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.

Husqvarna Two-Strokes Get Fuel-Injection Too

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Husqvarna will be following suit with its Austrian sibling, and adding fuel-injection to several of its two-strokes enduro motorcycle for the 2018 model year. After a long history of rumors and development, KTM finally debuted fuel injection for a production two-stroke model just a few weeks ago, using the technology on two of its upcoming enduro models, the KTM 250 EXC TPI and KTM 300 EXC TPI. Husqvarna will use the same technology for its own motorcycles in the same segments, announcing today the the all-new 2018 Husqvarna TE 250i and 2018 Husqvarna TE 300i enduro models with transfer port injection.

Opinion: The Danger of Expanding the MotoGP Calendar

It is looking increasingly like the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand will be added to the MotoGP calendar for the 2018 season. I understand from sources that there was a significant hurdle to be overcome: circuit title sponsor Chang is a major beer brand in Thailand, and a rival to the Official MotoGP Beer Singha, also a major beer brand in Thailand and further abroad. The race can only happen if a compromise has been found to accommodate this conflict. This is good news for Thailand, and good news for fans in Asia. The World Superbike round at the circuit is always packed, and MotoGP should be even more popular. It is hard to overstate just how massive MotoGP is in that part of the world.

2013 Triumph Bonneville SE

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

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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.

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Triumph Tiger Sport – A 1050 with More…Sport

01/10/2013 @ 2:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

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Although the Triumph Tiger 800 and Triumph Tiger 1200 models are doing well in the market, the British brand from Hinckley doesn’t seem ready to kill the Triumph Tiger 1050, and has instead revised the model for the 2013 model year.

Adding 10hp to the three-cylinder motor (123 hp & 76.7 lbs•ft of torque at the crank now), the renamed Triumph Tiger Sport features a new single-sided swingarm, a slimmer subframe, a revised suspension and geometry, along with redesigned fairings and wheels.

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2013 World Superbike Provisional Calendar v.2

01/03/2013 @ 2:35 pm, by David Emmett5 COMMENTS

The cancelling of the Argentinian round of MotoGP has had a knock-on effect for the World Superbike series as well. The dropping of the race in Argentina caused MotoGP to push its season opener at Qatar back a week to April 7th, which then put it on the same weekend as the World Superbike round scheduled for Aragon on the same date.

To avoid a clash of the two series, the FIM has chosen to move the date of the Aragon WSBK round, moving it back a week in turn to April 14th, filling the gap between the MotoGP rounds at Qatar and Austin.

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A Year in Review with Asphalt & Rubber: 2012

12/31/2012 @ 7:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler17 COMMENTS

It will be a new year soon, and for some of Asphalt & Rubber‘s more international readers, New Year’s Eve may have already given way to New Year’s Day (Happy New Year, if that’s already the case). Going through my RSS feed, it seems obligatory that we make some sort of Happy New Year proclamation, summarize the stories the site has covered, and share some insight on the inner-workings of our operation here at A&R. The Dude abides.

Unsurprisingly, the starting point to our story begins roughly 12 months ago, as with the start of each year I like to look back on the 365 or so days we just completed, and outline my plans for the coming year. Some of that planning is just basic business stuff like benchmarks I hope to achieve with the site traffic, readership, and financials, while the rest of that planning is comprised of stories or events I would like the site to attend and cover.

Four continents, a dozen or so timezones, and more countries than I can remember, the 1,000+ articles written this year on Asphalt & Rubber are truly international in their origin, as are the 4.5+ million of you who came here and read those stores 10 million times. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the site continues to grow in the double digits, with the A&R readership growing another 30% in 2012 over last year.

Pushing over 20 TB (the TB stands for terabytes, or 1,024 gigabytes) of data, those numbers make Asphalt & Rubber not only just the largest motorcycle blog in the United States, but one of the largest in the world — something I find mildly amusing, since yours truly is more than mildly dyslexic.

As for trends, being an online publication means that we are on the front line of watching the motorcycle industry’s adoption of social media, with 10% of our readers finding us on social networks. The real interesting part? This figure is up 40% over last year.

Instead of just listing our top ten or so stories this year, something which most of you could probably guess the list of quite easily, I have tried to cultivate some basic topics from within the industry and the stories that drove those topics this year, as well as some stories that stood out to our editorial eyes. Enjoy them after the jump.

