How Kawasaki Plans to Defend Its WSBK Title in 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a World Superbike manufacturer’s title. Having retained the crown in 2016, the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017 in order to keep it. Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past, and what now needs now to improve. Kawasaki won over half of the races in the last three years, but despite these successes the team is working hard to find improvements. The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings, making them the early favorite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed, and there are also changes to the battery regulations. While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not.

Motorcyclist Magazine Moving to Six-Issue per Year Format, As Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook Leaves the Publication

Changes are afoot at Motorcyclist magazine, as the monthly publication is set to move to a six-issue per year format starting in Spring 2017. That transition will come from the direction of a new leader too, as Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook will be leaving Motorcyclist as well. Cook outlined his departure, and announced the new format for Motorcyclist, citing the many contributions his team of writers have made over the course of his tenure at the magazine. As the opening paragraph to Cook’s goodbye letter coyly suggests, the media landscape in the motorcycle industry is shifting, pushing Motorcyclist magazine in a new direction.

BMW G310R Street Tracker by Wedge Motorcycles

A few months ago, this pocket-sized street tracker caught my attention on Facebook. It was based off the BMW G310R street bike platform, that much I could tell, but I couldn’t find anymore information on the machine. A few more weeks of this lonesome photo sitting in my ‘to do” box, and it finally moved on to the place where all good stories go to die. So, imagine my surprise when our friends at BMW Motorrad Japan sent me the following photos, which depict a new custom bike they commissioned from Takashi Nihira, at Tokyo’s Wedge Motorcycles. It is the same bike I saw months earlier, but now we know who to thank for its creation, as well as a little bit more about its build. Its is quite impressive, for an unassuming “little” street tracker, don’t you think?

From Russia with Love, MV Agusta Finds New Money

Last week, I was ready to start polishing the obituary for MV Agusta – the Italian company seemingly in an impossibly terminal state. Now it seems MV Agusta’s fortunes are changing, with the Italian motorcycle maker signing an agreement with the Black Ocean investment group to recapitalize MV Agusta. Details of the pending transaction haven’t been released, but we can assume that the increase in capital will help ease MV Agusta’s relationship with suppliers, get workers back on the assembly line, and continue the development of new models. The €20 million question though is whether Black Ocean’s investment will mean the departure of AMG, the German auto brand acting now like an albatross around MV Agusta’s neck.

Ducati MHLeggera Concept by Speed Junkies

The Ducati 1299 Superleggera might be the most technically astounding machine ever to come from the Italian brand, but all those exotic materials and fancy electronics are lost on some riders – motorcyclists who prefer more simpler times. So the good folk at Speed Junkies have heard this call, and mashed-up the 1299 Superleggera with Ducati’s perhaps most coveted nod to the past, the Mike Hailwood inspired Ducati MH900e. Both the Superleggera and MH900e are beauties in their own right, though there is something interesting to the design that Speed Junkies proposes with the two bikes together. We thought you would find the concept interesting, and there is a second “race” version waiting for you after the jump as well. We are of the belief that either would look good in our garage.

Introducing A&R Pro Premium Memberships

We are launching something very special today, which is geared towards our most diehard readers. We call it A&R Pro. It is a premium membership that offers more features to the Asphalt & Rubber website, and more of the A&R content that you have grown to love. For the A&R readers who can’t get enough of the site – often coming here multiple times per day to get the latest stories – we wanted to offer you more of the content and community that you thrive on; and in the same breath, give you a way to help support Asphalt & Rubber. That’s where A&R Pro comes in. Asphalt & Rubber has always strived to be an independent voice in the motorcycle industry. By signing up for A&R Pro, you help us to continue that goal, and in fact make us more independent.

Ariel Ace R – More Sexy for the Sexiest VFR1200F

For some, it is a challenge to get excited about a motorcycle like the Honda VFR1200F. The porker of a street bike as strayed far away from its sport bike roots, and yet confusingly isn’t a terribly effective tourer either. The market response reflects this confusion, but I digress. It is however easy to get excited about the Ariel Ace, a motorcycle that features a repackaged VFR1200F motor wedged into a bespoke aluminum trellis frame, with the usual top-shelf drippings offered, along with a very unique streetfighter design. Taking things to the next level now is the beautifully done Ariel Ace R, which comes with carbon fiber fairings, carbon fiber wheels, and a tuned V4 engine that produces 201hp and 105 lbs•ft of peak torque. Only 10 Ariel Ace R will be made.

