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.

Recall: 2011 & 2012 Zero Motorcycles

07/11/2012 @ 2:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Recall: 2011 & 2012 Zero Motorcycles zero motorcycles zero xu stoppie 635x453

Zero Motorcycles has submitted a recall with the NHTSA that includes units from its entire line-up, built for the 2011 & 2012 model years. The issue stems from a faulty brake light switch, which may not illuminate the rear brake light when the front brake lever is pressed without strong force.

The recall affects 450 units of Zero Motorcycles’ on-road units, which includes the following machines: 2011-2012 Zero DS, 2011 Zero MXD, 2011-2012 Zero S, 2012 Zero X, 2011 Zero XD, 2011-2012 Zero XU. Because the brake light may not illuminate while the motorcycles are under braking, Zero Motorcycles will recall the affected units starting around July 16th.

KTM Sales up 22.4% in 2011 Thanks to India

02/17/2012 @ 1:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

KTM Sales up 22.4% in 2011 Thanks to India KTM 125 Duke illustraion 635x536

If you want a quick synopsis of how the European motorcycle brands performed in 2011, they killed it. BMW, Ducati, Triumph, and now KTM have all reported double-digit sales growth figures for 2011, a stark contrast to the still struggling sales of Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.  Reporting a 22.4% sales increase last year, KTM made a cool €20.7 million in the process of selling its 81,200 units in 2011 (KTM sold 66,327 units in 2010).

Leading the Austrian company’s growth was the KTM 125 Duke, which has been a huge hit in India, its country of origin, but has also helped grow KTM’s market share in Europe. KTM is also reporting that its latest EXC models have helped spur sales, but we suspect it is the new small-displacement Duke, which was made with developing markets in mind, that is really responsible for the surge in sales growth. KTM says that it expects sales in Europe and North America to remain flat, while the company expects to see growth in emerging markets continue (no surprise there).

American Suzuki Expects 9.8% Sales Decrease for Fiscal Year

02/07/2012 @ 2:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

American Suzuki Expects 9.8% Sales Decrease for Fiscal Year 2012 Suzuki GSX R1000 EICMA 635x425

You know when a company starts quoting sales figures “in the last nine months of the year…” that the numbers from the first three months that they are not mentioning have to be pretty bad. Such is the case with American Suzuki, though the company’s overall performance continues to flounder in the this economy. In Suzuki’s fiscal nine-month period (April 2011 to December 2011), sales to North American dealers were up 160%, as wholesale unit sales to dealers rose from 13,000 units (mostly ATVs)  in 2010 to 34,000 units in 2011.

However despite shipping more models to dealers, Suzuki’s sales in North America were actually down 11.5%, as the Japanese company sold only 31,000 units in the nine-month period, compared to the 35,000 units it sold during the same fiscal period last year. Because of this dip in consumer sales, Suzuki has revised its sales predictions for the end of its fiscal year in North America from 50,000 units to 46,000 units. American Suzuki sold 51,000 units to consumers in 2010, meaning that for the 2011 fiscal year, Suzuki is expecting a 9.8% retail sales decline compared to last year.

MV Agusta F3 Enters Production – Sales up 12% in 2011

02/05/2012 @ 11:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

MV Agusta F3 Enters Production   Sales up 12% in 2011 mv agusta f3 production 635x431

Only MV Agusta would send a press release out on the weekend, Super Bowl weekend no less. Apparently unable to contain the excitement that the MV Agusta F3 has entered production, the Varese-based company has not only sent out a proof of life video, but also released some information about its three-cylinder supersport and the company in general.

Reportedly selling 12% more motorcycles in 2011 than 2010 (that’s a volume change that can be counted in the hundreds, not thousands), MV Agusta also announced that its orders for the 2012 MV Agusta F3 and 2012 MV Agusta Brutale 675 have nearly doubled MV’s expected yearly volume, though by our math the Italian company is still likely shy of the sales needed to break-even on the financial side of the equation.

With its assembly line running at nearly double its usual capacity, MV Agusta has put together a quick behind the scenes video of the making of the F3. A cool look on what occurs behind the curtain of Oz, it is interesting to note that all the bikes shown are the MV Agusta F3 Serie Oro, and not the base model. While the Oro is to hit dealers in the USA before its $13,495 sibling, you would think that MV Agusta would have a couple of those on the assembly line already as well, considering after all that it is the MV Augusta F3 base model that will comprise the bulk of the company’s orders.

Harley-Davidson Sales Grew Almost 6% in 2011

01/26/2012 @ 2:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Harley Davidson Sales Grew Almost 6% in 2011 Harley Davidson Pilgram Road 635x425

A few years ago death was on the doorstop for Harley-Davidson. Posting yearly sales losses on a regular basis, when the recession hit the Milwaukee company, it sold off its holdings in MV Agusta, and shuttered the Buell Motorcycle brand in order to keep its core business unit intact.

In Q2 of 2011, Harley-Davidson posted its YTD of growth since 2006, and the Bar & Shield brand continued that trend throughout the rest of last year. Finishing Q4 2011 with sales up 10.9% worldwide (11.8% in the US) over Q4 2010, Harley-Davidson finished the year strong with sales up 5.9% worldwide when compared to 2010. Additionally, sales in the United States posted a similar 5.8% of growth for units sold.

