Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Up-Close with the Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock Trim

11/12/2011 @ 4:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

The Ducati 1199 Panigale is surely going to be the bike of 2012. Not because the flagship Ducati packs a 195hp Superquadro motor into a wet 414 lbs bulk (thought that certainly helps in the sport bike genre), but because the Panigale brings so many revolutionary technical and design aspects to the business of production motorcycles. Electronically adjustable suspension, LED headlights, GPS assisted DDA+ data acquisition, traction control, ABS, engine braking control…the Ducati 1199 Panigle’s feature-set is like reading the wish list of any superbike enthusiast. However what makes the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale truly special is its revolutionary monocoque frame.

The gamble has bit the Italian company in the ass in MotoGP, but on the production-side of the equation, the Ducati 1199 Panigale could very well prove the gamble was worth taking. We here at Asphalt & Rubber have been reserving our judgment on Ducati’s new frame design until we can get the Panigale in our hands and on a track, but when that day finally comes, we really hope what we get to swing a leg over is a Ducati 1199 Panigale in Superstock trim with Ducati Performance pieces.

If you’re a track day enthusiast with some Italian leanings, you may not want to click past this point — at the very least, take precautions by hiding your wallet. With all the two-wheeld porno after the jump, get ready to be uncomfortable while sitting down. And just remember, “baseball, baseball, baseball.”

Continue Reading

Ducati 1199 Panigale Says “Checkmate” to the Competition

11/09/2011 @ 8:09 am, by Jensen Beeler43 COMMENTS

The folks around Borgo Panigale are feeling very confident about the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale. Dropping 22lbs off the Superbike 1198′s design for a 361 lbs dry wright, while making an extra 20hp over its predecessor for a 195hp peak horsepower figure, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is an impressive machine based purely off its spec-sheet. That’s not including a revolutionary monocoque frame, the first full-LED headlight on a motorcycle, the first electronically adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle (the DDA+ package is an optional equipment item for the Panigale).

The Ducati 1199 Panigale also comes standard with traction control, while ABS brakes are an optional item for the flagship superbike. With all that technology packaged into one machine, we can understand why Ducati might be acting pretty pleased with itself right now. We’ll reserve our critique on the two-wheled titan until we get the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale on the street and track, though we have to admit, it’s hard not being impressed with the bike at this point in time…especially when it is such a stunner in person. While we whet our appetite, Ducati’s hubris is after the jump.

Continue Reading

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale Redefines the Word ‘Superbike’

11/07/2011 @ 12:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler61 COMMENTS

I often get lambasted in the comments section for being pro-Ducati here on Asphalt & Rubber, and that’s fine by me, because I am. It’s hard not to like a company that has basically defined the modern aesthetic for motorcycles, or a company that continues to grow despite being in the worst recession since The Great Depression. It’s also not hard to love a company that continues to release, year-after-year, new compelling motorcycles, as is the case today with the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale.

Teased ad nauseam, the Ducati 1199 Panigale shouldn’t disappoint the discerning sport bike rider with a strong appetite for Italian food, as the latest v-twin from Bologna sets many firsts for the superbike market segment. As we predicted last year, the Ducati 1199 Panigale drops 20lbs off the Superbike 1198’s design (22 lbs actually), while making an extra 20hp over its predecessor. Not only is the 1199 Panigale the lightest production superbike on the market, with its 361 lbs dry weight (414 lbs wet), it’s also one of the most powerful with its 195hp peak power figure, courtesy of the Superquadro motor.

Other firsts include a revolutionary monocoque frame, the first full-LED headlight on a motorcycle (another story we broke), the first electronically adjusted suspension on a sport bike, the first engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle (the DDA+ package is an optional equipment item for the Panigale). While traction control comes standard, ABS brakes will also be an optional item for the Ducati 1199 Panigale.

Available in April 2012, as we expected the new Ducati 1199 Panigale has gotten a price increase over the Superbike 1198. Accordingly the base model will cost $17,995, the “S” will cost $22,995, and “S” Tricolore will hit the wallet at $27,995 MSRP.

