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.

Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

11/11/2014 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison.

Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though.

Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers. The styling of the H2R was certainly…eye-catching…with all the winglets and dramatic lines, the H2 street bike is only slightly watered-down from that lurid design.

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The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Seen in This Industry

09/18/2014 @ 1:58 pm, by Jensen Beeler59 COMMENTS

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I have seen a lot of things in the motorcycle industry since I started Asphalt & Rubber, but never before have I seen something like this. During the autumn months, it is not uncommon for A&R to receive tips about new motorcycle models that are about to debut, and today was seemingly no different.

This morning we got an enthusiastic email from a purported regular reader (make that two readers now), asking why we weren’t covering the leaked details on the supercharged Kawasaki H2, which were apparently “going viral” all over the internet, as the email told us. To give us proof of that assertion, they included in the emails links to a Facebook page for a new web forum for the H2, which is where the leak apparently occurred.

A quick check on our massive RSS feed (roughly 600 publications now) showed the viral story had only been picked up by one other publication, Motorcycle.com. MO ran the story with the headline “Inside Info About Kawasaki’s Radical H2 Sportbike?” — which had been written by the ever loveable “Motorcycle.com Staff” author, and qualified with the profession’s ubiquitous “?” phrasing.

Our friends at MO certainly do a bit of traffic (I say that with sincerity), though I normally wouldn’t use a single publication covering a story as an indication of that story going viral, but ok whatever…hyperbole is part of the game.

Like any good editor though, I dove into the story deeper. What I found has me supremely worried.

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A Brief Glimpse of the Kawasaki H2 in Action

09/16/2014 @ 11:12 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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At the pace Kawasaki is going, it looks to be a long, painful, drawn-out debut for the Kawasaki H2. We’re six videos in now, and not much about the supercharged sport bike has been revealed. Sure, we’ve heard the sound of the bike’s centrifugal supercharger and inline-four engine, and we have gotten a glimpse at the H2’s lines, but our appetite desires more.

Today won’t be that satiation, though we do get to “see” the Kawasaki H2 for the first time…as it does triple-figures past the camera. Once again, Kawasaki takes off another piece of clothing in this two-wheeled burlesque show, yet manages not to show us anything worth the excitement.

We will likely just have to wait until September 28th, when the Kawasaki H2 officially breaks cover, ahead of the INTERMOT show.

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The Most Important Thing about the Kawasaki H2?

09/11/2014 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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The supercharged Kawasaki H2 teasers continue to come from Team Green, though none since the “sound video” have really given anything away about the new sport bike. Today’s video, the fifth installment, doesn’t really whet our appetite either, though we thought we’d share it for one good reason, the Kawasaki River Mark logo.

There is something fundamental that motorcycle enthusiasts have to understand about the Japanese manufacturers, and that is the fact that their motorcycle business constitutes a very small portion of the companies’ overall operations and incomes.

Historically, the motorcycle divisions of the Big Four have been the epicenter for corporate bragging between these Japanese conglomerates — they told all of Japan, “look what we can do.”

In the case of Kawasaki, it is truly only a small part of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which builds ships, heavy equipment, aerospace parts, trains, and even parts for nuclear power plants. There aren’t too many industries where Kawasaki doesn’t have an interest, and its motorcycle division is where it shows off its technological prowess…at least, that’s how it used to be.

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Our First Glimpse of the Supercharged Kawasaki H2

09/08/2014 @ 12:42 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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At the end of this month, Kawasaki is set to debut a supercharged sport bike, which the Japanese company says will be a game-changing event.

We’ve already seen the Kawasaki H2’s supercharged inline-four engine, as well as the supercharger’s patent, and Team Green has even been kind enough to send us the H2’s exhaust note as well.

Continuing to tease the new Ninja’s debut video short web videos, Kawasaki is finally giving us an idea of what to expect visually from the new H2.

Making an homage to the big-displacement motorcycle of Kawasaki’s past, you’ll want to watch the video after the jump. We’ve enhanced a screen grab for you as well.

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Listen to the Sound of the New Supercharged Kawasaki H2

09/03/2014 @ 9:54 am, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

kawasaki-supercharged-engine

Continuing to build the buzz around its newest sport bike, Kawasaki has sent us a sound clip of the new H2 motorcycle, which the company will debut at the upcoming INTERMOT show.

Team Green has been pretty tight-lipped about the Kawasaki H2, though there have been plenty of clues sprinkled around for us to suss out that it will be a sport bike with a supercharged inline-four engine.

Listening to the provided sound clip seems to confirm our notion that Kawasaki’s new supercharger system is at work.

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The New Supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 is Coming Soon

09/01/2014 @ 9:39 am, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

1974-kawasaki-h2

Kawasaki is teasing a new model today, which it will unveil at the upcoming INTERMOT show in October. Called the Kawasaki H2, the name harkens back to a pivotal time in Kawasaki’s motorcycle history, where the Japanese company made one of the most highly regarded line of sport bikes of its time.

While the video itself reveals very little in information, and only a couple looks at the machine, the teaser website provides us with a little more information.

Hidden in the website is the following phrase: “The Ninja H2 was not designed with meeting regulations a primary concern. Kawasaki’s latest flagship is the result of a pure exercise in pushing the limits of motorcycle technology with the goal of creating the ideal road sports bike.”

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