Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

Harley-Davidson Lost 36 Dealers in 2010 – More to Come

02/04/2011 @ 7:21 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Lost 36 Dealers in 2010   More to Come 2011 Harley Davidson Forty Eight 635x423

Harley-Davidson has instructed its dealers not to talk about how sales have been throughout the recession, but the news that 36 dealerships have closed in the past year, and more closures are expected in 2011, speaks for itself on how sales have been. On a conference call with analysts CFO John Olin said, “This contraction was expected and in-line with our desire to modestly consolidate our U.S. dealer network in response to lower overall volume since the economic downturn took hold,” which is a very glossed over way of saying that American brand has become too bloated over the past years, and needs to go on a diet.

Harley-Davidson expects to ship between 221,000 & 228,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2011, which is up 8% over last year’s figure, but still pales in comparison to the numbers the Milwaukee brand was posting before the economic collapse (303,479 in 2008). Since 2006, sales at Harley-Davdison have continued to slide, but the most dramatic affect was in 2010, where sales were down 30% compared to before the recession (over 36% in the domestic market).

Photo of the Week: It’s Called Marlboro Ducati for a Reason

01/24/2011 @ 8:52 am, by Scott Jones1 COMMENT

Photo of the Week: It’s Called Marlboro Ducati for a Reason 2009 Casey Stoner Qatar Marlboro Ducati 635x422

Editor’s note: Scott Jones will graciously be running a weekly series of his best photos from the AMA, WSBK, and MotoGP racing events here on Asphalt & Rubber. For more of his work, you can catch him at ScottJones.net.

Besides the Rossi-Ducati situation, how Casey Stoner will fare with HRC’s 2011 bike is on everyone’s mind, not least of all Jorge Lorenzo’s, who was just quoted as saying Stoner, not Rossi, would be his main competition in 2011. Stoner’s rookie MotoGP season showed flashes of brilliance, ruined repeatedly by a Michelin front tire that was not up to the demands Stoner placed on it.

Back on a Honda, Stoner will have the magnificent Bridgestone front tire without the Ducati’s temperament to manage at every corner, plus several years’ experience and a world title in his pocket since that rookie season. Given what Stoner got out of the Ducati, he should be very dangerous indeed on HRC’s final 800cc bike.”

BMW November Motorcycle Sales Up 7.8%

12/08/2010 @ 4:40 pm, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

BMW November Motorcycle Sales Up 7.8% 2011 BMW K1600GT 635x423

BMW Motorrad continues to shine in this down economy, as the company has reported a 7.8% worldwide sales increase compared to November of last year. For the rest of 2010, BMW’s sales have increased every month compared to last year’s figures, from January to November. In the same time period, BMW Motorrad sold 94,283 units internationally, up 15% from the 81,946 units sold during the same duration last year.

While it isn’t saying much that sales are improving over the devastating numbers from 2009, the motorcycle industry is still considered to be down by roughly 11%, which makes BMW still an outlier from the industry norm.

The Buell 1125CR That Never Was…

11/09/2010 @ 7:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

The Buell 1125CR That Never Was... Edda Design Buell 1125CR concept 2 635x386

When we talk about Buell motorcycles that fail to see the light of day, people are almost universally referring to the Buell Barracuda, the 1190cc successor to the 1125R series. Dubbed “The Buell We Wouldn’t Have to Make Excuses For”, the Barracuda lives on in many ways in the EBR 1190RR superbike, which we’ll see next year take its street-going form as the EBR 1190RS.

While the limited-production EBR 1190RS certainly is exciting to think about, and the Buellisti are already counting down the days until Erik Buell re-enters the street bike market, what has us chomping at the bit is the fact that in 2009 Spanish design firm Edda Design was commissioned by Buell to revamp the 1125CR street bike; and with the result they came up with, we wouldn’t mind seeing life breathed back into that project, just like the Barracuda.

Recall: BMW K1200/K1300

10/21/2010 @ 5:47 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Recall: BMW K1200/K1300 BMW K1300R recall 635x470

More bad news for BMW owners as the German manufacturer has also released a recall notice for a number of its K-bikes. A problem with the front-wheel bearing could lead the bearing’s corrosion, which would affect the movement of the linkage lever. BMW has not said how many motorcycles this recall will affect, but the issue spans the 2004 to 2010 model years of the following bikes: K1200GT, K1200R, K1200S, K1300GT, K1300R, & K1300S.

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009

09/14/2010 @ 6:43 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Motorcycle Fatalities Drop 16% in 2009 open road median 560x373

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle deaths in the United States dropped by 16% in 2009 compared to the number of deaths in 2008. With 4,462 deaths in 2009 and 5,312 deaths in 2008, this makes for the first time motorcycle death tolls have dropped in the past decade; however federal officials are reluctant to call this a victory in rider safety.

“While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn’t a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues,” said Ed Moreland, AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations.

Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island Replica

08/23/2010 @ 6:57 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island Replica Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island Race Replica

Missing three races because of a mystery illness, Casey Stoner put any critics he had from his sudden departure in 2009 to bed with his masterful race at Phillip Island. Racing in front of his home crowd, Stoner slid around the Australian course to a decisive victory, in what we called one of the top races of 2009.

Making the moment even more special for Australian fans, and Ducatisti alike, was the special race livery that Stoner ran for his home race. Hoping to commemorate that race and Stoner’s contributions to the Marlboro Ducati team (Stoner is leaving Ducati for HRC next year), a French Ducati dealership in Moulins-lès-Metz has decided to sell a limited number of Casey Stoner Ducati 1198S Phillip Island replicas.

Recall: 2009 & 2010 Kawasaki EX650R Ninja

07/28/2010 @ 12:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Recall: 2009 & 2010 Kawasaki EX650R Ninja 2010 Kawasaki EX650 Ninja recall 560x420

Kawasaki is recalling a total of 676 EX650R motorcycles from 2009 and 2010 because of a right rear portion of the lower cowling that is interfering with operation of the rear brake foot pedal. Because of the issues, a rider might not be able to adequately apply braking force to the pedal, which could result in a crash.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Races of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

A&R Rubbies: The Best Races of 2009 stoner sepang slide1 560x350

Part of being a motorcycle enthusiast in the United States means waking up at odd hours to catch live coverage of your favorite racing series. Whether it be MotoGP, WSBK, or AMA, every racing Sunday is more like Easter Sunday as we hunt through the channel listings looking for our beloved sport on the television, sometimes finding the disappointment that the coverage has been pushed far back into the week as far as Wednesday.

For the motorcycle racing fanatics, this sort of Easter egg hunt is a ritual intrinsically tied to our love of two-wheeled racing. Thankfully, 2009 provided us some worthy racing treasures for all our efforts, and it is in this post we celebrate those moments.

A&R Rubbies: The Best Photos of 2009

12/26/2009 @ 12:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

A&R Rubbies: The Best Photos of 2009 playboy lcr honda randy depuniet 12 560x371

Keeping the theme going, motorcycling in 2009 was sometimes expressed better in a single frame, rather than in full-motion. With so many great photos coming in from a plethora of talented photographers, it’s hard to pick just a few that stand-out from the rest. But still, we gave it our best shot. Click past the jump for our picks.