Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round, and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event. This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”. A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano. You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Spotted in CARB Filings

We were already tipped off to the Yamaha FJ-09 in Yamaha’s trademark filings with the US government, the bike’s design has also recently been outed in European trademark filings, and now the supposed three-cylinder sport-tourer has been confirmed for 2015 by the California Air Resources Board. Featuring the same displacement as the Yamaha FZ-09, it is a safe bet that Yamaha’s triple goes unchanged for the FJ-09, with the differences between the two bikes likely being mostly aesthetic. The CARB filing also lists two model numbers, which the astute will notice as being two color options for the FJ-09; and not two separate models coming from Yamaha, as other reports have indicated. This is normal from Yamaha North America.

Aprilia Will Return to MotoGP in 2015 with Gresini Racing

It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team. Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.

Q&A: Mike Leitner – Pedrosa’s Crew Chief Talks Strategy

Leitner talks about how Pedrosa was the first rider to realize that pushing hard from the earliest laps could be a profitable strategy, and how other riders have now followed his lead. He talks about the potential and the dangers of the Bridgestone tires, and how crucial the starts have become in MotoGP. What Leitner does not talk about is the possibility that Pedrosa could decide to look for a new crew chief for 2015 and beyond. It was a question I would have liked to have asked, but I was told that the topic was officially off limits, including tangential questions (such as how Leitner felt the crew chief change had worked out for Valentino Rossi). Despite not being able to ask directly about that question, the interview with Leitner provided a fascinating insight into MotoGP racing.

Mercedes-AMG to Take a Minority Interest in MV Agusta?

News of Mercedes-AMG eyeing an acquisition of MV Agusta have been circulating for some time now, likely as the deal has continued to evolve between the two parties. Now, Italy’s reliable Motociclismo is reporting that AMG has agreed to purchase a minority position, likely around 20% of the company, the announcement of which will be made at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. The deal shouldn’t see too much involvement from Mercedes-AMG in the affairs of MV Agusta, however the stock purchase will certainly put some much need capital in the Italian motorcycle company’s coffers.

2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner – More Than an Update

For the 2015 model year, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner is getting a massive update from Big Red. As such, the 800cc V4 engine on the Crossrunner sees more horsepower (104.6 peak) and more mid-range torque added, new design aesthetics, longer suspension (+25mm) , and new wheels and brakes also get updates for 2015. Other highlights for the 2015 Honda VFR800X Crossrunner include Honda’s Selectable Torque Control system (HTSC), ABS brakes, full LED lighting, self-cancelling indicators, and heated grips, which Honda hopes will help ADV buyers consider the Japanese brand. With these changes, the 2015 Honda Crossrunner pushes further into the adventure side of the touring equation, making the Crossrunner an attractive sport/ADV model from Honda.

Matchless Model X Reloaded – Blending Old with New

Two years ago we spoke of the rebirth of the Matchless motorcycle brand, and today we see the first fruits of that company’s labor. Debuting three renderings that depict a future model, we get to see our first glimpse of the Matchless Model X Reloaded – a motorcycle that blends both the modern technology of today with the iconic lines of the British marque’s past. Borrowing its name from the Matchless Model X, the Model X Reloaded keeps some of the 1920′s motorcycle’s aesthetic, helping connect the brand of the past to the company of the future. Other details are thin, though we do know that the Matchless Model X Reloaded will have an S&S X-Wedge v-twin motor with 1,916cc of displacement.

Honda Is Recalling 126,000 Goldwings

American Honda has filed a recall with NHTSA, which sees the recall of 126,000 Honda Goldwing motorcycles. The recall comes about because the rear brake of the Honda Goldwing may drag after the brakes have been released. With 533+ bikes already experiencing the problem, Honda’s recall affects GL1800 bikes built between 2001 and 2010, and also affects GL1800A bikes built between 2001 and 2005. Since dragging the rear brake could cause a crash, and because the added heat generation could cause a fire (four instances have already occurred), Honda has recalled the Goldwing, though has not determined a remedy at this time for the situation.

