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.

2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR – The Bike We Asked For

11/09/2016 @ 3:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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When we rode the MV Agusta Brutale 800 earlier this year, we called it the best motorcycle ever to come out of Varese, Italy. The current Brutale 800 is finally a motorcycle that comes from fully baked from the MV Agusta factory, and it shows what the Italian company can accomplish.

Riding through the MV Agusta Brutale 800 at the press launch, our only lament was our desire for more power from the 800cc three-cylinder engine. Thankfully, the Italians have heard our request.

Debuting at the EICMA show in Milan, the 2017 MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR comes with all the refinements we praised in the Brutale 800 model, and adds a 140hp peak power figure to the mix (63 lbs•ft @ 10,100 rpm), along with new forged wheels and updated electronics.

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Watch the Ducati 1299 Superleggera Shred a Race Track

11/09/2016 @ 12:41 am, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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The Ducati 1299 Superleggera is a truly amazing motorcycle. With its carbon fiber chassis, 215hp engine, and state-of-the-art electronics, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents everything that the Italian brand is capable of achieving within the superbike format.

More importantly though, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera represents all that the Italian brand can achieve, when it decides to do so. That’s an interesting point to remember with this limited edition machine, as you watch it rip around a race track.

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera’s creation doesn’t come about from some loophole in the rules to some racing organization. It doesn’t exist because it will an incredibly profitable endeavor for Borgo Panigale.

Instead, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera simply is because it can be. It is a line in the sand for Ducati, showing what the Italian brand is capable of creating. If this sounds like hyperbole, it should. We are off the charts now, and in new waters.

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Vespa Elettrica – An Icon Goes Electric

11/08/2016 @ 11:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

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When it comes to scooters, no name is better known than Vespa, as the iconic Italian brand is recognizable around the world, with 18 million scooters carrying the Vespa name in cities globally.

It is of note then that Vespa has jumped onto the electric bandwagon, and unveiled its first electric scooter this week at EICMA. As such, we get our first look today of the Vespa Elettrica, which will be for sale in the latter part of 2017.

Not quite ready for production at this time though, Vespa says that it will be working with leaders in the electric drivetrain business to develop the Elettrica, making the scooter shown at EICMA more of a concept than a finalized vehicle.

However, the Italian company promises that the Vespa Elettrica will continue to bring the attributes the brand is known best for – which in our mind hinges mostly on its classic Italian styling. To that goal, we say mission accomplished.

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KTM 390 Duke Gets a Facelift for 2017

11/08/2016 @ 6:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler14 COMMENTS

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The KTM 390 Duke has sold like hotcakes since its 2013 debut, and now the pint-sized street bike is getting a facelift for the 2017 model year.

As has been the case with many of KTM’s new model releases, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will get a similar kendo-styled LED headlight design, which we have already seen debut on the updated KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the recently released KTM 1290 Adventure R.

Bodywork changes come to the 2017 KTM 390 Duke as well, which give the entry-level machine a very edgy look and feel. Other changes include an improved ride-by-wire throttle, a full-color TFT dash, and a rear subframe that now bolts directly onto the steel trellis chassis.

The new subframe also means that the seat design has been changed, and KTM has seen fit to adopt a larger 3.5-gallong fuel tank for the 390 Duke. There are new 43mm WP suspension forks to soak up the bumps, and also a 320mm front disc for better stopping power.

Overall, the changes address many of the complaints levied at the original KTM 390 Duke design, which really should be taken as a compliment since the original model was pretty good out of the box.

The new bike is quite the looker as well, so it looks like KTM has another hit on its hands.

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The BMW R nineT Urban G/S Helps Us Remember When the Dakar Rally Still Raced to Dakar

11/08/2016 @ 5:34 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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Our Bothan Spies came through once again this EICMA season, bringing us news that the BMW Lac Rose Concept would enter production as the 2017 BMW R nineT Urban G/S motorcycle.

As the name implies, the Urban G/S is based off the BMW R nineT platform, which means that it uses the iconic 1,170cc, 110hp, air-cooled, boxer-twin engine as its base, and then builds out from there.

As such, the chassis is the same modular frame that powers the rest of the R nineT line, complete with telescoping fork suspension at the front, along with a 19″ wheel wire-spoked wheel in the front, and a 17″ wire-spoked wheel in the rear.

All of this means that the BMW R nineT is mostly an aesthetic exercise – but it is quite the exercise, if you want our opinion.

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2017 BMW R1200GS Gets Upgrades, And a Little Rallye

11/08/2016 @ 4:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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As expected, the BMW R1200GS is getting some updates for the 2017 model year. Beyond the anticipated engine refresh for Euro4 compliance – which sees the 2017 BMW R1200GS continuing to make 125hp at 7,750 rpm, thanks to a new catalytic converter and modified ECU settings – other improvements have also been made to this iconic machine.

The changes run the gamut, and include visual changes to the bodywork, mechanical updates for better operation, ergonomic refinements to the controls, and electronic upgrades to the standard and optional equipment.

BMW Motorrad has also made several model variations available of the 2017 BMW R1200GS, shown here is the very tasty BMW R1200GS Rallye, which shows an off-road focus with its rally seat, sport windshield, radiator and frame guards, wide enduro foot pegs, and spoked wheels with optional studded tires.

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The Energica Esse Esse 9 Concept Cannot Be Unseen

11/08/2016 @ 2:06 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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When it comes to the technology that Energica uses to make its electric motorcycles, we can sing only strong praises. The Italian firm has one of the best electric motorcycle packages on the market.

However when it comes to more subjective matters, like the styling of their machines, we find Energica’s designs to be challenging to enjoy, if not sometimes impalpable.

The Energica Ego superbike and the Eva streetfighter are not the most beautiful machines we have ever seen, though their designs do grow on you over time.

We don’t think we will be making the same concessions about the Energica Esse Esse 9 concept though, which debuted at EICMA today.

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Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 “Black Arrow” Gets Green-Lit

11/08/2016 @ 9:33 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is the yin, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s yang, with the Swedish “black arrow” providing a unique twist on the typical scrambler motorcycle.

Another model that is based off the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is a bike we have seen for quite some time, and now it has finally been given the nod to become a production bike for the 2017 model year.

Like its “white arrow” compatriot, the Svartpilen 401 takes a modern approach to an old aesthetic, and creates something entirely new in the process.

Though Husqvarna is a name with deep off-road roots, we imagine the Svartpilen 401 is about as dual-sport capable as the next “scrambler” you’d find, though we should mention that the small-displacement machine does have some qualities that would lend to its success on down a fire road or two.

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The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero Concept Is F’ing Gorgeous

11/08/2016 @ 8:08 am, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

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Anyone that reads enough Asphalt & Rubber should know that I don’t particularly shine to the café racer aesthetic. So knowing that upfront should add some gravitas to the statement that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero is blowing my mind right now.

Based on the same unassuming 373cc single-cylinder platform as the Husavarna Vitpilen 401 and Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 motorcycles, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero concept completes the post-authentic holy trinity of retro standards, scramblers, and café racers.

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The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Is Finally a Production Model

11/08/2016 @ 7:48 am, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

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We have known for quite some time that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut at the 2016 EICMA show, with the Swedish brand teasing us with the pre-production model at last year’s gathering in Milan.

Since that time, we have seen numerous confirmations that the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 would debut as a production model in 2017, and today we can finally tick off the box on that launch.

Based on the KTM 390 Duke platform, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 (Swedish for white arrow) takes a drastically different tack from its orange-clad sibling, as you can readily see.

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