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.

Husqvarna 701 Enduro Coming for 2016

09/08/2015 @ 1:04 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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I had the supreme pleasure of being a guest at the KTM factory last week, touring the Austrian company’s headquarters at Mattighofen.

Seeing some things that I should have perhaps not have seen, Asphalt & Rubber can now confirm two things: the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto looks awesome in person, and that there will be a Husqvarna 701 Enduro for the 2016 model year.

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Details on the Victory’s Electric Race Bike for the IOMTT

05/27/2015 @ 1:45 pm, by Jensen Beeler23 COMMENTS

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News that Victory Motorcycles will be racing at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, in the TT Zero event no less, is still taking time to process. It’s a big deal for the Manx road race, and an even bigger deal to the American brand.

If you have been following the electric motorcycle scene, Victory’s race bike should look familiar, as its based off the Brammo Empulse RR.

Exactly what changes Victory will have at the Isle of Man have been a mystery, but our sources have given us some insight into the progress Brammo has made in its extended off-season.

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Cristiano Silei Becomes Dainese’s New CEO

04/07/2015 @ 11:25 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Our sources are reporting that Cristiano Silei, former Ducati VP of Sales and Marketing, has been tapped to become the new CEO at Dainese S.p.A.

Silei will takeover the head position from Frederico Minoli, who many Italian motorcycle fans know as the former CEO of Ducati Motor Holding.

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LEAKED: Here is the 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse

02/06/2015 @ 11:33 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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Cruisers aren’t really our forté, here at Asphalt & Rubber, but breaking stories is…so, without all the typical fanfare, we bring you the first full photos of the upcoming 2016 Indian Chief Dark Horse.

The Stead is murdered out and visually appealing, with black engine covers, black fenders, black forks…hell, even the tires are black. Under the hood is Indian’s Thunder Stroke 111 engine, which is an air-cooled 1,811cc v-twin good for 73hp and 100 lbs•ft.

More technical features include ABS as standard, a keyless ignition system, cast wheels, and a solo seat. Our Bothan Spies suggest an MSRP of $17,000, and more accessories (all black, natch) than you can fit into the belly of a Tauntaun.

Expect to see the Indian Chief Dark Horse launch officially on February 13th elsewhere.

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Technical Specifications of the MV Agusta Stradale 800

10/30/2014 @ 10:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Earlier today, we showed you the first photo of the MV Agusta Stradale 800. Essentially an MV Agusta Rivale with touring bags and a windscreen, the technical specifications of the MV Agusta Stradale tell a slightly different story though.

The biggest different between the Rivale and the Stradale comes from the 798cc three-cylinder engine, which is down 10hp, and thus makes 115hp at 11,000 rpm. The power disadvantage seems to come from a lower rev limit — a simple but effective way to differentiate the Stradale from the Rivale to consumers.

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LEAKED: First Photo of the MV Agusta Stradale 800

10/30/2014 @ 7:06 am, by Jensen Beeler15 COMMENTS

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Our Bothan spies are hard at work, ahead of this year’s EICMA show, and thus we have another leaked photo for your viewing pleasure. Giving us our first glimpse at the rumored MV Agusta Stradale 800, we can see that Varese is borrowing heavily from Ducati’s playbook.

If the Rivale was MV Agusta’s response to the Ducati Hypermotard, then the Stradale is the company’s riff on the Ducati Hyperstrada, as our photo shows what appears to be a Rivale with bags and a windscreen attached.

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Ducati Scrambler Will Be “Made in Thailand”

10/20/2014 @ 2:16 pm, by Jensen Beeler28 COMMENTS

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Almost four years ago, we reported on Ducati opening a new assembly plant in Thailand. The move, which peeved Ducati’s factory workers, would see bikes destined for the Southeast Asian market assembled in the Thai plant, thus side-stepping many of the region’s aggressive tariffs on motorcycles.

Nearing the end of 2014 now, and our Bothan Spies report that the Ducati Scrambler models will be the first motorcycles assembled in Ducati’s Thai plant that will then be shipped to the world market (sans the European market, which will get bikes still from Bologna, according to Moto.it) — a move that comes right after Ducati reached a new contract with its workers and unions, which sees the factory employees working fewer hours at higher wages.

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LEAKED: First Photos of the MV Agusta Dragster RR

10/19/2014 @ 2:49 pm, by Jensen Beeler29 COMMENTS

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MV Agusta had us guessing as to what the Varese company would be debuting at the upcoming EICMA show, though the latest video from the company seems to clearly show that a Dragster RR will be coming.

A built up version of the Dragster 800, the MV Agusta Dragster RR features Kineo wheels, new paint, and we presume some sort of launch control mechanism.

We expect the MV Agusta Brutale Dragster RR to officially debut a day before EICMA starts, as MV Agusta usually holds a press event on the Monday before the show.

You don’t have to wait that long though, as we have 18 high-resolution photos sent to us by our Bothan Spies, who seem to be busy little Bothans, as our friends at Nieuwsmotor also appear to have received these shots (some different, some the same).

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Ducati 1299 Will Have “Tiptronic-Like” Shifting

10/16/2014 @ 8:05 am, by Jensen Beeler27 COMMENTS

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If there is a common thread for Ducati’s upcoming EICMA reveal, it is the influence and benefits of owner Audi AG. We have already seen the German car manufacturer’s variable valve timing technology find its way into the Testastretta engine, in the form of Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT).

Our sources say that the all-new Ducati Multistrada, which will debut in just a few weeks’ time, will be the first model equipped with DVT. While Ducati ups its ante in the ADV market, our Bothan spies have tipped us off to another piece of Audi tech that will find its way onto a Ducati motorcycle, as the 1299 will received a “Tiptronic-like” gearbox that allows for touch-button upshifts and downshifts.

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New Ducati 1299 Gets +100cc, While 1299R Gets None

10/13/2014 @ 1:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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For 2014, Ducati is giving the Panigale a bit of a model update, and thanks to an ill-framed photo from the Ducati North America dealers’ meeting, we know that the new superbike will be called by the 1299 designation.

The upgrade in number caused some confusion though, as Ducati has a mixed history of matching designation numbers to actual displacement sizes. Hoping to clear up the confusion and speculation, we received some details from our Bothan spy network.

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