New Honda Rebel 500 & Rebel 300 Models Debut

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.

Electric Done Right, Enjoy the Aero E-Racer Street Tracker

It has been a while since we have seen an electric motorcycle that caught out fancy – you know, one that looked like it was made by someone who actually understands motorcycles, and isn’t just gunning for a spot at Art Center. There is this notion in the electric world that just because powertrains are evolving, that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water as wellwhen it comes to design. But, when I think about the electric motorcycle builds that have caught my attention the most, it is the ones that understand this concept at their core – good examples being bikes like the Mission R, Alta Motors Redshift SM, or Vespa Elettrica. Add another name to that list now, as the E-Racer from Aero Motorcycles is a truly beautiful two-wheeled machine, and it runs on electrons, not hydrocarbons.

Here It Is, The Norton V4 RR Superbike

It has been a long time coming for the Norton V4 RR, but the British firm has finally debuted its 1,200cc, 72° V4-powered, 200hp superbike. The actual machine looks pretty close to its concept sketches, which in turn are based closely to Norton’s TT race bike. Norton has made a pretty stout machine, with the V4 RR coming with a robust electronics package that was developed in-house, which includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and cruise control, augmented by a six-axis IMU; a 7″ high-definition display that includes a rear-facing camera; and a up-and-down quickshifter and datalogger. Key chassis components include the twin-tube “shotgun” frame, and a single-sided swingarm with a fully adjustable pivot point (the steering head angle is also adjustable).

LCR Honda in the Running for Final 2017 MotoGP Grid Slot

04/15/2016 @ 2:42 pm, by David Emmett2 COMMENTS

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The MotoGP grid is set to expand to 24 riders once again in 2017. The current teams are expected to retain the 21 grid slots already allotted, while KTM’s factory team will take two more when the Austrian manufacturer enters MotoGP next year.

This will take the grand total up to 23 seats, leaving one more grid slot to be filled.

Who will fill that final grid slot has been the subject of much speculation. Rumors that the Sky VR46 team were to take the slot were immediately quashed by team manager Pablo Nieto, saying they were only interested in Moto3 and Moto2.

Sources indicate that there are two firm candidates, with three more having expressed an interest. The two candidates include one MotoGP team, and one Moto2 team.

The MotoGP team interested in expanding is LCR. The Monaco-based team ran two bikes in 2015, but sponsorship woes had forced them to cut back to just a single bike for the 2016 season.

When asked if he was interested the final grid slot, team boss Lucio Cecchinello acknowledged that he was, and that he was working towards securing sufficient budget to meet the submission deadline on 29th April.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

11/05/2014 @ 3:44 am, by David Emmett26 COMMENTS

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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.

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.

How History Is Repeating with Energy Drinks, And Creating Another Tobacco Disaster in Motorcycle Racing

06/11/2014 @ 6:50 pm, by David Emmett21 COMMENTS

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At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the ‘Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya’ – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called ‘The Doctor’, marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory.

If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing’s marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport. It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role that tobacco once played, funding teams, riders, and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built.

Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad, and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks.

Then there’s the armada of other brands: Gresini’s Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.

Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008.

Michael Jordan Motorsports Leaves AMA Pro Racing — Headed to World Superbike? MotoGP?

10/30/2013 @ 3:45 am, by Jensen Beeler36 COMMENTS

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News has dropped that the Michael Jordan Motorsports (MJM) team will not be returning to AMA Pro Racing next season due to the fact that the National Guard would also be ceasing its involvement with the domestic motorcycle racing series (the Army National Guard was the chief sponsor of Michael Jordan Motorsports, and was also the title sponsor of the AMA Pro SuperBike class).

Talking to RoadRacingWorld on Tuesday, MJM’s Kreig Robinson confirmed that the National Guard’s lack of renewal with DMG stemmed from AMA Pro Racing’s waning TV viewership and dwindling event crowds.

With sponsoring AMA Pro Racing no longer making smart business sense for the National Guard, Robinson said he had little to argue with in regards to the National Guard’s decision.

Look Closer at the Up-Coming IMS Shows

10/11/2012 @ 6:42 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

With INTERMOT behind us and EICMA only a few weeks away, we are deep into motorcycle expo season, if you haven’t already noticed. We of course have the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows here in the US, with the first IMS stop being in Atlanta, GA November 2nd-4th.

