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.

Ride in Peace, Motorsport Legend John Surtees

03/10/2017 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

It’s with great sadness today that we report the passing of John Surtees, a legend in both two-wheeled and four-wheeled motorsport. 

Surtees is best known for winning three 350cc Championship titles (1958, 1959, and 1960), four 500cc Grand Prix Championship titles (1956, 1958, 1959, and 1960), as well as the 1964 Formula One World Championship title.

This makes Surtees the only man to win a World Championship in both two-wheeled and four-wheeled racing categories. He was also the first person to will the Senior TT race at the Isle of Man TT, three times in a row.

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Why the Honda Rebel Is The Hot New Bike for 2017

11/24/2016 @ 1:32 am, by Jensen Beeler40 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-500-300-lifestyle-17

The following is our second taste of the exclusive content that A&R Pro members can expect to read on a weekly basis at Asphalt & Rubber. This article focuses on a current and critical event that happened in the industry, which is something A&R Pro content will focus on. If you want to have access to this kind of long-form content after this week’s free trial period, we recommend you sign-up here

New bike season is just about over, now that INTERMOT, EICMA, AIMExpo, and IMS Long Beach trade shows are behind us.

We could still see some new models and concepts debut later this year in Japan, and there is always the possibility of something interesting showing up at the IMS New York show, but those are less popular venues for new bike releases.

In that case then, we can start making some conjecture about the bikes that debuted this year, many of them for the 2017 model year. Let’s start with the best of the best — I am of course talking about the new Honda Rebel models. No? Not the bike you were expecting?

Sure, these unassuming 300cc and 500cc street bikes don’t have the same sex appeal as some of the more wild machines we saw in Germany and Italy, but make no mistake, the revamped Honda Rebel is the most important new bike we have seen debut this year. Let me explain.

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New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

11/17/2016 @ 8:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler54 COMMENTS

2017-honda-rebel-300

It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one.

Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show.

The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin)  and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.

Available starting in April 2017, tentative pricing for the Honda Rebel 300 is set at $4,399, while the Honda Rebel 500 is priced tentatively at $5,999, both sans ABS, though ABS models will be available as well.

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So You Say You Want a Small, Light, & Cheap ADV Bike?

11/18/2015 @ 10:48 am, by Jensen Beeler48 COMMENTS

2016-Benelli-TRK-502

Comments on certain stories are predictable, and as such, we always expect some enduro rider to show up on an ADV story, and lament the weight of the bike in question, calling it too heavy to really go off-road.

That argument is bullshit, of course. Though, it is easier to handle a lightweight machine in the dirt than a heavy one, but you would be surprised at how capable any motorcycle is with a pair of knobby tires on it.

Just in case you are not convinced, we have got a little something for you. Behold the Benelli TRK 502. It’s got the profile of a condor, but the little 500cc adventure-tourer looks like it should do the job you are asking of it.

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2016 Benelli Leoncino Brings Back the Lion Cub

11/18/2015 @ 2:25 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

2016-Benelli-Leoncino

Benelli is not a brand we usually talk about with great reverence, as the Italian company has steadily lost its luster since its acquisition by China’s Qianjiang Group.

Benelli’s motorcycles were never known for being terribly reliable, and unfortunately the artful designs that they exuded have slowly eroded away over time.

The big announcement for Benelli at the 2015 EICMA show is the new Benelli Leoncino, the “lion cub” model that’s rooted in Benelli’s post-WWII history.

This modern take on the classic Benelli Leoncino is an attractive scrambler model, which makes 47hp from its 500cc parallel-twin engine.

This also means that the Benelli Leoncino a well-suited A2 license machine in Europe, and its wire-spoked wheels are 19″ in the front and 17″ in the rear, and should make the Leoncino surprisingly adapt at light off-road use.

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Here are the First Photos of the 2016 Honda CB500F

11/09/2015 @ 1:20 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

Media Advisory: 2016 Honda CB500F Preview Images

Here is your first look at the 2016 Honda CB500F, which like its other Honda brethren, will get a bit of makeover for next year. American Honda is teasing the new model now, but says it won’t release more information until the EICMA show in Milan, on November 17th.

We don’t think Honda will stray too far from the current Honda CB500F, with most of the modifications being cosmetic refinements that enhance the street-standard’s appeal to riders.

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2016 Honda CB500X…With You Guessed It, Modest Changes

10/22/2015 @ 2:21 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

2016-Honda-CB500X-03

For 2016, we know that Honda will bring its big “adventure-tourer” the US market, known to Europeans as the Honda Crosstourer, and introduced to Americans as the Honda VFR1200X. For the 2016 model year, the Crosstourer gets some minor updates, as does its 700cc sibling the Honda NC700X.

So if you’re keeping score, that leaves one more machine to get a modest update for 2016…yup, Honda CB500X, we are talking about you!

A Goldilocks-busting lineup of street-focused ADV machines, the 2016 Honda CB500X rounds out Honda’s lineup with a lightweight and nimble machine that is also good for the A2 licensing countries.

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2016 Honda CBR500R Debuts with Modest Changes

10/15/2015 @ 11:57 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

2016 Honda CBR500R

Not quite “bold new graphics” territory, but the Honda CBR500R will get mostly cosmetic changes for the 2016 model year, as the machine made its world debut at the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida today, as expected.

The most noticeable change comes to the fairings, which get a more aggressive design that Honda says improves airflow over the rider. LEDs will replace the incandescent bulbs on the headlights and taillights, which is an interesting upgrade to make, though a welcomed one.

Other changes include a new exhaust can design, an adjustable front brake lever, improved feel through the gearbox, and a larger fuel tank. We saved the best new feature for last though: a wave ignition key, for smoother function. Welcome to Flavor Country, people.

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Updated Honda CBR500R to Debut at the 2016 AIMExpo

10/08/2015 @ 2:41 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

2016-Honda-CBR500R-teaser-1

The AIMExpo is rapidly approaching, and manufacturers are finally teasing out what new models they will unveil at the American trade and consumer show. Our latest entry comes from American Honda, which is set to make the world debut of the 2016 Honda CBR500R at the show.

Honda says that the CBR500R has been updated for the 2016 model year, with the teaser image showing a slightly different set of bodywork, and a stylized exhaust canister. One can assume that the engine and chassis see minor modifications, if any changes at all.

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The Suter MMX 500 is the Ultimate Two-Stroke Track Bike

09/29/2015 @ 12:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

Suter-MMX-500-two-stroke-gp-race-bike-03

The veil has finally been removed for the relaunching of Suter’s two-stroke grand prix track bike, now named the Suter MMX 500. As expected, the machine gets a modest makeover visually, and appears to remain largely unchanged mechanically.

Officially making 195hp at 13,000 rpm, the Suter MMX 500 weighs a paltry 280 pounds (127kg). For that kind of power-to-weight ratio, you are going to have to spend some serious coin, 120,000 CHF ($123,360 in today’s money). Only 99 examples of this machine will be built – all to customer-spec, of course.

That price tag gets you a 576cc two-stroke V4 engine, that has a 56 x 58.5mm bore and stroke, double counter-rotating crankshafts, and electronic fuel injection. Suter says that power plant is good to get the MMX 500 up to a true 195 mph (310 km/h).

Suter hopes that interested buyers will field their machine in the GP Bike Legends series, which pits two-stroke era racers back on their smokey machines. We’re not so sure about that, but the Suter MMX 500 is easily the ultimate track day queen.

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