TrakTape – Track Riders, You’ll Want to See This

Straight from the department of “now why didn’t I think of that” we bring you the miracle of TrakTape. Pre-cut model-specific adhesive covers for your headlight, tail light, and signals, TrakTape makes getting your bike onto the track a snap, and looks aces in the process. For now, TrakTape seems to only have a few Ducati models in its arsenal, though it seems logical to see other makes and model hitting their store in the future. At $20/sheet, you might balk at the price, though consider that a roll of good gaffer tape runs close to $30 — so, the four pack at $70 might make more sense for the budget racers. The only thing we’d like to see from TrakTape would be sheets for just headlights, just tail lights, just signals, etc. I can remember taping my bike’s headlight and tail light all the time, but usually removed the signals.

Yamaha MT-09 Triple Cross Over Concept by Oberdan Bezzi

We’re really digging the FZ-07/FZ-09 based concepts from Oberdan Bezzi, if you haven’t noticed. It is probably because the FZ-09 is such an affordable, yet potent package, from Yamaha that it begs to be built-up and modded upon. We’ve already seen street tracker and world crosser concepts from Bezzi, and this “Triple Cross Over” design builds upon the same themes as before. We already know that Yamaha has gotten the hint, and is expected to show a TDM-style version of the FZ-09/MT-09 at this year’s trade shows, but here is another design to whet our appetites and pique our imaginations. The Triple Cross Over fills the gap left by the upcoming TDM model, and is more of a scrambler than an ADV bike.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Marc Marquez – 9/10

01/06/2014 @ 8:16 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Marc Marquez   9/10 marc marquez laguna seca motogp scott jones 635x423

As 2014 gets underway, we start our build up towards the upcoming MotoGP season. This starts an all-week look back at the performance of the riders in 2013, rating the top ten in the championship, as well as exceptional performers from last year. Later this month, we will start to look forward, highlighting what we can expect of the season to come, both in terms of riders and the new regulations for 2014. The new season starts here.

Marc Marquez – Championship Position: 1st – Rating: 9/10

How would Marc Marquez fare in MotoGP? It was the question on everybody’s lips at the start of 2013, as the young Spaniard left the class he had dominated to play with the big boys. It would be Marquez’s moment of truth: throughout his career in the junior classes, he had always been in the best teams.

Many outside observers also claimed he had been on the best bike in Moto2. In 2013, Moto2 teams who had competed against him were free to concede that Marquez had won despite his Suter, not because of it.

Their words were backed by Marquez’s action. Accepted wisdom holds that a rookie year is for learning, for getting to grips with a MotoGP bike, having a few big crashes, chasing the odd podium and maybe even a win. Marquez did all that and more, but how he did it marked him out as one of a kind.

His first podium came in his first race, the Spaniard benefiting from problems Dani Pedrosa suffered with the dusty Qatar surface. His first win came a race later, smashing what would be one of many records in MotoGP.

Youngest race winner, youngest champion, youngest rider to set a fastest lap, youngest polesitter, youngest back-to-back winner, youngest to win four races in a row, most wins as a rookie, most poles as a rookie, highest points total for a rookie; the list goes on and on. Marquez broke records held by Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts, Mike Hailwood. These are very big boots to fill, yet fill them he did.

Harley-Davidson Q3 Sales Up 20% in the US, 15% Abroad

10/30/2013 @ 4:26 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Q3 Sales Up 20% in the US, 15% Abroad Harley Davidson FLHTK 635x423

Signs of life are finally coming back to the motorcycle industry, as Harley-Davidson has shown strong gains in the third fiscal quarter of 2013. Posting an increase in sales of 15.5% worldwide, Harley-Davidson grew 20.1% in the United States the last three months, due mainly to its “Project Rushmore” line of water-cooled motorcycles.

