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.

Aprilia RS-GP Dresses in (RED) for the Valencia GP

11/11/2016 @ 12:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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When you watch the Valencia GP this weekend, keep an eye out for a pair of strikingly red motorcycles on the track, piloted by Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl.

This is because their Aprilia RS-GP race bikes will be sporting a special (RED) livery, supporting the charity that fights acquired immune deficiency syndrome – better known as AIDS.

A disease that once generated massive headlines in the United States in the 1980s, now for many in the western world, AIDS is no longer the specter it once was.

Modern antiviral treatments can reduce the presence of AIDS in affected patients to below detectable levels, thus making AIDS a chronic instead of terminal disease, and which allows patients to lead mostly full and normal lives.

However in other countries, AIDS is still very much a death sentence once it is contracted, with access to life-saving medication incredibly more difficult to acquire, and prevention efforts woefully inadequate.

Over 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with AIDS, with 2 million more contracting the disease with each passing year – many of them in Africa. (RED) aims to change that epidemic, and has contributed $360 million to the stop of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the region.

Hopefully with the help of Aprilia and the MotoGP Championship this weekend, even more support can be channeled to this worthy cause.

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BMW Lac Rose Concept – A Vintage-Styled ADV Bike

06/13/2016 @ 6:55 pm, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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What you see here is an homage back to a day when men were men, and the Dakar Rally actually went to Dakar, the capital of Senegal and the western-most point of Africa.

Called the BMW Lac Rose Concept, this retooled BMW R nineT is named after Lac Rose (Lake Retba to some), which is just outside of Dakar – a picturesque locale, for a photogenic motorcycle.

BMW Motorrad styled the Lac Rose concept after the Dakar Rally bikes of the 1980s, which adds to the retro flare that the German brand has been channeling though its R nineT platform.

If you believe the rumors, the Lac Rose could very well go into production, as a 2017 model year machine, thus adding a trifecta of throwback machines to BMW’s R nineT lineup, with the R nineT roadster and scrambler models already strong sellers.

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Motorcycle Charity Riders for Health Shuts Its Doors

05/24/2016 @ 2:24 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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If you are a regular reader of Asphalt & Rubber, then you surely have seen our banners supporting Riders for Health, one of the great charities to come out of the motorcycle industry.

The non-profit organization, based out of the UK, provides healthcare services to remote locations in Africa, utilizing motorcycles to traverse the uncertain terrain.

Started by Andrea and Barry Coleman, along with Randy Mamola (yes, that Randy Mamola), Riders for Health even had HRH Princess Anne as its patron, with major support from the FIM and the MotoGP Championship as well.

If you attended a MotoGP round in the US or UK, then you may have seen the Riders for Health auctions, or participated in the Day of Stars or Day of Champions events.

Therefore, it is unfortunate for us to report that Riders for Health will be closing its UK offices, effectively ending the charity’s operations.

Thankfully, some of Riders’ operations in a number of African countries will continue on despite this closure, as their operations have already transferred to local actors, governments, or organizations.

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Benelli TnT25 Coming to the USA

10/26/2015 @ 4:08 am, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

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Benelli motorcycles will finally be coming back to the American market, with SSR Motorsports taking on the importation and distribution duties for China’s Qinjiang Group – the owner of the Benelli motorcycle brand.

Benelli’s debut model in the USA seems set to be the Benelli TnT25, which looks suspiciously like the Benelli BN251 that we showed you back in November of last year.

If that’s the case, then it will be stark contrast to the Benelli we have been used to seeing in the US, namely an Italian brand that invokes all aspects of the Italian motorcycle heritage: utterly beautiful machines that are also notoriously unreliable.

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The #1 BMW Motorcycle Fan? — That’s a Tall Order!

08/15/2014 @ 12:36 am, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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I’m not complaining, but it’s been a busy week for Asphalt & Rubber’s Editor-in-Chief. Monday was spent getting back from the Indianapolis GP, where Dan and Tony once again proved how they are some of the most amazing photographers in the business, David as usually decrypted the paddock and wrote what should be considered the gold standard of daily summaries, and I…well, I tried to stay out of everyone’s way.

Finally back in California, Tuesday saw the hard drive in my laptop give up the ghost, and thus was spent knee-deep in nerdom with Scott — who knew that a #6 pentalobe screwdriver would be so difficult to find?! Wednesday was spent at the Honda CBR300R press launch, which for reasons beyond comprehension I drove to, instead of flying. Thursday meant swimming through the 800 or so emails that I neglected throughout the weeks’ activities, which just leaves me to say how is it Friday already?

