Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Video: Kawasaki at the Isle of Man TT

07/24/2014 @ 12:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Ballaugh-Bridge-Richard-Mushet-23

Kawasaki had a good outing at the 2014 Isle of Man TT, scoring a win in the Sidecar class (Dave Molyneux), a podium in the Superstock class (Dean Harrison), and a clean sweep of the Lightweight TT (Dean Harrison, James Hillier, and James Cowton).

Team Green’s results may not displace the dominance by Honda at the Isle of Man, though Big Red’s TT reign is certainly under fire, as BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are all looking for a piece of the Manx pie.

Recapping its fortnight at the Isle of Man TT, Kawasaki has put together a nice video about its riders. We have roughly a year to wait until the next TT, so we will have to rely on videos like these to manage our appetite until then.

Continue Reading

Trackside Tuesday: Out with the Old?

06/17/2014 @ 3:18 pm, by Richard Mushet2 COMMENTS

dean-harrison-ballaugh-bridge-photo-merge-Richard-Mushet

With Michael Dunlop’s second successive year taking the lion’s share of silverware at the TT, a changing of the guard appears to be taking place as a new generation of riders lay claim to the podium places on the famous Mountain Course.

Debut victories by James Hillier and Dean Harrison, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and John McGuinness’ pair of solitary trips to the top step of the podium in the same years appear to confirm this.

Before any cries of ageism are thrown in my direction, the age of a rider bears no relation to whether they belong in the old or new guard. Experience around the course is what separates the old from the new.

With over 200 apexes to learn and countless lumps, bumps and cambers to memorise, it’s believed by many who have raced it, that the Mountain course takes years to truly learn, even with the advent of HD-quality on-board videos to study.

Continue Reading

Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Mugello

06/12/2014 @ 3:49 pm, by Tony Goldsmith3 COMMENTS

living-the-dream-mugello-tony-goldsmith-18

When the calendar for the 2014 MotoGP season was announced one race immediately jumped out, Mugello.

This would probably not be for the reason that everyone would assume, after all Mugello is one of the most popular races on the calendar. It stood out as it was bang in the middle of the Isle of Man TT races.

While I really enjoy photographing MotoGP, my passion is, and always will be, the Isle of Man TT. In fact had it been any race other than Mugello, I may have decided to stay at home. But it wasn’t, so the decision was made, after all, how could I shoot a MotoGP season and not go to Mugello?

Continue Reading

Trackside Tuesday: Anstey Ups the Ante

06/10/2014 @ 2:52 pm, by Richard Mushet1 COMMENT

trackside-tuesday-bruce-anstey-lap-record-tires

Now the dust has begun to settle on this year’s Tourist Trophy, the obvious headlines are taking up most of the page space in the motorcycle press. Michael Dunlop’s quadruple wins, John McGuinness’ hand injury issues, Dave Molyneux’s 17th victory, and any potential speculation and hearsay that they believe print-worthy dominates the news.

After an interrupted week of practice, due to weather and on-course incidents, Michael Dunlop laid his intentions down for all to see by breaking McGuinness’ long-standing lap record on the first two laps of the race at 131.730mph and 131.810mph.

Riding the Superbike-spec BMW S1000RR that was deemed to be the unknown element in Dunlop’s fortnight-long campaign at the TT, Michael broke his rivals and silenced the doubters before he had even completed his first pit stop. These laps bettered the lap record that had stood since John McGuinness set the marker of 131.671 mph during the 2013 Senior race.

While much of the focus was on Michael’s cruise to victory over Guy Martin and Connor Cummins, Bruce Anstey was wrestling his way to the fastest-ever lap of the Mountain Course by bettering Dunlop’s freshly-set lap record by over three seconds.

Continue Reading

Teaser: Baron von Grumble Goes to the Isle of Man TT

06/09/2014 @ 12:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Baron-von-Grumble-isle-of-man-tt-teaser

My sleep schedule is almost back to normal, so that must mean that Asphalt & Rubber has just about wrapped up our 2014 Isle of Man TT coverage. After a great fortnight of TT racing, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our favorite YouTube personality, Baron von Grumble, was able to witness the Isle of Man TT in person as well, him with his video cameras in tow.

