How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

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

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

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

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 on BMW November Motorcycle Sales Up 7.8%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.