street isn’t a bad idea. I make no apologies for my Michael Jackson savagery, however.

How about from the rest of the industry though? In case you missed them, the highlights of April Fools Day are after the jump.

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Aragon WorldSBK Debrief – Sunday

Monday - 04/03/2017 @ 11:09 am, by Kent Brockman10 COMMENTS

Sometimes you can’t see the forest from the trees, and Aragon’s Race 2 was a good example of that in World Superbike. The championship standings have been dominated by Jonathan Rea all season, but this was the fourth time that the reigning world champion was pushed to the limit on race day this season.

With Rea having started the day with a 100% winning record in 2017, the pressure was on the rest of the field to break his stranglehold on the series. Ultimately, it came down to Jonathan Rea versus Chaz Davies, as had been expected, with the duo renewing their intense rivalry from 24-hours earlier.

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Two Enthusiasts Podcast #49 – Send It

Monday - 04/03/2017 @ 10:50 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

Episode 49 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast is mostly about our chance to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 at Thunderhill Raceway, though there are certainly enough rabbit holes of side-discussion that we suppose we can make note of a few other topics that we covered as well.

Obviously, the show includes a look at the supersport segment, as we talk about the latest 600cc four-cylinder machine to hit the motorcycle industry. We also talk about the Bridgestone R10 DOT race tire, as well as the Bridgestone W01 full-rain race tire, both of which we got to try at Thunderhill in mixed conditions.

In our talk about the “new” Yamaha YZF-R6, we got side-tracked by a number of interesting topics, like wet track riding and chassis setup/dynamics, as well as the problem of choice overload, as it pertains to the motorcycle industry. Another Two Enthusiasts classic, we hop you listen and enjoy the show.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well. Enjoy the show!

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WSBK: Davies Breaks the Streak, Wins Race 2 at Aragon

Sunday - 04/02/2017 @ 1:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS