Mmm…Check This Suzuki GSX1100SD Katana Race Bike

I am young enough that most of what I can remember of the 1980s is skewed by the forming mind of a child, thankfully. New Coke, ponytails to the side, Cabbage Patch Kids…Alf – it is all a bad dream as far as I am concerned. The 1980s were a pretty good decade for motorcycles though. Two-strokes still reigned supreme in grand prix racing, and some of America’s best two-wheeled heroes were riding them. The only rider-aids that were available were things like handlebars and footpegs. Even then, racing a motorcycle was a pursuit full of perils. Mirroring this notion on the production side of things, the superbike was just starting to be born in earnest, with consumers able to buy fire-breathing monsters that tested the limits of chassis and tire design. A healthy dose of male bravado was involved in riding a motorcycle like a Katana.

Mega Gallery: 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans

Not only does the FIM EWC showcase several manufacturers, with strong race-winning potential each of the championship’s multiple iconic events, but it the series is the last great venue for a proper battle between the different tire brands. Add to that the fact that the Endurance World Championship is comprised not only of endurance specialists, but also with some of the top names from motorcycle racing, both in factory and satellite teams, and it’s easy to find a reason to cheer for a particular entry. The best part though might be the photography that comes from motorcycle racing, which often spans from daylight and into the darkness of night. This year’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans event was no different, and we have a bevy of photos to share with you from France.

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.

Photos: Rossi’s “Ugly Xmas Sweater” Helmet at Sepang

02/04/2015 @ 2:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler5 COMMENTS

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Valentino Rossi is sporting a new winter test helmet design, as is tradition for the nine-time world champion. Looking like a riff on something you would find at an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party, Rossi’s new lid design is certainly…festive.

Perhaps that’s too harsh of a critique for The Doctor, but you can’t mistake the snowflake’s design as something straight from J.Crew’s yule-log holiday catalog.

Ugly Xmas sweater or not, Rossi put a bow on Wednesday’s lap times — second-fastest overall, and by far the most comfortable looking on a MotoGP bike.

Rossi said at Sepang that he is hunting for his 10th World Championship this season, and we believe him. Only a man with that level of confidence could rock a helmet with a snowflake on it, after all.

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AGV Helmets Analyzes Valentino Rossi’s Crash at Aragon

10/14/2014 @ 3:21 pm, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

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The crashes of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Iannone at Aragon two-and-a-half weeks ago raised a lot of questions about safety, leading to the Safety Commission deciding to start removal of all the artificial turf from around the circuits used by MotoGP.

Rossi’s crash, in particular, was severe, the Italian being clipped and knocked briefly unconscious by the back wheel of his Yamaha as he tumbled.

That Rossi did not suffer much worse injuries is in no small part down to his helmet. The AGV Pista GP helmet which Rossi helped develop provided an incredible level of protection for the Italian.

After the incident, AGV took the helmet away to analyze the damage done to the helmet in the crash. They issued a press release, complete with close up photos of the damage sustained, explaining the damage done and how the helmet had protected Rossi.

The press release makes for interesting reading, and the close up photos of the damage are especially revealing of just how well the helmet stood up in the crash. Make sure you click on the photos to view higher resolution versions. The AGV press release appears after the jump.

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Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Special Misano Helmet, 2014

09/13/2014 @ 11:50 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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The San Marino GP is truly Valentino Rossi’s home MotoGP round (Tavullia, Rossi’s home town, is only a few kilometers from Misano), and tradition sees him sporting yet another special helmet for the event.

This year Aldo Drudi has focused his design on the people close to Rossi’s life, with the helmet also sporting the phrase “Misano ci dà una mano”, meaning “Misano gives you a hand”.

A colorful piece, Rossi’s AGV Pista helmet is adorned with the handprints of the mechanics of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. There are also the paw prints of his beloved dogs Cesare and Cecilia, as well as his cat Rossano.

You will also notice two sets of lips, from the two women currently in Rossi’s life, his mother Stefania and his girlfriend Linda. The last mark is a thumbprint from Aldo Drudi himself, a long time friend and designer for The Doctor.

On the front row for the start of the San Marino GP, Rossi has made it no secret that he hopes to win this weekends’ race. As such, expect to see him to fighting hard for that top podium step.

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Valentino Rossi’s Special Mugello Helmet Explained

05/31/2014 @ 6:32 am, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

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It’s the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, and that means another special AGV helmet from Valentino Rossi. A wonderful tradition from the nine-time World Champion, Rossi’s helmets can however at times be enigmatic, especially to non-Italians.

Thankfully, the folks at AGV have helped us understand Aldo Drudi’s latest work, which we assume will popularly be called the “Di Vale Helmet” hence forth. We decode the receipe, with photos, after the jump.