Again I’m not complaining, but thank goodness it’s the end of the week. Anyhoo, I’m sure everyone has had their share of busy weeks, especially as summer is beginning to wind down. To help lighten the load, here’s a video of a giraffe that really loves himself some BMW motorcycles. If anyone asks, I’m saying a reader sent this to me…yeah…a reader…that’s what happened…

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Pitching the BMW R1200GS – OEMs, Take Note

10/02/2012 @ 2:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

Making effective market communications in the motorcycle industry should be a relatively straight-forward and easy task. After all, motorcycles in North America and Europe have a strong personal component that revolves around self-expression and a rider personal identity. Making things easier, the motorcycle industry is littered with enthusiasts who themselves ride on a daily basis, and should understand this concept first-hand.

The idea that an ad or campaign should reach out and grab the intended consumer is not a novel concept, and motorcycle marketing professionals have their job simplified since they need only to develop and publish creative that would speak to them personally, in order to be successful. For whatever reason though, motorcycle industry marketers, by-in-large, were absent the day they taught marketing in business school…and it shows.

It is a subject I rail on about far too often, probably because it just simply baffles me how it occurs in the first place. How a motorcycle enthusiast fails to connect with people just like himself or herself boggles my mind, and yet it routinely happens in the motorcycle industry. However, every now and then, an OEM puts together something that renews my faith in the establishment, and for a split-second I have a vision that this whole two-wheeled thing isn’t going to hell in a hand basket. Such is the case with this promo video done by BMW TV.

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The 2013 BMW R1200GS in 293 Hi-Res Photos

10/02/2012 @ 6:54 am, by Jensen Beeler7 COMMENTS

The big news out of the INTERMOT show in Cologne, Germany is the public unveiling of the 2013 BMW R1200GS — the liquid-cooled progeny of the venerable air-cooled GS line. The bike that continues to define the adventure-touring market, the R1200GS not only gets a mechanical makeover for 2013, but a cosemetic one as well.

Wanting to give us the utmost insight into the design and engineering process that went into the new BMW R1200GS, the Bavarians have dumped nearly 300 photos into their media site for our consumption.

Naturally, we’ve uploaded them all here to Asphalt & Rubber because we loves us some tasty photos. Chances are the image viewing lightbox is too big for your monitor, so right-click as you see fit. We’ve picked our favorites out, and have them on display after the jump.

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Video: A Different Kind of Race in Dakar

01/12/2012 @ 12:35 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

With the Dakar Rally a little over halfway through its 32nd running, the historic race has yet to show a decisive winner between the Despres/Coma grudge match. Shifting from its African namesake in 2009 because of safety concerns, the rally now takes place in South America instead. Some fans of The Dakar lament this change, citing various reasons for their desire to see the race continue on African soil, but beyond sentimental reasons, I would wager this year’s venues of Argentina, Chile, and Peru provide just as stunning and challenging of a course as the old Paris to Dakar route ever did.

I have done my fair share of traveling through this job and my previous lives, but for some reason I have yet to step foot onto the African soil, which is something I hope to change this year. Thinking about the landscapes I grew up watching during the “original” Dakar, Africa seems every bit the National Geographic adventure I believe it to be, and of course the Boy Scout in me would cherish a night under the African savanna’s sky.

Continuing a vein we have been exploring this week though, the motorcycle culture in Africa is something entirely different to our Americanized perspective on motorcycling. Often the more reliable means of transportation between cities and villages, I have partially gotten to know motorcycles in Africa through my experience with the folks from Riders for Health, but the cultural element to this is something I have yet to truly understand. Maybe this music video for Parachute Youth gets us all a little bit closer to that understanding, and in the process brings us back to where we ourselves started on two wheels as well. Thanks for the tip Q$-Bling!

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Dainese No Longer “Made in Italy” – Moves Remaining Italian Production to Tunisia

01/19/2010 @ 3:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Italian apparel manufacturer Dainese, (who also owns Mavet and AGV) is shutting down its Molvena, Italy plant, and moving the bulk of its production to Tunisia. The move is presumably to help lower costs to the Italian brand, as sales have slumpped during the industry-wide economic slowdown. It’s unclear whether Dainese will open a new factory in Tunisia, or add the capacity to one of its two factories already in the North African country.

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Yamaha Opening Pakistani Manufacturing Plant to Serve Asian/African Markets

09/21/2009 @ 2:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

Investing in emerging markets, Yamaha Motors is set to invest $150 million in a new motorcycle manufacturing plant located in Pakistan. The plant, which is to be established in the National Industrial Park at Bin Qasim, Karachi, will serve as a central location for Yamaha’s move into Pakistan, India, and other emerging Asian and African markets.

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