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.

Ronax 500 – Your Modern 500cc Two-Stroke Track Bike

06/08/2014 @ 4:05 am, by Jensen Beeler21 COMMENTS

Ronax 500   Your Modern 500cc Two Stroke Track Bike Ronax 500 launch 06 635x357

After teasing us what looked like a direct knock-off of Valentino Rossi’s NSR500 two-stroke GP bike, complete with vague #46 references, the German project has finally taken the wraps off its Ronax 500 GP street bike.

Making 160hp (@ 11,500 rpm) from its nearly square (54.5 x 54 bore and stroke) 500cc V4 engine, the Ronax 500 also boasts two counter-rotating crankshafts inside its all-aluminum engine block.

Fuel-injected for more rideability, Ronax has programmed the Ronax 500 with a sport and rain ignition map. Upgrading the class GP bike design with modern components, an electric starter and four carbon/kevlar mufflers are part of the Ronax 500’s highlights, while carbon fiber fairings, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes complete the package.

Ronax 500 – Don’t Call It a Honda NSR500 Replica

04/23/2014 @ 11:39 am, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

Ronax 500   Dont Call It a Honda NSR500 Replica Ronax 500 two stroke v4 03 635x423

The folks at Ronax are certainly getting away with not saying much, especially when it comes to their soon-to-be-released Ronax 500 motorcycle. Dressed in a neon yellow cover, limited to only 46 units, and looking suspiciously similar thru the sheet to a Honda NSR500, what Ronax isn’t saying is that its creation is a replica of Valentino Rossi’s last two-stroke race bike (the Honda NSR500), but they are certainly doing everything in their power to convey that very fact.

Since the dawn of the four-stroke era of Grand Prix racing, many old-school GP fans have been left wanting the days of 500cc two-stroke machines, which were known for their razor-thin power bands, lack of electronics, and propensity to launch riders into low-Earth orbit.

The last man to win a GP championship on a 500cc two-stroke machine, Valentino Rossi is of course a crowd favorite – and using his name and history, without actually using it, is a clever (though modestly unethical) way of selling some bikes.

KTM Considering 500cc & 800cc Motorcycles in India?

02/05/2014 @ 6:18 pm, by Aakash Desai11 COMMENTS

KTM Considering 500cc & 800cc Motorcycles in India? ktm lc8 v twin engine 635x635

Capital goes where capital flows, and it seems that India is turning out to be both a huge market expansion and production opportunity for many manufacturers.

As such Stefan Pierer, KTM’s President and CEO, says the Austrian company is considering manufacturing a 500cc and 800c parallel twin motorcycle on the subcontinent sometime in the next three years.

Harley-Davidson Confirms 500cc Model – Electrics Too?

09/03/2013 @ 8:27 am, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Confirms 500cc Model   Electrics Too? harley davidson american legend 635x423

Two years ago I lamented on the fact that Harley-Davidson didn’t have a model under 800cc, which among other things, left the company at odds with its efforts to push into the emerging Indian motorcycle market.

Six-months after I wrote that piece, there seemed to be some hope for the Bar & Shield brand, as rumors began to circulate about a 500cc class motorcycle that was being designed with emerging countries in mind. It would seem now, those rumors were true.

Confirming that Harley-Davidson would soon debut a 500cc class motorcycle for the Indian market, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Chief Operating Officer Matthew Levatich revealed last weekend that the Milwaukee-based company had a 500cc model in an advanced stage of development.

Hinting strongly that the machine would be built in India, and be aimed specifically at that market, Levatich also hedged his bets on the possibility of the model arriving on US soil.

KTM Wants to Race in Moto2 & WSBK – No ROI in MotoGP

07/15/2013 @ 3:15 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

KTM Wants to Race in Moto2 & WSBK   No ROI in MotoGP KTM RC250GP Moto3 Production Racer 635x420

Speaking during an interview with the company’s corporate blog, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke his mind about the current state of international road racing, and KTM’s involvement with both the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships, and their support classes.

Stating that MotoGP lacked any return for the massive monetary investment it would require from the Austrian manufacturer, Pierer did go on to later to praise the Moto2 format as one that he would like to see KTM to compete in, with some changes of course.

Watch: The Unrideables

05/13/2013 @ 11:54 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

Watch: The Unrideables the unrideables 635x423

If you missed the glory days of when Americans dominated Grand Prix motorcycle racing, or simply want to relive the moments from yesteryear, then we have the perfect treat for you this Monday afternoon. A television production by Britain’s ITV4, The Unrideables is a 45-minute trip down memory lane with Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, and many others.

Focusing on the racing from the late-1980’s, we get to hear the riders and journalists of the time recount their victories and defeats on the 500cc two-strone monsters of that era. It is a really well done piece by ITV4, and it is really a shame we can’t get similar programming here in the United States. A big thanks to whomever put it up on YouTube, and thanks to all our tipsters who pointed it out to us.