Helping us gear-up for the expos, IMS has decively dressed-down for the occasion, and is running a promotional campaign that features body-painted contortionists making the shapes of motorcycles. Featuring the work of San-Francisco-based body painter Trina Merry, this is about as close as you will get to seeing naked girls (and men, for that matter) on A&R.

Photos of the finished result and a behind-the-scenes video are waiting for you after the jump.

BMW Adds QR Codes to Spy Photo Motorcycles

11/11/2011 @ 6:05 am, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

If you ever wanted proof that alleged “spy photos” of motorcycles were complete bullshit, then we submit to you this latest news about BMW’s use of QR codes on camouflaged test mules. Embracing the process of teasing prototype as the marketing exercise that it is, BWM Motorrad has begun tagging its test bikes with large QR codes the passersby can capture, and thus find out more information about the under-wraps model they just witnessed.

In giving up the whole spy photo farce, BMW gains perhaps a little bit of credibility in the process (not really), but more importantly the German company has found a way to heist some free advertising out of unsuspecting motorcycle publications. After all, any publication running a photo of a bike with a QR code on it is also therefore also running an interactive ad that enables readers to go to an OEM-managed website. Clever.

Harley-Davidson Crowdsources Advertising on Facebook

11/10/2011 @ 7:16 am, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

Ever since Harley-Davidson split with its long-time ad agency Carmichael Lynch, I’ve been increasingly impressed with the Bar & Shield’s advertising efforts. Sure there are still some of the old marketing images that make the American in me want to go tortfeasor on the first Harley-Davidson dealership I drive by, but you’ve got to give Harely one thing, its trying. Dipping its toe into the crowdsourcing philosophy of ad creation, Harley-Davidson has already produced some fairly good ads like its “No Cages” campaign, and is hoping to build on that success.

Seeing traction with the “No Cages” campaign, Harley-Davidson has taken things a step further, and will now be able to crowdsource ideas directly from Facebook. Launching a Facebook app for the new social-collaboration, Harley-Davidsons fans on Facebook can now read the company’s advertising brief, submit ideas to Harley-Davidson, and vote on ideas submitted by other community members. While crowdsourcing advertising creative has been called evil (mostly by the people whose jobs are threatened by the collaborative movement), the plan here is pretty ingenious.

Harden the F*ck Up America – Australia Knows How to Promote Motorcycle Safety

10/14/2011 @ 6:06 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

You have to spend some time around Australians to fully appreciate the culture that has been fostered on the ass-end of the world. Having spent more years than I can count competing in sports against Australians, I already had an appreciation for the direct no-bullshit approach to personal communication that comes from the land down under. It is the same trait that gets Casey Stoner in trouble with fans, as when the former (and soon-to-be?) World Champion calls a spade a spade, well…it rubs them the wrong way, especially us Americans (case in point, the 2011 Indianapolis GP asphalt debacle).

You see, Americans in a broad-stroke generality don’t like to be told our babies are ugly, or that the Emperor has no clothes. Similarly, when it comes to our highway safety campaigns, we are coddled with cute public service announcements that do little to speak honestly about the reality of situations. That’s not the case in Australia however, as for the past month I’ve been assaulted with healthy & safety messages concerning motorcycles that do anything but mince words.

Ducati: Ads That Make You Go Hmm…

10/12/2011 @ 9:14 pm, by Jensen Beeler20 COMMENTS

UPDATE: Ducati North America sent me a note explaining that these ads were not a part of corporate-initiated ad campaign. Their best guess is that they are spec-creative, or something done by the company’s Ecuadorian distributor.

Talking in generalities, Ducati is one of the better companies in the motorcycle industry when it comes to handling its market communications, and in an industry that’s generally abysmal at making creative advertisements, you can make of that praise as you will. Of course every now and then Bologna produces a dud campaign, and well…through each others’ failures, we can hopefully make progress. It’s not that the concept being used here is a bad one, it’s just not readily apparent (it’s also averaging below a 2.5/10 rating on Ads of the World right now).

Trying to make a statement about how owning a Ducati motorcycle is as fantastic of an accomplishment as becoming invisible, turning into other objects, walking through walls, and levitating, we’re not sure that the comparison, though clever, is readily apparent when these photos stand on their own on a page. Better pitched in the idea room than executed on the paper, after the third advertisement or so it finally hits you (the walking through walls one was the “ahh-ha!” moment for us). But as for a clearly communicated message, there is a bit left wanting here from Ducati and its ad agency, The Grey Group…that and the teapot thing is just damn silly. More examples after the jump.