Continue Reading

Ducati 1199 Panigale Leaks Ahead of EICMA

11/07/2011 @ 4:44 am, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

Asphalt & Rubber is in Milan right now, and in a few hours we’ll headed over for the official launch of the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale. However, we might as well stay in the hotel and do grappa shots until our eyes bleed, as the sport bike of 2012 has already unsurprisingly leaked ahead of its official debut. Not only do we get our first glimpse of the new flagship Ducati, but it looks like the Ducati 1199 Panigale will have optional anti-locking brakes (ABS) and Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES).

While it was only a matter of time before Ducati put ABS on its Superbike line, the electronic suspension package on the Panigale (note the wires going into the top of the fork tubes), which originally made its Ducati debut on the Multistrada 1200, is the first time the technology has made its way onto a sport bike. Expect full-details and photos in a couple hours, until then salivate after the jump.

Continue Reading

Ducati Superquadro Motor in Photos

10/14/2011 @ 9:09 am, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

I’ll admit, I’m pandering to the crowd on this one. When we brought you the first images and details of the Ducati Superquadro motor, a recurring theme in the comments was how the motor bordered on art. While I’ll agree that a finely-built motorcycle has an aesthetic worthy of the MoMA (I fully expect the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale to be jaw-dropping beautiful), a motorcycle engine might be a tall order.

Content to let that one go and move on, Ducati ruined the whole thing by posting a bunch of artsy fartsy images of the 90°, overly-square, 195hp v-twin motor. Now, even I’m not bull-headed enough to avoid putting two and two together, so here you go you Ducatisti Asphalt & Rubber readers, more images of the Ducati Superquadro engine for you to drool over. Enjoy.

Continue Reading

Video: Ducati Superquadro Motor [UPDATED]

10/10/2011 @ 4:29 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Ducati has added English subtitles to the video. Huzzah!

We don’t know why Ducati only has this video out in Italian, but there’s some good bike porn of the Ducati Superquadro motor being developed and worked on, not to mention some shots of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Hopefully Bologna posts up an English version of the video (we’ll add it if/when they do), so the rest of the motorcycling world can hear about the company’s new Superbike engine. Until then, our translation goes something like, “the bike, it goes a verrry fasst!”

Continue Reading

Spy Photos: Ducati 1199 Panigale Load Testing

09/24/2011 @ 2:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler52 COMMENTS

No sooner did Ducati officially announce the existence of the the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale, than the Italian company’s new flagship uber-Superbike was caught blasting down an Italian highway. The purpose of the highway test should be apparent to even the most casual of motorcycle enthusiasts, as Ducati is clearly load testing the 1199 Panigale, marking sure the new motorcycle is ready to meet the strict requirements necessary for the American market.

Honestly, we didn’t think Ducati Performance had a “ponch” option for its Ducati-branded race leathers, though we hope the company has some variations in a more slimming black. Insert a couple more fat jokes, and I think we’re good to go here — and surely there’s a test rider in Bologna who will get a good ribbing come Monday at work. More photos after the jump, leave your “constructive remarks” in the comments.

Continue Reading

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale – 195hp / 395 lbs (Base)

09/23/2011 @ 11:31 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

Confirming what we reported back in November of last year regarding the performance figures for Ducati’s new Superbike, Ducati dealership Pro-Italia posted on its Facebook wall (now redacted) a less-than-cryptic “395/195” message while in attendance at the Ducati Dealership meeting in Miami, Floria. Noting the wet weight and brake horsepower, the new 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale makes good on its promise to trump its predecessor by over 20hp and 20 lbs. To thank for the these benchmark miracles is the 1199 Panigale’s very over-square Superquadrata motor (also known as the SuperQuadro in some rumor reports), which will rev higher than any other previous Ducati Superbike motor to-date, and the company’s new “frameless” chassis design, which has been floundering in MotoGP.

While we can’t speak for the efficacy of Ducati’s new chassis philosophy, and how it will work on the company’s new v-twin production bike, the spec-sheet racers should be impressed with this latest piece of information. And as if those figures weren’t impressive enough already, Asphalt & Rubber has learned that the Ducati 1199 Panigale homologation special, the made-for-racing “production” model which has been making its appearance in the bulk of the 1199’s spy shots, has been producing over 205hp at the crank during its recent testing at Borgo Panigale facility (the namesake for the 1199 Superbike), while in its “stock” form. While we don’t know what naming convention Ducati will use on the race-bike-with-lights-on-it 1199, A&R does know that it will not receive “R” nomenclature that we’ve seen in the past.

Continue Reading

«