“Rider response to the 2014 motorcycles we introduced August 18 was extremely positive. In fact, initial retail sales of the new Project Rushmore motorcycles sparked the largest year-over-year new model year sales increase in two decades,” explained Harley-Davdison CEO Keith Wandell in the company’s investor communique.

US Motorcycles Sales Decline 5.2% for the First-Half of 2013

08/01/2013 @ 8:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

US Motorcycles Sales Decline 5.2% for the First Half of 2013 united states text map 2 635x425

Don’t call it a comeback, because even though the US motorcycle industry beat the Motorcycle Industry Council’s projections last year, sales so far for 2013 are looking less than stellar in the first-half of the year.

Down 5.2% from January to June, motorcycle sales were hit mostly by abysmal losses in the scooter segment (23.3%), and helped along by modest losses in the on-road segment (5.3%). Adding more to the misery, dual-sports suffered a 3.4% drop in the first half of the year, though surprisingly off-road bikes showed a gain, increasing 5.4% over Q1 & Q2.

Trackside Tuesday: Do Motorcycles Dream of Electric Sheep?

06/18/2013 @ 1:09 pm, by Richard Mushet14 COMMENTS

Trackside Tuesday: Do Motorcycles Dream of Electric Sheep? OSU Rob Barber TT Zero Isle of Man TT Richard Mushet 635x424

Now the dust has settled on another TT, a look back over the numerous pages of lap times and race results can only tell us so much. With so many incredible stories to be told it is difficult to choose one for this article.

From the blatantly obvious, such as; Dunlop’s incredible four wins, McGuinness’ new outright lap record or Ian Lougher rounding out his career on the Mountain course, which spanned four decades, tallying nine wins plus an additional nineteen podiums.

To the equally awe-inspiring, like; David Johnson’s impressive return to the island on privateer machinery, Dave Madsen-Mygdal completing his 100th TT race, and the first ever Chinese competitor at the TT, the likeable Cheung Wai-On.

Above all these, one team’s story caught my eye – the Buckeye Current team from the Ohio State University’s College of Engineering, whose Honda CBR1000RR-based electric motorcycle was tackling the Mountain course.

Consisting of a number of students from various science and engineering programs, the team’s RW-2 bike was the sole American entry from an educational institute and was pitting itself against three other teams from similar institutes and six non-collegiate teams from across the globe.

Ducati Q1 2013 Sales Drop 5% – Audi Dishes the Details

05/08/2013 @ 6:09 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

Ducati Q1 2013 Sales Drop 5%   Audi Dishes the Details Ducati 1199 Panigale R COTA 635x423

Ducatisti: do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is that the market for motorcycles 500cc and up is down 17% worldwide for the first quarter of this year, which means the “good” news is that Ducati is only down 5% for Q1 2013.

Not exactly the start out of the gate that Audi was hoping for its newly acquired two-wheeled brand, but what are you going to do? Western Europe is a mess, with Spain and Italy continuing to go down like a…well, you know.

Even the American market is on a slight decline for the first quarter, after showing signs of hitting rock bottom earlier last year. Accordingly Ducati sold 1,605 units in the USA — it’s the largest market by volume.

So why are we a bit giddy here at Asphalt & Rubber? Well while we don’t enjoy the misery of motorcycle brands, the fact that Ducati Motor Holding is now under the Audi AG umbrella means that we get far more detailed quarterly and yearly reports from the two-wheeled marque.

Want to know which Ducati model is out-selling them all? How about how many of each model were produced versus how many were sold? We’ve got the digits after the jump.

2013 April Fools Motorcycle Pranks Round-Up

04/01/2013 @ 5:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2013 April Fools Motorcycle Pranks Round Up Maxime Berger Supersonic Ducati 635x462

April 1st is our most-favorite day of the year, as it is the Christmas Day for journalists far and wide — and like Christmas, it is better to give, than it is to receive. The motorcycle industry gives plenty on this day, and we thought we’d share with you the April Foolery that caught our attention this most glorious of days.