The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrad’s Sales Dominion

01/16/2012 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrads Sales Dominion BMW K1300R 635x423

We already told you that 2011 was BMW Motorrad’s best sales year ever, and that the BMW S1000RR topped the Bavarian brand’s charts here in the United States. Zie Germans must be feeling rather pleases with themselves right now (and rightfully so), as BMW has released more details about its all-time motorcycle sales record. Pushing out 104,286 units in 2011, BMW Motorrad was up 6.4% in 2011 over 2010, with each of the 2011’s twelve months outselling its 2010 counterpart. Toppling its previous sales record from 2007 (the height of the world economy), it says something about BMW’s current business strategy that it can best that figure in an economy that is still exceedingly weak in comparison.

It is interesting to note in which markets, and in which segments, BMW is finding this growth, because the answers are not necessarily our usual suspects. Basically doubling its worldwide 500+cc market share over the past four years, BMW now accounts for 12% of the worlds “big” displacement motorcycles by units sold per annum. This goes counter to the trend that we’ve seen, where small-displacement are being cast as the sales leaders for large brands (namely the Japanese Four).

BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All-Time Sales in 2011

01/09/2012 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

BMW Motorrad Had Its Best All Time Sales in 2011 BMW R1200GS Adventure Anniversary 635x423

The BMW Group has released its 2011 sales numbers, and the results for BMW Motorrad are very impressive indeed. Posting its best yearly sales figures ever in the brand’s nearly 90-year history, BMW Motorrad surpassed its previous high-water mark, set in 2007, of 102,467 units by selling 104,286 units in 2011 (Q1, Q2, & Q3).

Accordingly, sales for 2011 were up 6.4% over 2010, which saw the brand sell 98,047 units last year. Helping spur that sales growth was BMW Motorrad’s strong performance in December 2011, as the German motorcycle manufacturer delivered 4,232 units worldwide in the last month of the year alone, a 12.4% increase over sales in December 2010.

The Eleven of 2011 – A Year in Review

01/02/2012 @ 5:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

The Eleven of 2011   A Year in Review theelevenof2011 635x392

Well, 2011 as a year is finally over, and for the motorcycling community it was quite a year. As we begin 2012, we here at Asphalt & Rubber are of course not immune to the desire to summarize and highlight the passing of 2011. So we accordingly assembled 11 of the most important events that shaped motorcycling this past year and changed the way the sport, the industry, and the community will grow in the years to come.

Picking only eleven moments in a single year is no easy feat, though some of the events in our selection are obvious choices because of their magnitude. However, some of the less obvious picks (and we are sure there will be suggestions for alternatives in the comments), stem from the theory that 2011 saw moments whose importance has yet to be fully appreciated at this point in time. Enjoy and a Happy New Year to our loyal A&R readers.

Triumph Posts 7% Sales Increase for First Half of 2011 – Announces Production in India

12/08/2011 @ 12:59 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Triumph Posts 7% Sales Increase for First Half of 2011   Announces Production in India Triumph Tiger Explorer 635x444

It may be nearly the end of the year, but the Triumph Motorcycles Group has released its financials for the first half of 2011 (Q1 2011 & Q2 2011). Selling 48,684 units worldwide, Triumph saw a 7% increase in unit sales when compared to the first half of 2010. This sales increase brought an 11% boost in revenue, which totaled £312.4 million. Triumph attributes the sales and revenue boost to the incremental models that have been added to the range, like the Triumph Tiger 800/800XC and Triumph Daytona 675R.

The company’s operating profit also grew over the same time period, with earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) growing from £15.1 million to £22.3 million. This 47% gain in income is quite the coup for the small British brand, which is showing strong performance in an otherwise horrible market. With the 500cc motorcycle market down nearly 50% from where it was before the recession, 2011 has similarly been doom and gloom, down nearly 7% worldwide, though the turbulent sales numbers do appear to be bottoming out.

Photo of the Week: Paddock Etiquette

08/08/2011 @ 9:29 am, by Scott Jones3 COMMENTS

Photo of the Week: Paddock Etiquette Photo of the Week Cal Crutchlow RV sign Catalunya Scott Jones

Where do the MotoGP riders hang out when they aren’t on track, in the box, or in the team hospitality? Probably in their motor homes if the race is a European round. Most of the riders seem to own or lease their own vehicles, though some seem to rent per event. Like the hospitalities and other paddock amenities, RVs do not join the air freight for fly-away races. But for the rounds to which they can travel over land, they park together in a section of the paddock where the riders can escape the media and fans.

As I walked from the P1 parking area toward the media center I passed the paddock of riders’ RVs and saw this sign. I chose not to ask Cal about this as I did not want to get slammed for asking about a touchy subject, but I like the photo because it shows a seldom-seen side of the GP scene.

We tend to think of MotoGP riders as pampered, top-level athletes with entourages and handlers and so on. But it’s not impossible for one to be sitting in his RV, slowly going mad because people keep coming in and slamming the door. Neither is it impossible for someone to point out a misspelling in his warning, which is a nice reminder that in spite of their ungodly abilities on two wheels, they are still people, at least in some ways, just like the rest of us.