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MV Agusta Motorcycles Get More Expensive for 2013, Again

12/31/2012 @ 11:15 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

It hasn’t even been two months since MV Agusta debuted it line-up of motorcycles for the 2013 model year, but the Italian company is already revising its European pricing ahead of the 2013 bikes’ debut in the coming spring. With most models getting a €200 to €300 boost in MSRP, the only MV’s unaffected by this strange price increase are the base model MV Agusta Brutale 1090 and base model MV Agusta F4.

The three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 and MV Agusta Brutale 675 machines get a €200 kick across the board, while the four-cylinder machines get the €300 price increase. No word as to why MV Agusta is increasing the price (though we can guess that the Varese brand is looking for some more euros on its bottom line).

The price change is an especially strange move after releasing its 2013 line so recently, and shows MV Agusta second-guessing itself on one of the company’s more important decisions. It is not clear at this time how this news will affect pricing in North America, if at all (we suggest contacting your dealer). A full breakdown of the price changes is after the jump.

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Behind the Scenes of the 2013 Pirelli Calendar

12/14/2012 @ 2:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

As far as calendars go, the Pirelli annual is probably the most well-regarded worldwide. Featuring the very best photographers, shooting the very best models, and traveling to the most picturesque locations, Pirelli’s calendar is an exclusive item, with only a handful given to VIP Pirelli customers and celebrities.

A mixture of high-fashion, nudes, and art, names like Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Milla Jovovich, Heidi Klum, Sophia Loren, and Penélope Cruz have graced the pages of the this pin-up style publication.

For 2013 though, the Pirelli calendar is going to look a bit different. For starters, the photographs were taken not by one of the fashion industry’s greats, but instead renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, who is perhaps best known for his photo “Afghan Girl” that made the cover of National Geographic back in June 1985.

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Fewer Than 20 Bikes on the Grid for WSBK Next Year?

12/13/2012 @ 2:54 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

When we talk about shrinking grid sizes, it is usually MotoGP that gets the bulk of our scrutiny; however, some concern is starting to be generated over how large the field will be for the World Superbike Championship next season.

While there were 23 bikes on the starting grid at Phillip Island in 2012, for 2013 that number could well be 19 or less at the season-opener. While there are a number of factors for the smaller grid, it is no small coincidence that WSBK is short the same number of bikes that Effenbert Liberty Racing fielded last season.

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MotoGP: Suzuki Requests to Test in 2013

12/11/2012 @ 1:46 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

Suzuki’s return to the MotoGP Championship continues to gain steam, as the Japanese company has submitted a request to Dorna for testing during the 2013 season. Talking to BBC Sport, Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta said “[Suzuki] are asking us to have some testing during the 2013 season and if everything goes well maybe we will see them in 2014.”

Suzuki is said to be looking to test its GP race bike with the MotoGP field, and perhaps even run a few wild cards in 2013, before launching a full program the following year. Many names have been linked to the Suzuki project, with Randy de Puniet the lastest MotoGP rider to be associated with the team, and tipped to be Suzuki’s test rider.

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2013 MV Agusta Rivale 800 Breaks Cover

11/11/2012 @ 3:08 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

MV Agusta continues to push out details and photos of its 2013 models ahead of next week’s EICMA show, giving us our first proper look of the 2013 MV Agusta Rivale 800. Sharing its 798cc three-cylinder motor with the MV Agusta Brutale 800, the MV Agusta Rivale 800 is the Varese brand’s take on the niche hypermotard market.

Giving us already a glimpse of the MV Agusta Rivale with the company’s concept sketch of the machine, it is clear from the finished product that MV Agusta has channeled a great deal of the Ducati Hypermotard in the Rivale, with the two bike’s sharing a very similar visage.

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Hiroshi Aoyama Back in MotoGP for 2013

11/09/2012 @ 12:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

Forced to go to World Superbike for the 2012 season, Hiroshi Aoyama will return to the big show for the 2013 season, with the Avintia Blusens team. Trading his Honda CBR1000RR superbike for a Kawasaki-powered CRT entry, Aoyama will perhaps miss the days when he was on a Honda RC212V prototype, but certainly won’t miss the Pirelli-shod production machine, which he only managed to race to a 18th place championship points finish.

Entirely unimpressive in WSBK, Aoyama has something that many CRT riders do not: experience on the tricky Bridgestone tires. That fact alone should make Aoyama a potent weapon for the Avintia Blusens squad, which has struggled to develop its CRT entry — due partially to the talent on the machine. With the help of Aoyama’s MotoGP experience, and 250GP Championship title behind him, the BQR team might find some more traction and direction with its work — having Hector Barbera along for the ride as a teammate won’t hurt either.

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