You might remember The Baron from his misadventures off-roading on a Suzuki GXR-1000 a couple years ago. Since then, His Lordship has become one of motorcycling’s most popular video bloggers — I wonder how many marketing executives in the motorcycles business could name the industry’s top five blogs and YouTube channels? Clearly Dainese and AGV can, since they helped bring Von Grumble to the Rock. Good on them.

The plan is for more videos from the Isle of Man TT trip to come forth from Von Grumble. If they are anything like this teaser (after the jump), then we are in for a real treat. I’ve played this probably 10 times so far. Nice work fella!

Continue Reading

Michael Dunlop Wins Joey Dunlop TT Championship, Again

06/09/2014 @ 12:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Grandstand-Tony-Goldsmith-09

Winning four of the five major solo races, Michael Dunlop easily took the Joey Dunlop TT Championship this year, and further solidified his supremacy at the Isle of Man TT. Last year’s winner as well, many regard Michael Dunlop as having taken over John McGuinness’ place as King of the Mountain.

McPint lovers might take issue with that statement, seeing how McGuinness came to the 2014 IOMTT with a wrist injury, and thus was not at the top of his game. Whoever you pick though, there can be no denying that Michael Dunlop is on a tear, especially when paired with the BMW S1000RR.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge with Richard Mushet

06/08/2014 @ 5:13 am, by Richard Mushet3 COMMENTS

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Ballaugh-Bridge-Richard-Mushet-09

For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.

After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.

From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.

For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.

The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 4:52 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Ballaugh Bridge & Ballacrye with Tony Goldsmith

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Grandstand-Tony-Goldsmith-05

The day dawned bright and sunny for the final day of racing at TT 2014. The choice of location for the Lightweight TT was the legendary jump at Ballaugh Bridge, where I found fellow Asphalt & Rubber photographer Richard Mushet enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Once the Lightweight race was finished I jumped into the car and headed a mile or so down the road to the Ballacrye jump for the Senior TT.

I am told that on a superbike the riders take the jump flat out in 5th gear which would be in the region of 160mph. To see a superbike leap through the air at that speed only a few feet away is mind blowing.

After witnessing that, and 3 of the 6 laps Senior TT laps, I packed up and drove back to Douglas to make it just in time for the final podium celebrations of TT 2014.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

06/08/2014 @ 3:12 am, by Tony GoldsmithComments Off on IOMTT: Union Mills & Grandstand with Tony Goldsmith

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Union-Mills-Tony-Goldsmith-02

I decided prior to the start of the second sidecar race that I wanted to get to the grandstand for the podium. Photographing a TT podium does place some restrictions on where to shoot the race, while still enabling you to get away.

After a bit of deliberation I decided on the bridge at Union Mills. This is a popular spot, particularly for the solos, as you can catch them leaned over with the back wheel popping off the ground as they go over the bridge.

It can also be good for the sidecars, as the front runners just take off as they hit the bridge. If you time it right you can catch them with all 3 wheels off the ground.

Once the leaders had gone through on the final lap, it was time to jump in the car and head to the grandstand to get the podium shots.

Continue Reading

IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

06/07/2014 @ 11:02 pm, by Richard MushetComments Off on IOMTT: Kirk Michael with Richard Mushet

2014-Isle-of-Man-TT-Kirck-Michael-Richard-Mushet-06

Due to the weather, another postponed race yesterday (Wednesday), meant that I had the opportunity to shoot the second sidecar race and a couple of practice sessions from another location.

Looking for a place I hadn’t been to before, I thought that the backdrop of Kirkmichael village would make for a dramatic image that really shows off the spectacle of the Mountain course.

Accelerating through the village, between rows of houses only a yards away from the curb, the exhaust notes reverberate down the road, giving any spectators an aural treat that will raise the hairs on the back of their neck and arms.

A fairly straightforward place to shoot from, this public viewing point gave me a chance to play around with different ways to frame the riders and really try to convey the experience of watching the TT from the roadside.

Continue Reading