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Photos of Valentino Rossi’s LED Helmet from Qatar

03/22/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler13 COMMENTS

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If you have been watching the practice and qualifying sessions from the Qatar GP, you may have noticed that Valentino Rossi is once again wearing one of his special helmet designs. This one is a bit different though — instead of a crazy or clever paint scheme, Rossi and his crew have subtle lit the AGV Pista helmet’s clear rear spoiler.

Under the night lights of the Losail International Circuit, the effect is pretty astounding. Usually a spectacle of glowing brake discs and flaming exhausts, the night time atmosphere of the Qatar proves itself once again to be an interesting canvas for the light, which Rossi has masterfully tapped into.

A favorite event for our main man Scott Jones, we’ve got a few shots of Rossi and his LED light show. It’s interesting how the LEDs change some of the more classic Rossi photos, and of course it makes Rossi really pop on the TV feed. Enjoy!

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Rumor: Dainese up for Sale?

12/20/2013 @ 5:23 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

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Motorcycle industry gossip is at a fever pitch this week with speculation that Italian motorcycle apparel manufacturer Dainese is up for sale. Adding credence to that rumors, Asphalt & Rubber has received a number of tips about the possible sale of the company, with a private investment group cited as a possible buyer.

When we approached with this information, Dainese simply said that rumors were simply that, rumors. However it is worth noting that at the helm of the company for the past few months has been interim-CEO Federico Minoli, the same man that lead Ducati Motor Holding to being acquired by Texas Pacific Group, and later took the Italian motorcycle manufacturer public on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Photos: Valentino Rossi’s Pink Floyd Helmet at Misano

09/16/2013 @ 11:01 am, by Jensen Beeler12 COMMENTS

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True to tradition, Valentino Rossi debuted another unique helmet design for his home crowd at the San Marino GP in Misano, Italy. Themed to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, Rossi has added the last stanza of the song to his livery as well.

“How I wish, how I wish you were here. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same ground What have we found? The same old fears, wish you were here.”

While we’ll let you decipher the meaning to Rossi’s Pink Floyd reference and how it applies to his time in MotoGP, we have to say that this is one of our favorite designs from Aldo Drudi that Rossi has sported at an Italian round.

So, it should come as no surprise that a bevy of photos are after the jump, for your viewing pleasure — since we know that there are some diehard fans of The Doctor that read the pages of Asphalt & Rubber.

Be forewarned though collectors, we think AGV is going to have a tough time getting the rights to make replicas of this design.

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MotoGP: Valentino Rossi’s 2013 Mugello Helmet

06/01/2013 @ 1:30 am, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

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Another Italian GP at Mugello, and another special AGV helmet for Valentino Rossi. A wink to his new non-alien status, Rossi’s AGV Pista GP lid is obviously painted up like a turtleshell, implying the Italian’s pace to his rivals (note  the colored figures running along the chin bar of the helmet).

Whether you are a fan of The Doctor or not, you have to admit the G.O.A.T. is taking his new place in MotoGP in stride (at least publicly)…though don’t count him out just yet. Second-fastest in FP1 & FP2 on his 2013 Yamaha YZR-M1, Rossi was also fourth-quickest in this morning’s FP3 session — counting him out of a podium, and even a race win, at Mugello would be unwise.

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Photos: The Five AGV Pista GP Helmets in MotoGP

04/08/2013 @ 4:00 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

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Since October is just simply too long of a wait for the Italian company’s new uber carbon fiber racer lid to come to the United States, our bromance with the AGV Pista GP helmet continues to manifest itself online here at Asphalt & Rubber — and yes, we also don’t have the patience for the still-very-racey but-less-uber fiberglass-bodied AGV Corse, which comes a little earlier to the US, in September.

With the MotoGP season starting in earnest this weekend, one of the more minor highlights was the debut of all the riders’ new helmets, and for 2013 we now have five Pistas to drool over on the MotoGP grid, which certainly doesn’t help our “patience is a virtue” mantra.

While we work on centering our chi, there are a bevy of  photos for you after the jump. However, on any given Sunday you can find Stefan Bradl, Andrea Iannone, Danilo Petrucci, Lukas Pesek, and of course Valentino rep’n their Pistas on the grid. Which one is your favorite?

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AGV Pista GP Helmet Coming to the USA in October 2013

04/03/2013 @ 12:05 pm, by Jensen Beeler6 COMMENTS

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We can’t remember the last time we were excited about a helmet, but we are counting down the days until the AGV Pista GP comes to the United States. Already available in Europe, the Pista GP is expected to cross the pond officially in October of this year and be a part of AGV’s 2014 collection.

However, some eager Americans have already been buying Pista’s online from British helmet houses, and having them shipped over to the US. Considering how banged up our international packages get, it is not something we would recommend. Patience is a virtue.

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