2013 Honda CB500X – Eats Potholes on a Budget

11/12/2012 @ 1:59 am, by Jensen BeelerComments Off

2013 Honda CB500X   Eats Potholes on a Budget 2013 Honda CB500X 635x476

If you haven’t caught on yet, American Honda has announced a trio of 500cc machines, just ahead of the upcoming EICMA show. Featuring the fully-faired 2013 Honda CBR500R sport bike, and its fairing-less sibling the 2013 Honda CB500F, the slightly taller 2013 Honda CB500X completes the trifecta, and adds an adventure-esque dimension to Honda’s midrange options.

Like the Honda CBR500R & Honda CB500F, the Honda CB500X uses the same modest liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 180° crank, parallel-twin motor that will put down 54hp at the wheel for the US market (tiered-license countries will see a 47hp machine).

A slight variation on the chassis that is shared with the other 500cc machines, the CB500X has a bit more travel to its suspension (5.5″ on the front forks), and the seat height is a full inch higher (31.9″ to be precise). Visually the philosophically similar to the Honda NC700X, the Honda CB500X is also a tad heavier than its relatives, sporting 430 lbs of fully-fuel heft at the curb, which is likely due to its larger 4.5 gallon tank (4.1 gallons on the other models).

Building three motorcycles from one versatile core design, American Honda has some aggressive prices on the CBR500R & CB500F, but the American subsidiary of the Japanese brand has yet to release a price on the CB500x. We would expect something in the $5,000 range though when it hits dealer floors in July 2013, with the ABS version getting a $500 price increase over the base model. Full technical specifications are after the jump.

2013 Honda CB500F – The UJM Returns to America

11/12/2012 @ 1:33 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

2013 Honda CB500F   The UJM Returns to America 2013 Honda CB500F 635x476

Where there is a full-faired 2013 Honda CBR500R, there must be a naked 2013 Honda CB500F — and thus the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) makes a proper return to American soil. Priced at a vey modest $5,499 ($5,999 with ABS brakes), the Honda CB500F is an affordable, dependable, and stylish street-naked or “standard” motorcycle for the masses.

Like the rest of Honda’s 500cc line, the CB500F is based around  a modest liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 180° crank, parallel-twin motor that will put down 54hp at the wheel for the US market (tiered-license countries will see a 47hp machine).

At 420 lbs ready to ride with a full tank of fuel, the 2013 Honda CB500F saves 8 lbs off its clothed sibling (click here to read our full description of the new CBR), with the lack of fairings being the real distinction between the two machines.

Available in either black or pearl white, expect the Honda CB500F to be at your local Honda dealer in April of 2013 (the ABS version is available only in black). Full technical specifications are after the jump.

2013 Honda CBR500R – Priced at $5,999 for the USA

11/12/2012 @ 12:49 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2013 Honda CBR500R   Priced at $5,999 for the USA 2013 Honda CBR500R 635x476

More news on the 2013 Honda CBR500R, as details about Honda’s 498cc paralle-twin budget sport bike continue to unfold. A part of a larger effort to saturate the markets with 500cc-class motorcycles for the price sensitive, we can now confirm that the Honda CBR500R is one of three bikes (checkout the Honda CB500F & Honda CB500X) in the genre that will be coming to the USA next year.

Based around  a modest liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 180° crank, 54 rwhp, parallel-twin motor for the US market (tiered-license countries will see a 47hp machine), the Honda CBR500R is a sporty-styled no thrills sort of motorcycle. A graduation step from the Honda CBR250R, it makes sense then that the CBR500R has twice the cylinders, and thus twice the displacement — but it doesn’t come with twice the price tag.

At $5,999 for the American market, the 2013 Honda CBR500R commands less than a $2,000 premium over the $4,199 CBR250R. That price will go up to $6,499  though if you want the optional ABS package (and we know you do). Click after the jump for full tech specs.

First Official Shots of the 2013 Honda CBR500

11/11/2012 @ 4:53 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

First Official Shots of the 2013 Honda CBR500 2013 Honda CBR500 02 635x459

We are still a few days away from the official unveiling of Honda’s 500cc line-up, which will include the 2013 Honda CBR500, 2013 Honda CB500R, and 2013 Honda CB500X motorcycles. Based around a 469cc parallel-twin motor, Honda’s new mid-range bikes are for the budget-oriented rider, and produced a modest 54 hp in their non-restricted state for tiered-licensed countries (47hp in restricted form).

Expected to be the big new thing from Honda at EICMA, we have seen quite a bit already on the Honda CBR500 and its siblings ahead of their debut at the trade show in Milan, Italy. The Honda CBR500 is the logical progression of the Honda CBR250R, which is a budget-focused single-cylinder sport bike that’s available worldwide, including the US.

We’ll have to wait and see which of the 500cc machines American Honda brings to the USA, but the CBR500 is heavily expected to come to both the American and Canadian markets. Time will tell as to whether the Honda CB500R (not likely) and Honda CB500X (more likely) come to North America as well. Photos after the jump.