Here at Asphalt & Rubber, David’s fiction on the upcoming changes to the World Superbike Championship reigned supreme, and the bit about adventure-touring bikes replacing the World Supersport series was especially amusing.

We also got some interesting texts, emails, and comments about BRD’s new fund-raising plan, as well as the AMA Pro Racing’s supposed homologation of the Aprilia RSV4 Factory for supersport racing. We assure you that while they may mimic something close to what is possible in reality, neither stories are true…as far as we know.

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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LCR Honda’s 2013 MotoGP Team Livery

03/25/2013 @ 1:04 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

LCR Hondas 2013 MotoGP Team Livery LCR Honda Stefan Bradl MotoGP livery 2013 04 635x422

Every year we find ourselves covering the launch of LCR Honda’s team livery and subsequent photo shoot. Maybe it is because we love Lucio Cecchinello’s approach to localized sponsorship for his MotoGP team, but more likely it is the attention to detail and artisan approach the Italian brings to his satellite Honda squad.

This isn’t just a motorcycle team, it is a family…a family of very passionate motorcyclists, and it shows. For 2013, Stefan Bradl is back, and will be campaigning the season with a factory-spec Honda RC213V race bike. More photos after the jump.

MV Agusta Rivale Production in the Second-Half of 2013

03/15/2013 @ 3:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

MV Agusta Rivale Production in the Second Half of 2013 MV Agusta Rivale 800 635x423

Breaking cover in November 2012, the MV Agusta Rivale 800 is the Italian brand’s newest addition to its motorbike family, and features a new 800cc three-cylinder engine, which also powers the mid-range MV Agusta Brutale 800.

Whereas most brands debut a model at the INTERMOT or EICMA shows in the fall, and then release that models in the spring of the following year, MV Agusta has a slightly different timeline, which could make things interesting for when the Rivale actually makes it onto dealership floors.

2013 Triumph Speed Triple SE

03/01/2013 @ 3:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

2013 Triumph Speed Triple SE 2013 Triumph Speed Triple SE 01 635x423

The second bike getting Hinckley’s special edition treatment, the 2013 Triumph Speed Triple SE is as you would expect: the British brand’s venerable full-figured streetfighter machine, with revised paint and parts. Getting a distinct blue frame and swingarm, the Triumph Speed Triple SE also sports a “matte graphite” paint job with blue decals.

Other changes include a bevy of carbon fiber parts (mudguard, side pods, tank cover panel, and inner radiator panels), along with color-matched fly screen, belly pan, and seat cowl. Triumph also saw it fit to add a clear taillight assembly, as well as new covers for the clutch, alternator, and front sprocket.

With loads of other detail-finishes, you can get your first look at the 2013 Triumph Speed Triple SE on May 1st at your local Triumph dealer, but you better bring $13,399 with you if you want to take the bike home with you.

2013 Triumph Bonneville SE

03/01/2013 @ 3:00 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

2013 Triumph Bonneville SE 2013 Triumph Bonneville SE 02 635x423

For the 2013 model year, the Hinckley brand is bringing out some more special edition model goodness, and first up is the 2013 Triumph Bonneville SE. The equation is simple, take one Triumph Bonneville, add a new red frame, new paint, a new headlight, a black pillion grab rail, and presto, you have the Triumph Bonneville SE.

A unique twist to Triumph’s 865cc retro-classic, the design gives us the same feeling as the Moto Guzzi V7 Clubman Racer, with its black, chrome, and candy-apple red tricolor paint scheme. If the headlight looks familiar to you, that’s because it comes from the Triumph Thruxton. Triumph has also added a unique black vinyl seat with red stitching. Available May 1st, the 2013 Triumph Bonneville SE will sell for $7,999 in the USA.